‘Mummy smuggler’ arrested
An Australian man has been arrested after allegedly attempting to leave Egypt with a 2,000-year-old mummified cat and other antiquities in his suitcase, reports said yesterday. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that a 61-year-old man was arrested and detained in Cairo on Tuesday. The man was receiving consular support while in detention but had yet to be charged with any offense, a spokesperson said. Australian media reported that the man was a teacher who had been attempting to leave with some ancient animal mummies and religious figurines wrapped as gifts in his luggage. His cache of antiquities included mummies of a cat and an ibis believed to be more than 2,000 years old and 19 figurines of ancient Egyptian gods that had been wrapped as gifts, national news agency AAP reported.
Gas leak death toll rises
The death toll has risen to 17 in a gas leak from a blast furnace at a steel plant in Hebei Province, the government said on Thursday. A total of 44 people were working near the furnace at the time of the gas leak on Wednesday in the city of Zunhua, 150km east of Beijing, the State Administration of Work Safety said. Two steel workers died instantly, five more died shortly afterwards and another 10 died when emergency hospital treatment failed to save them, the administration reported on its Web site.
Official sentenced to death
A former provincial official was given a suspended death sentence after being convicted of corruption and bribery, a state news agency has reported. Cai Wenlong (蔡文龍) committed his crimes between 1998 and 2006, when he served in top posts of several state-owned companies, the Xinhua news agency said late on Wednesday. He was promoted to deputy head of the Anhui Province commerce department in January last year. Cai, 55, embezzled 17 million yuan (US$2.5 million) for personal profit and misappropriated more than 14 million yuan, Xinhua said, citing the Intermediate People’s Court of Chaohu city. The court was also cited as saying that Cai took 3 million yuan in bribes and lost 300 million in state-owned assets in the stock market.
■ SRI LANKA
Military beats back attack
The military beat back a Tamil Tiger counter-offensive, killing at least 18 guerrillas, the defense ministry said yesterday. The rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam mounted the offensive outside their besieged political capital of Kilinochchi on Wednesday, the ministry said. “Well prepared troops engaged the advancing terrorists with armor, tanks, artillery and infantry causing heavy damage,” the ministry said in a statement. It said 18 rebels were killed and another 34 wounded, but did not give details of casualties on the government side. The pro-rebel Tamilnet.com Web site said there was heavy fighting in the area.
■ UNITED NATIONS
UN to broker Fiji deal
The UN has agreed to work with the Commonwealth of former British colonies to try to get an agreement on the timing of parliamentary elections that would return military-ruled Fiji to full democracy, a spokesperson said late on Wednesday. The announcement follows an escalating rift between Fiji and New Zealand over a broken promise by Fiji military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama to restore democracy by April next year.