Thousands flee Sabah unrest
Almost 5,000 Filipinos have fled the state of Sabah since security forces launched an offensive to root out Islamic invaders loyal to an obscure Philippine sultan, a government agency said yesterday. The Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said it had recorded 4,983 adults and children who had arrived in the south of the archipelago after fleeing Sabah due to the ongoing fighting. The Filipinos began arriving early this month after clashes broke out between Malaysian forces and followers of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, who claims Sabah as his territory. About 200 followers of Kiram, some of them armed, arrived in Sabah last month in an attempt to claim the state for the sultanate, reviving a centuries-old territorial row. The incursion and a Malaysian counter-assault has left more than 60 militants dead along with 10 security personnel, according to Malaysian authorities, and strained relations with Manila.
Man on trial for injuring 23
A man who hacked and injured 23 school children in December last year will be tried on charges of intentional homicide and jeopardizing public safety. The municipal prosecutor’s office for the city of Xinyang in Henan Province said on Friday in a statement that it has charged Min Yongjun (閔擁軍), who allegedly broke into an eldery woman’s house one morning and stabbed her with a kitchen knife before he went to a nearby elementary school and injured the 23 children as they arrived for class. There has been a string of such stabbing attacks on schoolchildren in recent years, alarming parents and schools which increased safety measures.
Bar offers Buddhist cocktails
Buddhist monk Yoshinobu Fujioka enjoys bringing his congregation together, one cocktail at a time. Fujioka owns the 23-seat “Vowz Bar” in central Tokyo, where Buddhist chants replace karaoke songs and the shaven-headed bartenders serve up sermons and homilies along with the drinks. “People would gather in a Buddhist temple and drink together, we’ve just updated the tradition to fit our times,” said Fujioka, who also works at a temple just outside Tokyo. “They become totally different believers here, the distance between them and myself diminishing. They are more connected with each other,” he added, dressed in traditional black robes. Vowz Bar has been going strong for 13 years and the cocktail list includes the vodka and cognac-based “Perfect Bliss” as well as “Infinite Hell.” The special is called “Enslavery to Love and Lust” and costs about ￥800 (US$8.51).
Dinosaur park plan unveiled
A mining magnate who is building a replica of the ill-fated Titanic yesterday unveiled his latest scheme — a park of giant robotic dinosaurs. Clive Palmer, who last month in New York launched an ambitious plan to build and sail the Titanic II, said he had ordered more than 100 life-size dinosaur robots from China to populate his resort. “We’ll have the world’s biggest dinosaur exhibit, with 165 animatronic dinosaurs,” Palmer said. He already has two of the towering creatures — named Jeff and Bones — on display at his Palmer Coolum Resort on the Sunshine coast north of Brisbane and boasted that the public “haven’t seen anything yet.”
Terror probe detainees freed
Prosecutors have announced the release of three people detained earlier this week as part of an investigation into the deadly terror attacks in Toulouse that targeted Jews and paratroopers. A spokeswoman for the prosecutors, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, says the three, including a soldier, were freed on Friday. None was charged in the case. Investigators in the terror case are trying to understand whether Mohamed Merah — the man police say killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in March last year — had any help. Merah was killed in a shootout with police after his deadly spree. Five people had been detained earlier, but all were freed after questioning. Only Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, has been charged with complicity in the case and is being held.