Isnin, 5 Mei 2014

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Philippine rebels free most of their hostages

Posted: 05 May 2014 06:51 AM PDT

DAVAO, Philippines: Communist insurgents who seized 39 gold prospectors in the southern Philippines have released all but three of them, authorities said Monday.

Guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) released 36 of the small-scale miners they had abducted on Saturday as government troops closed in on them, said Arturo Uy, the area's governor.

"They were used as human shields," Uy said, following negotiations that secured the release of most of the captives in the gold-rich Compostela Valley in the Davao region of Mindanao island.

It was not known why the NPA had held onto the remaining three.

The insurgents had seized the miners as the military was conducting a major operation against them in a mountainous area that has over the years attracted thousands of prospectors who operate illegal gold mines.

Entire villages have been set up around such mines, which have also become a lucrative source of extortion money for the rebels, officials have said.

In the nearby town of Asuncion on Sunday, three soldiers were wounded when the NPA set off an explosive device to ambush a patrol, police said.

The Philippines has stepped up operations against the NPA in recent months, capturing three of its senior leaders since March in what has been described by the military as a deadly blow to the movement.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose rebellion has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1969.

President Benigno Aquino had hoped to reach a peace deal with the insurgents before his six-year term ends in 2016, but planned peace talks have been hampered by rebel demands that detained comrades be freed.

The capture of the senior leaders has further dimmed the prospect of new talks, analysts have said. -AFP

Strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake rattles northern Thailand

Posted: 05 May 2014 06:48 AM PDT

BANGKOK: A strong and shallow earthquake rattled northern Thailand on Monday afternoon, shaking tall buildings in Bangkok hundreds of miles to the south.

The 6.0-magnitude quake, at a depth of just 7.4 kilometres (4.5 miles), hit just after 6 pm (1100 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.

The epicentre was around 27 kilometres from the mountainous city of Chiang Rai.

As darkness fell a Thai official warned residents in Chiang Rai province to brace for aftershocks.

"This is the most powerful earthquake to strike the country in recent times," Burin Wechbunthung, a seismologist at the Meteorological Department, told AFP.

"There have been five aftershocks so far and people within a 150-kilometre radius of the epicentre in Phan district should be warned," he added.

There were no immediate reports of major damage, although television showed cracked building facades, broken shop windows and damage to roads.

The area is a remote mountain retreat near the border with Myanmar and Laos and popular with foreign tourists.

Another official from the Meteorological Department said the quake had a 6.1-magnitude.

"The earthquake occurred on the Phayao fault line. This fault line covers Phayao and Chiang Rai provinces. Officials are checking how bad the damage is," Sophon Chaiya told reporters.

The quake was felt in the nearby city of Chiang Mai and as far south as Bangkok, 800 kilometres (500 miles) away, where tall buildings shook for several seconds.

It was also felt in Myanmar's commercial centre of Yangon, an AFP reporter there said.

Major earthquakes are rare in Thailand, although tremors often strike the north of the country.

A 6.8-magnitude quake hit Myanmar's eastern state of Shan in March 2011, leaving dozens dead near the border with Thailand and Laos and reducing homes and government buildings to rubble.

The area hit in 2011 is close to Chiang Rai and prompted the then-government to call for a review of Thailand's preparedness for a major seismic event.

Chiang Rai province is dotted with national parks which draw droves of tourists, many of them travelling from the nearby city of Chiang Mai. -AFP


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