Wednesday, November 26, 2008

101 dead in mumbai terror attacks

MUMBAI (IANS): At least 80 people, including a foreign tourist and four top police officers, were killed and over 250 injured as terrorists struck in yet another series of planned and synchronised gunfire and bomb attacks in the heart of India\'s financial capital late Wednesday, authorities said. Terrorists were reported to be holding tourists and other guests hostage in two five-star hotels, the Taj Intercontinental and Trident (formerly Oberoi), facing the waterfront across the Arabian Sea close to the city\'s most important landmark, the Gateway of India. Four top police officials, including Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, were among the 10 policemen killed in the gunbattles with the terrorists, police confirmed. Among terror targets was the city\'s busiest railway station, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly the Victoria Terminus that is a World Heritage site. A nationwide alert was sounded and all airports in the country put on high-security surveillance following the attacks that came less than a month after over 50 people died in serial terror bombings in the northeastern state of Assam.Army was called in to bring the situation under control and restore the sense of security in the city that was literally shaken the attacks, one of the worst in the country. \"This is a most audacious attack. It is a very serious situation and gun battles are still on in at least three places,\" said Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor said the attacks were suspected to be \"coordinated terrorist acts\", and added that automatic weapons like AK-47 and AK-56 and semi-automatic rifles as well as grenades were apparently used. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who hold the home portfolio, confirmed more than 70 people were killed and 250 injured, many of them grievously. But the police officials said over 80 people have died in the series of attacks. Patil said two terrorists were killed in gun battles with police while at least nine were held. Small groups of heavily armed terrorists had sneaked into busy public places, mostly in south Mumbai, in the dead of the night spreading panic in the crowded metropolis that has been a target of terror attacks in recent years. Many of the locations targeted, mostly in upscale south Mumbai, were preferred destinations of foreign tourists.Maharashtra Director General of Police A.N. Roy said: \"At least seven places have been attacked. The figure could be eight. \"The terrorists have gone in and fired indicriminately at certain places. They are still holed up in three places and gun-battles have been on (with security forces).\" Five people were killed in a bomb blast targetting a taxi in Vile Parle. The taxi was blown to pieces, police said. Police officials said suspected terrorists opened fire at police and paramilitary forces outside the Taj between 10.15 p.m. and 10.30 p.m.The police officials said firing was on near the five-star hotel where around 2,000 guests and staff were stranded. The body of a foreign woman guest was recovered from the Taj Hotel and two terrorists were holed up inside the building, a police official said. She was not immediately identified and her nationality was not known. At least 90 percent of the 22-storey building was plunged into darkness as authorities cut off power in a precautionary measure. In the wee hours of Thursday, there was an explosion on the top floor of the legendary hotel, leading to a major fire. Minutes later, bullets were fired near the Hotel Trident - another five-star hotel barely a kilometre away from the Taj. Part of the hotel was said to be on fire. At least 1,000 tourists were inside the hotel, which is in a high-security zone and lies just behind the Air India and Maharashtra legislature buildings. Those trapped in the two hotels included an unspecified number of foreign guests. Officials said rescue operations had started and hostages were being evactuated as army stormed the besieged hotels. Suspected terrorists also opened indiscriminate firing near the railway station, the headquarters of the Central Railway, which remains crowded almost throughout the day. As a precautionary measure, authorities suspended suburban and other railway services. But the train service was resumed early Thursday, nearly six hours after the station was shut. Later in the night, two bomb blasts, one in Vile Parle, a residential suburb in north Mumbai, and another in Mazgaon, also injured an unspecified number of people, police officials said. Firing also took place near the Metro cinema, barely a kilometre away from the CST. An eyewintess said the attackers hijacked a police vehicle after opening fire at two policemen in the vehicle. All roads linking south Mumbai with the rest of the metropolis were barricaded. Elite Rapid Action Force (RAF) were pressed into action and the targeted locations were cordoned off. A crack team of 200 National Security Guards (NSG) were rushed from New Delhi to Mumbai late in the night. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the terror attack and assured all help to the state government. Schools and colleges will remain closed Thursday although government will function normally, officials said.

Bush, Obama condemn Mumbai attacks; offer assistance

The Bush Administration and President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday strongly condemned the deadly attacks in Mumbai, offering assistance to the Indian government and convening defence and intelligence officials amid a \"grave and urgent threat\" of terrorism.\"President (George) Bush offers his condolences to the Indian people and the families of the innocent civilians killed and injured in the attacks in Mumbai, India,\" White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.The United States condemns this terrorist attack -- which left at least 80 people dead and over 275 injured -- and will continue to stand with the people of India in this time of tragedy, she said.\"This afternoon, the White House National Security Council convened officials from counter-terrorism and intelligence agencies as well as the State and Defence Departments,\" Perino said.\"The US government continues to monitor the situation, including the safety and security of our citizens, and stands ready to assist and support the Indian government,\" the senior White House official said, adding the President has been updated regularly.Strongly condemning a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai\'s financial hub, Obama said it only demonstrated \"the grave and urgent threat\" of terrorism and nations must work to \"root out and destroy terrorist networks.\"\"President-elect Obama strongly condemns terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and his thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the people of India,\" Obama\'s Chief National security Spokesperson Brooke Anderson said in a statement.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PM evokes \'Gandhi magic\' in Mizoram

