Boat feared sinking: official
Navy vessels were scrambling yesterday to locate an asylum seeker boat feared sinking off the Indian Ocean territory of Christmas Island, an official said. “Border Protection Command assets are currently conducting a search approximately 65 nautical miles northwest of Christmas Island for a possible foundered vessel,” a spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. Vessels carrying asylum-seekers are regularly overcrowded with scores of people. The country is facing a steady influx of asylum-seekers arriving by boat, many paying people-smugglers for passage on leaky wooden vessels after fleeing their home countries. Hundreds have died making the treacherous journey over the past few years.
Five gang suspects killed
Five men believed to be members of a crime gang were killed yesterday, and two of them beheaded in a suspected revenge attack, police said. Hooded gunmen broke into the shack where the gang was staying in the northern town of Bugallon and shot two of the men in the hands and feet, Senior Inspector Ryan Manongdo said. The gunmen then beheaded the two wounded men before shooting dead the three others, Manongdo added. A 14-year-old boy who was related to all five men witnessed the grisly attack, but was unharmed, police said. “The victims were allegedly engaged in illegal activities,” the police spokesman said. Manongdo said police were looking into the possibility that the killings were carried out by a family previously targeted by the gang.
Hero dog returns from US
The dog that lost half her face saving the lives of two girls has returned home after treatment in the US. Filipino veterinarian Anton Lim who accompanied the dog — named Kabang — yesterday said the mixed-breed whose snout and upper jaw had been sheared off was treated at the University of California, Davis, veterinary hospital for seven months with US$27,000 in donations. Kabang suffered the massive injuries in December 2011 when she jumped into the path of a motorcycle, stopping it from running over her owner’s daughter and niece. Kabang won widespread sympathy because of her injuries from what has been described as a heroic act.
Drone strike kills 7: officials
A suspected US drone strike killed seven militants near the Afghan border on Friday, intelligence officials said. The missiles struck a compound in Mangrothi village in the Shawal area, along the border dividing the North and South Waziristan tribal regions, the two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Many Pakistanis oppose US drone strikes because they say the strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians — something the US denies — and end up breeding more extremism by those seeking retribution. The country’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was sworn in on Wednesday, has lashed out against the US drone program. During his campaign, he sometimes criticized the US and its policy of using drones to kill militants in the country’s tribal areas. Speaking to parliament earlier this week, he once again called for an end to the drone policy. “This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed,” Sharif said to widespread applause. “We do respect others’ sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty.”
Man indicted on 329 counts
A grand jury on Friday handed up hundreds of charges against a man accused of holding three women captive for a decade, including one count for the death of the unborn child of one of the victims, local media reported. Ariel Castro, 52, accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing his hostages for a decade at his home in Cleveland, Ohio, was indicted on 329 counts related to the crimes, local news reports said. A 142-page indictment included one act of aggravated murder for allegedly causing the unlawful termination of the pregnancy of one of his captives. Prosecutors have alleged that the woman miscarried as a result of beatings by Castro, and have said that they may seek the death penalty against him. Last month, the three women — Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry — were freed from Castro’s house, as was the young daughter that one of the women gave birth to during her captivity.
Army general suspended
The commanding general of US Army forces in Japan was suspended on Friday due to allegations he failed to properly investigate a sexual assault complaint, the Pentagon said. The suspension came as the military seeks to crack down on the problem of sexual assault following a jump in reports of unwanted sexual contact in the services and a spate of embarrassing assault cases that have raised questions about the military’s ability to deal with the problem. Major General Michael Harrison “was suspended ... due to allegations that Harrison failed in his duties as a commander to report or properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The Pentagon did not immediately release further details on the sexual assault case in question. Army spokesman George Wright said there were no allegations of sexual misconduct against Harrison. While a number of officers have been suspended in recent months in sexual assault-related cases, Harrison’s was the first in which an officer was suspended for failing to properly investigate a case.
Fujimori denied pardon
President Ollanta Humala on Friday denied a request to pardon former president Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses committed during a 1990s war against leftist guerrillas. Humala — who as a young army major led an abortive coup against Fujimori in 2000 — accepted a special committee’s recommendation against granting the aging former leader a pardon on humanitarian grounds. “Having examined the concept of what is repentance, especially for corruption and human rights crimes, I have come to the conclusion that I will not grant a pardon,” Humala said at a press conference.
Radiohead promoter charged
Authorities have charged the promoter of a Radiohead concert with safety violations in connection with a stage collapse that killed the band’s drum technician and injured three other crew members. The Ontario Ministry of Labor on Friday charged that Live Nation Canada Inc and Live Nation Ontario Concerts GP Inc, as well as Optex Staging and Services failed to ensure the stage structure was being built in a safe manner. Part of the massive outdoor structure came crashing down on June 16 last year at Toronto’s Downsview Park during setup for the concert, killing British drum technician Scott Johnson.