Night market fire kills eight
Eight people, including four children, were killed in a fire that tore through a popular night market in the tourist town of Siem Reap yesterday, police said. The children, aged between nine and 14, were sleeping with their families on the upper floor of a building when the blaze took hold in the early hours, said Sath Nady, chief of police in northwestern Siem Reap Province. The inferno, which raged for some two hours, was apparently caused by an electrical fault, Sath Nady said. More than 100 market stalls selling souvenirs were destroyed by the flames, he added. The night market, a popular attraction for visitors to the small provincial town, was closed when the fire broke out.
Al-Qaeda commander killed
Tribal sources from Pakistan’s northwest said yesterday a US drone attack had killed a senior al-Qaeda commander in the latest blow to the militant Islamist group that has been targeted in many similar attacks. Abu Zaid was killed, along with 10 other people, in the drone strike on a hideout in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, one of the tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan, early on Thursday, the sources said. Zaid had just moved to the hideout a few days ago, they said. Pakistani security officials based in North Waziristan said they were aware of the death of a senior al-Qaeda commander, but could not confirm his identity or rank.
Trade talks protest turns ugly
A protest aimed at disrupting Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks turned violent yesterday as demonstrators attacked security forces, police said. Two police officers were kicked “numerous times” and a woman was accused of stomping on a constable’s head when protesters tried to force their way into Auckland’s SkyCity building where the talks were taking place. Reports said up to 300 people squared off against 50 police and a handful of building security staff before setting fire to cardboard boxes near the doors of the conference center. Media reports said that the demonstrators wanted to present conference officials with a petition protesting the secrecy of the negotiations, but it quickly escalated out of control. The Auckland meeting is the 15th round of talks involving 11 countries aimed at formalizing a Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. About 500 negotiators from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, the US, Vietnam and New Zealand are involved in the meeting. The talks have attracted controversy because of their secrecy and concerns a deal could extend corporate power into areas seen as national interests.
Airport handover completed
The government yesterday described as “seamless” the retaking of the country’s international airport from an Indian developer following a bitter row that triggered a spat with its neighbor. The government of President Mohamed Waheed last week decided to revoke a 25-year lease of the airport in the capital, Male, asking infrastructure company GMR to quit by midnight on Friday, two years after it took over. The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party of former president Mohamed Nasheed, who initiated the privatization with GMR in 2010, staged a peaceful protest against the move on Friday night, witnesses said. Nasheed had warned that scrapping the deal could jeopardize foreign investment prospects in the popular honeymoon destination and also hurt ties with neighboring India.
Tymoshenko to be candidate
The main opposition alliance on Friday named imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who recently staged a hunger strike protest, as its candidate for president in the 2015 elections. The decision was reached at a congress of opposition leaders including members of Tymoshenko’s party and that of former parliament speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the alliance said in a statement. Tymoshenko last month staged a two-week hunger strike to protest against alleged fraud in parliamentary elections won by the party of her archrival, President Viktor Yanukovych, to whom she lost the presidential poll in 2010. The former prime minister is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of power while in office. Her conviction in October last year sharply worsened Ukraine’s ties with the West and exposed Yanukovych to accusations he was persecuting political opponents. Her supporters believe she will ultimately be released from prison through a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.
No crisis: Berlusconi party
Former president Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right People of Freedom party pledged on Friday not to trigger a disorderly crisis that could alarm financial markets as the country began to look forward to an election in the first few months of next year. People of Freedom (PDL) Secretary Angelino Alfano told parliament that the party’s withdrawal of support from Prime Minister Mario Monti in two confidence votes on Thursday had shown its disapproval without bringing down the government. “Yesterday, we did not give a vote of no confidence because we consider the experience of the Monti government has come to an end, but we don’t want to send the institutions and the country into chaos,” Alfano said. The PDL is expected to allow budget measures in the so-called Stability Law to pass when it comes before parliament for final approval some time before Christmas, ensuring that deficit reduction goals are maintained and the budget is approved.
Three in court over stabbing
Three men accused of stabbing a retired Indian general have been ordered to remain in custody by a British court. The trio, who briefly appeared in court on Friday, allegedly attacked Lieutenant General Kuldeep Singh Brar on Sept. 30 in central London. Brar sustained a neck wound in the incident. The accused range in age from 33 to 36, and have been charged with wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm. One of the men was also charged with common assault on Brar’s wife. The suspects face a further court hearing on Jan. 18.
Abuser priests normal: study
A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results presented on Friday. Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as pedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases. Psychological tests commissioned by priests’ dioceses around Germany found only 5 percent could be classified as ephebophiles — attracted to teenagers — it said. “There are no significant differences to results found in the general population in Germany,” said Norbert Leygraf, one of the experts reviewing reports on predator priests found out in the past decade.
Brothers plead not guilty
Two Pakistani-born brothers pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of plotting to obtain a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to support terrorism with money, communications equipment and other means. The pleas were entered at a brief federal court hearing by lawyers for 30-year-old Sheheryar Alam Qazi and 20-year-old Raees Alam Qazi. The Qazi brothers, who were arrested last week, wore tan prison jumpsuits and shackles in court and did not speak during the hearing. No family members were present. A bail hearing was set for Friday for Raees Qazi during which prosecutors are likely to reveal some details of the case. Sheheryar Qazi’s attorney, Ronald Chapman, said his client will not seek bail for now. Few details have emerged about the alleged plot, although law enforcement officials have said the charges were not the result of an FBI sting operation.
Archeologist sues studios
A Belize archeologist is suing the makers of a blockbuster Indiana Jones film for using a likeness of a so-called crystal skull, which he says is a stolen national treasure. Jaime Awe claims the skull was stolen from Belize 88 years ago, and that filmmakers had no right to use a model of it in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In a lawsuit filed in Illinois this week, Awe is demanding the return of the crystal skull, which he says is a national treasure, from a treasure-hunting family who allegedly stole it, the industry journal said on Friday. However, the legal action also targets Lucasfilm, its new owner, the Walt Disney Co, and Paramount Pictures, which released the film by Steven Spielberg, for allegedly using a replica “likeness” of the skull. Awe, head of the Institute of Archeology of Belize, claims that the skull was found by the daughter of an adventurer named F.A. Mitchell-Hedges under a collapsed altar in temple ruins in Belize, and taken to the US in 1930.
Thirteen charged with fraud
The government has charged 13 people with fraud for operating two secret telephone networks that let people make cheaper calls and cheated the state-run monopoly, a newspaper said on Friday. The official daily Granma said the suspects will be tried for “illicit economic activity,” which carries a maximum jail term of three years, and fraud, which can land them in prison for four to 10 years. Six of the 13 suspects are in custody as the investigation proceeds. All are accused of using the state-owned telephone company Etecsa to make money. One of the networks, linked to a telecommunications company owned by a Cuban living in Canada, used a computer program and Etecsa’s cellphone grid so that text messages sent to Cuba were charged at a lower rate, Granma said.
Suspect to face tests
The man suspected of shooting one person dead at an election victory rally for Quebec separatists will undergo a psychiatric exam to determine if he is competent to stand trial, his lawyer said on Friday. Richard Henry Bain, 62, is accused of opening fire at the Sept. 4 rally outside a Montreal concert venue as the newly elected prime minister of the French-speaking Canadian province, Pauline Marois, was speaking. The gunman, the English-speaking owner of a hunting and fishing business, was masked and dressed in a bathrobe and screamed anti-French slogans as he fired shots, killing a bystander.