Militants in Iraq freed four Jordanian and two Turkish drivers after taking them hostage to put pressure on their companies to stop working in the country, relatives and media said yesterday. \nThe four Jordanians, who were freed in the Iraqi town of Fallujah on Tuesday night, were to be handed over to Jordanian diplomats in Baghdad later yesterday, relatives said. \n"They are now staying in the home of Haji Ibrahim Mohammad in the town of Fallujah. They spent the night in his house after their release last night by their kidnappers," said Mohammad Hassan Abu Jafaar, the brother of Ahmad Hassan Abu Jafaar, one of the four drivers seized nine days ago. \nAl Jazeera television reported that a militant group linked to al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had released two Turkish drivers it was holding hostage because their companies had agreed to stop working in Iraq. \n"Due to the Turkish firm's decision to stop sending supplies to US forces in Iraq, the Tawhid and Jihad Group has decided to free the two Turkish hostages," said a videotaped statement from the group broadcast on the Arabic-language channel. \nIn Amman, a government source confirmed the release of the four Jordanians and said local mediators were making preparations for their handover to embassy officials in Baghdad. \nMaher Sinoqrut, brother of freed hostage Ahmad Sinoqrut, 26, credited tribal leaders and local elders, who were asked by Jordan to act as mediators, for securing their release. \nMaher said his brother had telephoned him on Tuesday night to say he had been freed and was in good health. \nA group calling itself the Death Squad of Iraqi Resistance said last Thursday it was holding the Jordanians to put pressure on their transport company to stop cooperation with US forces in Iraq. It also urged Arabs to pressure on governments to end support for the US-led forces. \nThe kidnappers were reported to have been pleased by a sit-in organized by the relatives urging US ally Jordan to end support for the US military campaign in Iraq and praising anti-American insurgents.
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client