Troops kill eight rebels
Soldiers backed by attack helicopters have killed eight communist rebels over the past week in the south as part of a stepped-up campaign against the guerrillas, an army commander said yesterday. The military is under orders from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to end the 40-year-old Maoist insurgency — one of Asia’s longest — by 2010. Lieutenant Colonel Milfredo Meligrito, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said soldiers killed seven New People’s Army guerrillas on Friday in a battle outside Tulunan Township in Cotabato Province.
Gunmen kill seven police
Unknown gunmen killed seven police officers in a raid on a police check post in the central province of Punjab yesterday, a security official said. The attack took place around 3:30am on Friday in the Qudrat Abad area of Mianwali district, senior police official Jamaat Ali said by phone. “The attackers first gunned down two policemen guarding the post and then killed five more policemen sleeping inside the building,” Shah said. Before leaving, they blew up the two-story building with explosives, he said, adding that the bodies of five policemen have been pulled from the rubble.
Authorities arrest druggist
Police have arrested a man accused of distributing a shoddy diabetes drug blamed for at least two deaths, a state news agency said yesterday. The medicine contained six times the normal amount of a chemical ingredient used to lower blood sugar. It is blamed for killing two people and sickening nine others in the Xinjiang autonomous region. The drug is believed to have been widely distributed throughout the country, though only Xinjiang reported problems.
Armed group kills officer
A police officer was killed after an armed group attacked a police station in a remote village in the west, officials said yesterday. The attackers stormed a police station at Syawlebhan village in Pyuthan district, about 350km west of the capital Kathmandu early yesterday morning. Chief government district administrator Krishna Shyam Budathoki said the group surrounded the station and shot and killed an officer on sentry duty. They then stormed the building, assaulting officers and making off with weapons and communication equipment, Budathoki said. Police were helpless to counter the attack as they did not have enough manpower and weapons, he said.
Identity doubt saves twins
Identical twin brothers escaped the death penalty in a drug trafficking trial after the court ruled authorities could not prove which man committed the alleged crime, news reports said yesterday. “I ... can’t be sending the wrong person to the gallows,” the New Straits Times newspaper quoted the judge in the case as saying. Police arrested the 27-year-old brothers in August 2003 after they found large amounts of opium and marijuana in a house to which one of the twins had the key, the New Straits Times and national news agency Bernama reported. Both men were charged, but Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Zaharah Ibrahim ruled on sFriday that only the twin with the key could be proven to be the owner of the drugs. Because the brothers’ identical features made it impossible for officers testifying to point out which one had been found with the key, she had no choice but to acquit both men.
Unknown assailants lodged an axe in the doorway of a prominent journalist, local media reported on Friday, in the latest incident targeting reporters in the capital. Alexei Venediktov returned home on Thursday evening to find the axe jutting out from the wall next to the front door of his Moscow apartment, liberal news agency Rosbalt reported, citing an unnamed police source. Ominously, Venediktov also found a video camera placed above the elevator — pointing across the hallway directly at his apartment door. Venediktov is editor-in-chief of independent radio station Echo of Moscow, one of the few remaining media voices ready to criticize the Kremlin.
Ship bound for Iran seized
The cargo of a ship bound for Iran was seized near Athens because it violated an international embargo, a government official said on Friday and a newspaper reported that the vessel was carrying steel that could be used to make missile components. On Monday, Iran launched an Omid satellite, a move that touched off concerns among experts in Europe, the US and Israel about the potential of links between its satellite program and its work with missiles and nuclear technology. The Susanna was traveling from Slovenia to Iran when it was stopped in December carrying four containers loaded with cargo “banned under international law,” the official said on condition of anonymity. The Elfetherotypia newspaper said the cargo was steel.
