Slain Philippine cops linked to gambling war

Updated 09 January 2013
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Slain Philippine cops linked to gambling war

MANILA: Five people killed in a battle with Philippine security forces were policemen and soldiers, authorities said yesterday as they looked into claims the violence was part of an illegal gambling turf war. The official police report following the shootings in a town about 170 kilometers (105 miles) south of Manila on Sunday said security forces tried to stop armed members of a criminal gang at a road block, setting off a battle.
Thirteen “gang members” were killed, according to the initial account.
However national police chief spokesman Generoso Cerbo said yesterday that Senior Superintendent Alfredo Consemino, a top policemen in a town near where the shootings occurred, and two of his aides were among those killed. Armed forces spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos also confirmed two of the others shot dead were an air force lieutenant and a sergeant.
Another of the 13 killed was Victorino Atienza, who operated a highly lucrative illegal gambling operation called “jueteng”.
Separately, a US official said the unarmed drone found in central Philippine waters was launched from a US Navy ship during a combat exercise off Guam last year. He said the drone may have been washed by ocean currents to the country. US Embassy spokeswoman Bettina Malone said the BQM-74E drone was launched from a guided-missile destroyer, as a mock missile target during naval combat exercises off Guam’s coast in September.
The Philippine navy deployed a ship with ordnance experts after a diver and fishermen who found the drone over the weekend reported it may have been a bomb. The discovery sparked concerns because US troops are allowed to engage in exercises with local troops but are legally barred from engaging in combat operations in the country.
A joint commission overlooking annual combat exercises by US and Philippine troops as well as American ship visits has been asked to look into the drone’s discovery. Sen. Loren Legarda, who heads the Philippine Senate committee on foreign relations, asked the commission to check if any of the rules governing visits by American forces in the country had been breached. The drone’s discovery in Philippine waters “raises a serious concern of national security,” Legarda said.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Manila has been assured by the US Embassy “that the reported aerial vehicle is by design and purpose solely used for target practice and not armed or used for surveillance.”


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”