World Digest: May 24, 2013

BRITAIN
Flight from Pakistan diverted; 2 arrested

Two passengers on a Pakistan International Airlines flight were arrested Friday on suspicion of endangering an aircraft after Britain scrambled two Royal Air Force Typhoon jets to investigate and escort the plane to safety.

Flight PK709 from Lahore, Pakistan, to Manchester, England, was diverted at 1:20 p.m. to Stansted Airport, northeast of London, with 297 passengers on board. Essex police confirmed the arrests of two passengers, British nationals ages 30 and 41.

The incident was being treated as a criminal offense and both men were being questioned, officials said. There were no reports of injuries.

Mashood Dajwar, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, said the incident began when two passengers threatened a flight attendant. The attendant communicated the threat to the pilot, who alerted air traffic control in Manchester. Dajwar said he could not elaborate on the nature of the alleged threat but said the two men later claimed they were only joking.

The incident occurred at a time when Britain is on edge, after the brutal slaying Wednesday of a British soldier in southeast London by two Islamist extremists.

— Eliza Mackintosh

NIGER
Last attackers killed with aid from French

With the help of French special forces, Niger’s military on Friday killed the last two jihadists holed up inside a dormitory at a military garrison in the desert town of Agadez and freed at least two soldiers who had been held hostage by the al-Qaeda-linked attackers, according to French and Nigerien officials.

“The operation is now finished,” Niger Defense Minister Karidjo Mahamadou said. In Paris, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France had intervened in the standoff at the request of Niger’s president.

The day’s events ended one of the West African Sahel region’s most catastrophic attacks, which began Thursday at dawn when suicide bombers simultaneously targeted the military camp in Agadez and a French-operated uranium mine 100 miles to the north, leaving a total of five jihadists and 21 other people dead.

The twin attacks were claimed by the Mali-based Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, a spinoff of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Africa. It was also claimed in a statement on jihadist forums by the Algerian terrorist figure Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose brigade was responsible for an attack on an Algerian gas plant in January in which 37 foreigners were killed.

— Associated Press

Swedish riots carry into 5th night: Stockholm police sought reinforcements to help end riots that have spread through the Swedish capital’s most ethnically mixed areas. About 30 cars burned overnight in Stockholm’s western and southern suburbs as unrest that started in Husby, north of the capital, continued for a fifth night, police said, adding that schools were also set on fire. Rioters are protesting the
fatal police shooting more than a week ago of a 69-year-old man, according to a residents’ group.

Turkey tightens alcohol restrictions: Scuffles broke out during an all-night legislative session that passed a bill proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party to ban all forms of advertising of alcohol — including the promotion of brands and logos, even in films and soap operas — and the sale of alcoholic drinks in shops between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. or at any time within 100 yards of mosques and schools. The ban does not apply to establishments with tourist certificates.

Iranian candidate vows resistance against West: Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, a candidate in next month’s presidential election, said he will pursue a policy of resistance against the West if elected. At his first campaign rally in Tehran, Saeed Jalili said his priority in foreign policy will be to expand Islam’s influence in the world and counter “arrogance,” a reference to the United States. Jalili is considered one of the most hard-line of the eight candidates approved by Iran’s election overseers to run in the June 14 vote.

N. Korean emissary gives Kim letter to China’s Xi: A top North Korean envoy delivered a letter from leader Kim Jong Un to Chinese President Xi Jinping and told him Pyongyang would take steps to rejoin stalled nuclear disarmament talks, the official China News Service reported. Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae’s three-day visit was seen as a fence-mending mission after Pyongyang angered Beijing with recent snubs and moves to develop its nuclear program.

Former Guatemalan leader extradited to U.S.: Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited to the United States to face charges of laundering $70 million in Guatemalan funds through U.S. bank accounts. The ex-president was taken from a military hospital where he was recovering from liver surgery and a heart condition and put on a New York-bound plane, his lawyer said.

— From news services

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