Palestinian demonstrator injured during West Bank protest dies

RAMALLAH (BNO NEWS) — A Palestinian protester who was seriously injured during a weekly protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday has died of his injuries, the Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) reported on Saturday.

Mustafa Tamimi, 27, was hit in the face with a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier on Friday during the weekly protest held in the West Bank village. He was tranferred to an Israeli hospital near Tel Aviv, where he died of his injuries, a family member told WAFA.

A statement released by ‘Stop the Wall Campaign’, a coalition of Palestinian nongovernmental organizations, said residents of Nabi Saleh were protesting while the UN Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Assembly was visiting the village. It said Tamimi had lost a large amount of blood before being transferred by car to a hospital in Ramallah, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) away.

But the coalition alleged that the ambulance had been stopped at the Nabi Saleh checkpoint by Israeli forces for 30 minutes before he was airlifted to the hospital. According to the statement, six more people were injured after Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, while dozens of people suffered from tear gas suffocation.

WAFA cited the coalition as saying that the people of the village attacked an Israeli military tower in response to the incident. Nabi Saleh, where approximately 500 people live, is located near the Israeli settlement of Halamish.

Nabi Saleh residents claim that in 2008, Halamish settlers seized control of several water springs which were located on their land. In December 2009, residents began weekly demonstrations in opposition to the annexing of the fresh water springs and village land.

Small cargo plane crashes into Philippine slum, killing 13

PARANAQUE, PHILIPPINES (BNO NEWS) — At least thirteen people were killed on early Saturday afternoon when a small cargo plane crashed into a slum area near the Philippine capital of Manila, officials said. Dozens of homes were destroyed.

The accident happened at around 2.30 p.m. local time when a Beechcraft Queen Air plane crashed in a residential area in the Better Living Subdivision in ParaƱaque, a city which is part of Metro Manila. The aircraft had just taken off from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the capital.

Emergency officials said the aircraft, which was carrying a pilot, a co-pilot and one passenger, struck several shanties and an empty school building as it went down. A fire spread rapidly at the scene, engulfing at least 50 and as many as 70 houses nearby.

A Red Cross spokesperson confirmed at least 13 people had been killed, including a child and the three people on board the plane, although some media reports later said the death toll had risen to 14. Fifteen people were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.

“Most of the victims were children who were playing and some residents doing their daily chores,” Mayor Florencio Bernabe was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star. He said the number of casualties could still rise as victims were taken to numerous hospitals.

Ramon Gutierrez, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said the plane would have been carrying a full tank of fuel when it crashed. He said the pilot had requested an ‘emergency re-landing’ in Manila shortly after take-off.

Aviation officials said the crashed plane, which was owned by Aviation Technology Innovations (ATI), was scheduled to pick up cargo in the municipality of San Jose on Mindoro Island. It was not immediately known what may have caused the accident.

The crash and resulting fire has left at least 600 people homeless. The Red Cross said it will serve hot meals and distribute relief items to some 47 families who have sought refuge at their First Aid station and welfare desk.

The country’s deadliest aviation accident in history happened in April 2000 when Air Philippines flight 541 crashed while preparing to land at Davao International Airport in Davao City, which is located on Mindanao Island. A total of 131 people were killed.

Saudi man who raped daughter sentenced to 2,080 lashes

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (BNO NEWS) — A Saudi man who repeatedly raped his daughter over a seven year period has been sentenced to 13 years in prison and more than 2,000 lashes, a local newspaper reported on Saturday.

The General Court in Mecca, the capital of Makkah province in the country’s west, found the defendant whose name has not been released guilty of repeatedly raping his teenage daughter over a seven year period while under the influence of drugs, the Okaz newspaper reported.

The authorities became first aware of the case when a relative of the victim’s mother told police that the girl was being sexually assaulted by her father. Investigators, which included officers from the religious police, later arrived at the man’s house while he was abusing his daughter.

The judge of the court sentenced the father to 13 years imprisonment and 2,080 lashes which he will receive over the course of his prison term. Rape, pedophilia and other forms of sexual misconduct can be punished in Saudi Arabia by lashes, imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty.

