World News (January 30, 2020)



BEIJING—Two more Chinese cities were put on lockdown by the government, as authorities in the Chinese gambling center of Macau said they were weighing closures of its casinos, expanding an unprecedented experiment to try to contain a fast-spreading virus that has killed 17 people and infected more than 600.

The World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak a global public health emergency, saying it wasn’t yet a public health emergency beyond China.

Authorities in Huanggang—a Chinese city of 7.5 million people—said they wouldn’t let long-distance trains and buses run from the urban center and would shut its public transportation system in the lockdown zone. Ezhou, another neighboring city with just over a million residents, said it would enact similar restrictions, bringing the total number of cities with travel restrictions to three.

Huanggang is about 35 miles east of Wuhan, a city of 11 million and a major hub for travel, where the new pneumonia-causing coronavirus originated. Wuhan just hours earlier halted outbound trains and flights and shut down its public-transportation system.

The Huanggang local government also said movie theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment and cultural facilities in the city center would temporarily halt operations and a central market would be shut down for an indefinite period. The local government said it would inspect every person and car entering and exiting the urban center.

PANAMA CITY — Seven people were killed in a bizarre religious ritual in a jungle community in Panama, in which indigenous residents were rounded up by about 10 lay preachers and tortured, beaten, burned and hacked with machetes to make them “repent their sins,” authorities said.

Police freed 14 members of the Ngabé Buglé indigenous group who had been tied up and beaten with wooden cudgels and Bibles. Local prosecutor Rafael Baloyes described a chilling scene found by investigators when they made their way through the jungle-clad hills to the remote Ngabé Buglé indigenous community near the Caribbean Coast.

Alerted by three villagers who escaped and made their way to a local hospital for treatment earlier, police were prepared for something bad, Baloyes said, but were still surprised by what they discovered at an improvised “church” at a ranch where a little-known religious sect known as “The New Light of God” was operating. “They were performing a ritual inside the structure. In that ritual, there were people being held against their will, being mistreated,” Baloyes said.

“All of these rites were aimed at killing them if they did not repent their sins,” he said. “There was a naked person, a woman,” inside the building, where investigators found machetes, knives and a ritually sacrificed goat, he said.

The rites had been going on since Saturday, and had already resulted in deaths, Baloyes said.

BURUNDI – Police in Burundi have arrested a British and a French journalist during a sweep for rebels in flashpoint districts of the capital, officials said, a move likely to further strain tense relations with Western donors.

Moise Nkurunziza, Deputy Police spokesman, said the police had picked up Phil Moore, a British photojournalist, and Jean Philippe Remy during raids in the Jabe and Nyakabiga neighbourhoods of Bujumbura.

“The police arrested five people including a British national who was a journalist,” said Nkurunziza, adding that the Frenchman had then come to ask about his British colleague’s whereabouts and was also arrested “for interrogation motives.” Both men had journalist accreditation in Bujumbura, he said.

Burundi has been in turmoil since April when the president, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced plans to run for a third term in office, sparking weeks of street protests by the opposition who said his bid was unconstitutional.

Mass graves believed to contain the bodies of dozens of people killed by security forces in Burundi have been revealed in satellite images, video footage and witness accounts, Amnesty International said.

The rights group said there were five possible mass graves in the Buringa area, on the outskirts of Bujumbura. “Witnesses told Amnesty International that the graves were dug on the afternoon of 11 December, in the immediate aftermath of the bloodiest day of Burundi’s escalating crisis,” the group said.

This month the UN Rights Chief called for an urgent investigation into the alleged mass graves. Burundi’s government dismissed the allegations, saying they were based on false information.

In a statement on its website, the French newspaper Le Monde called for the release of both journalists, saying they were its special correspondents in Burundi. The British Foreign Office said it was urgently looking into reports about the detention of a UK national.