Inmates escape

JAKARTA: Six prisoners including three on death row have escaped from a prison in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province, the prison’s director said on Wednesday. “Police are now tracking them down,” Sudarno, the head of the Muaro state jail in the West Sumatra capital Padang, told AFP by telephone. He said apart from the three death-row convicts, one prisoner had only five years of a 20-year sentence left, while two others were serving 12 and nine months each. — AFP

Lankan zoo closed

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main zoo was briefly closed to the public on Wednesday after a dispute between animal-keepers and administrators over pay and welfare descended into violence. Police said several staff were injured in the fighting at the National Zoo in the Colombo suburb of Dehiwala, including a senior manager who was beaten so badly he needed to be taken to hospital. “We have brought the situation at the zoo under control,” a police officer said. — AFP

Prisoners on strike

KABUL: Dozens of inmates at Afghanistan’s main prison in Kabul have been on a hunger strike for three days to protest the executions at the weekend of 15 convicts, the head of prisons said on Wednesday. The inmates at the Pul-i-Charki prison started their protest soon after the 15 men were taken from the jail late Sunday and put before a firing squad for crimes including murder, kidnapping and attacks on government security forces. — AFP

Bangladesh polls

DHAKA: Bangladesh could go to the polls in October 2008, 21 months after disputed polls were cancelled and a military-backed government took power, officials said on Wednesday. “Our projection is that the voter list will be completed by July next year. Generally an election takes place three months later so we expect that the election will be held in October 2008,” said election commission information officer SM Asaduzzaman. — AFP

US experts in Beijing

BEIJING: A team of US experts arrived in Beijing on Wednesday en route to North Korea, where they will begin disabling the hardline communist state’s nuclear facilities. The eight experts, led by the head of the State Department’s Korea desk, Sung Kim, are due to launch the process of disabling the North’s reactor at Yongbyon, which produces bomb-grade plutonium, US officials said. Kim refused to comment upon arrival, but officials said he would be going on to North Korea on Thursday. — AFP

Flu suspects cleared

Jakarta: Two tests on five people from Indonesia’s North Sumatra, feared to be a new cluster of human bird flu, have cleared them of carrying the virus, a health ministry official said today. “Their test results were all negative,” said an official on duty at the health ministry’s Bird Flu Information Center, who only identified himself as Momo. Two tests, usually of samples of blood and tissue, must come back positive for the virus before a victim is confirmed as infected in Indonesia, where the death toll of 87 from avian influenza is the highest in the world. — AFP

Forces storm mosque

MALE: More than 50 people have been arrested after hundreds of soldiers besieged a makeshift mosque on one of the small islands that make up the Maldives, it emerged on Tuesday. Security forces had stormed the Dhar-ul-Khair mosque on the Himandhoo island, after a policeman had been captured by “70 masked men” carrying swords and iron rods. In the battle that followed, one soldier suffered head injuries and a policeman lost his hand. — The Guardian