Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pakistan to buy F-16s

Pakistan is buying a large number of new & used F-16s:

Pakistan, which had put off a four billion dollar deal to buy 75 F-16 from the US in the aftermath of last year's earthquake, now plans to buy a mix of both new and used versions of the fighter jets.

"We are also considering to buy used F-16s from elsewhere. However, we will prefer a mix of new and old F-16 fighter planes for the PAF," Pakistan Air Force chief, Kaleem Saadat, said on Friday, adding, various versions for F-16s were available for PAF to chose from.

Maintaining a strong and credible defence is expensive and PAF needs hardware worth three to four billion dollars to maintain a minimum deterrence capability, he told the English-speaking Union of Pakistan (EUP) in Karachi.

PAF was on the verge of buying 75 F-16 fighter jets last year when the earthquake struck parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and NWFP on October 8.

The decision was put off to get maximum financial support from the world community for quake relief work.

Pakistan managed to get financial commitments to the tune of seven billion dollars for the relief and reconstruction.

Asef Shawkat's assests frozen

U.S. Freezes Assets of Syria's Intelligence Director:

The United States froze the U.S. assets of Syrian military intelligence director Asef Shawkat, accusing him of fomenting terrorism against Israel and backing Syria's role in Lebanon.

The move represented increased pressure on Syria to cooperate with a U.N. inquiry of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a Beirut bomb blast on Feb. 14.

The State Department called Shawkat "a key architect of Syria's domination of Lebanon."

No nuke with India

There will be no nuclear deal with India before Bush visits there in March:

Indicating that the nuclear deal was unlikely to be implemented before President George W Bush's visit here in early March, the US today said there were "difficulties ahead" and "much more progress" needed to be made in the negotiations unique in nature.

After his two-day talks with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran here on the July 18 Civilian Nuclear Cooperation deal, US Under Secretary Nicholas Burns said the Bush administration was committed to implement that accord with its "global partner" India as it will have "enormous benefits" for both the countries.

"With regard to the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, we remain hopeful that we will be able to achieve this agreement. It is difficult to undertake but it is very unique to undertake," he told a joint press conference with Saran referring to the ongoing negotiations for its implementations.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

No German Help

"A German spy chief and his agents" deny that they helped the US pick out bombing targets in Iraq.

A German spy chief and his agents assured members of Parliament that they did not help the United States pick out bombing targets during the invasion of Iraq, but failed to halt demands for an inquiry.

Ernst Uhrlau, head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, told Parliament's foreign affairs committee that German intelligence gave the United States information only on civilian sites to avoid in bombing raids, members of the committee said.

Media reports that two German agents went further, including acting as scouts for a raid aimed at killing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, have caused an uproar because the German government and public opinion both strongly opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Wouldn't want to be seen as helping the wrong side, you know.

US, India hold nuclear talks

India and the US are holding talks on their recent nuclear deal:

Seeking to implement the landmark nuclear deal ahead of American President George W Bush's visit here expected in March, India and the US today held talks on the roadmap for completing the process.

Meeting nearly after a month of their last parleys, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran held a restricted meeting with US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns here which was followed by a delegation-level meeting, official sources said.

The officials, on the first of the two-day parleys, are understood to have discussed how to proceed on implementation of the civilian nuclear cooperation deal under which the US will lift sanctions on dual-use technology trade with India.

India, required to separate the civilian and military nuclear establishments, has already presented its plan in this regard to the US in December and Washington is understood to have forwarded its response at today's meeting.

Saran and Burns are believed to have also discussed Iran's nuclear issue and upcoming visit of Bush tentatively to take place by March.

Ahead of his meeting with Saran, Burns said the two countries had "ventured into a unique international diplomacy in our bilateral atomic relations."

He had said in Mumbai yesterday that India and the US were committed to trying and achieve civil nuclear agreement between the two countries."

According to him, it would take around six to eight months to "decide on how best to proceed".

Hello, hello? This thing on?

After 14 months, I think I'm back!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Spotted in Kashmir?

Rumors that bin Laden has been spotted in Kashmir:

The latest rumour emerged via India's Star Television, which has been carrying a report saying a 10-car convoy believed to be carrying bin Laden was spotted in eastern Pakistan by an Indian reconnaissance plane.

