- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

PHILIPPINES

Militants attack U.S. troops

MANILA | U.S. troops were fired on by suspected Muslim militants in the southern Philippines earlier this week, but no one was hurt, the U.S. Embassy said Thursday.

The incident took place on the island of Jolo on Tuesday, when the soldiers, escorted by Philippines troops, were on their way to inspect a development project, an embassy spokeswoman said.

Jolo is the stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militants, a small but deadly group of insurgents. They are thought to be responsible for the worst terror attack in the Philippines, an attack on a ferry in 2004 in which at least 100 people were killed.

U.S. troops have been in the southern Philippines since 2002 to provide Philippine soldiers training and logistical support, and to help carry out development projects.

They are forbidden under the terms of the agreement between the two countries to engage in combat operations, although they carry weapons and have the right to defend themselves.

AUSTRALIA

Curbs on ex-Gitmo detainee to ease

CANBERRA | Australian police said Thursday they will stop restricting the movements and communications of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee after he broke his long media silence to ask them to let him “get on with” his life.

If the restrictions are lifted, David Hicks will be a completely free man for the first time since he was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in late 2001 and handed to U.S. troops invading to unseat the Taliban regime.

Hicks, a 33-year-old former Outback cowboy and kangaroo skinner turned Taliban foot soldier, has been subject to a control order since his release from prison in his home state of South Australia in December.

Under the order, Hicks must report to police three days a week, observe a curfew and is banned from using any telephone or Internet account not approved by police. It is due to expire next month.

Hicks released a 54-second video message to the public Thursday through a political lobby group opposed to Australia’s toughened anti-terrorism laws, saying he feared police will ask for the control order to be extended for another year.

Australian Federal Police later said it will not seek to extend the control order. It was not clear if the government would allow Hicks to apply for a new passport or travel overseas.

SOUTH KOREA

Six on boat from North rescued

SEOUL | South Korea has rescued six North Koreans whose boat drifted into southern waters off the east coast due to mechanical problems, officials said Thursday.

The six aboard a 15-ton boat were rescued off the northeastern port of Goseong on Tuesday night, said the Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border relations.

They have expressed a desire to return home, and South Korea contacted North Korea through maritime communications channels Thursday on their repatriation, it said.

INDIA

Tribesmen hired to fight Maoists

BHUBANESWAR | Authorities in an eastern Indian state are recruiting young tribesmen to fight Maoist rebels, officials said, a move human rights groups criticized for putting civilians on the firing line.

The decision by the state of Orissa mirrors a campaign, the “Salwa Judum” or “Campaign for Peace,” in the neighboring state of Chhattisgarh, in which government-backed militias have fought Maoist guerrillas since 2005.

Orissa will recruit at least 2,000 tribal youths between 18 and 25 years old as special police officers in five Maoist-dominated districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Raygada and Kandhamal.

Orissa is among a dozen Indian states fighting a Maoist insurgency that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as the country’s biggest internal security threat.

CAMBODIA

Monk, 17, charged with raping Briton

PHNOM PENH | A 17-year-old Cambodian monk was charged with raping a British woman while taking her on a tour of a mountain cave near his Buddhist temple, a court official said Thursday.

The monk was arrested Tuesday after the 39-year-old tourist told police she had been attacked at a cave in the northwestern Sampov mountains, a popular tourist destination in northwestern Cambodia, said Sar Yosthavrak, the chief prosecutor of Battambang province, about 155 miles northwest of the capital, Phnom Penh.

The monk also reportedly stole $55 and a cell phone from the woman.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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