A promise of amnesty for Iraqis who voluntarily gave up their weapons has been "remarkably unsuccessful," British defense sources admitted on Sunday. \nBritain and the US concede that to get Iraqis to give up their rifles, mainly Kalashnikovs, is an impossible task for the forseeable future. The amnesty was designed to get them to hand over heavier weapons, including machineguns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. \nHowever, this has failed and is unlikely to make any headway until Iraqis feel secure, a prospect which at present is not even on the horizon, defense sources say. Military commanders also make it clear that they are angry at the failure of British and American civil agencies to deliver on promises to restore or renew Iraq's infrastrucure, notably power and water supplies. \nThat, they say, is fuelling resentment among ordinary Iraqis, and increases the influence of groups with their own extreme political or religious agendas. \nMembers of the army's special investigations branch have flown to southern Iraq to reinforce the team investigating the death of six Briitish military policemen at Majar al-Kabir last week. \nBritish Ministry of Defence sources said yesterday it was still too early to establish why the soldiers were not rescued or helped by paratroopers who succeeded in rescuing some of their men who were also attacked by a group of armed Iraqis last Tuesday morning. \nDefense sources said it is unclear whether the Iraqis were members of a Shia group, or a Sunni group from the north of the country, or even whether they were simply responding to British soldiers carrying out weapons searches, which have fuelled resentment about the slow pace of rebuilding the infrastructure. \nHowever, senior British military officers say there is no evidence of the "start of a general uprising" and point out that many Iraqis in the town, including community leaders, had expressed deep regret at the deaths, and some had helped retrieve the bodies of the six military policemen. \nUK's Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon has told commanders on the ground that he would send in reinforcements if they wanted them. \nSo far, they have said they do not. \nSome 500 troops in full body armor, protected by two helicopters and several armored personnel carriers, re-entered Majar al-Kabir at the weekend for the first time to investigate last Tuesday's deaths. \nThe troops were drawn from a number of units, including the military police and the First Battalion the Parachute Regiment, seven of whose soldiers were wounded last Tuesday. \nDefense sources insisted they were not seeking retribution, and they were met by a group of Shiite clerics and prominent town officials in a peaceful ceremony aimed at putting the acrimony in the past. \nTheir presence was supported by a group of locals who staged a march demanding that British soldiers remain on the streets to maintain law and order. \nA ministry spokesman said: "The force went in to search for any forensic evidence which will help the investigation into the deaths. They will probably start at the police station where the men died." \nTroops would also re-establish connections with the local authority and complete repairs to a water treatment plant and a paper mill. The spokesman said the military presence had not been stepped up following last Tuesday's incident and the number of troops in the town was roughly the same. \nIn Basra on Sunday, a letter of condolence was sent by the people of the southern Iraqi province of Maysan, which lies within the British area of responsibility. \nThe letter was handed to the prime minister's special envoy, John Sawers, by the leader of Amara city council during a visit, the Ministry of Defence said. It expressed sympathy and sadness at the deaths and thanked British troops and the coalition for liberating Iraq.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big