The week at a glance...International
SydneyTeen trapped with bomb: A masked man locked a suspected bomb around the neck of an Australian teenager this week in an effort to extort money from her wealthy parents. Madeleine Pulver, 18, was freed after nearly 10 hours of painstaking work by a bomb squad, whose members X-rayed the device and consulted via computer with the Australian and British militaries. Pulver said a man wearing a ski mask had broken into her parents’ home and tied her up with the bomb, leaving a ransom note. Her father, William Pulver, is chief executive of the international software company Appen and one of Sydney’s richest men. Police said the device was “very elaborate” and “very sophisticated” but would not confirm whether it was, in fact, a bomb.
Benghazi, LibyaRebel leader murdered: Libya’s rebel movement was in turmoil this week after the assassination of its top general. A former interior minister, Gen. Abdel Fateh Younis had been a tough enforcer for Muammar al-Qaddafi until he defected to the rebels in February and took charge of their troops; some rebels always distrusted him, preferring another general who had returned from exile in the U.S. According to rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Younis was summoned to the rebel capital last week for questioning because of doubts about his loyalty but was subsequently released, and was then ambushed by Qaddafi regime assassins. Rumors are rife that he was killed by the rebels, and his death sparked clashes between his tribe and other rebel tribes.
CairoDictator on trial: In a sight that riveted the Arab world this week, deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into a Cairo courtroom on a hospital bed to stand trial on charges of stealing millions of dollars from the state and ordering the killing of protesters. Mubarak is the first Arab dictator since Saddam Hussein to be tried by his own people. Mubarak, 83, has been suffering heart problems since he was first interrogated in April, after being ousted by a popular uprising in February. Opponents and supporters of the former president scuffled outside the courtroom, where the trial was being shown live on a large screen. “All of the Arab world has to know that any leader who makes his people suffer will face this fate,” one of the viewers, Fathi Farouk, told The New York Times. “From today, history will never be the same.”
Ankara, TurkeyGenerals resign en masse: The four top army commanders in Turkey, including the chief of staff, Gen. Isik Kosaner, resigned in protest last week, a move that may signal an end to military supremacy over the civilian government. The generals were upset at the detention of 250 fellow officers accused of plotting to topple the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government’s supporters say the resignations, like the detentions, are key steps in consolidating democracy in Turkey, a country that saw four military coups between 1960 and 1997. But the army says the alleged coup plot, codenamed Sledgehammer, was simply a war-game exercise, not an actual plan. And opposition politicians say the intimidation of the military is part of a pattern of creeping authoritarianism by Erdogan.
TehranNo eye for an eye: An Iranian woman blinded in an acid attack has spared her attacker the same fate. Majid Movahedi, 30, had been sentenced to have acid dripped in his eyes and had already been taken to the prison hospital for the procedure when his victim, Ameneh Bahrami, pardoned him at the last minute. Movahedi had thrown a jar of acid in Bahrami’s face in 2004, leaving her blind and disfigured, because she refused to marry him. “I’m happy that I pardoned him,” Bahrami said. “For seven years I’ve been trying to pursue retribution.” She said international pressure from human-rights groups influenced her decision, as did timing: The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslims are urged to forgive their enemies, started this week.
Abbottabad, PakistanWanted—Dead: The Navy SEAL team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad had orders to kill, not capture him, The New Yorker reported this week. An unnamed special ops officer told the magazine that the plan had been to kill the al Qaida leader and take his body back to Afghanistan. “There was never any question of detaining or capturing him,” the officer said. “It wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees.” But the team also took pains not to kill anyone else. The Obama administration has said that the commandos would not have killed bin Laden if they’d been able to determine he didn’t have a bomb or other weapons.
Xinjiang, ChinaSeparatists attack: Chinese officials are blaming two gruesome attacks in Xinjiang province last week on Uighur separatists based in Pakistan. In the first attack, two men rammed a truck into a crowd, then jumped out and hacked at people with machetes, leaving nine dead. The next day, a group of assailants set a building on fire and stabbed people in the street, killing at least six. Authorities say the attack’s leaders were trained at camps in Pakistan run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an extremist group seeking independence for ethnic Uighurs. A spokesman for the Uyghur American Association expressed regret at the loss of lives but added that many Uighurs have been pushed to “extreme desperation” by a “relentless atmosphere of fear and hopelessness.”
MoscowIs that a threat? Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin surprised his own country and neighboring Belarus this week by saying he favored uniting the two countries into a single state. The idea was first floated more than a decade ago, when the two formed a customs union, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was once a strong proponent of the idea, even envisioning himself as president of the dual state. Now, though, with Belarus in economic meltdown, such a union would amount to the former Soviet republic’s absorption into Russia. “Putin is campaigning for the presidency, and he is appealing to voters nostalgic for the Soviet Union,” said political scientist David Marples of the University of Alberta. Belarus gained independence in 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved.