Archive for January, 2014

Derry resident, IMF and UN staff among 21 killed in Kabul attack

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A Co Derry resident was among 21 people killed when a Taliban suicide bomber and gunmen attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in the Afghan capital.

Gunmen burst into the restaurant spraying diners with bullets after the bomber blew himself up near the entrance around 7.30pm on Friday evening.

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Thirteen foreigners, including three United Nations staff and the IMF‘s top representative in Afghanistan, were among those killed, according to police, and details of the victims began to trickle through today.

Among the dead was Simon Chase, a former British soldier, was originally from Merseyside but had been living in Limavady, Co Londonderry with his fiancee Norma McDowell.

The healthcare worker from Limavady was today being comforted by family and friends. It is understood the couple lived together with two children in the Drumachose Park area of the town.

The ex-Cheshire Regiment soldier had worked as a nightclub doorman in Limavady before travelling to Kabul to work in the security industry.

Mayor of Limavady Gerry Mullan extended his condolences to Mr Chase’s family. “There is cloud that has descended upon the local community who are very shocked and saddened by his loss,” said the SDLP councillor. “He was a well-known and well-respected figure in the community.”

The US embassy said in a post on Twitter that at least two US private citizens were killed. Britain and Canada confirmed they had each lost two nationals, and Denmark said one of its citizens also died.

After theinitial blast, sporadic bursts of gunfire were heard over the next hour. The two gunmen inside the Lebaneserestaurant, located in Kabul‘s diplomatic enclave, were shot dead by police, an Afghan official said.

Most foreign forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan this year after more than a decade of war, and there are fears that the Taliban will intensify attacks in the run up to an election in April to find a successor to president Hamid Karzai.

At odds with Washington over the terms, Mr Karzai is still deliberating whether to allow some US troops to stay on. If no agreement is reached, Afghan forces could be left to fight the insurgents on their own.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Friday‘s attack, calling it revenge for a US airstrike earlier this week that had also drawn condemnation from Karzai as eight civilians were killed.

Favourite Haunt
Several kitchen staff survived by fleeing to the roof, where they hid until they were rescued by police.

“When I was in the kitchen, I heard an explosion outside. Then all the guys escaped up and I went to the roof and stayed with my back to the chimney for two or three hours,“ said Suleiman, a cook at the Lebanese restaurant.

By midnight, a clearance operation was still underway, with police nervously flashing lasers at passing cars and people on the dark, dusty streets.

The restaurant had been running for several years, and was a favourite haunt for foreigners, including diplomats, contractors, journalists and aid workers.

A couple of armed guards were usually on duty at the front entrance, which led to a courtyard in front of the main ground floor dining room.

The suicide bomb attack took place at the front entrance, but accounts differed over where the gunmen had entered from.

January 18, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Thai government behind blast: Opposition leader

Thai opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban said the caretaker government was responsible for the attack on protestors who took part in a march here Friday, and demanded the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

At least 36 people were injured in Friday’s bomb blast in the area where protest leader Suthep was holding an anti-government march.

The protestors were demanding that no elections be held until implementation of major political reforms. They have been blocking major road junctions in Bangkok since Jan 13.

Police have raised questions about the incident in which protestors blocked police and reporters from entering the area near the attack scene where they claimed they found a weapons stockpile, the Bangkok Post reported Saturday.

Police also queried the last-minute change in the protest route.

In a speech after the attack, Suthep said the blast that left 36 injured was the work of the government and called on the protestors to draw strength from it.

“The blood that spilt on the street is piercing my heart. What it (the government) has done to the Thai people is cold-blooded. Let the pain remind us and give us strength to fight until we win,” Suthep told protestors.

According to Suthep, the incident showed that the prime minister was not stupid, but a “demon”.

Suthep said the attack neither scared him and nor the supporters of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and they would take out another march Saturday in the capital, but gave no details.

He asked the the PDRC to allow police to investigate the incident and promised to improve security in the wake of the blast.

“We have to continue this fight. We have invested a lot in it. Our fellow protestors were injured and killed. This is the 27th assault on us and there have been a lot of injuries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yingluck denied the PDRC’s accusation that the government was behind the attack.

Yingluck has called elections Feb 2, but the opposition is boycotting the polls.

Since November, protestors have been taking to the streets and occupying government offices, calling for an end to Yingluck’s government.

January 18, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Endangered hawksbill turtle spotted in Pakistani waters

A hawksbill sea turtle, a “critically endangered” species, was spotted near Ormara in Balochistan, the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan said in a statement issued on Friday.

This is the first time that a hawksbill sea turtle has been seen in Pakistani waters.

The endangered turtle, which goes by the scientific name of Eretmochelys imbricata, was caught by fishermen onboard a tuna gillnet boat a few weeks ago.

WWF-Pakistan Director Rab Nawaz said the hawksbill turtle was declared endangered in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because its population had declined by 80 percent across the world.

“The news of a hawksbill turtle in Pakistan is a new addition to the diversified marine fauna of Pakistan. In the Indian Ocean, the hawksbill turtle is widely distributed from the African coast to the Persian Gulf, India and South and far-East Asian countries.”

Nawaz said previously only a shell of a dead hawksbill was found at Cape Monz, however, this could not be authenticated independently.

So far, two species of marine turtles, green and olive ridley, have been found in Pakistan. Of the two, green turtles are the most common, nesting along the coast of Sindh and Balochistan.

A large population of olive ridley turtles was spotted by the WWF-Pakistan in the offshore waters of Pakistan during the last two years.

Last year, a leatherback turtle, another rare species, was seen in Sur, Balochistan. It was successfully released by the WWF-Pakistan, other environmental organisations and the local communities.

Hawksbill turtles have worldwide distribution in tropical and subtropical waters. There are two subspecies are known. Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata are found in the Atlantic Ocean whereas the Eretmochelys imbricata bissa are found in the Indo-Pacific region.

Hawksbill turtles can easily be distinguished from other sea turtles by their sharp and curved beak and the saw-like appearance of its shell margins. They can grow up to one metre in length and weigh around 80 kilograms.

The hawksbill turtle was caught near Ormara on board the tuna gillnet boat “Al Gul Muhammad” steered by Shah Zamin.

The boat left shore on November 22 last year and returned after 57 days on January 13.

The WWF-P has started training fishermen to release turtles that are caught in fishing gears. Vital data about the hawksbill turtle was recorded and later the fishermen released it.

Muhammad Moazzam Khan, the WWF-P’s technical adviser on marine fisheries, said marine turtles including hawksbills had been listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Therefore, it is illegal to import or export turtle products, or to kill, capture, or harass them.

Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous but sea sponges are their principal food in some areas. The also feed on algae, cnidarians, comb jellies and other jellyfish, and sea anemones. Normally, hawksbills lay around 140 eggs which hatch after 60 days. The turtles mature in about 20 years and lay eggs after every two or three years.

There is no authentic record of their breeding in Pakistani waters although coastal communities do report typical track of hawksbills in some isolated localities along the Balochistan coast.

January 18, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More

1-day exemption granted to Musharraf in Ghazi murder case

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ISLAMABAD: The Session Court on Saturday here granted one-day exemption for Musharraf from appearance on medical ground and called for the medical certificate for submission on next hearing, Geo News reported.

Additional Session Judge, Wajid Ali was hearing the Abdul Rasheed Ghazi murder case here.

The defence lawyer Ilyas Siddiqui told the court that his client was sick and admitted into the hospital for which he was unable to appear in the court.

The court, while ordering for submission of Pervez Musharraf’s medical report, adjourned the hearing until February 1.

January 18, 2014 Posted Under: News update   Read More