March 9, 2014

Iraq suicide bomb attack leaves dozens dead in Hilla

A suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives has killed at least 32 people and wounded 147 in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical sources say.

The attacker approached a main checkpoint at a northern entrance to the largely Shia Muslim city and detonated the minibus, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

At least 50 cars were set ablaze with passengers trapped inside and part of the checkpoint complex was destroyed, the officer said.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, but suicide bombings are a trademark of al-Qaida-affiliated groups.

“I was sitting inside my kiosk when suddenly a horrible blast threw me outside and hurled my groceries up in the air. I saw cars set ablaze with people burning inside,” said Abu Nawar, owner of a makeshift kiosk made of palm tree leaves near the checkpoint.

Police were using cutting equipment to break inside the burnt vehicles and lift out charred bodies, the police officer said, adding that the death toll was expected to rise.

“When a policeman suspected the minibus, he asked the driver to pull over for a check, but the vehicle exploded,” the police officer said.

Bombings and other attacks killed almost 8,000 civilians in 2013, the worst period for the country since 2008.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant group, has been behind many of the bombings. The Iraqi government is battling the Islamist group in the western province of Anbar, where the group holds territory in the cities of Falluja and Ramadi.

March 8, 2014

Malaysia Airlines plane: Oil slicks found in sea off coast of Vietnam in search for missing Boeing 777

The Vietnamese air force has spotted two large oil slicks off the country’s southern tip, suspected to be from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane that went missing on Saturday.

The traces of oil were each between six miles and nine miles long, and were consistent with the kinds that would be left by fuel from a crashed jetliner, officials said.

Over two hundred passengers were on board Flight MH370 bound to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, when it disappeared from Malaysian air traffic control screens.

The aircraft was crossing between Malaysia and Vietnam when contact broke down at 1:30am Saturday (18:40 GMT Friday), around two hours after it had taken off, according to Azaharudin Abdul Rahman, Maslaysia’s civil aviation chief.

The plane expected at Beijing at 6:30am on Saturday (22:30 GMT Friday) was carrying 227 passengers, including at least five infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said.

It added there were 153 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven each from Indonesia and Australia, five from India, four from the U.S. and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria.

There were no reports of bad weather and no obvious reason why the aircraft would have vanished from radar screens.

Ships and planes from Southeast Asian nations, including 15 air force aircraft, six navy ships and three coast guard vessels from Malaysia, continue to scour the seas.

No wreckage has yet been spotted, and Vietnamese fishermen in the area have also been asked to report any suspected sign of the missing plane.

“The search and rescue operations will continue as long as necessary,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

A Vietnamese search and rescue official, Pham Hien, said the last signal detected from the plane was 120 nautical miles (140 miles or 225 km) southwest of Vietnam’s southernmost Ca Mau province, which is close to where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand.

Simon Calder: The missing aircraft, and what investigators will be looking for

In a call with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Malaysia on Saturday to quickly and vigorously push search and rescue work for the plane, state news agency Xinhua said.

Chinese relatives of passengers on the flight angrily accused the airline of keeping them in the dark, while state media criticised the carrier’s poor response.

Relatives were taken to a hotel near Beijing airport, put in a room and told to wait for information from the airline, but no one met them.

About 20 people stormed out of the room at one point, enraged they had been given no information.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said:”Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members,” he added.

There was no indication that the pilots sent a distress signal and the fact that there was apparently no call for help suggests that whatever happened to the flight occurred quickly, he contined.

According to a government statement, Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said the plane “lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam’s air traffic control”.

As the South China Sea is a tense region with competing territorial claims that have led to several low-level conflicts, particularly between China and the Philippines, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said authorities had “no information” if terrorism was the cause, but added “we are looking at all possibilities.“

Malaysian Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers, all teenagers from China.

Additional reporting by AP

March 8, 2014

Taliban bomb kills Afghan district leader in latest attack on senior officials

Police inspect the wreckage of a car destroyed in the bombing in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.

A bomb placed under the car seat of a district chief in eastern Afghanistan killed him and wounded six other people, officials said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination, the latest targeting senior officials as the militant movement fights to undermine the western-backed government. The Afghan army has recently carried out several operations against militants in Nangarhar province, where the attack occurred.

The blast on Saturday killed Noor Agha Kamran, the head of the Nazian district, as he was on his way to work in Jalalabad, said Nangarhar’s deputy governor, Mohammad Hanif Gardiwal.

“A magnetic bomb was placed under the seat of his vehicle. While he was on his way to his office near the university the bomb exploded,” Gardiwal said.

The explosion seriously wounded two of Kamran’s bodyguards and lightly wounded four other people, a provincial police spokesman, Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, said.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Elsewhere, six Afghan security forces were killed and two wounded while trying to defuse a newly planted roadside bomb on the outskirts of Mihterlam, the capital of Laghman province, said Sarhadi Zawak, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Those killed included four soldiers and two police officers, Zawak said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the explosion.

March 27, 2011

US Democrat Geraldine Ferraro dies, aged 75


Groundbreaking US Democratic politician Geraldine Ferraro has died at the age of 75.

Geraldine Ferraro, 1998 file image

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March 27, 2011

Syria unrest: Two people shot dead in Latakia protest

Two people have been killed in the Syrian city of Latakia during anti-government protests, officials say.

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March 27, 2011

Switzerland: Avalanche leaves four dead

Four people have been killed, another is missing and five more have been injured following an avalanche in southern Switzerland.

Rescuers search mountainside (26 Mar 2011)

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March 26, 2011

One man killed, four hurt in A5 crash at Star, Anglesey

One man has been killed and four people injured after a road crash on Anglesey.

The incident happened on the A5 at Star near Gaerwen at around 01.30 GMT on Saturday.

North Wales Police, who are appealing for witnesses, said the silver BMW car contained four people. North Wales Fire and Rescue were also sent to the scene.

Three people were taken to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor but their injuries were not believed to be life threatening.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene.

A police spokesman said they want to hear from anyone who saw the crash or the vehicle before the incident.



March 26, 2011

River Ouse bridge fall: York police divers find body

Police divers have recovered a body from the River Ouse in York after a man fell from a bridge.

Paul Rogerson, of Morecambe, Lancashire, was seen slipping off the Low Ousegate bridge into the water at 0200 GMT, North Yorkshire Police said.

Firefighters helped police officers search the river and river banks for several hours but were unable to find Mr Rogerson, a force spokesman said.

Police divers were later called in and his body was recovered at 1000 GMT.



March 26, 2011

Cycling champion Ray Eden dies after Doncaster attack

A man who died after an alleged assault in Doncaster was a former international cycling champion, it has emerged.

Ray Eden, 42, won the national 100-mile time-trial cycling championship in 1995 at his second attempt, and represented Britain four times in stage racing.

He suffered head injuries in an incident near his home in Scawthorpe on 18 March and died three days later.

Luke Jolly, 24, of Scawthorpe, is due at crown court on Tuesday charged with causing grievous bodily harm.

Mr Eden was also a keen rower, but found he had a talent for cycling while working as a bike courier in London.

He worked for cycle firm Planet X.




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