Afghanistan has accused Pakistan’s intelligence services of involvement in last Thursday’s attack on a hotel in the capital Kabul. Nine people, including 4 foreigners, were shot dead by Taliban militants.
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Monday the attackers smuggled small pistols hidden in their shoes past the hotel’s heavy security cordon. It called the raid sophisticated, of a type never before seen in Afghanistan.
It also said a number of foreigners took photos of key facilities inside the hotel before the attack.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry rejected the claims and called attempts to implicate the country in the attack disturbing. Pakistan’s military and intelligence services are believed to have some influence over Afghanistan’s anti-government force, the Taliban.
Analysts say the dispute will deepen distrust between the two sides, whose cooperation is needed to restore peace in Afghanistan.
China is calling for restraint from North Korea following the country’s test-firing of 2 ballistic missiles.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei commented on the incident at a news conference on Wednesday, without directly naming North Korea.
Hong said China hopes related countries will take steps to ease tensions and jointly maintain peace and stability in the region.
South Korea’s defense ministry says the North fired what are believed to be 2 Rodong missiles from an area north of Pyongyang on Wednesday. The missiles reportedly flew about 650 kilometers before falling into the Sea of Japan.
Hong also said he understands that the leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea discussed North Korea’s nuclear development program at their summit in The Hague.
Japan has pledged about 76 million dollars in grant aid to Myanmar to help build infrastructure.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with his counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on Monday.
In an apparent reference to China’s increasing maritime activities, Kishida said there have been attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas.
He said he believes Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be able to prosper together by ensuring freedom of navigation and aviation. Kishida said he hopes Myanmar will show leadership in the effort. The country chairs the regional bloc this year.
Wunna Maung Lwin said his country wants to work to that effect in collaboration with Japan.
Kishida said the grant aid is intended to help build railways and other infrastructure, and provide food assistance to areas where minorities live.
Kishida then met with President Thein Sein and revealed a plan to offer more than 240 million dollars in yen loans to help improve power supply systems.
Kishida later told reporters that Myanmar is strategically important as the country geographically connects ASEAN member countries and South Asia.
The foreign minister stressed the significance of stronger ties with Myanmar. He said the country has economic potential and is historically pro-Japanese.
Russian Soyuz-FG rocket with the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft blasts off from a launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, early on March 26, 2014.
The crew of two Russians and an American has successfully blasted off into space. Despite the diplomatic skirmish on the ground, the greatest problems faced by the international Soyuz team are dozens of experiments to be done – and missing loved ones.
The spacecraft with its Russian-American crew on board that earlier blasted off into space has successfully performed two maneuvers to enter a new trajectory of docking with the ISS after a glitch during the first attempt.
The Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft set off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 21:17 GMT on Tuesday. It was supposed to use a short six-hour route to the International Space Station, but mission control has decided to revert to a standard two-day flight.
“We have decided to bring the spacecraft to the ISS not according to the six-hour sequence, but a two-day one. Therefore, the docking will take place March 28,” a mission control representative told Interfax.
Initially, the automatic docking was scheduled to take place at 03:04 GMT Wednesday. But due to errors in orientation system of the spacecraft, the Soyuz capsule’s skipped a planned steering maneuver, according to the president of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, Vitaly Lopota.
“The crew is in no danger. The Soyuz is equipped with plenty of consumables to go even beyond the next two days, should that be become necessary. Nobody expects that that will be the case,”mission commentator Rob Navias said during a NASA television broadcast.
Friends in space
Hours before Expedition 39 to the International Space Station starts its express journey into orbit from Kazakhstan, the crew of three – Russia’s Aleksandr Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, and NASA’s Steven Swanson – shared their pre-flight thoughts, hopes and concerns.
Despite the diplomatic skirmish on the ground, the greatest problems faced by the international Soyuz team are dozens of experiments to be done – and missing loved ones. The press briefing could be rightfully named as one of the few international events with absolutely no political pressure involved.
Indeed, the astronauts never get tired of saying that in a situation when one’s life depends on the work of others, all politics is set aside. But what challenges do even the most tested professionals face 220 miles above their home and what do they bring on their journey to cope with homesickness?
From left: NASA astronaut Steven Swanson and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, crew members of the latest mission to the International Space Station (ISS), during a press conference ahead of the launch of the Soyuz-FG with the transport manned spacecraft (TPK) Soyuz TMA-12M at the Baikonur cosmodrome on March 24, 2013. (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
“I will mainly take photographs and letters with me. All my relatives have been writing messages to me so I could have a new one every day. I will open an envelope at the end of each day and read what’s in it,” flight engineer Artemyev has shared.
