World briefs 5/30/03

Friday, May 30, 2003

Afghanistan arrests ex-Taliban commander

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Security forces arrested two Taliban fighters, including a local commander in the ousted militia, and a senior Afghan police official said authorities gathered information that could help in the hunt for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Security forces made the arrests Wednesday during a routine security check on vehicles entering Spinboldak, about 60 miles southeast of Kandahar, near the Pakistani border, said Gen. Mohammed Akram, Kandahar's police chief.

Akram said another Taliban commander, Mullah Janan, who was arrested in Kandahar over the weekend, had been the former regime's coordinator with al-Qaida and might have knowledge about the whereabouts of bin Laden and others sought by the U.S. government.

"He is very close to Osama" and former Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Akram said.

Militant sought in Pearl murder case arrested

MULTAN, Pakistan -- An Islamic militant accused of helping to plan the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was arrested at a bus station in central Pakistan on Thursday, police said.

The suspect, Qari Abdul Hai, who allegedly had close ties with the Taliban, is the chief of a banned militant group condemned by the United States as a terrorist organization, police said. The group has been accused of involvement in bombings at public places in Pakistan.

Hai was captured in Muzaffargarh, 60 miles west of Multan, as he was about to board a bus for Karachi, the southern city where Pearl was kidnapped on Jan. 23, 2002, and later found dead, police official Awais Malik said.

Four Islamic militants were convicted last year of involvement in the kidnap-slaying of Pearl. One of them, British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was sentenced to death, and the three others were given life sentences. All four have filed appeals.

Canada reports more probable SARS cases

TORONTO -- The number of people with SARS in Canada's largest city tripled to 33 on Thursday when health officials broadened their definition of what constitutes a "probable case" to meet international standards.

The change came after the World Health Organization on Wednesday urged Canada to expand its definition of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The new cluster of cases in Canada, first detected last week, was a harsh blow to a health care system that appeared to have brought an initial SARS outbreak in March and April under control. Health officials have told more than 7,000 people to quarantine themselves due to possible exposure.

Elsewhere Thursday, Taiwan reported 50 new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, its biggest rise in six days. Officials insisted that Taiwan's outbreak was declining, and said Thursday's jump included 40 patients who earlier tested negative and were later reclassified as confirmed.

Peruvian soldiers clash with protesters, killing 1

LIMA, Peru -- Soldiers clashed with protesters Thursday, killing one and injuring 36, as Peruvians in several cities defied a two-day-old state of emergency called by President Alejandro Toledo.

Defense Minister Aurelio Loret de Mola said the troops opened fire after a group of about 2,000 protesting university students surrounded their nine-man patrol near the city of Puno, 530 miles southeast of Lima.

One student died of gunshot wounds, Loret de Mola said. Thirty-six other protesters and 13 soldiers and police were wounded during clashes in Puno, he said.

The defense minister claimed that common criminals and remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla group were among the protesters.

The university students organized their protest in support of public school teachers, who went on strike on May 12, police said.

-- From wire reports

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