Archive for April, 2010


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Islamic militant attacks leave 15 dead in Philippines

AFP

AFP – Wednesday, April 14

ISABELA, Philippines (AFP) – – Al Qaeda-linked militants in police uniforms set off bombs and fired at civilians on a strife-torn Philippine island Tuesday in violence that left 15 people dead, officials said.

The gunmen detonated two home-made bombs near a church and a school sports grandstand in Isabela city on Basilan island, in the latest show of force by the Abu Sayyaf network, which is blamed for the nation's worst terrorist attacks.

“I think (the attack) is meant to create havoc…. Definitely it falls under terrorism,” Major General Juancho Sabban, head of the Philippine Marines, told reporters in Manila.

Isabela city mayor Cherry Akbar told reporters that 15 people were confirmed dead, including five militants who were apparently killed by one of their own bomb blasts.

Six civilians were also killed in the explosions, while three soldiers and a policeman were killed in gun battles with the militants, Akbar said.

At least 25 militants wearing police uniforms were involved in the attacks, according to the region's military chief, Lieutenant General Ben Dolorfino.

However Dolorfino said the Abu Sayyaf's main goal may have actually been to kidnap a high-profile person in Isabela, and that the explosions could have been intended as a diversion. Related article: Abu Sayyaf an enduring threat in Philippines.

“It looks like they were planning to kidnap someone but they did not expect our troops to react immediately,” Dolorfino said, adding he did not know the target of the suspected abduction plot.

The militants sprayed bullets at terrified civilians scrambling for safety, and engaged in a gun battle with security forces on the outskirts of Isabela that lasted for at least three hours, according to military chiefs.

via Islamic militant attacks leave 15 dead in Philippines – Yahoo! Philippines News.

Giant lizard discovered in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Researchers have concluded that a giant, golden-spotted monitor lizard discovered in the forested mountains of the Philippines six years ago is a new species, according to a study released Wednesday.

The 6.5-foot (2-meter) -long lizard was first spotted in 2004 in the Sierra Madre mountains on the main island of Luzon when local researchers saw local Agta tribesmen carrying one of the dead reptiles.

But it took until last year to determine it was a new species. After capturing an adult, researchers from the University of Kansas and the National Museum of the Philippines obtained DNA samples that helped confirm the lizard was new to science.

The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard or Varanus bitatawa feasts on fruits and snails rather than carcasses, unlike many monitors, including its larger relative, the Komodo dragon, according to American and Filipino researchers who wrote about the discovery in Wednesday's peer-reviewed Royal Society journal Biology Letters. It spends much of its time in the treetops and has unique claws that allow it to reach its favorite fruits.

“I knew as soon as I saw the animal that it was something special,” Luke Welton, a graduate student at the University of Kansas and one of the co-authors of the study, said in a statement.

It is not that unusual to find a new species of tiny fish, frog or insect these days. But Welton and his colleagues said it was a “rare occurrence” to discover such a large vertebrate, particularly on an island hit by deforestation and nearby development. They compared their find to the 1993 discovery of the forest-dwelling Saola ox in Vietnam and a new monkey species discovered in the highlands of Tanzania in 2006.

“The discovery of such a large, charismatic, and strikingly distinct new species of vertebrate in the unexplored forests of the northern Philippines accentuates the degree to which the diversity of this global conservation hotspot is still poorly known,” Mundita Lim, chief of the country's Department of Environment and Natural Resources Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, said in a statement.

More!

via Giant lizard discovered in the Philippines – Yahoo! News.

California surfer receives whale of an escort during marathon paddle

By: Pete Thomas, GrindTV.com

When Southern California surfer Jodie Nelson set out Sunday to standup-paddle nearly 40 miles from Santa Catalina Island to Dana Point, she hoped it'd inspire her best friend, who has been involved in a long and exhausting struggle with breast cancer, to keep fighting.

Nelson, 34, whose mother and aunt are cancer survivors, also hoped her nine-hour test of endurance would raise money for two cancer charities and heighten awareness about a plight affecting millions of women.

What Nelson could not have known was that a 30-foot minke whale would swim alongside her 14-foot board and accompany the surfer as she stood and paddled for two of those nine hours, thus joining the cause.

“It was a day that all of us involved will never forget,” Nelson said, in reference to Angela Robinson, her best friend, and the rest of a crew aboard an escort boat.

Minke whales are not commonly seen off Southern California, and those spotted by boaters are often elusive. So when a mammal Nelson named Larry joined her endeavor to become the first woman to make this long paddle, she took it as a sign.

via California surfer receives whale of an escort during marathon paddle, by Pete Thomas.