Wild elephants injure two
A group of wild elephants trying to cross a river in China’s far southwest left two tourists injured, state media reported yesterday. The incident occurred on Saturday afternoon in Yunnan Province when the river-crossing elephants ran into a family of five people, Xinhua news agency reported, citing forest police. A woman suffered a fractured right shoulder while a man suffered slight injury, the report said. Both were treated at a local hospital. The incident took place at the Wild Elephant Valley reserve in Xishuangbanna prefecture, Xinhua said, citing the prefectural forest police. The rainforests of Xishuangbanna, which borders Myanmar and Laos, are home to 250 to 300 wild elephants, Xinhua reported. The animals are generally placid, but can attack when they feel threatened.
KGB agent not convicted
A former Soviet-era KGB agent has escaped a drink-drive charge in New Zealand and can continue his work as a consultant to foreign intelligence agencies, a report said yesterday. Alexander Kouzminov, 57, recorded a breath alcohol reading twice the legal limit in New Zealand. His lawyer successfully argued in the Auckland District Court that a conviction would mean he would lose the right to travel to many countries where he assisted intelligence agencies. Judge David Burns said Kouzminov’s breath alcohol reading was “very high” but said “the spectacular fall from grace” of losing his work would be too high a price to pay, the Sunday Herald reported. New Zealand-based Kouzminov was described in court as a member of a secret nuclear biological and chemical warfare society with a high-level security clearance.
Iran rebels seize guards
An Iranian rebel group has posted photos on Twitter of five men it claims are border guards it seized near Pakistan. Jaish al-Adl is a little known organization that operates on Iran’s border area with the neighboring country. Semiofficial Fars news agency said in a report on Monday last week that the five Iranian guards have reportedly been taken to Pakistan. Jaish al-Adl’s name was raised for the first time in October when they killed 14 Iranian border guards in an ambush. Iranian authorities hanged 16 members of the rebel group in retaliation for the ambush. Jaish al-Adl is widely believed to be a Saudi-backed conservative Salafi group which aims to punish the Islamic Republic for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Minister visits Afghanistan
Germany Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived yesterday in Mazar-i-Sharif for an unannounced visit, a spokeswoman said. Most of the 3,000 German troops deployed in Afghanistan are based in this northern Afghan city. Berlin decided on Wednesday to extend by 10 months its military presence in the country until the end of this year. The lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, must still give its approval. It is the first visit to Afghanistan by the Social Democrat minister since he entered the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel that emerged from September’s legislative elections. It comes as the UN said the number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan rose 14 percent last year. A total of 8,615 civilian casualties were recorded last year, with 2,959 killed and 5,656 wounded, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s annual report.
Army kills 16 Sinai militants
The army on Saturday said it had killed 16 Islamists in Sinai, and a new group said it carried out a bomb attack on police in Cairo, underscoring the widening scope of militant violence since the army removed former president Mohamed Morsi from power. The army said its aircraft hit radical Islamists near Sinai’s border with the Gaza Strip on Friday evening. A statement described them as belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which denies government accusations it has turned to violence. The army has been trying to wrestle control of North Sinai from armed Islamists who have turned their focus from Israel to the government since Morsi, a Brotherhood member, was deposed in July last year following mass protests against his rule. The state has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group. The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism.
Ceasefire violations alarm US
The US raised alarm on Saturday over repeated claims that both the government and rebels are breaking a deal to stop weeks of bloodshed in which thousands have been killed. Ceasefire monitors were deployed this week amid clashes that have continued despite the deal signed last month by the government and rebels, brokered by the East African bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. “We are deeply concerned by reports of violations by both the government of South Sudan and anti-government forces of the cessation of hostilities agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa on January 23,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. She called on the South Sudanese government to facilitate the ceasefire monitors’ “important work” to allow both sides to report any breaches of the agreement.
