World briefs – August 18

A frequent contributor to a jihadist website has threatened David Letterman, urging Muslim followers to “cut the tongue” of the late-night host because of a joke the comic made on his show.

Letterman threatened on Muslim forum after he makes al Qaida remark

NEW YORK — A frequent contributor to a jihadist website has threatened David Letterman, urging Muslim followers to “cut the tongue” of the late-night host because of a joke the comic made on his show.

The Site Monitoring Service, a private intelligence organization that watches online activity, said Wednesday that the threat was posted a day earlier on the Shumuka al-Islam forum, a popular Internet destination for radical Muslims.

The contributor, who identified himself as Umar al-Basrawi, was reacting to what he said Letterman did after the U.S. military announced on June 5 that a drone strike in Pakistan had killed al-Qaida leader Ilyas Kashmiri.

Al-Basrawi wrote that Letterman had made reference to both Osama bin Laden and Kashmiri and said that Letterman had “put his hand on his neck and demonstrated the way of slaughter.”

“Is there not among you a Sayyid Nosair al-Mairi . . . to cut the tongue of this lowly Jew and shut it forever?” Al-Basrawi wrote, referring to El Sayyid Nosair, who was convicted of the 1990 killing of Jewish Defence League founder Meir Kahane. Letterman is not Jewish.


Mexican suspected of planning gas attack arrested in Spain

MADRID, Spain — A chemistry student working as a volunteer for the pope’s visit to Madrid was arrested on suspicion of planning a gas attack targeting protesters opposed to the pontiff’s stay, officials said Wednesday.

Pope Benedict XVI is due to arrive Thursday for a nearly four-day visit to celebrate World Youth Day, and thousands of protesters railing against his visit staged their march Wednesday night to Madrid’s central Sol plaza where they have held months of demonstrations against Spanish politicians and the government’s anti-austerity policies.

A police official said the suspect arrested in Madrid Tuesday is a 24-year-old Mexican student specializing in organic chemistry. She would not say whether investigators believe the man was actually capable of carrying out a gas attack, and did not know if he actually had chemicals that could have been used to assault the protesters.

The detainee was identified by the Mexican Embassy in Madrid as Jose Perez Bautista, which said he was from Puebla state, near Mexico City.


Turkish jets bomb suspected Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish jets launched air raids on suspected Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq on Wednesday, Turkish and Kurdish media reported, hours after eight soldiers and a village guard were killed in an ambush by the autonomy-seeking guerrillas.

Some 15 warplanes took off from a Turkish base to strike at bases which the rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, use as a springboard to attack targets inside Turkey, according to a report on the NTV news channel. CNN-Turk television said Turkish F-16s were involved in the raids.

The Firat news agency, which is close to the rebels, said the Turkish jets were also targeting Qandil, a mountain on the Iraqi-Iranian border, where the rebels’ leaders are believed to be hiding.

The Turkish reports were based on unidentified sources and there was no immediate official confirmation of the strikes.

If confirmed, the raids would be Turkey’s first cross border offensive since last summer, when Turkish warplanes carried out a series of retaliatory air raids on suspected rebel hideouts.


Former Venezuelan president’s remains to return home for burial

MIAMI — Relatives of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez have agreed that he will be buried in Venezuela, ending a bitter family feud, their attorneys said Wednesday.

A joint statement by attorneys for both sides said Perez’s remains will return to Venezuela for burial as soon as the proper arrangements are made. It’s unclear how long that will take. The feuding sides were Perez’s estranged wife Blanca Rodriguez de Perez and her family against Cecilia Beatriz Matos Molero and her daughters, Maria Francia Perez-Matos and Cecilia Victoria Perez-Matos.

They agreed it is in the best interests of the families and of Perez’s legacy to end the months-long litigation.

Perez was Venezuela’s president from 1974-79 and 1989-93 and died in Miami in December at age 88.

The agreement came after weeks of closed-door negotiations and avoided a contentious trial that had been scheduled to begin earlier this month.


Indictment in Lebanon’s Hariri assassination released

BEIRUT — A long-awaited international indictment unsealed Wednesday offers no direct evidence linking four Hezbollah suspects to the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, despite years of painstaking investigations.

The indictment, which relies heavily on circumstantial evidence such as telephone records to link the men to the crime, played into efforts by the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah to discredit a case that has consumed and divided Lebanon for more than six years.

“The text in our hands now based on analysis and not clear evidence,” Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech. “Those who were indicted should not be called charged but unjustly treated.”

Much of the information contained in the indictment had been leaked to the media over the past two years, which Nasrallah said was a sign that the probe was tainted beyond repair.

Lebanon’s most powerful political and military force, Hezbollah has vowed never to turn over the suspects, although a trial may be held in absentia.

“The full story will, however, only unfold in the courtroom, where an open, public, fair and transparent trial will render a final verdict,” said Daniel Bellemare, the prosecutor at the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.