In brief: Gunmen kill protester, wound two others in Thailand

Bangkok – Gunmen killed an anti-government protester and wounded two others in the Thai capital today, raising fears that the country’s deepening political crisis was headed toward sustained violence on the streets of Bangkok.

The overnight attack took place close to a protest camp in the city center, according to a government-run medical center. It happened hours after the country’s powerful army chief said he didn’t want the military dragged into the conflict as some protesters would like but also refused to rule out the possibility of a coup.

Protesters led by a former deputy prime minister are carrying out a campaign to topple the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ahead of snap polls on Feb. 2 that most believe will give her a strong mandate.

Chinese icebreaker forced to turn back

Sydney – A Chinese icebreaker that was en route to rescue a ship trapped in Antarctic ice was forced to turn back today after being unable to push its way through the heavy sea ice.

The Snow Dragon icebreaker came within 7 miles of the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve, but had to retreat after the ice became too thick, said expedition spokesman Alvin Stone.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard’s whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. The ship wasn’t in danger of sinking, and there are weeks worth of supplies for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, but the vessel cannot move.

Three icebreakers, including the Snow Dragon, have been trying to reach the ship since Wednesday. France’s L’Astrolabe has also made it to the edge of the sea ice surrounding the ship but will wait there with the Snow Dragon for the arrival of Australia’s Aurora Australis, which has the best chance of breaking through the thick ice, Stone said. The Australian vessel is not expected to reach the area until Sunday.

South Sudan agrees to end rebel hostilities

Juba, South Sudan – South Sudan’s government agreed Friday at a meeting of East African leaders to end hostilities against rebels accused of trying to overthrow the young country, but the cease-fire was quickly thrown into doubt because the head of the rebellion was not invited.

An army spokesman suggested the fighting could go on despite the announcement by politicians in a faraway capital.

At the meeting in Kenya, South Sudan agreed not to carry out a planned offensive to recapture Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state, which is controlled by troops loyal to Riek Machar, the former vice president vilified by the government as a corrupt coup plotter.

But no one representing Machar was at the Nairobi meeting – a move possibly meant to deny him any elevated status that could also slow the search for peace.


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