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Al-Qaeda names Queen as 'severest enemy'

London, Nov 14: Al-Qaeda has named Queen Elizabeth II as ``one of the severest enemies of Islam,'' holding her ``ultimately responsible for Britain's crusader laws.''

The remarks contained in an Al-Qaeda video message justifying the 7/7 London attacks have been passed by MI5, the British domestic intelligence service, to the Queen's protection team after it obtained the unexpurgated version of the video, according to a report in The Sunday Times on Sunday.

Parts of the video containing remarks by Ayman al-Zawahiri, second-in-command to Osama bin Laden in the Al-Qaeda terror network, were broadcast on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic satellite channel.

The Queen's security had already been upgraded after September 11, 2001. In the video, Al-Zawahiri justified the July bombings in London and targeted the Queen as the one who is ``ultimately responsible for Britain's crusader laws,'' besides labelling her as one of Islam's ``severest enemies''.

2 churches set ablaze in Pakistan

LAHORE, Nov 14: Hundreds of Muslims attacked and burned two churches in Pakistan following reports that a Christian man had desecrated Islam's holy book. No one was injured in the blazes.

A school, student hostel and the home of a priest were also torched Saturday by the crowd of about 1,500 Muslims near the town of Sangla Hill, about 130 km northeast of Lahore, said police official Ali Asghar Dogar. The attacks were being investigated. About two dozen people had been arrested, Dogar said.

The fires came a day after a local Muslim resident accused a Christian of burning a one-room Islamic school along with copies of the Quran. Dogar said the allegations were apparently leveled by people who lost money while gambling with the Christian man Friday, but police had detained him and were investigating.

42 Killed at Iraq Restaurant, Army Center

BAGHDAD, Nov 11: Bombers killed 42 people Thursday at a Baghdad restaurant favored by police and an army recruiting center to the north, while Iraqi troops along the Iranian border found 27 decomposing bodies, unidentified victims of the grisly violence plaguing the country.

In the deadliest bombing in Baghdad since Sept. 19, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a restaurant about 9:45 a.m., when officers usually stop in for breakfast. Police Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi said 35 officers and civilians died and 25 were wounded.

Al-Qaida in Iraq claimed in an Internet posting that it staged the attack in retaliation for U.S. and Iraqi operations near the Syrian border. Earlier, it claimed responsibility for Wednesday night's deadly hotel bombings in neighboring Jordan, linking those blasts to the conflict in Iraq.

Secretary of State Connoleeza Rice made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Friday and asked for cooperation in Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections.

"I want to talk about the importance of reaching across sectarian lines," Rice said on her arrival in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a majority Sunni Arab region.

Many Sunnis stayed away from the polls during last January's vote, enabling rival Shiites and Kurds to win an overwhelming majority in the current legislature.

Police first reported two bombers struck the restaurant because some witnesses heard two blasts. Later, al-Mohammedawi said the suicide attacker carried a bomb in a satchel and also wore an explosives belt and the two detonated independently. Samiya Mohammed, who lives near the restaurant, said she rushed out when she heard the explosion.

The blast was the most deadly since a car bomb ripped through a market in a poor Shiite Muslim neighborhood on the eastern outskirts of Baghdad, killing at least 30 people and wounding 38 on September 19.

Thursday's other big attack came in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, 80 miles north of the capital, where a car bomb blew up in the middle of a group of men outside an Iraqi army recruiting center. Seven were killed and 13 wounded, police Capt. Hakim al-Azawi said. The men were former officers during Saddam's regime, Azawi said.

Last week, Iraq's defense minister invited officers of Saddam's army up to the rank of major to enlist in the new Iraqi army. It was an overture to disaffected Sunni Arab ex-soldiers, many of whom joined the insurgency after the Americans abolished the Iraqi armed forces in 2003.

The bombings came just before British Foreign Secretary Straw arrived in Baghdad for a meeting with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to discuss the December 15 parliamentary elections. "This is a very exciting time to visit Iraq: Once more, the country's people will have the chance to decide who will govern them, and I am pleased to see that all of the different communities in the country are taking part," Straw said.

In another sign of the country's sectarian and criminal violence, Iraqi soldiers found the decomposing bodies of 27 people near Jassan, a town close to the border with Iraq, Col. Ali Mahmoud said. They were not immediately identified, but the area is a known dumping ground for such groups of bodies, which turn up with regularity in Iraq. Officials suspect death squads from the Shiite majority, the Sunni minority and criminal gangs are responsible for the killings.

At least 653 bodies have been found since Iraq's interim government was formed April 28. The identities of many are never determined, but at least 116 are known to be Sunni Arabs, 43 Shiites and one Kurd. Some are likely victims of crimes, including kidnappings, which are rampant in some cities and as dangerous to Iraqis as political violence.

At least 57 killed in triple Jordan hotel blasts

AMMAN, Nov 10: Suicide bombers carried out nearly simultaneous attacks on three US-based hotels in the Jordanian capital Wednesday night, killing at least 57 people and wounding 115 in what appeared to be an al-Qaida assault on an Arab kingdom with close ties to the United States.

The explosions hit the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels just before 9 p.m. One of the blasts took place inside a wedding hall where 300 guests were celebrating - joined by a man strapped with explosives who had infiltrated the crowd. Black smoke rose into the night, and wounded victims stumbled from the hotels.
"We thought it was fireworks for the wedding but I saw people falling to the ground," said Ahmed, a wedding guest at the five-star Radisson who did not give his surname. "I saw blood. There were people killed. It was ugly."

Jordan's deputy prime minister, Marwan Muasher, said nobody claimed responsibility but that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, was a "prime suspect."

A U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the strong suspicion is that al-Zarqawi was involved because of his known animosity for Jordanian monarchy and the fact that it was a suicide attack, one of his hallmarks.

In February, U.S. intelligence indicated that Osma bin Laden was in contact with al-Zarqawi, enlisting him to conduct attacks outside of Iraq. Jordan has arrested scores of Islamic militants for plotting to carry out attacks and has sentenced many militants to death in absentia, including al-Zarqawi. Its capital has become a base for Westerners who fly in and out of neighboring Iraq for work. Amman's main luxury hotels downtown are often full of American and British officials and contractors enjoying the relative quiet of the city.

"Obviously this is something Jordan is not used to," Muasher told CNN. "We have been lucky so far in avoiding those incidents." He said most of the casualties appeared to be Jordanians and that authorities had sealed the country's land borders. A State Department official said there was no information on any American casualties.

Three Chinese were among those killed and one was injured, all from the Defense University of the Chinese People's Liberation Army - an elite military training university, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said Thursday. Chinese President Hu Jintao "strongly condemned" the attack and reiterated thathis government firmly opposes terrorism in all its forms, in a telegram to Jordan's King Abdullah II, the ministry said.

