Muslim cleric arrested
Anti-terrorism police have arrested a Muslim cleric for his alleged link with Malaysian most-wanted terrorist leader Noordin Mohammed Top, accused of masterminding a string of bombings in Indonesia, local media reports said yesterday. Sahl Alamri, 35, a kerosene distributor, was arrested on Thursday in the sectarian violence-ravaged district of Poso in Central Sulawesi province, the Jakarta Post reported.Alamri teaches at al-Amanah, a local Islamic boarding school established in May 2001, known among local residents for its exclusiveness.
Cellphone theft on the rise
A cellphone is stolen from its owner every two hours in a widening criminal obsession with slick and expensive mobiles, police data said yesterday. From 3,411 cellphones stolen in 2004, the figure climbed to 3,748 in the first nine months of last year with the total expected to fall just below 5,000. Nicking cellphones is regarded as the "crime of our times," social workers told the Sunday Times. It has reached the point where thugs do not even bother asking for the wallets of those they are robbing. Fueling the surge in cellphone thefts is the insatiable market for cheap second-hand phones, making the sale of the stolen ones very lucrative, police said.
Empress OK with public
A majority of Japanese favor letting women inherit the imperial throne but slightly more than half are opposed to a quick revision of the males-only succession law, a survey showed yesterday, after news that a princess is pregnant with a possible male heir. The survey was published in the Mainichi newspaper after a surprise announcement last week that Princess Kiko, wife of Emperor Akihito's second son, is pregnant with her third child, raising hopes that a male heir might be born for the first time in four decades. News of Kiko's pregnancy prompted Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to back away from his pledge to submit a bill revising the imperial succession law.
Hotel offers hay fever help
With Japan's pollen allergy season about to set in, a Tokyo hotel is setting up a special floor to ease the suffering for sneezing guests. Allergy-suffering guests checking in at the Tokyu Inn in the business district of Shinbashi, will step into a phone booth-style box to have the pollen blown off their clothes by a high-powered air shower before going to their rooms, the Mainichi Shimbun said yesterday. Windows on the allergy-sufferers' floor will be kept closed to keep the pollen out and peppermint tea, said to alleviate the symptoms, will be provided in each room.
God revered with milk
Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees were paying homage to the deity Lord Murugan in Malaysia this weekend with offerings of milk, news reports said yesterday. The colorful annual festival, Thaipusam, has drawn a sea of people to the Sri Subramaniaswamy Temple, which is located in a limestone hill cave on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. On Saturday morning, organizers estimated some 900,000 people had arrived, some of them with bodies pierced with hooks to symbolize their piety and penance, the New Straits Times newspaper reported. Devotees made a procession up the 272 steps to the shrine to offer pots of milk to their deity.
Fires follow lifting of ban
Fires in China increased 15.5 percent during this year's Lunar New Year festival due to a lifting of a 12-year ban on fireworks, Xinhua news agency said yesterday. Thousands of police officers and firemen were meanwhile placed on standby in case of further blazes and injuries yesterday, the last day of the 15-day festival, Xinhua said. No figures on the number of fires were given, but Xinhua said the ministry blamed the increase on the lifting of the ban in more than 200 major cities on public and commercial pressure. The ban was first put in place in 1994 largely due to safety and noise pollution concerns. Ministry statistics released earlier showed fireworks led to 6,057 fires between Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, three times more than during the same period last year. In Beijing, authorities put 9,000 police and 150,000 fire officers on standby yesterday, Xinhua said. Sources with the city's Office for Firecracker Management said 600 police vehicles would be patrolling and fire departments would also be on high alert, Xinhua reported.