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Pyongyang says it will release six South Korean detainees

SEOUL, South Korea — In an surprise move that could help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea said Thursday that it would release six South Koreans it has been holding in detention, according to South Korean officials.

The Red Cross of North Korea told its South Korean counterpart that the six would be returned to the South on Friday at the border village of Panmunjom, the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement.

It was unclear who the detainees were. The ministry said that they were South Korean men ages 27 to 67, but that it was unclear how long they had been in the North or how they had gotten there.

Pyongyang said in February 2010 that it was holding four South Koreans for illegal entry, but it never responded to Seoul’s request that they be identified and released. In June of this year, the North said it was holding “several” South Koreans for illegally entering the country, but it did not elaborate.

—Choe Sang-Hu

Two American mariners abducted off Ni

Pirates attacked an American-flagged oil industry vessel off the Nigerian coast early Thursday and abducted the captain and the chief engineer, both U.S. citizens, the Nigerian navy and a private security firm reported. The abductions appeared to be the first involving U.S. hostages in that region in at least two years.

An official of the private security firm, AKE Group, of Hereford, England, said the attack on the vessel, identified as the C-Retriever, took place near the Nigerian city of Brass, where the oil-rich Niger Delta empties into the Gulf of Guinea, in West Africa. The official, based in AKE Group’s office in Lagos, Nigeria, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“All we know is this attack happened, and these were the people who were kidnapped,” the official said in a telephone interview. He said he did not know the identities of the two hostages.

A spokesman for the Nigerian navy, Cmdr. Kabiru Aliyu, confirmed the piracy attack.

“The Nigerian navy has directed its operational command to search for and rescue the vessel and the crew members,” he said. “Right now, the search is going on, and we are tracking down the culprits. We don’t know how it was carried out.”

The C-Retriever’s owner, Edison Chouest Offshore, a marine transportation company based in Cut Off, La., issued no immediate comment. A company spokesman, Lonnie Thibodeaux, did not respond to telephone and emails.

—Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

Linkedin’s new mobile app called ‘a dream for attackers’

Security researchers are calling LinkedIn’s new mobile app, Intro, a dream come true for hackers or intelligence agencies.

“I’m flabbergasted by this,” Richard Bejtlich, the chief research officer at the computer security company Mandiant, said in an interview Wednesday. “I can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea.”

Intro is an email plug-in for iOS users that pulls LinkedIn profile information into emails so that the sender’s job title appears front-and-center in emails on a user’s iPhone or iPad.

Some bloggers have hailed it as a smart play by LinkedIn to get more mobile action and to get users to stop thinking of the service as a static website they visit every couple of years to update their employment status.

But security researchers have taken issue with the way the app works. Intro redirects email traffic to and from users’ iPhones and iPads through LinkedIn’s servers, then analyzes and scrapes those emails for relevant data and adds pertinent LinkedIn details.

Researchers liken that redirection to a “man-in-the-middle attack” in which hackers, or more recently, intelligence agencies, intercept Internet traffic en route to its destination and do what they will with it.

—Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times

Some Ir

TEHRAN, Iran — B

While for some, this may be a refreshing sign of political maturity, others are determined to inject new life into the old chant. Toward this end, several hard-line groups have announced plans for a “Down With USA” conference next month, highlighted by “The First Major International Award of ‘Down With America’” for the best photograph, poster, video, song or caricature.

The contest winners will be announced in December and will receive cash awards of as much as $4,000.

While the slogan in Persian, “Marg bar Amrika,” means “Death to America” and has always been translated that way in the West, the official translation from the 1979 Islamic Revolution is “Down With America.”

The organizers, including the conservative Tasmin news agency, have been critical of Rouhani’s call for better relations with the rest of the world, not to speak of the United States. One of three jury members vetting the contest is Maziar Bijani, a Holocaust-denying cartoonist.

While Iranian hard-liners were defeated in June elections, they are given freedom to speak out and protest on the streets, while supporters of Rouhani are mainly active on blocked social media networks and are therefore less visible and less organized.

—Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times