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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Curfew in India-held Kashmir amid separatist strike

SRINAGARL: Thousands of Indian troops fanned out across India-held Kashmir on Sunday, detaining about 200 separatist activists to prevent protests during a three-day strike to mark the execution anniversaries of two separatists in New Delhi, officials said.
Many parts of the Himalayan region were under curfew, with major roads blocked by razor wire and barricades, as authorities sought to prevent anti-India protests and possible violence, Inspector General Abdul Gani Mir said.
Wireless Internet services were shut down.
Shops and businesses remained closed in Srinagar, the main city in India-held Kashmir.
Most people stayed indoors while police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled the lakeside city's deserted streets.
Authorities detained about 200 known activists and placed their leaders under house arrest, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with reporters.
Kashmiri insurgents, who have long demanded the region be given independence or be allowed to merge with neighboring Pakistan, were incensed when Mohammed Afzal Guru was secretly hanged Feb 9 last year in a New Delhi jail for involvement in a 2001 Parliament attack that killed 14 people, including five gunmen.
Most people in Kashmir believe Guru was not given a fair trial, and the covert execution led to days of violent anti-India protests in the Muslim-majority region, where anti-India sentiment runs deep.
The execution refreshed anger sparked in 1984, when pro-independence leader Mohammed Maqbool Butt was hanged in the same New Delhi jail after being convicted of killing an intelligence officer.
Since 1989, an armed uprising and an ensuing crackdown in the region have killed an estimated 68,000 people.
Insurgents renewed demands over the weekend that the two men's remains, buried within the jail compound, be returned to the region for burial. ''The shutdown is called for pressing our demand for return of the mortal remains of our martyrs,'' separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said in a statement issued before he was detained at Srinagar's airport Saturday after returning from New Delhi.
Kashmir is divided between Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, but is claimed by both nations.

Roadside bomb kills eight Afghan soldiers: official

KABUL: A roadside bomb ripped through an Afghan army vehicle in southwestern Afghanistan on Sunday and killed eight soldiers, officials said.
The vehicle was hit in the Dilaram district of Farah province, said defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi.
Mohammad Sarwar Sebat, the governor of neighbouring Nimroz province, told AFP the soldiers were transporting ammunition to Farah from their base in Nimroz when the blast struck them.
The governor said the remote-controlled bomb killed five soldiers and three officers.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but roadside bombs have been the weapon of choice for Taliban insurgents in their 12-year battle to topple the US-backed central government.
Afghan forces have been playing an increasing role in the fight against the Taliban as US-led Nato soldiers progressively pull out.
More than 50,000 Nato combat troops still in Afghanistan are due to leave by the end of the year, and will leave the huge task of providing security to local forces.

Military dog ‘in Afghan Taliban custody’

KABUL: The Taliban say they have captured a dog belonging to the US military following a raid in eastern Afghanistan late last year.
A video posted on the insurgents’ website on Wednesday and later on Facebook shows the animal, named by the Taliban as “Colonel,” being held on a leash in a small, well-lit courtyard surrounded by five men holding guns and grenades.
Wearing a black vest with pouches for equipment, the dark brown canine wags its tail and later perks up its ears as the militants begin chanting “Allah hu Akbar” (God is greatest).
The video’s narrator says three guns, one pistol and other equipment including a GPS and a torch were seized from the dog, which was captured after a US operation in Alingar, a volatile district in Afghanistan's Laghman province.
A US defence official told AFP the dog did not belong to the American military. Britain's Ministry of Defence declined to comment.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP Thursday: “The Americans conducted an operation on the positions of Mujahideen in Alingar district (of Laghman province).”
“The Mujahideen put up fierce resistance and repelled the attack...The Mujahideen seized some weapons and also a dog which we later learnt the Americans called 'Colonel'.”
The Taliban spokesman said that “Colonel” is alive and well, adding his fate would be determined later.
Hundreds of canines have been deployed by US forces in Afghanistan for tasks such as seeking out improvised explosive devices (IED) responsible for the vast majority of both military and civilian casualties in the war-torn country.
The bravest among them are awarded medals and wounded animals are airlifted from the front line to be taken for treatment.
Dogs are seen as unclean creatures by some Muslims and viewed with suspicion by the Taliban.

Elite Force official, former councillor killed in Swabi

SWABI: Unknown gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead an Elite Force official near Swabi bus stand here on Sunday. A day before, former councillor Ijaz Khan was gunned down in a similar fashion in Maini village.
The Elite Force official, Bakhtiar Khan, was attacked by the assailants when he came out of a timber stall owned by his family in Dagai Lara area. He died on the spot, while the attackers escaped on their motorcycle.
A police official said that Bakhtiar Khan, who belonged to Maneri Bala village, was also imparting training to the Elite Force at Shahmansoor police lines. He said that they suspected that militants’ involvement in his killing.
Police said that an FIR would soon be registered against unidentified militants in the city police station.
In another such incident, former councillor Ijaz Khan was gunned down by two unidentified motorcyclists when he was on way home in Kothkani area of Maini village on Saturday evening, said police.
Mirza Mohammad, father-in-law of the victim, registered an FIR in Topi city police station against unidentified attackers. “We don’t know why my son-in-law was targeted,” he said.
Meanwhile, leaders of Sarafa Association, Topi tehsil, have warned the government that if the police failed to nab the thieves, who looted seven shops of goldsmiths, till Monday (today) they would hold a sit-in protest in main city bazaar.
They said that ornaments and gold worth Rs23.5 million was looted from seven shops of goldsmiths in three markets in Topi bazaar.
Nural Hadi, Topi tehsil jewellers’ president told this correspondent that they had already set a deadline to the police to arrest the robbers. “The deadline will expire on Monday (today) morning,” he said.
In another case, police have assured family of a student that he would be recovered within three days.
A 7th grade student Abdullah, son of Haji Mohammad of Anbar, did not return home after the closing hours of his institution on Friday. During a rally demanding his recovery on Saturday, Chota Lahor DSP Izhar Shah assured the protesters that they would recover the boy within three days.
MEDICAL COLLEGE: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar laid the foundation stone of Gaju Khan Medical College, Swabi, at a ceremony here on Sunday.
The function was attended by provincial ministers Shaukat Yousufzai and Shahram Khan, MNAs Usman Khan and Aqibullah Khan, Qaumi Watan Party MPA Abdul Karim and MPA Babar Khan besides the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders and workers.
Mr Qaisar said that estimated cost of the medical college was Rs800 million and its construction would be completed till Sept 30. “We will fulfill the promises PTI made with people of the province during its election campaign,” he claimed.
He said that a sports complex, costing Rs200 million, would also be constructed in the district besides a park in Topi.

Two militants among nine held

LAKKI MARWAT: The police on Sunday arrested two more militants and seven proclaimed offenders during the ongoing operation against outlaws in the district.
An official said the local police assisted by Anti-Terror Squad and Elite Force personnel raided a hideout in Naurang town and arrested two militants wanted in subversive acts.
The action was launched after DPO Ismail Kharak received information about the presence of militants in the area,” he maintained.
The official said the arrested proclaimed offenders were involved in cases of
heinous nature. He said the police also busted narcotics and gambling dens and seized 2,800 grams hashish and a small quantity of heroin besides arresting
several gamblers.
Meanwhile, police booked Mohammad Riaz, husband of PTI MPA Zarin Zia, on charges of hurling threats to the doctors of Naurang hospital. “The lawmaker's spouse also used abusive language with doctors and aimed his rifle at them,” said a source, adding the case was registered on the complaint of hospital's MS.

Over 500,000 children vaccinated in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government administered oral polio vaccine (OPV) to over 500,000 children in Peshawar on Sunday, officials said.
A total of 12,000 health workers took part in the campaign conducted in 60 union councils of the provincial metropolis.
The officials said that 5,000 policemen provided security to the vaccinators on the second Sunday of ‘Sehat Ka Insaf’ programme of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government in areas that were listed in high-risk category in the past.
“We have achieved a record success mainly due to political ownership of the immunisation programme by the PTI-led government,” the officials said.
The campaign will be run for 12 Sundays to administer OPV to children repeatedly. The sources said that the province had seen assassination of 20 vaccinators in past 19 months, but hoped that the prevalent fear among the health workers and volunteers was fading away due to the full support of the government as well as the PTI workers. The PTI workers organised camps in their respective areas to ensure vaccination of children.
They officials said that it was the biggest ever immunisation campaign in the country. They said that the campaign had attracted people, who were previously suspicious about the anti-polio campaigns, mainly due to participation of political workers.
“We have provided vaccination to 521,000 children of the 550,000 target children, which is a record,” they said.
The officials said that some 2,700 parents showed defiance against vaccination while over 22,000 children remained unimmunised due to their unavailability at homes.
They said that Peshawar had recorded between 6,000 and 8,000 refusals in the previous vaccination campaigns, while the number of missed children stood at 80,000 then.
“Selection of Sundays for the current campaigns has helped a great deal as we have been able to find children at their homes. Previously, the campaigns were carried out on working days due to which the children used to be in schools or away and could not be reached,” they added.
The officials also said that they had distributed over 150,000 dengue awareness brochures at the doorsteps of people. “We are now using the door-to-door visits to scale up public awareness of preventable ailments.
” They said that the vaccinators had also handed over 12,000 hygiene kits to households in Shaheen Muslim Town on Sunday last, and 9,000 kits, each including four bath soaps, two towels, two water containers and one bucket, to the residents in Larama and Akhunabad today (Feb 9).
Talking to Dawn, the PTI leaders gave credit to the party’s Tabdeeli Razakaars for the successful campaign and said that the programme would be replicated in other districts of the province after three months.
They said that PTI chairman Imran Khan, who inaugurated the ‘Sehat Ka Insaf’ programme last month, had asked the government as well as the party workers to spearhead the campaign.
“Imran Khan is deeply concerned about the presence of polio and other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” they said.
Our correspondent adds from Khar: The local administration has finalised arrangements for the three-day anti-polio campaign starting from Monday (today), during which about 223,900 children would be vaccinated.
In this connection, an inaugural ceremony was held here the other day which was chaired by Bajaur Agency political agent Abdul Jabar Shah and attended by senior officials of the health department and local administration, WHO representatives, tribal elders and social activists.