GANG FREES 9 HOSTAGES, STILL HOLDS 48
the southern Philippines government negotiators continue
talks with clansmen holding 48 hostages. The leader of the
group demands that murder charges against them be dropped.
In the southern Philippines 15 members of a clan freed nine
hostages Friday. They were among 75 people seized Thursday
from a school in Agusan del Sur province. The kidnappers
freed 18 of the hostages shortly after taking them.
Police say the gang leaders are wanted on murder charges,
but the hostage-takers deny the allegation.
Presidential Press Secretary Cerge Remonde says the
government hopes to resolve the kidnapping peacefully.
“I was assured by our military commanders that they are
ready to move in anytime when the local crisis management
committee will give them a signal, but of course right now
the local management committee is exhausting all possible
peaceful negotiations,” said Remonde.
Joebert Perez, the leader of the gang, says the charges
against him are fabricated and blames a rival clan, the
Tubays, for the murders of six of his siblings. He demands
that police disarm the other clan before he will free the
Government negotiators say they are attempting to disarm
Police say the hostage-takers are former militiamen who have
turned to banditry and extortion, targeting mining and
logging companies in the area. For decades, the Philippines
government has armed civilian volunteers as a backup
security force in areas with communist or Muslim
insurgencies. Remonde says the military is making progress
in disarming these militias.
“As of December 10, a total of 1,013 firearms, along with
591,000 rounds of ammunition and C-4 explosives have been
confiscated or have been surrendered to authorities,” said
The kidnapping Thursday comes as the government is trying to
capture scores of militiamen suspected of being involved in
last month’s massacre of more than 50 people in Maguindinao
province. They were gunned down to prevent one of the
victims from registering her husband as a candidate for
The southern Philippines has long had a violent history.
For decades Muslim insurgents have fought for a separate
homeland in the south. Several groups that say they are
fighting for that homeland have targeted civilians -
kidnapping and often killing tourists, farmers, business
people and others. (VOA news)
|India reaffirms pledge for new
|Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai has said that the
process for creating the new state of Telegana will go
ahead and its capital will be Hyderabad.
Pillai was speaking as protests against plans to carve
out the new state from the southern state of Andhra
Pradesh led to sporadic violence.
He said that he
expected the current agitation soon to fade away.
The move to form Telangana state has plunged Andhra
Pradesh into crisis, with over 100 lawmakers resigning.
Investors fear the protests will hurt Hyderabad, an IT
hub of southern India and home to firms like Microsoft,
Google and Dell. Telangana region is spread over 10
northern districts of Andhra Pradesh.
The demand for separate state status for the
underdeveloped and drought-prone area dates back 50
More than 400 people died in violence over the demand
for a Telangana state in 1969.
Campaigners say Telangana’s economic development has
been neglected in favour of the richer and more powerful
Andhra region - and that a new state is the only
The last three new states in India were formed in 2000:
Chhattisgarh was created out of eastern Madhya Pradesh;
Uttarakhand was created out of the hilly areas of
northern Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand was carved from
Bihar’s southern districts.
India currently has 28 states. (BBC NEWS)
|OUTRAGE IN CYPRUS AT TASSOS TOMB
Politicians in the Republic of
Cyprus have voiced outrage after thieves stole the
corpse of former President Tassos Papadopoulos from his
grave. His ex-rival and successor as president, Demetris
Christofias, condemned the “unholy” theft and urged the
public to remain calm. The remains were stolen during a
thunderstorm, shortly before the first anniversary of
the ex-leader’s death. As investigators sought a motive
for the act, three people were questioned. The
desecration is bound to stir up passions over peace
efforts aimed at reuniting the Turkish and Greek parts
of the island, the BBC’s Malcolm Brabant reports from
Greece’s capital, Athens. Papadopoulos made many enemies
during a long and eventful political career, after
fighting British colonial rule in a guerrilla group. The
pinnacle of his career came in 2004, when he made an
emotional denunciation of a UN plan to reunite the
island, our correspondent says. (BBC News)
QAEDA PLANNER IN PAKISTAN KILLED BY
A missile fired this week by a Central Intelligence
Agency drone over Pakistan’s tribal regions killed a top
operations planner for Al Qaeda, American
counterterrorism officials said Friday. An American
intelligence official said there were “strong
indications” that a drone strike this week killed Saleh
al-Somali, a member of Al Qaeda’s inner circle who was
taking refuge in the mountainous tribal belt in western
U.S. FREEZES $2 BILLION IN IRAN
More than $2 billion allegedly held on behalf of Iran
in Citigroup Inc. accounts were secretly ordered frozen
last year by a federal court in Manhattan, in what
appears to be the biggest seizure of Iranian assets
abroad since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The legal
order, executed 18 months ago by the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York, is under seal and
hasn’t been made public. The court acted in part because
of information provided by the U.S. Treasury Department.
President Barack Obama has pledged to enact new economic
sanctions on Iran at year-end if Tehran doesn’t respond
to international calls for negotiations over its
nuclear-fuel program. The frozen $2 billion stands at
the centre of an intensifying legal struggle between
Luxembourg’s Clearstream Banking S.A., the holder of the
Citibank account, and the families of hundreds of U.S.
Marines killed or injured in a 1983 terrorist attack on
a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
|Copenhagen: US, China clash in
|They sang each other’s praises in the run up to the
Copenhagen climate summit, but China and the United
States traded sharp barbs in a superpower standoff that
has helped set the UN talks on edge.
On key issues ranging from how to share out the burden
of slashing greenhouse gases, whether such efforts
should be independently verified, or if the United
States owes developing countries -- including China -- a
“climate debt,” the world’s two largest carbon polluters
were at loggerheads.
“The atmosphere seems extremely negative. Everyone is
taking tough positions, talking to their domestic
audiences,” said Isabel Hilton, editor of online
environmental newsletter China Dialogue. (AFP)
|Fire attack on West Bank mosque
|A mosque in a village in the north of the
Israeli-occupied West Bank has been damaged in an arson
Attackers set fire to bookshelves and a large area of
carpet in the mosque, and sprayed graffiti in Hebrew on
Palestinian residents of the village of Yasuf clashed
with Israeli soldiers investigating the attack.
Eyewitnesses say settlers were responsible.
Palestinians by Jewish settlers are increasing. A number
of incidents have been captured on video.
One of the slogans sprayed on the wall of the mosque in
Yasuf read: “Get ready to pay the price,” Israeli public
radio reported. Another read: “We will burn you all.”
Some hard-line settlers advocate a “price tag” policy
under which they attack Palestinians in retaliation for
any Israeli government measure they see as threatening
The village is located near the Jewish settlement of
In a statement, the Israeli military said it “views the
incident gravely” and that security forces were working
to locate the perpetrators. (BBC NEWS)