Nuclear missile test-fired
The military yesterday test-fired a nuclear-capable cruise missile with “stealth features,” it said, the first such exercise in more than three months. The military described the Hatf-VII Babur missile as a “low-flying, terrain-hugging missile, which can strike targets both at land and sea with pin point accuracy” and has a range of 700km. The previous missile test, also of a Hatf-VII, was conducted in June at the end of a spate of five launches in around six weeks that followed arch-rival India successfully firing its Agni V rocket, which can deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in China.
Journalist jailed for dissent
A journalist and blogger has been sentenced to one year in prison for alleged anti-government writings in a widening crackdown on political dissent in the Gulf nation. The Oman News Agency says Mukhtar bin Mohammed bin Saif al-Hinai was convicted on Sunday of slander and violations of media codes, but gave no further details. Al-Hinai works at the Azzaman daily, which came under pressure last year for coverage that angered some officials in the tightly ruled nation. Last month, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders criticized Oman for convicting 20 activists, including prominent bloggers, on charges of illegal assembly and of insulting the nation’s ruler.
Naval exercise launched
A major US-led naval minesweeping exercise got underway in the Persian Gulf on Sunday. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise, which go through to Sept. 27, includes military forces from more than 20 nations, the US Naval Forces Central Command in Manama, Bahrain, said in a statement. The navy ships will “participate in the defensive exercise to preserve freedom of navigation in the international waterways of the Middle East and promote regional stability” in the region, the statement read. US defense officials insist the exercise is not aimed at Iran or any one country, but is simply designed to hone counter-mine capabilities among allies and partners.
Dissident urged to end strike
The “Ladies in White” opposition movement urged a prominent 67-year-old dissident on Sunday to end her six-day-old hunger strike, saying she is more valuable alive as a fighter than dead as a martyr. The dissident, Marta Beatriz Roque, is in critical condition, a spokeswoman said. Ladies in White leader Berta Soler said she spoke on Saturday to Roque and tried to persuade her that ending the strike was not tantamount to caving in. Roque, who is a diabetic, is on hunger strike with 26 other activists. Known as the Iron Lady of the national dissident movement, Roque launched her hunger strike on Monday last week to protest what she said was the government’s “intolerable and untenable” treatment of political opponents.
Chained bodies found
The bodies of 17 men, most of them tied up in chains and shot dead, were found dumped along a highway on Sunday in a western state known as a violent battleground for rival drug cartels. Police found the bodies amid an upsurge in drug gang violence following the arrest of two major drug lords in recent weeks. The bodies were found near the farm town of Tizapan, close to the state border with Michoacan, officials said. There have been no arrests and no group has claimed responsibility.