It sourced the information to intelligence analyst and former US Justice Department Prosecutor John Loftus, who was speaking on Star's sister channel America's Fox News.

Loftus said India's external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, had tipped off the FBI after the pilot of the surveillance aircraft reported the convoy.

The chances of an Indian pilot flying over the territory of arch-foe and neighbour Pakistan are slim. But the rumour has nevertheless gained traction.

Additional surveillance aircraft were called in and identified the al Qaeda leader on the move with a 10-vehicle convoy of black Japanese minivans, it said. Four of the vehicles turned up again on Oct. 22 heading east towards the China border.

The report echoed a similar claim made by Pakistani Urdu-language newspaper Khabrain last month, suggesting bin Laden could have taken refuge in northern Kashmir, in the barren mountains straddling the India-Pakistan-China frontier.

Indian officials have not commented and Indian defence analysts voiced doubts about the veracity of such reports.

Pakistan military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan scoffed at the suggestion, which he termed media speculation. "There's nothing to my knowledge on this -- it sounds absurd."

Diplomats say no evidence exists to suggest bin Laden's capture is imminent -- or that he is anywhere other than Afghanistan or the lawless tribal areas inside the Pakistani border -- despite a report in the latest edition of Newsweek that US intelligence agents recently thought they were on the verge of a breakthrough.

"It looked like we were really close, maybe one or two people away," it quoted one official as saying. "There was a lot of optimism around here."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

State Upset with Chinese Deputy PM

The State Department is upset with China's Deputy Prime Minister and has spoken with the Chinese Ambassador in Washington:

The State Department yesterday summoned Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi to complain about comments by one of China's elder statesman calling U.S. foreign policy "arrogant."

The remarks, attributed to former Deputy Prime Minister Qian Qichen, prompted the State Department to call Mr. Yang to a meeting with James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

The meeting, however, failed to clarify what Mr. Qian said and how much his remarks reflected the views of the Beijing government, officials said.

Mr. Kelly "expressed concern, disappointment and puzzlement" over the comments, which were reported Monday in the English-language China Daily, a State Department official said.

Mr. Qian, who is also a former foreign minister, blamed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq for increasing the number of terrorist attacks, and accused an "arrogant" United States of trying to "rule the world."

"The philosophy of the 'Bush Doctrine' is in essence force," he was quoted as saying. "It advocates the United States should rule over the whole world with overwhelming force, military force in particular."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the article should not have appeared on the eve of yesterday's presidential election and issued an opaque statement.

"Qian Qichen did not accept any interviews from China Daily or other Chinese media nor did he write any articles for China Daily," spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.

But neither he nor any other officials, including those at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, denied the authenticity and substance of Mr. Qian's remarks.

In fact, Miss Zhang spoke yesterday against unilateralism, albeit in general terms.

"It is not enough to rely on one or two countries to resolve all kinds of challenges and crisis," she told reporters in Beijing.

China, as in most countries, has refrained from making comments that could be interpreted as taking sides in the U.S. election.

But U.S. officials expressed doubt that Mr. Qian's remarks were a coincidence. They noted that there is no free press in China, and the article in question hardly could have slipped past the censors.

Monday, November 01, 2004

An American soldier in a burqa

An American soldier in a burqa sparks a suicide-bomb panic in Kabul:

A female American soldier wearing a burqa over an ammunitions belt on a walk through a ladies-only bazaar in Kabul unwittingly sparked a security scare yesterday, when Afghan police mistook her for a potential suicide bomber.

“A woman entered the Women’s Garden and the security forces got suspicious because she was wearing an ammunitions belt under her burqa,” the capital’s police chief, General Baba Jan, said.
“After she was stopped and searched she was found with weapons.

Then she was identified as an American soldier working for the coalition forces.” Rumours flew through the Afghan capital, already jittery after the abduction of three UN workers and a suicide bomb attack last week, that a suicide bomber had been thwarted in the Women’s Garden, a cosmetics and lingerie bazaar set up in a city park for women only.

Peacekeepers from the International Security Assistance Force sent a team to investigate the reports.

“ISAF are on the site and are investigating a possible threat of a suicide bomber,” a spokesman for the multinational force said earlier yesterday.

