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7.1-magnitude Earthquake Jolts Japan

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Japan has been hit by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which struck at 11:07 p.m. local time (9.07 a.m. ET), was located 73.9 kms northeast of Namie, a coastal town about two hours from Fukushima.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said at least 50 people were injured and the quake knocked multiple power plants offline. No tsunami warning was issued for Saturday’s earthquake.

Some 830,000 households in the Kanto region, which includes greater Tokyo, and about 90,000 households in Tohoku region, were without power following Saturday’s quake, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, said.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency says it considers Saturday’s earthquake off the east coast to be an aftershock of the deadly 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the same area almost 10 years ago.

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said although the damage is still being assessed, no major casualties have been reported.

However, he asked residents in the affected area to stay indoors and be prepared for aftershocks.

The March 11, 2011, earthquake caused the country’s worst nuclear disaster when three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted down, releasing radioactive materials into the air and forcing more than 100,000 people to be evacuated.

More than 20,000 people died or went missing in the quake and tsunami, while hundreds of thousands more lost their homes.

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Asia

North and South Korea Restore Cross-border Communications

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In a surprise announcement, North and South Korea said Tuesday that they had restored previously severed cross-border communications, a move that could bolster prospects for stalled nuclear diplomacy.

The development comes more than a year after Pyongyang blew up ties — and an inter-Korean building that had been symbolic of the relationship.

The two Koreas, which remain technically in a state of war, said that the decision to restore links had come after a series of personal letters were exchanged by their leaders, starting in April, in an attempt to shore up ties.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement that the two sides had reopened all inter-Korean communication lines as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“The top leaders of the north and the south agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cutoff inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters,” the agency said.

“The restoration of the communication liaison lines will have positive effects on the improvement and development of the north-south relations,” it added.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office also noted that the two sides had exchanged personal letters, and characterized the moves as a first step toward improving ties.

Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have held three summits, though inter-Korean relations were essentially cut off in June last year after the North unilaterally ended all official military and political communication links with the South.

The North Korean regime had cited Seoul’s alleged failure to crack down on activists who had used balloons to float anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

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Asia

Myanmar’s Ethnic Shanni Military Leader Assassinated

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Major General Sao Khun Kyaw, the second-in-command of the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) has succumbed to gunshot wounds after an assassin shot him at close range.

Colonel Hsur Sai Tun said Maj-Gen Sao Khun Kyaw, an ethnic Shanni from Mohnyin Township in Kachin State died on Thursday.

“His security team was attacked and then he was shot by the assassin. Only he was killed and one of our other members was injured. We killed the assassin.

“There was no personal grudge, he was killed by Myanmar’s army,” he said, declining to comment on evidence of the assassin’s links to the junta.

The spokesman said the group is still investigating the assassination.

Maj-Gen Sao Khun Kyaw joined the armed struggle following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and moved to Kachin Independence Army territory.

He was appointed vice-chairman of the northern section of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, responsible for military affairs.

Major General Sao Khun Kyaw, widely known as Yebaw Than Chaung, deputy leader of the Shanni Nationalities Army

He was accused of being the key perpetrator of the 1992 killing of students in the front’s Pajaung camp, where 35 of 106 detained front members were executed between August 1991 and May 1992, accused of being government spies.

Some died during torture and others were summarily executed, including 15 suspects on Feb. 12, 1992.

Extensive torture and extrajudicial killings followed as leaders of the northern wing of the student army formed after the 1988 crackdown attempted to extract confessions from detainees.

Sao Khun Kyaw then left the front and joined the Restoration Council of Shan State, which was formed in 1999.

He worked as a central committee member in the armed group and was promoted to colonel.

In 2006, he was arrested by Myanmar’s military in Nam Kham Township, northern Shan State, on his way to Kachin State to join the SNA. Sao Khun Kyaw was given four death sentences.

He was released from prison, among many prisoners during the April 2018 presidential pardon, and returned to the SNA as the armed group’s deputy.

The SNA said it was formed in 1989 to fight for political equality, self-determination for the ethnic Shanni community and to establish a Shanni state.

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Suicide Bombers Blow up Church in Indonesia

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An explosion shook a Roman Catholic cathedral compound in the eastern Indonesian city of Makassar on Sunday morning, shattering the calm of Palm Sunday, a holy day for Christians.

The blast took place around 10:20 a.m. at the gate to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral compound, said Inspector General Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono, the Indonesian National Police spokesman.

No churchgoers were killed, but at least 14 people were being treated for injuries at Makassar hospitals, Mr. Argo said.

Local police had previously said the bomber had acted alone.

Authorities were looking into which radical networks the bombers came from and whether the attack was linked to recent arrests of suspected militants, national police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

In January, a counter-terrorism unit raided a militant hideout in Makassar and killed two men suspected by police of involvement in twin bombings at a Philippine church in 2019 that killed more than 20 people.

Father Wilhemus Tulak, a priest at the church, told Indonesian media that a suspected bomber tried to enter the church grounds on a motorbike, but had been stopped by a security guard.

Police did not say who might be responsible for the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police blamed the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed over 30 people.

Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s National Counterterrorism Agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of terrorism.

Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said the blast could have caused far more casualties if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.

Makassar, Sulawesi’s biggest city, reflects the religious makeup of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with a substantial Christian minority and followers of other religions.

“Whatever the motive is, this act isn’t justified by any religion because it harms not just one person but others, too,” Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, said in a statement.

Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Council of Churches, described the attack as a “cruel incident” as Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, and urged people to remain calm and trust the authorities.

Indonesia’s deadliest Islamist militant attack took place on the tourist island of Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

In subsequent years, security forces in Indonesia scored some major successes in tackling militancy, but more recently there has been a resurgence of militant violence.

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