New sex scandal hits military
The head of the country’s prestigious military training college in Canberra yesterday described the alleged rape of a civilian woman by a cadet as “completely abhorrent.” A 23-year-old army cadet has been charged over the incident on the grounds of the Royal Military College at Duntroon on Thursday. The case is the latest scandal to hit the Australian Defence Force, which has been stung in recent years by a string of allegations of abusive and sexist behavior in its ranks.
Magnitude 5.5 quake strikes
A shallow magnitude 5.5 quake struck the west of the country early yesterday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no reports of damage. The moderate-strength quake struck at 2:24am off the Mentawai Islands at a depth of just 5.5km, and 210km west of Bengkulu on Sumatra Island, the USGS said. Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.
Hunger striker hospitalized
A jailed activist who has been on hunger strike for 58 days was moved to a hospital and fed intravenously on Friday after his health deteriorated sharply, his lawyer said. Protesters clashed with police at a gathering of more than 5,000 demonstrators in the north of the capital, Manama, to demand the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of 14 men in prison for leading “Arab Spring” pro-democracy protests last year. Khawaja’s lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, said Khawaja had been moved from an Interior Ministry clinic to a military hospital which was better equipped. His daughter, rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, was detained during a protest on Thursday in front of the Interior Ministry. The ministry said in a statement she had “assaulted a public employee.”
Military chief fights dismissal
One of two military chiefs sacked by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has refused to give up his post, a military source said yesterday. Air force chief General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, half brother of Hadi’s predecessor, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, refused to quit unless several senior defense ministry officials, including the minister himself, also leave, the source said. Saba news agency reported on Friday that Hadi fired the air force general as well as the head of the presidential guard, General Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh.
Agency joins mission to Mars
The country will join the European Space Agency to launch a mission to Mars to sample dirt for signs of life, stepping in after NASA pulled out, the Russian space agency said on Friday. Despite describing the ExoMars project as the “Holy Grail of Mars exploration,” NASA left the US$1.3 billion project in February, citing a budget crunch and a change in focus. That gave Europe little choice but to turn to Russia or China for a launch vehicle for the two-spacecraft mission to collect and return soil from the Red Planet. Launches are planned in 2016 and 2018. Russia’s involvement in the ambitious mission could boost the status of its once-pioneering space agency after a string of costly and embarrassing recent mission failures. Among five botched launches last year was the Phobos-Grunt craft, which had been intended to reach one of Mars’ moons and would have marked the agency’s return to deep space after a two-decade absence.