China media blast ‘hijack’
The state-run Global Times said six suspects arrested in an attempted plane hijacking in Xinjiang on Friday are all Uighur men. State media say the men tried to hijack a plane that took off from Hotan for Urumqi, but their efforts were foiled by passengers and flight crew. The German-based World Uyghur Congress says it was not a hijacking attempt, but an in-flight brawl over a seat dispute. Spokesman Dilxat Raxit says Beijing should not use the incident to launch another crackdown on minority Uighurs.
Mudslides claim 50 lives
The Civil Affairs Ministry says mudslides caused by heavy rains have killed 50 and left another 42 missing. The agency said in an online statement on Friday that storms have ravaged 11 provinces and regions — mainly in the south — since June 20 and triggered the deadly mudslides. The ministry says about 440,000 people have been relocated and that tens of thousands of homes are severely damaged. The death toll continues to rise. The state-run China News Service reported yesterday that four people were killed and another 37 missing from a severe mudslide in Sichuan Province.
Earthquake rocks Xinjiang
A strong earthquake jolted Xinjiang early yesterday, shaking buildings and cutting off electricity and injuring at least 17 people. The US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.3, while China’s Earthquake Networks Center put it at 6.6. Xinhua news agency said most of the victims were tourists. The quake toppled several buildings in Urumqi, Xinhua said, adding that rescuers had been dispatched to the area to search for casualties. An official from the Xinjiang Earthquake Bureau said the quake was “strongly felt” in Urumqi. The man, who gave only his surname, Jian, said Urumqi residents rushed into the streets when the quake hit but returned home after 6am.
Vietnamese in ‘terror case’
Authorities on Friday announced terrorism-related charges against a Vietnamese man suspected of helping militants in Yemen affiliated with al-Qaeda. Minh Quang Pham, 29, was charged with traveling from Britain to Yemen in December 2010, where federal prosecutors said he pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He spent a year in Yemen, where he is accused of receiving “military-type” training and of helping with the group’s online propaganda before returning to Britain. Pham, who is in custody in Britain, is charged with five criminal counts, including conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist group. He faces a mandatory minimum of 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Envoy to Myanmar confirmed
The US Senate on Friday confirmed President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the first US ambassador to Myanmar in more than 20 years. Derek Mitchell, a veteran US policymaker on Asia, was confirmed by unanimous consent in one of the final acts by the Senate before it went on a one-week recess. In congratulating Mitchell, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the diplomat “has done an excellent job in his current role as special representative and policy coordinator for Burma … His experience will serve us well in the region as he builds on the strong foundation established by [Charge d’Affaires] Michael Thurston and our embassy team in Rangoon.”