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5th suicide attempt made at Cuban prison

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 7, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon said Thursday there has been another suicide attempt among inmates at its Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorist suspects, bringing the number to five in three weeks. An Amnesty International official called for an investigation.

"Medical and psychiatric teams are working to try to prevent further injury or attempts," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Burfeind, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Five new cases of prisoners trying to kill themselves have been confirmed since Jan. 16. Officials declined to say whether it was five separate men or cases of multiple attempts by any one man.

Including the 10 attempts in 2002, the new cases brought the total to 15 since the high-security prison was built on the U.S. naval base a year ago to house men captured in the fight against terrorism.

After previous suicide attempts, the rights group Amnesty International has protested the prolonged detention and the uncertainty the men face about their future, saying it may cause physical and psychological harm.

"Clearly, five suicide attempts in a few weeks ought to give grave cause for alarm," Amnesty spokesman Alistair Hodgett said Thursday.

12 suspects indicted in Italy

ROME -- An Italian judge indicted 12 terror suspects Thursday, including nine Moroccans suspected of plotting a chemical attack on the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

The other defendants are a Pakistani, an Algerian and a Tunisian who were allegedly part of a separate group trying to set up a logistical base for terror attacks.

The two groups are not believed to be linked, but all 12 were charged with "subversive association aimed at international terrorism," and will be tried together beginning May 5, said Domenico Martelli, a lawyer for four of the Moroccans.

Official wants soldiers to leave

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- The chief minister in charge of Pakistan's border regions insisted Thursday that there are no al-Qaida or Taliban terrorists in the area and that the U.S.-led coalition must wind down its war on terrorism.

"We don't have any al-Qaida or Taliban here," Akram Durrani, who heads a conservative Islamic coalition that won power in the North West Frontier Province, said in a rare interview with a foreign journalist. "Absolutely there is nothing here."

The U.S. military disagrees. A small number of U.S. Special Forces are working with Pakistani troops in the tribal regions on the border with Afghanistan, and FBI agents have been on raids with Pakistani forces in the frontier province.

Durrani wants the Americans to go. "We don't want any foreigners here."

Bin Laden could be in hiding

MOSCOW -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf further backed off his claim that Osama bin Laden was dead, saying the al-Qaida leader could have survived U.S. bombing and be hiding in the Afghan mountains near Pakistan.

But he said that the world's most wanted terrorist is definitely not in Pakistan and that al-Qaida is in disarray and unable to mount large-scale attacks.

Musharraf said he had originally believed that bin Laden had died after the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

"But now there is some information showing that maybe he is alive," he said at a Moscow news conference. "So I will leave it at that. I can't be very sure whether he is dead or alive. But indeed there are indications that he is alive."

British police detain 7 suspects

LONDON -- Antiterrorism police detained seven people in coordinated early morning raids Thursday in four cities in England and Scotland in an operation that officials linked to recent arrests in Britain of North Africans charged with plotting attacks with the deadly toxin ricin.

In Germany, police raided six houses in the towns of Munster and Minden and arrested three people in connection with the Hamburg cell involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Bizarre note to pilot delays flight

WASHINGTON -- A bizarre note a passenger gave to a flight attendant forced a plane to return to the gate Thursday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

ATA Flight 295 to Chicago's Midway Airport was taxiing toward the runway when a man passed the note -- written on a napkin -- which contained three words: fast, neat, average.

ATA spokeswoman Angela Thomas said the man asked that the note be given to the pilot, and it was. But the pilot had no idea what it meant, and a decision was made to return the plane with its 90 passengers and crew of six to the gate.

Police were waiting and took the unidentified man into custody. He was still being questioned by local and federal authorities several hours after the incident.

Thomas said the man claims to be an Air Force Academy cadet, and said the message on his note would have been understood by an Air Force pilot. The ATA pilot does not have military experience.

Imam barred from N.Y prison

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A former state prison imam was has been barred from ministering to inmates after reportedly saying even Muslims opposed to terrorism "admire and applaud" the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Warith Deen Umar, 58, who retired from his prison job in 2000, won't be allowed in the system he has tried to visit at least three or four times, state prisons spokesman James Flateau said.

"The comments that he has made since leaving our employ are nothing short of reprehensible, disgusting and rejected by virtually all Americans regardless of race, creed or color," Flateau said.

In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Umar was quoted as saying the United States risks further attacks because it oppresses Muslims around the world.

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