For commander Skvortsov, the mission will mark the second time he celebrates a birthday in space – but for him, that makes it no less special.
“I had my 44th birthday party in orbit, and this time I will celebrate my 48th birthday up there too. It has become a kind of tradition by now. When I turned 44 the first thing I saw in the morning was a Birthday card from the American crew members. It is a gift I treasure very much and I keep it,” Skvortsov said.
He then went on to joke that even that modest celebration did not interrupt the scientific observations of the team, saying that balloons inflated with nitrogen “actually served as a good indicator of the cabin pressure.”
Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
At the ISS, the work truly never stops, with the new crew bringing at least 50 experiments to be set up at the station. Many more are in progress.
“We have over 170 experiments going on, we’ve been trained in a lot of them. They vary, of course, to ones we don’t even touch, to ones that we are the technical operator on but we don’t do anything but start them up and get them set to go. And there are ones we are the actual subjects for,” Swanson, a computer software expert and engineer, has explained.
Swanson, who is already a veteran of two shuttle missions, will take over as commander of Expedition 40, and says that “looking more at the big picture… how we’re going to operate as a team” will be his task as the future head of the crew.
Unlike the NASA astronaut who has already had his share of spacewalks and is looking to concentrate on experiments, Artemyev is extremely excited about his first-ever experience of space.
“I’ve been preparing for this mission for 11 years now. Now, I’m like that horse leaving the stable who really wants to race! So I’m interested in everything that I will be doing in my new home,” the Russian flight engineer said.
He added that he is particularly anticipating seeing in person the station’s Zvezda module that he actually helped build.
The Soyuz-FG booster vehicle and the Soyuz TMA-12M manned spaceship is moved to the launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome.(RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)
Artemyev admits, that “the hardest thing by far” is not the tasks they have been trained for, but being separated from the families and friends.
“I can tell you for sure that the part we all miss the most is our family and being far away from family and friends and loved ones. That’s the hardest thing we do, the feeling that you cannot be with your family or, God forbid, if something happens, you cannot do something for them, you cannot be by their side,” Artemyev said.
And the political crisis?
“I think people lose track of the fact that we have occupied the International Space Station now for 13 consecutive years uninterrupted, and that has been through multiple international crises,”NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said earlier in March.
A picture shows supporters of independence for Catalonia demonstrating in Barcelona
Spain’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a referendum in Catalonia on independence from the rest of the country would violate the law, saying that regions within Spain “cannot unilaterally call a referendum on self-determination.”
According to a summary of the ruling, any “right to decide” their future by Catalans has to be in accordance with Spain’s 1978 constitution, which stipulates Spanish unity.
The Constitutional Court ruled “unconstitutional and null” a declaration by the regional parliament in Barcelona which claimed that Catalonia has the right of self-determination.
Kingdom of Spain Constitutional Court of Justice Building (AFP Photo / Dominique Faget)
The fate of the region rests on the power struggle between Catalan President Artur Mas who had promised a referendum on independence from Spain on November 9 and the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who insists that such a vote would be illegal.
“No one can unilaterally deprive the entire Spanish people of the right to decide on their future,” Rajoy told the national parliament last month insisting that the referendum “can’t take place.”
Rajoy remains certain that Catalonia cannot be compared to Scotland’s aspiration of succession from the UK, because the Spanish written constitution, unlike British, rules out such a move.
But in Catalonia, March’s public opinion poll showed that 59.6 percent of the population want independence from the rest of Spain and want their region to become a “new state of Europe.”
Catalonia, an autonomous community with a population of 7.5 million is responsible for around one-fifth of the country’s GDP and one-quarter of its taxes. Public sentiment believes that the region will be much better off financially if they secede from Madrid.
The situation is aggravated by the economic crisis, which is forcing the Spanish government to adopt painful austerity policies.
In January the Catalan Parliament voted to send a petition to the national legislature seeking the power to hold the vote. That initiative is still in the process. If successful the referendum in Catalonia will be a month after a similar vote in Scotland, which is slated for September 2014.RT News
BJP leader Narender Modi today criticised the Congress led UPA government and held its allegedly wrong policies responsible for corruption as well as the poor condition of Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing a rally at Hiranagar in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir he promised to carry forward the policies of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to bring change in Kashmir.
Addressing his first Bharat Vijay Rally, Modi alleged that Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal and Defence Minister AK Anthony are enjoying popularity in Pakistan as their point of view has favoured Pakistan’s perspective on Kashmir.
Modi also alleged that Congress led government’s policies are against security personnel and farmers. He also spoke on the issues of PoK refugees and Kashmiri migrants. On this occasion retired IPS officer Farooq Khan, who has been in the forefront of anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir, joined the BJP.