The first blast was reported at about 8:50 p.m. at the five-star Grand Hyatt. The explosion took place in the lobby and shattered its stone entrance. Thousands of shards of broken glass crunched underfoot as hotel bellboys, some bloodied by the blast, ran alongside luggage trolleys being used to transport the wounded.
An American man blurted out in a thick Southern drawl: "My friends are dead."

Steve Olderman, a businessman from England, was attending a business dinner at the Grand Hyatt, where an information technology conference took place earlier in the day. "Suddenly, we heard an explosion and the whole hotel filled with smoke, and suddenly we found ourselves outside the hotel," said Olderman, who was on the ground floor at the time of the attack.

"We saw bodies lying as we were coming out" of the hotel, said Olderman, who had been staying at the Radisson. "It was pretty horrific. We were sitting beside a huge plate glass window and it just exploded beside us. ... We were lucky to get out alive."

A few minutes after that attack and a short distance away, police reported the explosion at the wedding celebration, which took place in a special reception hall on the ground floor of the Radisson. At least five people were killed and 20 wounded. The groom, Ashraf al-Akhras, who suffered serious injuries, said both his father and his wife's father were among the dead.

The Radisson is popular with American and Israeli tourists and was a target of several foiled al-Qaida plots, including a conspiracy to attack U.S. and Israeli tourists during the kingdom's millennium celebrations. No Israeli casualties were reported. Amin Omar, a concierge at the Radisson, said Jordanian security forces later took over the hotel and that all foreign and local guests were returned to their rooms.

"This is a terrible, terrible situation. The explosion took place during a local Jordanian wedding and caused a lot of damage. Broken chairs, shattered glass, thrown tables," Omar said. "Everything is still in a great fuss."

The third explosion, at the Days Inn, happened after a car packed with explosives approached the hotel, Muasher said. He said the car could not cross a protective barrier so it detonated outside. As a result, the casualties at the Days Inn were not so extensive as at the other hotels, he said. Muasher reported 57 killed and 115 wounded in the three bombings, with the worst damage was at the Radisson because the suicide bomber got inside the wedding party of Jordanians.

17 terror suspects arrested in Australia

SYDNEY, Nov 8: Australian authorities arrested 17 terror suspects on Tuesday — including a prominent radical Muslim cleric sympathetic to Osama bin Laden — and said they had foiled a major terror attack on the country by men committed to "violent jihad."

The Australian Federal Police said the men were arrested in Sydney and Melbourne in coordinated raids that also netted evidence including weapons and apparent bomb-making materials. A prosecutor said the cleric, Abdul Nacer Benbrika — also known as Abu Bakr — was the ringleader. "I was satisfied that this state was under an imminent threat of potentially a catastrophic terrorist act," said New South Wales Police Minister Carl Scully.

Police commissioner Graeme Morgan said one of the men arrested was shot and wounded by police in the raids, which followed a 16-month investigation.

Police declined to give details of the likely target of the attack, but Victoria state police chief Christine Nixon said that next year's Commonwealth Games, to be staged in Melbourne, were not a target. Prime Minister John Howard thanked security forces in a nationally televised news conference.

"This country has never been immune from a possible terrorist attack," he said. "That remains the situation today and it will be the situation tomorrow. It's important that we continue to mobilize all of the resources of the commonwealth and the states to fight terrorism."

Abu Bakr — an Algerian-Australian who has said he would be violating his faith if he warned his students not to join the jihad, or holy war, in Iraq — was among nine men who appeared Tuesday morning in Melbourne Magistrates Court charged with being members of a terror group. Prosecutor Richard Maidment told the court the suspects had formed a terrorist group to kill "innocent men and women in Australia."

"The members of the Sydney group have been gathering chemicals of a kind that were used in the London Underground bombings," Maidment said. He said Abu Bakr was the leader of the group. Each of the members of the group are committed to the cause of violent jihad," he added, saying they underwent military-style training at a rural camp northeast of Melbourne.

Seven of the suspects, including Abu Bakr, were ordered detained until a court appearance on January 31. Two others were applying to be released on bail. In an August interview with the ABC, Abu Bakr said that although he is against the killing of innocents, he could not discourage his students from traveling to Afghanistan or Pakistan to train in terrorist camps.

Abu Bakr told the ABC he is not involved with any terror cells in Australia. However, he said he supports al-Qaida's aims and praised the group's leader. "Osama bin Laden, he is a great man," Abu Bakr said. "Osama was a great man before 11 September. They said he did it and until now nobody knows who did it."

Australia has never been hit by a major terror attack, but its citizens have repeatedly been targeted overseas, particularly in neighboring Indonesia.

Last year, the country's embassy in Jakarta was badly damaged by a suicide bomber, and dozens of Australians were killed in bombings in 2002 and last month on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Howard's opponents say his strong support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq and decision to send troops there and to Afghanistan have made an attack on Australia inevitable. Just last week, Howard warned that Australian authorities had received specific intelligence about an attack on the country and pushed through Parliament changes to existing anti-terrorism laws to allow police to arrest people involved in the early stages of planning an unspecified terror attack. Nixon said some of the arrests Tuesday were made possible by the new legislation.

Poland honours Admiral Nanda

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: Poland has conferred its highest national award on Admiral S.M. Nanda, former Chief of Naval Staff. Polish Ambassador, Dr. Krzysztof, presented the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit on behalf of his country's President, Mr Alexander Kwasniewski, to Admiral Nanda at an exclusive felicitation ceremony here.

The Commander's Cross was conferred on the Admiral for his lifetime of outstanding achievement and contribution to the fostering of friendly ties between Poland and India, said Ambassador Krzysztof.

The Ambassador said "this honour is also an example of beautiful and comprehensive Polish-Indian relations over the past 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Warsaw and New Delhi, the golden jubilee of which was celebrated in India in a very grand scale."

A number of prominent guests attended the occasion including heads of diplomatic missions, leading political personalities and high-ranking officials from the armed forces.

Speaking on the occasion, Admiral Nanada said "I am proud and grateful to be singled out for this honour. I consider it an honour also for my country."

The Commander's Cross is a diplomatic award conferred by an act of the Polish Parliament. It is bestowed upon Polish citizens and foreigners in recognition of acts of merit and lifetime achievements.

In June 2002 it was awarded to the noted agricultural scientist Professor Samuel Pohoryles, Deputy Director General of the Peres Center for Peace and Director of the Andreas Agricultural Development Trust.

The recipients in 2004 included Sir Edmund Hillary of Mt. Everest fame and Alan Dukes of the Institute of European Affairs for his work in relation to the enlargement and integration of the European Union.

Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda, or 'Charles', as his naval comrades affectionately call him, assumed command of the Indian Navy on March 1, 1970. His legendary command over the Indian Navy during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, and his success - under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - in steering it to a resounding victory earned him the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest award.

During his illustrious career he has also been awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) in 1961 for distinguished service and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) in 1966 for distinguished service of a most exceptional order by the President of India.

After his retirement from the Navy in 1973, the Admiral took over as Managing Director of the public sector giant Shipping Corporation of India. The Admiral continues to render advice on strategic and maritime affairs and participates in seminars and deliberations on internationally significant military subjects. He had recently published a book of memoirs titled "The Man Who Bombed Karachi".

Vietnam has new human bird flu suspect

HANOI, Nov 4: A 24-year-old Vietnamese woman with a fever and respiratory problems who comes from a province with bird flu outbreaks in poultry is being tested for the virus, an official and state media said on Friday.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper said the woman, who is seven months pregnant, was taken to the General Hospital in Bac Giang province on Thursday with fever and breathing difficulties. She was isolated and being tested for the H5N1 virus as ducks at her house had died recently, it said.

Bird flu has infected poultry in three communes in Bac Giang, 50 km (31 miles) northeast of Hanoi, an Animal Health Department official said, citing a local government announcement. It is Vietnam's first outbreak in poultry in three weeks.

Tuoi Tre said more than 3,000 chickens, ducks and geese had died in recent days in the three communes. The paper also quoted Nguyen Tran Hien, director of the National Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology, as saying tests on a 25-year-old woman hospitalised in Hanoi earlier this week showed she did not have bird flu.

The Health Ministry said on Wednesday Vietnam had been free of human infections of the H5N1 virus since August. Bird flu first broke out in Vietnam's Mekong Delta in December 2003. Since then, 91 people had been infected and 41 have died of the virus, which experts fear could mutate into a form easily passed between people and unleash a global pandemic.

Pakistani ferry sinks in Indus, 60 drowned

KARACHI, Nov 4: A passenger ferry believed to be overloaded sank in Pakistan's Indus river on Friday and 60 people were drowned, government officials said.

The accident came nearly four weeks after an earthquake killed more than 73,000 people in the country's northern mountains. "According to our information, 60 people have been killed," a navy spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Salman Ali, said of the ferry accident.

The ferry sank near the southern town of Thatta, 70 km (45 miles) east of Karachi. "We have sent our diving and rescue teams to the area," Ali said.
A provincial spokesman said 80 people were on board the boat when the accident happened. The cause was being investigated but it was thought the vessel was overloaded.

"At the moment we feel the boat was overloaded and they failed to take required precautionary measures," said provincial government spokesman Salahuddin Haider. The boat was believed to have been taking people to a shrine to mark Friday's Eid al-Fitr holiday, which follows the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Haider said.

The accident will add to the sombre mood of the holiday festival in Pakistan after the catastrophic earthquake that hit the north of country on Oct. 8.

Serial blasts in Thai city

BANGKOK, Nov 2: Several bombs exploded in Thailand's southern city of Narathiwat Wednesday night, knocking out electricity in some areas, local media reported.

At least eight bombs were planted in the capital city of Narathiwat Province. Two of them were defused by police and the others exploded, Thai TV Channel 5 reported late Wednesday. Though details were not immediately known, local police said three bombs that exploded near electricity poles apparently caused the blackout.

Another two bombs blasted a transformer substation, injuring one person, while the sixth bomb exploded near a hotel. Police said three suspects had been detained.

Thailand's deep south has fallen into spiralling violence since the beginning of last year, when separatists began targeting security forces, government staff and civilians. The violence has killed more than 900 people over the past 22 months.

Australia says has intelligence on terror threat

CANBERRA, Nov 2: Australia has received specific information about a possible "terrorist threat" to the country, Prime Minister John Howard said on Wednesday, but Australia's medium security alert remained unchanged.

A staunch U.S. ally with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australia has never suffered a major peacetime attack on home soil. The country has been on medium security alert since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. "The government has received specific intelligence from police information this week which gives cause for serious concern about a potential terrorist threat," Howard told reporters in Canberra.
"I don't want to over-alarm people. I have said for a long time the possibility of an attack is there," he said.

Howard refused to give any details about the nature or location of the threat, but said the government would rush through changes to anti-terror laws to enable police to respond. News of the potential threat saw the Australian stock market fall about half a percent and the Australian dollar dip, touching a four-month low. "This will definitely spook some investors," said Garry Diakos, a dealer at Shaw Stockbroking.

Howard's warning comes as the nation's domestic intelligence service, the Australia Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), acknowledged for the first time that Australia had home-grown extremists, some of whom had received terror training overseas. "Some of the more extremist individuals ASIO has identified and investigated are Australian-born," ASIO said in its annual report, adding that some were angry about the war in Iraq, while others believed they did not fit into Australian society.

Four Australians are currently awaiting trial in Sydney and Melbourne on terror charges, linked to supporting and training with banned groups such as al Qaeda. Media reports said ASIO was believed to have concerns over up to 800 Muslims in Australia who have voiced support for politically motivated violence, while up to 80 people resident in Australia were known to have trained with militant organisations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Howard plans to introduce a range of new anti-terror laws on Thursday following a review after the July 7 London bombings, although police shoot-to-kill provisions are expected to be watered down after opposition from state leaders.

The new laws, which have been criticised by human rights and civil liberties groups, will allow police to detain suspects for seven days without charge, and use electronic tracking devices to keep tabs on suspects. Supporting insurgents in countries such as Iraq would carry a seven-year jail sentence.

Howard said he expected parliament to pass urgent amendments by late Thursday, to allow authorities to lay charges against people involved with planning generic attacks, rather than current laws which relate only to specific attacks.

Security analyst Aldo Borgu said Australians would be cynical about Howard's warning unless the new amendments led to arrests. "People are going to be very cynical unless the government clearly states the case why it's not changing the threat level when it has received specific intelligence about a threat," Borgu, from the Australian Security Policy Institute, said.

Australia's terror alert was lifted from low to medium after the Sept. 11 attacks. The four-level system allows for the alert to rise to high if an attack is likely, or to go to the top level of extreme if an attack is imminent or has happened. While Australia has suffered no major terror attack on home soil, Australians overseas have been targeted.

Four Australians were killed in the October 1 bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali, 88 Australians were among the 202 killed in the 2002 Bali bombings and the Australian embassy in Jakarta was attacked by a suicide bomber in September 2004, killing 10 Indonesians.

China says steps up watch against bird flu

BEIJING, Oct 31: China is stepping up surveillance efforts over migratory birds and in poultry markets to check the spread of bird flu, a state newspaper said on Monday.

