Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal finally were to have their scheduled meeting Sunday night in Damascus, Syria, after more than a day of delay due to differences over how a unity government would be composed. Also at issue: how such a government would deal with the demands of Western nations. Sources close to the situation said it appeared that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas would remain in that post but that Hamas would give up the interior and finance ministries. However, Reuters quoted a senior Hamas source as saying his organization did not believe the Abbas-Meshaal talks would produce a unity government – only an affirmation that both sides "are committed to continue dialogue and reject ... the spilling of Palestinian blood."
A battle at sea was raging Sunday between Sri Lankan naval units and Tamil rebel attack craft that had targeted a cargo ship off the strategic Jaffna peninsula. The clash came as government forces claimed at least 40 rebels had died in fighting on two fronts in the Battica-loa district in the eastern sector of the island nation. Military spokesman said they now control almost three-quarters of the east and that thousands of people fleeing the combat were being screened for suspected rebels trying to blend in with them. Some Tamils accused the military of detaining their children unnecessarily.
In shackles, 34 Islamist militiamen were handed over to Somalia's transitional government over the weekend by authorities in neighboring Kenya. The Kenyans said some of the prisoners may be leaders of the routed Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), although their identities weren't yet known. Still, the UIC claimed responsibility for a mortar attack Friday night on the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, and for an ambush Saturday on a military convoy there that witnesses said killed at least four people. The UIC said such attacks would continue until the government agreed to peace negotiations.
Six more foreign hostages were seized by gunmen in Nigeria's delta region, authorities said Sunday, bringing the total in the past year to almost 100. All six were identified as Filipinos who worked on an inbound cargo ship. Eight others on the vessel were not taken captive. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Last Thursday, five Chinese and an Italian national who'd been seized in separate attacks were freed. Most captives are released unharmed after payment of a ransom, although two other Italians and a Lebanese are still known to be held by militants. The instability has caused a 25 percent drop in oil production across the region and caused foreign companies operating there to evacuate thousands of their employees.
As many as 350 journalists from around the world are expected in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday for the opening of perhaps the most anticipated criminal trial in Canadian history. Robert "Willie" Pickton, who operated a hog farm and butchering business, is accused in the serial murders of 26 women in the city in the 1990s. Most of the victims worked as prostitutes or were drug addicts. So much evidence was presented at pretrial hearings that the charges have been divided into two groups so as not to overburden jurors. The first six cases alone are expected to take at least a year before verdicts are reached. Pickton has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Panicked residents fled their homes in northeastern Indonesia Sunday as a magnitude-7.3 earthquake shook the region and raised fears of a tsunami. The epicenter was under the Molucca Sea, about 100 miles from Sulawesi island. Early reports cited damage to buildings in the provincial capital, Manado, but no deaths or injuries.