Home' Greymouth Star : December 30th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Tuesday, December 30, 2014
seeks US help
in plane search
10 dead as
ferr y evacuated
Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk
who attempted to assassinate
John Paul II, has been ordered
out of Italy two days after he paid
a surprise visit to the late Pope’s
The 56-year-old former political
extremist has been in custody since
Saturday, when police realised he
had entered the country without
the appropriate visa.
He was expected to be put on
a plane out of the country today
after a magistrate rejected an
appeal for him to be detained
and questioned in connection
with an unresolved investigation
into the 1983 disappearance of a
15-year-old schoolgirl, Emanuela
While ser ving time in an Italian
prison for his 1981 assassination
attempt on the late Polish Pope,
Agca claimed in an inter view
that Orlandi, a Vatican citizen,
had been kidnapped by Bulgarian
agents from the same Grey
Wolves movement of which he
was a member.
He never provided any evidence
to support his claim and the case
was closed in July 1997.
Agca’s visit to the Vatican on
Saturday came 31 years to the
day after John Paul visited him
in prison in Rome to forgive him
for the 1981 shooting that nearly
killed the leader of the world’s
Then 23, he shot the Pontiff
twice from close range in St
Peter’s Square, one bullet passing
through his abdomen and another
narrowly missing his heart.
Vatican police agreed to let him
lay white roses on the late Pope’s
tomb but his request for a meeting
with current Pope Francis was
rebuffed by officials who have
made no secret that they regard
the former gunman as a slightly
Agca, who now professes to
be a devout Catholic, ser ved
nearly three decades in prisons
in Italy and Turkey for the papal
assassination attempt and other
crimes including the murder of a
journalist. — AFP
Indonesia has asked the United States for help
in locating the Air Asia plane that went missing
on Sunday carrying 162 people, the US State
Department said overnight.
“ Today we received a request for assistance
locating the aircraft, and we are reviewing
that request to find out how best we can
meet Indonesia’s request for assistance,” State
Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told a
regular news briefing.
Rathke said the Indonesian request was
made via a diplomatic note to the US embassy
in Jakarta. He declined to give details of the
“O ur embassy, of course, is focused on finding
ways to be responsive. Of course, we’ve been in
close contact with Indonesian officials since the
disappearance of the plane,” Rathke added.
The Indonesian Air Asia plane, an Airbus
A320-200, disappeared after its pilot failed
to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad
weather during a flight from the Indonesian city
of Surabaya to Singapore.
International search planes and ships scouring
Indonesian waters for the airliner are focusing
on a patch of oil.
Australia, Singapore and Malaysia joined the
Indonesian-led search as anguished relatives
waited for news of their loved ones more than
a day after flight QZ8501 disappeared over the
Java Sea with 162 people on board.
The Airbus A320-200 lost contact on the
way from Surabaya in Indonesia’s east Java to
Singapore on Sunday after the crew requested a
change of flight plan to avoid stormy weather, in
the third crisis for a Malaysian carrier this year.
Indonesian Air Force spokesman Hadi
Tjahjanto said the search was now concentrated
on an oil patch spotted off Belitung island in
the Java Sea, across from Kalimantan on Borneo
“ We are making sure whether it was avtur
(aviation fuel) from the Air Asia plane or from
a vessel because that location is a shipping line,”
Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said an
object spotted at sea earlier was not from the
“The government will not give up and is not
giving a time limit for the search. What is
important is to find the victims and the plane,”
The National Search and Rescue Agency chief
Bambang Soelistyo said earlier it was likely the
plane was at the “bottom of the sea”.
Distraught relatives spent the night in
Surabaya hoping for news as the international
Intan, 28, said Indonesia needed overseas help
to find the plane that was carrying her brother
and his family and friends.
“My hope is Indonesia seeks as much help as
possible from other countries. Don’t claim ‘ We
have sophisticated technology ’, just ask other
countries because they are better equipped,” she
said, as Jakarta welcomed offers of help from its
“My prayer is I really, really hope that there will
be news about the people on board. Whatever it
is, what is important is we know where they are
now,” she said.
One Indonesian family of 10 had a miraculous
escape when they arrived too late to catch flight
“Maybe it is all God’s plan that my family
and I were not on the flight. It was a blessing in
disguise,” said Christianawati, 36.
Air Asia said 155 of those on board were
Indonesian, with three South Koreans and one
person each from Singapore, Malaysia, Britain
and France. The Frenchman was the co-pilot.
The missing plane was operated by Air Asia
Indonesia, a unit of Malaysian-based Air Asia
which dominates South-east Asia’s booming
low-cost airline market. — AFP-Reuters
The death toll from a stricken
ferry in the Adriatic Sea has risen
to 10 as Italian authorities said all
passengers had been evacuated
from the vessel, marking the end
of a rescue operation hampered
by bad weather.
The Norman Atlantic had 478
people on board when it caught
fire yesterday off the Greek island
of Corfu as it was heading for the
Italian port of Ancona.
The fire disabled the ship and a
towing attempt failed when the
rope broke, Italy’s ANSA news
“The rescue operation is one
of the most complicated to date
because of the rough seas, heavy
rain and gale-force winds,” Greek
Merchant Marine Minister
Miltiades Var visiotis said of the
rescue mission that lasted about
One person died yesterday after
he jumped in the sea.
Nine more people were declared
Passengers said the evacuation
had been chaotic and complained
that lifeboats available on the
ship were not sufficient.
“Many of the passengers had
managed to make their way
to the top deck and on to the
bridge,” passenger Rania Firaiou
told Greek private broadcaster
“There are several cargo ships
and vessels around us, but the
waves and rain are making it
difficult for them to approach the
ship,” said Firaiou.
Another passenger told Mega
the heat was so intense that shoes
had started to melt.
“ We will burn like mice,” a
passenger who gave his name as
Nikos told Greek radio station
Smoke continued to bellow
from below decks even after the
fire was brought under control.
The fire was believed to have
started at dawn in the garage of
the ship, which was 55km off the
north coast of the island of Corfu
when it sent its first distress
Marine traffic websites then
indicated it had moved a few
dozen kilometres further north-
The Italian-flagged Norman
Atlantic, which belongs to Greek
ferry line ANEK, was en route to
Ancona from the Greek port of
The Italian navy vessel San
Giorgio took command of the
operation late yesterday.
Greek and Italian helicopters
and rescue vessels were also in
the area, as well as the passenger
ship Europa Cruise. — D PA
Rare baby tortoises
held at Paris airport
Papal gunman ordered out over invalid visa
Some passengers suffered slight
injuries after a Virgin Atlantic
jumbo jet carrying 462 people
was forced to make an emergency
landing in London due to a
problem with its landing gear.
Gatwick Airport ’s single
runway was temporarily closed
because of the incident, a
The British airline’s Boeing 747
landed with only four of its five
sets of landing gear deployed,
according to photos and video
shown on television.
Passengers were told to brace
on impact and one man described
the mood as “anxious”.
“A lot were worried, some
crying,” the passenger, Dan
Flight VS43 set off from
Gatwick for Las Vegas but was
forced to turn back.
The plane then circled over
southern England at a low
altitude to burn off fuel before
There was a spontaneous round
of applause after the successful
“I can’t wait to get into the
terminal and have a gin and tonic
now,” passenger Mike Kaufman
told Sky News television.
“ We were talking about going
on a rollercoaster ride when we
got to Las Vegas. Now I’m not so
sure,” he said.
Fire crews and ambulances
quickly surrounded the aircraft,
which appeared completely level.
“Following the emergency
landing, passengers have
disembarked the aircraft via
stairs. At this time, only minor
injuries have been reported,” a
Gatwick spokesman said.
Virgin Atlantic said the plane
had been forced “to implement a
non-standard landing procedure”
due to “a technical issue with the
landing gear”. — AFP
Jumbo jet in emergency landing
PICTURE: Getty Images
The Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 is surrounded by emergency vehicles after landing safely at Gatwick
airport in London.
Regin, an advanced spyware program widely
believed to have been developed by United
States and British intelligence agencies, was
found on a USB stick belonging to an official
in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
office, Berlin sources say.
Sources said the incident occurred months
ago and said that the hackers involved could
not be identified.
Merkel’s spokeswoman declined to confirm
that a cyber-attack had occurred.
The malware was discovered after a mid-
level official in the European policy section
of the chancellery reportedly took home a
document on her USB flash drive to read on
her private laptop computer.
When she later inserted the USB drive into
her chancellery computer, an anti-virus alert
Merkel’s staff are not supposed to use
their private computers for work for fear of
transferring a virus this way.
“I cannot confirm this mode of attack,”
spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told
reporters, fending off questions about
whether such a breach had in fact occurred or
if anyone had been disciplined.
“The information technology system of
the chancellery has not been infected,” she
insisted, declaring that such threats were on
the government ’s radar and no fundamental
review of precautions was required.
Sources said the incident happened in the
first half of this year and cautioned that there
was nothing to link such a Trojan attack
with the US, since anyone could have copied
Regin and adapted it for their own ends, as
hackers normally do.
Regin’s existence became public last
month, when virus-hunters surmised that
it had originally been devised by the US
National Security Agency and its British
counterpart GCHQ for international
Merkel personally phoned US President
Barack Obama in October 2013 to protest
at revelations that US intelligence had
monitored her cellphone.
The sources said it was impossible to
establish if any documents were taken by
whoever planted the flash-drive virus.
Virus hunters say Regin can gather
snapshots of a computer screen, obser ve
passwords as they are typed and restore
The mass-circulation newspaper Bild said
the document taken home by the woman was
the manuscript of a planned Merkel speech
on European Union strategy, not a major
secret since the chancellor was going to give
the talk in public.
Bild said all of the 200 high-security laptops
used in Merkel’s office were inspected after
the incident, but Germany ’s cyber security
agency, the BSI, which often advises the
German public on how to fight snoopers,
could not find any other affected machine.
US spyware ‘on Merkel aide’s USB stick’
Passengers stand on the deck as car ferry Norman Atlantic burns
in the waters off Greece.
French customs officials say
they have found 170 critically
wrapped in sticky tape and
hidden in the secret compartment
of a crate transiting Paris’s main
Charles de Gaulle airport.
The species — known as
“radiated tortoises” — are found
only in Madagascar and prized
by collectors for the unique
pattern on their shell case.
Customs officials said the
tortoises were destined for Laos.
Fifteen of the baby reptiles
have died since their discovery
in the crate carrying sea
cucumbers on December 14 due
to the “particularly unsuitable
conditions of transport,” customs
The sur vivors have been taken
to Tortoise Village in France’s
south-eastern Var region.
“We put them in a warm
place and cleaned them with
disinfectant,” the centre’s director,
Bernard Devaux, said.
“They didn’t have enough water
but they should be rehydrated
slowly to avoid a new shock.”
He described the baby tortoises
as “magnificent but very fragile,
each one has a different shell
Weighing only 20g and
measuring up to 4cm the
tortoises are too small to face a
second international flight and
will probably spend a few years
in France before being returned
The tortoises can live up to 100
years. They are listed as critically
endangered by the International
Union for Conser vation of
Nature. — AFP
Taliban fighters have claimed
victory at the end of 13 years
of Nato’s combat mission in
Afghanistan, ISAF, and the
partial withdrawal of foreign
“ We have not been defeated.
We have not signed any
agreement with the United
States to conclude the war,
then where is the sense that
America put an end to the war?
This means that the US and
its allies have been completely
defeated and are fleeing from the
battlefield,” Taliban spokesman
Zabiul Mujahid said.
The ISAF mission, which began
after the invasion that ended the
Taliban regime in 2001, comes
to a close after the death of 3485
soldiers, 2356 of them from the
Mujahid said that deaths in the
Taliban’s ranks stand at 20,000.
A ceremony in Kabul yesterday
marked the completion of
the gradual withdrawal of
transfers of security from the
350,000 troops to the Afghani
army and police which started
The official end of the ISAF
combat mission will be on
December 31 at midnight, but
Nato will continue its presence
in the country with the Resolute
Support mission, which will
begin on January 1, 2015.
Mujahid said changing
the name of the mission was
camouflaging Nato’s defeat.
In a statement overnight, the
Taliban said that the withdrawal
of ISAF showed that perhaps
the countries that invaded the
country finally realised that the
mission in Afghanistan was “the
most idiotic decision of modern
history”. — EFE
Taliban claims win
as Nato departs
US show insulting
The latest season of American
television spy drama Homeland
is ruffling feathers among
Pakistani officials who are
unhappy at the unflattering
portrayal of the country’s
powerful spy agencies.
Season four of the hit series
starring Claire Danes as troubled
CIA agent Carrie Mathison
revolves around feared militant
group the Haqqani network and
Pakistan’s top spy agency Inter-
Ser vices Intelligence (ISI).
A Pakistani official said
yesterday the show “insulted”
the country’s security personnel
by suggesting the ISI protected
militants at the expense of its
Pakistani cable networks have
refused to screen Homeland from
its first season onwards, saying it
is against the country’s “national
interest ”. — AFP
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