Wild elephants injure two
A group of wild elephants trying to cross a river in China’s far southwest left two tourists injured, state media reported yesterday. The incident occurred on Saturday afternoon in Yunnan Province when the river-crossing elephants ran into a family of five people, Xinhua news agency reported, citing forest police. A woman suffered a fractured right shoulder while a man suffered slight injury, the report said. Both were treated at a local hospital. The incident took place at the Wild Elephant Valley reserve in Xishuangbanna prefecture, Xinhua said, citing the prefectural forest police. The rainforests of Xishuangbanna, which borders Myanmar and Laos, are home to 250 to 300 wild elephants, Xinhua reported. The animals are generally placid, but can attack when they feel threatened.
KGB agent not convicted
A former Soviet-era KGB agent has escaped a drink-drive charge in New Zealand and can continue his work as a consultant to foreign intelligence agencies, a report said yesterday. Alexander Kouzminov, 57, recorded a breath alcohol reading twice the legal limit in New Zealand. His lawyer successfully argued in the Auckland District Court that a conviction would mean he would lose the right to travel to many countries where he assisted intelligence agencies. Judge David Burns said Kouzminov’s breath alcohol reading was “very high” but said “the spectacular fall from grace” of losing his work would be too high a price to pay, the Sunday Herald reported. New Zealand-based Kouzminov was described in court as a member of a secret nuclear biological and chemical warfare society with a high-level security clearance.
Iran rebels seize guards
An Iranian rebel group has posted photos on Twitter of five men it claims are border guards it seized near Pakistan. Jaish al-Adl is a little known organization that operates on Iran’s border area with the neighboring country. Semiofficial Fars news agency said in a report on Monday last week that the five Iranian guards have reportedly been taken to Pakistan. Jaish al-Adl’s name was raised for the first time in October when they killed 14 Iranian border guards in an ambush. Iranian authorities hanged 16 members of the rebel group in retaliation for the ambush. Jaish al-Adl is widely believed to be a Saudi-backed conservative Salafi group which aims to punish the Islamic Republic for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Minister visits Afghanistan
Germany Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived yesterday in Mazar-i-Sharif for an unannounced visit, a spokeswoman said. Most of the 3,000 German troops deployed in Afghanistan are based in this northern Afghan city. Berlin decided on Wednesday to extend by 10 months its military presence in the country until the end of this year. The lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, must still give its approval. It is the first visit to Afghanistan by the Social Democrat minister since he entered the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel that emerged from September’s legislative elections. It comes as the UN said the number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan rose 14 percent last year. A total of 8,615 civilian casualties were recorded last year, with 2,959 killed and 5,656 wounded, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s annual report.