BAGHDAD, Iraq

Car bombs wound U.S. troops in Iraq

Two car bombs wounded American and Iraqi troops west of the
capital yesterday and a few hours later the U.S. military announced
the arrest of a senior Iraqi National Guard commander on suspicion
of ties to insurgents, underscoring the challenges to building a
strong Iraq security service capable of restoring stability.

The two attackers who died in the twin blasts tried to ram their
cars into a National Guard base in Kharma, a town on the outskirts
of the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, a U.S. military official
said on condition of anonymity.

The number of U.S. and Iraqi casualties was not immediately
clear, but a statement from the U.S. Marines said there were no
serious injuries among American troops at the base.

The National Guard is the centerpiece of U.S. plans to turn over
security responsibilities after elections slated for January, and
guardsmen have been targeted repeatedly by insurgents who are
trying to undermine Iraq’s interim government and drive out
the U.S.-led coalition.

But the threat may not only come from outside the force. Guard
Brig. Gen. Talib al-Lahibi, who previously served as an infantry
officer in Saddam Hussein’s army, was detained Thursday in
the province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, a U.S. military
statement announced.

 

DAMASCUS, Syria

Israeli bomb kills senior Hamas leader

In a hit claimed by Israeli security officials, a senior Hamas
operative was killed in a car bombing yesterday outside his house
in Damascus, the first such killing of a leader of the Islamic
militant group in Syria.

Izz Eldine Subhi Sheik Khalil, 42, died instantly in the
explosion, which wounded three bystanders. Witnesses said he was
speaking on his mobile phone as he put his Mitsubishi SUV in
reverse before it exploded about 10 yards from his home.

Analysts said the killing appeared designed as much to warn the
Syrians as to keep Hamas off balance.

Syria called the killing “cowardly” and top Hamas
leaders, already taking extraordinary security precautions, went
deeper underground. The killing threatened to take the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict to new levels, with conflicting
remarks from Hamas on whether it too would begin targeting Israeli
interests abroad.

Security officials in Jerusalem, speaking anonymously,
acknowledged involvement, though the Israeli government issued no
statement. It had been warning for weeks that members of the group
would not be safe in Syria.

Israel’s ability to infiltrate the Hamas leadership in
Damascus will likely further rattle the group after Israel killed
Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin and his successor as Gaza leader,
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, in missile strikes this year.

The Syrian Interior Ministry said in a terse statement carried
by the official news agency, SANA, that Khalil had not engaged in
any militant activity inside Syrian territory, and that authorities
were investigating the explosion.

 

SEATTLE

Scientists warn of Mount St. Helens eruption

A strengthening series of earthquakes at Mount St. Helens
prompted seismologists yesterday to warn that the once-devastating
volcano may see a small explosion soon.

The U.S. Geological Survey issued a notice of volcanic unrest in
response to the swarm of hundreds of earthquakes that began
Thursday.

“The key issue is a small explosion without warning. That
would be the major event that we’re worried about right
now,” said Willie Scott, a geologist with the USGS office in
Vancouver.

The quakes were tiny at first, but on Saturday and yesterday
there were more than 10 temblors of magnitude 2.0 to 2.8, the most
in a 24-hour period since the last dome-building eruption in
October 1986, Scott said.

In the event of an explosion, Scott said the concern would be
focused on the area within the crater and the flanks of the
volcano. It’s possible that a five-mile area primarily north
of the volcano could receive flows of mud and rock debris.

 

KARACHI, Pakistan

Alleged murderer of journalist dies in shootout

Paramilitary police killed a suspected top al-Qaida operative,
wanted for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Wall Street
Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, during a four-hour shootout
yesterday at a southern Pakistan house, the information minister
said. At least two other men were arrested.

Amjad Hussain Farooqi was wanted for his alleged role in the
kidnapping and beheading of Pearl in 2002 and two assassination
attempts against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in December
2003.

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