World News Quick Take

Mon, Jan 28, 2019 - Page 5

JAPAN

Blackmail letters received

Nine companies, including drugmakers and a newspaper, have received blackmail letters containing white powder suspected to be cyanide, police and local media said yesterday. The letters were sent under the names of executed members of the Aum Shinrikyo — a doomsday cult behind the deadly 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo — and demanded 35 million won (US$31,000) in bitcoins, a police spokesman said. “Major pharmaceutical and other companies ... received envelopes with threatening letters and a powdery substance” suspected to be cyanide, he said, without identifying the companies. “I will make fake medicine containing potassium cyanide and distribute it,” the letter said, according to the spokesman, and warned “a tragedy will happen” if the money was not transferred by Feb. 22. Local media said the names on the letters — which were received on Friday — included Shoko Asahara, the leader of the sect, who was executed with 12 of his one-time followers in July last year. The substance was later confirmed to be cyanide, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

THAILAND

Singer sports swastika

A member of the nation’s most popular all-girl band donned a shirt portraying Nazi Germany’s state flag with a swastika emblazoned across it during a televised rehearsal on Saturday, drawing “shock and dismay” from the Israeli embassy. Pichayapa “Namsai” Natha, one of the singers of BNK48, wore the red-and-black top complete with swastika during the group’s rehearsal on Friday. The deputy chief of mission of the Israeli embassy in Bangkok took to Twitter to express “shock and dismay” at the outfit, given that yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Presenting Nazi symbols by the band’s singer hurt the feelings of millions around the world,” Smadar Shapira said. On Saturday night, Namsai apologized tearfully onstage during a concert. “I want this to be an example for everyone, please forgive me,” she said.

KENYA

Blast injures two

An explosive device went off outside a cinema in a busy part of Nairobi on Saturday, injuring two people, police said. One of those injured in the explosion was a handcart pusher who received a small piece of luggage from an individual who later fled. The other was a newspaper vendor, said Philip Ndolo, police commander in charge of Nairobi. A search was under way for the unidentified person reported to have deposited the luggage in a cart, Ndolo said. Detectives think the luggage contained an improvised explosive device that went off, a police officer at the scene said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

PAKISTAN

Asia Bibi lawyer to return

Lawyer Saiful Mulook, who fled to the Netherlands after receiving death threats for defending a Christian woman on blasphemy charges, is returning home, Dutch politician Joel Voordewind, said in a tweet on Saturday. Mulook planned to return to defend Asia Bibi in a new hearing in her case., the lawmaker said. Voordewind posted a picture of himself and Mulook at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, adding that Mulook was “hopeful” this would be the last hearing in Bibi’s case. Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 over allegations that she made derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim.