Ministers join strike

Thiruvananthapuram: In Kerala, all ministers on Thursday joined government staff and others in making the 24-hour nationwide strike, called by Left trade unions to protest the central government’s economic policies, a complete success. While none of them reported for work at the secretariat here, most did go to the residence of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan for a cabinet meeting, which decided to ask the governor to call a three-day session of the assembly this month to discuss the Kerala Farmers Debt Relief Bill. — HNS

Antique statues back

London: An illegal shipment of six ancient religious statues seized by customs officers at the Heathrow airport last year were handed over to Indian High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma here on Thursday. The antique statues of Bihar origin were handed over by John Healey, financial secretary to the treasury. Sharma and director of the Nehru Centre, Monika Kapil Mohta, received them on behalf of the Archeological Survey of India. The statues were with the British Museum for safekeeping after they were confiscated in August 2005. Ancient Indian statues command a high price in the western antiques market. — HNS

Dolphins spotted

Islamabad: Hundreds of dolphins are leaping, spinning and diving off Pakistani shores, say Pakistani and foreign conservators who are also looking for whales and porpoises.

In their latest survey on the continental shelf of 120 km offshore and 2,000 metre deep waters, the team saw hundreds of spinner dolphins, both alone and in groups or “pods”. The Cetacean Conservation Pakistan team began their new survey of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Arabian Sea, The News reported Thursday. — HNS

Pak mosque’s decree

Islamabad: A fatwa issued for the killing of a Danish cartoonist who drew caricatures of the Holy Prophet will not be withdrawn, says the head priest of a prominent mosque in Pakistan. The ‘khateeb’ of Peshawar’s Mohabbat Khan Mosque, Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Qureshi, said Wednesday, “We have put a price on the blasphemer’s head and will pay one million dollars to the person who kills him.” Qureshi told Daily Times that Washington had banned his entry into the US and refused him a visa after he issued the fatwa against the cartoonist working for Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. — HNS

Quake rocks Taiwan

TAIPEI: An undersea earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan on Thursday, seismologists said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The tremor struck at 19:10 pm with its epicentre 40 km northeast of Ilan on the eastern coast. It originated 29 km under the sea. Taiwan, which lies near the junction of two tectonic plates, is regularly shaken by earthquakes. The country’s worst, a 7.6-magnitude quake, killed some 2,400 people in September 1999. — AFP

Afzal moves SC

NEW DELHI: A man sentenced to death for his involvement in a 2001 attack on India’s Parliament has filed a petition in the country’s top court saying he was denied a fair trial, news reports said on Thursday. Mohammed Afzal’s petition to the Supreme Court came hours before families of the security personnel killed in the attack approached the Indian president, demanding no mercy for the convict. It also coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Parliament shooting that killed 14 people, including five assailants. — AP

Blast in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR: A suicide bomber blew himself up on Thursday near a police convoy in southern Afghanistan’s Qalat city, killing three civilians and wounding nine people, including four policemen, officials said. — AP