British troops fly back to Iraq after release

Eight British servicemen detained for four days in Iran returned to Iraq on Friday, ending a diplomatic crisis.

An Iranian commercial flight took the six Royal Marines and two sailors back to the British sector in southern Iraq after stops in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The eight were captured Monday when their river patrol boats apparently strayed onto the Iranian side of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, or Arvand River, that runs along the Iran-Iraq border.

Britain said the troops were from a Royal Navy training team based in southern Iraq and were delivering a boat to Iraq’s new river police.

Iran initially said it would prosecute them for illegally entering Iranian waters. British concern had mounted after Iranian television showed the eight blindfolded and sitting cross-legged on the ground.


U.N. troops take over peacekeeping mission

The United Nations took command of a peacekeeping mission Friday, relieving a U.S.-led force a day after Air France’s director in the country was shot and killed.

The death of Didier Mortet was the latest in a rash of violence that poses a major challenge to the U.N. force that will help Haiti’s U.S.-backed interim leaders stabilize the nation after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was pushed from power on Feb. 29.

Mortet, 49, was riding in a car with his wife and a chauffeur when gunmen on a motorcycle and opened fire, hitting him twice, said French Embassy spokesman Eric Bosc. The other two were unharmed.

Saudi Arabia

Official calls terrorists to give up with amnesty

One of Saudi Arabia’s top religious officials called on Islamic militants to surrender under a limited amnesty offered by the government and condemned killings of foreigners in a sermon Friday at the capital’s main mosque.

“This is a blessing that you should thank God for and comply with,” Sheik Abdel Aziz bin al-Sheik said of the amnesty offer during Friday prayers.

After 13 months of terror strikes linked to al-Qaida, a Wednesday decree by King Fahd promised to spare the lives of those militants who surrendered within a month, though those involved in attacks would still face trial.


Journalist slaying may be linked to drug cartel

A reputed drug hit man collared after a wild chase and shootout in this crime-riddled border city may have had a hand in the gangland-style execution of newspaper editor Francisco Ortiz, authorities said.

Mario Alberto Rivera Lopez was arrested and flown to Mexico City on Thursday.

Federal Atty. Gen. Rafael Macedo de la Concha said authorities believed Rivera Lopez was the head of a squad of assassins affiliated with the Arellano Felix drug smuggling gang, which is based in Tijuana.

The attorney general said that the group “could have possible links” to the killing of Ortiz, who was shot four times as he sat in the driver’s seat of his car Tuesday afternoon.