BEIRUT (AP) — The 45 Fijian peacekeepers held captive by an al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebel group are alive and well and will be released soon, one of the hostages said in a video released Thursday by the militants. Fighters from the Nusra Front captured the Fijian troops late last month in the Golan Heights, where a 1,200-strong U.N. force monitors the buffer zone between Syria and Israel. The frontier zone has been engulfed in heavy clashes since then between the rebels and Syrian government forces.
BEIJING (AP) — Vietnam has nearly doubled its military spending, Japan is requesting its biggest-ever defense budget and the Philippines is rushing to piece together a viable navy. Several Asian nations are arming up, their wary eyes fixed squarely on one country: a resurgent China that's boldly asserting its territorial claims all along the East Asian coast.
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — By marching through the traffic-choked streets of Myanmar's busiest city, handing out leaflets that lambasted the new nominally civilian government, Htin Kyaw showed how much the country has changed since emerging from military rule. With charges filed in all 12 townships he wound through on his way to Yangon City Hall, he has become a symbol of how has much stayed the same. Courts in 11 of the townships have found the prominent democracy and human rights activist guilty of disrupting public order. Each sentenced him to several months or even years in prison, and the terms will be served one at a time. Charges are still expected in the 12th township.
BANGKOK (AP) — An international human rights group on Thursday called on Thailand's ruling military to end what it says is a "disturbing pattern of repression" in the country since the army seized power in a May coup. Amnesty International made the appeal in a new report, saying it has received credible reports that detainees have been tortured. The military has denied such allegations. Junta spokesmen did not immediately respond to phone calls for comment.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani troops used helicopters and boats to evacuate thousands of marooned people from the country's plains where raging monsoon floods inundated more villages Thursday, officials said. In neighboring India, the military dropped food for hundreds of thousands of people marooned in flood-hit areas of Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistani and Indian officials said the death toll had reached 461 in the two countries.
BEIJING (AP) — The head of a Central Asian anti-terrorism organization says China and its neighbors face a threat as their own nationals return home after fighting in Iraq and Syria. Zhang Xinfeng, head of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's Regional Anti-Terrorism Agency, says the body is monitoring militants who went to terrorist hotspots and is closely watching related discussions online.
BEIJING (AP) — A scheduled trial for a Chinese human rights activist Yang Maodong may not proceed on Friday after his lawyers said they would not attend the court proceedings because authorities did not let them copy court files crucial to the case. Lawyer Chen Guangwu said Thursday that he and colleague Zhang Xuezhong are not prepared to mount an effective defense for Yang. The district court in the southern city of Guangzhou has banned them from copying docket files including videos and photos related to Yang's arrest on suspicion of assembling crowds to disrupt public order, Chen said.
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The suspected brother of a suicide bomber killed in Syria and another alleged jihadist appeared in an Australian court on Thursday charged with funding and recruiting for al-Qaida offshoot terrorists in the Middle East. Omar Succarieh, 31, and Agim Kruezi, 21, appeared briefly in a Brisbane city Magistrates Court for the first since they were arrested Wednesday in a series of police raids in Brisbane and neighboring Logan that culminated a yearlong counterterrorism investigation.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The candidate most likely to be named the next president of Afghanistan said Wednesday that he believes in a government of national unity and will seek to include his political opponent even if doing so requires negotiations after his swearing-in. The questions that candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai faced from journalists indicated that most people in the country, including Ghani Ahmadzai himself, assume he will be named the winner. His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, conceded as much this week when he said he would not accept the "fraudulent" results expected to be announced by the election commission.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The president of the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines proposed Wednesday to give Muslims in the south the ability to run their own government under their own flag, part of a peace plan aimed at ending a four-decade rebellion that has killed 150,000 people. The draft law submitted by President Benigno Aquino III to Congress fleshes out a peace deal signed in March by the country's largest Muslim insurgent group, the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Fiji on Wednesday may have jumped the gun by announcing that its 45 United Nations peacekeepers who are being held captive by Syrian insurgents would be freed soon. The South Pacific nation later tried to retract the comments, but by then they had been reported around the world.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani warplanes struck five militant hideouts in a Taliban stronghold near the Afghan border on Wednesday, killing 65 insurgents, the military said. The strikes, carried out in two phases hours apart, targeted areas in the North Waziristan tribal region, where the military has been conducting a major offensive since mid-June, the army said in a statement.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian hospital was treating a patient who returned last month from the Democratic Republic of Congo as a suspected Ebola case on Thursday, although a doctor said the man was unlikely to have the deadly disease. The 27-year-old man had been isolated and was being tested after arriving by ambulance at the Gold Coast University Hospital in Queensland state with "an acute illness" on Thursday morning, the hospital's Director of Infectious Diseases John Gerrard said.
SYDNEY (AP) — The owner of a New Zealand tourist lodge has been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting 16 guests, most of whom were from overseas, police said Wednesday. Michael Harris, 56, who owns the Main Street Lodge in the North Island town of Kaitaia, was charged with 39 offenses against 16 men, including indecent assault, aggravated wounding related to allegedly drugging the men and making intimate visual recordings, police said in a statement.
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