The world at a glance . . . International


Grozny, Russia

Chechens protest murder: Thousands rallied in Chechnya this week to protest the murder of a famous human-rights lawyer. Stanislav Markelov, who represented the family of a Chechen girl killed by a Russian officer in 2000, was gunned down in broad daylight on the streets of Moscow. Markelov had just held a press conference announcing his opposition to the officer’s early release from prison. “Stanislav Markelov was held in special esteem in our republic,” said Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. “His name was a synonym for justice.” During two wars that began in the 1990s, thousands of Chechen civilians were killed by Russian troops.

Mingora, Pakistan

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Girls’ schools attacked: Taliban militants blew up five more schools in northwest Pakistan this week, bringing the total destroyed to more than 170—most of them girls’ schools. With schools closed for the winter holidays, no one was injured. The Pakistani government vowed to continue educating girls across the country. “Non-state actors are challenging the writ of the government in the name of sharia, but Islam does not allow to close down women’s schools,” said Information Minister Sherry Rehman. The remaining girls’ schools in the Swat district of Northwest Frontier Province said they would not reopen, citing fear of further attacks. Last month, the Taliban gave authorities 30 days to close all girls’ schools or face attacks.


Aussie jailed for royal dis: An Australian novelist was sentenced to three years in a Thai prison this week for insulting the monarchy. Harry Nicolaides has been in prison since last August, when he was arrested in Bangkok because of a paragraph in his self-published 2006 book, Verisimilitude, which sold just seven copies. Thai media refused to quote the paragraph, which cited rumors about the crown prince’s private life, for fear of repeating the offense. Nicolaides wept as he pleaded guilty, saying he had seen horrors during his six months in prison. “Truth is stranger than fiction,” he said. “It feels like a bad dream.” The author may not have to serve additional time; King Bhumibol Adulyadej has pardoned foreigners in similar cases.

Kuwait City

Arab disunity: Arab leaders failed to agree this week on how to provide aid to Palestinians in Gaza. At a side meeting during an economic summit in Kuwait, Arab leaders pledged $2 billion to help reconstruct the Gaza Strip in the wake of a three-week Israeli offensive that killed 1,300 Palestinians. But the leaders were split over whether to give the money to Hamas, which controls Gaza, or to devise some other method of channeling it to Gazans. Saudi ministers, who pledged half the aid, said they were concerned that Iran and Syria were working through Hamas to destabilize the region. “Realistically speaking, there are differences among Arab brothers,” said Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad.


Tycoon ransomed: Kidnappers released a Greek shipping magnate this week after his family paid nearly $40 million in ransom. Gunmen ambushed Pericles Panagopoulos, 74, last week as he was leaving his home. The founder of Greece’s largest ferry operator, Attica Holdings, Panagopoulos is one of the richest men in the country. Police found him sitting on a bench near a highway a few miles outside of Athens. He apparently had been released just hours after his wife paid the ransom, but the kidnappers didn’t tell her where to find him.

Eastern Congo

Rebels pursued: Rwanda sent 2,000 troops into eastern Congo this week, in pursuit of Hutu militants who fled there following Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. In addition to committing genocide in Rwanda, the Hutu militia, known as the FDLR, is blamed for destabilizing Congo by sparking or participating in wars that have killed more than 5 million Congolese. “The FDLR have to be disarmed; they are a threat to Rwanda and also to the region,” said Rwandan diplomat Joseph Mutaboba. “Once we have done that, we look forward to peace.” Congo allowed Rwandan troops to chase the rebels after Rwanda promised to end its support for a Congolese rebel group.

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