Palu, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — The death toll from the devastating earthquake and tsunami on Indonesia's Sulawesi island neared 2,000 on Monday, but thousands more are believed unaccounted for and officials said search teams plan to stop looking for victims later this week.
The official toll hit 1,948, mostly in the hard-hit city of Palu, said Jamaluddin, an official from the disaster task force who uses one name. He corrected the number during a news conference in Jakarta after initially saying it was 1,944. He said a navy ship had docked in the area and opened a field hospital.
Willem Rampangilei, head of the National Board for Disaster Management, said there could be as many as 5,000 victims still buried in deep mud in Balaroa and Petobo, two of Palu's hardest-hit neighborhoods. But he added that number must be verified by his teams because it is an unofficial figure which came from village heads in the area. The Sept. 28 quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy there. It is too soft to use heavy equipment for recovery, and decomposition of bodies is already advanced.
"It is impossible to rebuild in areas with high liquefaction risk such as Petobo and Balaroa," he said, adding villages there will be relocated.
Talks were underway with religious authorities and surviving family members to decide whether some areas could be turned into mass graves for victims entombed there with monuments built to remember them.
Officials reiterated that the search is expected to end on Thursday. However, the deadline could be extended if needed.
Rampangilei said life is starting to return to normal in some areas affected by the disaster. Immediate food and water needs have been met, and the local government has started to function again. Many schools have been completely destroyed, but he said classes will resume where possible. However, many students are still too scared to return.
Banja Luka, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik won a race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia's three-member presidency Sunday, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago.
Preliminary official results from the election gave Dodik 56 percent of the vote and his main opponent, Mladen Ivanic, 42 percent. The projections were made with 44 percent of ballots counted.
"The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want," Dodik said, adding that voters "punished" his opponent for his "servile policies toward the West."
Ivanic conceded defeat. Complete official returns were expected Monday.
Dodik advocates the eventual separation of Serbs from Bosnia. His election to the three-person presidency, which also has a Muslim member and a Croat member, deals a blow to efforts to strengthen unity in the country, where ethnic divisions fueled the 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
"The number one priority for my job in the future will be the position of the Serb people and Republic of Srpska," Dodik said, referring to the Serb-run mini-state he has led since 2010 and which resulted from a 1995 peace settlement.
The general election was seen as an indicator of Bosnia's future direction: moving toward integration in the European Union and NATO or driven by entrenched rivalries and friction.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had endorsed the openly anti-West Dodik. The United States has imposed sanctions on Dodik for actively obstructing efforts to implement the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian war.
Voters in Sunday's election filled positions in the complex governing system the peace accord created. The country consists of two regional entities — the Serb-run Republika Srpska and a Muslim-Croat federation — with joint institutions in a central government.
Supporters of a unified, multi-ethnic Bosnia found encouragement in the lead a moderate candidate for the Croat position in the tripartite presidency held after the partial count. Zeljko Komsic, had 49 percent, while nationalist contender Dragan Covic had 38 percent.
Covic advocated further fragmentation of Bosnia with the creation of a separate entity for the country's Croats. However, Komsic's likely victory still could trigger discord within the Muslim-Croat federation.
Croat nationalists dispute his legitimacy as a Croat representative, arguing that Komsic was backed overwhelmingly by Muslims. Covic has warned of an "unprecedented crisis."
Sefik Dzaferovic, from the ruling Party of Democratic Action, won the Muslim seat in the presidency.
Along with the Bosnian presidency, voters picked the Serb president, the two entities' parliaments and cantonal authorities during Sunday's election.
More than half of Bosnia's 3.3 million eligible voters cast ballots, election officials said. The campaign was marred by divisive rhetoric and allegations of irregularities that fueled tensions.
Election officials described the voting that took place as "extremely fair."
Lyon, Oct 8 (AP/UNB) — Interpol says a Chinese official who was reported missing has resigned as head of the international police agency. The update came after Beijing announced Meng Hongwei was under investigation in China.
Interpol said Sunday night that Meng had resigned as president of the agency's executive committee, effectively immediately. It did not say why.
Meng is China's vice minister of public security. His whereabouts and status have been mysteries since his wife reported Friday that she had not heard from him since he went to China at the end of September.
The disciplinary organ of China's ruling Communist Party said Sunday night that Meng is "currently under the monitoring and investigation" of China's new anti-corruption body, for unspecified legal violations.
Interpol, based in Lyon, France, said the senior vice president of its executive committee, Kim Jong Yang of South Korea, would become acting president.
Istanbul, Oct 07 (AP/UNB) — Turkish investigators believe a prominent Saudi journalist who contributed to The Washington Post was killed in "a preplanned murder" at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, the Post reported Saturday night, citing two anonymous officials.
One Turkish official also told The Associated Press that detectives' "initial assessment" was that Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, without elaborating. Saudi authorities early Sunday called the allegation "baseless."
Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the last year, vanished Tuesday while on a visit to the consulate. His disappearance has threatened to upend already-fraught relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and it raises new questions about the kingdom and the actions of its assertive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in his columns.
"If the reports of Jamal's murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act," the Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said in a statement. "Jamal was — or, as we hope, is — a committed, courageous journalist. He writes out of a sense of love for his country and deep faith in human dignity and freedom."
The Post cited one anonymous official who said investigators believe a 15-member team "came from Saudi Arabia." The official added: "It was a preplanned murder."
A Turkish official, requesting anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, told the AP earlier Saturday night something similar.
"The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul," the official said. "We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate."
Khashoggi, 59, went missing while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials.
"Jamal is not dead! I don't believe he's been killed!" his fiancée Hatice wrote on Twitter late Saturday night.
Turkey's official Anadolu News Agency said Saturday that the Istanbul public prosecutor's office began a probe into Khashoggi's disappearance Tuesday, immediately after he went missing. It added the investigation over allegations that the writer was detained had "deepened," without elaborating.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency early Sunday morning carried a statement from the Istanbul Consulate that "strongly denounced these baseless allegations, and expressed his doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorized to comment on the issue." It said Saudi Arabia sent a team of investigators to help look into the case.
Khashoggi is a longtime Saudi journalist, foreign correspondent, editor and columnist whose work has been controversial in the past in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom. He went into self-imposed exile in the United States following the ascension of Prince Mohammed, now next in line to succeed his father, the 82-year-old King Salman.
As a contributor to the Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women's rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. All those issues have been viewed as being pushed by Prince Mohammed, who similarly has led roundups of activists, businessmen and others in the kingdom.
"With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform," Khashoggi wrote in his first column for the Post. "But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests."
Khashoggi was known for his interviews and travels with Osama bin Laden between 1987 and 1995, including in Afghanistan, where he wrote about the battle against the Soviet occupation. In the early 1990s, he tried to persuade bin Laden to reconcile with the Saudi royal family and return home from his base in Sudan, but the al-Qaida leader refused.
Khashoggi maintained ties with Saudi elites, including those in its intelligence apparatus, and launched a satellite news channel, Al-Arab, from Bahrain in 2015 with the backing of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The channel was on air for less than 11 hours before it was shut down. Its billionaire backer was detained in the Ritz Carlton roundup overseen by Prince Mohammed in 2017.
The dispute over Khashoggi's disappearance also threatens to reopen rifts between Ankara and Riyadh. Turkey has supported Qatar amid a yearlong boycott by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over a political dispute. Turkey's support of political Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood, also angers leaders in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which label the organization a "terrorist group" threatening their hereditarily ruled nations.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate's Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed shock over the news.
"If this is true — that the Saudis lured a U.S. resident into their consulate and murdered him — it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia," Murphy wrote on Twitter.
Press freedom groups likewise have decried Khashoggi's disappearance.
"If Khashoggi was indeed murdered inside a diplomatic facility, it is an act of terror that echoes Russian and Chinese tactics of extraterritorial, extrajudicial attacks on dissidents, intended to intimidate any who would speak out against the Saudi government, no matter where they may be, and giving the lie to official narratives of 'reform' in Saudi Arabia," said Summer Lopez, PEN America's senior director of free expression programs.
"If Saudi authorities wish to counter these claims, they must produce Khashoggi immediately. If the killing is confirmed, those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable," she added.
Beijing, Oct 7 (AP/UNB) — Authorities in eastern China say 2 people have been killed and 16 wounded after a knife-wielding man drove a vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians.
The Beilun district government in Ningbo city says the suspect identified only by his surname, Wang, was apparently enraged by what it called a "personal conflict" when he committed the act on Saturday night.
It says the case is under investigation and no other details were given.
That follows an incident last month in which 11 people were killed and 44 hospitalized after a man drove an SUV deliberately into people at a plaza in the central province of Hunan, before jumping out and attacking victims with a dagger and shovel.
Such attacks are generally blamed on mental illness, alienation from society or personal disputes.