4 European aid workers abducted in Somalia

PARIS: Armed men ambushed a convoy in Somalia yesterday, taking four European aid workers and two Kenyans hostage, officials said. French aid group Action Against Hunger said the attack took place in the town of Dhusamareb, about 360 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, when the six were going to an airport to board a chartered plane for Nairobi, Kenya. The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said two Kenyan pilots and four aid workers - two French citizens, a Belgian and a Bulgarian - were kidnapped. It said no one was hurt and there had been no contact with the kidnappers. The group has 14 foreign staffers and 220 local employees in Somalia working on projects to promote health and access to clean water, according to its Web site. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon strongly condemned the abductions and demanded the immediate release of those captured.


55 sentenced for riots against Chinese rule

BEIJING: The Chinese government has sentenced 55 people in connection with deadly riots in March protesting Beijing's rule over Tibet, state media reported late Tuesday. The official Xinhua News Agency did not say what sentences the 55 received, what charges they were convicted of, whether they had lawyers nor what happened to the other 147 people believed to be held by authorities after the riots. It was also unclear whether the number included 30 people, among them six Buddhist monks, sentenced to terms ranging from three years to life in prison during a one-day trial in April. Beijing says the protests were part of a violent campaign by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his supporters to overthrow Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.


Captain detained in Philippines ferry sinking

MANILA, Philippines: Philippine investigators detained yesterday the captain of a crowded ferry that overturned in freak weather, drowning 42 passengers, on suspicion of operating the vessel illegally. About 100 people were rescued and eight were missing after the wooden-hulled Don Dexter Cathlyn was battered by winds and waves Tuesday shortly after leaving port in central Masbate island for nearby Sorsogon province, officials said. Victims included 12 children and a mother who lost her husband a week ago and died with her only child, said Masbate police chief Reuben Sindac. Although the ferry left port in relatively clear weather, coast guard chief of staff Capt. Efren Evangelista said it did not have the required clearance and may have been overloaded.

Czech appeals court rejects sterilization pay

PRAGUE, Czech Republic: A hospital does not have to compensate a Gypsy woman it sterilized without her consent, an appeals court ruled yesterday. In overturning the Czech Republic's first monetary award for forced sterilization, the court said the statute of limitations had expired. Human rights groups believe hundreds of women from the Czech Republic's Gypsy minority of about 250,000 people were sterilized against their will. Under communism, which ended in the Czech Republic in 1989, sterilization was a semiofficial tool to limit the population of Gypsies, or Roma as they prefer to be called, whose large families were seen as a burden on the state. The practice ended only recently, according to a 2005 investigative report by the national ombudsman. Iveta Cervenakova, now 32, was illegally sterilized without her consent in 1997 after she gave birth to her second daughter by Caesarean section.

Rice continues Mideast peacemaking efforts

WASHINGTON: Fighting irrelevance and a ticking clock, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice embarked yesterday on yet another Middle East peacemaking trip, hoping to secure fragile Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and leave a viable process for the incoming Obama administration. With just 77 days left in office, Rice will be making her eighth trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since the parties set a year-end goal of reaching a peace deal at last November's Annapolis peace conference. She will also visit Egypt and Jordan to shore up Arab support for the talks. Meeting the target date for an agreement is now highly unlikely, especially with political uncertainty in Israel and the lame duck Bush administration's waning influence, but Rice intends to press the two sides to carry on and, if possible, come up with an outline of how they can move ahead after Jan. 20.