The Supreme Court today expressed displeasure over real estate baron Sushil Ansal leaving the country without its permission. Ansal has been convicted in the Uphaar cinema fire case. The apex court however allowed Ansal to stay abroad for medical treatment after he gives an assurance that he will return on April 11. The court, on 5th of this month, had held Sushil and Gopal Ansal guilty in the 1997 fire tragedy that claimed 59 lives.
Czech Republic’s parliament rejects sanctions against Russia
The Czech Parliament did not support the EU move to impose economic sanctions against Russia, the Czech news agency CTK reported. Resorting to sanctions against Russia would endanger up to 50,000 jobs in the country due to the ties of a high number of sub-suppliers to Czech exporters, according to the Economic Chamber’s survey. Vehicles and transport equipment and the energy sector would suffer the most. Potential reduction of oil and natural gas supplies were of primary importance in the debate.
Lufthansa cancels 600 flights on Thursday ahead of strike in Germany
Lufthansa has canceled about 600 flights – about one-third of its services – on Thursday due to a planned strike by public-sector workers across Germany’s airports, Reuters said. Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, which typically operates around 1,800 flights on a Thursday, said it was canceling almost all of its domestic flights that were due to take off before 1300 GMT. Long-haul flights would also be affected. Trade union Verdi has called on ground staff, baggage handlers and maintenance staff to strike during the morning shift on Thursday until around 1300 GMT. A third round of pay talks is due to start at the end of the month.
Berezovsky was ‘broken’ before death – bodyguard
Former Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky’s bodyguard has said the oligarch seemed to be a broken man and had discussed killing himself before his apparent suicide last year, AP reported. Berezovsky’s mood plummeted after he lost a much-publicized billion-pound legal dispute with fellow Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, Avi Navama told a coroner’s inquest Wednesday. The businessman seemed depressed and “very low” at the time, he added. Berezovsky’s body was found slumped on the floor at his ex-wife’s home last March. The inquest is expected to last two days.
10,000 UK schools affected by teacher strike
A national teachers’ strike taking place across England and Wales on Wednesday is affecting 10,000 schools, including in London, Oxford city and Yorkshire, which have all been closed to their students. The National Union of Teachers is protesting working conditions, the potential introduction of performance-related pay and pensions, with UT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney labeling the industrial action a ‘last resort’, criticizing Education Secretary Michael Gove’s policies for ‘exhausting and demoralizing’ teaching staff.
Pope accepts resignation of German ‘bling bishop’
The Vatican has accepted the resignation of a German Roman Catholic prelate known as the ‘bishop of bling’, Reuters said. Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, who reportedly spent 31 million euro of Church funds on his residence, was ordered to leave his diocese last October and offered his resignation at the time. The investigation was completed, and an apostolic administrator, Mons. Manfred Grothe was appointed to run the diocese for the time being. Tebartz-van Elst will be offered another position. Pope Francis has asked the faithful of the diocese of Limburg to accept the decision “with docility” and to work to restore a “climate of charity and reconciliation,” according to the statement.
5.4-magnitude quake hits near Japan islands in northern Ryukyu archipelago
A 5.4-magnitude earthquake has hit near Japan’s islands in northern part of Ryukyu archipelago in the East China Sea, NHK reported. There were no immediate reports on casualties or damage. No tsunami threat was announced.
Suspicious package found on Brussels bus on day of Obama visit
Belgian police have found a suspicious package on a public bus in Brussels on the day of the visit by US President Barack Obama, Reuters said. The bomb squad was called after the package was found in the north of Brussels, about three kilometers from the NATO headquarters. Obama is due to hold talks with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen later. Brussels police closed off the surrounding area.
Russia accuses Ukraine of stopping aircraft crews from disembarking in Kiev
Moscow accused Ukraine on Wednesday of preventing Russian pilots and crew disembarking after passenger flights to Kiev. Ukrainian border officials were not allowing crews to rest in compliance with flight safety regulations when they flew to the Ukrainian capital, the Foreign Ministry said. The practice is violating international conventions and putting lives at risk, the ministry said, as cited by Reuters.“Russia insists on an unconditional cessation of these irresponsible practices by Ukraine which endanger the safety of civil aviation flights,”the statement said.
Tokyo hails Japan-S. Korea meeting brokered by Obama
Japan on Wednesday hailed the first summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye as a chance to build a rapport after more than a year of backbiting, AFP said. The talks in The Hague were hosted by US President Barack Obama, as Washington is increasingly frustrated by tensions between its two major Asian allies. South Korean media said Park appeared unimpressed by Abe’s attempts to speak Korean during a photo opportunity, and Seoul has yet to make an official statement about the meeting itself.
