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Archive for Thursday, May 6, 2004

Briefly

May 6, 2004

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Greece

Three bombs explode outside police station

Three bombs exploded outside a police station Wednesday in a series of timed blasts, causing serious damage and rattling security forces just 100 days before the Olympic Games. No injuries were reported.

The pre-dawn explosions, which occurred within a half hour, came before events to mark the final stretch to the Aug. 13-29 Olympics. An anonymous caller to an Athens newspaper warned of the attacks about 10 minutes in advance, but gave no motive or claim of responsibility.

Police believe the bombings were linked to domestic groups and not international terrorism.

NEW DELHI

Prime minister certain of gaining second term

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, flashing a V-for-victory sign, voted in his district Wednesday in parliamentary elections as early exit polls predicted he would be returned to office for another five years with perhaps a less stable government.

The five-phase elections that began April 20 will end Monday, with ballot-counting to start May 13. Early polls by independent television stations in seven states voting Wednesday in the fourth round indicated Vajpayee's coalition of a dozen parties may fall short of winning a majority of Parliament seats.

In that case, his National Democratic Alliance would have to draw more small parties into the coalition, making it more likely to fray.

Spain

Judge orders release of train blast suspects

The judge leading the probe into the Madrid terror bombings has released three Moroccan suspects, including the only woman charged in the case so far, court officials said Wednesday.

National Court Judge Juan del Olmo allowed Naima Oulad Akcha, Faisal Allouch and Abdelouahid Berrak to leave prison but ordered them to report to the courthouse daily. The three are charged with collaboration with a terror group because of their links with prime suspects in the bombings.

The release was ordered because the judge concluded the three were not directly implicated in the attacks, court officials said.

Georgia

Protesters celebrate departure of leader

Protesters celebrated in the streets early today after officials said the leader of the restive Georgian province of Adzharia had resigned and left for Moscow.

Adzharian leader Aslan Abashidze reportedly left with Russian Security Council head Igor Ivanov after several hours of talks. Ivanov had arrived in the provincial capital of Batumi several hours earlier to discuss the region's rising tensions.

The protesters were informed of the resignation by Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, news agencies reported. President Mikhail Saakashvili later confirmed it on Georgian television.

The Georgian president also appealed to Adzharians to preserve order in the province.

"We now must have calm at the beginning of our new life," he said, according to the news agency Interfax.

Russia

Astronaut says labor needed at space station

American astronaut Michael Foale, just back from six months aboard the international space station, said Wednesday that only a demanding work program would justify spending a full year in space.

Russia is pressing NASA to agree to extend crew stints on the space station from the current six months to one year, which would free up places on its Soyuz crew capsules for paying space tourists.

But staying in orbit for a long time is not worth it in itself, Foale said during a news conference at Russia's space training facility outside Moscow.

Foale suggested that a rigorous program, including spacewalks and experiments, could justify extending the time limit in orbit.

HAVANA

Cuba accuses Mexico of deflecting scandal

Responding angrily to Mexico's decision to scale back diplomatic relations, Cuba on Wednesday accused Mexican authorities of trying to divert attention from a mushrooming political scandal at home.

Foreign Secretary Felipe Perez Roque said a Mexican fraud suspect arrested in Cuba claimed that senior Mexican officials had promised to protect him if he would produce compromising videotapes of their political foes.

He showed Cuban police department footage of the suspect, Carlos Ahumada, telling authorities that the Mexico officials had coaxed the videos from him.

Perez Roque refused to reveal which Mexican officials were named. But he said that Mexico had created a crisis in relations with Cuba to distract attention from the scandal.

JERUSALEM

Report: Israel spent millions on settlements

Israel's Housing Ministry has spent millions of dollars on unauthorized construction in the West Bank, a government report said Wednesday, leading the attorney general to impose a new way of monitoring settlement spending.

Also Wednesday, the Palestinian legislature fired a high-ranking official it accused of corruption. It was the first time lawmakers dismissed a senior official for corruption.

In Gaza, two Palestinians were killed and 16 -- including a news photographer -- were wounded in Israeli-Palestinian violence. In the West Bank, an armed Hamas fugitive was shot dead by troops.

Also, Israel released a co-founder of Hamas, Mohammed Taha, after holding him for 14 months without charges. Taha, accused by the army of leading Hamas' military wing, was arrested in a raid on the Boureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

Pakistan

Authorities uncover plot to hijack, blow up plane

Pakistani intelligence has uncovered a plot by a small band of terrorists to hijack and possibly blow up a plane bound for the United Arab Emirates, the prime minister said Wednesday, prompting the nation to put its airports on "red alert."

Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali told The Associated Press that authorities believed there was a group of four to six people who wanted to hijack a plane. Intelligence indicated they wanted to blow it up, he said.

There was no indication when the plot was due to be carried out or if it involved al-Qaida. Jamali would not speculate on whether the hijackers were Pakistanis or foreigners.

"Hijackers have no nationality," he said.

A senior official at Pakistan's intelligence agency said authorities were not sure who the men were.

Germany

Former Iraq hostage reunited with wife

Former American hostage Thomas Hamill reunited Wednesday with his wife at a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where she brought his favorite cowboy boots and promised him a steak dinner as he recovers from three weeks in Iraqi captivity, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Kellie Hamill flew from Mississippi to the U.S. military's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw said.

"It was a very emotional reunion," Shaw said. "She brought him his favorite cowboy boots, red shirt and jeans. She's going to cook him a steak dinner tonight and make him a chocolate cake."

Hamill, a 43-year-old truck driver for a Halliburton subsidiary who escaped his captors Sunday, has been treated since Monday at the western Germany facility for a wounded arm.

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