From the country's far north to the booming south, local governments are cancelling pigeon races, stocking up on protective clothing and setting up checkpoints in markets, the China Daily said. Three areas hit by bird flu in the provinces of Hunan and Anhui and the northern region of Inner Mongolia remained closed to outsiders, the official English-language newspaper said.

Medical staff in Shanghai, the country's financial hub, were being trained to deal with an outbreak and hospitals were stockpiling emergency materials like disinfectant. China reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday the death of a 12-year-old girl who ate a diseased chicken in the southern province of Hunan and caught pneumonia, the newspaper added. China last week said the girl died of pneumonia, and stressed there had been no human infections of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

China has reported no human bird flu infections since the latest H5N1 outbreak first surfaced in Asia in late 2003. Since then, 62 people have died in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia and the virus has spread to Europe. The WHO has been pressing China to provide more information on the girl and her 9-year-old brother, who is reported to be in stable condition in hospital, also with pneumonia.

In the past two weeks China has revealed three outbreaks of the H5N1 virus that killed 3,800 chickens, ducks and geese. Farmers in China, as in many parts of Asia, live alongside their poultry and other livestock, increasing the chances of the disease spreading to humans, experts say. It also raises the chance of the virus mutating into a form that could spread easily among people, triggering a pandemic. Millions could die.

Migratory birds, believed to play a role in the transmission of H5N1 to domestic flocks, are now heading south for Africa from Siberia, where outbreaks among poultry have occurred.

In Africa, as in parts of Asia, many households keep backyard flocks, which often mingle freely with wild birds or share play areas with children, WHO said last week. Most human bird flu infections are due to handling birds sick with the virus or contact with their droppings. Cooked meat is not a known source of infection.

Iran president calls for democracy for Palestinians

TEHRAN, Oct 31: Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday the only solution to the Middle East conflict was democracy for Palestinians, after provoking outcry last week by calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

The official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying the best step would be political rather than military. "The only logical solution to solve the Palestinian issue is to hold free elections with the participation of Palestinians inside and outside the occupied territories and a recognition of the nation's legitimacy," he said after a meeting with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

When Iran uses the term "occupied territories" it usually means not only the West Bank and Gaza but the whole of Israel, whose right to exist Iran does not recognise. Ahmadinejad appeared to be calling for full democratic representation for Palestinian refugees and emigres anywhere.

His comments last week sparked sharp international criticism, including a rebuke from the U.N. Security Council. "I will ask U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to put on his agenda the formation of a democratic and legitimate Palestinian government," Ahmadinejad said on Sunday. Annan is expected to visit Iran in the next week or two.

Several countries summoned Iranian ambassadors last week to seek assurances that Tehran was not planning a military attack. The United States and Britain said Ahmadinejad's remarks added to fears that Iran was planning to build nuclear arms. Tehran says its nuclear programme is purely peaceful.

Fire at Amsterdam airport claims 11 lives

AMSTERDAM, Oct 27: A fire broke out at a detention centre at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Thursday, killing 11 people and injuring 15, Dutch media reported.

The media quoted the Justice Ministry for the latest death toll. Earlier, a police spokesman said 10 people had been killed but declined to give further details before a news conference due to be held at 0430 GMT. An airport spokeswoman said the fire, which began shortly after midnight and took several hours to bring under control, had no impact on flights.

The Dutch news agency ANP said all the dead were detainees. The cause of the fire was not immediately known. The detention complex mainly housed suspected drug traffickers, police said, but it was also used to hold illegal immigrants before expulsion. ANP said 350 people were being detained in the complex at the time of the fire.

IB warns Indian Govt on relief camps

NEW DELHI, Oct 26: The Intelligence Bureau has sounded an alert to the Central and state governments over the virtual takeover of relief and rehabilitation measures in the quake-ravage Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.

In a specific warning, the IB has held that the "charity" initiative may generate a fund of goodwill in villages close to LoC for Lashkar, which had so far drawn the bulk of its cadre from Punjab and other parts of Pakistan.

Lashkar activists, working under the aegis of Jama'at ul Dawa (JuD), have only stepped in where the military establishment of Pervez Musharraf can't.
The inability of the Pakistani army to bring succour to the quake victims has, according to Amanullah Khan, chief of JKLF, resulted in its alienation with the uniform, while the jehadis, moving swiftly into the breach, have been able to garner sympathy and admiration of the locals.

The matter has been discussed in the government which is concerned also about the risk of aid being cornered by the supporters of terrorists on this side of the LoC as well.

According to Indian intelligence agencies monitoring events, the JuD is working with hundreds of makeshift clinics, some equipped with X-ray machines, pathology lab and a mini-operation theatre. A similar number of paramedics assisted by over 5,000 JuD cadres are working round the clock in quake-hit PoK.

The terror groups are obviously sniffing a huge PR possibility. Intelligence agencies have noticed the appeal of Ayman Al Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden, for stepping up relief effort. In fact, the present quake relief operation of the JuD is headed by Amir Aziz, a prominent Pakistani orthopaedic who was arrested in 2002 for links with Osama bin Laden.

If Pakistan recognises the risk, it has not acknowledged it. In fact its interior minister has been quoted as saying that Jamaat ul-Dawa, "is only involved in extensive charity work, and their footprint now covers almost the entire quake-affected zone in the country".

For the government here, however, the dangers are several and real: first, the JuD's efforts are creating new wells of support for future terrorist activities in villages much closer to the LoC. If the Pakistan establishment was going soft on LeT, after this experience, the terror group is now almost an auxiliary of the establishment.

This may make it very difficult for Musharraf to act against them the next time he is nudged to do so by the Americans. The Lashkar has for long been planning to change its cadre profile like the Al Qaida, and this quake relief operation has just given them the right kind of atmosphere to recruit terrorists from outside the traditional catchment area in madrasas and from mainstream schools and colleges.

Iraqi death toll much higher than US

BAGHDAD, Oct 26: The number of Iraqis who have died violently since the U.S.-led invasion is many times larger than the U.S. military death toll of 2,000 in Iraq. In one sign of the enormity of the Iraqi loss, at least 3,870 were killed in the past six months alone, according to an Associated Press count.

One U.S. military spokesman said it is possible the figure for the entire war could be 30,000 Iraqis, which many experts see as a credible estimate. Others suspect the number is far higher, since the chaos in Iraq leaves the potential for many killings to go unreported.

The losses are far larger than most analysts and Pentagon planners expected before the war and mean Iraqi civilians are bearing most of the suffering."We may never know the true number of the Iraqi public that has been killed or injured in this war," said the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan. "The Iraqi public has taken the brunt of the casualties."

Every day claims more victims: A car bomb targeting American troops that kills Iraqi passers-by. An insurgent attack on a police station. Sectarian militias dumping blindfolded corpses in the Euphrates River.

Civilians made up more than two-thirds of the Iraqis killed in war-related violence since the country's first elected government took power on April 28, according to the AP count. The rest were Iraqi security personnel. Boylan said the U.S. military keeps its own tally of Iraqi dead, but does not release it. He said he had asked U.S. authorities to see the estimates of Iraqi dead himself, and was refused.

But he suggested an estimate from Iraq Body Count, a British anti-war group that has compiled a death toll based on media reports, appeared credible. The group estimated that from 26,690 to 30,051 Iraqi civilians were killed, or roughly 1,000 per month in the 30 months since the war began.
"I guess it is certainly possible given some of the spectacular events, but hard to say," Boylan said via e-mail.

Journalists' hotel in Baghdad attacked

BAGHDAD, Oct 25: Three massive vehicle bombs exploded Monday near the Palestine Hotel, home to many Western journalists, killing at least 20 people. Dramatic TV pictures showed one of the bombers driving a cement truck through the concrete blast walls that guard the hotel, then blowing up his vehicle.

Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said the attack - which appeared well-planned - was a "very clear" effort to take over the hotel and seize journalists as hostages. One of the car bombs exploded near the police position on the northeast side of Firdous Square, where a statue of

Saddam Hussein was toppled in April 2003 shortly after the fall of Baghdad, and more than 100 yards east of the hotel. Security officials said a third bomb struck the area around the same time. All three were believed to be suicide attacks.

"Three cars came from three different roads in succession to create security breaches for terrorists," al-Rubaie said in a telephone interview, adding that they were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and light arms. "The plan was very clear to us, which was to take security control over the two hotels, and to take the foreign and Arab journalists as hostages to use them as a bargain."

The U.S. military said no U.S. troops were injured. It counted 10 dead Iraqis. The security adviser said at least 40 people were injured, most of them passers-by. Another official, Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Kamal, said four or five Iraqi police were among the dead.

APTN footage showed that one of three vehicle bombers had penetrated the concrete blast walls surrounding the hotel compound before exploding.

The cement mixer exploded in a huge ball of flame and a cloud of smoke. Iraqi security officials said the blasts occurred two minutes apart, not long before Muslims marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan were preparing to break their daylong fast. Shortly before the explosion, a truck came under fire nearby, according to APTN.

The attacks caused heavy damage to the south side of the 19-story Palestine Hotel, forcing journalists, including those from AP, Fox News and the U.S. government-funded Alhurra TV station to take refuge in the corridor. Fox and Alhurra said their employees were safe.

Inside, light fixtures were blown out, pictures were blasted off the walls and windows were shattered. Moments before the second blast, journalists, photographers and technicians were walking up and down hazy corridors in a state of confusion, urging each other to remain calm, put on flak jackets, and to stay away from windows. Thicker clouds of smoke filled the far end of one hallway, with many people coughing and waving their hands.

The second explosion shook the building momentarily. Confusion and panic again set in, with those inside debating whether to exit, but all eventually deciding to stay in the corridor and sit propped against walls, most in flak jackets. Sounds resembling gunshots could be heard outside.
Strips of floorboards were strewn about and air vents were blown in.

An AP photographer at a checkpoint at the northwest corner of the hotel said at least three fellow photographers from other media were injured and taken away by ambulance. Three APTN personnel inside the hotel suffered minor injuries. The AP counted six wounded inside the hotel, which was last hit in an insurgent rocket attack on Oct. 7, 2004.

Capt. Patricia Brewer, a U.S. military spokeswoman in Baghdad, said they could hear the blasts from their headquarters. A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, said the U.S. military sent in a quick reaction force to the site to assist the police.

Guirgiyan Celebrations

NEW DELHI, Oct 15: Kuwait Information Office in India's capital city celebrated the festival of Guirgiyan with lot of traditional fun fare on Friday night at Mashrabiya, a Lebanese restaurant, at The Ashok Hotel.

Guirgiyan is a Kuwaiti festival for children meaning "a noisy knock on the door" which falls in the middle of Ramadan. Children dressed in traditional attire singing songs, go in the neighbourhood collecting nuts and sweets and wishing everyone Happy Guirgiyan.

Children dressed in traditional attire came with their parents to enjoy the celebrations of Guirgiyan which was marked with lot of activities like Henna putting, face painting, tattoo making and hair braiding.

Children were treated with the Guirgiyan bag containing nuts, sweets and other eatables. The elders also had their fare share of entertainment and delicious Lebanese food. Eminent personalities attended the function.


Saddam Goes on Trial for 1982 Massacre

BAGHDAD, Oct 19: Saddam Hussein went on trial Wednesday for alleged crimes against fellow Iraqis, appearing in a tightly secured courtroom in the former headquarters of his Baath Party nearly two years after his capture and facing charges in a 1982 massacre of nearly 150 Shiites that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

The 68-year-old ousted Iraqi leader and his seven co-defendants — all top officials from his regime — sat in two rows, with Saddam in the front, directly facing the panel of five judges that will both hear the the case and render a verdict in what could be the first of several trials of Saddam for atrocities carried out during his 23-year-rule.

Defense lawyers sat to the defendants' right, the prosecutors to their left in the small courtroom, located in the marble building that once served as the National Command Headquarters of his feared Baath Party.

The building — located in Baghdad's Green Zone, the heavily fortified district wheree Iraq's government, parliament and the U.S. Embassy are located — was ringed with 10-foot blast walls and U.S. and Iraqi troops, with several Humvees and at least one tank deployed outside.

The trial was being aired with a 20-minute delay on state-run Iraqi television and on satellite stations across Iraq and the Arab world. Many Iraqis, particularly from the Shiite Muslim majority and the Kurdish minority — the two communities most oppressed by Saddam's regime — have eagerly awaited the chance to see the man who ruled Iraq with unquestioned and total power held to justice.

But in some ways, Iraq also will be on trial, with the world watching to see whether its new Shiite and Kurd-dominated ruling class can rise above politics and prejudice and give the former dictator a fair hearing. Human rights group have criticized the government for trying to influence the trial and that considerable US logistical and financial aid to the tribunal could lend credibility to charges that it will mete out "victors' justice."

Saddam and the seven others are facing charges that they ordered the killing in 1982 of nearly 150 people in the mainly Shiite village of Dujail north of Baghdad after a failed attempt on the former dictator's life.

Iraqis probe 'unusually high' Yes tally

BAGHDAD, Oct 18: Iraq's election commission announced Monday that officials were investigating "unusually high" numbers of "yes" votes in about a dozen provinces during Iraq's landmark referendum on a new constitution, raising questions about irregularities in the balloting.