Pakistan govt negotiators en route for secret talks with Taliban – reports
A government team is en route to a secret location in the country’s northwest for the first-ever direct talks with the militants, AP reported, citing a cleric representing the Pakistani Taliban. Ibrahim Khan said the face-to-face discussions are expected to take place later on Wednesday at an undisclosed place in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Islamabad team, headed by government official Habibullah Khan Khattak, is taking a helicopter flight to a “peace zone,” according to the cleric. The two sides have so far held indirect talks through clerics sympathetic to the Taliban.
Death toll from large Washington mudslide raised to 16
Officials in Washington confirmed Tuesday evening that searchers had recovered an additional 8 bodies following a massive mudslide three days ago, reported the AP. The total number of deaths so far currently stands at 16, as authorities continue to comb through the debris field of the 49 structures devastated by the landslide in a rural area 55 miles north of the city of Seattle. So far search teams continue to operate off a list of 176 individuals who remained unaccounted for, though some of these may be duplicates. Another 8 bodies were believed located at the scene, which would bring the death toll to 24 once confirmed.
N. Korea fires 2 medium-range rockets into Japan Sea
North Korea has fired two medium-range ballistic rockets toward the Japan Sea, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports. The missiles flew some 650 km, according to the agency. North Korea has fired a number of missiles in recent weeks, including a barrage of 30 short-range rockets last week amid ongoing joint US-South Korean military drills. The latest launch comes shortly after US President Barack Obama brought together the new leaders of key Asian allies Japan and South Korea for their first face-to-face meeting on Tuesday.
5 militants killed in special forces raid in Dagestan, Russia
Extremist ringleader of the “Khasavyurt” gang was killed in a special forces operation in Dagestan along with four other militants, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee announced. Among the five dead was as 26-year-old Tural Atayev, native of Azerbaijan,“who was one of the organizers of the terrorist attack in the city of Pyatigorsk in December last year,”the statement read. During the raid one police officer was killed and one wounded. The gang was believed to be behind numerous assassination attempts, extortion, and arson.
Venezuela arrests three generals for alleged coup plot
President Nicholas Maduro said Tuesday that three air force generals had been arrested for plotting an uprising against his left-wing government. He told a meeting of South American foreign ministers that the three generals had been in contact with the opposition and “were trying to rise up against the legitimately constituted government.” He added that the plot had been discovered because other officers had come forward. The latest disclosure comes amid a broadening government crackdown against Maduro’s opponents after weeks of street protests have left 34 people dead.
Spanish top court says Catalonia referendum unconstitutional
Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that a referendum in Catalonia on independence from the rest of the country would violate the supreme law. Judges said that a region within Spain“cannot unilaterally call a referendum on self-determination.”A poll published last week by the Centre for Opinion Studies found that up the 60 percent of Catalonians support independence. The Spanish authorities have said they will discuss whether to allow Catalonia to hold a referendum or not in a parliamentary debate scheduled for April 8.
‘Ukrainian’ drone downed above Moldova’s breakaway region
A drone has been shot down over Transdniestr, Moldova’s breakaway region, the region’s security service has reported on its website. On March 23, the pilotless aircraft was photographing and videoing the republic. Transdniestr special services recovered the video record from the drone, the statement says. According to preliminary information, the unmanned aircraft was launched from Ukraine’s soil by a group of people allegedly linked to Ukraine’s security service, the Interior Ministry’s General Staff or supporters of ultra-nationalist movement Right Sector for an intelligence-gathering operation. Currently, Transdniestr’s security service is working on the identification of those linked to trespassing the republic’s airspace, its press service said.
2 Western UN officials kidnapped in Yemen freed – reports
Yemeni security forces have freed a married Western couple who were working at the United Nations’ office and had been kidnapped by Gunmen in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, a local police source said Tuesday, Reuters reports.They said the security forces tracked the two kidnappers to a house where they were holding the pair, one of whom was Italian, and managed to free them safely after surrounding the premises. Kidnapping is common in Yemen where the government is fighting an insurgency from separatist movements in the north, Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists and armed tribes. Three foreigners, including a Czech doctor, a British oil worker and a German were seized in February.
Irish government sets up inquiry into police bugging
The Irish government has set up an investigation into allegations of widespread phone wiretapping by its police force. The government said that they had received new information Tuesday that was so serious that a commission had to be set up. “A system was in place in a large number of Garda (police) stations whereby incoming and outgoing telephone calls were taped,” it said.The statement said that the practice had been in place for many years and was discontinued in November 2013.
