US-led troops in Baghdad and Basra yesterday braced for more protests amid tension after two days of violent clashes with Iraqi army veterans angry at not receiving the back pay they had been promised. \nIn another development, US military officials announced they had closed a makeshift prison camp at Baghdad airport that had become notorious amid allegations of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. \nIn the center of Baghdad, about 150 people stood in a tense face-off with US troops outside the compound where they hoped to receive their pay, even though they were told payments were suspended until further notice. \n"We will be here every day until they pay us," said an irate Hamza Mahdi, 23, who has been trying to get paid since Sept. 18. \nUS soldiers said they feared there could be a repeat of the past days' disturbances after clashes on Saturday left two Iraqis dead in Baghdad and one in Basra. \nThe veterans of ousted president Saddam Hussein's army had lined up in hopes of receiving the one-off payment of US$40 from the US-led occupying forces. \nBut they were told on Sunday there would be no payments at this stage and that they should stay tuned to radio and television for an announcement on future payments. \nMeanwhile, the US military said it shut down Camp Cropper, a notorious makeshift prison facility at the heavily-guarded Baghdad airport where hundreds of Iraqis were held in tents. \nThe camp, where prisoners were held in the scorching summer heat, had drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups. \nUS military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel George Krivo said the prisoners were moved to "superior facilities" and that most were taken to Baghdad Central prison. \nThis, he said was in line with US policy to provide prisoners with "the best possible facilities." \nAmnesty International said in June that the conditions in which the prisoners were held at the camp "may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, banned by international law." \nIn another development, mortar rounds were fired at coalition troops stationed outside the Iraqi city of Karbala yesterday morning, but caused no casualties, military and police officials said. \nThe attackers managed to flee in the car from which they fired at the camp.
‘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