AIZAWL: At a packed Assam Rifles ground in Aizawl, PM Manmohan Singh unleashed a bitter attack on Zoramthanga\'s MNF Government, charging it with failure on every count — particularly the education and power sectors. Saying that Congress did not believe in a pointless blame game, Manmohan said the failure of Zoramthanga\'s government was there for all to see. Manmohan also called himself a man from the Northeast and said: \"It\'s always a proud moment for me to re-affirm the enduring ties of love and affection that bind Congress with the people here. As you know, I am an MP from Northeast and consider myself an adopted son of the region.\" Continuing his tirade against the MNF government, the PM said, \"The Central Government made grants of more than Rs 3,800 crore to Mizoram between 2004-08. But its utilization by the state government has been poor.\" It was not Congress\'s policy to discriminate between states as far as financial assistance was concerned, he added. Referring to the various schemes of the UPA government, Manmohan said the MNF government got its rightful share which was squandered. \"If these central programmes are not reaching your lives in Mizoram, it\'s because the MNF government has failed. Corruption under MNF has shot up,\" PM said. The PM said he was alarmed to see that even programmes meant for the poor were mismanaged. \"There are allegations of irregularities by the state government machinery even in NREGS and the loan waiver scheme; funds meant for tribal welfare have been squandered,\" Manmohan Singh alleged. He appealed to the Mizo people to form a Congress government and punish the MNF for its failures. Donning a typical Mizo waistcoat and a traditional Mizo bag, Manmohan drove home the point that he was perfectly aware that the Mizos have a soft corner for the Gandhi family. He, therefore, did not forget to mention the \"Gandhi magic\" during his first election meeting in Mizoram. \"Mizoram has a close relationship with Congress. Our beloved former PM Rajiv Gandhi was instrumental in ending years of insurgency and violence in the state,\" he said, adding, \"The people of Mizoram responded magnificently to the call and wholeheartedly joined the national mainstream.\"

Obama announces economic team; Geither for treasury

Washington: President-elect Barack Obama on Monday unveiled his economic team and promised to take \"extraordinary policy responses\" to save the world\'s largest economy from a major financial crisis. New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner will take over the post of next Treasury secretary and former Treasury chief Lawrence Summers will be the president-elect\'s chief White House economic advisor, Obama announced in a press conference in Chicago. Also named was Christina Romer Chair of the Council of Economic advisors, with Melody Barnes and Heather Higginbottom to serve as Director and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council. Noting that the financial meltdown cannot be solved easily, Obama said he chose \"the best minds in America\" to reform the sagging economy. \"While we can\'t underestimate the challenges we face, we also can\'t underestimate our capacity to overcome them to summon that spirit of determination and move forward in a new direction to create new jobs, reform our financial system, and fuel long-term economic growth,\" he said. \"We know this won\'t be easy, and it won\'t happen overnight. We\'ll need to bring together the best minds in America to guide us and that is what I\'ve sought to do in assembling my economic team. \"I\'ve sought leaders who could offer both sound judgement and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas and most of all, who share my fundamental belief that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers; that in this country, we rise and fall as one nation, as one people,\" Obama said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Canada cops in Punjab to crack Kanishka case

CHANDIGARH: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is in Punjab these days to crack the 1985 bombing of Air India's Kanishka aircraft, which caused the death of all 329 passengers aboard.A five-member team, which arrived here on Wednesday, called on Punjab DGP NPS Aulakh and CBI officials and listed 12 Punjab militants, whom they will be questioning in the next few days.Some of the listed persons, including those facing life term in the Beant Singh assassination case, are in prison. The Punjab police will make the others available for questioning later this week.On Wednesday, the Canadian team visited Burail jail in Chandigarh to interrogate Jagtar Singh Hawara and Paramjit Singh Bheora, who face the death sentence in the Beant Singh killing case. Both of them were teenagers when the Kanishka was bombed.The Canadian team, accompanied by CBI sleuths, questioned both militants about the Babbar Khalsa International, a militant organisation. The militants raised pro-Khalistan slogans before joining investigation.Sources said the team was interested in knowing their family background and the history of the Babbar Khalsa International. The main thrust, however, was on knowing the whereabouts of Sarwan Singh Gill, one of the main conspirators of the Kanishka bombing.Former British Columbia resident, Gill, was a close associate of Canada-based Babbar Talwinder Singh Parmar who was killed in an encounter in India. Gill, who was also arrested in the Kanishka case, jumped bail in 1996 and is believed to have fled to England. The Babbars were also asked to furnish details about their joining the group and their links with Canada-based Babbars. The Canadian police had in January asked security agencies here to help interview 12 'witnesses' who they pointed out could have information regarding the Kanishka bombing. The team comprises police officials James Stewart, Bart Balchford, Dan Bond, Dan Sandhar and Tuckey Shane.Those who would be interrogated by the RCMP include Harminder Singh Gandhi, Naudh Singh Thind, Jivan Singh, Mohan Singh Johal, Kanwaljit Singh, Sukhjinder Singh, Pratap Singh Gill, Satnam Singh, Bohar Singh and former top intelligence official Maloy Krishna Dhar. The RCMP opened investigation into the flight bombing even after a March 2005 verdict by the Supreme Court of British Columbia acquitted two suspects, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, as "not guilty". The court had observed that the evidence against them had fallen short of conclusive proof. It is apparently an effort to collect more evidence in the case that the RCMP has come around for another round of investigation.

