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Posts tagged ‘Indian Ocean’

King: Malaysian Flight Possibly Downed in ‘Suicide Plot’.

There is a “growing consensus” that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was crashed as part of a suicide plot by either its pilot or co-pilot, says Rep. Peter King, who chairs the House Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee.

U.S. authorities are coming to believe that one or the other of the pilots “wanted to get as far away and land in the farthest and deepest part of the ocean,” the New York Republican told the New York Post

The scheme, King said Sunday, could have been planned in the hopes that family members would be able to collect life insurance on the pilot or co-pilot, because if the plane isn’t found, “they can’t call it suicide.”

Malaysian police are denying reports that the family of the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, moved from their home just days before the flight took off. Two different photos of surfaced of him. One shows him wearing a shirt with the words “Democracy is Dead” printed on it, while the other shows him holding a cleaver and standing with a bowl of meat.

He is also being described as an “obsessive and fanatical” follower of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, whom authorities sentenced to five years in prison for homosexuality in the hours before Flight 370 departed. 

The suicide plot scenario “makes the most sense,” King said Sunday. Authorities believe the plane headed south toward the Indian Ocean, one of the deepest in the world, after it went off course over the Gulf of Thailand.

“If there is any consensus now, it’s that it was a suicide by the pilot or co-pilot, and he wanted to go as far as he could into the Indian Ocean,” King said, expressing doubt that both pilots were involved in the plan.

“One or the other would have to kill or somehow silence the other,” King said. 

According to Malaysian Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar, authorities are still investigating all possibilities, including hijacking or sabotage. 

Last week, King told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV that the jet’s disappearance had the hallmarks of terrorism.

There’s “the fact that you have a two passengers flying on stolen passports, the fact that the plane just disappeared, that there was no communication whatsoever, the fact that Malaysia is known to be a hotbed of al-Qaida activity in the past.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Malaysia Prime Minister: ‘Deliberate Action’ Caused Jet to Disappear.

Investigators searched the home of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet Saturday as the probe focused on possible sabotage.

Officials now believe someone on board deliberately shut off its communications and tracking systems, turned the plane around, and flew for nearly seven hours after it vanished from radar, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday.

“These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” Razak said.

A Malaysian official, who was not named because he was not authorized to brief the press, went further, telling The Associated Press that hijacking was no longer a theory. ”

“It is conclusive,” the official said.

The move on the pilot’s home came in after analysis of data indicating the plane made erratic changes in altitude and course — and that manual changes attempted to mask the jet’s location.

“Increasingly, it seems to be heading into the criminal arena,” Richard Healing, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, told the Wall Street Journal Friday.

The latest bits of information from the probe “indicate the emphasis is on determining if a hijacker or crew member diverted the plane,” he said.

A U.S. official told the Associated Press investigators are now examining whether the baffling disappearance may have been ‘‘an act of piracy.’’

The New York Times reported radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military show Flight 370 — which took off from Kuala Lumpur last Saturday with 279 people aboard — climbed to 45,000 feet soon after it disappeared from civilian radar, then made a sharp turn to the west.

The radar track showed the plane then dropping to just 23,000 feet as it approached the island of Penang, one of the country’s largest.

Military radar last recorded the plane flying at 29,500 feet some 200 miles northwest of Penang and headed toward India’s Andaman Islands, the Times reported.

An unidentified Malaysian official told The Associated Press only a skilled aviator could navigate the plane the way it was flown after its last confirmed location over the South China Sea.

An Asia-based Boeing pilot told the Times flying above the plane’s service limit of 43,100 feet, along with a depressurized cabin, could have knocked out passengers and crew — and could have been a deliberate maneuver by a pilot or hijacker.

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The Journal reported investigators suspect two systems were shut off after the Beijing-bound plane took off: First, the plane’s transponders stopped functioning about an hour into the flight, making it difficult for air-traffic controllers to track the craft on radar.

Then, a second system sent a routine aircraft-monitoring message to a satellite indicating someone made a manual change in the plane’s heading that turned it sharply to the west, The Journal said.