Indonesian government threatens to cut BlackBerry data service

JAKARTA (BNO NEWS) — The Indonesian government has threatened to shut down BlackBerry data services in the country because the smartphone’s manufacturer “has not been cooperative,” a local newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Indonesian Telecommunication Regulation Body (BRTI) said it may have to end BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and other BlackBerry services after the smartphone’s manufacturer, Research In Motion (RIM), opted to build a regional data center in Singapore rather than in Indonesia.

“Because RIM has not been cooperative, it is possible that we will soon end BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) and BBM service. BlackBerry therefore, would just be like other cellular phones,” BRTI member Heru Sutadi told the Jakarta Post.

The government cited “security reasons” when explaining why the services should be shut down. Currently, all BlackBerry data is processed through the Canadian tech company RIM, which makes it impossible for the government to monitor and protect data sent by its millions of Indonesian users.

“With the condition as it is now, we warn that the country’s users to be cautious about using BlackBerry because the data exchanged is not safe or cannot be guaranteed of its safety,” Heru said.

In September, RIM agreed with the Indonesian government that it would establish a server by December 31 as part of four other agreements. Although the agreement did not specify where the server would be built, the government felt that RIM should make Indonesia a priority as it is home to the largest number of BlackBerry users in Southeast Asia.

Earlier this year, Indonesia’s communication ministry also threatened to block BlackBerry internet browsing capabilities if pornographic internet content was not filtered out by RIM. The company later agreed to filter porn. Indonesia has enacted a strict anti-pornography law since 2008.

Tens of thousands protest against alleged vote fraud in Russia

MOSCOW (BNO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of Russians staged anti-government protests across the country on Saturday to criticize the recent elections which they claim were rigged in favor of Vladimir Putin’s governing United Russia party, authorities said.

The demonstrations, which are the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union, began on the country’s Pacific Ocean coast and moved westwards over eight time zones. In Moscow, thousands of protesters waved banners and chanted slogans to demand the resignation of election commission chief Vladimir Churov and other officials such as Putin himself, RIA Novosti reported.

Police estimated that around 25,000 people participated in the rally in Moscow alone, although organizers said the number was closer to 40,000. “We demand new elections because what happened on December 4 was a falsification,” opposition activist Yevgeniya Chirikova told the crowd.

Last weekend, Russia held parliamentary elections which many Russian voters and international observers said were marred by large-scale fraud. The ruling United Russia party won more votes than any of the other three parties, but it still suffered a significant drop from the two-thirds constitutional majority it has enjoyed for the past four years.

Thousands of people also rallied in other Russian cities. About 7,000 people gathered in St. Petersburg’s central Pionerskaya Square, where at least ten people were arrested, a spokesman told local media.

Dozens of arrests were reported nationwide, but there were no reports of serious violence, police said. At least 1,000 people have so far been arrested in protests over the past five days, according to news reports.

Among those arrested during the protests earlier this week was anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and opposition activist Ilya Yashin. They were both sentenced to 15 days in prison for refusing to obey police orders, reports said.

Russian expats also demonstrated on Saturday in a show of solidarity with their compatriots in the homeland. Small protests were reported in Sweden, Germany, Italy, Israel, Ukraine and other countries.

There was no immediate comment on Saturday from Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev to the protests. But Andrei Isayev, a senior United Russia official, said the party would take account of the demands voiced by the protesters.

“There is no doubt that people protesting against the result of the vote or against the way it was handled have a right to do this,” Isayev, first deputy secretary of the party’s general council presidium, told RIA Novosti. “I assure you, we will listen to this rally,” he added.

Putin and Medvedev have said complaints of vote irregularities would be investigated. They also said citizens have the right to assemble publicly to express their political views as long as they abide by the law.

Russian police arrested more than 560 people on Tuesday as Moscow witnessed a second evening of protests over the alleged electoral fraud. Days later, Putin accused the United States of meddling in Russian affairs and encouraging the protests after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the December 4 election.

Yemeni national unity government sworn in

SANAA (BNO NEWS) — Yemen’s national unity government was sworn in on Saturday in the capital of Sana’a, the official news agency SABA reported. It is hoped the new government will be able to restore peace and democracy.

The new government, which will lead the country during a three-month transition period until early elections are held in February, was worn in before Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi at the Republican Palace. The ruling party and opposition parties evenly divided the 34 ministries.

