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Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Four police officers shot dead in Washington state

In World on November 30, 2009 at 4:11 am

Four police officers were shot dead in an execution-style ambush at a coffee shop near a US air force base in Washington state, police said.


Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ed Troyer said the victims were sitting at a table in the cafe before their shift when a lone gunman entered and started shooting at around 8:15 am (1615 GMT) local time.


“We have somebody out there who blatantly went in and opened fire on four police officers, killing all four of them,” Troyer said following the shooting near McChord Air Force base in Tacoma, south of Seattle.


The identities of the victims were not immediately released although later Sunday police said three men and one woman officer had been killed. All the victims were wearing uniforms, including bulletproof vests.








Four police officers were shot dead in an execution-style ambush at a coffee shop near a US air force base in Washington state, police said.

Troyer said the officers, from nearby Lakewood Police Department, had been specifically targeted, noting that staff and customers at the coffee shop had not been shot at.


“It was definitely an ambush target situation, there were two baristas and some other customers in there. None of them were hurt or shot at or aimed at,” Troyer said.


“This was more of an execution. Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers.”


The suspected gunman was described as a “black male in his 20s or 30s” Troyer told reporters. “He walked in with a handgun, opened fire multiple times and fled the scene,” he said.


The gunman was described as scruffy-looking and fled on foot after the attack, possibly with another man, he said.


Troyer later told King 5 local television that one of the mortally wounded officers may have traded fire with the gunman.


“There is evidence that a Lakewood Police officer fired off some shots and we hope that he hit him,” Troyer said. “If he’s hit, that means that he’s injured somewhere with a gunshot wound.”


Troyer said local hospitals had been alerted in case the suspect sought medical attention.


Police set up tiplines and offered a 10,000-dollar reward for anyone with information about those responsible for the shooting.


Around 200 officers from different law enforcement agencies were involved in the hunt for the shooting suspect late Sunday, police said.


“We have no motive at all,” Troyer told King 5. “I don’t think when we find out what it is, it will be anything that makes any sense or be worth it.”


Local media reports said police had been tackling street gangs in the area recently but Troyer appeared to discount a suggestion that the killing could have been part of an initiation test.


“For a gang member to do something like this would be way out of the box,” Troyer said. “Gangs wouldn’t be happy about this because it would bring attention to them that they don’t want. That’s not the direction we’re going.”


Washington Governor Chris Gregoire voiced his shock at the shootings, which local media said was the worst single loss of life involving law enforcement officers in state history.

“I am shocked and horrified at the murder of four police officers this morning in Pierce County,” Gregoire said.

“Our police put their lives on the line every day, and tragedies like this remind us of the risks they continually take to keep our communities safe.”


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Ex-rebel Mujica wins Uruguay presidential vote

In World on November 30, 2009 at 4:10 am

 Jose Mujica, a leftist former rebel, was declared the winner Sunday of a presidential runoff vote in Uruguay after his opponent ex-president Luis Lacalle conceded defeat.


The co-founder of the radical leftist Tupamaros movement addressed cheering supporters in a triumphant speech that reached out to Lacalle and the opposition.


“The world is upside down,” Mujica told his rejoicing supporters. “It is you who should be up on this stage and us who should be cheering for you because it is you who have led this fight.”


“But we must also remember that there are compatriots who are saddened by these results, and they are our blood brothers and so it must be said that there are no winners and no losers!” he told supporters who waved the white, blue and red flags of the Frente Amplio party, a leftist coalition.








Uruguayan presidential candidate and former guerrilla Jose Mujica of the ruling Frente Amplio (Broad Front) votes during run-off presidential elections in Montevideo.

Lacalle, who governed Uruguay from 1990 to 1995, conceded defeat after exit polls showed Mujica had won some 51 percent of the vote.


The result, in an election triggered after neither candidate garnered an absolute majority in an October first-round vote, makes Mujica the second former Latin American rebel to be elected president recently, after Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, an ex-Sandinista.


Mujica’s Tupamaros history had sparked consternation among some conservatives here, particularly as he has not hidden his admiration for flamboyant leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but he came first in October’s vote and polls showed him consistently leading Lacalle.


The ex-rebel chose a pragmatic former finance minister, Danilo Astori, as his running mate and the pair pledged to continue the economic policies of out-going President Tabare Vasquez.


Vazquez, who is constitutionally prohibited from running for office again, has high approval ratings thanks in large part to policies that have helped Uruguay avoid recession while maintaining a relatively low unemployment and reducing poverty levels.


Mujica has said he models himself on popular Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-leaning former labor activist who is known for a centrist approach.


But the former Tupamaros rebel has also won attention for his largely informal style, largely eschewing suits, and has been known make colorful remarks that delight his supporters.


When center-right former president Jorge Battle suggested that the Tupamaros movement had links to a recently uncovered weapons cache, Mujica gave a characteristically blunt response.


“I’m going to send him a bottle of Viagra so he can amuse himself with more useful things than saying this kind of crap,” he said.


On Sunday, Mujica offered more conciliatory remarks in his victory address, flanked by his running mate Astori and outgoing President Vazquez, who was the first elected leftist president in Uruguay.


“We will pick a government that does not claim to own the truth and we need everybody,” Mujica said, praising the country’s opposition parties.


Despite driving rain and strong winds, Mujica’s supporters filled the main street of the Uruguayan capital, stopping traffic as they celebrated.


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Tiny magnetic discs could kill cancer cells: study

In World on November 30, 2009 at 4:10 am

Tiny magnetic discs just a millionth of a metre in diameter could be used to used to kill cancer cells, according to a study published on Sunday.


Laboratory tests found the so-called “nanodiscs”, around 60 billionths of a metre thick, could be used to disrupt the membranes of cancer cells, causing them to self-destruct.


The discs are made from an iron-nickel alloy, which move when subjected to a magnetic field, damaging the cancer cells, the report published in Nature Materials said.


One of the study’s authors, Elena Rozhlova of Argonne National Laboratory in the United States, said subjecting the discs to a low magnetic field for around ten minutes was enough to destroy 90 percent of cancer cells in tests.


In a commentary on the report, Jon Dobson of Keele University in Britain said antibodies could be used to direct the discs towards tumour cells.


“This provides an elegant and rapid technique for targeting tumour destruction without the side effects associated with systemic treatments such as chemotherapy,” Dobson wrote.


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UAE acts to shore up banking system and calm markets

In World on November 30, 2009 at 4:10 am

The United Arab Emirates central bank on Sunday pumped more liquidity into its banking sector amid fears that local stock markets may plunge after debt-laden Dubai asked to suspend debt payments.


The intervention is seen as a step to soothe investors and bank depositors after the shock announcement that state-controlled Dubai World wants to halt payments to creditors until at least May next year.


“This is a step aimed to calm investors… Markets should be calmer (than feared) tomorrow,” said Emirati financial analyst Nasser bin Gaith.


“This means that banks will be on the safe side,” a UAE official who requested anonymity told AFP.


The central bank‘s move came just before the the stock markets in Dubai and neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi have their first chance on Monday to react to the disclosure of the debt difficulties, which were unveiled just before the start of a four-day holiday for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.








A foreign labourer pictured at the construction site of Dubai’s Business Bay on November 27

The central bank said in a statement, unusually issued during a holiday, that it was providing banks with extra liquidity, stressing its support to the banking sector.


But bin Gaith expects the decision to have no real immediate impact on Dubai’s debt problem, pointing out that Dubai World is largely indebted to foreign banks.


“On practical level,there is no direct impact… Local banks have limited exposure to Dubai World, unlike foreign banks,” he said.


British banks reportedly have a total exposure of 30 billion dollars to Dubai World.


And until the UAE stock exchanges reopen on Monday it is uncertain to what extent investors will be reassured by the central bank’s statement.


“I expect to see a drop in Dubai’s market when it opens Monday… a minimum of two-three percent,” Saudi financial analyst Ali Daqaq told AFP. Dubai stock market rules limit the index to a change of 10 percent in one day.


“The banking sector will be the hardest hit, due to exposure to loans, and the danger of default on this debt,” he said, speaking before the central bank pledged support for banks.


The central bank said the UAE banking sector stands stronger and more liquid than a year ago and that it enjoys a “strong base of stable deposits.”


Other Gulf stock markets have also been on holiday since Thursday for Eid al-Adha, sparing them an immediate impact from Dubai’s announcement.


