The NYPD has confirmed that an admittedly crude drawing of New York's Grand Central Station was found on a computer disk in the home of a suspect in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train station bombing. Authorities were quick to downplay the significance of the find, even as the media had a field day with it. Mouhannad Almallah, a Syrian arrested in Madrid March 24, was later released, but is still considered a suspect.
A March 3 account in Newsday indicates that Iran's secret police are hunting down dissidents who have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Newsday highlights the case of Abdulrahim Raeesi, political science professor who was arrested in Tehran by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security after he wrote an article calling for greater democracy in a banned newspaper. Tortured in custody, he was then hospitalized.
A day after "peacekeeping" troops got into a deadly gun battle with a Congolese militia, a UN official blamed "neighboring countries" for fueling the violence in Congo. The Pakistani "blue helmets" mixed it up with troops of the Nationalist & Integrationist Front (FNI) in the war-torn Ituri region, leaving 50 militiamen dead. The FNI allegedly attacked the UN troops as they were carrying out a local disarmament mission, and are also believed responsible for the ambush last week that left nine Bangladeshi peacekeepers dead.
Assailants threw a grenade into the empty apartment of a prominent Kyrgyz opposition leader March 3, causing no casualties, in an attack both opposition and authorities accused each other of staging.
On Feb. 28, the US State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, covering 2004. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) finds that some of the findings have been shaped by "political considerations":
A resolution calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq was put before Vermont town meetings March 1 as a result of a statewide campaign by anti-war activists. By the following night, the resolution had been approved by 38 towns of the 50 in which it went to a vote.
A new Homeland Security Department pilot program is placing electronic ankle bracelets—similar to those placed on criminal offenders—on immigrants who are waiting for a resolution on their legal status. Homeland Security says the program is an alternative to internment in detention centers, and is designed to address the problem of undocumented immigrants failing to show up for their hearings. (FSRN, March 3)
On Feb. 28, the husband and mother of Chicago federal judge Joan Lefkow were murdered at their home, in a case likely linked to the wacko ultra-racists called the World Church of the Creator. Lefkow had been receiving threats since hearing a case brought by an Oregon group of the same name attempting to halt the white supremacists from using it.