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Suicide bomber kills 33 at Iran procession

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:43 am

TEHRAN, Dec 15, 2010 (AFP) – A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shiite religious procession in the Iranian city of Chabahar on Wednesday, killing 33 people and wounding 83 in an attack claimed by Sunni rebel group Jundallah.

The United States and United Nations led international condemnation of the attack, which Iran said originated from a Jundallah (Army of God) base in neighbouring Pakistan.

Chabahar Prefect Ali Bateni said “33 people were killed and another 83 wounded” in what was the worst attack recorded against Shiite ceremonies.

The bomber struck in a central square as worshippers took part in a procession marking the eve of the last day of Ashura, Red Crescent official Mahmoud Mozafar told the ILNA news agency.

“An individual walked up to some Red Crescent ambulances and blew himself up.”

The governor of Sistan-Baluchestan province, Ali Mohammad Azad, said: “Two terrorists were killed, one in the explosion and the second by police.”

Bateni said a third “terrorist” was later arrested. An intelligence official said he was captured near the border with Pakistan while attempting to flee the country.

“There were two terrorists who were spotted before they carried out their attack but one of them managed to detonate his explosive vest,” Bateni told IRNA.

“The ringleader of this terrorist action has been arrested.”

Ashura is one of the high points of the Shiite calendar when large crowds of worshippers gather in mosques across predominantly Shiite Iran.

But unlike most of the rest of the country, Chabahar’s province of Sistan-Baluchestan has a significant Sunni community and has seen persistent unrest in recent years by Jundallah militants.

The group claimed the attack as revenge for the hanging of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi in June.

“This operation was a revenge for the hanging of the head of the movement Abdolmalek and other members of Jundallah,” the group said on its website

“Tens of guards (members of the elite Revolutionary Guards) and mercenaries have been killed. The operation was carried out to expose the aggressors in Baluchestan.”

Jundallah, which says it is championing the rights of the province’s large Sunni ethnic Baluchi community, has claimed many deadly attacks on security forces over the past decade and assaults that have led to civilian deaths.

Iran has cracked down hard on the group.

In July, Jundallah claimed an attack on the Grand Mosque in the provincial capital Zahedan that targeted Revolutionary Guards and killed 28 people.

Last month, the United States officially designated Jundallah a foreign terrorist organisation. That drew a cautious welcome from Iran, which had previously accused Washington of supporting the group.

Iranian officials renewed the charge on Wednesday.

The head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Alaeddin Borujerdi, accused the “intelligence services of the United States and Britain” of being behind the attack, the ISNA news agency reported.

Deputy Interior Minister Ali Abdollahi said the “equipment used shows that they are terrorists supported by the intelligence services of the region and the US,” IRNA said.

For his part, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said “a group of terrorists, trained and based on the other side of the border, in Pakistan, committed this attack.”

US President Barack Obama said in a statement: “I strongly condemn the outrageous terrorist attack … The murder of innocent civilians in their place of worship during Ashura is a despicable offense.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned the attack and extended condolences to the families of the victims.

“The United States condemns all forms of terrorism and sectarian-driven violence, wherever it occurs, and we stand with the victims of these abhorrent and reprehensible acts,” she said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was “shocked and dismayed” and strongly condemned the “abhorrent terrorist act,” his spokesman said.

British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said London “strongly condemns this atrocity,” while France’s foreign ministry said it shared Iran’s grief after it “was again plunged into mourning by particularly odious terrorism.”

Source: SGGP

Chile’s joy spreads to the world as all 33 miners saved

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile, Oct 14, 2010 (AFP) – A complex, against-all-odds rescue of 33 miners trapped in Chile for more than two months transfixed this nation and the world Wednesday, with wild celebrations breaking out at its successful completion.

The ascent of the last of the miners, grizzled leader Luis Urzua, capped nearly 22 hours of euphoric scenes happening every 30 minutes or so, when each of the trapped men was winched individually to the surface through a narrow escape shaft.