Word of the review came as Sunni Arab leaders repeated accusations of fraud after initial reports from the provinces suggested the constitution had passed. Among the Sunni allegations are that police took ballot boxes from heavily "no" districts, and that some "yes" areas had more votes than registered voters.

The Electoral Commission made no mention of fraud, and an official with knowledge of the election process cautioned that it was too early to say whether the unusual numbers were incorrect or if they would affect the outcome.

But questions about the numbers raised tensions over Saturday's referendum, which has already sharply divided Iraqis. Most of the Shiite majority and the Kurds - the coalition which controls the government - support the charter, while most Sunni Arabs sharply opposed a document they fear will tear Iraq to pieces and leave them weak and out of power.

Irregularities in Shiite and Kurdish areas, expected to vote strongly "yes," may not affect the outcome. The main electoral battlegrounds were provinces with mixed populations, two of which went strongly "yes." There were conflicting reports whether those two provinces were among those with questionable figures.

In new violence, the U.S. military said that its warplanes and helicopters bombed two western villages Sunday, killing an estimated 70 militants near a site where five American soldiers died in a roadside blast. Residents said at least 39 of the dead were civilians, including children.

In the vote count, a sandstorm also became a factor, preventing many tallies from being flown from the provinces to Baghdad, where they are to be compiled and checked. The Electoral Commission said it needed "a few more days" to produce final results, citing the need for the audit.

At Baghdad's counting center, election workers cut open plastic bags of tally sheets sent from stations in the capital and its surroundings - the only ones to have arrived so far. Nearby, more workers, dressed in white T-shirts and caps bearing the election commission's slogan, sat behind computer screens punching in the numbers.

Election officials in many provinces have released their initial counts, indicating that Sunni attempts to defeat the charter failed. But the commission found that the number of "yes" votes in most provinces appeared "unusually high" and would be audited, with random samples taken from ballot boxes to test them, said the commission's head, Adil al-Lami.

The high numbers were seen among the nine Shiite provinces of the south and the three Kurdish ones in the north, al-Lami told The Associated Press.

Those provinces reported to AP "yes" votes above 90 percent, with some as high as 97 and 98 percent.

Two provinces that are crucial to the results - Ninevah and Diyala, which have mixed Sunni, Shiite and Kurd populations - were not among those that appeared unusual, al-Lami said. He said their results "were reasonable and balanced according to the nature of the population in those areas."

But the official with knowledge of the counting process said the unexpected results were not isolated to the Shiite and Kurdish provinces and were "all around the country." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the count.

Sunni opponents needed to win over either Diyala or Ninevah to veto the constitution. Sunnis had to get a two-thirds "no" vote in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces to defeat the charter, and they appeared to have gotten it in western Anbar and central Salahuddin, both heavily Sunni.

Ninevah and Diyala are each believed to have a slight Sunni Arab majority. But results reported by provincial electoral officials showed startlingly powerful "yes" votes of up to 70 percent in each.

Allegations of fraud in those areas could throw into question the final outcome. But questions of whether the reported strong "yes" vote there is unusual are complicated by the fact that Iraq has not had a proper census in some 15 years, meaning the sectarian balance is not firmly known.

A prominent Sunni Arab politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, claimed Diyala in particular had seen vote rigging. He said he was told by the manager of a polling station in a Kurdish district of Diyala that 39,000 votes were cast although only 36,000 voters were registered there.

Al-Mutlaq said soldiers broke into a polling station in a Sunni district of the Diyala city of Baqouba and took ballot boxes heavy with "no" votes and that later results showed a "yes" majority. His claims could not be independently verified. "Bottom line, we can say that the whole operation witnessed interference from government forces," he said.

Al-Mutlaq and Sunni Arab parliament member Meshaan al-Jubouri said polling officials in Ninevah had informed them that the provincial capital, Mosul, voted predominantly "no" - as high as 80 percent - while the Electoral Commission reported a 50-50 split.

Sunnis appear to fall short in Iraq vote

BAGHDAD, Oct 17: Iraq's landmark constitution seemed assured of passage Sunday after initial results showed minority Sunni Arabs had fallen short in an effort to veto it at the polls. The apparent acceptance was a major step in the attempt to establish a democratic government that could lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Opponents failed to secure the necessary two-thirds "no" vote in any three of Iraqi's 18 provinces, according to counts that local officials provided. In the crucial central provinces with mixed ethnic and religious populations, enough Shiites and Kurds voted to stymie the Sunni bid to reject the constitution.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a decree setting December 15 for Iraqis to vote again, this time to elect a new parliament. If the constitution indeed passed, the first full-term parliament since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003 will install a new government by December 31. If the charter has failed, the parliament will be temporary, tasked with drawing up a new draft on which to vote.

But the outcome could further divide the nation, with many Sunnis fearing the new decentralized government will deprive them of their fair share in the country's vast oil wealth. Large numbers of Sunnis voted "no," and some of their leaders were already rejecting the apparent result.

While a strong Sunni turnout in Saturday's referendum suggested a desire among many to participate in Iraq's new political system, there were fears that anger at being ruled under a constitution they oppose could push some into supporting the Sunni-led insurgency. "If the constitution was passed, the attacks will definitely rise against the occupation forces, and the security situation is going to be worse," said Sheik Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a prominent cleric with the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, which government officials accuse of links to the insurgency.

In a sign of the relentless danger, five U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday by a bomb in Ramadi, a hotbed of militants west of Baghdad, the military announced. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since a September 29 bomb blast in the same town also killed five soldiers. A Marine was also killed by a bomb Saturday in the town of Saqlawiyah, the military said.

The most recent deaths brought to at least 1,976 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the war began in 2003.

President Bush congratulated Iraqis on the referendum, which across the country saw few attacks and no deaths of voters in violence. "The vote today in Iraq is in stark contrast to the attitude, the philosophy and strategy of al-Qaida, their terrorist friends and killers," Bush said.

The constitution is a crucial step in Iraq's transition to democracy after two decades of dictatorship under Saddam. Washington was hoping it would pass so Iraqis can form a legitimate, representative government, tame the insurgency and enable the 150,000 U.S. troops to begin withdrawing.

Large turnout for Iraq constitution vote
Only minor violence reported; ballot counting begins

BAGHDAD, Oct 16: Iraq's deeply divided Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds voted in large numbers on a new constitution on Saturday - a referendum mostly free of insurgent violence and aimed at establishing democracy after decades of Saddam Hussein's repressive rule.

In the south, Shiite women in head-to-toe veils and men emerged from the poll stations flashing victory signs with fingers stained with violet ink, apparently responding in mass to the call by their top cleric to support the charter. But in Sunni regions - both in Baghdad and several key heavily Sunni provinces - the surprisingly high turnout seemed to consist largely of Iraqis voting "no" because of fears the charter would set in stone the Shiite domination they fear

"The constitution is a sign of civilization," Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said after casting his ballot. "This constitution has come after heavy sacrifices. It is a new birth."

Overall turnout was about 61 percent and surpassed 66 percent in seven of Iraq's 18 provinces, including key Sunni Arab-majority ones, according to initial estimates, election officials said Saturday.

Some 250 election workers in Baghdad were starting to compile the ballots, collecting the summarized results and ballot boxes from around the country to count. So far, only materials from areas close to the capital have arrived, and no results were expected Saturday night, said Farid Ayar of the Independent Elections Commissions of Iraq.

"Initial estimates are that the turnout is no less than 61 percent," said Abdul-Hussein Hindawi, another senior IECI member said. More than 66 percent of voters cast ballots in the three crucial provinces that could decide the vote - Salahuddin, Diyala and Ninevah, each of which has a Sunni majority but also significant Shiite or Kurdish populations, Ayar said

Sunni opponents are hoping to get a two-thirds majority "no" vote in these provinces, which would defeat the constitution. Sunnis appeared to have turned out in surprisingly large numbers Saturday, many of them saying they were voting to reject, suggesting the final results could be close.

Other provinces with a similar rate of participation were Baghdad and Tamim - with mixed Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite populations - and the overwhelmingly Shiite provinces of Babil and Karbala, in the south.

Most provinces in the mostly Shiite south and the three provinces that make up the autonomous area of Kurdistan in the north had turnout rates between 33 and 66 percent, Ayar told a Baghdad press conference soon after polls closed Saturday evening.

The country's Shiite majority - some 60 percent of its estimated 27 million people - and the Kurds - another 20 percent - largely support the approximately 140-article charter, which provides them with autonomy in the northern and southern regions where they are concentrated.

The Sunni Arab minority, which dominated the country under Saddam Hussein and forms the backbone of the insurgency, widely opposes the draft, convinced its federalist system will tear the country into Shiite and Kurdish mini-states in the south and north, leaving Sunnis in an impoverished center.

British lawyer to defend Saddam

LONDON, Oct 15: Saddam Hussein's family have chosen one of Britain's best-known barristers To defend the former Iraqi dictator at his trial for mass murder which is due to start in Baghdad next week, starting October 19.

Anthony Scrivener QC, has been asked to go to Iraq to head the defence in what will be one of the most closely watched trials of recent times.
The approach to Mr Scrivener was made on behalf of Saddam's daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein. Saddam himself is said to be in "upbeat" mood about the trial.

Mr Scrivener's clerk, Martin Hart, confirmed last night that the British lawyer had been asked to represent Saddam. "Mr Scrivener has been approached to lead a legal team to challenge the lawfulness of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein," said a statement issued by his chambers.
However, Mr Hart stressed that no final agreement had been made.

Desmond Doherty, a lawyer who worked on the Bloody Sunday inquiry into the shooting dead by British paratroopers of 13 demonstrators in Northern Ireland in 1972, is also said to be part of the team. He was not available for comment. The prosecution has assembled an 800-page dossier outlining the case against Saddam, according to last night's BBC TV.

The charges so far relate to the execution of 143 people in Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982. The death sentences, signed by Saddam, supposedly in response to an assassination attempt on him, will form the heart of the case. He is also charged with torture and forced expulsion.

It is understood that the defence case will be that the death sentences were passed after a legitimate legal process and that Saddam merely confirmed them in the same way that George Bush, as governor of Texas, confirmed 152 executions.

The exiled Iraqi lawyer Abdul Haq al-Ani, who is another member of the defence team, will challenge the lawfulness of the special tribunal and argue that Saddam is entitled to sovereign immunity as a head of state.

"It was drafted by an occupying power," he said. "It has no right under international law to change the legal system of the occupied land." He added that Saddam was " high spirits" and relishing the prospect of the trial due to start on October 19. If convicted, he would face the death penalty.

At least 85 killed in attacks in Russia

NALCHIK (Russia), Oct 14: Militants attacked police and government buildings in Russia's volatile Caucasus region Thursday, taking hostages and turning a provincial capital into a war zone wracked by gunfire and explosions that left at least 85 people dead, mostly insurgents.

Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the offensive in Nalchik, the capital of the mostly Muslim republic of Kabardino-Balkariya, as a new front opened in the Kremlin's decade-old battle against Islamic insurgents. The rebels' struggle against Russia, originally a separatist movement, increasingly has melded with Islamic extremism in the past decade and fanned out beyond Chechnya's borders to encompass the entire Caucusus region.

The insurgent strategy of simultaneous attacks on facilities in Nalchik, a city of 235,000, was similar to a rebel siege last year in another Caucasus republic, Ingushetia, in what appears to be an attempt to target areas outside Chechnya and keep Moscow off-balance.

Kabardino-Balkariya is the fifth of seven republics in the mountainous region to be hit by the spillover of violence from the struggle in Chechnya. The insurgents are trying to exploit tensions among a variety of ethnic groups in the impoverished region as well as native Muslims and the ethnic Russians, who are Christian.

President Vladimir Putin, beleaguered by attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians and underscored his failure to bring the southern area under control, ordered a total blockade of Nalchik to prevent militants from slipping out. He told security forces to shoot any armed resisters. Thursday's fighting began about 8:30 a.m. after police launched an operation to capture about 10 militants in a Nalchik suburb. All 10 suspected militants were killed, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin said.

Aid flows to Kashmir quake zone, but scene chaotic

MUZAFFARABAD, Oct 13: A steady flow of relief supplies rumbled into Pakistan's earthquake zone on Thursday but the scene remained chaotic as survivors and rescuers sought in vain for ways to distribute the material.

President Pervez Musharraf called on the country on Wednesday night to unite in the face of tragedy and appealed to the estimated 3.3 million people affected by the quake to be patient, saying relief efforts were gathering pace.

But for most survivors in the northern mountains of the country, it was their sixth day without electricity. They are also yet to receive reliable supplies of food, water and shelter.

A five-person medical team wandering around Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir and the city worst hit by Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake, said they had come from an unaffected part of the northern Pakistan territory to offer their services.

"We want to help but we don't know where to start. Where is the organisation? Where should we go?" said Rehmat Ullah Wazir, a medical officer in his hospital's department of surgery.

Businessman Achmed Rafiqi returned to Muzaffarabad from the commercial capital of Karachi on Wednesday night to find a pile of rubble where his home and electronics business had been. "I fear that my whole family is under there," he said. "But how can I find them? How can I bury them? There is no one to help me, not even God."

The official death toll in northern Pakistan stood at 23,000 on Thursday, but that was expected to rise as relief workers slowly reach remote villages deep in mountainous valleys in the foothills of the Himalayas. Another 1,200 people are confirmed dead across the border in Indian Kashmir.

