People in camps die of cold
Severe cold weather sweeping through camps for people displaced by the Afghan war has killed 17 people, mostly children, Amnesty International said yesterday. The deaths occurred in the first two weeks of this month in Kabul and Herat provinces, which host most of the country’s half-a-million internally displaced people. “These deaths were a preventable tragedy,” Amnesty’s deputy Asia Pacific director Polly Truscott said in a statement. The latest deaths show “the inadequate co-ordination of winter assistance to hundreds of thousands of people living in displacement camps across the country,” Truscott said. “There is a desperate need to act now to prevent further deaths this winter.”
Quake strikes Aceh Province
A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck off Aceh Province yesterday, killing an eight-year-old girl and leaving 15 people injured, officials said. The quake struck 112km southeast of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh at 10:22pm GMT, at a depth of 37km, the US Geological Survey said. “An eight-year-old girl in Pidie district was killed after a cupboard in her bedroom fell on her when the quake shook the ground,” said Apriyadi, the district’s disaster management agency chief, who goes by one name. He added that 15 people were injured, five of them seriously, by collapsing walls.
UK woman gets death
A court sentenced a British woman to death yesterday for smuggling cocaine worth US$2.5 million into Bali — even though prosecutors had sought only a 15-year sentence. Lindsay June Sandiford, 56, was found guilty by the Denpasar District Court of violating the country’s strict drug laws. Sandiford was arrested in May last year when customs officers at Bali’s airport discovered 3.8kg of cocaine in her luggage. She had earlier told the court that she was forced into taking the drugs into the country by a gang that was threatening to hurt one of her children.
Calls for release of ‘killers’
The family of a slain labor leader yesterday called for the release of two men — seen by rights groups as scapegoats — sentenced to 20 years in prison for his daylight murder. The appeal came as more than 100 workers and unionists placed flowers and lit incense sticks at the spot where government critic Chea Vichea was gunned down in Phnom Penh nine years ago. “We demand that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun be freed. They are not the real killers,” said the late activist’s brother. Chea Mony, who now heads the Free Trade Union co-founded by his brother, urged the government to find the real culprits. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun say they were framed by a group of police.
Canadian killed in shootout
A Canadian man facing charges of illegal possession of firearms opened fire in a courtroom yesterday, killing two people and wounding a prosecutor before police fatally shot him, officials said. The suspect, John Pope, appeared in court in Cebu City, where he resided, to face the charges when he pulled out a gun and shot a lawyer and a physician who filed a case against him, police said. He then fired at a prosecutor in the hallway of the building before responding police fatally wounded him, Cebu police chief Mariano Natuel said. Regional police director Marcelo Garbo said Pope ignored orders to surrender and tried to fire at police.
Prince Harry home from war
Prince Harry said he killed Taliban fighters during his stint as a helicopter gunner in Afghanistan, in comments that can be reported after he completed his tour of duty on Monday. Harry spent a 20-week posting flying missions over Helmand Province in an Apache attack chopper. The 28-year-old said Islamist insurgents were put “out of the game” and described life in Britain’s sprawling Camp Bastion base, where he slept in a tent and a shipping container. Asked if he had killed from the cockpit, Harry said: “Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount ... Take a life to save a life.” He insisted that his life in Camp Bastion was “as normal as it’s going to get,” although he admitted he was frustrated by staring from fellow troops he had not previously met. “I go into the cookhouse and everyone has a good old gawp, and that’s one thing that I dislike about being here,” he said.
Camels go missing
Simbas and Judas disappeared in the middle of the night in the center of the country and are still missing two days later, the director of a Paris circus said on Monday. The two dromedaries — five-year-old, 800kg Simbas and three-year-old, 1 tonne Judas — were part of a caravan of performers and animals that went to the countryside to wait for new gigs after the circus abruptly stopped touring following a road accident last summer. Media reports say the troupe believes animal rights activists may have targeted the camels.
Gas leak spreading
A gas leak at a chemical plant in the city of Rouen yesterday could be smelled as far away as Paris, more than 100km away, but is “not toxic,” officials said. A chemical substance at the Lubrizol company became unstable causing gas odors that are similar to those of town gas, a statement issued by the Seine-Maritime prefecture said. The concentration of the gas was also “very low,” but the prefecture admitted that “a large number of people have been inconvenienced.”
Taylor appeals conviction
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor is appealing against his war crimes conviction and 50-year prison sentence for arming and supporting rebels in Sierra Leone’s civil war. The 64-year-old warlord-turned-president was found guilty in April last year of aiding and abetting Sierra Leone rebels, becoming the first former head of state since World War II to be convicted by an international war crimes court. Taylor’s lawyers have put forward 45 different grounds of appeal against his conviction and sentence, while prosecutors were arguing yesterday that judges should have found him guilty of ordering and instigating crimes and are asking appeals judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone to raise his sentence to 80 years.
City targets crack addicts
Health officials and law enforcement agents are rounding up crack addicts in the city of Sao Paulo and forcibly putting them in treatment if deemed necessary. The measure comes as many cities in the country face a crack epidemic. Authorities must conduct a simple health examination of addicts and then get a judge’s approval to force somebody into treatment. Similar action has already taken place in Rio de Janeiro.