The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on May 2, 2000 · Page 98
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 98

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
Page 98
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A4 ' tusday;mAY2,2oooM LOS ANGELES TIMES THE WORLD Mortar Attack Fuels Political Tensions in Iran jr Mideast: Blasts come before key vote and as Jewish espionage suspect confesses to spying for Israel. By JOHN DANISZEWSKI TIMES STAFF WRITER CAIRO A series of mortar shells ripped into northern Tehran on Monday, landing near Iran's national police headquarters and reportedly injuring six people in an attack claimed by the Mujahe-deen Khalq group that opposes Iran's Islamic government. The explosions seemed bound to add another element to the political tensions brewing in Iran. Reformist groups have been trying to maintain a calm atmosphere to bolster beleaguered President Mohammad Khatami, who is under assault from conservative opponents. Heavy Metal Agence FYance-Presse Theodore Solomons crouches next to the metal ball he recently saw fall from the sky about 100 miles outside of Cape Town, South Africa. The next day a second metal ball dropped onto a farm about 50 miles from the city. Astronomers believe the balls, which were very hot when they landed, could be part of an old satellite that dropped from orbit and burned upon re-entry. Thai Officials Seize Cache of Ivory From Associated Press BANGKOK, Thailand-Customs agents seized a record 1,078 pounds of raw ivory at Bangkok's airport, but the man who came to collect the smuggled goods was allowed to go free, Thai officials said Monday. The 112 pieces of elephant tusk, worth more than $131,000, were found Friday in three iron boxes freighted from Zambia. The ivory was concealed under a thick layer of uncut gemstones. Documents with the shipment said the boxes contained 1,188 In Austria, a Feisty Haider Quits Party Job From Associated Press VIENNA Joerg Haider officially resigned Monday as head of his far-right party in the same way he has led it for the past 14 years with a speech lashing out at his critics. Delegates to the annual congress of Austria's Freedom Party overwhelmingly elected Vice Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer, Haider's personal choice, to succeed him. Haider announced in February that he would step down, but the official change of office was left for the party's congress in Kla-genfurt, capital of Carinthia province, where Haider is governor. In a 90-minute speech to the congress, Haider, 50, called for unity under Riess-Passer's direction. "The FPO should not change!" he told the delegates, using the Austrian acronym for his party. "It must be our goal to work so hard in the future that in the next election, there will be no shift to the left." Russia Says 9 Soldiers Slain by Rebels Found in Chechnya NAZRAN, Russia Federal forces said Monday that they had found the bodies of nine Russian soldiers allegedly captured and executed by rebels in Chechnya after an ambush that undercut Moscow's claims that the insurgents are near defeat. The nine soldiers had been listed The mortar attack came just days before a runoff election Friday that reformers aligned with Khatami hope will increase their majority in a new parliament scheduled to be seated May 28. But faced with the prospect of losing its majority, the hard-line faction in Iranian politics has been waging a furious counter-assault in which 16 reformist newspapers and magazines have been muzzled by the judiciary over the past two weeks and a number of leading advocates of increased freedoms have been jailed. Meanwhile, state television carried a taped confession from one of 13 Iranian Jews accused more than a year ago of spying for Israel. In the confession, suspect Hamid Tefilin, a shopkeeper from the southern city of Shiraz, said he received money and training to spy for Israel. "I accept the charges against me. I spied for Israel," Tefilin, pounds of gemstones. The size of the consignment aroused officers' suspicions, Rapee Asumpinpong, deputy director general of Thai customs, told a news conference. Mohammed Tailo, a citizen of the West African country of Guinea, was arrested when he showed up at the airport's cargo terminal to claim the goods, but he was later released when he agreed to sign over all the ivory to the Thai government. Rapee said that under Thai law, the owner of illegal imported goods is freed if he gives all the goods to the government. That Joerg Haider addresses the right In her first speech as party head, Riess-Passer, 39, told Haider: "You can always count on me." The meeting came after several months of international and domestic protests against the Freedom Party's inclusion in the Austrian government. The party received 27 of the vote in national elections. Haider, 50, gained notoriety for praising the "orderly" full employment policies of Adolf Hitler and calling Waffen SS veterans "men of honor." He has repeatedly apologized for such remarks. as missing after their Interior Ministry paramilitary unit was trapped in a rebel ambush March 29. The military command said Monday that the men were initially taken prisoner and later shot. After weeks of searching, Russian troops found the bodies in two shallow graves in the Vedeno re dressed in gray prison garb, said calmly in the brief confession broadcast during the