World Digest: Nov. 13, 2013

November 13, 2013
BRITAIN
Police say spy in bag probably died alone

A spy whose naked, decomposing body was found inside a padlocked gym bag at his apartment probably died in an accident with no one else involved, British police said Wednesday — a tentative conclusion that is unlikely to calm conspiracy theories around the bizarre case.

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt conceded that the facts in the death of Gareth Williams, whose body was found in a bag in his bathtub in August 2010, could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt. Williams’s family said they still believe he was slain.

A coroner’s inquest found last year that Williams had probably been killed by another person in a “criminally meditated act.”

“The reality is that for both hypotheses, there exist evidential contradictions and gaps in our understanding,” Hewitt said.

Williams, a cyberwarfare expert, worked for Britain’s GCHQ, an eavesdropping service, and was attached to the overseas espionage agency MI6.

— Associated Press

AFGHANISTAN
Opium production soars, U.N. reports

Afghanistan’s opium production surged this year to record levels, despite international efforts over the past decade to wean the country off the narcotics trade, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations’ drug control agency.

The harvest this past May resulted in a staggering 6,060 tons of opium, 49 percent higher than last year and more than the combined output of the rest of the world. Even Afghan provinces with some past success in combating poppy cultivation saw those trends reversed, according to the annual report of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

The withdrawal of foreign troops next year is likely to make matters even worse, the agency’s representative in Kabul said.

— Associated Press

SYRIA
Assad’s forces take Damascus suburb

Syrian troops captured a contested suburb of Damascus on Wednesday as the government forged ahead with a punishing offensive that already has resulted in the capture of four other opposition strongholds south of the capital, state media said.

For more than a year, much of the belt of neighborhoods and towns just south of Damascus has been a rebel bastion and an arms conduit for the opposition. But President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Iraqi militants, have made inroads in the area in recent weeks.

The town of Hejeira became the latest rebel-held suburb to fall into government hands, although the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said the army was still battling rebels on the outskirts.

— Associated Press

CANADA
Toronto mayor faces new accusations

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who admits smoking crack cocaine, faced new allegations in police documents released Wednesday that he took prostitutes to his office, guzzled vodka in his car and made racial slurs to a taxi driver.

The allegations, part of files released by an Ontario court, were made in police interviews with former Ford staff members. Police have said there isn’t enough evidence to warrant charges.

Also Wednesday, Ford said he had bought illegal drugs within the past two years. The statement came in answer to questions at a meeting where city councilors passed a nonbinding motion asking him to take a leave of absence to address his “personal issues.” Ford has refused to resign.

— Bloomberg News

Morsi calls for reversal of Egypt’s coup: Ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi accused the military chief who deposed him of treason in a message from prison read by lawyers, saying the country cannot return to stability until the coup is reversed and those behind it are tried. The statement, part of a bid by Morsi to rally his supporters, came a day before Egypt’s 3-month-old state of emergency was to be lifted.

21 nations put focus on polio: Some 21 nations in the Middle East and nearby regions have made the eradication of polio an emergency priority and recognized that Pakistan is a key part of the problem, the World Health Organization said. In a joint resolution, which Pakistan also approved, the nations called on Pakistan to urgently vaccinate all its children to prevent the virus from spreading internationally.

Feared death toll rises after storm in Somalia: The United Nations says more than 100 people are feared dead and hundreds unaccounted for after a rare tropical cyclone hit Somalia’s northern region of Puntland on Sunday. Officials say communication lines and road access have been severed, hampering delivery of assistance.

Australia’s Rudd retires from politics: Kevin Rudd, who was twice Australia’s prime minister before losing the Sept. 7 election, announced his retirement from politics. The 56-year-old former Labor Party leader plans to quit his lower-house seat.

— From news services

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