Oil from BP’s Indiana refinery spills into Lake Michigan
Oil leaked from BP’s Whiting oil refinery in Indiana into Lake Michigan after a mechanical glitch on Monday afternoon, Reuters reported. The spill has been contained, according to Indiana environmental officials. Sources say a relatively small amount of oil was released, but the exact amount was unknown. BP said Tuesday that the largest crude distillation unit at the 405,000-barrel-per-day refinery was back to normal operations following an overnight malfunction that led to the leak.
China detains 1,530 people in crackdown over spam text messages
Chinese authorities have detained 1,530 people in a crackdown on the use of fake telecommunication base stations to send spam text messages to mobile telephones, Reuters reported. The campaign began in February and has resulted in the seizure of more than 2,600 fake base stations and identification of 3,540 suspected criminal acts, according to the Ministry of Public Security. Such stations are used by criminals to send spam messages to nearby mobile users using fake telephone numbers or disguised as messages from official sources.
Israel to compensate victims over flotilla raid – Turkey
A compensation deal for Turkish victims of a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza aid flotilla four years ago will soon be signed, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Tuesday.“We have received a final agreement document from Israel,”Arinc was quoted as saying by Hurriyet newspaper. After next Sunday’s local elections,“our first job will be making sure the compensation is bound by a legal document,”the official added. Talks on compensation over the nine Turks killed in the raid began in March 2013 after Israel extended a formal apology to Ankara.
Twin blasts in Nigerian city kill 11
Two blasts in Nigeria’s troubled northeastern city of Maiduguri on Tuesday killed 11 people, including five policemen, AFP reported. One vehicle exploded at 7:50am (0650 GMT), killing three civilians, and a bomb hurled at a police vehicle 10 minutes later killed five officers, Borno state police spokesman Gideon Jibrin said. The three others killed in the second attack were suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents.
Egyptian police disperse protests against Brotherhood mass trials
Police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse demonstrations on Tuesday over mass trials of Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt. About 700 people held protests at a university in the southern Egyptian town of Minya after the leader of the Brotherhood and 682 others went on trial on charges including murder, Reuters reported. Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered at Alexandria University. The previous day, more than 500 supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi were sentenced to death.
Japan military launching squad to fight cyber attacks
The Self-Defense Forces of Japan will launch on Wednesday the first squad to fight cyber-attacks on the country’s most important information resources, ITAR-TASS reported. Ninety experts are expected to join the new department at the first stage. In 2015, a special cyber security center will be established. A week ago, Tokyo faced a full-on cyber-attack across government departments in a drill aimed at bolstering national security as the country gears up to host the 2020 Olympics, Reuters said.
Militants attack Afghan election HQ in Kabul
Afghan insurgents have attacked the headquarters of the electoral commission in Kabul, the BBC reported, citing police. Initial reports said the home of candidate Ashraf Ghani was attacked. However, police now say the militants targeted the election HQ. Insurgents gained access to the main compound, police said. No casualties were reported. Deputy Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi told TOLOnews that the IEC Kabul office attack was over and all 30 people trapped rescued.
UK reviewing Russia nuclear power deal over Ukraine
Britain is reviewing an agreement it made with Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom on nuclear cooperation, in reaction to the crisis in Ukraine, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Britain last November signed an agreement with Rosatom to help the company prepare potentially to enter the UK market. The DECC said it had put the agreement under consideration over the Crimea situation.“No decisions have been made on how this work will be taken forward,”Reuters quoted a DECC spokesperson as saying. Rosatom has not commented on the statement.
UN human rights office says Egypt death sentences contravene international law
The UN human rights office said Tuesday that an Egyptian court’s decision to sentence 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death contravened international law, Reuters reported. Monday’s ruling is seen as the biggest mass death penalty handed out in modern Egyptian history.“The mass imposition of the death penalty after a trial rife with procedural irregularities is in breach of international human rights law,”UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva. The Muslim Brotherhood’s leader and 682 others went on trial Tuesday in the same court.
Syria National Coalition urges Arab League to grant it seat, embassies
Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba urged Arab leaders at a summit Tuesday to grant Syria’s vacant Arab League seat to his National Coalition. Jarba, who was speaking at the opening session of the Arab League summit in Kuwait, also said the opposition should be given the opportunity to take over Syria’s embassies abroad.“Reality requires that the Syrian embassies are also handed over to the National Coalition,”Reuters quoted him as saying.
Russia willing to continue contacts with G8 states – spokesman
Moscow is interested in continuing contacts with G8 nations at all levels, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said Tuesday.“The Russian side continues to be ready to have such contacts at all levels, including the top level,”Interfax quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. Leaders of the Group of Seven nations on Monday suspended their participation in the Group of Eight industrialized nations until Russia changes course on Ukraine, Reuters said.