The plane is now also believed to have continued flying for more than four hours after diverting its course — based on automated “pings” sent by onboard systems that try to connect with satellites.

One of the most chilling findings came from investigators examining data transmitted from the plane’s Rolls-Royce engines, showing the aircraft descending 40,000 feet in the space of a minute, the Times reported.

Investigators don’t believe it.

“A lot of stock cannot be put in the altitude data” sent from the engines, the Times quoted one unnamed official saying. “A lot of this doesn’t make sense.”

Aviation lecturer Cengiz Turkoglu of City University London said dramatic changes in altitude can happen because of a deliberate act in the cockpit, but that “it is extremely difficult for an aircraft to physically, however heavy it might be, to free fall,” the Times reported.

Initial fears, later discounted, were that terrorists might have brought the plane down after it disappeared.

Investigators also considered, but dismissed, the possibility that hijackers landed the plane somewhere for later use in a terrorist attack, the Times reported.

But one official told the Times that current information “leads them to believe that it either ran out of fuel or crashed right before it ran out of fuel.”

Meanwhile, CNN reported a classified analysis by the United States and Malaysian governments calculates the flight likely crashed into the Indian Ocean on one of two possible flight paths.

In one flight path scenario, the plane went down in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India; another scenario has the plane traveling southeast and crashing into the Indian Ocean.

Still another theory being considered has the plane coming down in the remote Andaman Islands.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

US Official: Malaysia Flight Likely Crashed in Indian Ocean.

A senior U.S. official tells CNN that missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 likely crashed in the Indian Ocean.

The network’s source says “there is probably a significant likelihood” the plane, which disappeared nearly a week ago with 239 people on board, turned west and flew over the Malaysian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean before crashing.

The network says Malaysian authorities have a record of several pings the aircraft’s engines made with satellites orbiting the earth after its transponder turned off. Their pattern indicates the plane turned west, flew across Malaysia, and above the Indian Ocean. Malaysian authorities, CNN’s source says, believe the plane flew for 4-5 hours after it lost contact with radar on the ground.

There were no pings that indicated an impact of any kind on land or in water.

ABC News, meanwhile, has two sources that say U.S. authorities believe the plane’s two communications systems were manually shut down from within the cockpit.  The system that reports data, officials believe, was turned off at 1:07 a.m. The transponder that tracks the plane’s location and altitude was shut down at 1:21 a.m.

Both systems were “systematically shut down,” U.S. investigators told ABC. The Americans, the report says, are “convinced that there was manual intervention” involved.

The USS Kidd, a Navy destroyer, is en route to the Indian Ocean to begin searching for the plane. It had been searching in areas south of the Gulf of Thailand with another destroyer, the USS Pinckney.

CNN’s source says his information is not 100 percent certain at this time. But the source says the United States is concerned that Malaysia is not sharing all the information it has related to the missing jetliner.

The White House said a new search may be started in the Indian Ocean, significantly broadening the potential location of the plane,

Expanding the search area to the Indian Ocean would be consistent with the theory that the Boeing 777 detoured to the west about an hour after take-off from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.

“It’s my understanding that based on some new information that’s not necessarily conclusive — but new information — an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington.

Carney did not specify the nature of the new information and Malaysian officials were not immediately available to comment.

The disappearance is one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of modern aviation. There has been no trace of the plane nor any sign of wreckage despite a search by the navies and military aircraft of more than a dozen countries across Southeast Asia.

Satellites picked up faint electronic pulses from the aircraft after it went missing on Saturday, but the signals gave no information about where the jet was heading and little else about its fate, two sources close to the investigation said on Thursday.

But the “pings” indicated its maintenance troubleshooting systems were switched on and ready to communicate with satellites, showing the aircraft was at least capable of communicating after losing touch with air traffic controllers.

The system transmits such pings about once an hour, according to the sources, who said five or six were heard. However, the pings alone are not proof that the plane was in the air or on the ground, the sources said.

Malaysian authorities have said the last civilian contact occurred as the Boeing 777-200ER flew north into the Gulf of Thailand. They said military radar sightings indicated it may have turned sharply to the west and crossed the Malay Peninsula toward the Andaman Sea.

