Thailand – Plane Crash: Thai officials say a plane has crashed on the southern resort island of Phuket. Many of the 123 passengers are feared dead or injured.
Local television stations say the Thai-operated budget airliner broke in two after crashing onto the airport runway in bad weather today (Sunday).
A civil aviation official (Chaisak Angsuwan) told a local television channel (TiTV) that heavy rain likely hindered the pilot's visibility.
The plane was flying from the capital, Bangkok. Officials say some of the passengers were foreigners.
Laos – US Religion: A U.S. State Department official says Laos has made progress in respecting religious freedom, but he notes that laws protecting this freedom are arbitrarily applied in some areas.
John Hanford, the U.S. ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, says some minority Christians in Buddhist-dominated Laos have been pressured to renounce their faith. He says authorities also have refused to register Methodists.
Hanford said although some churches have reopened after forced closures, about 40 churches remain shut in Savannakhet province.
Hanford made the comments this past week in Washington during a briefing about the State Department's annual report on religious freedom.
The report says some Protestant Christians in Laos were threatened with arrest or forceful eviction from their villages. It says Protestants also were forbidden from gathering to worship, or were "re-educated" when found actively proselytizing.
The report highlights the case of a Christian man in Salavan province in Laos who was arrested on April 1, 2006 for refusing to renounce his faith. He was kept under house arrest until late July 2006.
The U.S. State Department says the Prime Minister's Decree on Religious Practice has contributed to greater religious tolerance since its passage in 2002. However, the U.S. says authorities in Laos have increasingly used the decree's many conditions to restrict some aspects of religious practice.
Iraq: Iraqi police say a suicide bomber killed at least five people and wounded at least 10 others today (Sunday) at an outdoor cafe in the northern town of Tuz Khurmato.
Officials in the ethnically mixed town say the cafe was serving food during daylight hours in the holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.
The attack follows a statement by an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group announcing plans for a new offensive during Ramadan, which began Thursday.
The group known as the Islamic State of Iraq threatened to kill Iraqi Sunni Arab tribal leaders who cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi forces.
On Saturday, Iraqi authorities said a suicide car bomber killed at least 10 people and wounded 15 others in southwestern Baghdad.
US – War Rally: Thousands of anti-war protesters have rallied in Washington to demand an end to the war in Iraq, the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the impeachment of President Bush.
War veterans, military families and at least five thousand other opponents of U.S. military involvement in Iraq chanted anti-war slogans as they marched from the White House to Capitol Hill Saturday.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, one of the keynote speakers at a rally before the march, accused the Bush administration of carrying out torture, kidnapping and other human rights abuses.
Clark was joined by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed while serving in Iraq. Sheehan told VOA that she believes most Iraqi people would let American troops withdraw from their country with honor.
About one thousand counter-demonstrators lined the route of the anti-war march, waving American flags and shouting their support for U.S. troops in Iraq.
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