evening news. He said he was sorry and expressed loyalty to Iran. There was no way to verify whether the taped statement was sincere or determine whether it had been coerced during the time that he has been in prison and denied access to relatives and defense lawyers. Israel on Monday reiterated that it had no connection with any of the suspects and called the charges against them "ludicrous and barbaric." The confession was broadcast to coincide with the second session of the trial for the Jewish suspects in Shiraz. It was the first time since the arrests were revealed more than a year ago that the public has heard any specifics about the charges. The proceedings against the Jews, which could result in the death penalty, have been contro r applies unless there is other legislation specifying harsher penalties, such as in the case of illegal drugs. The government had not decided what to do with the ivory, but Rapee said that since Thailand is a member of international conventions forbidding trade in endangered wildlife and animal parts, it will not sell the contraband. The ivory will be either destroyed or handed to a government department that can put it on display or to otherwise good use, he said. Associated Press - wing Freedom Party's congress. But his apologies have done little to stifle international criticism of Austria. Since the Freedom Party joined the ruling coalition with the conservative People's Party of Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel in early February, some European Union countries have frozen diplomatic relations with Austria. "The way the EU has been dealing with Austria is not compatible with the European humanism that we would hope for," he said. gion in southern Chechnya on Sunday, said Gennady Alyokhin, chief spokesman of the military command in the Chechen capital, Grozny. The bodies were being examined by military pathologists, Alyokhin said on Russia's NTV televisioa Associated Press - " A .-,''-T'" , , 1... j.J versial from the start. Some foreign diplomats in Iran have suggested that the charges were exaggerated and filed as part of the power struggle between reformers and conservatives in other words, conservatives may have been trying to embarrass Khatami at a time when he was seeking better relations with Western countries. Leaders of Iran's 30,000 Jews have maintained that the suspects are innocent and have said they trust in the country's judicial system to reach a just verdict. A spokesman for the Mujahe-deen Khalq, which maintains bases in Iraq and has carried out bombings and assassinations inside Iran, called news agencies in the Middle East and Europe to claim responsibility for the mortar attack in Tehran. The Associated Press bureau in Cairo said it was contacted from Paris by Mujahedeen Khalq spokesman Farid Soleimani, who Report Cites Bin Laden's Reach Security: The alleged Saudi terrorism mastermind is believed to have sent trainers to at least seven countries. By BOB DROGIN TIMES STAFF WRITER WASHINGTON Osama Bin Laden, the fugitive Saudi extremist who allegedly masterminded the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, has sent terrorist trainers to at least seven countries, the State Department said Monday. 2 Bin Laden's growing role was underscored in the department's annual review of terrorism. Bin Laden was the only individual singled out for a page-long profile in the 107-page report. His organization, the department said, has sent terrorist trainers throughout Afghanistan, where he has been given sanctuary by the ruling Taliban, as well as to Tajikistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and the separatist Chechen republic in Russia. The group also has trained fighters from other countries, the report said, including the Philippines, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan and Eritrea. As a result, "Bin Laden believes he can call upon individuals and groups virtually worldwide to conduct terrorist attacks," the report warned. : The U.S. wants to try Bin Laden on charges of planning the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. Afghanistan has resisted pressure to hand him over. In unusually harsh language, the report also criticized Pakistan, a staunch Cold War ally, saying it "continues to send mixed messages on terrorism." "Despite significant and material cooperation in some areas, particularly arrests and extraditions, the Pakistani government also has tolerated terrorists living and moving freely within its territory," the report said. It added that Pakistan continues to support militant groups in the long insurgency against Indian control of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Pakistan's government has denied any support for terrorism. Rep. Sam Gejdenson (D-Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, on Monday called for hearings into Pakistan's alleged support of terrorism. Bin Laden, the 17th son of a Saudi construction tycoon, first drew notice in the early 1980s, when he helped finance, recruit, transport and train Arab volunteers in the war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. He founded Al Qaida, or The Base, as his operational organization for "like-minded extremists" during the war, according to the report. Bin Laden's primary goals now are to drive U.S. forces from the Arabian Peninsula, to remove the Saudi ruling family from power and to "liberate