The new information about signals heard by satellites shed little light on the mystery of what happened to the plane, whether it was a technical failure, a hijacking, or another kind of incident on board.

While the troubleshooting systems were functioning, no data links were opened, the sources said, because the companies involved had not subscribed to that level of service from the satellite operator, the sources said.

Boeing and Rolls-Royce, which supplied the plane’s Trent engines, declined to comment.

Earlier, Malaysian officials denied reports that the aircraft had continued to send technical data and said there was no evidence that it flew for hours after losing contact with air traffic controllers early last Saturday.

“It’s extraordinary that with all the technology that we’ve got that an aircraft can disappear like this,” Tony Tyler, the head of the International Air Transport Association that links over 90 percent of the world’s airlines, told reporters in London.

Ships and aircraft are now combing a vast area that had already been widened to cover both sides of the Malay Peninsula and the Andaman Sea.

The U.S. Navy was sending an advanced P-8A Poseidon plane to help search the Strait of Malacca, separating the Malay Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It had already deployed a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft to those waters.

India’s Defense Ministry has ordered the deployment of ships and  aircraft from the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, at the juncture of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. An Indian P8I Poseidon surveillance plane was sent to the Andaman islands on Thursday.

China, which had more than 150 citizens on board the missing plane, has deployed four warships, four coast guard vessels, eight aircraft, and trained 10 satellites on a wide search area. Chinese media have described the ship deployment as the largest Chinese rescue fleet ever assembled.

On the sixth day of the search, planes scanned an area of sea where Chinese satellite images had shown what could be debris, but found no sign of the airliner.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference the images were provided accidentally, saying the Chinese government neither authorized nor endorsed putting them on a website. “The image is not confirmed to be connected to the plane,” he said.

It was the latest in a series of contradictory reports, adding to the confusion and agony of the relatives of the passengers.

As frustration mounted over the failure to find any trace of the plane, China heaped pressure on Malaysia to improve coordination in the search.

Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a news conference in Beijing, demanded that the “relevant party” step up coordination while China’s civil aviation chief said he wanted a “smoother” flow of information from Malaysia, which has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the disaster.

Malaysian police have said they were investigating whether any passengers or crew on the plane had personal or psychological problems that might shed light on the mystery, along with the possibility of a hijacking, sabotage, or mechanical failure.

The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came last July 6, when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 struck a seawall with its undercarriage on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.

Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Election worries put new Kenya oil, gas investment on hold.



TURKANA BASIN, Kenya (Reuters) – Potential investors in exploring Kenya for oil and gas are holding back to see the outcome of next week’s presidential election, worried about the potential for instability and for policy changes under a new leadership.

Huge discoveries in eastern Africa from Mozambique to Uganda have attracted bids from international oil companies for exploration and drilling rights.

Kenya’s sector is the least developed, with medium-sized companies heading the search for commercial reserves. These firms are more vulnerable than majors to the risk of post-election violence, which five years ago knocked the $35 billion economy flat and forced political rivals to form a rocky coalition.

With President Mwai Kibaki barred from a third term, Kenya’s forthcoming change in leadership is also creating concerns that the government may alter contractual terms. Promising discoveries have given east African governments an advantage in negotiations.

Canada’s Simba Energy estimates its block in northeast Kenya sits atop 1 billion barrels of oil, but it needs investors to help stump up the cash.

“I really, really want to drill in 2013. I was prepared to commit to 2D seismic but had to consider feedback from some of our potential farm-in partners,” Hassan Hassan, Simba’s chief operating officer said in an interview.

“We’ve decided to wait, but believe me it pains me to wait,” he added.

The uncertainty is affecting new money. Explorers already licensed in Kenya are locked into spending agreements and still releasing capital.

In another development that raises the spectre of a trade embargo, a front-runner in the race, formerFinance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, faces trial for crimes against humanity linked to the election violence in 2007/2008.


If Kenyatta is elected, western governments will face a dilemma over how to balance a principled stance with diplomatic, security and trade ties with Kenya.

