Missing Aussie bomber \’found\’ in Vietnam

It\’s been 39 years since Australian airmen Michael Herbert and Robert Carver vanished along with their plane after a bombing mission in Vietnam.

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But investigators are convinced they\’ve found the aircraft and hope it might lead to a long-awaited return home for the last two Australian servicemen missing in action in Vietnam.

Defence Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said the Australian defence team was confident it had located the wreckage of the Canberra bomber in thick jungle in remote Quang Nam province, near the border with Laos.

No human remains were found but a number of military artefacts were discovered, including a badge unique to the Royal Australian Air Force\’s 2 Squadron.

The next step will be an archaeological dig to conclusively determine if there are any human remains at the site.

These brave airmen gave their lives in the service of their nation and locating the crash site is an important step in accounting for them,” Mr Snowdon said in a statement.

He said investigators had spent a week in the isolated province gathering information and then hiking to the wreck site, reaching it last Wednesday. Relatives of Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver have been advised of the find, and RAAF officials will keep them informed of further developments.

The two men vanished on November 3, 1970. They had conducted a bombing mission and were returning to base when their bomber disappeared from radar screens about 65km southwest of Da Nang.

There was no distress call and subsequent searches found no trace of the plane. When Australian troops withdrew from Vietnam, six dead remained behind, their bodies lost in the jungle.

That was until the group Operation Aussies Home, led by Vietnam veteran Jim Bourke, located the remains of Lance Corporal Richard Parker and Private Peter Gillson in 2007, buried near where they had died during fighting in 1965.

This prompted a resurgence of official interest in finding Lance Corporal John Gillespie, killed in a helicopter crash in 1971, and SASR Private David Fisher, who fell from a rope as he was being evacuated by helicopter in 1969.

The remains of all four men were returned home and reinterred with full military honours.

The search for officers Herbert and Carver always appeared the most difficult because the potential search area was so vast.

Mr Snowdon praised the work of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation for its use of innovative modelling techniques to refine the search area, and the Army History Unit for its exhaustive and skilled research.

“Invaluable assistance has also been given by a number of former North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers and their commanders as well as many local villagers and their compassion and commitment in assisting us is humbling,” he said.

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Marysville golfers tee off for first time since fires

Marysville\’s golfing community, whose golf club was damaged in Victoria\’s bushfires, were still able to enjoy a game of golf after an invitation from the Sandhurst Golf Club.

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Funds raised from today\’s Marysvile-Sandhurst Challenge will go toward re-establishing the Marysville\’s golfing fraternity.

Sunny skies in Melbourne provided a perfect day for the Marysville golfers, who gathered for the first time as a group since Black Saturday.

Many had been playing golf at their own club that fateful day.

Two of the club\’s junior members, James and Mathew Liesfield, died in the fires. Some of the money raised from today\’s event will go towards establishing a Junior Golf Trust, named the two brothers, to support up and coming players in the Marysville community.

The ringing of the Captain\’s Bell signalled a minutes silence for the bushfire victims, before the President of the Marysville Golf Club hoisted the flag.

It\’s hoped about $12,000 will be raised from today\’s event but several hundred thousand more is needed to get the Marysville Golf Club up and running again, although it\’s hoped nine holes will be playable soon.

Nick Jans, President of the Marysville Golf Club praised the strengh the marysville community.

“We were wounded, but not crippled, and with the right kind of management and the right kind of investment and technical support we can get it going again and that\’s really important to Marysville as a whole”.

It\’s envisaged the Marysville-Sandhurst Challenge will become an annual event.

Meantime at the Springvalley Golf Club, police and emergency services workers joined bushfire survivors in a pro-am event.

About 60 people took part in today\’s event, including football legend, Kevin Bartlett, and Melbourne personality John Blackman.

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Detention protest \’a mystery\’

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship still does not know what triggered a violent protest by illegal Chinese immigrants at Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre in Melbourne\’s west.

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About 20 detainees went on a destructive spree, wrecking furniture at the centre in Hampstead Road about 8pm (AEST) on Monday.

Emergency crews from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade were placed on stand-by outside the facility as detention services provider G4S brought the situation under control.

When asked what triggered the unrest, an immigration spokesman told AAP: “Their reasons were their own”.

“There was some property damage but the detention services provider got it under control pretty quickly,” the spokesman said. The protesters were among 39 illegal immigrants detained in March at a Warrnambool abattoir.

Emergency authorities were placed on standby outside the centre, but staff inside managed to bring the unrest under control. No one was injured.

The damage was estimated at around 5,000 dollars, the immigration department said.

Refugees \’uncertain about their future\’

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said many detainees in Australia\’s mainland immigration centres were Chinese who faced an uncertain future.

“They spend a long time in detention waiting for decisions on their refugee claim,” Mr Rintoul told AFP.

“There\’s a lack of transparency, and many of them are getting caught up in the technicalities of making a claim.”

Mr Rintoul said the prospect of returning to China was notably unsettling for those who considered themselves democracy activists or were followers of the Falun Gong religious group.

Australia\’s refugee policy has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, especially after five asylum seekers died and dozens more were injured in an explosion on a boat off the northwest coast last week.

Last year, the centre-left government scrapped a widely-criticised system that often resulted in asylum seekers, including children, being locked up for years.

The opposition conservatives have blamed the softer policy for an increase in the number of boatpeople making for Australia\’s shores.

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Zuma confident ahead of election

South Africa\’s likely next president Jacob Zuma is confident of a landslide win in a general election, brushing aside concerns that corruption charges had dented his campaign.

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Polls predict his African National Congress (ANC) would take 67 per cent of the vote in Wednesday\’s polls, making Zuma a shoo-in for president when parliament meets in early May to elect a new head of state.

The 67-year-old former anti-apartheid activist said he was confident of a “huge and decisive mandate” and moved to dispel doubts about his integrity after graft charges against him were dropped only two weeks ago.

\’No cloud\’ around Zuma

“There\’s absolutely no cloud. I\’ve never seen a cloud around me,” Zuma told reporters at a final pre-election media briefing.

Prosecutors argued that political meddling had compromised the legal case against Zuma, but insisted they remained confident of the case against him. Zuma has repeatedly insisted that the case no longer matters.

Election authorities expect a record turnout, with more than 23 million people registered to vote.

“All of our 19,726 stations will be open at 7:00 am on Wednesday,” Independent Electoral Commission spokeswoman Kate Bapela told AFP.

“At this stage we do not foresee any disruptions or hiccups,” she said.

The build-up to the country\’s fourth democratic elections has been the most energetic since the 1994 polls which swept Nelson Mandela to power and ended white minority rule.

Middle class mistrust

Speculation is rife about a Zuma presidency. While revered by the poor, he is distrusted by the middle class because of his tainted image and fears over strong ties to the ANC\’s leftist partners.

The ANC leader, who was jailed for a decade alongside Mandela, has pushed campaign themes of anti-corruption and good governance, and on Tuesday promised a smooth transition to a new government.

“We reiterate that we will use our majority responsibly and will not ride roughshod over the rights of the people, or bulldoze other parties into submission,” he said.

President Kgalema Motlanthe, viewed as the ANC\’s bench-warmer for Zuma after the ouster of Thabo Mbeki last September, insisted that South Africa\’s democracy remained strong, despite a series of scandals.

Economic woes \’overstated\’

“Our democracy is vibrant and those doomsayers who have been predicting our democracy is floundering will be made to eat humble pie,” he said.

However, the ANC\’s two-thirds majority in parliament – allowing it to introduce constitutional changes – is being challenged by a new breakaway group, the Congress of the People (COPE), formed by a splinter group of Mbeki supporters.

COPE is among 40 parties to contest the elections, 26 at national level and 14 at provincial level.

An Ipsos Markinor poll on Tuesday predicted the ANC to win 67 per cent of the vote, the opposition Democratic Alliance 13 per cent and COPE 11 per cent.

While some analysts have said the ANC\’s super majority could be lost, Zuma insisted that COPE, which has tried to eat into the ANC support base, will not make significant electoral inroads.

Zuma received a major endorsement when 90-year-old Mandela made a rare public appearance at a mass rally in Johannesburg at the weekend.

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Rebels say Sri Lanka troops kill 1,000 civilians

The Tamil Tigers have accused Sri Lankan government forces of killing more than 1,000 civilians and wounding another 2,300 during heavy fighting the previous day.

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The island\’s defence ministry, however, rejected the allegation and said there had been no military attacks against Tamil civilians in the remaining patch of land still in the hands of the Tigers in the island\’s northeast.

“Over 1,000 civilians were killed and nearly 2,300 civilians were injured,” the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) said in a statement. “And today, a bloodbath is prevailing.”

Sri Lanka rebels ignore deadline to surrender

Earlier, the defence ministry said the Sri Lankan army seized more ground from the Tamil Tigers as the rebels ignored a deadline to surrender.

The government says its troops were poised to defeat the LTTE, a hardened guerrilla group that has been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland on the ethnic Sinhalese-majority island since the 1970s.

The defence ministry said nearly 50,000 men, women and children managed to escape on Monday after troops punctured rebel defences at Puttumatalan, inside the rebel-held area in the island\’s northeast.

It also said 17 civilians who tried to escape from rebel-held territory on Monday had been killed by the guerrillas while another 373 had been wounded. The pro-rebel Tamilnet website reported the area was littered with the bodies of hundreds of civilians it said were killed in government shelling.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was concerned that the final offensive against the LTTE could lead to a “dramatic increase” in civilian casualties, a concern echoed by the UN.

“The situation is nothing short of catastrophic. Ongoing fighting has killed or wounded hundreds of civilians who have only minimal access to medical care,” ICRC\’s Director of Operations Pierre Kraehenbuehl said in Geneva.

In Washington, a US official warned on Monday that time was running out for a deal that he hoped would bring lasting peace to Sri Lanka.

Michael Owen, the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said Sri Lanka should offer a package in which the Tigers hand in their arms, possibly to a third party, in exchange for amnesty for low-level cadres.

During the surrender, both sides would hold fire and let civilians leave, he said.

“We are running out of time,” Owen told the Brookings Institution think-tank.

“Really, there is literally only a couple of days to try to get this finalised.” Sri Lanka\’s government has resisted calls for any international intervention and for a prolonged pause in the military campaign to minimise the humanitarian suffering.

The government estimates show another 30,000 civilians could still be held by the Tigers but the United Nations says the number could be twice as high and warned Tuesday that an all-out assault risked a bloodbath.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the escape of the civilians but was “deeply concerned” about those still trapped, his office said. Journalists are barred from working in the north, making it impossible to verify the rival claims independently.

“If fighting continues and if the LTTE refuses to allow people to leave the conflict zone, then we face the intolerable inevitability of seeing many more children killed,” said UNICEF\’s South Asia regional director, Daniel Toole.

The Tigers have not formally responded to the surrender call but renewed their call for an unconditional ceasefire — something the government has already rejected.

The crisis has sparked protests in Europe and expressions of concern by UN and human rights groups.

In Paris, French police arrested 210 people Monday when a rally by Tamils turned violent as demonstrators threw bottles at security forces and smashed windscreens.

In London, thousands of Tamils blocked some of the city\’s busiest streets, demonstrating outside parliament and calling for an immediate ceasefire.

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