Students’ clash turns ‘casteist’

CHENNAI: A clash between two groups of Dr Ambedkar Law College students here last night is assuming casteist overtones, as they belong to two communities hostile to each other and involved in frequent clashes in southern districts of the state. A group of students armed with knives, logs, iron pipes and tube lights attacked another group, in the presence of policemen, who were mute spectators, despite pleas from the public and journalists to intervene. The police said they needed written permission to enter the campus from the college principal. Finally, the public entered the college and chased away the students and rescued three critically wounded students. The condition of the three students was improving, police officials said, while seven students have been arrested.The clash is said to have broken out with the omission of Ambedkar's name from the name of the college in printed notices for the anniversary celebration of Muthuramalinga Thevar, a close associate of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. Thevar's followers belong to a particular backward community who worship him as a deity during his birth anniversary celebrations. The people belonging to the backward community and Dalits in south Tamil Nadu have been involved in frequent clashes for more than two decades. Dalit students alleged that the students of the other community had deliberately omitted Ambedkar's name since they did not want his name to be seen along with that of Thevar. A state-wide alert has been sounded in southern districts, where the two communities are dominant, following reports of violence. A probe has been ordered into the clash.

Congress releases charge-sheet against M.P. Govt.

Bhopal: The opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday released a 96-page charge-sheet against the BJP government levelling a total of 139 allegations against it. The charge-sheet was released at a press conference by the State Congress president Suresh Pachouri in the presence of party general secretary Narayansami, in charge of the State. Mr. Pachouri said that BJP in its manifesto for the December 2003 Assembly elections, had made a large number of promises to the people and most of these remained unfulfilled. He said that it had promised to sort out the power situation in the State within 100 days of coming to power but the present state of affairs with regard to electricity was much worse than what it was in 2003. He said that the state of corruption under the BJP government could well be imagined by the fact that the Lokayukta was investigating into corruption charges against the Chief Minister and several of his Ministers. He said that three BJP Ministers had been removed from their posts after they faced corruption charges.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Separatists hope Obama will help solve Kashmir issue

Srinagar : The election of Barack Obama as US President has generated hope among separatists in Kashmir that the decades-long Kashmir issue would be solved soon. Welcoming the election of Obama, chairman of Moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said \"We see a role for US in resolution of Kashmir issue and hope that Obama will fulfill his responsibility.\" Mirwaiz, who has been placed under house arrest since Wednesday morning ahead of proposed Jamia Masjid march by separatists, said \"We hope that he (Obama) will give practical shape to his encouraging statements on resolution of Kashmir during campaigning.\" Meanwhile, chairman of Hardline faction of Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani said the election of Obama is a \"historic event\" for America and \"We hope that he will use his good offices to resolve Kashmir issue in its historic perspective.\"

Obama wins U.S. presidential election

WASHINGTON : Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States, winning an historic election to become the first African American in the White House. He told a vast crowd of supporters at a Chicago park that his election showed the world that the United States real strength was not its military but the power of its ideals. \"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, tonight is your answer,\" Obama said Reaching out to Republicans, he called his opponent Sen. John McCain \"brave and selfless\" and said he looked forward to working with him and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin \"to renew this nation\'s promise.\" Speaking to the millions of Americans who voted for the Republican ticket, Obama said: \"I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.\" McCain and President George Bush both called the Illinois senator to congratulate him on his historic victory. McCain delivered a gracious concession speech soon after polls closed in western states, praising Obama for running a strong campaign and vowing, despite the candidates\' differences, to do everything he could to help the next president face the challenges of his presidency. \"The American people have spoken, and spoken clearly,\" McCain said, calling for the nation to come together after the bitterly contested poll. His speech was marred by sporadic booing from the Republican crowd, perhaps showing the difficulties Obama may have in uniting a fiercely divided and partisan country. Bush congratulated his successor on an \"awesome night,\" and promised a smooth transition to the White House. The president\'s spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president told Obama: \"You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself.\"

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