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Terror notebook

Grenade found in bag at airport

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 14, 2003

LONDON -- Authorities arrested a man with a grenade in his luggage Thursday at London's Gatwick airport and detained two men outside Heathrow airport as the capital remained on a high alert against terrorism.

The two airports are the focus of a huge security operation in London, set in motion in response to a threat Prime Minister Tony Blair has refused to detail.

The Guardian newspaper reported the alert was sparked by "high-quality" intelligence that Islamic extremists had smuggled SAM-7 antiaircraft missiles into Britain from Europe. Police refused to comment.

Gatwick's North Terminal was closed for hours and the terminal's flights were suspended after police found the grenade in the baggage of a 37-year-old Venezuelan after he arrived on a British Airways flight from Caracas. A Home Office spokesman said police did not know what the man's intentions were.

At Heathrow, police said two men were arrested in nearby Hounslow as a precautionary measure and were not believed to be linked to the threat to the airport. They were being held at a police station in west London; police did not say why they were detained.

Afghans say U.S. bombs killed more civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghans on Thursday reported new civilian deaths in American bombing raids in a mountainous region of southern Afghanistan, where U.S. Special Forces have been fighting rebels since Monday.

An aide to the governor of Helmand Province said an unknown number of civilians died in raids on Wednesday night. The aide, Haji Mohammad Wali, said this was in addition to the deaths of at least 17 civilians, including women and children, already reported since the raids began.

The U.S. military said it was unaware of any civilian deaths, but a villager said he had seen the bodies of eight people. He told Reuters the eight died in an air attack on Wednesday carried out by an American B-52 bomber and AC-130 gunship in the Baghran Valley of northern Helmand.

The U.S. Army spokesman, Col. Roger King, said in a briefing that several suspected Taliban militants had been killed or wounded in the raids after American soldiers came under fire.

1,208 charged in terrorism cases

WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutions of terrorism cases have increased tenfold since the Sept. 11 attacks as authorities expanded the types of crimes included, Justice Department records show.

During the year that began 19 days after the attacks on New York and Washington, federal prosecutors charged 1,208 individuals with crimes they classified as related to terrorism or international security, compared with just 115 the previous year, according to records obtained by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Nearly half of the terrorism prosecutions last year were initiated by the Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Detainees mistreated, human rights groups say

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- U.S. military officials on Thursday denied any mistreatment of terrorism suspects after two human rights groups asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to intervene on behalf of detainees.

New York's Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Law Group petitioned the Washington commission, asking it to ensure the prisoners were neither tortured during interrogations nor transferred to other countries for questioning.

"Some have been blindfolded and thrown into walls by U.S. military personnel as well as being subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep," the groups claimed in the petition.

The rights groups want the commission to send inspection teams to U.S. bases where detainees are being held, including Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military denies it has violated the human rights of those it has detained.

There are about 650 detainees from 41 countries at the base in eastern Cuba.

Canada's military priority is Afghanistan, not Iraq

OTTAWA -- Canada will deploy about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan over one year, a move that makes a major commitment of ground forces to a war in Iraq virtually impossible.

"It is true that the more one sends to one place, the less one may have available for other places," Defense Minister John McCallum said Wednesday.

Canada will send consecutive six-month rotations of about 1,500 troops starting this summer to work with other international forces as part of the U.N.-mandated International Security Assistance Force.

Sea containers refused

WASHINGTON -- The Customs Service refused to let 13 sea containers destined for the United States be loaded onto ships at foreign ports because of insufficient details about their contents.

The action, announced Thursday, involved problems discovered between Feb. 2 through Feb. 9, the first week a new federal rule was being enforced, Customs said.

Customs spokeswoman Erlinda Byrd said the violations involved 11 sea carriers, whom she would not identify. She did not have information on the locations of the foreign ports.

Most carriers seemed to be in compliance with the new rule. Of the paperwork reviewed on more than 142,000 sea containers last week, Customs found just 13 that presented a problem.

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