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The Star Online: World Updates

China identifies suspects of suicide bombing attack in Xinjiang - Xinhua

Posted: 23 May 2014 07:25 PM PDT

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese police have identified five suspects who carried out a suicide bombing in the deadliest attack in the country's restive Xinjiang region in years, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The report said 39 people were killed from the bombing on Thursday morning at a vegetable market in Urumqi in far western China, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority.

Police have identified the suspects as Nurahmat Ablipiz, Memet Memtimin, Raghimjan Memet, Memtimin Mahmat and Ablet Abdukadir, Xinhua said late on Friday. They all appear to be Uighur, judging by their names.

The five, influenced by religious extremism, took part in illegal religious activities, watched and listened to terrorist violence video and audio materials, the report said citing the police.

Thursday's bombing was the second suicide attack in the capital in just over three weeks. A bomb and knife attack at an Urumqi train station in April killed a bystander and wounded 79.

China has launched a one-year crackdown to hunt down and punish terrorists in Xinjiang to "focus on terrorists and religious extremist groups, gun and explosive manufacturing dens and terrorist training camps, state media reported on Friday.


The government had already launched a campaign to strike hard against terrorism in Xinjiang, blaming Islamists and separatists for the worsening violence in the resource-rich western region bordering central Asia. At least 180 people have been killed in attacks across China over the past year.

Exiles and rights groups say the real cause of the unrest in Xinjiang is China's heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture of Uighurs, Muslims who speak a Turkic language.

The Uighurs have long complained of official discrimination in favour of the Han people, China's majority ethnic group.

The five suspects of Thursday's bombing formed a five-member terrorist gang at the end of 2013 and made explosive devices and chose the target for their attack, Xinhua said.

The attackers ploughed two vehicles into an open market in Urumqi and hurled explosives. Many of the 94 wounded were elderly shoppers, according to witnesses.[ID:nL3N0O80EN]

Four of the suspects died in the bomb attack and the other was captured by police on Thursday night, according to Xinhua.

No group has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack.

(Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Venezuela's Maduro hits Twitter milestone, still lags mentor Chavez

Posted: 23 May 2014 07:15 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hit a Twitter feed milestone of 2 million followers, though his cyber popularity still lags far behind that of his charismatic predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

"Today I reached 2 million followers on my Twitter feed that's been active for barely a year!" he exclaimed during a speech to university students, lauding the follower who propelled him above the mark.

"Greetings to Mr. Enver Segundo Medina Dias, of Maracaibo, I'll see him tomorrow. He's 53 years old, a compatriot, Evangelical ... What was he doing up so late? It was like at 1 a.m. and this man - bam - he logged on."

Maduro, like Chavez, regularly blasts mainstream media as agents of a greedy U.S.-led capitalist system that misrepresents the self-styled Socialist state.

Both leaders proved avid users of Twitter, a U.S.-based social networking company known for its service that lets people send and post text messages of 140 characters.

Maduro's main Spanish-language @NicolasMaduro Twitter account has been complemented with sister handles in English, French, Portuguese and Arabic.

But on Twitter as in reality, Maduro has failed to trigger the same fervent adoration as Chavez, who amassed 4 million followers.

Still, Maduro said the platform is helping him reveal the "true" Venezuela to people in the country's ideological foe the United States.

"Of those 2 million, 30 percent are followers in the United States ... Every day my messages are reaching them. I thank all followers of this communications tool through which we're telling the truth about Venezuela, where we show the true Venezuela," he said.

Venezuela says Washington is behind the last three months of massive street protests. On Friday, Caracas lodged a formal complaint against the superpower during a meeting of the Union of South American States (UNASUR).

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by David Gregorio)

Thai military to face the media as opposition simmers

Posted: 23 May 2014 06:45 PM PDT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's military was due on Saturday to hold its first news conference since seizing power this week, amid signs opposition to the takeover could be gathering momentum, both from pro-democracy activists and supporters of the ousted government.

The army staged a coup on Thursday after failing to forge a compromise in a power struggle between a populist government and the royalist establishment, which brought months of sometimes violent unrest to Bangkok's streets.

Despite international calls for the restoration of democratic government, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has not promised a swift return to civilian rule, insisting there must be broad reforms and stability first.

"We must have economic, social and political reforms before elections," he told hundreds of civil servants on Friday in his first comments on his plans since the coup.

"If the situation is peaceful, we are ready to return power to the people," he added.

But reforms could take many months and stability could be elusive.

The news conference is expected some time on Saturday morning.

Thailand's political woes are the latest chapter in a nearly decade-long clash between the Bangkok-based establishment and Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications tycoon who broke the mould of Thai politics with pro-poor policies that won him huge support and repeated electoral victories.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and left the country after a 2008 graft conviction but he remains Thailand's most influential politician and the guiding hand behind the ousted government of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

The military detained Yingluck on Friday and a senior officer told Reuters she could be held for up to a week.

"We just need to organise matters in the country first," the officer told Reuters, declining to be identified.


The military has banned gatherings of more than five people, censored the media and imposed a 10 p.m to 5 a.m. curfew but that has not stopped some people from showing their disapproval.

On Friday afternoon, several hundred people including students gathered in a central Bangkok shopping district in what appeared to be a spontaneous show of opposition to the takeover rather than support for Thaksin and Yingluck.

Soldiers dispersed the crowd and at least one person was detained, a Reuters witness said. A flurry of photographs on social media showed people holding up hand-written slogans such as "No Coup".

A small crowd also staged a protest in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Thaksin's hometown, a Reuters witness said.

The real danger for the military would be a sustained mass campaign by Thaksin's "red shirt" loyalists.

Thaksin's supporters in his northern and northeastern heartlands have repeatedly said they would act if another pro-Thaksin government was forced from power unconstitutionally.

Thaksin has not commented publicly since the coup. He has lived in exile since 2008 rather than return to Thailand to face a jail sentence for an abuse of power conviction.

Activists say a "red shirt" group is organising a protest in northern Bangkok on Saturday in defiance of martial law.

A resolute, well-financed campaign by Thaksin's red shirts, whose ranks include armed activists, would be a major test for the military.

The use of force to put down protesters could squander any legitimacy the military leaders may have after saying they took power in the first place to end violence and restore order.

A 2010 crackdown on Thaksin's supporters ended in serious bloodshed and damage to the army's image. Just over a year later a pro-Thaksin government was back in power after Yingluck's sweeping election victory.

(Writing by Robert Birsel and Alan Raybould; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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