Three hostages released
Two Chinese and an Algerian abducted from a Sudanese oilfield have been released after two weeks in captivity, official media said on Friday in Khartoum. The three men were kidnapped by “outlaws” in West Kordofan state on April 18, the SUNA news agency said. It released a photograph of the trio disembarking from an airplane in Khartoum. The Algerian and one of the Chinese were dressed in blue coveralls of the type worn by oil technicians, while the other Chinese wore a T-shirt over blue coverall pants. The Algerian smiled and waved, and one of the Chinese also grinned. “Now they are in Khartoum,” a Chinese embassy official told reporters, adding that they had been freed on Thursday. “They are in good condition,” the official said. SUNA quoted Oil Minister Makawi Mohammed Awad as saying five Sudanese petroleum technicians kidnapped at the same time as the foreigners were expected to be released by yesterday. The embassy official said conflicting information has been provided as to who abducted the men.
Quake rattles island chain
A magnitude 6 earthquake jolted parts of eastern Indonesia on Friday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported, but local officials said there was no risk of a tsunami. The quake struck at 4:43pm local time, 70km south-southeast of Namela in the Maluku chain of islands at a depth of 54km, the USGS said. “The quake’s epicenter was in the sea and was mildly felt in the cities of Ambon, Namlea and Namrole,” Tri Handayani, an official from Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency, told reporters, adding that there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. She said there was no risk of a tsunami.
Osaka banker kills self
A Japanese banker who lost at least US$1.5 million that he had persuaded clients to invest off his employer’s books has killed himself, Resona Bank said on Friday. The unnamed 25-year-old told three clients of the Osaka-based bank last year that he could generate profits if they entrusted their cash to him. The banker from the firm’s Ikebukuro branch in Tokyo collected a total of ￥155 million (US$1.51 million) from them without informing his superiors, a bank spokesman said. “But most of the money appeared to be lost as he allegedly used the funds in foreign exchange and other trading,” the spokesman said. In January, the bank questioned him over the case after one of the three clients complained that he was unable to contact the banker. The following day, the man killed himself, the spokesman said. The bank prohibits its employees from collecting funds for investment without permission.
Rohingya citizenship urged
The top UN envoy on Myanmar says the top priority for Muslims in the violence-torn state of Rakhine who are considered illegal immigrants is to get the path to citizenship. Vijay Nambiar, the secretary-general’s special adviser on Myanmar, said in a speech on Thursday to the International Peace Institute that unless this is done, the security of Rohingya Muslims will remain threatened “and that is sure to affect the international reputation of the country.” Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation which only recently emerged from a half-century of military rule, considers Rohingya Muslims to be from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship and related rights, even though many families arrived generations ago.
Ukraine aid announced
Washington announced a US$1.2 million aid package on Friday to help support Ukrainian news outlets ahead of presidential elections later this month. “Members of the media in Ukraine have faced serious challenges and dangers over the past several months,” Department of State deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. She said that more than 500 journalists have been harassed, beaten or abducted since November last year, and one reportedly has been killed. Announced on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, the funding from the Agency for International Development “will help to protect vulnerable journalists while also advancing press freedoms and domestic governance in Ukraine,” Harf said.
Baby delivered on plane
Aviation officials say a woman has given birth prematurely aboard a passenger plane after it was diverted to a resort island. The 30-year-old woman, who was in the 26th week of pregnancy, went into labor during the British Airways flight from Abuja, Nigeria, to London, airport authority AENA and the airline said on Friday. Officials say the Boeing 777, carrying 296 passengers, was given clearance to divert to and land at Palma de Mallorca airport after she began to give birth. Airport medical staff came aboard to help the plane’s crew with the birth on Thursday. The airline said its cabin crews are trained in birthing procedures and mother and child were taken to a hospital on the island. The mother and the newborn were reportedly in good health.
Migrants spark concern
An Italian ship brought nearly 1,200 migrants to the Sicilian port of Augusta as officials sounded the alarm over the rising tide of migrants trying to enter Europe. Navy Commander Aldo Dolfino told Sky TG24 on Friday that migrants had been evacuated from eight life rafts and one boat, which alone carried about 500 migrants. The nation’s top security official told parliament last week that 20,500 migrants had arrived so far this year, a huge increase from 2,500 in the same period of last year. Most boats come from Libya carrying migrants from Africa. Save the Children has noted an increase in the number of minors, many traveling alone. On Thursday, 700 African migrants stormed a fence at Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, and 140 got in.
Monkey hunt under way
Police launched a Europe-wide hunt on Friday after five monkeys, including three of a critically endangered species, were stolen from a zoo in northern England. Thieves took the monkeys — two female and a baby cotton-top tamarins and two emperor tamarins — from their enclosures after cutting a hole in the perimeter fence of Blackpool zoo on Tuesday night. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the cotton-top tamarins as a critically endangered species with a worldwide population estimated at about 6,000. Police suspect the monkeys, which require specialist care, were specifically targeted and their details have been circulated to ports and airports in case the thieves try to take them abroad. “There is definitely a market for these monkeys, and we are making inquiries across Europe in a bid to try and trace them,” said Andy McWilliam, Investigations Officer at the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Marine’s release sought
A California congressman is seeking the release of a former combat marine jailed in Tijuana after he drove into Mexico with three legally owned guns in his vehicle. Republican Representative Duncan Hunter sent a letter on Friday to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to secure former marine Andrew Tahmooressi’s release. Department of State officials said they do not comment on arrests of private individuals without the person’s permission.
Oldest woman tells secret
A 116-year-old woman living in extreme poverty in the heart of the Andes is in the running to become the oldest person in the world. Born on Dec. 20, 1897, Filomena Taipe Mendoza is only three months older than Japanese Misao Okawa, who is the world’s oldest person according to Guinness World Records and the US-based Gerontology Research Group. The Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion says Taipe Mendoza’s identity card shows the date she was born. “I am not of the past century, young man, but the other one... I am very old,” she told an official accompanying her to cash the first check of a retirement program for seniors living in extreme poverty. “My secret to longevity is a natural diet: I always ate potatoes, goat meat, sheep milk, goat cheese and beans,” said the wizened Taipe Mendoza, who has never left her dirt-poor village in Huancavelica. “Everything I cook comes from my garden. I never had canned soft drinks. I had a very hard life, I was very a young widow with nine dependent children and I worked hard to raise them. Only three of them are alive,” the ministry quoted her as saying. “I wish I still had teeth,” she added of her one wish.
The government said on Friday that it has arrested 58 foreigners, including an American, on suspicion of inciting violent street protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres denounced what he called a plot to promote unrest aimed at overthrowing the government and said that among those detained was a man identified as Todd Michael Leininger, who he said had with him two pistols, two assault rifles, military uniforms and a US passport. “What was this man doing with those armaments at a guarimba [barricade] in San Cristobal,” said Rodriguez Torres about Leininger, 32. Among the other foreigners arrested were Colombians, a Spaniard and an Arab, Rodriguez Torres said. Rodriguez Torres said that an official at the US Embassy in Caracas had been in contact with an opponent of the government allegedly involved in the plot and helped the person get a US visa.
Journalist to win award
An Egyptian-Canadian journalist behind bars in Cairo is receiving the annual World Press Freedom Award. The Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom has named Mohamed Fahmy, a producer with al-Jazeera English, as the 16th recipient of the award. Fahmy was arrested with two colleagues in December last year and has been in jail ever since. The three face terrorism-related charges based on the Egyptian authorities’ accusations that they provided a platform to the Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, which the government has declared a terrorist organization.