Skirmishes went on overnight between troops and militants in a tense tribal region near the Afghan border where Pakistani jets flattened an alleged al-Qaeda training facility, killing at least 50 fighters, area residents and the military said yesterday. \nThose killed reportedly included Uzbeks, Arabs and Chechens. \nActing on a tip, the army on Thursday demolished an alleged al-Qaeda facility located at Dila Khula, a South Waziristan village about 25km northeast of the region's main town, Wana. \nThe army's action sparked skirmishes in the area, with gunmen firing on some vehicles carrying troops. \nThere was no word on army casualties. \nAn army spokesman yesterday said their forces "did exchange fire with some miscreants" after Thursday's operation, but the "situation is now under control." \nHowever, he clarified ground forces had not moved in the area where the training facility was razed, adding "local people might have buried those foreigners and their supporters who were killed in the assault." \n"We don't have any bodies of the miscreants with us," he said. \nMilitary sources had said earlier that 90 percent of the 50 dead terror suspects were foreigners, and that Pakistani troops had retrieved some of the bodies. \nPakistan has frequently overstated the scope of its military operations, claiming to have captured or killed foreigners that turn out to be local tribesmen, or to have zeroed in on top al-Qaeda men who never materialize. \nVillagers in recent months have also complained of civilian casualties. \nA large number of central Asian and Arab militants are believed to be living in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Many came to fight alongside US-backed Afghan militants against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and some never left. \nThe area's tribes are autonomous and resentful of the army's presence, making it an ideal hideout. \nThe army has frequently launched attacks in Waziristan to flush out Islamic militants. Hundreds of people, including civilians, have died in these attacks. \nPakistan, a key US ally, has deployed about 70,000 troops in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to hunt remnants of the anti-Western al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. \nThe government has said the operations would continue until terror suspects are captured or eliminated. \nThe groups were earlier offered amnesty, but none of their members accepted it.
‘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