7 security personnel abducted in Sinai

Suspected militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula abducted seven security personnel as they headed to Cairo for holidays early Thursday, security officials said. It was the first such kidnapping of security forces in the volatile region.

The officials said masked gunmen ambushed two taxis at gunpoint outside the city of el-Arish, the capital of North Sinai governorate, fleeing with five policemen and one border guard. The taxi drivers reported that a seventh security officer was also kidnapped, but officials said they are still trying to identify him.

Security in the Sinai has deteriorated sharply in the two years since the overthrow of longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, as it has elsewhere across Egypt. The military has carried out sweeps in the peninsula since a militant attack on its troops left 16 soldiers dead in August 2012, but the attackers have not been apprehended or publicly identified.

— Associated Press

Drills staged amid row with Philippines

Taiwan’s military on Thursday conducted exercises in waters between Taiwan and the Philippines, close to the spot where Filipino coast guard personnel opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing vessel last week, killing a 65-year-old crew member.

The drill underscored Taiwan’s anger over the incident, which has dominated local media coverage. It also seems certain to benefit President Ma Ying-jeou, desperately in need of a public relations victory following a protracted economic slowdown.

On Wednesday, Taiwan’s prime minister brushed aside an apology by Manila — the second in 24 hours — as insufficient and insincere. As a result, Taiwanese sanctions imposed on the Philippines, including a travel warning, will all remain in effect.

— Associated Press

Army enforces emergency rule in Nigeria: Cellphone service was cut off in areas of northeastern Nigeria as jet fighters streaked through the sky and more soldiers were deployed to fight Islamist extremists waging a bloody insurgency. Witnesses
reported low-flying jet fighters over Yola, the capital of Adamawa state, which President Goodluck Jonathan placed under emergency rule Tuesday along with Borno and Yobe states. However, soldiers have met “no resistance” from extremists who have taken over villages and small towns in the region, a military spokesman said.

14 Iranian exiles leave Iraq:
The first group of Iranian opposition group exiles has moved to Albania from a former U.S. military base near Baghdad as part of a relocation process, the United Nations said. Envoy Martin Kobler said 14 members of the Mujahideen-e Khalq, or MEK, arrived in Albania late Wednesday, the first of 210 residents accepted by the Albanian government. The State Department praised Albania for hosting the MEK members and urged the group to cooperate fully with the relocation process.

2 Malaysians jailed in death of Cambodian maid: A Malaysian court sentenced a couple to 24 years in prison for fatally starving their Cambodian housemaid. Police found the 57-pound body of Mey Sichan at the couple’s home in Malaysia’s northern Penang state in April last year, six months after Cambodia stopped sending women to work as maids in Malaysia because of alleged abuse.

Cyclone kills 45 in Asia: Cyclone Mahasen weakened into a tropical storm and then dissipated, causing far less damage than had been feared as it passed over Bangladesh and largely spared Burma, officials said. Still, at least 45 deaths related to Mahasen were reported in Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka.

— From news services