The United States, without naming Kenyatta, cautioned “choices have consequences”. Officials in other Western capitals have said any talk of economic sanctions is premature, but some investors are anxious.

“You want to go in when you think there is certainty. If sanctions were to be placed on Kenya, I don’t think we would survive two years,” said Don Riaroh of Nairobi-based Bahari Resources. The small firm, which is already exploring in the Indian Ocean‘s Comoros archipelago, has targeted Kenya.

The stakes are rising. British explorer Tullow Oil this month announced Kenya’s first potentially commercial flow rates, taking it a step closer to production.

Tullow‘s venture partner, Africa Oil, estimates there are 23 billion barrels of oil beneath two onshore basins that extend from southern Ethiopia to the southwestern tip of Kenya.

If proven, that would make Kenya the 13th-largest holder of oil reserves in the world, above the United States. At today’s oil prices the reserves would be worth $2.6 trillion, more than 60 times Kenya’s 2012 gross domestic product.

Two additional basins have hardly been explored.

Kenya’s next president will probably oversee multi-billion dollar investments and new legislation to govern production agreements and how to spend hotly anticipated petrodollars.

In his manifesto, Kenyatta says 5 percent of energy revenues will go into local communities and another 5 percent will fund renewable energy projects. Oil will “benefit all Kenyans“, the manifesto says, but gives no details such as tax structures.

The manifesto of his rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, does not even mention oil. He has stated at campaign rallies in Turkana that he would seek to avoid the so-called “oil curse” that has befallen African countries, where the wealth has not been used to fight poverty.

Some oil players are concerned that both presidential hopefuls have not laid out more detailed plans for infrastructure, taxation and the handling of oil proceeds.


“I was surprised that oil didn’t get brought up in the debate, really surprised,” Africa Oil Chief Executive Officer Keith Hill said, referring to Kenya’s first ever televised presidential debate on February 11.

If Kenya is to produce and export oil, it will need a pipeline network stretching hundreds of kilometres to link inland oil fields to the coast. It will need a new refinery to supply the domestic market from its own crude. The existing facility in Mombasa is dilapidated and runs only at partial capacity.

And while there are laws that set out how oil revenue is spent, they are old and vague. The 13-page Petroleum Act became law in 1986. Back then, few expected a serious oil find.

Nine oil companies operating in Kenya including Tullow, Anadarko and Africa Oil have formed the Kenya Oil and Gas Association. It wants the government to legislate faster.

“We’re very keen on fiscal stabilization. It’s very key that investors know terms are going to be fixed. Investors and oil companies don’t like the idea that terms will be changed after the fact,” Hill said.

They point to neighbouring Uganda, where commercial production is finally slated for 2017 after being delayed almost a decade by rows over tax and infrastructure projects, and hope Kenya avoids such setbacks.

The major oil companies are poised to come in once the small-caps do the dirty work, they say.

“Barely a week goes by when I don’t get a call from one of the super-majors who say: ‘How do we get in?’,” Hill said.


By Kelly Gilblom | Reuters

Ancient ‘Micro-Continent’ Found Under Indian Ocean.



The remains of a micro-continent scientist call Mauritia might be preserved under huge amounts of ancient lava beneath the Indian Ocean, a new analysis of island sands in the area suggests.

These findings hint that such micro-continents may have occurred more frequently than previously thought, the scientists who conducted the study, detailed online Feb. 24 in the journal Nature Geoscience, say.

Researchers analyzed sands from the isle of Mauritius in the western Indian Ocean. Mauritius is part of a volcanic chain that, strangely, exists far from the edges of its tectonic plate. In contrast, most volcanoes are found at the borders of the tectonic plates that make up the surface of the Earth.

Investigators suggest that volcanic chains in the middle of tectonic plates, such as the Hawaiian Islands, are caused by giant pillars of hot molten rock known as mantle plumes. Theserise up from near the Earth’s core, penetrating overlying material like a blowtorch. [What Is Earth Made Of?]

Mantle plumes can apparently trigger continental breakups, softening the tectonic plates from below until they fragment — this is how the lost continent of Eastern Gondwana ended about 170 million years ago, prior research suggests. A plume currently sits near Mauritius and other islands, and the researchers wanted to see if they could find ancient fragments of continents from just such a breakup there.

