Warships save vessel
Turkish and Danish warships intercepted an attack by pirates on a Vietnamese cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, the Turkish army chief of staff said yesterday. Two Turkish helicopters helped repel Sunday’s attack off Yemen’s southern coast after the Vietnamese boat issued a distress signal, an army statement said.
Iran urged not to interfere
Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat on Sunday urged Iran to stay out of internal Arab disputes, in particular in Lebanon and among the Palestinians. Iran’s foreign minister made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia amid rising tensions between the Islamic republic and the Arab world. Manouchehr Mottaki was met by his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, at Riyadh Air Force base and met later with the Saudi monarch. The visit comes after Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria held a mini-summit in Riyadh last week to patch up their differences, which largely revolve around the role of Iran in the region. Iran supports Islamist movements Hamas and Hezbollah and is often at odds with US-allied Arab regimes in the region. Arab nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are also wary of Iran’s nuclear program. At a news conference on Sunday, al-Faisal called for “mutual respect” between his nation and Iran. “Although we appreciate the Iranian concern in Arab issues, from our point of view, this should be conducted through the legitimate Arab doorways,” he said.
Gunmen kidnap aid workers
Gunmen kidnapped four humanitarian workers, one thought to be foreign, in southern Somalia yesterday, a humanitarian source said, in the latest attack on aid workers. “The aid workers were in transit in Wajid, where they spent the night on the way from Puntland. They were taken early on Monday morning,” a UN worker, who declined to be named, said. He said some worked for the UN World Food Program.
Group claims harassment
An opposition movement says Iraqi troops have been preventing food and fuel from entering its camp north of Baghdad for the past four days. A statement by the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran said the move against Camp Ashraf is part of a pattern of harassment that has escalated under pressure from Tehran. The Iranian government considers the People’s Mujahedeen a terrorist group and has insisted that they leave Iraq. The government has assured the US that none of the estimated 4,000 residents of the camp would be forced to return to Iran.
Kidnappers’ leader wounded
Fighting erupted yesterday between troops and Muslim militants holding captive three international Red Cross staff on a southern island, wounding the leader of the kidnappers, the military said. The fighting erupted when the rebels tried to break through a cordon of soldiers on Jolo island, 1,000km south of Manila. The cordon was set up to prevent the guerrillas from spiriting their hostages out of Jolo. Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo, a navy spokesman, said Abu Sayyaf Commander Albader Parad was hit by a sniper when the group tried to move out. The fighting was ongoing, said Lieutenant Nelson Allaga, a regional military chief. A military source said the hostages, staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross, were spotted when the firefight broke out. “The hostages were seen and were not harmed,” the source said.
Sheriff hit by identity theft
“This goes to show that no one’s immune from identity theft,” said Sheriff Mark Pazin of Merced County, California. And he should know. On Thursday, while his deputies were searching the home of a woman accused of forging checks, they discovered on her computer the copied signature of their boss. Investigators said the woman, Christina Valenti, 34, lifted Pazin’s signature from a standard check given to departing inmates to reimburse them for pocket money confiscated during booking. She had uploaded the signature to a check-writing program, investigators said. For the sheriff, it was the second time in two years that his personal finances had been in danger. A year ago, someone charged about US$100 to his credit card. “I do take it personally and that’s why she’s in jail with US$300,000 bail,” Pazin said of Valenti.
Soldier killed in accident
A soldier was killed and five others were injured in a car accident when returning from Ciudad Juarez, where the military has stepped up its counternarcotics operations, officials said on Sunday. The injured included a corporal in critical condition as well as a colonel, a sergeant and two soldiers in stable condition, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement. The soldiers’ van overturned in the northern-central state of Zacatecas “as they traveled from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua to Mexico City after having participated in operations in the state of Chihuahua,” the statement said. The soldiers were part of a detachment of 2,200 troops being replaced this weekend with a reinforcement of 5,000 troops.
Ron Silver dies aged 62
Actor Ron Silver, who won a Tony Award as a take-no-prisoners Hollywood producer in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow and did a political about-face from loyal Democrat to Republican activist after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, died on Sunday at the age of 62. “Ron Silver died peacefully in his sleep with his family around him early Sunday morning” in New York City, said Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, which Silver helped found. “He had been fighting esophageal cancer for two years.”
‘Emos’ suffer discrimination
The National Human Rights Commission said that followers of the youth music and fashion trend known as “emo” have suffered discrimination and violence, and recommended sensitivity training to prevent it. Emos wear long bangs and skinny pants and listen to angst-ridden music. The youths were heckled and harassed in a pair of incidents in the center of the country early last year, aggressions apparently fueled by an Internet hate campaign by other youths. The government rights commission says an investigation shows emos “have suffered violence and discrimination both by authorities and the public at large.”
Aid groups thrown out
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said yesterday he had ordered that all international aid groups should stop distributing aid inside the country within a year. “We have ordered the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to completely Sudanize the voluntary work in Sudan within one year and after that no international organizations will distribute relief to Sudanese citizens,” Bashir told a rally of armed forces. “They can just leave their food aid at the airport and Sudanese NGOs [non-governmental organizations] can distribute the relief.”
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500