Ominous metal a puzzle
Thousands of sharp-edged pieces of metal have been found protruding from roadside guardrails around the country and authorities are investigating the bizarre phenomenon, officials and media said yesterday. About 24,000 knife-shaped pieces of metal have been found stuck in guardrails in all of Japan's 47 prefectures in the past week, Kyodo News agency and major newspapers reported, quoting police and local officials. The Land and Transport Ministry's Web site said it will launch a nationwide investigation. The ministry also asked witnesses for information. Police are investigating the case on suspicion of assault and traffic law violations -- while also suspecting vehicle collisions as a possible cause -- one newspaper said.
Bomb plotter get death
A court gave the death sentence yesterday to a man for masterminding suicide bomb attacks on Shiite mosques in May last year that killed 45 and wounded 129 others. Gul Hassan was accused of organizing the May 7 and May 31 attacks on the mosques in Karachi in which both the suspected bombers, Ali Haider and Akbar Niazi, were killed. Hassan's lawyer said he would appeal against the decision.
US troops killed in blast
A bomb exploded next to a US military convoy in eastern Paktika Province, killing two US troops and wounding a third, the military said in a statement yesterday. An Afghan interpreter who was in an armored vehicle with the victims was also wounded in the attack on Friday in Urgun district, it said. The wounded were evacuated by helicopter to a US base for treatment, the statement said.
■ North Korea
Envoy helps poor farmers
Britain's ambassador to North Korea planted rice on a farm, the official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday. Ambassador David Arthur Slinn and embassy officials "plucked and transplanted rice seedlings" on Friday to help farmers in Paeksong, north of Pyongyang. The World Food Program this week said the North is sending millions of people to work on farms each weekend, indicating the risk of famine is particularly high this year.
Protesting attorneys beaten
Police beat lawyers with bamboo batons yesterday when 1,500 attorneys marched through the center of Kathmandu to demand the restoration of civil liberties after the king took over the government in February, the country's bar association said. The lawyers' march violated a government ban on protests in the area. When the group tried to march toward the royal palace, police blocked them and a few were clubbed in a scuffle, the president of the Nepal Bar Association said. Some received bruises and minor cuts, but there were no serious injuries, he said.
Captured geckos freed
Authorities have released about 380 gecko lizards back into the wild near Angkor Wat after rescuing them from a man who planned to sell them in Thailand as an ingredient for herbal wine and special dishes, a newspaper reported yesterday. Wildlife officials seized the lizards, a protected species, from a man in Siem Reap province earlier this week, a provincial deputy forestry chief, was quoted as saying by the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper.
■ Gaza Strip
Gunmen set up road block
Gunmen from the mainstream Fatah faction, demanding jobs in the Palestinian police force, blocked a Gaza road to the Egyptian border yesterday and detained a Palestinian diplomat hoping to cross. Shaker Abu Eida, the Palestinian ambassador to North Korea, told reporters by telephone he had not been harmed and that he would be allowed to return to Gaza City if he wished. The 35 gunmen, many of them masked, stopped the envoy as he made his way to the Rafah border terminal and said he and any other Palestinian officials would not be able to enter Egypt until their demands were met. "He is our guest and we have taken his diplomatic passport," one of the gunmen said. "Nobody from the Palestinian Authority will travel to Egypt today."