Filipino coup suspect extols new president
MANILA | A rebel soldier who turned himself in to face charges stemming from two coup attempts against the Philippines' former president said Thursday he is willing to face justice because he considers the new president legitimate.
Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon was accused of helping lead 300 soldiers in taking over the upscale Oakwood Hotel and a nearby shopping center in Manila in July 2003 and of fleeing a courtroom in 2007 while on trial. The rebels were seeking the resignation of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was dogged by accusations she stole an election.
Capt. Faeldon and his co-accused have said they did not plan to stage coups and were simply protesting Mrs. Arroyo's policies. They are facing charges of mutiny and coup attempt.
President Benigno Aquino III welcomed Capt. Faeldon's decision to surrender and promised him a fair trial, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Police smash large gambling ring
HONG KONG | Hong Kong and mainland police have smashed a large cross-border illegal soccer gambling syndicate, seizing betting slips worth more than $1 billion, reports said Thursday.
Officers arrested 93 persons from Hong Kong and the mainland in a joint operation late Wednesday, broadcaster RTHK said.
A large amount of betting slips were seized during the arrests, including $1.03 billion from the mainland, the broadcaster said.
Kashmir streets under army lockdown
SRINAGAR | Tens of thousands of soldiers patrolled the streets in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Thursday to enforce a rigid curfew aimed at ending weeks of violent anti-government protests.
Shops and schools were closed, streets ringed with barbed wire were deserted, the region's nearly 60 newspapers were unable to publish, and even residents with special curfew passes were barred from going outside.
Despite the curfew, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organization of separatist groups, issued a statement calling for more protests, saying, "Military measures will in no way be able to break the will of the people."
The tension in the Himalayan region - divided between India and Pakistan - was reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against Indian rule sparked an armed conflict that eventually killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians.
Residents say security forces have killed 15 people in the recent protests. The government's decision to send the army to quell the protests was intended to prevent them from spiraling out of control and igniting another insurgency.
Cabinet minister on hunger strike
COLOMBO | A Sri Lankan Cabinet minister on Thursday said he was on a hunger strike outside the U.N. office in Colombo to protest a panel set up to investigate alleged rights abuses during the island's civil war.
Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, who led protests outside the U.N. building earlier this week, said he was prepared to fast to the death to protect the honor of the military.
"This [U.N. panel] is a plan by the U.N. to produce our military before a war-crimes tribunal," Mr. Weerawansa said to a few dozen cheering supporters. "We won't let that happen."
Hunger strikes are often used in Sri Lanka to attract publicity but are rarely followed for long.
Post-quake reconstruction set to begin
BEIJING | China announced Thursday it will launch a raft of reconstruction projects in a quake-hit Tibetan region this weekend, nearly three months after the disaster, which killed more than 2,700 people.
Construction on 200 projects valued at $2.36 billion will begin Saturday in the Yushu region of the northwestern province of Qinghai, Xinhua news agency said.
A 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck the predominantly Tibetan-inhabited region on April 14, flattening thousands of homes and leaving nearly 2,700 people dead and about 270 missing.
The new projects will include the rebuilding of homes, schools, hospitals and other public-service facilities, the report said, citing reconstruction officials.
From wire dispatches and staff reports
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