FBI: Al-Qaida may be recruiting women

WASHINGTON

Recent intelligence has the FBI worried that al-Qaida may be recruiting and training women to carry out terror attacks, trying to regain an element of surprise for a network thinned by arrests, officials say.

For the first time in the war on terror, the FBI has issued a be-on-the-lookout bulletin for a woman, a Pakistani neurological expert, wanted for questioning in the terrorism investigation. Analysts also are examining claims another woman made in an Arab newspaper that she was asked by Osama bin Laden to open training camps for female terrorists.

Female attackers, successfully used by other terror organizations such as the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, would represent a major tactical shift for al-Qaida after years of being aligned with the Afghan Taliban regime that oppressed women and considered them unworthy to participate in an Islamic holy war, officials said.

“The FBI and our partners in the intelligence community are analyzing information around the clock for trends or any indicators that would help us prevent the next terrorist attack,” FBI spokesman Mike Kortan said.

Several U.S. intelligence officials said they have no credible information suggesting an imminent attack plan to be carried out by women, but analysts are wary of the possibility.


Drug trial marred by corrupt testimony

TULIA, Texas

The drug convictions of 38 mostly black defendants from a farm town in the Texas Panhandle should be thrown out because they were based on questionable testimony from a single undercover agent accused of racial prejudice, a judge said yesterday.

Retired state district Judge Ron Chapman urged the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to grant new trials to everyone convicted in a case that has prompted investigations by the Justice Department and Texas attorney general.

“It is stipulated by all parties and approved by the court that Tom Coleman is simply not a credible witness under oath,” Chapman said of the agent.

The case involved 1999 cocaine busts in this predominantly white town of 5,000 people. Coleman said he bought drugs from the defendants in an 18-month investigation, where he worked. alone and used no video surveillance.

But no drugs were ever found during the arrests and little or no corroborating evidence was introduced at trial. The Texas American Civil Liberties Union suggested discrimination was behind the arrests, intended to cleanse Tulia of its black population. Coleman is white.

Coleman, who had been due to resume testifying at the hearing yesterday, was not in the courthouse when the judge announced his recommendation.


Eastern Indonesia devastated by floods

JAKARTA, Indonesia

Landslides triggered by flash floods in eastern Indonesia killed at least 27 people and left five others missing, police said yesterday.

The floods and landslides swept away 17 houses on Flores island, about 1,000 miles east of the capital of Jakarta, said Paulinus Domi, head of the local district of Ende.

Police said they were searching for the missing late yesterday.

No other details were immediately available.

Flooding and landslides have killed nearly 80 people on several Indonesian islands since the current rainy season began in late November. Many of the disasters have been blamed on deforestation caused by rampant illegal logging.


Teachers suspended for protesting war

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

Two high school teachers said yesterday they have been placed on leave for refusing to remove war-related student artwork posted in their classrooms.

Highland High School teachers Allen Cooper and Geoffrey Barrett said they were told Monday night that they would be suspended if they did not remove the posters.

Barrett, who teaches history and current events, said the student art carried both anti-war and pro-war messages, and was created as part of a class assignment.

“I think this is mostly a violation of the students’ rights to have a voice and express their opinions,” Barrett said.

“Asking me to take down the posters was taking away the voice of the students and I was not going to do that.”

Cooper said one of the signs in question in his classroom read “No War Mr. Cooper.”


‘Spiderman’ climbs tower to protest war

PARIS

A French climber who calls himself “Spiderman” scaled the 47-story headquarters of oil giant TotalFina Elf outside Paris yesterday to protest the war in Iraq.

Wearing a shirt with the message “No war,” Alain Robert reached the top of the office tower in under an hour. At the top, he unfurled a flag with the same slogan.

Police greeted Robert at the top of the building, located in the La Defense financial district east of Paris, and escorted him to the ground floor.

“I wanted to protest against the war because I find the war completely illegal,” Robert told reporters, as police led him away. It wasn’t clear whether he would be charged criminally.

Robert, 40, who is renowned for climbing without ropes or other equipment, has also climbed the Eiffel Tower and more than 30 skyscrapers, including New York’s Empire State Building.

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