MOSCOW – An unmanned Russian cargo ship carrying 2.5 tons of supplies, equipment and gifts blasted off Saturday en route to the international space station, officials said. The Progress M-60 mounted atop a Soyuz-U booster rocket lifted off as scheduled at 7:25 a.m. from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and entered the designated preliminary orbit, Russia’s Federal Space Agency said. Following a series of maneuvers to adjust its orbit to that of the station, the ship is scheduled to moor at the orbiting outpost Tuesday.
Samoa: Monarch dies at 94
King Malietoa Tanumafili II, one of the world’s longest-reigning monarchs, has died, the prime minister’s office said Saturday. He was 94. Malietoa died Friday night at Tupua Tamasese National Hospital in the Samoan capital of Apia, where he had been staying for about a week. The king succeeded the Malietoa title in 1940, when his father passed away. He was made Samoa’s joint head of state with Tupua Tamasese Meaole when the country gained independence from New Zealand in 1962, and he became sole head of state a year later when Tupua Tamasese Meaole passed away.
Afghanistan: Taliban casualty
Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s most prominent military commander, was killed in fighting in southern Afghanistan with Afghan and NATO troops, officials said Sunday. Dadullah was killed Saturday in Helmand province, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence service said. An official in Kandahar province said he had seen Dadullah’s body. Dadullah would be one of the highest-ranking Taliban leaders to be killed since the fall of the hardline regime following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Israeli: Flash floods kill climbers
Four Israeli rock climbers were killed Saturday in flash floods that ripped through canyons around the Dead Sea, rescue services said. The national ambulance service said the victims were three men and a woman in their 20s who had been in a group of 11 in the area, a rocky region of deep ravines, caves and lofty crags. The others were rescued, local media reported. In the spring, rain falling miles away in Jerusalem and neighboring hills can come rushing down the steep descents, causing sudden and violent torrents in otherwise dry spots.
Mexico: Head sends grim message
A severed head accompanied by a note of defiance from organized crime gangs and two hand grenades was found outside a military barracks in Veracruz state on Saturday. The head was found in a box outside the army base in Veracruz city, shortly after the government announced it was sending troops to respond to a shooting attack. The box also held a message saying gangs would continue operating despite the presence of troops. “We are going to continue, even if federal forces are here,” the state public safety secretary quoted the note as saying.