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Indian navy seizes 23 pirates

Sun., Dec. 14, 2008

The Indian navy captured 23 pirates who threatened a merchant vessel in the lawless waters of the Gulf of Aden and a German naval helicopter thwarted another attack Saturday on a freighter being chased by speedboats off Yemen.

An Indian navy ship, the INS Mysore, was escorting merchant ships in waters off Somalia’s coast Saturday when it received a distress call from seamen on board the MV Gibe, who said they were being fired on by two boats that were approaching fast.

Indian marine commandoes boarded the pirate boats and seized “a substantial cache of arms and equipment,” including seven AK-47 assault rifles, three machine guns, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and other weapons, the statement said. They also found a GPS receiver and other equipment.

The pirates were from Somalia and Yemen. The Gibe was flying an Ethiopian flag but little else was known about it, the Indian statement said.

Last month, India’s navy drew criticism after sinking a Thai fishing trawler that had been commandeered hours earlier by pirates. At least one Thai crew member was killed in the attack, which the Indian navy had originally announced by saying it had sunk a pirate “mother ship.” The Indian navy said it had fired in self-defense.

The statement said the prisoners and their weapons would be “handed over to appropriate authorities ashore.”

CARACAS, Venezuela

Raul Castro visits brother’s close ally

Raul Castro began his first international trip as Cuba’s president in Venezuela on Saturday, a symbolic choice of destination aimed at strengthening ties with the island’s socialist ally and main benefactor.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has long been a close ally of Raul Castro’s iconic older brother – Fidel Castro – who in February ceded power to the 77-year-old Raul because of illness. Chavez’s support for Cuba’s communist government and his fierce criticism of U.S. policy have irritated officials in Washington.

“Welcome to your home,” Chavez said as he hugged Castro at the airport outside Caracas. “Your visit is an honor for us.”

Castro delivered greetings from his older brother.

“I bring a salute, a hug for all Venezuelans from the Cuban people and from the leader of the revolution, comrade Fidel Castro,” he said. Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006.

HARARE, Zimbabwe

Official blames West for outbreak

Zimbabwe on Saturday accused the West of waging biological warfare to deliberately start a cholera epidemic that has killed hundreds of people and sickened thousands.

The spread of the disease has focused the world’s attention on the spectacular collapse of the southern African nation, which often blames its troubles on the West.

The claims in state media came the same day the government issued an official announcement detailing the constitutional amendment creating the post of prime minister. The announcement also set out other changes necessary to go forward with a power-sharing agreement that has been stalled since September.

The state-run Herald newspaper said comments by the U.S. ambassador that the U.S. had been preparing for the cholera outbreak raised suspicions that it was responsible.

After the first cholera cases, U.S. and other aid workers braced for the waterborne disease to spread quickly in an economically ravaged country where the sewage system and medical care have fallen apart. Zimbabwe also faces a hunger crisis, the world’s highest inflation and shortages of basic necessities and cash to buy them.

The Herald quoted the information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, as blaming cholera on “serious biological chemical war … a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British.”

From wire reports


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