Two US soldiers killed
Insurgents on Saturday killed two US troops in the east of the country, an area that has seen heavy fighting in recent months, the US military said. No other information about the deaths was disclosed, pending notification of family members. However, a US military official said two US special operations forces were killed by small arms fire in Wardak Province, southwest of Kabul. In the south, a policeman was killed and another was wounded when a remote-controlled bomb planted on a motorbike was detonated in Sangin District in Helmand Province, according to provincial spokesman Ahmad Zarak. In neighboring Kandahar Province, a roadside bomb killed another Afghan policeman in Kandahar City, provincial spokesman Ahmad Jawed Faisal said.
Blue whales tracked
Scientists are using military technology for locating submarines to track rare blue whales hundreds of kilometers away by eavesdropping on their distinctive songs. Blue whales can communicate with each other over an entire ocean basin by emitting low frequency sounds, or deep songs. Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division started using directional sonobuoys this year to detect whale sounds — a big improvement on the standard visual method of monitoring whales. Over a 20-day period earlier this year, scientists recorded 103 sightings of blue whales in an area of more than 10,000km2 by using the technology. Australian Antarctic Division scientist Mike Double said despite growing up to 33m long, blue whales are very difficult to find and very little is known about them. The government hopes that improved monitoring of the world’s largest animal in the icy Southern Ocean will help prevent its extinction.
Syrian ex-PM in talks
The state news agency says the foreign minister has held talks with former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab in the first high-profile meeting since the Syrian defected to the kingdom in August. The Petra news agency says Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh’s closed-door meeting with Hijab on Saturday focused on “developments in the Syrian arena.” It did not elaborate and officials could not be immediately reached for comment. After initially seeming reluctant to anger its more powerful northern neighbor, Amman recently has shown signs of leaning toward the Syria opposition trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For months, Amman has been secretly receiving waves of Syrian security officials, but last week, it announced publicly that it is hosting 2,054 officials.
S Koreans killed by lightning
Two tourists killed by lightning in the central region have been identified as South Koreans, police said yesterday, correcting earlier reports they were Chinese. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said the victims, a man and a woman, had been erroneously identified as Chinese tourists after the Saturday evening strike in Haputale, 200km east of Colombo. “It is now established that the victims were in a group of South Korean tourists,” Rohana said. “The autopsies will be done today.” He said three other South Korean women were injured and were undergoing hospital treatment. The group were at Lipton’s Seat, one of the highest look-out points in the central region, during a sudden thunderstorm, police said. The country is seeing an increase in the number of Asian tourists visiting after it ended nearly four decades of ethnic war in May 2009.
Reformist ex-president dies
Former president Chadli Bendjedid, who gave the country a multiparty political system before he was overthrown in a 1992 military coup, died on Saturday at a military hospital, the state news agency said. He was 83. Bendjedid, who became president in 1979, presided over a series of political reforms that allowed for competitive legislative and municipal elections. Yet when an Islamist party swept the first round of parliamentary elections, the country’s powerful generals stepped in, ousted Benjedid and canceled the elections in 1992. The coup prompted an armed resistance that turned into a decade-long civil war, which tore the country apart and claimed at least 200,000 lives. Bendjedid was kept under house arrest hundreds of kilometers from the capital until 1999, when he was freed. He was admitted to the Mohamed Seghir Nekkache military hospital last week for kidney-related problems, the state news agency reported, citing family members.
Red Crescent staff freed
A group of seven Iranian Red Crescent workers who were kidnapped in the eastern city of Benghazi were freed yesterday, an interior ministry official told reporters. “The seven Iranians were freed today and have left the country,” said Ezzedine al-Fazzani, a spokesman for the interior ministry in the east. Libyan Red Crescent official Qais al-Fahry confirmed the team “was released today and left Benghazi for Turkey,” from where they would continue on to Iran. “They were in good health and happy to be heading home,” he said. Gunmen kidnapped the visiting delegation on July 31, the Libyan Red Crescent reported at the time.
Lake Malawi row continues
The government called on Saturday for an international mediator to resolve a long-standing border dispute with Malawi, conceding the latest talks over territorial rights to Lake Malawi have failed. Lake Malawi, known locally as Lake Nyasa, is Africa’s third-largest lake and it is thought to sit over highly coveted oil and gas reserves. Malawi claims sovereignty over the entirety of the lake while Dodoma says it is entitled to 50 percent of it. Dodoma wants an international mediator to be appointed from among former African presidents from the 15-nation trade bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC). Both Tanzania and Malawi are members of SADC. Malawian officials have made it clear they will not continue with talks until Tanzania stops intimidating Malawi fishermen, an accusation denied by Dodoma. Malawi said Tanzania had deployed military vessels on the lake, which it has denied. The territorial row, which dates back half a century, could worsen if significant oil and gas discoveries are made.
Tunisia seeks Quito’s advice
President Rafael Correa says his country will advise Tunisia on possible renegotiation of its debts. He says he will send a mission to explain what Ecuador did in 2009 when it renegotiated about US$3 billion in debts after declaring many of them illegitimate. He made the comment during his weekly Saturday radio broadcast, saying the advice was requested by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Tunisia’s economy has suffered since the nation launched the Arab Spring uprisings by ousting former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January last year. Officials accuse Ben Ali of committing economic crimes during his rule.
Singer faces drug charges
An up-and-coming Mexican opera singer is being charged with drug trafficking after he was caught driving a car stuffed with methamphetamine in San Diego County. The district attorney’s office says 23-year-old Maximino Melchor Vazquez is charged with transportation and possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell. He is being held in jail on US$1 million bail. U-T San Diego reports the tenor from Tijuana was driving on Interstate 5 on Sept. 19 when he was pulled over and 19.9kg of meth was found in a concealed compartment in his car. Federal authorities say that quantity is worth up to US$500,000 on the street. Vazquez faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
Republican slams evolution
A Republican lawmaker said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell” meant to convince people that they do not need a savior. Georgia Representative Paul Broun made those comments during a speech on Sept. 27 at a sportsman’s banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia. Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats. “God’s word is true,” Broun said, according to a video posted on the church’s Web site. Broun also said that he believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. Those beliefs are held by fundamentalist Christians who believe the creation accounts in the Bible are literally true. Broun spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti said that Broun was recorded speaking off-the-record to a church group about his religious beliefs. He sits on the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. It seems unlikely that Broun’s remarks were supposed to be kept private. The banquet was advertised, Broun spoke before an audience and the video of his remarks was posted on the church’s Web site.
Rebels attack gas pipeline
The sole natural gas pipeline was left without maintenance services on Saturday after Shining Path rebels destroyed on the ground three helicopters belonging to the company that runs the pipeline. The aircraft were used by the company Transportadora de Gas del Peru (TGP) to dispatch maintenance workers along the pipeline in the country’s southern jungles. The Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso in Spanish, started a war to overthrow the state in 1980, and about 70,000 people were killed in the conflict. The rebels, now too weak to pose a strategic threat to the government, went into the cocaine-trafficking business after the founders of the group were arrested in the early 1990s. The southeastern valleys where they operate contain natural gas reserves and pipelines central to the country’s energy security.
Mock cannon boat explodes
A mock cannon on a Greek tour boat exploded on Saturday, killing the captain and injuring six tourists off the island of Kos, authorities said. The Merchant Marine Ministry said the tourists from Germany, Belgium, Greece and the Netherlands — including two children, aged seven and nine — were hospitalized on the east Aegean Sea island with minor injuries. Twenty-two other passengers on board all disembarked unharmed at the island port of Mandraki. The extent of damage caused by the explosion remained unclear.