Lizard smugglers detained
Two Japanese men were charged yesterday with attempting to smuggle 30 lizards out of Australia, with the reptiles fetching high prices on the Asian black market. The Customs and Border Protection Service said the men, aged 38 and 33, were selected for a baggage examination when they recently checked in at Perth International Airport. During an X-ray search, officials found 28 shingleback lizards, another unspecified skink and one bearded dragon. Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife senior investigator Rick Dawson said the haul was worth more than A$130,000 (US$122,000). “These lizards are highly sought-after in Asia because they are easy to care for, attractive and exotic,” he said. The men face a range of charges including unlawfully taking protected fauna and subjecting a protected species to cruel treatment. They could face up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to A$170,000.
Man accused of beheadings
Police said on Wednesday they were questioning a man accused of beheading four of his children more than three years after divorcing their mother. Omar Shire Hassan was apprehended late on Tuesday by police in the central town of Beledweyne, about 300km north of the capital, a few hours after allegedly murdering the children who were between three and eight years old. “The dead bodies of the four children were found near a village and have been buried. The man handed himself in and is in custody now. I think he is not mentally fit, but we are questioning him,” regional police commissioner Colonel Isak Ali Abdulle said. He said police understood the man had recently returned to Somalia from Canada, but said the motive for the crime was unclear.
Vandal steals Reagan’s arm
Police were searching on Wednesday for a vandal who damaged a bronze statue of former US president Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in Gdansk by cutting off one of Reagan’s arms and stealing it. The statue was unveiled last year to honor Reagan and the Polish-born pope, who were both widely credited with helping Poland topple communism 24 years ago. The vandalism in the Baltic port city was discovered on Tuesday, setting off the search for the perpetrator, said Lucyna Rykowska, a spokeswoman for Gdansk police. People interviewed by Poland’s TVN24 deplored the vandalism and stressed the popularity of the statue in the park where it is located, saying visitors often leave flowers there. The damage was initially estimated at more than 100,000 zlotys (US$30,000), but the artist who made the statue said it could be repaired for far less.
Gangs use teen assassins
Gangs are using children as young as six to transport drugs and weapons, among other crimes, a senior official said in an interview published on Wednesday. Government data show that gangs also sometimes tap children as young as 11 — and routinely recruit teenagers — to commit murder, Deputy Minister of the Interior Arkel Benitez told the Siglo21 newspaper. Young people who commit a crime in these circumstances cannot be called assassins because “they do not offer the service to kill, but are forced to do so,” Benitez said. Gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, the most violent crime groups, force minors to kill as initiation rituals to prove their loyalty, the ministry said. From January to early last month, police arrested 22 youths accused of participating in killings.