Miner Luis Urzua (L) greets President Sebastian Pinera (R) after reaching the surface from the San Jose mine, near Copiapo, Chile on October 13, 2010. AFP

It also spelled the end of a record ordeal lived by the men, who had survived 10 nightmarish weeks in a dank and dark tunnel 622 meters (2,041 feet) below the surface of Chile’s northern Atacama desert following an August 5 cave-in.

“They were experiencing a kind of rebirth,” President Sebastian Pinera said in a televised address to the nation from the San Jose gold and copper mine after all the miners were freed.

The rescue operation, he affirmed, was “inspiring… for the whole world.”

Pinera hailed Urzua for doing his duty and seeing off all his men before “leaving last like a ship’s captain.”

The two men, grateful miner and smiling president, led a rendition of Chile’s national anthem that was echoed across the country.

Everywhere from the mine to the capital Santiago, tears glistened in eyes and on cheeks as the South American nation joined together in an unsurpassed moment of deep joy. Car horns honked in cities and vuvezela horns blared.

Thirty-three balloons decked out in Chile’s red-white-and-blue colors floated free into the night sky above the mine at the exact moment the last of the 33 trapped miners was brought to the surface.

The depth of feeling electrified the thousands of international journalists covering the rescue, who respectfully stood in silence alongside the miners’ families, recording the event, and sharing in it.

Relatives later streamed up a hill where 33 Chilean flags had been planted to give thanks for the “miracle” they had witnessed.

“It’s the end of a nightmare,” said Silvia Segovia, sister of one of the miners, Victor Segovia.

“It’s a new life about to begin,” said Belgica Ramirez, the sister-in-law of Mario Gomez, the oldest of the miners saved.

The spectacular rescue was followed by an estimated one billion people around the world, many of them catching live updates on television or the Internet.

Presidents Barack Obama of the United States, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, as well as Pope Benedict XVI and other dignitaries sent their congratulations during the day.

The US space agency NASA, which provided advice on how to sustain the 33 men underground, hailed “the courageous miners” and their rescuers.

The operation officially wrapped up at 12:35 am (0335 GMT) Thursday, when the last of six highly trained rescue specialists who had been sent into the mine Wednesday to prepare the miners for their 15-minute ascent himself returned to the surface.

The miners’ ordeal attracted global attention in their determined triumph over fear and disaster.

After initially being given up for dead in the days following the August 5 mine collapse by all except their families, their discovery alive on August 22 sparked riotous celebration — and also head scratching on how to get them out.

While plans were made for three drills to bore escape shafts to them, sustenance and communications were dropped through probe holes to the men, who had up to then survived in a shelter with meager rations.

Two of the drills veered off course, but the third completed its shaft last weekend, setting the scene for Wednesday’s unprecedented extraction of the men.

The first out was 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, a fit and calm man who hugged his young son and wife and thanked Pinera and other officials.

Then, like a cannonball of energy out of the shaft, came Mario Sepulveda, 40, who roared “Viva Chile” before handing out rocks from the bottom of the mine as souvenirs.

“I have been with God and with the devil,” Sepulveda said later, in more reflective mood. “I seized the hand of God, it was the best hand. I always knew God would get us out of there.”

Others following included the only non-Chilean in the group, Bolivian miner Carlos Mamani, 23, who turned down an offer from visiting Bolivian President Evo Morales to return to La Paz with him, preferring to remain in Chile.

Also brought to the top was Jimmy Sanchez, at 19 the youngest of the miners, Esteban Rojas, a 44-year-old who had promised a church wedding to his long-term partner Jessica Yanez, and Raul Bustos, 40, who had been working at the mine only two months when it collapsed.

Yonni Barrios, the 21st miner to be hauled to the surface, stepped out of the escape capsule to be hugged not by his wife of 28 years, but by his longtime girlfriend.

“It turned out he had also asked the other lady and I have decency. One thing is clear: it’s her or me,” the wife, Marta Salinas, was quoted as telling Chilean media.

She nevertheless said: “I”m glad he’s safe, it’s a miracle from God.”

All the men wore special dark sunglasses to protect their weakened eyes from the natural light.

They were immediately taken to a field hospital at the mine for tests, and around half were flown to a regional hospital in the nearest town of Copiapo.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich said the healthiest could be discharged Thursday.

