New leader elected
Lawmakers on Thursday elected Jhalanath Khanal, 60, as prime minister, ending a seven-month leadership vacuum. The chairman of the Unified Marxist Leninist party won the vote after securing the support of the Maoists, the largest bloc in the 601-member parliament. His election breaks a long deadlock that has seen the country without a government since June, with political leaders unable to reach agreement on the formation of a new administration in 16 previous rounds of voting.
Thousands flee fighting
A government administrator said about 22,000 civilians had fled intense fighting between government troops and militants in a troubled tribal region near the Afghan border. The unpublicized offensive in Mohmand began on Jan. 27 to rout militants accused of targeting security forces and orchestrating bombings in the region. Roshan Khan Mehsud said the estimated 22,000 displaced were now living in camps away from the troubled area and were being provided with food and aid.
Minister slammed in report
A panel probing anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002 has strongly criticized the “partisan” handling of the unrest by the state’s Hindu nationalist chief minister, Narendra Modi. The panel, set up by the Supreme Court, concluded that Modi had sought to play down the seriousness of the violence that claimed 2,000 lives. However, the panel felt it had not uncovered enough material to justify criminal prosecution, it said in a report yesterday. The Gujarat riots were one of the bloodiest incidents of sectarian violence since independence. Mainly Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods for three days, hacking, burning, shooting and beating at least 2,000 Muslims to death.
Uganda’s Kato remembered
Supporters from about 40 human rights groups gathered for a vigil in New York on Thursday in memory of murdered Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato and called for his killer to be brought to justice. “We’re mobilizing to bring attention to the government and people [in the US] to homophobia in Africa and Uganda in particular,” said one of the activists, Charles Gueboguo. Homosexuality is banned in Uganda, which is mulling a harsh new anti-gay bill, which would usher in the death sentence for acts of “aggravated homosexuality.” After the vigil the demonstrators delivered a letter to the Ugandan Permanent Representative at the UN, signed by leading rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, calling for Kampala to “immediately denounce David’s murder.”
Judge’s son charged
The son of a local judge has been charged over the brazen theft of US$1.5 million in chips from Las Vegas’ Bellagio Casino in December, police said on Thursday. Anthony Carleo, 29, was detained in a room at the Bellagio on Wednesday by undercover police officers pretending to be interested in buying the chips, police spokesman Ray Steiber told reporters. Investigators recovered US$900,000 worth of chips from him and have accounted for another US$300,000 worth, he said. The robbery startled the casino world with its audacity. A man in a motorcycle helmet charged into the casino at 4am, brandished a gun and demanded money at a craps table. He received US$1.5 million in casino chips and then fled on a motorcycle.