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Briefly

- - Thursday, January 5, 2012

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan arrests British contractors with guns

KABUL | Afghan police arrested two British private security contractors and two Afghan colleagues and ordered their company closed down after finding a cache of weapons in their vehicle, an official said Thursday.

They are being held for investigation into illegal arms transport.

Their detention spells the latest trouble for Afghanistan's dozens of private security companies, which guard supply convoys, development projects and private businesses.

President Hamid Karzai has ordered all the protection companies shut down by March, to be replaced by a unified government-run protection force.

Police who stopped the contractors' vehicle at a Kabul checkpoint Tuesday found more than two dozen AK-47 rifles in a metal box covered by a blanket, Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqi told a press briefing.

All 30 weapons had their serial numbers scratched off, and the men had no permits for them, so police arrested all four men on suspicion of illegal arms transport, Mr. Sediqi said.

PHILIPPINES

Landslide kills 25, buries dozens more

MANILA | A landslide tore through a tiny gold-mining village in the southern Philippines on Thursday, killing 25 people and burying dozens more, months after the government warned residents the mountain was certain to crumble.

The mountainside in Napnapan village in Pantukan township collapsed around 3 a.m., when most residents were asleep, sweeping away about 50 houses, shanties and other buildings, officials said.

A fissure in the mountain discovered last year likely was aggravated by heavy rains and continuous mining in the saturated ground.

Thousands of poor Filipinos dig and pan for gold in the area, hoping to strike it rich despite the dangers of largely unregulated mining. The tunnels are often unstable, and landslides and accidents are common.

Aside from those confirmed dead, more than 100 people were believed buried in the earth rubble, Compostela Valley provincial Gov. Arturo Uy said.

JAPAN

Tuna sells for record $736,000

TOKYO | This tuna is worth savoring: It cost nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.

A bluefin tuna caught off northeastern Japan fetched a record $736,000 Thursday in the first auction of the year at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. The price for the 593-pound tuna beat last year's record of $420,000.

The price translates to $1,238 per pound - also a record, said Yutaka Hasegawa, a Tsukiji market official.

Though the fish undoubtedly is of high quality, the price has more to do with the celebratory atmosphere that surrounds the first auction of the year.

The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., which operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said he wanted to give Japan a boost after last March's devastating tsunami.

PHILIPPINES

Filipinos refuse to flee strife-torn Syria

MANILA | Most of the 10,000 Filipinos working in strife-torn Syria have refused to leave despite mounting violence in the country, the Philippines' foreign minister said Wednesday.

Albert del Rosario said he tried to persuade more Filipinos to leave during a recent visit to Syria, but "I did not see too many people who were enthusiastic about being repatriated."

Mr. del Rosario added that Filipinos even were entering Syria illegally to find work.

The minister said many Filipinos - most working as domestic helpers - did not think they were in danger.

U.N. humanitarian officials estimate that at least 5,000 Syrians have been killed in the nine months since a popular uprising erupted against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, most of them killed by security forces.