Kidnapper's mom freed
Afghanistan has freed four people, including the mother of the man who kidnapped an Italian aid worker, but their release was not part of a deal to free the Italian from 24 days in captivity, a government spokesman said. Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told a news conference on Thursday, shortly after Clementina Cantoni was released, that no concessions had been made to her kidnappers. But Jalali's spokesman said yesterday the mother of Timoor Shah, the leader of the kidnapping gang, and three other suspected abductors had been released.
Deluge ends drought
Farmers across drought-stricken areas of Australia's Outback could be forgiven for not knowing what hit them yesterday. It was rain. Meteorologists said up to 30mm fell across much of the parched west of New South Wales state, and there was more on the way. "It's definitely going to be helpful for farming areas, who've not had this type of rain for a period of at least six months," said Weather Company meteorologist Matthew Pearce. More than 90 percent of New South Wales is in the grip of what is widely reported to be the worst drought to hit Australian farmers in a century. The rain came in time to allow farmers to sow winter crops.
Student bombs classroom
Police questioned an 18-year-old student yesterday about why he threw a homemade bomb into a high school classroom in southern Japan, wounding 58 teenagers when the gunpowder-filled jar exploded, spraying the room with glass shards and nails. News reports said the boy told police he "had a grudge against a student in the class" and made the explosive using instructions found on the Internet. One male student was seriously injured with cuts to his legs and abdomen, and another student broke his finger in the attack Friday at Hikari public high school in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The other injuries were minor. Police said the boy fashioned the bomb from a glass bottle filled with a combination of gunpowder and other substances.
Nude blogger shocks people
A 19-year-old girl who posted nude pictures of herself on the Internet has set Singapore's blogging community abuzz, but lawyers said on Saturday she is probably not breaking any obscenity law in the conservative city-state. Writing under the moniker Sarong Party Girl, her weblog details her life and numerous sexual escapades. "If someone were to flash himself physically, it's very clearly an obscene act," lawyer Jonathan Kok told the Straits Times. "But on the Internet, it's a grey area." The girl, waiting to enter a university, has gathered a daily following of about 3,000 readers since she started her blog in February last year.
■ Sri Lanka
Monks end fast
A senior Buddhist monk ended a six-day fast yesterday over government plans to share tsunami aid with Tamil Tiger rebels, after assurances that President Chandrika Kumaratunga would consult leading Buddhists. Omalpe Sobitha had refused all food and liquids since Monday to pressure Kumaratunga to abandon a deal with the Tigers to share the distribution of billions of dollars in tsunami aid to Tamil-majority areas under rebel control. The rebels had complained that aid didn't arrive fast enough following the devastating Dec. 26 tsunami.
`Grandpa Gang' jailed
Germany's three oldest bank robbers were jailed Friday after admitting stealing more than £800,000 in 14 raids across a number of provincial towns. The men, who became known as the "Grandpa Gang," started their spree in 1988 and were arrested only last year when police set a trap for them. A court in Hagen sentenced 74-year-old old Rudolf Richter -- known as Rudi -- together with Wilfried Ackermann, 73, and Lothar Ackermann, 64, to between nine and 12 years each in jail. In total, they had made off with about 1.3 million euros, invariably raiding their targets on Thursdays in winter just as dusk was falling.