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3 arrested in theft of antique violin

LONDON (AP) -- Three people were arrested for stealing a $1.85 million antique violin from an internationally acclaimed musician while she stopped for a snack at a London sandwich bar, British police said Thursday.

South Korean violinist Min-Jin Kym was eating inside the sandwich shop Nov. 29 when she noticed that her black violin case -- which contained the 300-year-old Stradivarius as well as two expensive bows -- was missing, police said.

The violin, made in 1696, is one of only around 400 in the world. It was stolen with a Peccatte bow, valued at about $95,000, and another bow worth more than $7,700.

Police arrested and charged John Maughan, 26, and two teenagers on Wednesday for theft. The teens, ages 16 and 14, cannot be named for legal reasons. Maughan is in custody and the two teenagers are free on bail.


Travel gets easier as weather relents

LONDON (AP) -- Weather-wracked Christmas travel eased in Britain on Thursday after days of snow-related delays, with most services running normally at Heathrow Airport and on cross-Channel Eurostar trains. Across the Irish Sea, heavy snow shut Dublin Airport for several hours. The Irish airport suspended flights in the morning because heavy snow made the runway unsafe, but reopened in the afternoon.

Cleanup efforts in London were aided by a slight rise in temperature that melted much of the ice. Heathrow Airport said both runways were open and about 90 percent of flights were operating. Heathrow's Spanish owner, BAA, announced an external inquiry into the airport's handling of the heavy snowfall, which left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded in the run-up to Christmas.

Eurostar also reported "near normal" service on its trains linking England to France and Belgium.


Gaza's Christians get into Bethlehem

EREZ CROSSING, Israel (AP) -- More than 500 members of the Gaza Strip's tiny Christian community left the blockaded territory on Thursday to participate in Christmas celebrations in Jesus' traditional birthplace of Bethlehem.

The Israeli military coordinated the rare passage to the West Bank ahead of the holiday, saying it was part of its goal to ensure freedom of worship for all religions.

About 3,500 Christians live in Gaza among 1.5 million Muslims. Relations have traditionally been good, though there has been sporadic violence against Christians since the Islamic Hamas movement wrestled control of the strip three years ago.

Residents leaving Gaza on Thursday played down any differences with Hamas, saying they were in solidarity as Palestinians in the struggle against Israel. "Of course I am very happy that I will see my relatives and join them for Christmas. It happens only once a year," said Hatem Al-Far. "The only problem is they (the Israelis) did not issue permits for all of my children."