French police seek to intimidate gunman with blasts


Three blasts at the building were the suspect in seven shootings in southwest France is holed up were intended to intimidate him and there has not been an assault to get him out of his apartment, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

“They were moves to intimidate the gunman who seems to have changed his mind and does not want to surrender,” ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Reuters. “There is no assault.”

A police source and a deputy Toulouse mayor had said earlier that an assault had started after three loud blasts had been heard at the building following a more than 20-hour standoff.

Police have been trying to get 24-year-old Mohamed Merah to turn himself over after he fired through the door at them while they tried to storm his apartment in the suburbs of Toulouse in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Reporting by Yves Clarisse, writing by Leigh Thomas, editing by Geert De Clercq

Iranian national believed responsible for Thai blasts


Bombs that exploded in a Bangkok house being shared by an Iranian national were being prepared for a large-scale attack against an Israeli target, unnamed Israeli officials are quoted as saying.

The unnamed officials made their remarks to the Israel media on Tuesday.

The Iranian national, who shared the home in a residential neighborhood of the Thailand capital with two other non-Thais, was seriously injured by a bomb he was carrying shortly after the house exploded Tuesday morning. He had thrown a hand grenade at police as they pursued him following the home explosion, but did not throw it far enough and was caught in the blast, which tore off his legs, according to reports.

At least four Thai citizens also were injured in the blasts, which occurred several blocks from the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok.

The explosions came a day after Israeli diplomats were targeted by bombs in New Delhi and Tbilisi; the India blast injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat. Israel has blamed the attacks on Iran.

“The attempted attack in Bangkok proves once again that Iran and its proxies are continuing to perpetrate terrorism,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement from Singapore. “The recent attacks are yet another example of this.”

Barak, who spent a few hours in Bangkok on Sunday, also said that “Iran and Hezbollah are elements of unrelenting terrorism and are endangering the stability not only of the region but of the entire world.”

Last month, 400 boxes of bomb-making material were found hidden in boxes for electric fans in a shop near Bangkok. Police learned of the cache from a Lebanese man arrested Jan. 13 who was alleged to be working with Hezbollah to plan a bombing attack. He told Thai police that the material was to be smuggled out of Thailand and used in an attack in another country.

Carter continues to stigmatize Israel, ADL charges


Former President Jimmy Carter continues to make biased remarks about Israel, despite a public apology via JTA late last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

In an Op-Ed distributed Monday, ADL National Director Abe Foxman charged that “Rather than focusing on Israel as the only democracy in the region, the one that protects individual rights, including for women and gays, through the rule of law and that has been under siege from the Arab world since its birth, Mr. Carter views the Jewish state through the prism of Western guilt for centuries of racism, colonialism and supremacist ideas.”

Carter in a public apology published last December by JTA rued his comments “stigmatizing Israel” and implied that he would refrain from such remarks in the future.

“In sum, by any objective measurement, Mr. Carter has gone back on his public word to the Jewish community not to stigmatize the Jewish state,” Foxman wrote.

Foxman pointed to Carter’s recent visit to the Middle East with a delegation of The Elders in which “The majority and intensity of his criticisms … were directed at Israel.”

“I want to take Mr. Carter at his word when he made his statement. He may well have intended to apologize for the hurt he may have caused, and he may really have believed that he would in the future act differently,” Foxman wrote in conclusion.

“The fact that he hasn’t doesn’t have to signal disingenuousness as much as how really difficult true atonement is. It takes not only a statement of commitment but, critically, a change in one’s thinking. Unfortunately, Mr. Carter’s worldview works against Israel and leads to the bias we have seen time and again.”

World Briefs


Bush Blasts Attacks

President Bush lashed out at those responsible for a rash of anti-Semitic attacks that have taken place across Europe. “We reject the ancient evil of anti-Semitism,” Bush said during a speech Tuesday, referring specifically to “those who burn synagogues in France.” In the speech to business and civic leaders in California’s Silicon Valley, he added, “America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here because we are one country.”

Farrakhan Ban Upheld

Britain’s Court of Appeal upheld the government’s right to bar Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan from the country. The court said Tuesday the ban was based on reasonable fears that Farrakhan’s “notorious opinions” were a threat to public order. The court also said that Farrakhan would not be allowed to appeal the decision to the House of Lords, which is Britain’s highest court. Tuesday’s finding came after the government appealed a decision last year in which a lower court judge ruled against the government’s ban, saying the government had failed to establish “objective justification” for excluding Farrakhan.

Saudis Supporting Bombers’ Families

Saudi Arabia has been providing financial support for families of suicide bombers, according to documents seized by Israeli troops during the military operation in the West Bank. The papers show that Saudi Arabia has transferred more than $500,000 to the West Bank, and the funds were then used to give $5,000 each to the families of suicide bombers, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported. The paper quoted sources in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying the money was transferred via an aid society headed by the Saudi interior minister.

Belarus Gets a JCC

A new JCC was dedicated in Belarus. The community center in Minsk includes a Jewish museum and athletic facilities. It is operated by the Union of Belarussian Jewish Organizations and Communities. Palestinian wounded in church standoff

Israeli troops shot and wounded a Palestinian at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity on Wednesday. Israel described the Palestinian as a gunman who was spotted in the courtyard of the church compound. He was hit in the shoulder, then surrendered along with another man, an army statement said.

Nativity Burns Engineer Sentenced

An Orange County engineer was sentenced to 40 months in prison and fined $20,000 for exporting to Israel electronic components that could be used as triggers for nuclear weapons. Richard Kelly Smyth, 72, had spent 16 years as a fugitive. Last July, he and his wife were located in Spain. Israel returned most of the components after Smyth’s indictment and said they never were intended for use in nuclear weapons.

Israeli Opium Field Found

Israeli police discovered a vast field of opium-producing poppies in the center of Israel. Investigators speculated that the field had the potential of producing opium worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Acting on intelligence information, a police investigator picked a flower at a field near Kibbutz Hulda and sent it for laboratory testing. Police are currently trying to locate those who planted the field.

Briefs complied by J.T.A.