16 killed in Pak blast targeting Hazaras

Wednesday 17th April 2019 02:37 EDT

At least 16 people were killed and over two dozen others injured in a blast that targeted members of the ethnic Hazara community in Pakistan's Quetta city last week. A top police official said that eight of the victims belonged to the community, that has been targeted by sectarian violence as they are easily identifiable due to their distinctive physical appearance. "The attack took place in a (green grocer's) shop (in Hazarganji area). An improvised explosive device was planted in a gunny bag filled with potatoes. We are yet to ascertain if it was timed or remote-controlled. An investigation is on," the official said. The victims also included a Frontier Corps (FC) soldier. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. Nearly half a million Hazaras have settled in Quetta since fleeing Afghanistan to escape violence in their homeland during the past four decades. The city's Hazarganji area has been witness to similar attacks in the past.

Hindu sisters weren’t forcibly converted: Pak court

The Islamabad high court declared that the two sisters from Sindh province were not forcibly converted from Hinduism to Islam, and allowed them to reunite with their spouses. A bench led by the chief justice of the Islamabad HC, Athar Minallah, made the decision after a five-member commission that the court had constituted on April 2 to probe the matter of alleged abduction, forced conversion and marriage of Reena and Raveena - the two Hindu sisters - concluded in its report that they were not forcibly converted to Islam. On March 25, the sisters and their husbands had filed a petition against alleged harassment by police days after the girls’ father and brother claimed that they were underage, had been abducted and forced to change their religion before being married to Muslim men. Interior secretary Azam Suleman told the court about the findings of the commission and told it that the panel’s opinion was that it was a facilitated conversion.

No use for armed militias anymore: Imran

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to rid his country of the militants created and tolerated by the powerful military, including groups carrying out attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. “We have decided, for the future of our country and will not allow armed militias to operate anymore,” Khan said during an interaction with a small group of foreign journalists in Islamabad. “Those to be dismantled include groups involved in attacks in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said. He added that the Pakistan army had created these militias in the 1980s when his country and the US were backing Muslim insurgents in Afghanistan against Soviet forces. “But there is no use for these groups anymore,” he said, adding the crackdown had the full support of Pakistan’s army and ISI, its main intelligence agency.

Pak issues visas to 2,200 Sikh pilgrims

In a bid to facilitate the participation of pilgrims during the annual Baisakhi celebrations, Pakistan has issued visas to 2,200 Indian Sikh devotees this year. The Pakistan High Commissioner said the gesture by Pakistan to issue these visas was reflective of the reverence attached to Baisakhi, both in its religious and cultural dimensions. The annual Baisakhi celebrations will be held from April 12 to 21. Apart from marking the beginning of the new Sikh year, Baisakhi is the time to harvest the rabi crop. According to reports, it said the 2,200 visas were in addition to those granted to Sikh pilgrims participating in the event from other countries. This gesture by Pakistan is seen as sign of easing of tension between the two countries, and came nearly six weeks after the Balakot strike and subsequent Pakistani retaliation.

Taliban announce annual spring offensive in Afghanistan

The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive, calling on Afghan soldiers and police to abandon the government in a statement that points to further violence before peace negotiations with Washington bear any fruit. Fighting has intensified across Afghanistan in recent weeks, killing and wounding hundreds of Afghan troops and civilians, making the announcement of the Al-Fath ("Victory") operation largely symbolic. The Afghan government launched its own offensive, dubbed Khalid, in March. However, after repeated rounds of negotiations between US and Taliban representatives over recent months, it underlined how far Afghanistan still remains from peace more than 17 years after US-backed forces drove the Taliban from power in 2001.

Trump attacks Muslim Congresswoman

US President Donald Trump created another controversy by involving Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, retweeting video edited to suggest that the congresswoman was dismissive of the significance of the Sept 11 attacks. The video pulls a snippet of Omar’s speech last month to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in which she described the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as “some people did something,” as well as news footage of the hijacked planes hitting the towers. Trump tweeted, “we will never forget!” Omar’s remark has drawn criticism from conservatives who say the congresswoman, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, offered a flippant description of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Democrats condemn Trump plan against migrants

Democrats have accused Donald Trump’s administration of “cruelty” and using people as political pawns in the wake of reports that presidential aides considered a plan to release migrants in sanctuary cities. At least twice in the past six months, the White House weighed a plan to pressure US immigration authorities to release people detained at the border in these cities, which limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Trump confirmed that he was considering such a plan, contradicting his own Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which told reporters it had rejected the plan.

Kamala Harris gives 15 years of tax details

Democratic US senator Kamala Harris released 15 years of tax returns through 2018, offering the most complete look to date at a presidential candidate’s finances. With her husband, Douglas Emhoff, an attorney, she had a combined adjusted gross income in 2018 of about $1.89 million, and paid total taxes of about $697,000, according to the returns. Harris and Emhoff have paid more than $2.2 million in taxes over the past five years.

Rajapaksa’s brother returns to fight election

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa returned to the island nation and said he has taken necessary steps to denounce his US citizenship to be able to contest the presidential polls later this year. Former defence secretary Gotabhaya is being promoted as the main candidate from the Rajapaksa camp to face the next presidential election as Rajapaksa cannot constitutionally run for a third term. Gotabhaya, a dual-citizen of Sri Lanka and the United States, returned after a private visit to America. Gotabhaya, who under his brother’s rule spearheaded the military onslaught against the LTTE, will have to renounce his dual citizenship to contest the election to be held this year.

Japan jet falls in Pacific in only 2nd F-35 crash

Search teams found wreckage from a crashed Japanese F-35 stealth fighter in the Pacific Ocean close to northern Japan, and are scouring the waters for the missing pilot, authorities said. The aircraft, less than a year old, was the first F-35 assembled in Japan and was aloft for only 28 minutes before contact was lost. It was only the second F-35 to crash since the aircraft’s first flight in 2006. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin said it was standing by to support the Japanese Air Self Defence Force as needed.

NZ House votes to ban military style weapons

New Zealand’s Parliament passed sweeping gun laws that outlaw military-style weapons, less than a month after mass shootings at two mosques left 50 people dead and dozens wounded. A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banning components that modify existing weapons was passed by a vote of 119 to 1. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke emotionally during the bill’s final reading of the traumatic injuries suffered by victims of the March 15 attacks. The law includes a buyback scheme under which owners of outlawed weapons can surrender them to police in return for compensation based on the weapon’s age and condition. Anyone who retains such a weapon faces a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Sudan's army ousts Long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir

Sudan’s army has toppled the country’s long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir and placed him under arrest. Bashir has ruled Sudan with an iron-fist for nearly 30 years. Sudan’s Defence minister Awad Ibn Ouf made the announcement on state TV. "I announce as minister of defence the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place," Ibn Ouf said in a statement. The Defence minister also said the country had been suffering from "poor management, corruption, and an absence of justice" and he apologised "for the killing and violence that took place".

China to build ‘eco-toilet’ on Mount Everest

Climbers on Mount Everest will soon find an “eco-friendly” toilet at a Chinese campsite 7,028 metres above sea level in an ongoing campaign to deal with the peak’s waste problem. During the climbing season this spring, a Chinese expedition firm will add what state media dubbed an “eco-friendly” loo at the higher campsite on the northern slope in Tibet. “The toilet makes it easy to collect human waste produced by the climbers as there is a barrel with rubbish bags underneath the toilet,” Xinhua was quoted as saying.

Penis enlargement craze sweeps Papua New Guinea

Doctors in Papua New Guinea have warned they are facing a national problem as thousands of men suffer the effects of botched DIY penis enlargements. Some men have injected their genitals with many substances including silicon, coconut oil, baby oil and cooking oil. A doctor said his clinic had treated over 500 men who were suffering the effects of the injections. The results can be life altering, and range from painful ulcers to swelling on the penis and testicles, and in some cases lifelong impotence.

Coffee ‘not vital for survival’, Swiss to end stockpiling

Switzerland announced plans to abolish the nation’s emergency stockpile of coffee, in place for decades, after declaring the beans not vital for human survival, though opposition to the proposal is brewing. Nestle, the maker of instant coffee Nescafe, and other importers, roasters and retailers are required by Swiss law to store bags of raw coffee. According to the plan, coffee stockpiling obligations would expire by the end of 2022. Switzerland’s 8.5 million residents consume around 9kg of coffee per person annually, eclipsing Britain’s 3kg average and double the 4kg consumed in the US, according to International Coffee Organization figures.

Cops respond to home invasion, find robo cleaner

Deputies in Portland, Oregon, responded to a possible home invasion, but the intruder they found wasn’t alive or a person. It was a robotic vacuum cleaner. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports a house sitter called 911, saying someone was inside the bathroom. Cops reached the house and ordered the burglar out, but nothing happened. Deputies then opened the bathroom door with guns drawn and discovered the automatic vacuum cleaner. Sergeant Danny DiPietro says this encounter was his first “Roomba burglar” in 13 years on the job.

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