23 missing Chinese in Malaysia boat sinking found alive: minister

Chen Peijie (2nd L), China's consul-general in Sabah, checks her mobile phone at a jetty in Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah on Sunday as she awaits developments after a tourist boat carrying 28 Chinese nationals was reported missing on January 28. (AFP)
Updated 29 January 2017
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23 missing Chinese in Malaysia boat sinking found alive: minister

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Twenty-three Chinese tourists and two crew members have survived after their boat sank in rough seas off eastern Malaysia but six people are still missing, a minister said on Sunday.
The sinking of the catamaran on Saturday, the first day of the Lunar New Year holiday, sparked a major air and sea search covering some 400 nautical square miles.
The operation would continue overnight to try to save five missing Chinese and one crew member, said Shahidan Kassim, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
“We will deploy search assets that can operate at night, and continue our rescue operations to locate those who are still missing,” he told a press conference in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island.
All three crew members are Malaysians.
The boat had left Saturday morning from the Sabah state capital Kota Kinabalu en route for Pulau Mengalum, an island known for its pristine beaches and dive sites.
The boat owner reported it missing on Saturday evening.
The skipper and one of the two crew members were found alive earlier Sunday off a nearby island, before the discovery of the other survivors.
“According to the skipper, the boat was ‘broken’ after being hit by waves and sank,” said Ahmad Puzi Kahar, head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, in a statement.
The tourists were tied together and were carried away by the current, Puzi said, without specifying whether they were wearing life jackets.
The search and rescue involved officers from the maritime agency, the police, the navy and the air force.
Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin said navy ships and a C130 aircraft were on site for the search.
It was “so sad as it happened on CNY (Chinese New Year),” he tweeted.
Roughs seas and strong winds hampered the search on Saturday night and Sunday, authorities said.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said he was closely monitoring developments.
Chinese President Xi Jinping “demanded all-out search and rescue efforts” by Malaysia, his country’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
It added that an emergency team, led by an official from Beijing’s national tourism administration, had been set up to handle the incident.
China’s foreign ministry said its consulate in Kota Kinabalu had contacted Malaysian authorities and urged them to do everything they could to rescue the tourists.
“Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year and it should have been a happy day. Unfortunately, such a bad thing happened,” China’s consul-general in Sabah, Chen Peijie, was quoted as saying by state news agency Bernama.
An earlier disaster involving Chinese visitors to Malaysia — the unexplained disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane in March 2014 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing — soured relations between the two nations for a time.
Most of the 239 people on board were Chinese, and Malaysian authorities were fiercely criticized for allegedly giving scanty or inaccurate information.
The latest incident came about a week after a boat tragedy off the southern Malaysian state of Johor.
Several bodies washed ashore at a beach near the east coast town of Mersing in Johor on Monday after a boat believed to be carrying some 40 Indonesian illegal immigrants capsized in rough seas.


At least 11 dead in Taliban attack on Afghan police HQ

Updated 51 min 24 sec ago
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At least 11 dead in Taliban attack on Afghan police HQ

  • The assault comes amid a series of peace talks between Washington and the Taliban that both sides say are making progress
  • 11 people had been killed, including nine civilians and two police officers

KANDAHAR: At least 11 people were killed and scores more wounded Thursday when the Taliban attacked a police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar, officials and the insurgents said.
The assault comes amid a series of peace talks between Washington and the Taliban that both sides say are making progress, but which so far have yielded no reduction in violence in the gruelling Afghan conflict.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the afternoon attack in Afghanistan’s second-largest city started with a car bomb, then saw gunmen storm the police compound.
“A number of mujahideen equipped with heavy and small arms breached the headquarters and launched their operations inside,” he said.
Baheer Ahmadi, the Kandahar governor’s spokesman, said in a statement that 11 people had been killed, including nine civilians and two police officers, while another 80 — including women and children — were wounded.
He earlier had given a toll of 12 dead.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said eight attackers were involved. Two blew themselves up, while the remaining six were “cornered in a building.”
Hayatullah Hayat, the provincial governor for Kandahar, said Afghan security forces had launched a “clean-up operation” to see if any attackers were remaining.
“The fighting is over now. Some vehicles were burnt. Now the Afghan army and US helicopters are hovering in the area,” police chief Tadin Khan told AFP.
Pictures on social media showed a huge plume of smoke rising over Kandahar, and Hayat said about six trucks carrying commercial goods had burnt.
The assault comes just one day after two Afghan soldiers — who were really Taliban operatives — fatally shot an Afghan colonel in Ghazni province.