Peacekeepers and Afghan police sealed all roads leading to the park, as security forces searched the woman. She was later escorted by police out of the park with a burqa, an all-enveloping garment worn by most Afghan women, still over her military uniform.

Foreigners in Kabul have been advised to keep a low profile and restrict their movements as they become increasingly targeted.

“After security incidents involving foreigners the American lady, who only recently arrived in Afghanistan, thought that by wearing a burqa, with her ammunition belt and uniform underneath, she would be safe to go anywhere she wants,” Jan said.

“She acknowledged that she had made a mistake using a burqa to get into the women’s garden. She wanted to go to the women’s market dressed in the traditional Afghan way and see the shops and buy things.” A spokesman for the US-led coalition said he was unaware of the incident.

“I don’t have any information on that,” US Major Mark McCann said.

"Why not be friendly to Syria?"

"Syria rejects image as terrorist hotbed and calls for US friendship"

To the European cultural tourists who flock here, the place seems an oasis of calm and tolerance - certainly not a hotbed of terrorist sympathisers. Yet this, much to the annoyance of the Syrian authorities, is how they feel they are being portrayed.

America has repeatedly warned Syria for harbouring Palestinian terror groups and for failing to stop fundamentalist fighters from crossing the border with Iraq. Earlier last year it backed up its words with economic sanctions, and has told Syria it will remain under intense scrutiny.

Western diplomats give Syria some credit for tightening up frontier controls and co-operating with efforts to trace millions of dollars exported by Saddam Hussein. But United States officials stress that pressure will be maintained, whoever wins the presidential election. "They've been told that any president is going to be tough on terrorism and those who harbour terrorists," said one.

Such admonishments irk the government. "We don't take orders from outside," said Mahdi Daklallah, the Syrian information minister.

Syria also feels it is blamed for a problem of America's making. "They want to make the world think that the problem is on our border when the problem is in Iraq and what they are doing there," said Bouthaina Shaaban, minister for expatriates.

The country is in the middle of a reform process - albeit slow - for which it feel it gets insufficient credit. "Why not be friendly to Syria?" asked Dr Shaaban. "After all this is one of the few parts of the region where people live together in harmony."

European envoys say that under 39-year-old Bashar Assad, who took over as president from his father Hafez in 2000, the political atmosphere has lightened. There has been a loosening of the state's control of the media. Court proceedings are more visible and foreign diplomats have been allowed to attend hearings.

"There is a genuine feeling that it's becoming less of a police state," said one.

"There is less fear of the mukhabarat [state security] and people are not looking over their shoulders so much. But it's a change in the atmosphere rather than of the institutions."

The structures that sustained the authority of the old regime may be weakened next year when the ruling Ba'ath party holds a special congress that is expected to result in it abandoning the leading role granted it in the constitution.

And for all the prickliness felt in Damascus towards Washington, there is an acceptance that America has to be accommodated. The authorities say they have arrested several hundred fundamentalists trying to make their way into Iraq and have earned the praise of Colin Powell. Palestinian Hamas leaders exiled in Damascus are believed to have been told not to promote any operations that might provoke Israeli retaliation.

Ordinary Syrians emphasise that they like America. Many have family in the United States.

SK fires on NK naval boat

South Korea fires on a North Korean naval boat:

South Korea says its patrol boats fired on North Korean naval vessels after they crossed a disputed maritime border.

In the latest incident along the tense frontier, the South Korean navy says its ships fired several warning shots after three boats from the North crossed the Northern Limit Line.

South Korean defense officials say the North Korean navy vessels did not respond to radio warnings to back off. They say the North's boats retreated after nearly an hour without firing a shot in return.

South Korean officials say there were about 80 Chinese fishing boats in the area at the time.

Bilal Hiyari found guilty

Bilal Hiyari, a "Jordanian businessman," has been found guilty in Jordan for "raising funds to help militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi carry out assaults on U.S. forces in Iraq."

This nation's military court convicted a Jordanian businessman of raising funds to help militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi carry out assaults on U.S. forces in Iraq, but acquitted him of conspiring in the actual attacks.

Bilal Hiyari, 34, was sentenced to six months in prison. As Chief Judge Fawaz Buqour read the sentence, Hiyari stood silently in a navy blue prison uniform.

"You are acquitted of conspiring to carry out terror attacks because specific details of the accusation could not be substantiated with hard evidence," Buqour told the defendant.

