Clerics threaten `jihad'
A group of Muslim clerics threatened yesterday to call for a holy war against the US if fails to hand over in three days military interrogators reported to have desecrated the Koran. The warning came after 16 Afghans were killed and more than 100 hurt last week in the worst anti-US protests across the country since US forces invaded in 2001 to oust the Taliban for sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network. The clerics in the province of Badakhshan said they wanted US President George W. Bush to handle the matter honestly "and hand the culprits over to an Islamic country for punishment." "If that does not happen within three days, we will launch a jihad against America," said a statement issued by about 300 clerics, after meeting in a mosque in Faizabad.
Militants post ambush video
A militant group that claims to have kidnapped a Japanese man in Iraq has released a new video apparently showing the ambush that led to his capture. The Ansar al-Sunnah Army said on its Web site last week that it ambushed a group of five foreign workers, killing four and kidnapping the fifth -- Japanese citizen Akihito Saito, 44. Yesterday, the group's Web site had a new video purportedly showing the attack, but Saito's image could not be confirmed, and the gruesome six-minute footage did not contain any indication of Saito's fate. The group said in the video that they killed the four as representatives of Christianity.
Old village discovered
Archeologists have discovered an entire village destroyed in an earthquake nearly 700 years ago. The hitherto unknown village in northern Hebei province appears to have been a booming commercial center during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279 AD). This village appears to have fallen victim to a major earthquake. Other explanations include four successive floods hitting the area around the time when the village met its abrupt end. The site was uncovered by acciden during excavation work for a nearby highway.
Aid efforts suspended
Four foreign aid organizations have suspended operations in western Nepal after local staff members were beaten by rebels. The World Food Program, Britain's Department for International Development, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Dutch aid agency SNV said in a statement the workers were attacked at Sukatiya village. Rebels forced a woman at the project to dig her own grave, it said, without providing details. "We regret this deeply, but cannot put our staff at further risk," they said. "It is clear that this action seriously contravenes the BOGs [basic operating guidelines] which are the basis for these donors' engagements in Nepal." The suspension will hit 6,000 villagers who work on the project in Nepal, one of the world's 10 poorest countries.
China asks for punishment
China has urged Russia to punish "troublemakers" after a clash in the Siberian city of Irkutsk where police reportedly injured 20 migrant Chinese workers. The riot took place Wednesday evening as an ID check conducted by a Russian police patrol got out of hand, and more than 200 Chinese got into a fight with law enforcers. Thousands of migrant Chinese workers have poured across the borders with eastern Russia in recent years, frequently fueling tensions.
Cook killed in sword attack
A cook at a Paris children's hospital was killed in a sword attack on Saturday evening, Paris police authorities said yesterday. The fatal attack took place at around 5pm inside the hospital after a disagreement between the victim and the attacker, who were known to each other, police said. "The cook suffered one or more sword blows, particularly in the area of the carotid [artery], which caused a quick death," a police spokesman said. He did not reveal the victim's identity. The male attacker then gave himself up to police. It is not yet known if the attacker also works at the hospital.
Troops target Caucasus
Russian troops on Saturday began an operation against suspected Wahhabi Muslims in the restive southern Caucasus regions, the Interior Ministry said. The operation took place at an apartment building in the city of Cherkessk, a city in Russia's southern Caucasus regions where police and paramilitary troops have moved forcefully against suspected extremists in several cities over the past year, the ministry said. In March, security forces stormed an apartment building in Nalchik, about 150km from Cherkessk, killing three suspected Islamic militants who had barricaded themselves inside.
Local polls test ruling party
Croat voters were choosing local governments yesterday in an election that will test the popularity of the conservative governing party and its pro-EU policy. Political parties largely campaigned on local issues, promising to improve infrastructure and build more schools and roads. But analysts agree that central government policies will play a significant role in the vote. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader's ruling Croatian Democratic Union has recently abandoned its past nationalism and is now dedicated to ensuring this ex-Yugoslav country becomes an EU member soon -- a task that includes hunting for a fugitive general wanted by the UN war crimes court but hailed by many here as a war hero.
■ United States
Officials warn on UN reform
US officials have warned Japan, India, Gemany and Brazil that they will not support their bids to join the UN Security Council unless they agree not to ask for veto power, the New York Times reported yesterday, citing senior diplomats and administration officials. The current five permanent Security Council members -- the US, Britain, France, China and Russia -- each have veto power in council decisions. Officials in the administration of President George W. Bush fear that giving the new members veto power might paralyze the Security Council, the Times reported.
Bomb blasts target factories
Four small bombs exploded yesterday at industrial sites in the Basque region, officials said. A news report said the separatist group ETA may have been behind the attacks. Two policemen and a security guard were slightly injured after inhaling toxic fumes at a chemical plant where one of the blasts occurred, the Interior Ministry said. The bombs exploded in four towns in Guipuzcoa Province, the Spanish Interior Ministry office there said, and were detonated in the space of about 90 minutes starting at 3am.
Murder game turns real
A 21-year-old man and his parents were killed after the man agreed to be murdered along with his family if he lost a murder-mystery role-playing game, local media reported Saturday. Two men, 21-year-old Mayderson de Vargas Mendes and 22-year-old Ronald Ribeiro Rodrigues, were arrested Friday after confessing to the killings, police said. Thiago Andrade Guedes apparently died after agreeing that whoever lost the game would be killed with his family -- just as it happened in the game, police investigator Alexandre Lucente Capella told the Folha de Paulo daily. Authorities said all three men -- who had known each other for about two years -- were playing characters that might be murdered depending on the outcome of the game.
■ United States
Irate Japanese man arrested
A vacationing Japanese businessman has been charged with disrupting an international flight by yelling, spilling water on passengers and bumping a flight attendant after finding a hair on his blanket. Kaichiro Tsunemi, 58, appeared briefly in US District Court in Detroit on Friday on a charge of interfering with a Northwest Airlines flight crew on May 6. Authorities said he went ballistic during the flight that day from Osaka, Japan, to Detroit after finding the hair, and started yelling, swearing and pouring water on the seats and floors.
Company fined for slavery
A court has imposed the country's largest fine for "slavery," according to media reports Saturday. The agricultural company Lima Araujo Agropecuaria Ltd was ordered to pay 3 million reals (US$1.2 million) in compensation in Maraba in the northern rainforest state of Para. The company held 180 workers in slave-like conditions on two plantations in the south of Para. Three labor ministry raids by federal police set the workers free between 1998 and 2002. The company said it would appeal the decision. The previous largest fine for slavery was imposed a few weeks before on a large plantation which had to pay 1.3 million reals. Before that, Senator Joao Ribeiro had to pay a 760,000-real fine in February.
Official denies role in killing
A former politician accused of a role in the 1989 assassination of leading presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan told the attorney general's office he is "totally innocent" in declarations made public Saturday. Alberto Santofimio Botero, a former justice minister and senator, was arrested Thursday in Colombia's coffee-growing region and accused in the killing of Galan, a popular, anti-corruption crusader. John Jairo Velasquez, a former hit-man for drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, said recently that he was present at a meeting with Escobar and Santofimio when the politician recommended Galan be killed, though it was not clear whether those statements are what led to Santofimio's arrest.
■ United States
Drug lowers cancer risk
Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins also lower the risk of breast cancer by more than 50 percent, according to research made public at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference. Statins, found in popular drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor, can also lower the risk of lung or prostate cancer by 48 percent and 54 percent respectively, according to separate recent studies.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete