Blasts kill 14 in China


Fourteen people were killed and 12 others injured in two explosions on Thursday in northwest China’s tense Xinjiang region, in incidents officials could not rule out were caused by separatists. The first blast happened at 1:30 pm when a short-distance bus travelling from the Dushanzi district of Karamay city to Usu city in northern Xinjiang exploded on a highway killing 12. About four hours later, a blast killed two people and injured 10 others in the downtown of Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi. — AFP

Maldives set for elections


The Maldives, submerged by the Indian Ocean tsunamis, will on Saturday stage no-party parliamentary elections that may turn into a referendum on Asia’s longest serving leader, officials and diplomats said. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is not among the 149 candidates contesting 42 seats up for grabs, but the vote will be a key test of his popularity, diplomats said. — AFP

Flu confirmed in chickens


A dangerous strain of bird flu has been found in chickens in eastern Thailand, an official said on Thursday. The discovery comes as neighbouring Vietnam announced its sixth human death from the disease in recent weeks. Health experts are worried that the virus could mutate into a form that could spread among humans, sparking a pandemic. In Thailand, results of tests done after a chicken died on January 12 in Rayong province showed that “some” of 20 birds culled as a precautionary measure carried the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, said Santi Hatchayubhokin, the province’s chief livestock officer. — AFP

Two killed in Assam blasts


Two people were killed and at least a dozen injured in Assam and a crude oil installation also blown up in a string of explosions suspected to have been set off by United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) militants, officials said on Thursday. There were three bomb blasts, two grenade attacks, and a shootout late on Wednesday in different parts of the restive state. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the militants were trying to create panic ahead of India’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26. — HNS

China executes killer


A 21-year-old man who broke into a Chinese high school dormitory and stabbed nine boys to death has been executed less than two months after the attack, the government announced on Thursday. Yan Yanming was put to death on Tuesday in the central province of Henan, where he was convicted of attacking the boys on November 25 in the city of Ruzhou, the official Xinhua News Agency said. — AP

Bashir trial hits snag


Attempts by Indonesian prosecutors to link Abu Bakar Bashir to terror attacks suffered a new setback on Thursday when a convicted Bali bomber denied the militant Islamic cleric had any role in the attack. Ali Imron, who is serving a life sentence for his part in the October 2002 bombings, told Bashir’s trial that he had never received a direct order or blessing from Bashir to carry out the nightclub bombings. — AFP