N Korea sold arms to rebels
North Korea sold some 10,000 rifles to the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines from 1999 to 2000 and
also tried to export small submarine vessels, a Japanese newspaper said on Monday. The arms deal between North Korea and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
came to light after security authorities seized documents from the MILF in November, the Yomiuri Shimbun said, quoting a southeast Asian security source. The paper said the transaction was conducted mainly in Malaysia, with a North Korean arms dealer signing a deal with a senior MILF member around mid-1999 to sell small arms to the Muslim rebels.
Kidnap rate at 10-year low
Abductions in the Philippines fell to their lowest level for more than a decade last year, an anti-crime watchdog said yesterday, in apparent evidence that a government crackdown on kidnap gangs was working. The Citizens Action Against Crime said
all but one of 94 people kidnapped last year was released safely after payment of ransoms worth millions of dollars. One abductee was found murdered last month.
A total of US$750,000 dollars was paid to kidnap gangs last year, the second lowest since 1993, the agency said, citing its own sources and monitoring.
Cakes hard to swallow
Officials have urged the ageing nation to cut their rice cakes before eating them after three elderly people choked to death on the
New Year's delicacy. Tokyo residents aged 75, 79 and 80 died of suffocation and 27 others were hospitalized over the holiday weekend after failing to swallow down the thick white cakes known as mochi, the fire department said yesterday. "Some of them are still in serious condition after eating mochi," a fire department spokesman said. "We are calling on people, especially elderly residents,
to cut mochi in small pieces when they eat it," the spokesman said. During New Year, one of Japan's biggest holidays, families traditionally cook ozouni soup, which is made of vegetables, with the sticky rice cakes inside.
Another US soldier killed
A US soldier was killed and three others wounded in an ambush yesterday in eastern Afghanistan, the second fatality suffered by US forces in the country in as many days, the US military said. Two improvised bombs exploded and militants then shot at US troops in the early morning attack in Kunar province, near the town
of Asadabad, military spokesman Major Mark McCann told reporters. He said it was unclear whether the soldier was killed by
the blasts or the ensuing gunfight. McCann was also unable to say if the attack was launched by Taliban militants who are known to operate in the area.
Customs officers busted
A court has found 26 customs officers at the country's biggest southern border guilty of corruption and extorting money from traders in a massive smuggling case, state media said yesterday. The officers were from Moc Bai checkpoint bordering Cambodia, the Phap Luat newspaper said. Their sentences ranged from prison terms suspended for nine months to four years in jail, it said. They were charged with turning a blind eye to the smuggling activities of a privately owned trading company, and with helping the company under-report the quantity of goods imported into Vietnam from Cambodia to avoid taxes.