- - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pakistan

KHAR — A truck packed with explosives blew up in a crowded market in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 11 people, as security concerns led officials to temporarily close a supply route to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The blast in Salarzai town in the Bajur tribal area near the Afghan border also wounded several people, some of them critically, and damaged some vehicles and shops, said Jehangir Azam, a local government administrator.

It was unclear whether the attack was a suicide bombing or whether the explosives were detonated by remote control, he said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Pakistani Taliban have a strong presence in Bajur, but the group denied that it was behind the bombing. The group often denies involvement in bombings with significant civilian casualties.

The army has carried out several offensives against militants in Bajur, but the Taliban continue to stage attacks.

Sri Lanka

Review of killings may take five years

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka estimated Thursday that it may take up to five years to investigate alleged killings of ethnic Tamil civilians by government troops at the end of the country’s devastating civil war — a time frame criticized as an attempt to outlast international attention.

The government recommended that investigators conclude inquiries into alleged killings within a year and start court proceedings up to four years after that.

Sri Lanka’s government, which initially denied that any abuses occurred, has come under intense international pressure to investigate allegations of summary executions, kidnappings and other abuses by troops just before they defeated separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009.

The rebels, who pioneered suicide bombings and other terrorist tactics, fought a quarter-century civil war to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, citing marginalization by majority ethnic Sinhalese.

A U.N. report released last year said government troops deliberately shelled civilians and hospitals and blocked food to people trapped in the war zone and said the rebels recruited child soldiers and held civilians as human shields. It said tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in the final months of the conflict.

The Philippines

8 soldiers, 4 rebels killed in attack

MANILA — Soldiers attacked al Qaeda-linked Muslim terrorists at an encampment in the Philippines’ volatile south Thursday. Eight government troops and four rebels were killed in the fighting, the military said.

Army Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz said government forces struck in the morning after the military pinpointed an encampment of Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for past attacks in Basilan Island’s Sumisip township.

Sporadic fighting continued until afternoon, with reinforcement troops deployed.

Officials said the terrorists belong to the same group that ambushed a truckload of rubber plantation workers in Sumisip two weeks ago. Five farmworkers and one government militiaman were killed in that attack, and 22 others were wounded.

Violence in the southern Philippines continues despite efforts by U.S.-trained Philippine forces to put an end to decades of bombings and ransom kidnappings by Muslim extremists in the predominantly Christian nation.

Philippine offensives have weakened the militants, but they remain a threat. They are holding several foreign hostages, apparently to use ransom money to buy food and weapons.

Taiwan

Panel restricts Chinesebid for media group

TAIPEI — Taiwan regulators have put strict conditions on a bid by a China-friendly media group to purchase the island’s largest cable TV system, as concerns grow that China’s commercial clout is undermining freedom of the press in one of Asia’s liveliest media markets.

The National Communications Commission approved a bid by Taiwan’s China Times Group to buy the system for $2.4 billion in a decision released late Wednesday. But it requires the Chinese investors to sell a cable TV news station criticized for its pro-China content and allow an independent group to screen the news broadcasts of another station it controls.

The decision was made as other cable stations on the island weigh the advantages of silencing anti-China commentators to help them sell Chinese-language programming to the lucrative Chinese market.

Indonesia

Orangutan moved to stop her from smoking

JAKARTA — Indonesian zookeepers have moved an orangutan out of visitors’ sight so she will stop smoking lit cigarettes that people regularly throw into her cage.

Taru Jurug Zoo spokesman Daniek Hendarto said Thursday that Tori and her male companion, Didik, were moved Wednesday to a small island within the zoo. The zoo in the Central Java town of Solo has four endangered orangutans.

The 15-year-old Tori has been smoking for a decade. She mimics humans by holding cigarettes casually between her fingers while visitors watch and photograph her puffing away and flicking ashes onto the ground.

Mr. Hendarto said medical tests show that the four primates are in good condition. The two other orangutans will be moved later to another island.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports