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Pakistan Islamists clash with police in row over French cartoons

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

Four Pakistani police were killed and hundreds wounded when armed activists from a banned Islamist group clashed with security forces at an anti-blasphemy demonstration near the eastern city of Lahore, Reuters quoting officials.

According to the report the clash broke out at a rally of the banned Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on a highway in Sheikhupura, just outside Lahore, as the group prepared to march on the capital Islamabad, a spokesman for the Punjab police said on Wednesday.

Police said TLP activists armed with pistols and automatic weapons including AK-47 rifles opened fire on security forces controlling the demonstrators, read the report.

Rao Sardar Ali Khan, inspector general of the Punjab police, said four officers were killed and at least 263 wounded. TLP spokespeople said several of the group’s activists had also been killed or wounded in the clash.

Thousands of TLP activists have been blocking Pakistan’s busiest highway since Friday, demanding the release of their leader and the expulsion of France’s ambassador over the publication of a series of caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammad by a French satirical magazine.

According to Reuters after days of tension, including a clash last week in which three police officers were killed, the Interior Ministry ordered paramilitary Rangers to be deployed under anti-terrorism laws.

“They will be there for 60 days. I have given them authority that they could go to anywhere they want in Punjab,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad told reporters. “I’m still warning the TLP to please back off.”

It is the group’s third countrywide protest campaign since 2017 over caricatures which are considered deeply insulting by Muslims, Reuters reported.

The French magazine Charlie Hebdo first published the cartoons in 2006 and republished them last year to mark the opening of a trial over a deadly attack on its offices in Paris by Islamist militants in 2015.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government would use force to block the Islamists from entering the capital Islamabad, read the report.

“We have shown restraint so far but the challenge to the state’s authority can’t be tolerated any more,” he told reporters.

Districts along the Grand Trunk Road were brought to a standstill where the city administration had already placed shipping containers to block entry and exit routes.

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Death toll in Russian mine tragedy jumps past 50

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

A gas leak in a Siberian coal mine killed at least 52 people on Thursday, Russian news agencies said, including six rescuers who were sent down to try to bring out dozens of men in what was one of Russia’s worst mining disasters since Soviet times, Reuters reported.

The regional Investigative Committee said three people, including the director of the Listvyazhnaya mine and his deputy, had been arrested on suspicion of violating industrial safety rules.

It said miners had suffocated when a ventilation shaft became filled with gas. State television said prosecutors believed there had been a methane explosion.

According to the report the dead comprised 11 miners already confirmed killed, 35 who had been reported missing, and the six rescue workers.

Dozens of people were treated in hospital, at least some of them for smoke inhalation. Four were in critical condition.

The coal-producing region of Kemerovo, roughly 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow, has suffered fatal mining accidents for years.

The Listvyazhnaya mine is part of SDS-Holding, owned by the privately held Siberian Business Union. The owner had no immediate comment, read the report.

Some 285 people were inside the mine when smoke spread through the ventilation shaft, the Emergencies Ministry said. Authorities said 239 had made it to the surface.

President Vladimir Putin said he had spoken with the governor and emergency officials, and the Kremlin said he had ordered the emergencies minister to fly to the region to help, Reuters reported.

Kemerovo declared three days of mourning.

In 2007, the region was the site of the worst mining accident since the collapse of the Soviet Union when an explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine claimed the lives of more than 100 people. In 2010, explosions at the region’s Raspadskaya mine killed more than 90 people.

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Car bomb attack kills at least eight in Somalia, officials say

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2021)

At least eight people were killed in Somalia’s capital on Thursday when Islamist militants launched a suicide attack on a U.N. security convoy using a vehicle laden with explosives, officials and witnesses said.

The Islamist group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the huge blast which rocked Modadishu and injured at least 23 people, including school students, sending a column of smoke above the city. Gunfire echoed around the scene, witnesses said.

It was not immediately clear if any U.N. personnel were among those killed or injured in the huge blast, which targeted the U.N. convoy as it passed near the site of a school, Reuters reported.

U.N. officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We counted eight dead people and 17 others including 13 students injured,” police spokesman Abdifatah Aden Hassan told reporters. He said a suicide bomber in an SUV full of explosives had targeted a U.N. security convoy.

Aamin Ambulance service evacuated at least 23 people who were injured in the blast, Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of the service, told Reuters.

Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, confirmed the Islamist group’s operatives had carried out the attack and said they were targeting a U.N. convoy.

The blast near the K4 junction in the heart of Mogadishu was so large that walls of the nearby Mucassar primary and secondary school collapsed. Cars were mangled in the explosion.

“We were shaken by the blast pressure, then deafened by the gunfire that followed,” said Mohamed Hussein, a nurse at the nearby Osman Hospital, saying he had been pulled from the rubble of a collapsed ceiling.

“Our hospital walls collapsed. Opposite us is a school that also collapsed. I do not know how many died,” he said.

Al Shabaab has been fighting Somalia’s central government for years, seeking to take power and impose its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.

The group frequently carries out bombings and gun assaults in Somalia and elsewhere in its war against the Somalia military and the African Union-mandated AMISOM force that helps protect the government.

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Authorities in Pakistan burn confiscated drugs worth 1.3 billion dollars

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2021)

A massive pile of 18 metric tons of drugs, worth 1.3 billion US dollars, was burnt on Wednesday (November 24) on the outskirts of Islamabad by Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Reuters reported.

During the drug burning ceremony, Director General of ANF, Major General Ghulam Shabeer Narejo, said his organisation had seized 184 metric tons of narcotics this year.

Officials said the confiscated drugs include hashish, opium, heroin, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, as well as Xanax, ecstasy, Alprazolam and Roche tabs, along with a huge quantity of other drugs and prohibited chemicals, read the report.

According to the report Pakistan is a major conduit for drugs flowing out of its western neighbour, Afghanistan, which is the world’s largest producer of heroin and a major hashish producer.

He called upon all segments of the society to take part in the fight against drugs.

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