"Thank you," Hiyari responded.

Military prosecutors accused Hiyari of having collected unspecified amounts of money for attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and terrorist activities in Jordan planned by Zarqawi. The Jordanian-born militant leader last month announced his group's allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

Viktor Yushchenko vs Viktor Yanukovich

The recent election in the Ukraine should lead to a run off between the pro-Russia candidate and the pro-Western candidate. Also, there are report of voter fraud harming the pro-Western candidate.

Partial official results in Ukraine's bitterly fought presidential election Sunday gave Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich the lead, but he appeared headed for a runoff with a pro-West opposition leader.

With about 81% of voting districts counted, official results showed Yanukovich with about 42% of the votes. The prime minister has called for stronger ties with Moscow.

Viktor Yushchenko, regarded as a pro-Western democrat and free-market reformer, was second with 37% in a field of 24 candidates.

But high-profile exit polls — financed in part by the U.S. Embassy and other Western diplomatic missions and conducted by four of Ukraine's most respected polling companies — put Yushchenko in first place, as did a vote count conducted by his campaign observers.

Yushchenko rushed to claim victory.

"The democratic forces have won in Ukraine," Yushchenko told journalists and supporters early today.

"I'd like to thank the Ukrainian voters…. I thank you for this victory which we have today in Ukraine. It's a matter of great importance. We have been waiting for it for many years, and tens of millions of Ukrainians have been waiting for it."

Yushchenko said the vote count conducted by his supporters showed him with 50% to Yanukovich's 28%, with 31% of voting stations tabulated.

One of the exit polls, conducted with a secret ballot, showed Yushchenko with 45% and Yanukovich with 37%. The other, conducted through interviews, showed Yushchenko with 43% and Yanukovich with 39%. Many foreign observers and Yushchenko supporters were looking at exit poll data to evaluate the credibility of the official count.

If no one wins more than 50% of the vote, the two top finishers will face each other in a Nov. 21 runoff.

The winner will succeed President Leonid D. Kuchma, who has been in power for 10 years. Kuchma's election to a second term in 1999 was criticized by Western human rights groups for violating standards of fairness, as was Ukraine's 2002 parliamentary election.

For 13 troubled years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this nation of 48 million has been torn between a desire for full acceptance by the West and a centuries-long tradition of integration with Russia.

Yushchenko has indicated that, as president, he would push the country toward warmer ties with Western Europe and the United States, whereas Yanukovich has pledged to make Russian a second official language and boost ties with Moscow.

Yushchenko supporters scheduled a rally today to back their candidate and demand a fair vote count.

"We shall not surrender our victory to anyone," Yushchenko told reporters after voting at a polling station in Kiev, warning authorities to count votes "honestly and in accordance with the law."

"If this procedure is violated by the authorities, we shall act accordingly," he said.

"We shall not yield to threats. …. God and justice are with us."

Friday, October 29, 2004

Ali Ahmad Al-Baghli, columnist for Kuwait's Arab Times, says of George H. W. Bush:

"Had this man not been in power in 1990 Kuwait would surely have lost its freedom forever."

Al-Baghli goes on to say about George W. Bush:

"Coming to Bush, the son, we remember how nicely Clinton was treating Saddam although his mere presence was a problem for us, Kuwaitis. Saddam was a nightmare for us for all the 12 years he remained in power. Then the solution to this nightmare was delivered to us on a golden platter by George W. Bush, a true son of his father...If we just pause for a moment to think of who made it possible for us we will realise it was not the GCC, the Arab League or even the United Nations. It was one man, George W. Bush, the son."

THERE is no doubt the decision to choose the US President rests with Americans. But when we consider the fact that the US President is the President of the sole superpower in the world, then the elections to this position become the concern of the entire world. Everyone has his own opinion. Among all opinions on election of the next US President, we want to talk about Kuwait's point of view. However, I must hasten to add maybe this view won't represent all Kuwaitis. Speaking for ourselves we must say that we don't agree with those who talk ill about President Bush's bad decisions and mistakes because these people never had to deal with Saddam Hussein. Their hands were in water while ours were in the fire of Saddam Hussein.

