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In brief: Murder of eight people was an act of criminal revenge, police officials say

The murder of eight people in southern Russia this week may be an act of criminal revenge, investigators said yesterday, adding to Moscow's worries the region is increasingly in the grip of criminal gangs.

The body of local crime boss Vladimir Slizayev, known as "Khan", was found late on Friday with those of seven other people, including his driver, relatives and a babysitter.

The multiple murder was the second in southern Russia since November when 12 members of one family were killed by a criminal gang in a village near the Black Sea coast -- the same region where Russia plans to host the 2014 Olympics.

Commandos foil hijacking of ship

Malaysian navy commandos foiled an attempted hijacking of a Malaysian-owned ship by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, rescuing 23 crew members and detaining seven pirates, military officials said.

The Singapore-bound chemical tanker, MT Bunga Laurel, was carrying lubricating oil and ethylene dichloride worth an estimated 30 million ringgit (€7.2m).

Japan kills 10,000 chickens over flu

Japan slaughtered more than 10,000 chickens at a poultry farm in southwest Japan to contain the country's second avian influenza outbreak of in two months.

Six out of 36 chickens found dead at the farm tested positive for influenza A virus subtype H5. The case follows a November outbreak of avian flu also in southwest Japan at a farm in Shimane prefecture, the country's first case since 2009.

Teacher accused of 'gagging' child

Officials say a San Antonio, Texas, elementary school teacher is on leave after being accused of putting transparent tape over a first-grader's mouth.

Danny Kelly said his daughter was afraid to tell him about what happened the day before winter break. The teacher was put on administrative leave as soon as the taping was reported. An investigation is ongoing. Villarreal says the district takes "all incidents like this very seriously".

Oprah to show 'miracle of all miracles'

Oprah Winfrey has staged many a family reunion on her widely watched television talk show. But in an episode to be aired tomorrow in the US, she promises, the drama will be about her.

Winfrey told viewers on Thursday that she will have a reunion of her own. She wouldn't say with whom -- only that it involves something she's learned about recently and is known to only a few people close to her. "I thought I'd seen it all. But this, my friends, is the miracle of all miracles," Winfrey says in a promotional spot for the show.

Four die in gunfight at soccer match

Authorities say a gunfight broke out between rival gangs at a soccer field in a suburb of Guatemala City, killing four people and wounding 13. A police spokesman said the attackers opened fire on rival gang members as they watched a game in Ciudad Real on Thursday night.

Among the 14 people who were injured was a 10-year-old girl, as well as participants in the game.

All the victims of the gunfight were taken to Roosevelt Hospital, some still wearing their kits. Four died shortly after arrival.

Sunday Independent