Hadi had issued a decree on Wednesday for the new government which is expected to end 11 months of political turmoil. However, youth activists have rejected the new cabinet and called it a ‘puppet government’ which is working to save embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh from being held responsible for the alleged crimes committed against unarmed and peaceful protesters.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the swearing in of the unity government. “The Secretary-General calls upon all sides to work towards the full implementation of an inclusive Yemeni-led transition process, giving all Yemenis including women and the youth, a true stake in the country’s future,” Ban’s spokesman said. “This will be essential for putting the country on a path towards restoring peace and stability, and to lay the foundation for economic recovery.”

The formation of a unity government comes after Saleh signed on November 23 a political agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Under the accord, President Saleh agreed to hand over his powers to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi who is expected to take over as Acting President by December 23.

The timetable set out in the agreement includes the formation of a government of national consensus, presidential elections within 90 days, a national dialogue, a constitutional review and a program of reforms that starts to tackle the profound humanitarian, economic and security challenges that Yemen faces.

Violence escalated after Saleh threatened with civil war after refusing, for the third time, to sign the GCC plan on May 22. Tensions further escalated when Saleh returned to Yemen after spending more than three months in Saudi Arabia to recover from injuries he sustained in a rocket attack which hit the mosque of the presidential palace in Sanaa on June 3.

Since the months of February and March, violent clashes between anti-government movements and security forces began as part of wide-range uprisings in the Middle East since the beginning of the year. The uprising against President Saleh has claimed at least 1,500 lives since February.

Police hunt for man handing out poisoned drinks at Berlin Christmas markets

BERLIN (BNO NEWS) — Police in the German capital of Berlin are searching for a man who is handing out poisoned drinks at the city’s popular Christmas markets, officials said on Saturday. At least seven people have been sickened.

Police said the first case was reported on Thursday afternoon when two foreign students were approached by a man at Breitscheidplatz square. The suspect told the 24- and 26-year-old men that he was celebrating the birth of his daughter and gave them small glasses of liquor for a toast.

“Shortly after drinking the drinks presented to them, they both experienced strong convulsions and vomiting,” a police spokesperson said on Saturday. “The 24-year-old fell unconscious and had to be brought in for inpatient treatment at a hospital.”

Just hours later, at 9 p.m. local time, three women aged 23 to 24 were approached by the same man at Alexanderplatz square. “Here too, the man pretended to want to celebrate the birth of his child and offered glasses with liquor to the women,” the police spokesperson said. “After drinking, the three were suffering from vomiting and altered consciousness and were also brought to a hospital for treatment.”

A third incident was reported on Saturday when two more people fell sick after also being offered drinks at the Berlin Christmas markets, raising the total number of victims to at least seven. Their conditions are not believed to be life-threatening.

Police said it was not immediately known what sort of poison is being used, but authorities have increased security at the Christmas markets as they search for the man. The suspect is being described as a man aged about 45 with short, dark blond hair.

Explosion wounds five UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon

TYRE, LEBANON (BNO NEWS) — Five French peacekeepers were wounded on Friday when a roadside bomb hit a United Nations (UN) convoy in southern Lebanon, UN officials said on Saturday.

The improvised explosive device targeted a vehicle with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) when it was traveling on the southern outskirts of the port city of Tyre. The five injured peacekeepers were treated at the scene and later evacuated for further medical treatment.

“UNIFIL’s forensics and investigation teams are at the location of the explosive attack, working in close cooperation with their counterparts in the Lebanese Armed Forces to determine all the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident,” the mission said in a statement.

Security sources said a Lebanese man, traveling along the street on his motorcycle, was also wounded in the attack. Lebanon’s The Daily Star reported on its website that one of the French peacekeepers was said to be in critical condition.

“I condemn in the strongest terms the cowardly attack that was carried out against UNIFIL this morning, wounding five French peacekeepers and a civilian,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement following the attack, the third against UNIFIL this year.

France is “determined to continue its involvement with UNIFIL [and] will not be intimidated by such vile acts,” Juppe added.

The attack also drew swift condemnation from Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Sleiman, who described the incident as a “terrorist attack”. Sleiman added that the attack was intended to force UNIFIL to withdraw from Lebanon and obstruct its work as a peacekeeping force in the south, the Daily Star reported.

