‘N Korea ready for nuclear test’

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo said the information came from a government source.

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It relates to preparations for a test in the northeastern town of Punggye-ri, where the North carried out two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report.

A South Korean government official told AFP on April 8 on condition of anonymity that satellite images showed a new underground tunnel built at the nuclear test site besides two others where the previous tests were conducted.

“Heaps of earth and sand which had been piled up outside the new tunnel have disappeared,” a government source was quoted as saying by Chosun.

“It is highly likely that the North has installed a nuclear device inside the tunnel and sealed it (with the piles of earth and sand),” the source said.

Since last year, US and South Korean intelligence authorities have been monitoring the excavation by measuring the amount of soil and rocks dumped from the tunnel, it said.

But it has not yet been confirmed whether the North has installed cables for detonation, the source said.

“It is technically feasible for the North to carry out a nuclear test within two weeks,” the source added.

The North, believed to have enough plutonium for six to eight bombs, tested atomic weapons in October 2006 and May 2009. Both were held one to three months after missile tests.

It has vowed to launch satellites “one after another”, vigorously rejecting international condemnation of an April 13 launch that was seen overseas as a disguised ballistic missile test.

French gunman’s father to sue police

The father of Mohamed Merah, the Islamist gunman who killed seven people in southern France, has hired an Algerian lawyer to sue a French police unit over his son’s death, the lawyer told AFP.

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“Mr. (Mohamed Benalal) Merah came to our office in Algiers yesterday to formally ask us to sue the French security services (RAID) for not having followed procedure during the attempt to arrest Mohamed Merah and his murder,” Zahia Mokhtari said.

“Mr. Merah thinks that his son was murdered. He has asked us to file a complaint against the French security services,” she added. “We will begin the procedure once the burial is completed.”

Algerian authorities have reportedly not yet agreed to a family request that Merah be buried in the north African country

Mokhtari explained that a convention signed between France and Algeria authorises lawyers to pursue cases in both countries.

Mokhtari is a well-known lawyer in Algeria, notably for having won a 2005 case in a German court on behalf of an Algerian man, Ibrahim Badaoui, who was accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda.

Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, was killed by police on March 22 after a lengthy stand-off at his Toulouse apartment.

Merah’s father insisted Wednesday he would not “shut up” after saying he wanted to sue France over the death of his son.

The comment, reported in an Algerian Arab-language daily newspaper, came after French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe reacted angrily to the threat of a legal challenge.

“If I were the father of such a monster, I would shut my mouth in shame,” Juppe said.

When police surrounded Merah’s Toulouse apartment last week, the gunman fought off an initial assault and then, in a conversation with a police negotiator, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

He said he shot dead three soldiers in two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban on March 11 and 15, then last Monday opened fire at a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing a 30-year-old teacher, his sons aged five and four, and a seven-year-old girl.

Three Aussies get Oscar nominations

Steven Spielberg’s taut political drama “Lincoln” won the Oscars election Thursday with 12 nominations for the Academy Awards, the climax of Hollywood’s annual prizes season.

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Hugh Jackman was nominated for best actor for his role in “Les Miserables”, going head to head with “Lincoln’s” Daniel Day-Lewis. Fellow Australians Naomi Watts is up for best actress for her role in “The Impossible”, while Jacki Weaver was nominated for best supporting actress for “Silver Linings Playbook”.

‘LINCOLN’, ‘LIFE OF PI’, ‘SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK’ IN SPOTLIGHT

Taiwan-born Ang Lee’s visually stunning 3D adventure “Life of Pi,” based on the novel by Yann Martel, earned 11 nods from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, ahead of the Oscars ceremony on February 24.

“Silver Linings Playbook” meanwhile became the first film since 1981 to win nominations in all four acting categories plus best film, best director and best writer, according to the Academy. Spielberg, whose latest film recounts Abraham Lincoln’s scheming to secure votes in Congress to abolish slavery, said he was woken by his publicist after the predawn announcement in Beverly Hills.

“It’s the best wake up call I’ve had in 14 years! I’m always surprised by recognition… I’m deeply grateful,” said the veteran director, as cited by the Hollywood Reporter.

“Lincoln” star Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for best actor, as expected, against Hugh Jackman in “Les Miserables,” Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master” and Denzel Washington for “Flight.”

BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES

Best actress nominees are Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jennifer Lawrence for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour,” Naomi Watts in “The Impossible” and Quvenzhane Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Both “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi” are nominated for the coveted best film prize, along with “Silver Linings Playbook” and musical “Les Miserables,” which each earned eight nods, and Iran hostage drama “Argo” with seven.

Amid the expected celebrations, there were some surprising snubs.

While “Argo” and Osama bin Laden manhunt film “Zero Dark Thirty” were each nominated for best picture, Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow — widely seen as shoo-ins for best director — failed to secure nods in the category.

BEST SUPPORTING NODS

The best supporting actor race features five Oscar winners, while in the best supporting actress race, the oldest-ever nominee, 85-year-old Frenchwoman Riva, will face off against the youngest, nine-year-old Wallis.

Beyond best film, “Lincoln” earned nods for best director for Spielberg and best supporting actor for Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.

The film — about the 16th US president’s drive to abolish slavery during the American Civil War — had already picked up most nods for the Golden Globes, competing in seven categories in the show this weekend.

Its British-Irish star, Day-Lewis, will be vying to win a record third best actor Oscar, after winning the accolade in 1990 for “My Left Foot” and in 2008 for “There Will Be Blood.”

“Life of Pi,” about an Indian boy cast adrift with a Bengal tiger, will be Lee’s third bid for Oscars glory after a 2001 nod for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and a best director 2006 win for “Brokeback Mountain.”

“I am deeply honored and frankly a little overwhelmed by all of the nominations,” said Lee.

“So many talented people gave everything they had to this film, both in front of and behind the camera, and to see all of them receive this kind of recognition is something I am incredibly grateful for.”

“Silver Linings Playbook,” a romantic comedy drama, has also drawn lots of Hollywood buzz, notably for “Hangover” star Cooper, but also for being a relatively lighthearted film in a field heavy on drama and history.

Heartthrob Cooper woke up earlier than Spielberg.

‘I get up crazy early anyway, and I told myself, ‘OK, I’ll take my dog to the beach, and just see what happens. Whatever goes down.’ So I watched with my mom and my dog. These things are once in a lifetime,” he said.

BEST FILM NOMINATIONS

The best film race features nine films: “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Up for best supporting actor are Jones for “Lincoln,” Alan Arkin for “Argo,” Robert De Niro for “Silver Linings Playbook,” Philip Seymour Hoffman for “The Master” and Christoph Waltz for “Django Unchained.”

Best supporting actress nominees are Sally Field for “Lincoln,” Amy Adams for “The Master,” Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables,” Helen Hunt for “The Sessions,” and Jacki Weaver for “Silver Linings Playbook.”

For Hollywood veteran Spielberg, a best film or best director Oscar would go with his two top-drawer Academy Awards for 1993’s “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” in 1999.

French police detain killer’s family: legal source

The girlfriend of Mohamed Merah’s brother was also kept in detention, the source said.

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All three were detained on Wednesday as police surrounded Merah in his apartment in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Police and prosecution officials have said that Merah’s brother, Abdelkader Merah, is himself a radical Islamist, and that traces of what could be an explosive material were found in his car.

Earlier in the week, prosecutors said the first murder in Merah’s spree was committed after he contacted his victim, a 30-year-old non-commissioned army officer, using his mother’s computer.

The detainees are subject to an inquiry on suspicion of terrorism related offence and can thus be held for four days for questioning without charge. Their detention will thus now expire early Sunday.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said French police had no grounds to detain Merah before he went on a killing rampage.

“There was no single element” to allow for the detention of Mohamed Merah, Fillon told French radio.

“We don’t have the right in a country like ours to permanently monitor without judicial authorisation someone who hasn’t committed an offense… We live in a state of law.”

French authorities have faced mounting questions over why Merah, a self-professed Al-Qaeda militant who was known to intelligence services because of his trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was not detained before he killed seven people, including three children.

But Fillon defended the intelligence services, saying that they “did their job perfectly well; they identified Mohamed Merah when he made his trips.”

He said that intelligence agents “surveilled him long enough to come to the conclusion that there was no element, no indication, that this was a dangerous man who would one day pass from words to acts.”

Merah “was interrogated, surveilled and listened to,” said Fillon, adding that he was a man who “led a normal life.”

“Belonging to a Salafist organisation is not an offense in and of itself. We cannot mix up religious fundamentalism with terrorism, even if we know there are elements that unite them.”

Merah was killed by a police sniper on Thursday as he tried to shoot his way out of his apartment after a 32-hour siege.

Legally blind archer sets first world record

Legally blind archer Im Dong-Hyun set the first world record of the London Olympics and then added another as South Korea broke the team record.

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In the men’s preliminary round, held at the Lord’s cricket ground, Im scored 699 points from 72 arrows to beat his own record of 696 set in May this year.

Along with Kim Bubmin and Oh Jin-Hyek he also helped register a 216-arrow total of 2,087 — smashing the world record also set in Turkey in May by 18 points.

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The 26-year-old Im from Chungbuk is legally blind in his left eye with 20/200 vision. That means he needs to be 10 times closer to see an object than someone with perfect 20/20 vision. His right eye has 20/100 vision.

He won team gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics to add to his four world titles and four Asian Games gold medals.

Despite his records, Im wasn’t getting carried away, preferring to concentrate on the push for a gold medal when the competition resumes on Saturday.

“This is just the first round so I will not get too excited by it,” he said.

South Korea coach Jang Young-Sool also warned his team against complacency ahead of the medals clash.

“We will have a day of rest now and prepare for tomorrow,” said Jang.

Jang’s fellow coach Oh Seon-Tek praised the performance of Kim Bubmin who had struggled in practice, but rasied his game on Friday.

“It was a surprise that Kim had done so great in the first half,” said Oh.

“It was his first Olympics shooting so I expected some nervous breakdowns but he did a fantastic job for breaking his personal record.

“He didn’t even do that good on the practice. I think the training on mind controls have worked with Kim.”