Explosion, gunfire reported at house of Afghan presidential candidate
An explosion and gunfire rattled the house of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Four people entered Ghani’s house and there was an explosion followed by gunfire, a senior police officer said. Ghani, a former World Bank official who has picked powerful former Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum as his running mate, was not there at the time. No casualties were immediately reported.
Bus crash in western Thailand kills 30
A double-decker bus carrying municipal workers on a field trip in western Thailand plunged off a steep road and into a ravine, killing at least 30 people, officials said Tuesday. The accident Monday night also left 22 others injured, AP reported. It was the latest fatal crash on a mountain road in Tak province known for its treacherous dips and turns where 300 accidents occurred last year.
Death toll in Venezuela unrest rises to 36
The death toll in Venezuela’s anti-government unrest has climbed to 36. A pregnant woman was lethally shot near Caracas and a oldier was killed in the western state of Merida, officials announced. The 28-year-old pregnant woman was shot dead on Sunday during a protest as she was getting off a bus stopped by a barricade set up by protesters. In a separate accident, a National Guard sergeant was shot shot in the neck during clashes in the western state of Merida. Venezuela has been hit by a wave of violent protests that have continued for almost a month, with people in the streets accusing the government of inflation and holding it responsible for the lack of basic products in the country. President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly accused the White House of sponsoring members of the opposition with a view to destabilize Venezuela.
Bangladesh celebrates its 44th Independence Day today with a host of programmes and cultural events to mark the National Day across the country .
The day was heralded with a 31-gun salute at dawn at National Memorial in Savar as a mark of respect to the heroic struggle of the nation till it emerged as an independent country in 1971.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the national celebrations by placing wreaths at the National Memorial in Savar, participated by Chief of Armed Forces, political party leaders, freedom fighters, diplomats and people from all walks of life. At the National Parade Square in Dhaka, mass singing of the National Anthem “Amar Sonar Bangla’ was organised in an attempt to set a world record.
It was on March 26th, 1971, that the country’s independence was formally declared by Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, following the brutal genocide launched on the night of March, 25, 1971, by the Pakistani army to crush the freedom struggle of the Bangalees.
The Declaration of Independence triggered a nine-month long bloody war which culminated in Liberation of Bangladesh on December, 16, 1971, with the surrender of Pakistani forces to a Joint India-Bangladesh Military Command.
The first-ever direct talks between the Pakistan government and the Pakistani Taliban, began today at an undisclosed location in the country’s tribal region of North Waziristan.
The talks are aimed to chalk out a solution to the deadly cycle of violence that has claimed over 40,000 lives. The government’s Committee of negotiators first flew to Peshawar whereas representatives of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan boarded a helicopter of the Interior Ministry. The meeting was scheduled to take place yesterday but was postponed due to bad weather.
SC pulls up Centre for failure to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks
Supreme Court today pulled up Centre for failure to take steps during last six decades to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks. It rejected the Centre’s plea to recall its order for setting up a Special Investigation Team, SIT to monitor and probe the issue of black money inside and outside the country. A three-Judge Bench headed by Justice H L Dattu dismissed the Centre’s plea and pulled it up for its reluctance to accept the SIT headed by two retired Judges of the apex court. The Bench brushed aside the contention of Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran that the mechanism was already in place for dealing with issue of black money. It said that no effort was made to disclose the names of those whose money were in the foreign banks. It further said, the country’s economy and per capita income would have gone up and the income tax rates would have reduced if money in foreign banks had been brought to India.
Filing of nominations for 128 Lok Sabha seats, spread over 16 states closed today. Of these, 121 seats include all the 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka, 20 in Rajasthan, 19 Maharashtra, 11 each in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, 10 in Madhya Pradesh, seven in Bihar, six in Jharkhand, four in West Bengal, three in Chhattisgarh and one each in Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur.These constituencies will go to the polls on the 17th April. The remaining seven seats, of which three seats are in Assam, two in Goa and one each in Sikkim and Tripura will go to polls on 12th April. Scrutiny of nominations for all these constituencies will take place tomorrow. 29th of March will be the last date for withdrawal of nominations in these constituencies. Filing of nominations for 32 Assembly constituencies, in Sikkim and 77 in Odisha also ended today. Today was also the last day for withdrawal of candidature for 92 Lok Sabha seats, spread over 15 states and 3 Union Territories and for the 60 member Arunachal Pradesh Assembly and 70 Assembly seats in Odisha.
Against the backdrop of parties in Kashmir praising the previous NDA government’s initiatives in the Valley, Narendra Modi promised to carry forward the policies of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to change the fate of Kashmir.
