US first lady touts freedom
US first lady Michelle Obama told an audience of college students in Beijing yesterday that open access to information — especially online — is a universal right. However, she stopped short of calling on China to offer its citizens greater freedoms during a visit in which she is expected to steer clear of more complicated political issues, but rather try to build goodwill through soft diplomacy. “It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” Obama said told an audience of about 200 US and Chinese students at Peking University. “My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” she said.
Five killed in aircraft crash
A light aircraft used for skydiving crashed in an airfield in the east of the country yesterday and burst into flames, killing all five people on board, police said. The plane veered left shortly after taking off from the Caboolture airstrip, 50km north of Brisbane, before plunging to the ground. “We have a pilot and there were four skydivers on board and they were the only five people that were on board,” Queensland police superintendent Michael Brady told Sky News. Brady said a male pilot, two skydiving instructors and two skydivers including a woman were on board, but could not confirm reports that their family members were watching as the plane plummeted to the ground.
Suspected extremists held
Police arrested three suspected lslamic extremists after intercepting a bomb shipment that authorities said was intended to attack brothels. Among those arrested last week was Ambo Intang, who was sought for his alleged involvement in the 2012 killings of two policemen in the Central Sulawesi District of Poso, national police spokesman Major General Ronny Sompie said. An antiterrorism squad had earlier detained two other suspects. One of them was identified as Bambang Aribowo, who was arrested upon arrival at Jakarta’s airport. Sompie said police intercepted a shipment containing two homemade bombs that was sent from the East Java town of Trenggalek to Makassar. Police said the group was led by the nation’s most wanted terrorist suspect, Abu Wardah Santoso. He is sought in connection with several attacks on Java Island and Poso in Central Sulawesi Province and faces charges of running a terrorist training camp.
Smuggling eyed in crash
A collision involving two trucks and two passenger buses on a coastal highway in Balochistan Province, near Gadani, yesterday killed 35 people and injured 20 passengers, police said. A bus bound for the port city of Karachi first collided head-on with a truck coming from the opposite direction, said Ahmed Nawaz, the area’s police chief. Nawaz said the second bus and truck then piled up onto the two vehicles and all caught fire, reportedly because the buses were also smuggling Iranian gasoline and diesel-filled canisters on board. He said 25 people were reported to have died at the scene, while 30 injured victims were taken out of the destroyed and burned buses. Most of the victims, including women and children, were severely burned and were transported to Karachi.