Woman lived with corpse
A reclusive middle-aged woman has been found to be living alongside the badly decomposed body of her elderly mother thought to have died several years ago, prosecutors said on Saturday. Officers discovered the corpse in the women’s shared home in the village of Mael-Carhaix in the northwestern Brittany region on Friday, deputy prosecutor Patrick Lewden said, confirming local media reports. “This person had not been seen since 2010,” Lewden said, adding that an autopsy would be carried out to determine when she died. The deceased woman was born in 1921. She lived alone with her 66-year-old daughter, who appeared to be suffering from mental health problems. “Considering her mental state, [the daughter] had to be taken to a psychiatric hospital. She is very confused and could not be questioned,” Lewden said. Police searched the women’s house after local authorities expressed concern about the mother’s apparent disappearance.
‘Quenelle’ comic defiant
A comic whose gesture touched off allegations of anti-Semitism and prompted a government ban on his shows is defiant, saying the “quenelle” has nothing to do with the Nazi salute. “Of course it’s not an anti-Semitic gesture. I’m going to repeat it 20 times. It’s a gesture of emancipation, of panache,” Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala said on Friday. Soccer player Nicolas Anelka faces an English Football Association disciplinary hearing after formally denying a racism charge for celebrating a goal with the gesture. Dieudonne was banned on Monday last week from entering the UK in a trip he had planned as a show of support for Anelka.
Survivor too frail to leave
The Salvadorean man who says he spent more than a year drifting across the Pacific Ocean before making landfall on Jan. 30 is too weak to travel and will remain in Majuro for a while, an official said. Jose Salvador Alvarenga’s health was “very frail” and he will not return home until he is able to make the journey, Diego Dalton, an official with El Salvador’s embassy in Tokyo, said on Saturday. Alvarenga’s spritely appearance on Monday last week while greeting hundreds of well-wishers in Majuro had many questioning his story, but the 37-year-old looked much weaker on Thursday during a brief public appearance. He was taken back to a hospital for more medical checks.
Trial told of bullet holes
Nine bullet holes were found in an SUV after an argument over loud music at a Florida convenience store that left a teen dead, an investigator testified on Saturday in Jacksonville at the trial of the man charged with opening fire. A bullet fired into the rear door killed Jordan Davis, 17, of Georgia, in November 2012. Michael Dunn, 47, has been charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of shooting or throwing a deadly missile. Sheriff’s Office Detective Andrew Kipple’s testimony about the location of the bullet holes also showed that the Durango’s driver and his front-seat passenger barely escaped being shot.
Arson suspect caught
A man accused in Las Vegas of helping a pet shop owner in the city torch her store with 27 puppies inside is expected to face transport in custody from Indiana to Nevada to face multiple felony charges. Kirk Bills, 27, of Henderson, was arrested Friday in Crown Point, Indiana, FBI agent Joan Hyde said in Chicago. Bills had been sought by Las Vegas authorities after prosecutors identified him as a man seen on security video allegedly pouring a liquid from gasoline cans and setting it afire early on Jan. 27 at the Prince and Princess pet store. Firefighters rescued the puppies alive and credited fire sprinklers with dousing flames. Store owner Gloria Eun Hye Lee also faces charges of arson, conspiracy, burglary and attempted animal cruelty.
Capone’s mansion for sale
One of Miami Beach’s most notorious pieces of real estate is back on the block with an asking price of almost US$8.5 million. The sprawling waterfront compound on Palm Island is where Chicago gangster Al Capone died after being released from Alcatraz prison. Capone bought the house in 1928. The current owner, a Florida company managed by New York accountant Anthony Panebianco, purchased the home barely six months ago for US$7.4 million, according to Miami-Dade property records.
Cuba frees businessman
Businessman Sarkis Yacoubian, who served two-and-a-half years of a nine-year prison sentence in Cuba for corruption, has been sent home. Yacoubian, president of Tri-Star Caribbean import company, on Saturday said that he is extremely happy and excited to be back in Toronto, but he is still adjusting. He was arrested in 2011, but was not formally indicted until April last year on charges of bribery, tax evasion and “activities damaging to the economy.” “I’m still confused. They released me, 24-48 hours’ notice, I still don’t know exactly how this whole thing happened,” he said.