However, the news sent jitters throughout Asian and European stock markets on Thursday and the US market on Friday as investors feared a possible default by Dubai and its state-owned businesses, which together owe 80 billion dollars.


Some economists say the delay in the reaction by Gulf markets because of Eid might reduce the severe impact on those bourses.


“Market fundamentals say that the local market should be negatively affected by the announcement, especially banks and real estate stocks,” bin Ghaith told AFP before the central bank announcement.


“The reaction by the global markets was psychological, and came strongly. I expect the reaction here to be less hard because the first shock was absorbed by the global markets,” he said.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be the only Gulf stock markets to open on Monday, while Kuwait follows on Tuesday. Saudi Arabia’s financial market, the largest Arab bourse in capitalisation, will remain on holiday until Saturday.

The markets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi will have only two days of trading before they go again on holiday until Sunday December 6, for the national day.

Gulf investors outside the UAE are worried about contagion from Dubai’s problems.

“Even here in Saudi Arabia people are talking about withdrawing from the market when it opens (next) Saturday in fear of the impact of the banks’ exposure to Dubai’s debt,” Daqaq said.

Saudi economist Abdulwahab Abu-Dahesh expects a crash in the region’s markets. “I expect Gulf bourses to dive like the September crash last year,” following Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, he said.

Dubai does not have big oil reserves, unlike Abu Dhabi which sits on around 95 percent of the UAE’s crude deposits.

But doubts have been growing about Abu Dhabi’s commitment to buoy Dubai, despite a full subscription by two Abu Dhabi-controlled banks to Dubai bonds worth five billion dollars, announced a few hours before Dubai hinted at debt default.

The once-rapidly-booming economy of Dubai came to a screeching halt — most noticeably in its real estate sector, after being hit by financing shortage due to the global financial crisis.

Property prices in the once-booming desert city have slumped by 50 percent.

The latest edition of Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper was barred from news-stands in Dubai because of a graphic showing the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktoum sinking in a sea of debt.

“The Sunday Times was not distributed today,” an official from the UAE national media council told AFP, requesting anonymity.

“We cannot accept a personal insult. It is against our traditions,” he said.


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EU finance chiefs say global stimulus plans must continue

In World on November 30, 2009 at 4:09 am

 European finance chiefs said Sunday the global economic recovery was not yet strong enough for governments to halt stimulus measures, after meeting here with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.


A delegation led by Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet and economic and monetary affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia also urged a “gradual and orderly” appreciation of the yuan.


It also warned China to be careful with its exports — often much cheaper than those of other countries — to avoid provoking a protectionist backlash, in the talks held in the eastern city of Nanjing.


“We are considering the moment has not yet arrived to withdraw the stimulus packages that are under way in various parts of world,” Juncker told a news briefing after the meeting between EU officials and Chinese economic managers.








China’s Premier Wen Jiabao (R) and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso pose before their meeting on the sidelines of the China-EU summit in Nanjing

The Asian giant’s economic recovery was well under way, Juncker said, adding the Euro area was also detecting clear signs of improvement and expecting to see a moderate recovery in 2010.


“The Euro area will see no major withdrawal of stimulus measures in 2010,” he said.


The meeting took place a day ahead of a major China-EU summit expected to focus on climate change.


The yuan’s exchange rate is one of the thorniest issues between China and the European Union.


The Chinese currency has been effectively pegged to the US dollar since the summer of 2008, and Europe fears the euro’s resultant rise against the yuan will hurt EU exports to China and slow the continent’s economic recovery.


“We said there was a case for what I would say is a gradual and orderly appreciation of the currency against the euro and the major floating currencies. This was our message,” Trichet told reporters.


“We were not defending the overall interest of the European economy only,” he said. “We were defending what we trust is the superior interest of both the Chinese and the European economy — and the global economy.”


Trichet said the rebalancing of China’s export-dependent economy was “part of its own stability and prosperity.”


However, the European officials said they were not optimistic that Beijing’s policy on the yuan would change.


Almunia confirmed the low value of the yuan against the euro had “led to a situation with which we are not satisfied.”


Protectionism was a concern for both sides, he added, pointing out the EU was China’s largest trading partner, accounting for a fifth of the Asian giant’s total exports.


