Moscow – A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts successfully docked with the International Space Station early today, bringing the size of the crew at the orbiting outpost to six.
Michael Hopkins of the United States and Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky traveled six hours in the capsule from the Russian-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan before linking up with the space station’s Russian Poisk research module.
Kotov is the most experienced member of the crew with two six-month missions in space under his belt while Hopkins and Ryazansky are both on their first missions.
The incoming crew entered the station nearly two hours later where they were welcomed by Russia’s Fyodor Yurchikhin, NASA’s Karen Nyberg and Italy’s Luca Parmitano, who have been on the orbiting lab since May and will be returning to Earth in November.
The crew’s six-month mission will include a spacewalk with the Olympic torch.
Kotov and Ryazansky will have the honor of taking the Olympic torch into open space in November as part of the relay of the Olympic flame ahead of the Winter Games being held in Russia’s Sochi in February. The torch will not be lit however, because of safety concerns and will arrive at the station in November with the next crew.
Al-Shabab says it tried to spare Muslims
Johannesburg – Al-Shabab, the armed Somali Islamic extremist group that attacked a shopping mall in Kenya, said Wednesday that foreigners were a “legitimate target” and confirmed witness accounts that gunmen tried to let Muslims go free while killing or taking the others captive.
In an email exchange Wednesday with the Associated Press, al-Shabab said “The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar (disbelievers) before carrying out their attack.”
According to published accounts, witnesses have said the gunmen rounded up people, asked questions about Islam that a Muslim would know and told the Muslims to leave the mall.
At least 18 foreigners were killed, including six Britons, citizens from France, Canada, Trinidad, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China, when the militants entered the Westgate Mall on Saturday, slaughtering men, women and children with assault rifles and grenades and taking people hostage. The current death toll is 67 and is likely to climb with uncounted bodies remaining in the rubble of the Nairobi mall.
Al-Shabab had threatened retaliation against Kenya for sending its troops into Somalia against al-Shabab.