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Monday, April 22, 2013

Many Dead in Nigerian Fire Fight

Conflict in the northern Nigerian city of Baga resulted in as many as 185 deaths this weekend. On Friday, government forces surrounded a mosque that was hosting several fugitive members of Boko Haram, and they met the resistance of Boko Haram fighters. The government forces retreated briefly, and when they returned, Boko Haram opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy caliber machine guns. The army responded in kind and, according to witnesses, set fire to several buildings. Fighting continued into the night on Saturday. The government could not determine how many of the dead were members of the army or Boko Haram, and how many were civilians. Most of the 185 were too disfigured by burns to identify. With a large portion of the town destroyed in the fire fight, residents are struggling: “Everyone has been in the bush since Friday night; we started returning back to town because the governor came to town today,” grocer Bashir Isa said. “To get food to eat in the town now is a problem because even the markets are burnt. We are still picking corpses of women and children in the bush and creeks.”

Chinese Government Begins Earthquake Recovery

Recovery efforts began in earnest today for the victims of an earthquake that killed more than 200 people in the southwestern province of Sichuan, China over the weekend. At least 11,800 people were injured and hundreds of thousands were left homeless. At 6.6-magnitude, the quake and its aftershocks destroyed roads, communication lines, and water mains, greatly hampering relief efforts to the area. China’s new premiere Li Keqiang said from a tent nearby, “the rescue effort is our first duty.” At least 18,000 government troops were deployed to the area, focusing on search and rescue and setting up temporary housing. While the situation is still bleak, officials say the main trouble is one of access rather than lack of supplies. Kevin Xia, Spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said, “supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way.” In 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, less than 100 miles north of this quake, killed more than 90,000 people. Officials and residents say that education efforts after the 2008 quake saved many lives.

Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Charged

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19 year old Boston Marathon bombing suspect, was charged today with the “use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death” for his part in the attacks on April 15th that resulted in three deaths and hundreds of injuries. A federal judge visited Tsarnaev to conduct his initial court appearance in his hospital room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center hospital, where he is listed in serious condition after suffering multiple gunshot wounds before his capture by police Friday night. The FBI filed an affidavit with the court today citing physical evidence and video footage linking Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, to the bombing.

Syrian Government Purges Captured Damascus Suburb

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces captured the town of Jdaidet al-Fadl yesterday after five days of fierce fighting. Anti-Assad activists claim at least 80 civilians were killed after the government’s forces routed the rebels. Jdaidet al-Fadl was a strategic foothold for the dissidents, allowing them to bring fighters and supplies into the nearby capital of Damascus, where rebels have been in a pitched battle with al-Assad for two years. Closer to the Lebanon-Syria border, the Pro-Assad Lebanese militant group Hezbollah captured the villages of Radwineyeh and Tel al-Nabi Mando, helping al-Assad to secure the Qusair region, which connects the capital to the coast. Hezbollah has regularly insisted that those fighting in the Qusair area were Shiite residents of Syrian border towns engaged in self-defense against rebel forces; cross border fighting has become regular as a result of
Hezbollah’s support for the Assad regime
.

New Dinosaur of Madagascar

Scientists have discovered a new carnivorous dinosaur in Madagascar that lived about 90 million year ago. Dahalokely tokana, meaning lonely small bandit, is the first new discovery on the island in nearly 10 years and fills an important gap in the malagasy fossil record. The abelisauroid was about nine to 14 feet long and had an average shoulder height of six feet. Until the discovery of the Dahalokely, no dinosaur remains had been found dating from the 95 million year gap between 165 and 70 million years ago. Madagascar separated from the supercontinent Rodinia about 88 million years ago, meaning Dahalokely tokana could be related to extant animals on Seychelles and India. But lead scientist Dr Andrew Farke cautioned, “we had always suspected that abelisauroids were in Madagascar 90 million years ago, because they were also found in younger rocks on the island. Dahalokey nicely confirms this hypothesis. But, the fossils of Dahalokely are tantalizingly incomplete, there is so much more we want to know. Was Dahalokely closely related to later abelisauroids on Madagascar, or did it die out without descendants?”

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