The members of the UN Security Council also condemned the attack ‘in the strongest terms’ and expressed their sympathy to the injured and their families. “The members of the Security Council called on all parties to abide scrupulously by their obligation to respect the safety of UNIFIL and other United Nations personnel, and to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL is fully respected, in conformity with its mandate and rules of engagement,” the Council said in a statement.

Hezbollah also condemned the attack, saying it was intended to destabilize the security of the country.

In July, five French soldiers were wounded in a blast near the city of Sidon. Six Italian peacekeepers were wounded in another explosion in Sidon in May. The mission, which has been operating since 1978, currently has just over 12,000 peacekeepers from 35 countries.

Former Tibetan monk dies after self-immolation

DHARAMSHALA, INDIA (BNO NEWS) — A former Tibetan monk who set himself on fire last week in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet has died, a rights group reported on Friday.

Former monk Tenzin Phuntsog set himself on fire on December 1 in the town of Chamdo in the eastern Tibet Autonomous Region of China. He died on Thursday after succumbing to his injuries, Free Tibet said in a statement.

Phuntsog, 46, is believed to have formerly been a monk at Karma Monastery in Chamdo. The monastery is reported to have been under severe restrictions following reports of a bomb going off in a municipal building in Karma Township on October 27, the rights group said.

“Viewed in the context of other recent significant protests, the self-immolations underline that the current crisis in Tibet represents a fundamental rejection of China’s occupation,” Free Tibet said in its statement.

Phuntsog is the latest in a series of Tibetans who have self-immolated this year, but the first known to have taken place in the Tibet Autonomous Region itself. Since March, eleven current and former monks and two nuns have set themselves on fire in China, most of them in Ngaba Town in Sichuan province, nearly 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Chamdo.

The first incident happened on March 16 when 21-year-old Phuntsog from Kirti Monastery set himself on fire in Ngaba. It happened on the third anniversary of protests in Ngaba during which at least 13 people were shot dead by Chinese security forces. Phuntsog later died.

At least seven of those who set themselves on fire were killed, but the conditions of the others remain unknown. Chinese media, which is strictly controlled by the government, has not reported on the controversial incidents.

In October, Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay expressed his concern about the incidents. “The incidents are a clear indication of the genuine grievances of the Tibetans and their sense of deep resentment and despair over the prevailing conditions in Tibet,” he said. “It is therefore of the utmost urgency that every possible effort be made to address the underlying root causes of Tibetan grievances and resentment.”

The Dalai Lama has resided in the Indian city of Dharamsala, which is now the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, since 1960 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet. Dharamsala is also referred to as ‘Little Lhasa’, referring to the capital of Tibet.

Oil pipeline attacked in Syria’s restive Homs province

HOMS, SYRIA (BNO NEWS) — A pipeline carrying oil to a refinery in Syria’s restive province of Homs was attacked by unidentified people on Thursday, state-run media and activists reported on Friday. There were no reports of casualties.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that an ‘armed terrorist group’ opened fire on a crude oil transfer pipeline in the al-Soltaniyeh area, which is to the northwest of the Refinery of Homs, reportedly causing a large fire. The damaged oil pipeline is used to transport oil from the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor to the northwestern city of Baniyas.

Activists, however, claimed the pipeline was bombed by forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The Local Co-ordination Committees accused on its website that security forces and the regime’s army deliberately destroyed the pipeline. It added that security forces arrested several students who were filming the smoke coming out of the oil pipe.

In July, SANA reported that ‘subversive groups’ attacked an oil pipeline near the western town of Tal Kalakh.

Meanwhile, activists reported more deaths on Thursday as violence continues to escalate in the Arab nation. The LCC said at least fourteen people were killed, including eleven people in Homs.

Last week, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that Syria is on the verge of a full-fledged civil war as the death toll from the nine-month government crackdown against protesters has surpassed at least 4,000, including more than 300 children.

Pro-democracy demonstrations have spread across the country since mid-March, resulting in a fierce government crackdown. The Syrian government has claimed violent acts against protesters have been carried out by ‘terrorists dressed as soldiers,’ although international observers have rejected these claims.