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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pakistani Ex-PM’s Son Kidnapped Ahead of Elections

Ali Haider Gilani, the son of former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, was seized by armed gunmen today at an election rally in Multan, in the southern Pakistani province of Punjab. The younger Gilani was running for a provincial assembly seat; today is the last day of campaigning ahead of Saturday’s elections. According to witnesses at the scene, the attackers arrived in a car and on a motorcycle. When Gilani emerged from the private rally, two gunmen opened fire, killing at least two of Gilani’s bodyguards and kidnapping the aspiring statesman. No one has taken credit for the attack, but the incident is just one of dozens of violent outbursts targeting Pakistan’s political class in the past few months. The Pakistani Taliban has been actively targeting politicians from secular political groups, as well as those it feels have interfered with its operations. But the the Taliban’s erstwhile allies in the political process have also been subject to violence; today a bomb destroyed the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam election office in North Waziristan. One person was killed and several others were injured.

Nigerian Police Routed By Traditionalist “Cult”

More than 30 Nigerian police officers were killed in an ambush as they attempted to arrest the leader of the traditional religious group Ombatse. Ombatse, which means “time has come” in Eggon, publicly first emerged in a violent clash with secular authorities in the central state of Nassarawa, Nigeria, last year, though evidence suggest the group had been underground for several years prior. Members have described the Omatse as a movement committed to purging society of certain vices, including alcohol and adultery. According to police chief Abayomi Akeremale, his officers had tried to arrest some Ombatse leaders as they “have been going to churches and mosques initiating people into their cult by forcefully administering an allegiance oath to unwilling people.” A member of the traditionalist group tells reporters that police fired on his group as they were praying, and they defended themselves with machetes. A statement from Nigeria’s president’s office said Goodluck Jonathan was returning to the capital “to personally oversee efforts by national security agencies to contain the fresh challenges to national security which have emerged this week in Borno, Plateau and Nasarawa States”.

Chinese Police React to Yesterday’s Migrant Workers Protest

Today hundreds of police officers and paramilitary forces swarmed the busy wholesale clothing market in Beijing’s Fengtai district, where several hundred protesters gathered yesterday over the death of a 22-year-old woman from the central province of Anhui. Yuan Liya’s body was discovered last Friday near the exit of an underground parking garage. Police ruled the death a suicide, saying Yuan jumped from the building, but protesters believe Yuan was murdered and police officers ignored their duty in quickly declaring her death a suicide. “They sit in the police station, eat meals and get salaries paid for by the ordinary people and the taxpayers, yet they do nothing to protect the safety of our lives and property,” said protestor Duan Xiuying. Yesterday’s demonstration was in support of Yuan’s immediate family members, who had traveled to Beijing seeking an explanation for her death. According to a police statement, “Yuan entered the mall alone the night before she died, and had no contact with other people. No suspicious signs were found after a forensic examination of the body.” Yao Jianfu, an expert on rural-urban migration in China suggested the protest and clampdown were a sign of systemic disfunction, “We need to let them [migrant workers] vent and communicate their feelings in an orderly, organized manner, and not just send the riot police.”

Panama Implements Energy Austerity Measures

Yesterday the Panama Canal Authority began several water-saving measures to help save energy as the isthmus faces a power shortage because of a lack of rain. Starting today, the Canal has suspended use of hydraulic assistance to help push ships out as they leave locks and it will put two ships in a lock at a time rather than one. Panama, which generates about 60 percent of its energy from hydroelectric plants, has been hit hard by an especially long dry season this year. Earlier this week Panamanian authorities declared a state of emergency in the regions most affected by the dearth of rain. Officials closed all public schools for three days and asked that government offices and businesses, like supermarkets and nightclubs, reduce their hours and limit air conditioning. Officials also cut down on the number of illuminated billboards turned on at night. “If (dry weather) conditions continue and consumption is not reduced, we will have to start rationing,” said Marianela Herrera, assistant manager of the Electrical Transmission Co. “For the kind of crisis we’re going through, we need more (cuts).”

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