- The Washington Times - Friday, April 2, 2010

PAKISTAN

28 militants killed in northwest

PARACHINAR | Pakistani troops stormed militant positions and helicopters destroyed vehicles carrying insurgents near the Afghan border Thursday, killing 28 suspected militants and forcing thousands of civilians to flee, officials said.

The offensive in the Orakzai tribal region is aimed at flushing out Pakistani Taliban insurgents who had fled an army onslaught further south. Government official Sami Ullah said at least 18 militants died in clashes with troops in Orakzai.

As a group of insurgents fled to the neighboring Kurram region, helicopters hit three vehicles, killing 10 more militants and wounding some others, local military commander Lt. Col. Akbar Butt said.

Orakzai is a major base for supporters of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban’s top commander, who is believed to have died in a January U.S. missile strike near Afghanistan. The Taliban deny Mehsud is dead.

THAILAND

Insurgents kill 6 in south

NARATHIWAT | Suspected Islamic insurgents killed six Buddhist villagers in Thailand’s restive south Thursday, police said, the latest attack in the troubled region bordering Malaysia.

The villagers in Narathiwat province were believed to have been ambushed, police said. Two bodies were found in a pickup truck and four were discovered in a hilly forest nearby.

Ten policemen and soldiers were also wounded when a roadside bomb exploded as they were traveling to the scene of the shootings.

More than 3,900 people have been killed in six years of unrest as ethnic Malay Muslims fight for autonomy from Thailand’s Buddhist majority in the region just a few hours by car from some of Thailand’s best-known tourist beaches.

MALAYSIA

Ruler commutes caning for woman

KUALA LUMPUR | A Muslim woman’s caning sentence for drinking beer has been commuted unexpectedly, ending a high-profile case that raised questions about Islamic laws intruding into personal matters in Malaysia.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 33-year-old mother of two, received a letter Wednesday from the Pahang state Islamic department informing her that the state’s sultan had decided to spare her the caning and instead ordered her to do three weeks of community service. Ms. Kartika said she will start work at a children’s home Friday.

Ms. Kartika was sentenced last July to six strokes of the cane after being caught by morality police at a beach restaurant while drinking beer, which is forbidden by Islamic laws.

She pleaded guilty and did not appeal her sentence, but the punishment was halted at the last minute following an uproar in the media and among rights activists.

The former model said she felt “tortured” while waiting to be caned and now feels the punishment should have been carried out. She said she has already expressed regret for drinking.

JAPAN

Electric cars hit market

TOKYO | Japan’s first mass-market electric car went on sale in showrooms Thursday as the futuristic technology becomes more affordable amid a burgeoning price war.

The four-seater bubble-shaped i-MiEV from Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Japan’s fifth-biggest automaker, costs $30,500 after government incentives are figured into the price of $43,000.

Nissan Motor Co. announced Tuesday it will take orders for its own electric car, the Leaf.

With concerns about the environment growing, electric vehicles - long an expensive, experimental technology used in Japan mainly by government-related groups - are suddenly all the rage.

Nissan, Japan’s No. 3 automaker, said the Leaf, due to go on sale in December, will cost $40,500 but that will fall to $32,000 with government incentives.

The Leaf gets even cheaper in the U.S. at just over $25,000 because of a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles.

Also this week, Chinese automaker BYD started retail sales of its new electric car, the F3DM, for the equivalent of $25,000.

Ford Motor Co. is planning an all-electric Focus compact car for sale in late 2011.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest automaker, is planning an electric car for 2012. Prices have not been announced, but they are likely to be more within reach than the two-seater Tesla Roadster’s $100,000.

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