World briefs – June 22

A 19-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of involvement with cyber attacks on Sony and the CIA website, British police said.

Arrest made in hack attacks

LONDON — A 19-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of involvement with cyber attacks on Sony and the CIA website, British police said.

The arrest took place following a joint operation by its Internet crimes unit and the FBI, the Metropolitan Police said Tuesday. The FBI declined to comment.

British police would not say if the suspect was tied to the Lulz Security hacking collective, which has claimed responsibility for recent high-profile attacks, but confirmed that a computer seized in the operation will be examined for Sony data.

Lulz appeared dismissive of the arrest, saying on Twitter that it used the arrested man’s server, but that the man is not part of the group.


Suicide bomber kills 22

BAGHDAD — Twin explosions, including a suicide car bombing outside a government compound, killed at least 22 people Tuesday in a rare attack in the mainly Shiite south that signalled insurgents could be trying to expand their reach.

The violence comes as Iraqi officials are weighing whether to ask some of the roughly 47,000 U.S. forces still in the country to stay past this year.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s strike in Diwaniyah, 130 km south of Baghdad. But the fact that it was a suicide bomber targeting an Iraqi government building pointed to Sunni extremists such as al-Qaida in Iraq.

Shiite officials were quick to blame the terror network and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s ousted Baath Party.


Demonstrations do battle

BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad’s effort to drown out pro-democracy protests exploded into clashes between government supporters and opponents Tuesday, and security forces opened fire and killed seven people, including a teenager, activists said.

It was the latest deadly turn in a 3-month-old uprising that appears unbowed by a relentless government crackdown.

The violence flared a day after a speech in which Assad, trying to contain the situation, offered a vague promise of reform, one brushed off as too little, too late, by the opposition, which wants an end to the Assad family’s 40-year authoritarian rule.

In an attempt to blunt the uprising’s momentum, tens of thousands of regime supporters converged on squares in several major cities on Tuesday.

They soon clashed with opposition supporters, drawing in security forces.

The pro- and anti-Assad sides have fought each other in the past, but Tuesday’s bloodshed appeared to be the worst such violence.

“We are seeing an escalation by authorities today,” said Omar Idilbi, spokesman for the committees. “They are sending pro-government thugs along with security forces to attack protesters.”


Mexican drug lord arrested

MEXICO CITY — Federal authorities apprehended the leader of the cult-like, pseudo-Christian La Familia cartel on Tuesday, saying they had dealt a debilitating blow to a major organized crime group that terrorized western Mexico.

Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias El Chango, or “The Monkey,” was arrested in the central state of Aguascalientes without confrontation or casualties, said federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire.

A state official who was not authorized to speak on the record said Mendez was taken at a federal police checkpoint, but authorities didn’t provide more details.

“With this arrest, what remained of the structure of this criminal organization has been destroyed,” Poire told a news conference.

With the death of La Familia founder and leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez in December, Poire said Mendez was “the last remaining head of a criminal group responsible for homicides, kidnappings, extortion, corruption and even cowardly attacks on the authorities and civilian population.”

But the leadership of a violent splinter group, known as the Knights Templar, remains at large.

President Felipe Calderon personally lauded the arrest on his Twitter account, calling it a “big blow.”

According to the reward statement issued by the Attorney General’s Office, Mendez was “responsible for the transfer and sale of cocaine, marijuana, crystal methamphetamine in various states of Mexico and the United States of America. He is the alleged mastermind of kidnappings and killings, mainly of members of other criminal organizations.”

The government had offered a $2.5 million reward for his capture.

La Familia first appeared four years ago when it rolled five severed heads into a Michoacan nightclub, vowing to protect local citizens from rival cartels.

Moreno set a code of conduct for members that prohibited the use of hard drugs or dealing them within Mexican territory, even as they decapitated foes and sold cocaine and methamphetamine by the ton.

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