Voters overwhelmingly cleared the way for Egypt’s first contested presidential election, according to referendum returns released Thursday. Government opponents dismissed the results.
It was a day of mixed news for President Hosni Mubarak as the White House denounced the beating of protesters during the vote.
“The idea of people expressing themselves in opposition to the government, then getting beaten, is not our view of how a democracy ought to work,” President Bush said. “It’s not the way that you have free elections.”
Six opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, had called for a boycott of the referendum, but the Interior Ministry said 54 percent of the 32 million registered voters participated. Of that, 83 percent approved the referendum.
“The voting masses have realized that political participation within a framework of constitutional legitimacy is the safe path toward the future,” Interior Minister Habib el-Adly said on state-run television.
Fighter jets scramble, escort plane to airport
A small plane that repeatedly ventured close to restricted air space at Edwards Air Force Base was intercepted by two F-15 fighter jets Thursday.
The FBI interviewed the pilot and a passenger and released them without charges after determining they were taking aerial photographs for a real estate business, officials said.
The twin-engine Aero Commander plane was spotted flying in the high desert north of Los Angeles for several hours during the afternoon at about 18,000 feet and could not be identified or contacted by the Federal Aviation Administration, agency spokesman Donn Walker said.
Alleged IRA dissident faces 29 murder counts
Craigavon, Northern Ireland
Prosecutors charged an alleged Irish Republican Army dissident with 29 counts of murder Thursday in connection with Northern Ireland’s deadliest terror attack, the 1998 car-bombing of Omagh.
Sean Hoey, a 35-year-old electrician, is the first person to be charged with murder in the case. The victims were killed by a car bomb that detonated on Aug. 15, 1998, amid a crowd of shoppers, shop workers and tourists. More than 300 others were wounded.
Hoey has been behind bars since September 2003 awaiting trial for more than a dozen counts of involvement in several 1998 car-bomb attacks committed by the dissident Real IRA faction, which opposes the IRA’s 1997 cease-fire.
Plane crash site spotted; no sign of survivors
Twenty-six people were missing and feared dead after a plane crashed in eastern Congo, an aviation official said Thursday.
The plane, which disappeared shortly after takeoff Wednesday, was found Thursday by a government-led search team flying near Bunyakiri, a village located in dense forests and mountains, said Raymond Sangara, coordinator of Congo’s civil aviation authority.
The missing Antonov-12 had crashed into a cliff, with pieces of the plane and clothing scattered in the valley below, Sangara said.
Sangara said a search for any survivors and the recovery of the dead would begin today.