“In this still difficult economic situation we should avoid protectionism… it is in the Chinese interests not to create conditions that can lead to protectionism,” he told reporters after the news conference.


Wen, for his part, also voiced his opposition to trade and investment protectionism, according to comments broadcast on state television. He also defended the yuan.


“China maintains the stability of the yuan exchange rate and has made important contributions to global financial stability and economic development,” he was quoted as saying.

Wen added China would gradually increase the “flexibility of the yuan exchange rate.”

Earlier this month US President Barack Obama appeared to have failed to persuade Chinese officials to loosen the yuan’s peg to the dollar.

“The Chinese are telling us exactly the same thing they are telling President Obama,” European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters after a dinner with Wen before Monday’s China-EU summit.

A week before the United Nations Climate Change Conference begins on December 7, environmental concerns are expected to overshadow other issues at the summit, which is also being attended by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the rotating EU presidency.

“I certainly asked the Chinese and all our partners to explore the outer limits of their position,” Barroso said after the dinner. “What is at stake is very important: it’s the future of our planet.”

China meanwhile is expected to offer reassuring words on the importance of the EU after Obama’s recent visit here fuelled talk of a “G2” world dominated by Washington and Beijing.

One senior European official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Nanjing meeting marked the first “substantial summit we have had since 2007”.

China cancelled a December 2008 summit in protest at a meeting between the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who held the EU presidency at the time.

A summit between the two sides was subsequently held in Prague in May this year.


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Afghan talks to seek road to security handover

In World on November 30, 2009 at 4:09 am

Britain will host talks on Afghanistan on January 28, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Saturday, just days before U.S. President Barack Obama spells out his expansion of the war effort next week.


The international conference in London, to be followed by a meeting in Kabul, will address progressively handing security to Afghan control, Brown and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago.


That would, in theory, allow NATO countries to draw down their forces gradually as public support wanes on both sides of the Atlantic for the costly war that began in late 2001.


The London and Kabul talks will “outline the framework for an increased lead role for the Afghans in the shaping of their destiny,” Ban said.








Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is heading to Washington Sunday for key talks with US President Barack Obama to be dominated by climate change and the conflict in Afghanistan

Brown said he saw the need “to transfer at least five Afghan provinces to lead Afghan control by the end of 2010.”


Despite talk of a transition, the immediate focus for the United States, Britain and their allies is how best to fight a tenacious insurgency by Taliban and al Qaeda militants, including calls for tens of thousands more soldiers.


Obama will address Americans in a prime-time televised speech on Tuesday to explain why U.S. soldiers need to be in Afghanistan and the way toward an “endgame” in the conflict.


He is expected to say he is sending about 30,000 more U.S. troops as part of a strategy to accelerate training of Afghan forces and press President Hamid Karzai to improve governance after his re-election in a fraud-tainted vote in August.


“SOMETIME BEFORE 2013”


General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, expects the United States to be able to start scaling back its forces “sometime before 2013,” said Republican Representative Mike Coffman, who was among a delegation of U.S. lawmakers just back from a visit to Kabul.


Karzai has said Afghans would be able to take over security in five years — in line with McChrystal’s target but a goal U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “ambitious.”


Complicating the situation are the issues of Pakistan’s efforts against the militants on its side of the rugged border, Karzai’s ability to tackle corruption and the geopolitical concerns of India, China, Iran and others.


Obama’s strategy decision, after a three-month review, will shape the future of the war in Afghanistan, where 68,000 U.S. troops anchor a multinational force of 110,000 soldiers.


The war will also be a key issue in a British election due by June 2010, which Brown faces an uphill battle to win, and in U.S. congressional elections in November 2010.


Brown said he would announce next week whether conditions were right for Britain to add 500 soldiers to its 9,000-strong force in Afghanistan. He said he expected other countries to pledge an extra 5,000 troops.


Violence in Afghanistan has hit its highest levels since U.S.-led forces invaded in 2001 to oust the fundamentalist Taliban movement for harboring al Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States.


Pakistan has also suffered a wave of militant bombings that have killed hundreds of people since its forces launched a major offensive against the Taliban in September.


Brown said the London conference would aim to “drive forward our campaign in Afghanistan, to match the increase in military forces with an increased political momentum.”