“The path shown by Vajpayee — humanity, democracy and Kashmiriyat — we will carry forward,” the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate said addressing the first “Bharat Vijay Rally” at Hira Nagar near Jammu on Wednesday.
He said that if Vajpayee government had got another five years, it would have changed the face of Kashmir and problems would have ended.
His comments assume significance as mainstream political parties of the state including ruling National Conference and opposition PDP as well as moderate separatist — Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq — have, of late, been praising the Vajpayee government for its initiatives relating to Kashmir.
Modi, who paid obeisance at Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine ahead of his address, neither made any reference to Article 370 this time nor replied to the challenge thrown by state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for discussing it.
This was the second rally being addressed by Modi in Jammu region. He had addressed a rally on 1st December last year during which he had stirred a controversy by demanding a dialogue on Article 370 which guarantees a special status to the state.
However, after he was challenged by state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for a discussion on Article 370, both BJP as well as Modi never raked up the issue again.
During Wednesday’s rally, retired IPS officer Farooq Khan, who has been in the forefront of anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir, joined BJP.
Top Indian Mujahideen operative Tehseen Akhtar alias Monu, one of the alleged masterminds of a string of terror attacks in the country, was remanded in police custody till 2nd April by a Delhi Court on Wednesday.
Akhtar, who was arrested from near Kakarvitta Indo-Nepal border in Darjeeling district of West Bengal on Tuesday, was brought to Delhi in the night and was produced before the judge in New Delhi on Wednesday morning.
According to police sources, the Special Cell of Delhi Police told the court that they need to conduct a sustained custodial interrogation of the accused to unearth the entire terror conspiracy of the banned outfit.
Police also told the court that Akhtar, a top bomb-maker of IM, was required to be confronted with one of his top associate Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas, a Pakistani national who was arrested on 22nd March, and others who were also apprehended by them.
According to the police, Akhtar was heading IM after the arrest of Yasin Bhatkal, co-founder of the terror outfit.
The other four accused — Waqas, Shaquib, Mahruf and Waqar — were earlier produced before a court in New Delhi after being arrested from Rajasthan on 22nd and 23rd March respectively and they were remanded to police custody for interrogation till 2nd April.
Akhtar was wanted by security agencies for his alleged roles in a string of terror strikes, including the 7th July 2013 Bodh Gaya blasts and the 27th October last year blasts in Patna.
The police had earlier told the court that Akhtar and Waqas, had visited Jaipur and Jodhpur a few months back imparted IED manufacturing training to arrested accused — Mohd Mahruf, Mohd Waqar Azhar alias Haneef, and Shaquib Ansari alias Khalid — for carrying out terror activities.
The police said that Waqas, arrested outside Ajmer Railway Station was an expert in making IED (improvised explosive device).
With the arrest of these four accused from Rajasthan, the special cell claimed they have averted a spectacular terror attack during the upcoming elections. Akhtar was arrested days after Waqas and other three accused were apprehended.
Police said soon after Akhtar came to know of the arrest of Waqas and company, he fled from his hideout from Nepal and was trying to slip into Bangladesh when he was nabbed.
Special Commissioner (Special Cell) S N Shrivastava had said, “23-year-old Akhtar, a resident of Darbhanga in Bihar, was acting as the chief of IM’s India operations after the arrest of Ahmed Siddibappa Zarar alias Yasin Bhatkal. He was Bhatkal’s key aide and was wanted for a series of terrorist strikes spread over various states.”
The police said Waqas had met Yasin on the instruction of Riyaz Bhatkal, a top IM member who is now based in Pakistan.
Waqas was wanted in connection with several bomb blasts in the country and is considered to be a close aide of Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last year along with close associate Asadullah Akhtar.
While Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi were arrested from Indo-Nepal border in August last year, Waqas and Akhtar were on the run.
Waqas and the other three of the Rajasthan module had been working under the direction of Akhtar, who had told them to be ready for strike but did not disclose the target, police said.
According to police, interrogation of Mahruf, Shaquib and Waqar have revealed that they were planning to do something in retaliation of the riots which took place in Gopalgarh town of Rajasthan.
Akhtar’s first assignment was in 2010 when he received Waqas who had reached Kathmandu from Pakistan along with Asadullah Akhtar, police said.
Akhtar along with Yasin, Asadullah and Waqas was also involved in the Mumbai serial blasts carried out at Opera House and Zaveri Bazar on 12th July 2011 when Yasin was the boss, it said.
Sahara group will have to pay Rs 10,000 crore to get interim bail for its Chief Subrata Roy and firm’s two directors, who are behind the bars since March four, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered.
A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and J S Khehar said that interim bail will be granted only after the company fulfils the condition while the court agreed to defreeze the firms’ bank accounts to raise the money.
