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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Maldives police probe reports of MH370 sighting

Posted: 18 Mar 2014 10:42 PM PDT

NEW DELHI: Police in the Maldives are probing reports that islanders in the tourism paradise saw a "low-flying jumbo jet" on the day the missing Malaysia Airlines plane vanished.

In a statement released late Tuesday, police said they were investigating a report on the Haveeru news website that local residents had spotted a large plane flying over the remote southern island of Kuda Huvadhoo on March 8.

"The police are looking into the reports in the media saying that a low-flying airplane was sighted above Kuda Huvadhoo," the statement said.

Several alleged sightings of the Boeing 777, which vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board, have proved to be false alarms and reports of debris at sea have also turned up nothing.

Haveeru said witnesses on Kuda Huvadhoo had seen a white aircraft with red stripes flying towards the southern tip of the Maldives.

"I've never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We've seen seaplanes, but I'm sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly," the website quoted one witness as saying.

Haveeru journalist Farah Ahmed said several witnesses had given similar accounts.

"These people first heard a very loud noise from a plane flying unusually low and they came out to see it," Ahmed told AFP by phone from the Maldives capital Male, whose international airport daily handles dozens of wide-body jets bringing in thousands of tourists.

The hunt for the missing passenger jet now focuses on two vast search areas - a northern one spanning south and central Asia, and a southern corridor stretching deep into the southern Indian Ocean towards Australia.

The Maldives, located far from both arcs, is not among the 26 countries currently involved in the massive international search operation. -AFP

Pakistani militant kills self, family in DIY bomb accident

Posted: 18 Mar 2014 10:46 PM PDT

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan: A militant commander and five family members including a child were killed when a bomb he was tinkering with exploded at his home in northwest Pakistan, officials said on Wednesday.

Aalim Deen Mehsud, a local commander of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the North Waziristan tribal area, was trying to remove explosive material from a mortar shell, triggering the blast, a security official said.

"He was trying to cut the shell with a hand saw and take out the explosives when the explosion occurred, killing himself, four women and a child of his family," the official told AFP.

Two other children were injured in the blast, the official said.

A local in the village of Talib Jan, where the incident happened, confirmed the deaths.

"Aalim Deen Mehsud and five members of his family have been killed in an explosion at his house," said Gul Hajjan, a resident of the village which is close to the Afghan border.

North Waziristan is one of Pakistan's seven semi-autonomous tribal regions which Washington consider to be a major hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

The government opened negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last month in a bid to end a bloody insurgency which has cost thousands of lives and cost the economy tens of billions of dollars.

The process broke down for more than two weeks after militants killed 23 kidnapped soldiers, but later resumed after the Taliban announced a month-long ceasefire. -AFP

Taiwan protesters occupy parliament over China trade pact

Posted: 18 Mar 2014 10:53 PM PDT

TAIPEI: Around 200 Taiwanese students and activists were locked in a tense standoff with police Wednesday after they stormed the parliament in a bid to thwart government efforts to ratify a contentious trade agreement with China.

Tearing down signboards and chanting anti-government slogans, protesters unexpectedly broke through security barriers and took over the parliament's main chamber late Tuesday, in the first such occupation of the building in the island's history.

The protesters, mostly young students, have barricaded the entrance with ceiling-high piles of armchairs, blocking hundreds of policemen who attempted vigorously early Wednesday to push their way in to end the occupation.

The protesters are vehemently opposed to what they term illegal moves by the ruling Kuomintang party to pass the trade pact with China, the island's biggest trading partner, and are demanding that it be reviewed clause-by-clause.

"The trade pact must not be approved without careful deliberation and scrutiny in parliament," a student leader said.

The pact - designed to further open up trade between Taiwan and China, which split 65 years ago after a civil war - passed the first hurdle in parliament Monday after it was approved by a joint committee despite opposition concerns that it could hurt small service companies and damage the Taiwanese economy.

The committee's approval - the first of three ratifications needed to pass the bill - sparked a brawl between rival lawmakers and provoked three opposition Democratic Progressive Party legislators to stage a 70-hour hunger strike.

The China-sceptic DPP has pledged to mobilise supporters when parliament holds a full session on Friday for a second review of the bill.

The pact is one of the follow-up agreements to the sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in 2010 to reduce trade barriers.

Under the deal, China will open 80 service sectors to Taiwanese companies, while Taiwan will allow Chinese investment in 64 sectors.

Cross-strait ties have improved markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang came to power in 2008 pledging to strengthen trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in January 2012.

But China still considers Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary. -AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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