Islamabad, Pakistan

Musharraf calls for Bhutto investigation

President Pervez Musharraf announced yesterday that Scotland Yard will help investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, reversing his initial rejection of foreign help after he came under pressure to allow a U.N. probe.

Authorities also pushed back parliamentary elections until Feb. 18 – a six-week delay prompted by the rioting that followed the opposition leader’s death. Opposition parties condemned the delay but still plan to take part in the elections, seen as a key step in bringing democracy to Pakistan after years of military rule.

Both developments could ease the turmoil that has gripped Pakistan since Bhutto’s slaying in a gun and suicide bomb attack last week, which plunged the nation deeper into political crisis as it struggles to contain an explosion of Islamic militant violence.

Washington

U.S. lags on admitting Iraqi refugees

U.S. admissions of Iraqi refugees are nose-diving amid bureaucratic in-fighting despite the Bush administration’s pledge to boost them to roughly 1,000 per month, according to State Department statistics obtained by The Associated Press.

For the third straight month since the United States said it would improve processing and resettle 12,000 Iraqis by the end of the current budget year, the number admitted has actually slid, the figures show.

The steady decline – from 450 in October to 362 in November and 245 in December – means the administration will have to allow in 10,943 Iraqis over the next nine months, or roughly 1,215 per month, to meet the target it has set for itself.

Washington

Justice Dept. launches CIA tapes investigation

The Justice Department opened a full criminal investigation yesterday into the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes, putting the politically charged probe in the hands of a mob-busting public corruption prosecutor with a reputation for being independent.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced that he was appointing John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to oversee the investigation of a case that has challenged the Bush administration’s controversial handling of terrorism suspects.

“The Department’s National Security Division has recommended, and I have concluded, that there is a basis for initiating a criminal investigation of this matter, and I have taken steps to begin that investigation,” Mukasey said in a statement released yesterday.

Laurel, Md.

Escaped prison inmate dies in shootout

An inmate who escaped from a hospital yesterday, briefly taking a worker hostage and stealing two getaway cars, was cornered hours later in a cemetery by police and killed in a shootout, authorities said.

Kelvin Poke, 45, overpowered guards at Laurel Regional Hospital and fired several shots before fleeing, authorities said.

He was captured hours later about 30 miles away. Officers had tailed a suspicious vehicle – a white Ford Explorer with flat tires – into a cemetery shortly after 3 p.m. Poke got out of the vehicle and opened fire on police, who then shot back, police said.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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