To begin we must start with Bush, the father. Had this man not been in power in 1990 Kuwait would surely have lost its freedom forever. Our files would have been collecting dust in the drawers of the United Nations with some forgotten serial numbers. Kuwait would have met the same fate as the Palestinian issue. Saddam was hoping for this when he said he wouldn't quit Kuwait as long as Israel was in Palestine. Eventually Kuwait was liberated while Palestine is still struggling. The difference between us and the Palestinians is that God gave us a man like Bush, the father. Coming to Bush, the son, we remember how nicely Clinton was treating Saddam although his mere presence was a problem for us, Kuwaitis. Saddam was a nightmare for us for all the 12 years he remained in power. Then the solution to this nightmare was delivered to us on a golden platter by George W. Bush, a true son of his father.

We don't care what others say about Bush's reasons for attacking Saddam. People may say President Bush wants to control the oil resources of the Middle East or whatever. For us the most important thing is the result. We must admit we never dreamt of such a wonderful result. We are living a real dream. If we just pause for a moment to think of who made it possible for us we will realise it was not the GCC, the Arab League or even the United Nations. It was one man, George W. Bush, the son.

Mohamed Harkat

Terror suspect, and acquaintance of Abu Zabaydah, on trail in Canada:

There still remain two stories about the life of Mohamed Harkat.

One account is written by Canadian security agents, who describe the 36-year-old Algerian refugee as a supporter of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization, sent to Canada as a sleeper agent.

The other story, told this week to a federal court by Harkat himself, is of a hard-working refugee drawn to Ottawa by the freedom Canada promised.

A four-day court hearing that wrapped up yesterday, added little to these two versions of Harkat's history. Justice department lawyer James Mathieson spent less than 90 minutes yesterday cross-examining Harkat on the more than five hours of testimony he had given a day earlier.

There was no evidence given publicly by government lawyers to support the vague allegations contained in a 40-page brief written by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service when Harkat was arrested in December, 2002.

"I would have thought they had more things to deal with him on (during the cross-examination) to suggest he wasn't telling the truth," Paul Copeland, one of Harkat's lawyers, said outside the court.

On Wednesday, Harkat admitted he lied to CSIS agents when they interviewed him before his arrest, denying knowing a friend in Ottawa and using a nickname. He testified he was scared and believed agents had the wrong person. But government lawyers yesterday did not challenge his denial of having met Abu Zabaydah, an accused top-ranking Al Qaeda member, or knowing a now-deceased Canadian Al Qaeda member any more familiarly than having once shared a car ride with him.

Two federal ministers signed a national security certificate seeking Harkat's deportation, on the grounds he poses a risk to the country's security. If Justice Eleanor Dawson upholds that certificate as reasonable then he could be deported to Algeria, where Harkat says he will be tortured or killed.

India to US & UN: "No"

India will not send "its observers nor any officials to train the election staff" to Iraq:

India will send neither its observers nor any officials to train the election staff for conducting general elections in Iraq.

At a breakfast meeting on Iraq between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the left leaders, including Harkishan Singh Surjeet and A B Bardhan, the consensus emerged that India should not send either observers or trainers to Iraq.

“If they need our help, they can come here and benefit from our experience and expertise. We have no objection to this,” CPI General Secretary Bardhan told media persons after the 70-minute meeting.

Besides Surjeet and Bardhan, Security Advisor J N Dixit, Forward Bloc General Secretary Debarat Biswas and RSP leader Abani Roy also attended the meeting.

UN request

The United Nations and the United States have requested India to lend its specialists and experts in the sphere to ensure the smooth conduct of elections in January.

The UN and the US had also requested India to share its successful experiment of electronic voting machines for the elections with Iraq.

The Left leaders said Mr Dixit also briefed them about India’s relationship with Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel and apprised them of the talks held with the Military ruler of Myanmar General Than Shwe, who is currently on an official visit to India.

Bardhan said there is no question of sending Indian observers or trainers for Iraq elections. “We are happy that the UPA government and the left parties have the same thinking on the issue.”

Thursday, October 28, 2004

UNRWA+Hamas=More Canadian money

Canada will still give the UNRWA money even though it employs members of Hamas:

Canada will continue to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees after a week of allegations that the agency is employing members of Hamas, a group officially designated by Canada as a terrorist organization.