Doctors at Copiapo hospital said the 16 miners at the hospital were generally doing well, though both Sepulveda and one other miner suffered from silicosis, a incurable, common miners’ ailment in which lungs damaged from dust make breathing difficult.

Manalich also said one unnamed miner was receiving “intensive antibiotic treatment” for severe pneumonia and two would have to have surgery under general anesthesia for “very serious” dental infections.

Source: SGGP

New rains leave 33 more dead in flood-ravaged China

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 7:23 am

BEIJING, Aug 13, 2010 (AFP) – Torrential rains on Friday battered several parts of western China, killing at least 33 people and heightening fears of a disease outbreak in a mudslide-ravaged town where more than 1,150 have died.

Health authorities said survivors of the deadly floods and landslides in Zhouqu, a remote town in the mountains of Gansu province in China’s northwest, were facing a grim situation after clinics were damaged and vaccines ruined.

The bad weather showed no signs of letting up, with at least 33 people killed and 32 missing after floods and landslides in other parts of Gansu and neighbouring Sichuan province, as China battles its worst flooding in a decade.

In Zhouqu, 588 people are still missing after the weekend avalanche of mud and rocks, which levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 300 metres wide. The latest official death toll stood at 1,156 as of Friday.

“Rescue work is continuing, but the recent rains have caused some difficulties,” Yan Jinxin, a spokeswoman for the Zhouqu county government, told AFP by telephone on Friday.

“The roads are muddy and hard to get through,” she said, adding that more rain was expected in the afternoon.

An official with the Gannan prefectural government, who gave only his surname, Yu, said that more raincoats, gloves and medicines were needed in the mudslide zone.

But state television announced a piece of good news, saying water supplies had been restored to the county on Friday.

The risk of the spread of disease was nevertheless mounting, a health ministry official told the state Xinhua news agency.

“A large number of rescue and relief workers and survivors are now living there, increasing the risk of intestinal and respiratory infectious diseases,” said the official.

Efforts to disinfect the area were difficult, and the decomposition of human and animal corpses buried under the mountains of sludge and debris in the town would aggravate the situation, the official said.

About 800 medical workers have been dispatched to the region following the mudslides, which state media described as the worst in 60 years in China.

Tonnes of garlic and Sichuan pepper, which in China are believed to guard against various ailments, have been sent to Zhouqu, state media said, citing local health authorities.

Troops were still using excavators and explosives to clear blockages in the Bailong river which cuts through Zhouqu.

There had been fears that a barrier lake created by the rubble could bring further chaos if it were to burst, but Zhang Guoxin, vice-director of the Gansu land resources department, said late Thursday it had been drained.

Zhang also said the risk of any of the dams along the Bailong bursting had been “basically eliminated”, according to a statement on the provincial government’s website.

Elsewhere in Gansu, 28 people were killed and 24 others left missing in the cities of Longnan and Tianshui, not far from Zhouqu, the civil affairs ministry said.

Local authorities were evacuating residents and sending tents, instant noodles and bottled water to those areas.

In Sichuan, five people were killed and eight missing in rural, mountainous Mianzhu, Xinhua said, citing a local official. Thousands were also evacuated in Shaanxi province following heavy rains.

The mudslides in Zhouqu are the latest in a string of weather-related disasters across China. More than 2,100 people were left dead or missing and 12 million evacuated nationwide before the Zhouqu incident.

The civil affairs ministry said Friday it had not calculated a new nationwide flood death toll.

Source: SGGP

Thai speedboat collision injures 33 tourists: hospitals

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2010 at 4:45 am

BANGKOK, June 27, 2010 (AFP) – Two speedboats carrying Thai and Western tourists have collided in the Gulf of Thailand injuring at least 33 people, and two are thought to be missing, hospital staff and media said Sunday.

The accident happened late Saturday night as the boats were ferrying people to and from a full moon party on a beach on Koh Phangan, a monthly event on the island that is popular with thousands of Western backpackers.