Palestine," the report said. His secondary goals are to remove Western military forces and to overthrow what he calls corrupt Western-oriented governments in predominantly Muslim countries. Al Qaida has become a far-flung network with supporters around the world. J3in Laden's operations in Afghanistan, including terrorist training camps, were largely responsible for the report's broader conclusion that the nexus of global terrorism is moving from its traditional base in the Middle East to remote regions of South Asia. The eastward shift became increasingly pronounced last year as several Middle Eastern nations, including Egypt and Jordan, cracked down on terrorist groups. said the headquarters of the State Security Forces had been the intended target. "Several military units of the Mujahedeen pounded the command headquarters with mortars," he said. The Iranian state news agency IRNA said explosions were heard at 8:15 p.m. near Vanak Square, a usually crowded shopping and residential area in northern Tehran. Three mortar shells hit a culture and sports complex in the vicinity, IRNA said. Iranian state television reported five explosions and said at least six people were hurt, one critically. Security officers closed off the area, and the official Iranian media did not mention in their dispatches that police headquarters may have been the target. Iranian reformists reject any association with Mujahedeen Khalq, which they view as extremist, un-Islamic and tainted by its association with Iraq. Mujahedeen Khalq For the first time in years, neither country suffered a major terrorist attack. "Throughout the Middle East, I can report, there's improved cooperation in disrupting cells and extraditing terrorists back for trial, and this has paid dividends in the last year," said Ambassador Michael Sheehan, the State Department's director of counter-terrorism. The Clinton administration also claimed some success in its counter-terrorism operations. Five U.S. citizens died in two terrorism-related incidents last year in Uganda and Colombia. The death toll was the lowest in seven years. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the report "largely heartening, one of terrorists caught, plots thwarted and lives saved." She said that casualties could have been far higher if Algerian Ahmed Ressam had succeeded in bringing explosives and detonators into the United States from Canada. The suspect was captured as he attempted to cross the border north of Seattle in mid-De- cember. Some Algerians arrested in connection with the case have reportedly been linked to Bin Laden; his direct involvement has not been L'l yj A Tunes Mirror Newspaper Daily Founded Dec. 4, 1881 VOL.CXIXNO. 151 NATIONAL EDITION Maryanne McNellis Craig Turner President Editor Paul Whitefield Executive Editor The Times' National Edition is edited in Los Angeles. The edition does not include some syndicated features and some local news that appear in Los Angeles-area editions. CUSTOMER SERVICE HOTLINE r 1-1800) 999-4945 Please call the Customer Service Hotline if: You would like to order delivery Your paper is missing, late or damaged You would like to order back issues (copies are available for about 30 days) Newspaper delivery times Mon-Fri, 6 a.m., Sun 8 a.m. Sat. and holidays, 7 a.m. HOW TO WRITE US Editor Los Angeles Times Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles CA 90053 HOWT0CALLUS For general inquiry, and to submit articles or press releases to the following Times news desks: Foreign . (213) 237-7072 National (213) 237-7092 Metro (213) 237-7847 Business (213) 237-7163 Sports (213) 237-7145 Calendar (213) 237-7770 Style (213) 237-7707 Health (213) 237-7611 Travel (213) 237-6073 Book Review (213) 237-7001 Food (213) 237-7788 Sunday Magazine (213) 237-7811 Editorials (213) 237-7928 Commentary (213)237-7930 Obituaries (213) 237-7981 By Fax By email (213) 2374712 , ... a'vh ..A Reuters Espionage suspect Hamid Tefilin leaves court in Shiraz. has been hostile to Khatami and his followers, but Soleimani said the group's attack had been launched "in solidarity" with recent protests by Iranian students against the crackdown on reform newspapers. Times news services contributed to this report. proved. A separate terrorist plot was uncovered in Jordan last fall, and more than a dozen suspects have been charged with allegedly planning to bomb or attack Western tourists at holy sites during millennium celebrations. Several members of the group had direct links with Bin Laden, investigators say. Both cases were cited in the report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999," as evidence of another significant shift. Loosely organized networks with religious or ideological motives are increasingly replacing tightly structured groups with political objectives, the report said. And with less financial support from "rogue" governments, the new terrorist groups increasingly turn to Bin Laden and other individuals, as well as raise money from blackmail, drug trafficking and other forms of crime. Despite the broader trends, the department did not change its list of nations that it considers state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. The State Department singled out the government in Tehran as the "most active state sponsor" of terrorism despite the recent election of moderates in Iran. 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