The world at a glance
Baghdad Paying for Blackwater: The Iraqi government this week asked the U.S. government to pay $136 million in compensation to the families of 17 people killed by Blackwater guards last month. A government report said the sum of $8 million per family was appropriate “because Blackwater uses employees who disrespect the rights of Iraqi citizens, even though they are guests in this country.” The guards, who were protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy at the time of the shootings, say they were attacked. But an Iraqi investigation concluded that the Blackwater employees had not come under fire when they began shooting indiscriminately. The Iraqi government said it would seek extradition of the guards and will take “legal action” against the company, a North Carolina–based contractor. The U.S. Embassy said it would not comment until a joint U.S.-Iraqi commission had finished its own investigation of the shootings. Cairo Crackdown on the press: Nearly two dozen Egyptian newspapers struck back against government interference this week, suspending publication to protest the jailing of 11 Egyptian journalists. The journalists, including five prominent editors in chief, received prison sentences last month for criticizing President Hosni Mubarak and his son, Gamal. They all had run stories speculating that Mubarak was in poor health and was grooming Gamal as his successor. The government crackdown on the press comes on the heels of a similar campaign against the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that enjoys widespread popular support. “They jailed the Muslim brothers and now the journalists,” said reporter Mohamed Abdle Quddos. “There is no room for opposition in this tyrant regime.” Kabul Executions resume: Afghanistan this week executed 15 convicted murderers, kidnappers, and thieves by firing squad, ending its three-year moratorium on the death penalty. Until its 2001 ouster, the Taliban regime had frequently executed prisoners in public, often by beheading. The democratic government that replaced it carried out only one execution, in 2004, and announced a moratorium after some NATO countries, many of which have outlawed the death penalty, protested. The government did not say why it had suddenly resumed executions. Tehran Students heckle Ahmadinejad: More than 100 students chanting “Death to the dictator” scuffled with police this week as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Tehran University. It was the second such protest in less than a year. Last December, students protesting Ahmadinejad’s speech at another campus burned his picture; several of those protesters are still in jail, and activists say they have been tortured. Ahmadinejad alienated students immediately after his 2005 election, when he appointed a conservative cleric as president of Tehran University. Since then, many liberal professors have been fired. Phnom Penh, Cambodia Do you know this molester? Interpol this week released a photo of an unidentified man wanted for molesting children in multiple countries. Online photos of the man engaged in sexual acts with little boys obscured his face. But computer technicians from the international police group were able to unscramble the photos, and authorities are asking anyone who recognizes the man to come forward. The man is suspected of assaulting at least 12 boys, some as young as 6 years old. Several assaults took place in Cambodia and Vietnam. “We have no idea where he lives, but couldn’t just sit and wait and not do anything for his victims,” said Interpol’s Anders Persson.
Yangon, Myanmar Junta reaches out: In an effort to calm international outrage over its violent crackdown on protesting Buddhist monks, Myanmar’s ruling military junta said this week it had released hundreds of monks while donating thousands of dollars to monasteries. The junta also appointed a special liaison, Deputy Labor Minister Aung Kyi, to “create smooth relations” with Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel laureate who has been under house arrest for most of the past two decades. The junta has said it would meet with Suu Kyi, but only if she renounces her calls for an end to military rule, a condition she rejected. “The success of a dialogue is based on sincerity and the spirit of give and take,” she said. “There should not be any preconditions.” Other democratic activists dismissed the junta’s conciliatory statements as empty words meant to fool outside observers.