Journalist freed: report
A Japanese journalist believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban has been released after five months, a report said yesterday. Kosuke Tsuneoka, a freelance journalist who had been missing in northern Afghanistan since April, is now under protection at the Japanese embassy in Kabul, the Jiji Press agency said, quoting diplomatic sources. A foreign ministry official in Tokyo declined to comment. Members of the group holding Tsuneoka reportedly asked the Japanese government to negotiate the release of their imprisoned comrades, while Taliban militants also demanded the Afghan government pay a ransom for the journalist. Japanese media reported that negotiations were underway on a payment for Tsuneoka’s release.
Treasury denies bank reports
The US Treasury Department denied media reports on Saturday that US taxpayer funds would be put towards bailing out Afghanistan’s beleaguered Kabul Bank. The White House said the allegations were not true and pointed to a statement from Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin that said the bank’s troubles were “an Afghan issue.” “They are taking immediate steps to ensure the stability of Kabul Bank and to protect the financial assets of the Afghan people,” Wolin said. “While we are providing technical assistance to the Afghan government, no American taxpayer funds will be used to support Kabul Bank.” In Afghanistan meanwhile, government officials on Saturday were seeking to head off a run on the country’s biggest bank, reassuring customers of Kabul Bank that their money was safe. The privately owned bank has been the subject of reports alleging large-scale corruption by executives.
Ozawa talks tough on islets
Ichiro Ozawa, one of two men vying for the role of prime minister in a party leadership race, said yesterday Tokyo must bluntly fend off Beijing’s claim to disputed islets in the East China Sea. Ozawa is facing off against Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a Sept. 14 election for leadership of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. If Ozawa wins, he will become prime minister. During a television debate with Kan, Ozawa said the islets of Senkaku (Diaoyutais in Chinese) “have never been recognized as Chinese territory in history.” “We have to get this straight,” Ozawa told the debate, aired by broadcaster NHK. “There are various concerns over China, but it is important to speak to each other plainly.” The uninhabited islets lie between Japan and Taiwan, which also claims them.
Whale on school menus
Whale meat is on the menu at around a sixth of the country’s state-run elementary and junior high schools, a survey released yesterday showed. Of 29,600 public elementary and junior high schools nationwide providing lunches for students, 5,355 schools served whale meat at least once during the fiscal year to March, the survey by Kyodo news revealed. Whale meat was a regular item on school lunch menus in the 1960s and 1970s as the annual supply of the meat reached a peak of 220,000 tonnes. It subsequently fell out of favor, with the supply dwindling to around 1,000 tonnes in the 1990s as an international ban on commercial whaling was introduced. However, whale meat has recently made a reappearance on the school lunch table as the country gradually increased its catch of the ocean giants, Kyodo said.
Shiites activists charged
The security agency accused 23 Shiite activists of forming a terrorist network aiming to topple the Sunni-dominated government, a defense lawyer and a senior lawmaker said on Saturday. State TV had earlier broadcast pictures of the alleged leaders of the networks and official media said the activists had been charged. However, lawyer Mohammed al-Tajir said prosecutors are still interrogating the men and have not yet pressed formal charges. Al-Tajir added that he has not been allowed to meet with any of his clients since they were arrested, some of them as early as Aug. 13.
The Palestinian Authority lashed out on Saturday at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over his remarks about the relaunching of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Iranian president, “who does not represent the Iranian people, who falsified elections and took power by fraud, does not have the right to talk about Palestine, its president or its representatives,” Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rodeina said in a statement distributed by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. “We are defending our national rights and interests” and will not allow anyone to “threaten us or question the legitimacy of the Palestinian Liberation Organization” led by President Mahmud Abbas, Rodeina added.
Airstrike kills smuggler
Security officials say an Israeli airstrike targeting a smuggling tunnel has killed one Palestinian, wounded a second and left three more missing. The Hamas officials identified the five as smugglers working in the tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border. They spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity because authorities had not officially released the information. The Israeli military said aircraft attacked tunnels in retaliation for Hamas shooting attacks against Israelis in the West Bank over the last week. The Hamas attacks killed four settlers and wounded two others. They took place as Israelis and Palestinians relaunched direct peace negotiations in Washington.
Elbaradei condemns photos
Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear chief turned reformer, accused the government of publishing pictures of his daughter in a swimsuit and at an event in which alcohol was served, a newspaper reported on Saturday. However, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) strongly condemned the publication of the pictures on a Facebook group. The Nobel Laureate, who returned to Egypt earlier this year to push for reforms, told the independent Al-Dustor daily that the pictures, which were also run by some local newspapers, were the government’s “usual response.” They showed his daughter Laila, an investment lawyer with a practice in London, in a swimsuit and at her wedding, where alcohol was served. “Such a campaign is the usual and only response of the regime towards whoever demands democracy, which is the only way for freedom and economic reform and social justice,” ElBaradei told the newspaper. An NDP spokesman said the publication of the pictures was “dishonorable.” The pictures, insinuations of drinking alcohol, which is forbidden by Islam, and Laila’s marriage to a banker in London with a non-Muslim name could raise eyebrows in the increasingly conservative country, where Muslim women largely dress modestly and cannot wed non-Muslim men.
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BOMA ARMY BASE: An official said military vehicles were destroyed and captured munitions were carried off in speedboats in the surprise early-morning attack Boko Haram has killed 92 troops in a seven-hour attack on an island army base, the group’s deadliest assault yet on Chad’s armed forces. Chadian President Idriss Deby told local television that he traveled to the scene of the attack on Tuesday to pay tribute to the 92 dead troops, saying it was the first time so many troops had been lost. The attack early on Monday in Boma is part of an expanding militant campaign in the vast, marshy Lake Chad area, where the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge. Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009, before
The Great Barrier Reef has experienced a third mass coral bleaching event in five years, according to Terry Hughes, the scientist carrying out aerial surveys over hundreds of individual reefs. With three days of a nine-day survey to go, “we know this is a mass bleaching event and it’s a severe one,” Hughes told reporters. It follows the worst outbreaks of mass bleaching on record killing about half the shallow water corals on the world’s biggest reef system in 2016 and 2017. Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and one of
WAITING FOR JUSTICE: Robert Levinson’s family said that those responsible would face justice, including those in the US government who had ‘left him behind’ The US government has concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished more than a decade ago, died while in the custody of Iran, his family and administration officials said on Wednesday. The circumstances and timing of Levinson’s death was unclear, but US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that the US believes Levinson “may have passed away some time ago.” Hours earlier, his family said information that US officials had received had led them to conclude that he was dead, though it did not describe the nature of the information. The family said in a statement announcing Levinson’s death that it