Two hospitals on the nearby resort island of Koh Samui told AFP they had treated 33 tourists between them, with nine still in their care including five Australians, two Britons, one Singaporean and one Irish holidaymaker.

The Nation newspaper website said two people were missing and 39 were injured, two of them in a serious condition with head injuries, after the crash threw them into the sea.

At least seven Australians were injured in the accident, according to an Australian foreign ministry spokesman.

“The Australian embassy in Bangkok is working with Thai authorities to determine whether there are any other Australians involved,” he told AFP.

Koh Phangan has gained notoriety for the hedonistic monthly full moon event, billed as one of the biggest beach parties in the world, where drugs and alcohol are rife.

Source: SGGP

Suicide bombs kill 33 in Iraq, officials say

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Suicide bombers in a crowded Baghdad commercial district and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit killed as many as 33 people Sunday as insurgents tried to turn a monthslong deadlock over forming a new Iraqi government to their advantage.

The latest violence began when bombers drove two cars packed with nearly 180 pounds (82 kilograms) of ammonium nitrate toward the gates of the Trade Bank of Iraq building in Baghdad and detonated the explosives after striking the surrounding blast walls, said Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi.

Al-Moussawi said at least 18 people were killed and 42 wounded. But three Iraqi police officials and a doctor at the Yarmouk hospital where many victims were taken put the toll at 28 killed and 57 wounded. Conflicting casualty tolls are common in the chaotic aftermath of bombings in Iraq.

Hours later, a man wearing an explosives vest blew himself up as police and onlookers responded to a roadside bomb apparently set as a trap in the northern city of Tikrit. At least five people were killed and 12 wounded in the late night attack, according to police and hospital officials.

An Iraqi Army soldier stands guard at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 20, 2010.

The attacks added weight to warnings that insurgents would try to foment unrest as politicians squabble over forming a new government more than three months after inconclusive national elections.

The explosions capped a week in which about 100 people were killed in bombings and shootings nationwide, including at least 26 who died in a commando-style assault against the central bank in Baghdad last Sunday. An al-Qaida in Iraq front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility for that attack, saying it targeted the institution responsible for funneling “oil money and the stolen wealth of Muslims” to the West.

Sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007 has dropped sharply after a series of U.S.-Iraqi offensives, a Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and a Shiite militia cease-fire. But Iraqis still face near-daily attacks.

Many are venting their anger at politicians for failing to choose a prime minister and form a government, even though the new parliament was seated last week. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been acting in a caretaker role as he battles to keep his job after a rival Sunni-backed political bloc won a narrow victory in the March 7 parliamentary vote.

The head of the Iraqiya bloc, Ayad Allawi, has warned more violence could ensue if the Sunnis who backed him feel sidelined by a Shiite alliance between al-Maliki’s party and a hard-line religious group.

Ahmed Abdullah, an engineer in the Electricity Ministry, said bickering politicians “have encouraged al-Qaida sleeper cells to resume work and strike again.”

“Ordinary Iraqis are paying the price of the political struggle in Baghdad,” he said.

Hassan al-Janabi, a 44-year-old hotel employee in Baghdad, said he has altered his routine to avoid crowded areas and rush hour traffic, which have been popular targets for insurgents seeking to maximize casualties.

“I believe the deteriorating security situation is connected to the political struggle and the fight between politicians over power and government,” he said. “I think that attacks will increase because regional countries will increase their interference in Iraq after the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. forces.”

The ability of insurgents to penetrate areas with tight security has raised questions about the readiness of Iraqi forces to take over their own security less than three months before all American combat troops are to leave the country, the first step toward a full withdrawal by the end of next year.

The Trade Bank of Iraq is in a commercial area surrounding Nisoor Square that includes a government agency that issues national identification cards and the telephone exchange building. Established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the bank is at the forefront of efforts to attract foreign investment.

Bank chairman Hussein al-Uzri said five guards were among the dead and six others were wounded. He blamed the attack on insurgents trying to undermine Iraq’s progress and promised they would fail.

“The work of building Iraq’s economic strength … goes on uninterrupted, as does the work of the bank, which will be open for business tomorrow,” he said in a statement Sunday.

