Hostage escapes militants
An Indian man escaped from militant group Abu Sayyaf yesterday after being held captive in the south of the nation for nearly 14 months. Bijo Kolara Veetil escaped before dawn as his captors were preparing breakfast, Sulu Provincial Police Chief Antonio Freyra said. A heavily bearded Veetil, 37, later told reporters at a hospital that after he slipped out of the militants’ encampment in Patikul Township, a villager brought him to a provincial official, who handed him to police. Veetil, who worked as an operations manager for a garment company in Kuwait, said he was kidnapped in June last year while visiting his wife’s family in Patikul. The kidnappers demanded about 300,000 pesos (US$7,100) in ransom, but his family refused to pay. He said he was not harmed because he is a Muslim.
Cambodian envoy recalled
Cambodia’s ambassador to the Philipines has been recalled, the foreign minister said yesterday, after the envoy accused his host country of playing “dirty politics” in its maritime row with China. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario told reporters that Cambodian Ambassador Hos Sereythonh had been recalled, although he did not give reasons. The recall came after Del Rosario summoned the ambassador last month to explain comments he made in a letter to a Manila newspaper, but the ambassador did not appear, pleading illness. Manila had charged that during an ASEAN ministerial meeting over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Cambodia, a close ally of China, rejected at least five drafts of a joint statement that would have addressed the maritime row with Beijing. Two weeks later, Hos Sereythonh in the letter accused the Philippines and Vietnam of working to “sabotage and hijack the joint communique.”
UN warns al-Shabaab
The UN Security Council warned al-Shabaab rebels on Thursday against trying to impede the peace process in Somalia. Council members hailed the adoption of a new provisional constitution earlier this month by the National Constituent Assembly, saying it marked an “important milestone” in the nation’s transition toward “more stable and accountable governance.” “The members of the Security Council strongly condemn ongoing attempts, including by the Shebab [al-Shabaab], to undermine the transition process,” they said in a statement. The council called for new members of parliament to be chosen “as quickly as possible, and in a transparent manner,” stressing that lawmakers should be picked “without fear of violence or intimidation.” UN Special Representative to Somalia Augustine Mahiga has reported bribes and intimidation in the selection of new members of parliament.
Security forces on Thursday arrested Michel Samaha, a former information minister considered close to Syria’s embattled regime, in a case linked to explosives, a senior official said. His arrest was connected to a seizure of explosives that were to have been used mostly in the north of the country, a region of tensions linked to the conflict in neighboring Syria, the official told reporters. “The accusations against Samaha are related to explosives, which were going to be placed in several parts of the country, especially the north,” he said on condition of anonymity. The official declined to elaborate on the alleged link between the former minister and the explosives, but said the material was not seized from Samaha’s home where the arrest was carried out. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib Mikati told reporters there was no link between Samaha’s arrest and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up to investigate the 2005 murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri. The arrest of Samaha, information minister under Hariri, was made on the order of Lebanon’s attorney general at his residence in Khenshara, 30km north of Beirut, a senior official told media.