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Last Syrian soldier out of Lebanon

Wed., April 27, 2005

Masnaa, Lebanon Syria’s last soldier in Lebanon walked across the border Tuesday, welcomed home with cheers and flowers after a modest farewell from the Lebanese, a quiet end to a once indomitable 29-year military presence that was the key to Damascus’ control of its neighbor.

With the Syrians gone, Lebanese now look ahead to an election that should prove freer of Syrian influence but still runs the risk of sinking into violence. Lebanon’s anti-Syrian opposition is hoping to defeat Damascus’ political allies at the ballot box.

The withdrawal would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. But amid series of strategic blunders by Syrian President Bashar Assad, Damascus came under relentless international pressure that intensified after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Mandalay market blast kills two

Yangon, Myanmar A bomb exploded at a busy market in Myanmar’s key tourist city of Mandalay on Tuesday, killing at least two people and wounding 15 others, officials said.

The blast occurred on the ground floor of the Zay Cho market in Mandalay, the country’s second largest city, about 4 p.m., a city official said.

The two dead and at least 13 of the wounded were women.

Mandalay, 350 miles north of the capital of Yangon, is the country’s cultural hub and an important tourist destination.

State-run radio and television said rebels carried out the attack, but the reports did not name a group. A bomb that exploded at the same market four years ago and wounded eight people was blamed on an ethnic Shan rebel group.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current regime took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising. The junta keeps tight control over the population and anti-government violence is rare, often bringing quick and severe punishment.

Violence erupts after dictator’s son elected

Lome, Togo The son of Togo’s late dictator won a resounding victory in a presidential election, sending enraged opposition supporters into the streets Tuesday. Protesters built flaming barricades and used machetes and nail-studded clubs to battle police and soldiers, clashes that left more than 100 people injured.

Faure Gnassingbe won 1.3 million votes, or 60 percent, while main opposition candidate Bob Akitani took 841,000, or 38 percent, electoral commission Chairwoman Kissem Tchangai Walla said.

Sunday’s balloting in this impoverished West African nation was marred by violence and allegations of vote-tampering.

The military had installed Gnassingbe as president shortly after his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema, died of a heart attack Feb. 5. Eyadema’s 38 years in power had made him Africa’s longest-ruling dictator. Amid heavy international pressure, the 39-year old son agreed to an election.

Influential Islamic scholar convicted

Alexandria, Va. An Islamic scholar who prosecutors said enjoyed “rock star” status among a group of young Muslim men in Virginia was convicted Tuesday of exhorting his followers in the days after Sept. 11 to join the Taliban and fight U.S. troops.

The convictions against Ali al-Timimi, 41, carry a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole. But the judge left open the possibility that she will toss out some of the counts.

The jury reached its verdict after seven days of deliberations and convicted al-Timimi of all 10 counts.

Prosecutors said the defendant – a native U.S. citizen who has an international following in some Muslim circles – wielded enormous influence among a group of young Muslim men in northern Virginia who played paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as a means of training for holy war around the globe.


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