Digging in the sand

The beach sands of Mauritius are the eroded remnants of volcanic rocks created by eruptions 9 million years ago. Collecting them”was actually quite pleasant,” said researcher Ebbe Hartz, a geologistat the University of Oslo in Norway. He described walking out from a tropical beach, “maybe with a Coke and an icebox, and you dig down underwater into sand dunes at low tide.”

Within these sands, investigators discovered about 20 ancient zircon grains (a type of mineral) between 660 million and 1,970 million years old. To learn more about the source of this ancient zircon, the scientists investigated satellite maps of Earth’s gravity field. The strength of the field depends on Earth’s mass, and since the planet’s mass is not spread evenly, its gravity field is stronger in some places on the planet’s surface and weaker in others.

[Slideshow: Ancient pyramids found in Sudan]

The researchers discovered Mauritius is part of a contiguous block of abnormally thick crust that extends in an arc northward to the Seychelles islands. The finding suggests Mauritius and the adjacent region overlie an ancient micro-continent they call Mauritia. The ancient zircons they unearthed are shards of lost Mauritia.

The researchers meticulously sought to rule out any chance these ancient grains were contaminants from elsewhere.

“Zircons are heavy minerals, and the uranium and lead elements used to date the ages of these zircons are extraordinarily heavy, so these grains do not easily fly around — they did not blow into Mauritius from a sandstorm in Africa,” Hartz told OurAmazingPlanet.

“We also chose a beach where there was no construction whatsoever — that these grains did not come from cement somewhere else,” Hartz added. “We were also careful that all the equipment we used to collect the minerals was new, that this was the first time it was used, that there was no previous rock sticking to it from elsewhere.”

Peeling continent pieces

After analyzing marine fracture zones and ocean magnetic anomalies, the investigators suggest Mauritia separated from Madagascar, fragmented and dispersed as the Indian Ocean basin grew between 61 million and 83.5 million years ago. Since then, volcanic activity has buried Mauritia under lava, and may have done the same to other continental fragments.

“There are all these little slivers of continent that may peel off continents when the hotspot of a mantle plume passes under them,” Hartz said. “Why that happens is still mind-boggling. Why, after something gets ripped apart, would it rip apart again?”

Finding past evidence of lost continents normally involves tediously crushing and sorting volcanic rocks, Hartz explained. The researchers essentially let nature do the work of pulverization for them by looking at sand.

“We suggest lots of scientists try this technique on their favorite volcanoes,” Hartz said.


By Charles Q. Choi, OurAmazingPlanet Contributor |

Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter@OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Zanzibar Islamists fight police in leader protest: witnesses.

STONE TOWN, Zanzibar (Reuters) – Supporters of a separatist Islamist group in Zanzibar looted shops and fought with police on Thursday after their leader disappeared, witnesses said, the third outbreak of violence this year on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Supporters of Sheikh Farid Hadi, a leader of the Islamic Uamsho (Awakening) movement who has not been seen since Tuesday, threw stones at police and blocked roads with cut-down trees and burning tyres in island’s main town.

“Police are everywhere and firing teargas. There is nobody around town and the shops are closed. It’s a terrible situation,” Said Salleh, 40, a businessman from Zanzibar, told Reuters over the phone.

Witnesses said protesters looted shops and video footage showed a number of rioters holding machetes and hiding their faces with balaclavas.

The latest violence raised concerns of an escalation in religious tension in the predominantly Muslim island which is part of Tanzania but ruled by a semi-autonomous secular government.

Analysts said the Uamsho group has been gaining popularity following the disenchantment ofsupporters of Zanzibar’s main opposition Civic United Front (CUF) party after its decision to form a government of national unity with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.

Fighting between police and Hadi’s supporters, mostly youths, started on Wednesday, a day after the Uamsho leader disappeared.

“Our leader, Sheikh Farid, has been missing since Tuesday night and we don’t know where he is as we speak,” Uamsho secretary Abdallah Saidi told Reuters by telephone.

