Blair converts to Catholicism

Tony Blair, who often kept his religious views private while serving as Britain’s prime minister, has converted to Catholicism, officials said Saturday.

Blair, who had long been a member of the Church of England, converted to the Catholic faith during a Mass held Friday night at a chapel in London, the Catholic Church said.

“It can be confirmed that Tony Blair has been received into full communion with the Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor,” the head of the church in England and Wales, the church said in a statement.

“I’m very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church,” the statement quoted Murphy-O’Connor as saying.

There had long been speculation that Blair planned to convert to Catholicism. His wife, Cherie, is Roman Catholic, the couple’s children have attended Catholic schools, and Blair had regularly attended Catholic, rather than Anglican, services.

MINYA, Egypt

Minibus falls into Nile, killing 16

A minibus fell off a ferry and sank in the Nile River in southern Egypt Saturday, killing 16 people including six children, security and local officials said.

Police blamed the driver for the accident because he had failed to apply the emergency brake while the car was being ferried to a landing near the village of Deir Mawas in Minya province, said Minya police chief Mahmoud Noureddin.

The driver jumped out of the vehicle at the last minute and survived but all of the passengers perished, said Noureddin. Rescue workers retrieved 13 bodies and were still searching for three others Saturday evening, he said.

The minibus and a second minibus on the ferry carried men, women and children of one extended family who were heading to visit their relatives, according to the governor.

During the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Egyptians usually return to their hometowns to visit family and cemeteries to pay their respects.

Brussels, Belgium

Anti-terror sweep suspects freed

A Belgian judge on Saturday released 14 suspects rounded up in an anti-terrorism operation the day before, but authorities insisted that the group was still under investigation and police remained on high alert because of fears of an attack in Brussels, the Belgian capital.

Some Belgian news reports suggested Saturday that the government had jumped the gun in making the arrests and announcing a heightened terror alert, complete with special police deployments in subways, airports and public places in Brussels.

But the abrupt reversal was not unusual. Belgian anti-terror law makes pretrial detention difficult in comparison to France and other European countries, officials said, and in previous cases suspects have been arrested, released and then rearrested days or weeks later.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica

Marijuana found in boat a record

Costa Rican agents made the largest marijuana bust in the Central American nation’s history, seizing 4.85 tons of the drug found in an abandoned boat, police said Saturday.

The marijuana – enough to roll 17,600 joints, police said – was discovered Friday during a patrol with the U.S. Coast Guard off the country’s Pacific coast, Costa Rican police said in a statement.

The ship’s crew fled, abandoning their 48-foot-long boat near the border with Panama, where they appear to have fled, police said. No arrests have been made.

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