ABBA mimics play for Putin
A private concert by ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was entirely believable, the band’s Australian cofounder said yesterday. “We’ve played private gigs for Rowan Atkinson, we did Russell Crowe’s wedding,” John Tyrrell told the the Australian newspaper. The Kremlin has denied reports that the London-based group was flown in to perform for Putin. Bjorn Again, founded in Melbourne in 1988, is now a franchise operation with as many as seven tribute bands playing around the world. Reports said Bjorn Again played 15 ABBA hits at a Jan. 22 concert near Lake Valdai. There were reportedly only eight in the audience, including Putin.
Nuclear sub damaged
A ballistic nuclear submarine was damaged when it hit an object under water earlier this week, but no one was injured and there was no security threat, the Defense Ministry said on Friday. Le Triomphant, one of the country’s four nuclear-armed submarines, hit the object, probably a container, while submerging and immediately returned to base at Ile-Longue. “The sonar dome situated in the front was damaged,” a statement from the navy said, adding that the incident “did not jeopardize nuclear security.”
University tossed out dung
Leeds University has apologized to a doctoral student for throwing away his treasured seven-year collection of lizard dung. Daniel Bennett told Times Higher Education magazine that he had collected the dung in the Philippines while studying the rare butaan lizard, a relative of the Komodo dragon. The material was to be studied as part of his doctoral research. Bennett said the 35kg bag was thrown away by cleaners at his lab. The dung represented seven years’ worth of field work and its loss “left me reeling,” he said.
Nuclear program may move
US President Barack Obama’s administration is considering moving nuclear weapons production management from the Energy Department to the Pentagon, the New York Times reported yesterday. The change, which the report said would end more than 60 years of civilian control over nuclear bomb manufacture, would be meant to let the Energy Department focus more on energy research, production and conservation, the Times said. The White House has ordered the two departments to looks at costs and benefits of transferring two national laboratories that design weapons, the site in Nevada where they can be tested, as well as all or part of four plants that build and maintain bombs and store weapons fuel, the Times said.
Highway sign warns of Brits
A hacked electronic highway sign in northern Texas carried a warning not seen much since the American Revolution. On Friday, the sign briefly flashed: “OMG The British R coming. They R watching you.” KCBD-TV reported the electronic sign was in a construction area in southwest Lubbock. A statement from Austin Bridge & Road said someone “with a questionable sense of humor” accessed the password on the message board.
Polygamy case adds wife
One of two Canadians charged with polygamy had his charges amended Friday to add another wife to the list of women he has married, officials said. Winston Blackmore, 52, and James Oler, 44, are each accused of being married to more than one woman at a time. Another woman has been added to Oler’s indictment after a review by special prosecutor Terry Robertson. “We’re just adding another party.” The case is the first to test Canada’s polygamy laws. Blackmore maintains the case is about religious persecution. Blackmore and Oler lead rival polygamous factions in Bountiful, a town in southeastern British Columbia. Blackmore is charged with marrying 19 women and Oler is now accused of marrying three women.
Soccer voodoo finds sponsor
After Radioshack dropped out, a Mexican newspaper has found a new US corporate sponsor to help put a voodoo hex on the US national soccer team and end Mexico’s decade-long losing streak. Blockbuster stores in Mexico City began trading Record newspaper coupons for voodoo-doll likenesses of US soccer players on Friday. The back of the dolls’ jersey reads “gringos.” They should be used to wish for a Mexico goal during the World Cup qualifier on Wednesday in Colombus, Ohio, according to the instructions. Mexico has not beaten the Americans on US soil in 10 years. “Hold a needle firmly between your thumb and index finger and prick slowly the part of the doll where you want to affect the opponent,” the instructions say. Electronics retailer RadioShack, of Fort Worth, Texas, dropped out as a distribution partner last week after learning details of the campaign.
Drug deaths hit 218
At least 218 people have died so far this year in suspected drug attacks in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, including four more deaths reported on Friday, authorities said. Drug-related deaths escalated countrywide to more than 5,300 last year amid a government crackdown on cartels fighting for control of key trafficking routes in the US. Ciudad Juarez had more than 1,600 deaths reported last year in the city of some 1.5 million.