“The fact that the police have quickly issued a statement denying any information about Sheikh Farid’s disappearance is very suspicious and has made us think perhaps they were indeed responsible,” he said.

Zanzibar police commissioner Mussa Ali Mussa said police were trying to establish Hadi’s whereabouts.

Mussa also said Uamsho supporters had ambushed and hacked to death a policeman as he was walking home from guard duty on Wednesday evening. Saidi denied the group’s involvement in the attack.

“We are not involved in any criminal acts. We have all along been law-abiding citizens and leaders of Uamsho have not issued any statement to incite our supporters,” he said.

At least 10 suspects have been arrested in connection with the violence, police spokesman Mohamed Mhina said.

Witnesses said shops across the capital Stone Town remained closed for the second day in a row and residents stayed indoors, a scene reminiscent of 10 days of violent clashes between Uamsho supporters and police in May.

Back then riot police clashed with Uamsho supporters who had gathered at a mosque to pray for victims of a ferry disaster that killed 145 people.

In May Uamsho supporters set fire to two churches and clashed with police over the arrest of senior members of the movement.

(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala in Dar es Salaam; Additional reporting and writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Toby Chopra)


By Munir Zakaria | Reuters

Kenya coast tourist numbers fall on Islamist security fears.

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) – The number of tourists visiting Kenya‘s coast fell by 22 percent in the first eight months of this year compared to 2011 due to concerns over Islamist violence and the cost of landing rights in the traditional tourist hot spot, tour operators said.

Alongside tea and horticulture, tourism is one of Kenya’s major foreign currency earners and raked in 98 billion shillings last year, just shy of its 100 billion shilling target, and up from 74 billion shillings in 2010.

But officials said on Friday that the number of tourists arriving in Mombasa, the gateway to the Indian Ocean coast, had dropped to 121,472 between January and August this year, compared to 156,521 in the same period last year.

They attributed the fall to the cancellation of major charter flights to Mombasa.

“This year alone, we have witnessed the cancellation of at least five major charters that were flying directly from our key market sources to Mombasa,” Sam Ikwaye, chairman of the umbrella Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, told Reuters.

He said British-operated Monarch Airlines, Air Berlin, France’s Corsair and Tui UK were among those airlines which had cancelled. SN Brussels from Belgium and 1 Time airline from South Africa had also pulled out.

“Most of these charters were flying in daily, some twice weekly, and were packed with tourists, so you can see what these cancellations have done to us,” said Ikwaye.

Britain, the United States and Australia issued Kenya-related travel advisories to their citizens after a British tourist was killed near the coastal resort of Lamu last year.

Kenyan troops later entered Somalia to try to root out the al Qaeda-linked militant group blamed for attacks in the area, triggering apparent revenge grenade and gun attacks in the capital Nairobi, and the port city of Mombasa.

Concerns about a repeat of the violence that erupted after a disputed presidential election in 2007 also linger and deadly riots in the port city of Mombasa and inter-tribal fighting further north on the coast have unnerved tourists.

Ikwaye said what he called the high cost of landing in Mombasa had also kept tourists away, while fears of Somali pirates meant few cruise ships had docked at the coastal resort so far this year.


By Joseph Akwiri | Reuters

Maldives police disperse protesters after clash.

MALE (Reuters) – Maldives security forces wielding batons late on Friday charged thousands ofprotesters led by former leader Mohamed Nasheed heading along a road leading to the presidential palace, badly injuring one.

More than 3,000 protesters, mostly youths, marched towards the palace along with Nasheed, demanding the government hold an early election and calling on President Mohamed Waheed to resign.

Backers of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) were protesting for a second day against a report by a Commonwealth-backed commission that found a February 7 power transition in which the former leader resigned did not constitute a coup.

After stepping down, Nasheed, in power since 2008, said he had been forced to resign at gunpoint by mutinying police and soldiers.

The protest came after Nasheed said the report by the Commission of National Inquiry issued on Thursday had legitimized the toppling of his government.

“Now we have a situation, very awkward situation and in many ways very comical situation, where toppling a government by a brutal force is taken in as a reasonable cause of action,” he told reporters.

