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WORLD IN BRIEF

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Al Qaeda Lays Claim To London Attacks

CAIRO -- The second-ranking leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, said in a statement broadcast Monday that his terror network carried out the July 7 bombings in London, marking the group's first direct assertion of responsibility for attacks on the city's transportation system that killed 56 people, including the four presumed bombers.

"The blessed London attack was one which al Qaeda was honored to launch against the British Crusader's arrogance and against the American Crusader aggression on the Islamic nation for 100 years," Zawahiri, shown wearing a white turban, said on the videotape, a portion of which was aired on the al-Jazeera television network.

A spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police said she had no immediate comment on the statement.

Zawahiri also challenged the legitimacy of Sunday's legislative elections in Afghanistan, a reference that suggested the tape was made recently.

The al Qaeda leader also criticized Britain's plan to deport Abu Qatada, a radical cleric, and nine others detained after the London bombings. Spanish officials have described Abu Qatada as al Qaeda's "spiritual ambassador in Europe."

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THE AMERICAS

· MEXICO CITY -- Mexican prosecutors filed long-awaited charges against former president Luis Echeverria for a 1968 massacre of students by government troops that was the bloodiest moment of a brutal crackdown on dissidents.

In the latest test of President Vicente Fox's pledge to punish those responsible for past repression, a special prosecutor presented genocide and kidnapping charges against Echeverria, 83, and seven others for the Oct. 2, 1968, bloodbath at a student rally in Mexico City.

"It has been almost 37 years of impunity and justice denied," prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo Prieto said. "Now for the first time it is possible that the justice system may perform its duty."

The criminal court judge in Mexico City was expected to decide this week whether to order the arrest of Echeverria, who was interior minister and head of national security at the time of the massacre. Officials said police and soldiers killed about 30 people but witnesses put the death toll as high as 300. Echeverria was president from 1970 to 1976.

· GUATEMALA CITY -- Three presumed gang members were shot and beaten to death in the latest deadly clashes between street gangs in Guatemala's prisons that started last month when a peace pact collapsed, police said. The men, believed to be members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, were attacked with guns, stones and sticks by members of a rival gang, Mara 18, said a police spokesman, Carlos Calju. The gangs, formed in the United States by migrants who fled the wars in Central America during the 1980s, now have tens of thousands of members throughout the region and the United States.

AFRICA

· ARUSHA, Tanzania -- Three former Rwandan cabinet ministers went on trial before a Tanzania-based U.N. tribunal for their alleged roles in their country's 1994 genocide.

Mathieu Ngirumpatse, president of the Hutu extremist National Revolutionary Movement for Democracy and Development, Edouard Karemera, the party's former vice president, and Joseph Nzirorera, its former secretary general, had pleaded not guilty to charges that include genocide and crimes against humanity.

More than 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were massacred during a frenzy of killings by Hutu extremists in 1994.

According to the Associated Press, the U.N. tribunal has convicted 22 people and acquitted three. It has 63 genocide suspects in its custody, and 25 are standing trial.

· LUANDA, Angola -- Three years after Angola's decades-long civil war ended, almost half the nation's children are severely malnourished and at risk from preventable diseases, but a shortage of funds is hindering efforts to expand food deliveries, a U.N. aid agency said. The World Food Program said Angolan children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition-related diseases, such as tuberculosis.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

· NOUMEA, New Caledonia -- The World Health Organization rejected calls that it push for a lower-cost, generic version of a patented drug to treat people with the deadly bird flu virus in poor countries.

Speaking at a conference of health ministers and experts, Director General Lee Jong Wook said WHO would not pressure Swiss-based Roche Holding AG to relinquish its patent on oseltamivir. Sold under the brand name Tamiflu, it is the only proven treatment against bird flu in humans.

Last month, Roche announced it would donate 3 million treatment courses of Tamiflu to a WHO-managed stockpile.

Many wealthy countries are stockpiling Tamiflu, but many poor countries in Southeast Asia -- where a pandemic is considered most likely to begin -- have none or only minimal supplies.

· LHOKSEUMAWE, Indonesia -- Indonesia will withdraw 2,600 soldiers from the tsunami-battered Aceh province Tuesday, a military spokesman said, with another 3,500 slated to leave by month's end as part of a peace accord to end three decades of fighting in which nearly 15,000 people were killed.

The agreement signed last month in Finland calls on the military to more than halve the 60,000 troops it has in the province by the end of the year and for separatist rebels to hand in their weapons.

-- From News Services

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