Zhao Ziyang in coma


Zhao Ziyang, the Chinese Communist Party leader who was deposed after the 1989 pro-democracy protests, is in a deep coma and may be close to death, a human rights activist said on Saturday. Zhao went into shock on Friday and was given emergency treatment, Frank Lu, a Hong Kong-based activist said in a statement. He did not give any details. Lu said. “He might die tonight.” Zhao was purged as party leader in 1989 after sympathising with pro-democracy protesters. — AP

Pak troops nab militants


Army troops backed by helicopter gunships raided a tribal home on Saturday in Pakistan’s northwestern region, arresting 17 suspected militants, officials said. The operation was carried out in Alwara Mandi, a village near the Afghan border, 90 km west of Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, an intelligence official said. Troops stormed the mud-walled home where there were reports that some militants were hiding. An army official in Peshawar said up to 15 people were arrested in the raid. — AP

Six die in Thailand fire


Six people including two children were killed when a toy shop caught fire in southern Thailand, police said on Saturday. Two others were wounded, one critically, when they jumped from the fourth floor of the blazing shop-house in the town of Surat Thani, 644 km south of Bangkok. A two-year-old boy and a girl, 5, were among the dead, said Lt Col Narongyos Aunhabandid, Surat Thani’s deputy police superintendent. The children rushed to the top of the building to escape the flames only to die of asphyxiation.— AFP

China, Nam skirmishes


China’s maritime police fatally shot several Vietnamese and detained eight others after the Vietnamese attacked Chinese vessels, the government said on Saturday. Last week’s incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was sparked when three Vietnamese boats robbed and shot at a Chinese fleet from the island province of Hainan, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Chinese officials said the Chinese boats were in China’s waters when they were attacked. Vietnamese officials, however, denied the claim and said Chinese coast guards fired on two Vietnamese fishing boats in separate attacks, killing nine Vietnamese and wounding six others. — AP

Mild quake jolts B’desh


A mild earthquake registering 4.4 on the Richter scale jolted southeastern Bangladesh on Saturday, officials said. There were no reports of casualties or damage. The tremor, lasting 20 seconds, was felt in the port city of Chittagong, the private UNB agency said. The epicentre was located 180 km from the city. — AFP

Two held for selling baby


Police arrested two Malaysian women for trying to sell a three-week-old baby girl for $4,736, reports said on Saturday. Initial investigations showed that the two women, both in their sixties, had already sold about 30 babies, a senior police official was quoted by The Star daily as saying. On Thursday, they approached a woman at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, offering the infant for sale, he said. The woman pretended to clinch the deal but contacted police. The two women were arrested on Friday when they tried to deliver the baby girl to the decoy customer. — AFP

Taiwan’s condom law


Taiwan has passed a law requiring all hotels and sauna parlors to make condoms available to their customers in the island’s latest attempt to curb the spread of AIDS, local media reported on Saturday. Under the new law, owners who fail to provide them through vending machines or on demand face a maximum fine of $46,875. The law, passed on Friday, will take effect in 2006, newspapers here said. A survey by Taipei’s National Yang Ming University last year found that some 6.4 per cent of gay sauna patrons were HIV carriers. — AFP