Nasheed, who shot to global prominence by holding a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the risk rising sea-levels present to the low-lying archipelago, was the Maldives’ first democratically elected president until his ouster in February.

The protesters were initially stopped by security forces including soldiers carrying riot shields some 30 meters (100 feet) from the presidential palace, but Nasheed’s supporters tried to advance after removing roadblocks.

After a warning, security forces comprising mainly police tried to break up the protest with batons and pepper spray.

Officials from Nasheed’s party said one protester was badly injured during the clash.

As the conflict continued into the early hours of Saturday, police cordoned off the area. They said they had arrested 11 protesters, but officials from Nasheed’s MDP said the number was likely to be much greater.

President Mohamed Waheed, who had already left for an official visit to China, earlier told Reuters that he expected the protests to die down as the legitimacy of his government was established by the commission report.

Nasheed’s resignation sparked rowdy protests by his supporters, some of whom complained of heavy-handed policing. The report said police brutality should be further investigated.

The Maldives, a sultanate in the Indian Ocean for almost nine centuries before becoming a British protectorate, held its first fully democratic elections in 2008. The island chain’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism.

Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, an autocrat who was then Asia’s longest-serving leader, having been in power for 30 years.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)


By Shihar Aneez | Reuters

Strong quake hits off Mauritius.

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck off the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius on Thursday, the United States Geological Survey said.

              The quake was centered 212 miles northeast of Rodrigues island and at a depth of 20.5 miles. The USGS initially put the magnitude at 6.7.

              (Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Ron Popeski)



Refugee boat sinks; Australian PM aims to revive Malaysia plan.

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  • A picture released by the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA) shows a boat which according to the AMSA was taken mid-morning before the boat sank near Christmas Island June 27, 2012. REUTERS/Australian Maritime and Safety Authority/HandoutA picture released by the Australian …

CANBERRA (Reuters) – The sinking of a second refugee boat between Indonesia and Australia‘s Christmas Island in less than a week prompted on Wednesday Australia’s prime minister to try to revive a people-swap deal with Malaysia and end an impasse on asylum seekers.

              More than 120 people were rescued and up to 10 were missing after a crowded boat sank on Wednesday in the Indian Ocean on its way to Australia, less than a week after about 90 asylum seekers died when their boat sank in the same area.

              The latest sinking prompted Prime Minister Julia Gillard to suspended parliamentary business to debate compromise laws which will revive her Malaysian agreement and allow for an opposition plan to process asylum seekers on the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

              “In view of these events and in view of the events of last week, I want to say to the parliament now most sincerely that I believe the time for the party divide on this issue is at an end,” Gillard told parliament.

Gillard has an agreement with Malaysia to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia to have their claims assessed, in return for accepting 4,000 asylum seekers who are found to be genuine refugees.

The conservative opposition, however, has opposed the Malaysian option because Malaysia has not signed the U.N. refugee convention.

Refugee policy and border protection are a hot-button issue in Australia, despite the fact the country only receives a small number of the world’s asylum seekers each year.

The U.N. refugee agency said Australia received 11,800 claims for asylum in 2011, compared with 441,000 claims globally, with 327,000 of those claims in Europe.

This year, more than 50 boats carrying more than 4,000 asylum seekers have been detected by Australian authorities.

Gillard said 123 people had been rescued from the latest boat, which could have been carrying up to 133 people.

Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority released a photograph of the boat before it capsized which showed a heavily crowded vessel, which looks like it is made of timber. The boat was about 200 km (125 miles) north of remote Christmas Island and 185 km (115 miles) south of Indonesia.

The waters between Indonesia and Christmas Island are a common route for asylum seekers, who transit through Indonesia with the help of people smugglers.

The trip is often dangerous. In December 2011, as many as 200 people died when an overcrowded boat sank off the coast of East Java. In 2010, 50 asylum seekers died when their boat was thrown onto rocks at Christmas Island.

In 2001, a crowded boat known as the SIEV X sank on its way to Australia with the loss of 350 lives.

              (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang and James Grubel; Editing by Robert Birsel)



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