- Kabul, Afghanistan – Taliban militia kidnap 23 South Korean Christians
Taliban gunmen have threatened to kill a group of 23 South Korean Christians on a relief mission unless Seoul pulls out its 200 troops from Afghanistan. Already, the pastor of the group has been shot and tossed on the highway to Kandahar. Latest news from the AP suggest some of the hostages have been released. Reverend Park Eun-jo of the Saemmul Presbyterian Church has apologized for creating difficulties by sending the church volunteers and insisted they were not doing proselytisation work but were instead providing social services and aiding relief efforts. The estimated 16,000 Korean missionaries abroad are the second largest group in the world, after the United States.
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Is Malaysia an Islamic state?
Comments by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak asserting the country has never been a secular state have upset many non-Muslims and led to bitter debate questioning whether Malaysia is an Islamic state and exposed religious and racial faultlines ahead of a widely expected early general election.
- New Delhi, India – India gets its first female president
The 72-year-old Pratibha Patil from Maharashtra has been sworn in as India’s first woman President at a ceremony in Parliament. She has made an appeal for socially inclusive economic growth, women’s empowerment and a united fight against communalism and terrorism.
- Islamabad, Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto may return to Pakistan
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who is in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai may finally return to Pakistan. She has admitted contact with President Pervez Musharraf but it was “unlikely” they would reach a power-sharing deal.
- Yangon, Myanmar – Until Suu Kyi is freed, US ban on Myanmar stays
The United States Congress voted yesterday to renew a ban on imports from military-ruled Myanmar under a sanctions regime imposed over the suppression of Aung San Suu Kyi’s democracy movement.
- Singapore – Singapore Airlines to auction seats for the inaugural Airbus A380 flight
Singapore Airlines, the first carrier in the world to fly the new superjumbo Airbus A380, will auction all seats on its inaugural flight on eBay, and donate the proceeds to charities, the airline said Wednesday.
- Colombo, Sri Lanka – Teen maid in Saudi Arabia could be beheaded over death of infant
Sri Lanka is fighting against the threatened beheading of a teen maid in Saudi Arabia over the death of an infant. Saving her from beheading has become one of the most urgent issues in a country where nearly everyone has worked abroad or had a relative employed overseas.
Photo of family members of the kidnapped South Korean Christian hostages breaking down during a press conference from CCTV.