Military predicts long war
Indonesia's current offensive against separatist rebels in Aceh province will take longer than the six months originally predicted and could take years, the military chief said. A long campaign in Aceh risks alienating the province's 4.3 million people and is likely to be a drain on the resources of Indonesia's cash-strapped government. The only winner from a drawn-out offensive will likely be the military itself, which analysts say benefits from alleged involvement in legal and illegal businesses in the oil- and gas-rich province.
■ The Philippines
Charges filed in bombing
Prosecutors charged suspected leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group yesterday with plotting and financing almost-simultaneous bombings that killed 22 people in one of the Philippines' worst terrorist attacks. Among those charged before the Manila regional trial court were Isamuddin Riduan, who is at large; Abubakar Bafana Faiz, who is detained in Singapore and Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, who is detained in Manila, prosecutor Peter Ong said. Five Filipinos, all believed to belong to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a large Muslim group waging a bloody separatist uprising in the southern Philippines, were also charged for the Manila bombings, which injured more than 100 people, Ong said.
PM denies N Korea trip plan
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said on yesterday he was not considering a trip to North Korea but the top government spokesman left the door open for a future effort to break the deadlock in ties with Pyongyang. "I am not thinking about this at all," Koizumi told reporters when asked about a report that he was exploring the possibility of a visit to Pyongyang in September -- the anniversary of his historic 2002 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
■ New Zealand
Snowstorm strands hundreds
Hundreds of skiers and motorists in New Zealand spent a freezing night in makeshift shelters and mountain huts after the worst blizzard in years trapped them overnight, emergency services said yesterday. About 350 skiers and 70 ski field staff were trapped on Mt. Ruapehu in central North Island Sunday night after driving snow blocked access roads, forcing them to huddle for shelter in ski huts and other buildings, operator Ruapehu Alpine Lifts said. The storm hit the mountain with ``amazing speed,'' said company marketing manager Mike Smith, making it ``too dangerous'' for skiers to leave the Whakapapa ski field.
Targets called `disgraceful'
A row has broken out in Australia's Queensland state following reports that police there used photographs of real-life people, including Aborigines, during target practice. The police minister in the northeastern state, Tony McGrady, ordered an inquiry after Channel Seven television reported on Sunday that Queensland's counter-terrorism squad used 28 pictures or mug shots, including those of two Aborigines, in training exercises. Civil rights activists reacted with outrage but police maintained they had done nothing wrong. "It's absolutely disgraceful in that it reinforces prejudices," said Cameron Murphy, secretary of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties.
Pope urges purity
Pope John Paul II, who heads to his summer retreat Thursday for a few weeks of rest, urged the faithful on Sunday to use their summer vacations for spiritual renewal -- not just amoral fun. In his weekly Sunday comments, John Paul told tourists and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square that today's fast-moving world makes it harder and harder to reflect on spirituality and the need for personal sacrifice -- particularly among the young. "Today we often exalt in pleasure, egoism or adherence to immortality in the name of false ideals of liberty and happiness," the pope said. "We must clearly reaffirm that the purity of the heart and body be defended, because chastity is the guardian of true love."