"UNRWA has a long-standing record of humanitarian aid for the Palestinian refugees, and Canada wants that role to continue," Canadian Foreign Affairs Department spokesperson Marie Christine Lilkoff told The Daily Star in a phone interview.

In a televised interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) two weeks ago, UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen had said: "I am sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don't see that as a crime."

"Hamas as a political organization does not mean every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another," he said.

3 taken in Kabul

Three foreign election workers abducted in Kabul:

Armed men kidnapped three foreign election workers as they drove in a white sport utility vehicle in the Afghan capital on Thursday, the United Nations and Afghan officials said.

An election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the victims were all women and were believed to include one Irish citizen and one Croatian.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva confirmed the abductions but declined to identify the victims or give their nationalities.

The motive for the attack was not clear, but Taliban rebels have in the past kidnapped Westerners, and the U.S. Embassy issued a warning earlier this month that abductions might be attempted surrounding the October 9 presidential vote.

Abdul Hadi Qasemi, an Afghan working for U.N. security, said the three were stopped and abducted by five gunmen. He said the driver of the U.N. car was also missing.

On Thursday afternoon, U.N. security staff ringed the white vehicle, found on a dusty street near an office of the joint U.N.-Afghan electoral body set up to oversee the presidential vote.

The car, clearly marked with the world body's initials, had its doors locked; there was no sign of any struggle.

The three were driven away in a dark-colored four-wheel drive vehicle in the direction of Paghman, a district in the west of Kabul province that is considered rife with banditry, said Abdul Jamil, head of the city police's criminal department, citing witness accounts.

Police said officers manning checkpoints around the city and in neighboring provinces were alerted to check the identity of any foreigners passing their posts.

Two NATO helicopter gunships were circling over the city. NATO armed vehicles were stationed on street corners in the city's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, where many aid workers and diplomats live.

Afghan security forces were stopping cars and questioning passengers.

Abu Bakar Bashir

Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of Jemaah Islamiah, is on trial:

Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir went on trial in Indonesia on charges of leading the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist group.

Scores of supporters of the 66-year-old Bashir were at the courthouse as the bespectacled, gray-haired preacher was brought by police officers wielding M-16 rifles.

Prosecutors have charged Bashir in connection with a bomb attack at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last year, which killed 12 people, and blasts at two Bali nightclubs in October 2002 that killed 202, most of them foreign tourists.

Algerian soldiers have heads cut off

Three Algerian soldiers have had their heads hacked off by "suspected Islamic militants."

Suspected Islamic militants decapitated three soldiers in Algeria in an upsurge of violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reports said Wednesday. Security forces killed seven alleged militants in an ensuing operation.

La Tribune newspaper said 30 armed men intercepted the soldiers at a roadblock Monday some 90 miles east of the capital Algiers.

The soldiers, one of them a naval officer who was shot first, were beheaded. Two other people, including a police officer, also were killed.

Security forces later killed seven of the suspected assailants, L'Expression reported.

Three suspected militants from the extremist Salafist Group for Call and Combat killed another soldier in an attack Tuesday in the Boumerdes region about 30 miles east of Algiers, the daily El Watan reported. Another soldier was injured and a third escaped.

About 40 people have been killed since the start of Ramadan earlier this month in attacks by suspected militants and security forces' anti-terror operations.

No major acts of violence or assassinations occurred during the holy month last year, the first time that had happened since Algeria's Islamic insurgency erupted in 1992 after the army canceled national elections to thwart a likely victory by Muslim fundamentalists.

Abderrezak El Para caught

Abderrezak El Para, one of the most wanted terrorists in North Africa, has been caught:

One of North Africa's most wanted Islamic militant leaders, accused of the kidnapping of 32 European tourists last year, has been taken into custody in Algeria.

An Interior Ministry statement said: "Amar Saifi, known as 'Abderrezak El Para', was extradited on Wednesday October 27, 2004, by Libyan authorities and placed in the custody of the Algerian judicial police."

Saifi was captured by Chadian rebels in northern Chad in March after fleeing neighbouring countries.

The Interior Ministry says Saifi had been intercepted by Libyan authorities near the Chadian-Libyan border.

Saifi is wanted in Germany in the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in the Algerian Sahara desert last year, including several German nationals.

He is said to be a member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which had pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda.