Six crew held hostage on Canadian jet in Jamaica

A lone gunman held six crew members of a Canadian charter plane hostage after seizing the Cuba-bound jet with 182 people on board following its landing in Jamaica.

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Local and airline officials said all the passengers had been released unharmed, but the six members were still being held inside the CanJet plane at Montego Bay\’s Sangster International Airport. Earlier reports put the number of those held at five.

But CanJet General Manager Ken Woodside clarified to reporters, during a televised news conference early Monday, that the hostage situation involved six crew.

Two of them had apparently locked themselves in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 after the gunman managed to pass security and sneak into the plane after it landed. “Our top priority is the safe release of the remaining crew members,” Woodside said.

“We are providing full cooperation to security officials and the local authorities who are doing everything possible to bring this matter it a peaceful end.”

The identity of the gunman has not been released, but Jamaican Information Minister Daryl Vaz described him to CNN television earlier as a “mentally-challenged youngster,” adding that the events should not be judged “in terms of an international incident.”

“His demand was to go to Cuba,” Jamaican Information Minister Daryl Vaz said of the gunman, who is believed to be a Jamaican in his early 20s.

The minister and the airline said two CanJet crew members had already been released.

No one was injured. Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding flew in to monitor the situation and offer support to passengers, who have been placed at a local hotel.

Golding told reporters his government would make a concerted effort to improve airport security in the aftermath of Sunday\’s breach. Police were negotiating with the hostage-taker with the help of his father in a bid to resolve the standoff, officials said.

Meanwhile, CanJet said in a statement posted on its website that “no harm has come to anyone remaining on board and there has been no damage to the aircraft.”

As police tried to determine how the armed man was able to penetrate security cordons and make his way into the jet, early reports and witness accounts indicated the gunman reached Flight 918 during its layover stop in Montego Bay at about 11:30 pm Sunday.

He entered the airport through a staff entrance with the help of fake identification cards, the reports said.

During the time the passengers and crew were kept hostage, one shot was fired, but it was later confirmed that no one was hurt.

Airport staff members described the gunman as a Latino-looking man, who was wearing a pair of short pants and a black long-sleeve shirt. A large contingent of police and army personnel cordoned off the airport, but officials were not willing to provide any additional details.

Once released by the gunman, Christen Gosslin, a passenger on the flight, told his father by telephone that the gunman demanded cash from the plane\’s occupants, CNN reported.

“The guy wanted to have all their money,” Gosslin\’s father, Alphonse, told the network.

“He (my son) told his girlfriend to take all the money and just take her passport and credit card and put it in her back pocket.” Christen Gosslin was part of a 25-person wedding party, who spoke to his father in New Brunswick, Canada, while waiting for another flight, CNN said.

Another passenger, Brenda Grenier, called her husband and said a man apparently had sneaked aboard the plane that took off from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and had taken hostages, CNN said. Grenier and her daughter were safe, her husband told CNN from his home in Nova Scotia, Canada.

CanJet said that its priority was the “well-being of the passengers and crew who were involved in the incident.” CanJet Airlines Flight 918 was being operated for Transat Tours Canada.

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Ex-CIA head says waterboarding \’works\’

A former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency has insisted that harsh interrogation techniques widely condemned as torture succeeded in battling al-Qaeda and saving American lives, something he characterised as “an inconvenient truth”.

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Michael Hayden, who was replaced as CIA chief earlier this year by President Barack Obama, assailed Obama\’s decision last week to release top secret memos detailing the interrogation techniques as “really dangerous” for US intelligence efforts.

Speaking on the Fox News Sunday program, Hayden rejected claims by critics that methods such as extreme sleep deprivation, waterboarding and the use of insects to provoke fear had proved ineffective in getting information from top members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

“Most of the people who oppose these techniques want to be able to say: \’I don\’t want my nation doing this\’ – which is a pure, honorable position – and \’they didn\’t work anyway\’,” Hayden said.

“The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer; it really did,” Hayden said.

“It\’s what I\’d call, without meaning any irreverence to anybody, \’a really inconvenient truth\’.”

Hayden specifically rejected a weekend report in The New York Times citing CIA officials saying waterboarding and beating of a top al-Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah, yielded no more information than softer interrogation techniques.

“We stand by our story. The critical information we got from Abu Zubaydah came after we began the EIT\’s, enhanced interrogation techniques,” he said.

Hayden said Abu Zubaydah had “clammed up” after providing some “nominal information” under initial questioning.

But under harsher interrogation he “gave up more valuable information”, including tips that led to the capture of another senior al-Qaeda agent, Ramzi Binalshibh, he said.

Hayden also dismissed Obama\’s controversial promise not to seek prosecution of CIA agents or former officials under President George W Bush who authorised or carried out the harsh techniques the government now condemns.

“Oh, God no, it\’s not the end of it,” Hayden said, warning of possible civil lawsuits or congressional probes targeting CIA agents who relied on the Bush-era memos to carry out harsh interrogations.

“There will be more revelations. There will be more commissions. There will be more investigations,” he said.

“And this to an agency, again I\’ll repeat, that is at war and is on the front lines of defending America.”

Hayden also said Obama\’s own CIA director, Leon Panetta, as well as three other former CIA chiefs had warned the White House against releasing the memos outlining US interrogation techniques.

“At the tactical level, what we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al-Qaeda terrorist. That\’s very valuable information,” he said.

Janet Napolitano, Obama\’s homeland security minister, defended the decision.

“When you look at the great public need for accountability and responsibility and transparency here, and when you look at our desire to close the book on this regrettable chapter and move the country forward, it was imperative, really, that the reports be released,” she said on CNN.

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Khmer Rouge chief denies murder charge

A witness at Cambodia\’s UN-backed war crimes court has testified that the former prison chief for the Khmer Rouge regime executed his uncle at a secret jungle camp.

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The prison chief known as Duch – whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav – charged in response that the testimony was fabricated.

Chan Veoun, 56, said he saw the jailer, known as Duch, kill his uncle while he himself was collecting food at the prison camp, M-13, in the early 1970s.

“He was my uncle. He was shot by Duch. He killed him in front of my eyes,” Chan Veoun said, weeping. He did not give a reason for the slaying.

Last month Duch apologised at the start of his trial, accepting blame for overseeing the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime\’s main prison, Tuol Sleng.

He has maintained however that he never personally executed anyone and has only admitted to abusing two people.

Chan Veoun told the court Duch regularly beat prisoners and once stripped a woman to her waist to burn her breasts with a torch soaked in gasoline.

Once, he added, prisoners kept shackled in pits were once left to drown in rainy season floods.

Duch denied his accounts, saying he recognised Chan Veoun but the witness had never worked under him.

“This is a complete fabrication – probably of what he heard and (he) added something on top,” Duch told the court.

“About the crimes committed at (M-13) I cannot forget it. It is a serious matter that affects me psychologically.”

The court has been hearing evidence about M-13, which Duch ran during the 1971 to 1975 Khmer Rouge insurgency against then then US-backed government, to better understand Tuol Sleng\’s organising structure.

The Khmer Rouge were in power in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when Duch is accused of supervising Tuol Sleng prison and sending thousands of people to their deaths in the so-called “Killing Fields.”

The former mathematics teacher has denied assertions by prosecutors that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge\’s iron-fisted rule.

He faces life in jail at the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

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CIA waterboarded 9/11 mastermind 183 times

CIA interrogators waterboarded al-Qaeda\’s September 11 attack mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times and another terror suspect, Abu Zubaydah, 83 times, The New York Times has reported.

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Citing a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum, the newspaper said the agency used the simulated drowning technique on the two Al-Qaeda operatives far more than had been previously reported.

The report recalls that in 2007, former CIA officer John Kiriakou told media organizations that Abu Zubaydah had undergone waterboarding for only 35 seconds before agreeing to tell everything he knew.

Mohammed, the self-described planner of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was captured in Pakistan in March 2003. Zubaydah was caught in 2002.

Last year, Mohammed was charged with war crimes and murder by a US military commission and faces the death penalty if convicted.

The Times said the release of the numbers is likely to become part of the debate about the morality and efficacy of interrogation methods that the Justice Department under the administration of former president George W. Bush declared legal.

President Barack Obama plans to visit Central Intelligence Agency headquarters Monday and make public remarks to employees.

Last week, Obama granted immunity to CIA officers involved in tough terror interrogations as he released graphic memos detailing harsh methods approved by ex-president George W. Bush.

In the documents, Bush-era legal officials argued that such tactics that Obama has since disowned such as simulated drowning, facial slapping, the use of insects to scare prisoners and sleep deprivation did not amount to torture.

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Kiwis lose battle for Middle-earth

The Dark Lord might not have liked Middle-earth and now Lord of the Rings fanatics conclude the New Zealand government feels the same.

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Kiwi Rings fans have lost their latest bid to have local landmarks named after place names from the country\’s Oscar-winning trilogy.

A holiday park operator from Fiordland, in New Zealand\’s deep south, had proposed that a nearby two-kilometre stretch of the Waiau River by the tourist town of Te Anau be renamed Anduin Reach.

The area doubled as the Anduin River in Fellowship of the Ring, with cast members floating downstream in elfin boats.

But the government\’s geographic board, which decides on place names, declined the suggestion and hinted that Kiwis would be hard pressed to get the Rings into the country\’s map books.

“In the case of Anduin Reach, the board noted that Lord of the Rings place names have been declined in the past, and that there is no geographic basis for the area having a name,” the board\’s assistant adviser Jill Remnant wrote.

Rings fan website The One Ring expressed disappointment at the rejection.

“I am afraid the geographic board are no fun when it comes to Tolkien,” it stated.

Motor camp manager Aaron Nicholson, who made the request, was even more frustrated, saying he felt New Zealand politicians had a “strangely negative attitude” towards the Rings movies.

“These movies were a massive success for New Zealand, the director Peter Jackson is still a massive success and we\’ve still got tourists coming here to see where the movies were filmed,” Nicholson said.

“We should be encouraging it, making a fuss about it, and stop being precious about historic relevance.”

Nicholson, who calls himself a Rings “fan but not a nerd”, says he won\’t give up and is uploading footage of the river to fan sites to help build his case.

He says he\’d just call it that anyway, but that authorities would “tear down our signs”.

He hopes the country “gets a little bit more Rings proud” following the filming of the prequel, The Hobbit, to start next year.

“We need to showcase this place better,” the fan said.

“Tourists don\’t just visit for the culture and the adventure. There\’s the Rings, too.”

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