Karzai, Ban, NATO allies, Afghanistan’s neighbors, regional powers and key international bodies will be invited, he said.

White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said the meeting “will be an opportunity for the international community and the Afghan government to discuss security transition, governance, economic development, reintegration and reconciliation, and civilian leadership issues.”

U.S. TIME “WILL BE LIMITED”

Beyond expanding U.S. forces, Pentagon officials expect Obama to continue the existing counterinsurgency strategy with more focus on protecting major Afghan population centers, agricultural areas and transportation routes.

That could be combined with greater use of unmanned aerial drones and special operations units to fight Taliban and al Qaeda militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and in Afghanistan’s more sparsely populated areas.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday that the cost of the conflict to the United States — $6.7 billion in June alone — and the physical toll it has taken on the U.S. military made the war unsustainable in the long term.

“We are not going to be there another eight or nine years,” he said. “Our time there will be limited and that is important for people to understand.”

Obama, also seeking to wind down the war in Iraq, will discuss Afghanistan strategy with visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Monday.

Australia, a close U.S. ally with about 1,500 troops in the war zone, is expected to announce it is sending several hundred more, the Washington Post reported.

A new NATO training mission is working to expand the Afghan army to 134,000 soldiers by October 2010. But McChrystal wants a dramatic rise in the size of Afghan forces, perhaps to as many as 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 police.

Kabul announced a pay raise of nearly 40 percent for police and military recruits on Saturday — to about $165 a month — to improve the quality of the forces, especially police ranks that are plagued by corruption, desertion and high turnover.

“We have an Afghanistan that will be able to defend itself with its own national security forces,” Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said in a statement.


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SGGP news now available on mobile phones

In Vietnam Science on November 30, 2009 at 4:08 am

Sai Gon Giai Phong (SGGP) readers can now receive the latest news via their mobile phones.








Viettel subscribers can now receive the latest SGGP’s news via their mobile phones.

The Mobile SGGP Newspaper service allows mobile phone users to download SGGP news and send stories to their friends.


The service is provided by Viettel mobile in conjunction with SGGP newspaper.


Viettel subscribers will receive news updates in the afternoon and evening through the multimedia message (MMS) feature.


Subscribers must register and pay for GPRS, and have a mobile phone able to use MMS.


The service fee is VND15,000 per month. For customers who register from the 21st of the month onwards, the fee is just VND7,800 until the end of the month.
 
To access the service, subscribers send a message using DK (space) SGGP to the number 9222.


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Foreign arrivals multiply

In Vietnam Travel on November 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Vietnam welcomed 387,870 foreign arrivals in November, representing a many-fold increase over October.









The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) reported at a workshop on its strategy for 2020 with a vision for 2030 in Hanoi on November 27 that it is a positive sign for the hospitality industry after 10 months of gloom and doom due to the global economic downturn.

The governing agency said it expected continued growth in December to bring the total number of foreign arrivals for the year to some 4 million.


It attributed the success to a series of image promotion campaigns abroad and a discount program named “Impressive Vietnam!”


“The rally of the Vietnamese economy is another factor attracting foreign tourists,” said the VNAT.


The national strategy for 2020 and vision for 2030 called for welcoming 7-8 million foreign arrivals and serving 32-35 million domestic holiday-makers by 2015.


The targets for 2020 include 11-12 million international arrivals and 45-48 million domestic vacationers.


The hospitality industry is expected to post revenues of USD10-11 billion in 2015 and USD18-19 billion in 2020, which will double in 2030.


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Explosion heard in Kabul: witnesses

In World on November 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

An explosion in a central Kabul neighbourhood on Saturday was caused by a “sound bomb” and appeared to have caused no casualties, an official said.


The blast happened around 10:20 am (0550 GMT) and was immediately followed by the sound of sirens as security forces rushed to the scene.


An official with the interior ministry told AFP that a “sound bomb” had been placed in a garbage skip on a main thoroughfare through the wealthy Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood.


“There are no casualties at all,” spokesman Zamarai Bashary said.


So-called “sound bombs” are aimed at causing noise and confusion, rather than death and injury.


