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Somali pirates release S. Korean cargo ship

SEOUL, South Korea : Pirates who seized a South Korean cargo ship off the coast of Somalia more than a month ago freed the 22 sailors and the vessel yesterday, a South Korean official said. The crew members - eight South Koreans and 14 citizens from Myanmar - were heading toward a U.S. Navy vessel in the area after being set free, Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae Young told reporters. Moon said the sailors were all safe but declined to comment whether a ransom was paid. The South Korean vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates on Sept. 10 in the Gulf of Aden - one of 29 ships hijacked this year off the African coast. The latest is a Philippine bulk carrier seized in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday with a crew of 21.

Blast targets pipeline in western Canada

DAWSON CREEK, British Columbia : Police said yesterday that a bomb blast damaged a natural gas pipeline in western Canada, and they were investigating whether the explosion and an earlier one were linked to a threatening letter. Sgt. Tim Shields said the blast occurred overnight near the border between Alberta and British Columbia. It left a crater in the ground and damaged - but did not rupture - the pipeline, he said. Police said the explosion seemed related to the bombing Saturday of another EnCana gas pipeline about 30 miles east of Dawson Creek. That blast left a small crater under the pipeline, but the company said the line did not rupture and no gas was released. There was no claim of responsibility for either explosion, but police believe they might be related to a letter sent to local news media outlets that demanded oil and gas projects be shut down.

Israeli troops kill firebomb suspect

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops shot and killed a 21-year-old Palestinian allegedly preparing to carry out a firebomb attack in a West Bank village early yesterday. He was the third Palestinian killed by army fire in as many days. Citing a recent wave of firebombings in the roughly 10-mile area between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank, the army has been stepping up efforts to stop them, including laying nighttime ambushes near potential targets. Before dawn yesterday, an army patrol spotted three men carrying firebombs in Kufr Malek, a village near Ramallah, the military said. Troops shot one man after the three ignored warning shots, the army said. The other two escaped.

Dubai tourists get time in sex-on-beach case

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates : A British couple whose drunken escapade led to sex on the beach, tabloid headlines and a clash between Western permissiveness and Islamic values was sentenced yesterday by a Dubai court to three months in prison. Vince Acors, 34, and Michelle Palmer, 36, each were sentenced to serve time, fined $272 for drinking alcohol and ordered to be deported immediately upon leaving prison. The couple were charged with having sex outside of marriage after a taxi picked them up July 5 from an all-you-can-drink Champagne brunch at a five-star hotel and drove them to Jumeirah beach in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' most culturally tolerant emirate. The judge did not provide any details about his verdict, as is customary in Dubai, so it was unclear whether the sentence was for the sex offense or a lesser indecency charge. The couple's lawyer told reporters that he would appeal. Prosecutor Faisal Abdelmalek Ahil said he expected a harsher sentence. "I'm not happy," he said outside of court. "It's very light. It's normal for a sentence to be six months to a year for an offense such as this."

China dairies try to regain public's trust

HOHHOT, China : China's dairy giants opened their factories yesterday to a government-led news media tour in a bid to stave off losses and regain the public's trust after their products were found tainted with a chemical that killed four infants and sickened tens of thousands. Executives from Mengniu Dairy Group Co. and Yili Industrial Group Co. - both based in Inner Mongolia, where sprawling grasslands serve as grazing land to about 2.5 million cows - promised that stepped-up testing and new procedures would ensure that similar contamination won't happen again. Together the companies control more than half of China's dairy market. "Provide 100 percent safety to consumers," read a slogan on a red banner in the spotless processing and packaging hall at Yili's headquarters in Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia.

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