Migrant smugglers abandon boats at sea

The Mexican navy said Monday it has detected a disturbing trend of migrant smugglers abandoning boatloads of people off the coast of Baja California.

The navy said that each month it has found an average of 10 to 12 boats, with a total of about 150 migrants. It did not say when the discoveries began or why smugglers might have adopted the tactic. However, smugglers sometimes demand payment upfront, leaving them little incentive to get people to the United States.

The navy said the boats’ captains boarded other craft, telling migrants that motors or other equipment had broken down and they would be back. The migrants were then left adrift, often in crowded boats without food or radios, putting their lives at risk.

As the United States tightens security across land borders
with Mexico, smugglers are increasingly turning to the California coast to take people and drugs north of the border.

— Associated Press

Famine left 260,000 dead, report says

The 2011 Somali famine killed an estimated 260,000 people, half of them age 5 or younger, according to a new report to be published this week that more than doubles previous death toll estimates, officials told the Associated Press.

The aid community believes that tens of thousands of people died needlessly because the international community was slow to respond to early signs of approaching hunger in East Africa in late 2010 and early 2011.

The toll was exacerbated by extremist militants from al-
Shabab who banned food aid
deliveries to the areas of south-
central Somalia that they controlled. Those militants have also made figuring out an accurate death toll extremely difficult.

The report is being made
public Thursday by FEWSNET,
a famine early-warning system funded by the U.S. Agency for
International Development and by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia, which is funded by the United States and Britain.

— Associated Press

Karzai confirms CIA monthly payments

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that his national security team has been receiving payments from the U.S. government for the past 10 years.

Karzai confirmed the payments when he was asked about an article published in the New York Times saying the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags.

During a news conference in Helsinki, where he was on an official visit, Karzai said the welcome monthly payments were not a “big amount” but were a “small amount,” although he did not disclose the sums. He said they were used to give assistance to the wounded and sick, to pay rent for housing and for other “operational” purposes.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to comment on the report, referring questions to the CIA, which also declined to comment.

— Associated Press

Seven die in Bagram crash: The U.S.-led military coalition says seven people died when a civilian cargo aircraft crashed at Bagram Airfield, north of the Afghan capital. In a statement, the coalition confirmed that all seven civilian crew members were killed in Monday’s crash. The Taliban quickly asserted responsibility for the crash. But the coalition denied that assertion, saying in a statement that there was no militant activity during the time of the crash. The coalition said the cause of the accident is being investigated.

Arrests continue in China’s Xin­jiang region: Police have arrested more suspects in connection with a clash between authorities and assailants that left 21 people dead in the western region of Xinjiang, Chinese state media reported Monday. Eight suspects already were in custody after last Tuesday’s clash, which killed 15 police officers and local officials and six assailants. The death toll was the highest for a single incident in months in Xinjiang, which sees recurrent outbreaks of violence pitting members of the Turkic Muslim Uighur group against the authorities and majority ethnic Han Chinese migrants.

— From news services