Trade minister resigns
Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan yesterday said he had resigned, effective immediately, to focus on his campaign to win the presidential nomination for the ruling Democratic Party. The US-educated former investment banker is one of 10 candidates vying for the party’s nomination. State Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, a media magnate, is expected to throw his hat in the ring, forcing a small Cabinet reshuffle as early as this weekend. The general election is in April. Political parties must secure either 20 percent of the seats or 25 percent of the vote to nominate a candidate for the July presidential poll.
Public building attacked
Gunmen and suicide bombers staged a brazen assault on a government building in Baghdad on Thursday, officials said, killing two people. The firefight at a state-run transportation company was one of several attacks that left 11 dead across the city. At least six gunmen stormed the Company for Transportation, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim said. Police shot and killed four of the militants inside the building, while the other two blew themselves up at the entrance, Maan said. He added that the stand-off ended with at least one employee and a policeman killed in the attack, but gave no details on how they died.
32 N Koreans released
Authorities have released 32 of the 35 North Koreans detained since July last year after an undeclared cargo of Cuban arms was found on their ship, prosecutors said on Thursday. The remaining three North Koreans — the Chong Chon Gang vessel’s captain, first officer and political secretary — face trial on arms trafficking charges, prosecutor Nathaniel Murgas told reporters. He said the organized crime office ordered the sailors’ release on Tuesday, and that they were turned over to immigration authorities. The other crew members face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
Assembly poll date set
The nation is to elect an assembly on Feb. 20 to draft a constitution intended to advance the transition to democracy and break political stalemate more than two years after a NATO-backed uprising toppled Muammar Qaddafi. Just hours before the congress decision, gunmen kidnapped the son of the special forces commander in Benghazi, later calling the colonel to demand he withdraw troops in return for his son’s release, state news agency LANA said. At least one soldier was killed, medical and security sources said, after troops clashed with gunmen in the eastern city. “We want all Libyan people and groups to reconcile and support these elections,” General National Congress President Nouri Abusahmain said after announcing the date of the vote on Thursday.
Heroin in Happy Meals
A McDonald’s worker accused of dealing heroin in Happy Meal boxes to customers using the code phrase “I’d like to buy a toy” was being held on bail on Thursday in Pittsburgh, a spokesman for a local prosecutor said. Police arrested Shantia Dennis, 26, on Wednesday on charges of drug distribution after undercover officers conducted a controlled buy under the Golden Arches, a statement from the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office said. They also seized a 50-unit bag of heroin from Dennis as well as 10 units purchased by the plainclothes officers, office spokesman Mike Manko said.