Pirates holding a hijacked cargo ship off Somalia vowed Thursday never to lower their demand for a $20 million ransom and warned of "bad repercussions" if commandos attempt to board the vessel. A spokesman also sought to distance them from Islamist insurgents fighting to overthrow Somalia's interim government, saying "We have nothing to do with [them]; we only need money." The pirates are believed to be in negotiations with the ship owner over the ransom demand. The Somali government authorized the use of force to free the ship, and reports Wednesday said Russian commandos were boarding it. But that turned out not to be true.
New tests have found melamine-tainted foods from 15 more Chinese companies, the government said in a statement. Citing an unidentified foreign diplomatic source, Agence France-Presse reported Thurs-day that the government had ordered the recall of all powdered milk sold abroad, even "knowing that every product [has been] in line with safety norms since Sept. 14." At the same time, a lawyer claimed that he'd filed the first known suit against the dairy group at the center of the melamine scandal on behalf of a couple whose infant became ill after drinking tainted formula.
Five more bombs exploded Thursday in India, killing at least four people and wounding 100 others, many of them seriously. The blasts, in Agartala, five miles from the border with Bangladesh, came as crowds gathered for a Hindu religious festival. Agartala is the capital of Tripura State, which has a history of tribal insurgency. But earlier bombings there have not targeted crowded public places. A wave of explosions in big cities over the past five months has killed almost 150 people.
At least 24 Shiite worshippers were killed and 50 others were wounded in separate bombings Thursday as they left mosques in Baghdad at the end of the Ramadan holy month. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but analysts said the attacks likely were another attempt by Sunni extremists to reignite sectarian strife.
A new ban on smoking in public places went into effect across India Thursday, but government officials conceded that in a nation of roughly 120 million tobacco users, compliance likely would not happen overnight. Violators will be fined $5 under the policy, with the penalty eventually rising to $25. The nationwide prohibition was the second such attempt in four years. It affects restaurants , discos, business offices, hotels, hospitals, and college campuses. Smoking still is permitted in homes and cars and in designated spaces at airports.
Widening a two-week-old policy, police in Sri Lanka's capital ordered tens of thousands of migrants from the restive eastern half of the island to register their identities by Sunday. Many of them are ethnic Tamils, in whose name rebels are fighting a civil war for autonomy. Colombo has been targeted repeatedly in the conflict, but the order angered human rights activists, who accused the government of using the excuse of tightening security to harass Tamils. Earlier, Tamils who migrated to Colombo from war-torn northern Sri Lanka were required to register.
Unidentified gunmen killed a key organizer of protests against leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Julio Soto, a university student, died when his car was sprayed with bullets in Maracaibo Wednesday. Police said they were investigating, but the Justice Ministry declined to characterize the murder as politically motivated. Weeks of protests, many of them by young people, helped to defeat Chávez's proposed constitutional reforms in a referendum last December.