“We are inclined to grant interim bail to the contemnors (Roy and two Directors) who are detained by virtue of our order dated March 4 on the condition that they would pay the amount of Rs.10,000 crores–out of which Rs.5,000 crores to be deposited before this court and for the balance a guarantee of a nationalized bank be furnished in favour of SEBI to be deposited before this Court.
“On compliance, the contemnors be released forthwith and the amount deposited be released to SEBI,” the bench said.
Along with the Group’s other two Directors Ravi Shankar Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary, 65-year-old Roy has been in judicial custody since March 4 for not abiding by the apex court’s order for depositing Rs 20,000 crore of investors money with SEBI.
The bench, however, said that it agreed to grant interim bail only to facilitate Roy to raise the money which is to be deposited with SEBI.
“We make it clear that this order is passed in order to facilitate the contemnors to further raise the balance amount so as to comply with the Court’s orders mentioned above,” it said.
Sahara counsel then pleaded with the court to defreeze the bank accounts to raise the money which was accepted by the bench. The court asked the group to give details of the bank accounts tomorrow and then they will pass the order.
It also noted in its order that fresh proposal filed by the group was not in compliance with its earlier order and asked the SEBI to file its response. SEBI opposed the proposal saying it was not workable.
The group, in its proposal, assured the apex court that it will deposit Rs 2,500 crore within three working days and pay three instalments of Rs 3,500 cr each at the end of June, September, December and the remaining Rs 7,000 crore by March 31, 2015.
The Congress party on Wednesday released its manifesto for the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Party president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi released the manifesto at the party office in New Delhi.
Releasing the party’s manifesto ‘Your Voice, Our Pledge’ in New Delhi, they debunked the opinion polls, which predict a dismal show by the UPA, and said everybody will be “surprised” by the results.
On the upbeat campaign mounted by NDA under Modi, Rahul said, “just like the ‘India Shining’ balloon exploded… I can say certainly the balloon will explode.”
“India shining was an excellent campaign. They thought they will get 350 seats. But it evaporated when the results came. I am confident that like the balloon of India Shining, this time also the balloon will explode,” he said.
With Congress fighting the elections with its back to the wall on a variety of issues, including corruption and price rise, the Prime Minister conceded that corruption “cannot be wished away” in a developing country.
He, however, said mechanisms have been put in place to deal with it.
The 49-page manifesto was prepared over five months using a different approach of consulting people which Rahul did.
It promised an ambitious six-point charter of pro-poor measures, including the right to affordable healthcare, housing and pension, and to uplift 80 crore of the population to the middle class.
Amid demands that job reservation be extended to private sector, the party committed itself to creating a national consensus on affirmative action in this regard.
It has also set out a special Youth and Student Agenda committing to train 10 crore youth and give them employment opportunities in five years.
Expressing a resolve to tackle corruption, an issue that has hit UPA-II in the form of scams like 2G, coal and CWG, the party pledged to appoint a special envoy on black money.
Rahul along with Sonia Gandhi debunked the opinion polls which project a dismal show for the Congress.
“I frankly don’t have much faith in the opinion polls. In 2004 also, the story of Congress was over as per the opinion polls. In 2009 also, we were given no chance. But we got more seats. So, we cannot go 100 per cent by the opinion polls,” the Congress president said.
Rahul also talked in same vein, saying in 2009 Congress was projected to suffer badly and predicted NDA wave.
In UP, Congress was projected to get 5 seats (but it got 22 seats).
“You did not believe us then. When the results come (this time), you will be surprised,” he added.
At the function to release the manifesto, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi hailed the 10-year rule of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as they promised a slew of initiatives under the “New Vision”.
“The 2014 polls is not only about programmes, policies, planning and economic development but also to preserve the Constitutional structure of the country envisaged by our freedom fighters.
We will fight in these elections, not for uniformity but for unity.
“We will struggle for such India which is secular and inclusive and does not pit one against the other. We will struggle for such an India in which religion, region and language are not important and in which all are considered Indians,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Insisting that the country had witnessed the fastest economic growth during the last 10 years, the Prime Minister hit out at Modi’s model of development.
“Development has many models. One hears these days about Gujarat model of development. Congress model is one which recognises that the growing economic provides answers to all concerns,” he said.
“Growth by itself is not enough to achieve solid results of inclusive progress. It needs to be backed by education, healthcare and needs of women, SCs, STs and OBCs,” Singh said. Contending that “attempts of disinformation” are being made, he said that in all respects, the record of the UPA has been “superior” to that of NDA.
He said the concerns and needs of all sections of the society can be addressed by an ideology which seeks to unite.