Afghanistan is marking the Eid-al-Adha Muslim festival of sacrifice with a four-day holiday until Tuesday, with most businesses closed and very little traffic on the capital’s usually gridlocked roads.








Afghan police stand guard at a site of a blast in the center of Kabul, on November 28.

Wazir Akbar Khan is the location of the American and British embassies, as well as the residences of their employees. Many foreign firms also have offices in the nighbourhood, which is close to Kabul’s airport.


It is also near the headquarters of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the scene of a massive suicide car bomb attack in mid-August that killed at least three people and wounded dozens more.


The area, like the rest of the Afghan capital, was quiet as most people celebrate the holiday at home with family.


An AFP employee on the site said the explosive device had been put in a large rubbish skip on the roadside, and the blast had resulted in garbage being spread across a wide area.


Kabul, the most heavily-fortified part of war-torn Afghanistan, has been attacked by Taliban-linked insurgents at least five times in recent months with around 100 people killed and 300 injured.


Most have been suicide car bomb attacks that the Taliban have claimed responsibility for.


Most recently, on November 13, a suicide car bomber struck near a US military base in Kabul, Camp Phoenix. No one was killed.


Kabul has been on heightened alert since October 28 when Taliban-linked insurgents stormed a guesthouse occupied by staff of the United Nations, most of whom were in the Afghan capital for work associated with the recent presidential election.


The tragedy at the guesthouse resulted in the deaths of at least five UN workers and two Afghans, and saw the United Nations withdraw up to 600 staff from Afghanistan, many of them to be permanently relocated elsewhere.


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Russian train crash kills 39, nearly 100 injured

In World on November 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Rescue workers picked Saturday through the twisted wreckage of a Russian passenger train that derailed overnight killing at least 39 people, hunting for more survivors of what may have been an attack.


“In all there are 39,” Alexander Basulin, an official at Russia’s emergency situations ministry, was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS. “There were 25 at the beginning, and 14 more were found outside the carriage.”


Separately, Interfax quoted an unnamed rescue worker as saying that the death toll had risen to 39 from the previous reported figure of 25.


Russian television showed footage of the mangled metal of four overturned wagons of the Nevski Express, which officials said came off the tracks Friday evening in the Novgorod region as it travelled between the capital Moscow and Saint Petersburg.








Passengers of a train which derailed in Russia’s Novgorod region as it travelled between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, arrive in St. Petersburg.

Ninety-five people were injured and hospitalised, she added.


A unnamed security official was quoted by the Interfax as saying that a one metre-diametre (three-foot wide) crater was found near the scene of the disaster.


“Witnesses say they heard a loud bang before the accident. This could be proof of an attack,” the source said.


The crater could have been caused by an “explosion from a device placed underneath one of the wagons,” Ria-Novosti quoted another security official as saying.


A railways official also told Itar-Tass that “an attack is one of the possibilities” being looked at by the police.


“That version must be carefully studied by law enforcement authorities,” Alexander Pirkov, an advisor to the president of the Russian railway company, was quoted as saying by Interfax.


In August 2007, a bomb on the same line derailed a train, injuring 60 passengers, with Chechen separatist or ultra-nationalist groups suspected.


Four wagons of the 14-carriage train, carrying around 660 passengers and nearly two dozen staff, derailed at 9:34 pm (1834 GMT), according to the emergencies ministry.


Emergency services rushed to the scene of the crash, and by 0100 GMT all the injured had been evacuated to local hospitals, Russia media reported.


Several medical teams and a mobile hospital were also dispatched to the area.


Rescue work continued through the night to free people believed trapped under the wreckage, said Itar-Tass.


“Two wagons were completely overturned … Several people were completely crushed under the metal. I heard screams, moaning,” said, Andrei Abramenko, a police officer who happened to be travelling on the train, on Vesti 24 television.


The station showed footage of rescuers working among the wreckage under powerful searchlights.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the head of the FSB domestic security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika to lead the investigation into the causes of the derailment, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The country’s anti-terrorism committee dispatched units to the area to help with the rescue effort and the investigation, Interfax reported.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu held a crisis meeting in Moscow with Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and Golikova, and was expected to visit the scene of derailment Saturday morning, the news agency reported.

In Washington, the White House said it was “deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life and injuries” from the railway accident, spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.


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