Ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein accepted bribes, kickbacks, and surcharges from more than 2,000 foreign companies under the UN oil-for-food program, the independent committee investigating it reported. The panel, led by ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, said more than half of the companies participating in the UN-sponsored program took part in the diversion of funds, which totaled $1.8 billion. The 19-month probe found that preferential treatment was given to companies from France, Russia, and China, all permanent members of the Security Council. The final report also disclosed that the smuggling of Iraqi oil outside the program profited Hussein to the tune of another $11 billion. The program, which lasted from 1997 to 2003, was one of the largest humanitarian aid operations in history.
World leaders reacted with scorn to the call by Iran's new president for Israel to be "wiped off the map" by Palestinian terrorist attacks. But there appeared to be little support for the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his deputy, Shimon Peres, that Iran be expelled from the UN. Numerous governments summoned Iranian ambassadors to explain the remarks by President Mohammad Ahmadinejad Wednesday at a "World Without Zionism" conference in Tehran. Britain's Foreign Office said his words were "sickening."
Israeli forces carried out a two-pronged retaliation Thursday for the latest Palestinian attack, pounding targets in the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and arresting an Islamic Jihad leader and five other wanted men in Jenin on the West Bank. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombing, which killed five Israelis. The bomber's father also was taken into custody.
In perhaps their biggest show of strength to date, Islamic extremists in southern Thailand carried out coordinated nighttime raids on 60 villages, targeting civilian militias set up by the government to counter their separatist campaign. At least seven people were killed in the attacks, and a cache of 90 guns that had been issued to the militiamen was stolen. Despite martial law and the presence of 30,000 Army troops in the region, there has been no letup in the shootings, bombings, and other attacks by the separatists.
Eleven illegal aliens died and 15 other people were hurt as fire swept through a detention facility at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport, where the immigrants awaited deportation. The incident, which is being investigated, angered critics of the Netherlands' tough new anti- immigration policy. They said the facility was dangerous and had had two previous fires.