Afghanistan causes concern
The leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to coordinate their response to regional security problems they expect when NATO forces withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan in 2014. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said on Tuesday during a visit to Turkmenistan that the region should brace for a new surge in activity from the Taliban and other insurgent forces within Afghanistan. Central Asian governments have repeatedly conveyed concern about threats from Afghanistan, but appealing for military assistance from the US and Russia had been preferred over cooperation. Turkmenistan opposes military solutions to regional security issues, pinning its strategy for guaranteeing peace on the economic dividends of exporting its natural gas through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.
Man executed by Islamists
Islamist militant group Ansar Dine executed a man on Tuesday in Timbuktu for murdering his neighbor in an application of Shariah Islamic law, the group and witnesses said. Armed Islamist groups have controlled the northern two-thirds of the country since April, when they hijacked a rebellion launched by ethnic Tuareg separatists. They have since imposed shariah in many of the areas under their control. A spokesman for Ansar Dine, which controls Timbuktu, said the executed man was a member of the group. “He turned himself in ... He was judged, condemned to death and executed this evening. He was shot in the same way he shot his victim. This is what sharia says,” Sanda Ould Boumana told reporters. The UN Security Council last week voiced concern about human rights violations by rebel and militant groups. West African countries from regional bloc ECOWAS have asked for a UN mandate for a possible military intervention.
Inmates let out for beer
Two corrections officers at the country’s only jail are suspected of letting inmates leave to go on beer and food runs. Officers Fiti Aina and Rocky Tua were charged this week with aiding the escape of a prisoner, permitting escape and public servant acceding to corruption. A police search at Territorial Correctional Facility in July turned up beer in an inmate’s cell. Police say that while trying to find out how it got there, they learned the officers were sending inmates unsupervised to a nearby store. One inmate allowed out is serving 40 months for assaulting another man with a machete. Court documents say an inmate told investigators he bought beer for another inmate and chips and cookies for Tua. Aina and Tua were each held on US$10,000 bail.
Club owner charged for fire
Police charged a nightclub owner with gross negligence over a fire that killed four people Phuket, an official said yesterday. If convicted, Tiger Group owner Piya Isramalai faces up to 10 years in prison for the pre-dawn blaze that swept through the Tiger Discotheque on Aug. 17 on the southern island, a magnet for international tourists. Piya is also accused of operating a business outside legal opening hours. A British and a French tourist, as well as two Thai women, died in the fire, which is believed to have spread rapidly because of flammable materials in the construction and decoration of the club. The fire dealt another blow to the nation’s image as the “Land of Smiles” that has been tarnished in recent years. Safety standards in the country are generally poor and tourist deaths are a common occurrence.
Space rocket self-destructs
A giant supply spacecraft burned up over the South Pacific yesterday in a self-destruct operation after a six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the European Space Agency (ESA) said. Laden with rubbish from the ISS, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) undocked from the orbital outpost on Friday to begin its final manoeuvres. “Edoardo Amaldi and its waste burnt up harmlessly in the upper atmosphere,” the ESA said in a press release. Undocking had been delayed by three days because astronauts had sent the craft a wrong identification code. Named after a 20th-century Italian physicist, the Edoardo Amaldi was the third of five ATVs that Europe is scheduled to supply for the ISS. The robot craft, each the size of a London double-decker bus, are designed to make one-way trips, hauling up tonnes of food, water, air, equipment and other supplies for the ISS crew.
President to undergo surgery
President Juan Manuel Santos is to spend two or three days in hospital after surgery for non-aggressive prostate cancer, his doctor said on Tuesday. Midway through his four-year term, Santos surprised the country on Monday night when he announced doctors had discovered a cancerous growth, but the disease had been caught in time and there was minimal risk. Santos was scheduled to have surgery to remove his prostate early yesterday after tests showed a malignant tumor, his urologist, Felipe Gomez, said. The cancer will not require chemotherapy, he said. Santos, who has three children, joins several other Latin American leaders who have fought cancer in recent years, including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazilian President Vilma Rousseff.
Families mourn girls’ deaths
Two refugee families in Texas are mourning their teenage daughters, victims of an apparent hit-and-run accident. Police say Tanzanian-born Irafasha Vestina, 14, and Violette Ntawurusimba, 13, were walking to Irafasha’s home on Sunday night when a truck — driven by 19-year-old Gillermo Flores — hit them. Flores was jailed on Tuesday on US$100,000 bond on two counts of causing an accident involving death. The Amarillo Globe-News reported that Flores initially fled, but his family brought him to police. The girls’ families fled political unrest in Tanzania.
Bishop in sex abuse probe
The Vatican is investigating a Chilean bishop for the alleged sexual abuse of minors, making him the most senior Catholic clergyman to be drawn into a scandal that has implicated 20 priests so far, the church said on Tuesday. The church investigation into the bishop of the city of Iquique, Marco Antonio Ordenes, 47, was launched in April, but details in the case have not been disclosed. “Because the accused person is a bishop, the procedure is being carried out by the Holy See,” a spokesman for the Chilean conference of bishops, Jaime Coiro, said at a news conference. “From the start of this case, the Vatican embassy has offered psychological support and comfort for the people affected and it has been in contact with Monsignor Ordenes, who is on medical leave,” Coiro said. The newspaper La Tercera said the investigation is being led by the Vatican’s representative in Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo and that Ordenes was in Peru recovering from a congenital liver problem. The church provided no details on the alleged victims or the circumstances surrounding the alleged abuse.