World briefs 10/31/02

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Series of explosions hit South African townshipSOWETO, South Africa -- A series of bomb blasts rocked the poor township of Soweto early Wednesday, killing one person, ripping a hole in a mosque and damaging railway stations and rail lines running into the city of Johannesburg.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but authorities said they were investigating whether right-wing militant groups were behind the bombings.

"Whoever is responsible for this ... is going to face the full might of the law," said Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula.

He said the first bomb exploded at about 11:55 p.m Tuesday and the ninth went off at about 1:40 a.m. Wednesday. Another bomb was found at a gas station and defused.

Pakistan frees leader of pro-Taliban group

SIHALA, Pakistan -- The leader of a banned Muslim extremist group blamed in the deaths of hundreds of people was released Wednesday by Pakistani authorities, who said they have no evidence to continue holding him.

Maulana Azam Tariq, whose pro-Taliban group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, had been detained for 13 months without being formally charged.

A Lahore appeals court ruled Monday that the government would have to release him if it could not produce evidence against him.

"We do not have any case against him and we have set him free as directed by the Lahore High Court," said government official Irfan Ali.

Tariq ran for office from prison and won a National Assembly seat in the Oct. 10 elections.

He called his release "a victory for justice."

Civil liberty watchdog slams terror raids

SYDNEY, Australia -- The nation's civil liberties watchdog on Thursday condemned a string of raids by security forces on Indonesian Muslims living in Australia as a publicity stunt that could seriously erode individual rights.

"I think having police turn up with drawn guns and in paramilitary gear in effect to take away computer gear, is a stunt," said Terry O'Gorman, president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties of raids this week.

Once on Sunday and three times Wednesday heavily armed intelligence and police officers entered homes of Indonesians in Sydney and the western city of Perth to investigate if people living there had ties with the radical Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah.

The Southeast Asia-based group, which has links with al-Qaida and says it wants to set up an Asian Islamic superstate, is prime suspect in the Oct. 12 bombings that killed nearly 200 people on the Indonesian island of Bali. As many as 90 of the victims are believed to be Australians.

Sept. 11 trial witness calls Atta 'dry' man

HAMBURG, Germany -- A Sudanese student testifying Wednesday at the first trial of a Sept. 11 suspect described lead hijacker Mohamed Atta as a "dry" man who never laughed and would talk of waging a "holy war" against Israel.

Ahmed Maglad was called at the trial of Mounir el Motassadeq, who is charged with providing aid to Atta and the other members of the al-Qaida terror cell based in Hamburg.

Maglad told the Hamburg state court that he also knew several members of the cell and often prayed with them in mosques. But he said he had no inkling of their plans to attack the United States.

Twenty detained in Yemen over oil tanker attack

SAN'A, Yemen -- Authorities have detained a total of 20 people in connection with an attack this month on the French oil tanker Limburg, security officials said Wednesday.

Those detained included two watchmen from the house rented by the suspected perpetrators of the attack on the Limburg, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Other detainees included three people who transported a boat used in the attack from the house to the shore.

The officials said the main suspects in the attack were still at large.

-- From wire reports

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