- - Sunday, April 1, 2012

HONG KONG

HONG KONG Thousands in Hong Kong have protested alleged meddling by Beijing in the recent selection of the city’s next leader.

Police used pepper spray Sunday on some protesters who tried to breach barricades around the Chinese central government’s liaison office in the semiautonomous region. Police estimated about 5,300 people took part in the march.

The marchers chanted pro-democracy slogans and burned a Hong Kong flag.

It was the first major demonstration since Leung Chun-Ying was chosen a week ago to be Hong Kong’s next chief executive. He won 689 of 1,132 votes cast by a 1,200-seat committee packed with Beijing loyalists.

Rally organizers accused Beijing of interfering with the poll despite promising the former British colony a high degree of autonomy.

ISRAEL

Palestinian sent to Gaza to end hunger strike

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Israel expelled a Palestinian prisoner Sunday to the Gaza Strip as part of a compromise deal that persuaded her to end her 43-day hunger strike.

Under the terms of her release, Hana Shalabi, a 30-year-old Islamic Jihad supporter from the West Bank, must remain in the seaside strip for the next three years.

Ms. Shalabi went on hunger strike to protest Israel’s policy of “administrative detention,” under which it holds some Palestinian prisoners for months without charges.

She began the strike after being placed in administrative detention on Feb. 16. She ended it Thursday.

The Israeli prison authority said she was in custody for unspecified terrorist activity.

TUNISIA

Ruling party rejects ties with Israel

TUNIS The head of Tunisia’s governing Islamist party has said the country cannot normalize ties with Israel, the official TAP news agency reported Sunday.

Rached Ghannouchi said that “Tunisians’ problem is with Zionism, not with Judaism,” but TAP said that “the president of the Ennahda [party] stressed there can be no normalization with Israel.”

The party won the most seats in an Oct. 23 election,

TAP said Mr. Ghannouchi said at a ceremony Saturday in the northwestern town of Beja that the only way for Palestinians to reclaim their land now occupied by Israel is through “the victory of democratic regimes in the Arab World.”

He added that Tunisia’s toppled leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was “a collaborator with the Zionists.”

NIGERIA

Police raid bomb factory run by Islamist terrorists

ABUJA Security forces raided a bomb factory in Nigeria run by a radical Islamist sect as gunmen from the group launched new attacks against police stations in the nation’s northeast, officials said Sunday.

The latest violence blamed on the sect known as Boko Haram killed two security officials in Kogi state and a local politician in Maiduguri, the group’s spiritual home in Nigeria’s northeast.

Authorities raided the bomb factory Saturday in Okene, a town in Kogi state, which sits just south of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, has carried out attacks in Kogi state previously, the furthest south its struck in its campaign of terror.

MALAYSIA

Damaged cruise ship reaches port after 24 hours

SANDAKAN Smiling passengers voiced relief and gratitude after safely leaving a fire-damaged luxury cruise ship that was stranded at sea for 24 hours and limped without air-conditioning into a Malaysian port Sunday.

The Azamara Quest drifted off the southern Philippines with 1,000 people aboard after flames engulfed one of its engine rooms Friday, injuring five crew members. It restored propulsion the next night and reached the harbor of Sandakan city in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island late Sunday.

Two ambulances came out of the port shortly after the ship docked, followed more than two hours later around midnight by a fleet of buses taking passengers to hotels. Inside the buses, several people appeared tired, but many others smiled and one man waved to reporters waiting outside the port.

IRAQ

March violence lowest since U.S. invasion

BAGHDAD The number of Iraqis killed in violence in March was the lowest monthly figure since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, official figures released on Sunday showed.

In total, 112 Iraqis - including 78 civilians, 22 policemen and 12 soldiers - died in attacks nationwide, according to figures compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defense.

The previous low for a month was in November 2009, when 122 people died.

From wire dispatches and staff reports