In other violence, police and morgue officials said the decomposed bodies of six women and a man were found buried in the backyard of a deserted house in the religiously mixed Zayouna neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. The seven victims apparently were killed two to three months ago, the officials said.

Iraqi women are frequently killed by religious extremists who accuse them of behavior deemed un-Islamic.

Two people were killed in a roadside bombing targeting the convoy of the police chief in Duluiyah, a former insurgent stronghold north of Baghdad, although the police chief was not harmed.

Hospital officials also said a man wounded after police opened fire at a protest over power cuts in the southern oil hub of Basra had died, raising the number of demonstrators killed to two. The violence Saturday highlighted growing public anger over a lack of basic services in Iraq.

The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information to the media.

Al-Maliki has dispatched a team to Basra to address the problem.

Political rival Allawi called the protest a spontaneous outpouring of discontent and called for restraint from Iraqi security forces in a televised speech broadcast on the private Al-Sharqiyah TV station.

“Regretfully what happened formed a black mark in the march of Iraq toward prosperity and development as well construction and stability,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Suicide attack on Pakistani Shiites kills 33

In World on December 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

The death toll from an overnight suicide attack on a Shiite Muslim procession in Pakistan‘s biggest city rose Tuesday to 33, in violence blamed on extremists trying to hamper the fight against militants by sparking a sectarian war.

Angered over Monday’s attack, Shiites set fire to buildings and dozens of vehicles in Karachi, a sign of frustration by the minority sect, which has suffered frequent attacks by Sunni extremist groups who regard them as heretical.

TV footage showed firefighters struggling to extinguish blazes Tuesday. Sagheer Ahmed, the provincial health minister, said the death toll from the attack had risen to 33. Pakistani television stations said that three people who were hospitalized died overnight of their injuries.

People walk in a market area burned by angry protesters after a suicide attack on aShiite Muslims mourning procession, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 in Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistani authorities say sectarian groups have teamed up with Taliban and al-Qaida militants waging war against the government in a joint effort to destabilize Pakistan. More than 500 people have been killed in attacks since mid-October when the army launched a major anti-Taliban offensive in the country’s northwest.

“A deliberate attempt seems to be afoot by the extremists to turn the fight against militants into a sectarian clash and make the people fight against one another,” said President Asif Ali Zardari in a statement.

Karachi has largely been spared the Taliban-linked violence that has struck much of the rest of the country, a fact that analysts believe is driven by the group’s tendency to use the teeming metropolis as a place to rest and raise money. But the city has been the scene of frequent sectarian, ethnic and political violence.

The suicide bomber who struck Monday targeted thousands of Shiites marching through the streets to observe Ashoura, the most important day of a monthlong mourning period for the seventh-century death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein.

“I fell down when the bomb went off with a big bang,” said Naseem Raza, a 26-year-old who was marching in the procession. “I saw walls stained with blood and splashed with human flesh.”

Residents in apartments near the blast site tossed down body parts that had been cast into their homes from the explosion, while birds dove down to pick at the flesh amid damaged vehicles and motorbikes.

Authorities found the intact head and torso of the suicide bomber on the third floor of a nearby office building, where it had crashed through a window, said bomb disposal squad official Munir Sheikh. Some 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of high explosive were used in the bombing, he said.

No group claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, but Interior Minister Rehman Malik pointed his finger at a cluster of militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammad, that he said have a joint goal to destabilize Pakistan.

“These are people who are against democracy, against our religion, against our Pakistan,” said Malik.

Malik appealed to the Shiite community to cancel processions for the next two days.

Monday’s bombing was the third explosion in as many days to hit Karachi, although authorities attributed a blast that wounded 30 on Sunday to a buildup of gas in a sewage pipe.

Protests broke out after that blast too, with Shiites torching at least three vehicles.

On Saturday, another blast near a Shiite procession wounded 19 people. Authorities attributed that explosion to a firecracker that was so powerful it left a crater in the road.

A suicide bomber struck a Shiite procession Sunday in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, killing eight people and wounding another 80. The bombing was a rare sectarian attack in an area police say has little history of militant violence.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share