10 in TEN
Ex-Saddam henchman released from prison
A FORMER interior minister who served under Saddam Hussein has been released from an Iraqi prison after serving his sentence, a senior Justice Ministry official said yesterday.
Mahmoud Thiab al-Ahmed spent eight years in jail for his part in the campaign to drain marshes in southern Iraq.
He was released on Monday, Deputy Justice Minister Bosho Ibrahim said.
Saddam accused people living in the marshes of treachery during the 1980 to 1988 war with Iran.
His government changed the water flow into the marshes and drained other areas to force out rebels hiding there, ruining a delicate natural habitat. - Reuters
PM can be impeached, court rules
THE constitutional court has approved a law making it easier to impeach the president, which makes it probable that the government will be able to unseat him in a referendum.
The ruling Social Liberal Union of leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta suspended President Traian Basescu on Friday, saying he had overstepped his powers. An impeachment referendum will take place on July 29.
The ruling party had passed a law saying only a majority of those who voted would be needed to impeach the president, which would make it much easier to win the referendum.
Previously, the requirement was for a majority of the whole electorate. - Reuters
War vets vow to block election over pensions
A DECADE after the end of the civil war, veterans are threatening to block general elections in seven weeks' time if authorities fail to pay them promised pensions.
"We are frustrated and tired of waiting," warned Afonso Henriques Fula, 52, one of the thousands of veterans gathering in the capital, Luanda.
"If the government does not act before the elections, we will prevent them from taking place," he said.
It is a threat Luanda cannot afford to ignore given the strength of the former combatants. Official figures put the number of war veterans drawn from the three liberation movements - MPLA, Unita and FNLA - at 40000.- Sapa-AFP
Call for October poll raises Hamas's ire
THE Palestinian government in the West Bank called yesterday for October local elections to be held across the Palestinian territories, an official said, angering Gaza's Hamas rulers.
The decision comes against the backdrop of a stalled bid to implement a reconciliation deal between the Fatah party, which dominates the West Bank government, and the Hamas movement that rules Gaza.
That deal, signed last year, was supposed to pave the way for legislative and presidential elections by May 2011, but bickering over the agreement's implementation has effectively hampered any progress towards either elections or a new government. - Sapa-AFP
The 'forgotten' boson boffin
INDIANS are upset over what they see as a global snub of a scientist whose work underlies the recent Higgs boson particle breakthrough - though he was never directly involved.
Last week's announcement that scientists had all but proven the existence of the elusive subatomic particle led most media to run stories answering "Who is Higgs?" and "What is a 'boson'?"
Few linked Calcutta-born physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, beyond mentioning that boson particles are named after his 1920s work with Albert Einstein defining them as one of two basic classes of subatomic particles.
The government issued a lengthy statement calling him "a forgotten hero". - Sapa-AP
Sect threatens more attacks on Christians
A STATEMENT attributed to the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram said the group launched attacks that left at least 58 people dead, including two lawmakers, in a region violently divided by religion.
Authorities said hundreds of assailants stormed into about a dozen villages in the Plateau state on Saturday. The sect said Christians "will not know peace again" if they do not accept Islam.
The attacks occurred in Nigeria's "middle belt", where the country's mostly Muslim north meets its predominantly Christian south.
Clashes between Muslim and Christian communities there have left hundreds dead in recent years. - Sapa-AP
Militants tear down tombs at heritage site
ISLAMIST militants destroyed two tombs yesterday at the famous 14th-century Djingareyber mosque in Timbuktu, classified by Unesco as a world heritage site.
About a dozen militants arrived in an armoured four-wheel drive truck, armed with pickaxes and hoes, and started smashing the tombs, said Ibrahim Cisse, who witnessed the attack.
"They blocked the two main roads leading to the mausoleums," said another resident, Mahamad Ibrahim.
"When they saw people gathering for a ceremony nearby, they began firing shots in the air."
The destruction follows attacks last week on other historic and religious landmarks in Timbuktu. - Reuters
Wikipedia blackout against media laws
THE Russian version of Wikipedia closed its site yesterday in a one-day protest against what it said were plans by President Vladimir Putin to create his own version of the "Great Chinese Firewall" to block dissent on the internet.
Supporters of amendments to Russia's information law, which were proposed by the ruling United Russia party and will be discussed in parliament today, said changes are needed to protect children from harmful sites.
But leaders of anti-Putin protests said the new law could shut down websites such as Facebook and Twitter without a court order and was intended to stop their opposition movement, which was organised via social networking sites. - Reuters
Attack renews fears of piranha outbreak
A PIRANHA attacked a man as he washed his dog in a river in the south, leaving deep lacerations in his hand and underscoring fears about illegal animal imports, reports said yesterday.
The aggressive flesh-shearing fish latched onto the man's hand on Saturday in the Liujiang River, in southern China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Zhang Kaibo, 31, shook the fish loose and took it home, where he kept it alive. A friend was also bitten when he tried to handle the sharp-toothed omnivore.
The importation of piranhas for exotic aquariums is banned in China and other Asian countries due to fears that the fish will enter local waterways and breed rapidly without predators. - Sapa-AFP
Dialogue urged over bishops' appointment
THE Vatican has urged China to engage in good-faith dialogue with the Roman Catholic church, urging the communist government to avoid damaging gestures such as the appointment of bishops without papal approval.
The Vatican spoke out yesterday seeking to calm the latest dispute about the ordination last week of a new bishop in the northern city of Harbin who lacks the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.
It repeated earlier warnings that the cleric would incur automatic excommunication and said bishops who attended the ceremony risked other sanctions.
But it said the Holy See trusted in the "concrete willingness" of Chinese authorities to engage in dialogue. - Sapa-AP