Top Asian News 3:51 a.m. GMT

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Three boats carrying ethnic Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar capsized in Bangladesh and 26 bodies of women and children have been recovered, officials said Thursday. Bangladesh border guard commander Lt. Col. S.M. Ariful Islam said at least three boats carrying an unknown number of Rohingya Muslims sank in the Naf River at Teknaf in Cox's Bazar on Wednesday. He said the bodies of 15 children and 11 women were recovered, and it was unclear whether anyone was still missing. The top government official in Cox's Bazar, Mohammad Ali Hossain, said the bodies would be buried because no one had claimed them.

BANGKOK (AP) — Armed with machetes and rifles, a ragtag band of insurgents comprised of members of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority launched unprecedented attacks last week, triggering fighting with security forces that has left more than 100 people dead and forced at least 18,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. Here's a closer look at the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the group that claimed responsibility for the attacks: THE ORIGINS OF ARSA: The group was formed last year by Rohingya exiles living in Saudi Arabia, according to the International Crisis Group, which detailed ARSA's origins in a report last year. It is led by Attullah Abu Amar Jununi, a Pakistani-born Rohingya who grew up in Mecca, and a committee of about 20 Rohingya emigres.

BEIJING (AP) — Escalating efforts to repatriate one of the ruling Communist Party's most wanted exiles, Chinese police have opened an investigation on a new allegation, rape, against New York-based billionaire Guo Wengui, who has been releasing what he calls official secrets ahead of a pivotal party leadership conference. Two Chinese officials with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that police are requesting a second Interpol arrest notice for Guo, 50, for the alleged sexual assault of a 28-year-old former personal assistant. Guo and his representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment, though Guo told a Chinese news outlet Friday the rape allegations were a Chinese government ploy to silence him.

BEIJING (AP) — The Vatican's efforts to heal a decades-long rift with China appear to have stalled, with each side still unwilling to accept controversial bishops appointed by the other. In recent months, Beijing has appeared to take a harder line toward believers, and has ordered the country's estimated 12 million Catholics to shun foreign influence and to "Sinosize" their Church. Meanwhile, the ruling Communist Party is again telling members that atheism remains a core value, not to be transgressed. The developments mark a shift from just over a decade ago, when Pope Benedict XVI penned a landmark letter to the church in China that was seen as an impetus toward improving ties.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Three weeks before a general election, the dramatic rise of New Zealand opposition leader Jacinda Ardern was highlighted by an opinion poll that put her liberal party ahead of the ruling conservatives for the first time in more than a decade. The unexpected result late Thursday caused the New Zealand dollar to drop before regaining some ground as traders priced in an uncertain election outcome. Commissioned by Television New Zealand, the poll indicated that Ardern's Labour Party is favored by 43 percent of voters, compared to 41 percent who favor the incumbent National Party, led by Prime Minister Bill English.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The United States flew some of its most advanced warplanes in bombing drills with ally South Korea on Thursday, a clear warning after North Korea launched a midrange ballistic missile designed to carry nuclear bombs over Japan earlier this week, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said. North Korea hates such displays of U.S. military might at close range and will likely respond with fury. Two U.S. B-1B supersonic bombers and four F-35B stealth fighter jets joined four South Korean F-15 fighters in live-fire exercises at a military field in eastern South Korea that simulated precision strikes against the North's "core facilities," according to the U.S.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court on Thursday sentenced two former police officers to 17 years in prison for failing to protect former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, but the same court acquitted five suspected militants who had confessed to taking part in her 2007 assassination. Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, expressed "disappointment and shock" over the verdict, saying "justice has not been done." Bhutto, then a prominent opposition leader, was killed by a suicide bomber who rushed her motorcade as she was campaigning to replace then-President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf, who has been accused of complicity in the assassination, pleaded not guilty at a 2013 court appearance and now lives in self-imposed exile.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine prosecutors have dismissed rebellion complaints against 59 men who were stopped by police and army troops at two checkpoints in the south and accused of attempting to join Islamic State-linked militants who laid siege to a southern city. Senior government prosecutor Peter Ong said Thursday the complaints filed by the military against the Muslim men were dismissed because of a lack of strong evidence, and authorities were ordered to free all the men. "It is clear that respondents were not committing the crime of rebellion or any crime at the time of their arrests," Ong and two other prosecutors said in their findings, a copy of which was seen by The Associated Press.

MUMBAI, India (AP) — Rescuers worked through the night removing the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in India's financial capital of Mumbai where at least 33 people have died and nearly a dozen others may still be buried. Fire officer Prabhat Kumar said Friday that 15 injured survivors have been pulled from the debris so far. Police said 33 bodies had been recovered from the rubble by early Friday, but hope was fading of finding anyone alive more than 24 hours after the building collapsed. Authorities have no clear idea how many people lived there or were in the ground floor work spaces.

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A Navy commander accused of accepting bribes from a Malaysian contractor who supplied the Japan-based 7th fleet has had the military's equivalent of a preliminary hearing to show if there's probable cause to proceed with a court-martial. The Virginian-Pilot reports that Cmdr. Jason Starmer had the hearing at Naval Station Norfolk on Wednesday. Starmer is accused of accepting expensive dinners, drinks, and prostitutes from Leonard Francis, otherwise known as "Fat Leonard," in 2012 and 2013. Francis has pleaded guilty to presiding over a conspiracy involving bribes and gifts in exchange for Navy contracts in Southeast Asia. Coast Guard Lt.