Web photos suggest aviation advance
Photos leaked online that appear to show a prototype of China's first stealth fighter jet were discussed in state news media Wednesday - a move that supports claims that the country's military aviation program is advancing faster than expected.
Both the English- and Chinese-language editions of the state-run Global Times ran front-page articles on the photos of an apparent J-20 fighter, along with extensive reports on the buzz the pictures generated overseas.
Aviation Web sites said the photos were taken from outside a fence at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute's airfield in southwestern China and appeared to show the aircraft in a taxiing test.
A Pentagon spokesman said the United States was not worried about the reports.
"It is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter," Marine Col. Dave Lapan said, adding that the Chinese were "still having difficulties with their fourth-generation fighter."
A Chinese stealth fighter has long been considered an inevitability. Deputy air force chief He Weirong told state broadcaster CCTV in November 2009 that such an aircraft would begin flight testing soon and could enter service within eight to 10 years.
- Associated Press
Army still probing alleged gas death
The Israeli army, which had questioned reports by Palestinian witnesses and doctors that tear gas led to the death of a woman after a protest against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank last Friday, said Wednesday that it is still conducting an inquiry into the death and will make an announcement upon its completion.
Military officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, had earlier suggested that an existing medical condition might have contributed to the death of Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36. Family members said she had complained late last month of dizziness and headaches but had been treated successfully for an inner ear infection after a CT brain scan showed normal results.
Witnesses said Abu Rahma, who had walked out of her home in the village of Bilin to watch stone-throwing skirmishes between local youths and Israeli soldiers, was overcome by tear gas that wafted toward her, causing her to vomit and foam at the mouth. A report from the Ramallah hospital where she was treated said that she died of gas inhalation and that she had no history of chronic disease.
The army said the Palestinian medical reports "raise many questions and doubts," and it described Palestinian cooperation in probing the incident as "poor."
- Joel Greenberg
Arrests of terrorism suspects announced
Morocco said Wednesday that it had arrested a member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) along with 26 other people planning to attack security services and rob banks using arms they had hidden in an area of disputed Western Sahara.
The Interior Ministry said security forces recently broke up the 27-member cell and had discovered weapons caches in Amghala, an oasis in Western Sahara.
It also said the cell members also planned to send recruits "to AQIM camps in Algeria and Mali to undergo paramilitary training before returning to Morocco to execute their destructive plans."
Mohamed Darif, an expert on Islamist militancy in Morocco, said the arrests are the first to suggest the existence of links between AQIM and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which has been battling for independence for Western Sahara for 35 years. Since AQIM's rise in recent years, the Moroccan government has said that giving territory to the Polisario there could make the region a haven for Islamist militancy.
- Associated Press
N. Korea offers to talk with South: North Korea called for "unconditional and early" talks with South Korea to put an end to months of tensions. Seoul dismissed the offer as insincere and said it is waiting for an apology for two deadly attacks. Earlier, U.S. special envoy Stephen W. Bosworth, who is visiting the region, sought to calm fears of conflict.
Blast roils French Embassy in Mali: An assailant hurled an explosive at France's embassy in Mali's capital, Bamako, late Wednesday in an attack that wounded two Malian security guards. The West African former French colony is one of the countries in which Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates.
- From news services