Some local officials and politicians in Pakistan say the death toll could exceed 40,000. Unable to do anything for the thousands of dead still buried under the rubble, the government is focused on getting food and shelter to the estimated 2.5 million people made homeless.

After quake, epidemic stares victims in face

Oct 12: Malaria and other diseases are breaking out in Pakistan occupied Kashmir where health services are in ruins after an earthquake wrecked hospitals and killed many doctors, a senior health official said on Tuesday.

Corpses and sewage had contaminated the river Neelum, the main source of drinking water in the provincial capital Muzaffarabad, officials said
"Health services have totally collapsed here and malaria, gastroenteritis and water borne diseases have already spread in worst-hit areas of the city," Khawaja Shabir, provincial director-general of health, said.

He said the situation was only likely to worsen because of the polluted water and the many dead bodies still stuck under buildings that collapsed in Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake. The United Nations warned of risks of cholera and pneumonia.

Shabir was working in his office when the quake struck and spent three hours trapped under rubble before being saved. He said 80 per cent of his staff died and his office destroyed. "We're helpless in handling it on our own as right now we don't have a single hospital left in Muzaffarabad, no medicine, no paramedic staff, nothing," he said.

UN officials said as many as one million people had been left homeless by the quake, which officials said may have killed as many as 40,000 people. They said two million children were among perhaps four million affected by the disaster.

The World Health Organisation said in a statement that a massive health relief effort was needed and would be part of a UN appeal being launched on Tuesday in Geneva. "We need to coordinate a massive health relief effort to ensure people get urgent care and to prevent a bad situation getting even worse," said Alan Alwan, the WHO's newly named representative for health action in crises.

Apart from destroying all of the more than a dozen government hospitals and almost all private clinics, many medical staff were killed or injured, or were dealing with deaths in their families.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that 23,000 people have died so far and 51,000 injured in the disaster, although the UNICEF estimated that upto 40,000 might have been killed and local daily 'The Nation' claimed that the toll was set to rise sharply to over two lakh with over 50 lakh people displaced from their houses. Aziz said that 25 lakh people have been rendered homeless, adding that the foreign aid to the country has crossed $300 million.

Army troops on Tuesday reached hitherto inaccessibe areas in quake-battered Jammu and Kashmir and volunteers and NGOs chipped in to help the state government in providing succour to the victims even as death count in weekend's monster quake mounted to over 1300, reports from Srinagar said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited worst-hit Tangdhar and Uri sectors and announced an additional Rs 500 crore relief to the state to cope with the devastation wreaked by the temblor. Describing the tragedy as a national calamity, he said 1300 people had perished and 4,500 were injured in the quake that flattened or damaged 32,000 houses.

The Centre would share the state's burden and Rs 500 crore was not the final figure, Singh said adding "whatever is required for rehabilitation, we will provide." Civilians on Tuesday joined government and security forces in a big way contrbuting food and clothes for victims of the killer quake. People in almost every locality in Srinagar donated clothes, blankets, ration and whatever they could manage in response to frequent appeals blared from loudspeakers.

Pakistan has been declared a visa-free country for a week to facilitate foreign teams planning to join relief and rescue efforts in quake-hit areas.

"We have set up special desks for facilitating all flying into Pakistan either to join hands with us in this moment of distress or to see their families and relatives," Additional Director General, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Tariq Khosa said.

The facility is available both at Islamabad International Airport and Chakala Airbase where FIA officials have been positioned to facilitate the visitors without any hassle, he was quoted as saying by The Nation newspaper. Under the decision taken at a high-level meeting in the Interior Ministry, all the visitors will be given one-week permission to stay. However, this period could be extended on request.

Over 45 special foreign flights carrying relief goods have so far arrived in the country in response to Islamabad's call for international help to the quake affected areas.

Pak quake toll crosses 30,000, 656 killed in India

ISLAMABAD/ SRINAGAR, Oct 10: Pakistan said more than 30,000 people had been killed, with over 17,000 in occupied Kashmir alone. The death toll in the killer earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir stood at 656 late on Sunday night, Indian Home Ministry said.

POK communication Minister Tariq Mahmmod was quoted as saying that over 30,000 had perished in the region, many of them students. Describing the situation as "horrendous that one cannot imagine," Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told newsmen that "so far 19,136 people have lost their lives, 42,397 were injured. Casualties are increasing by the hour".

He said the worst affected area was PoK, the epicenter of Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake, where 17,388 were confirmed dead and 40,421 injured. The problem was compounded with the closure of roads leading to PoK forcing authorities to carry out rescue and relief efforts through helicopters.

Describing the tragedy as the "worst ever" in Pakistan's history, President Pervez Musharraf sought international assistance in the form of medicines, blankets, tents and helicopters to provide succour to the affected. Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz undertook aerial surveys of the worst affected PoK and NWFP to gauge the enormity of the destruction.

The death toll in the killer earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir stood at 656 late on Sunday night, Indian Home Ministry said. Of the total number of deaths, 589 were in Kashmir valley, 17 in Jammu division and 50 Army and BSF personnel were killed, a spokesman of the ministry said. He put the number of injured persons at 990 of which 900 were in Kashmir valley and the rest in Jammu division. Sixteen people were missing from the Valley.

A series of aftershocks continued to rock parts of Pakistan and India in the early hours on Sunday, a day after a massive earthquake wreaked havoc in the region. A mild tremor shook Srinagar and adjoining areas at around 6:05 am forcing residents to come out of their houses to safety.

As rescue and relief efforts picked up momentum in quake-hit areas, a tremor measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale shook Kutch region at 2:18 am. The region had suffered large-scale destruction in a monster earthquake in January, 2001. Another quake of 6.0 magnitudes shook northern parts of Pakistan at 2:43 am, the Met Department said in a release.

About 45 aftershocks have rocked Pakistan since a 7.6 quake killed thousands of people, the chief of Pakistan's meteorological department said.

Seven aftershocks measuring over 5.0 on the Richter scale were recorded on Saturday after the tremor measuring 7.4 rocked the region at 0920 IST. All the aftershocks were epicentred near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. According to Met officials, aftershocks were a normal phenomenon after a major earthquake and these were likely to continue for several days.

At least 25 killed in Iraq mosque blast

HILLAH (Iraq), Oct 6: A bomb exploded at the entrance of a Shiite Muslim mosque south of Baghdad as hundreds of worshippers gathered for prayers on the first day of Ramadan and for the funeral of a man killed in an earlier bombing. At least 25 people were killed and 87 wounded.

The explosion hit the Husseiniyat Ibn al-Nama mosque, ripping through strings of light-bulbs and green and red flags hung around the entrance to celebrate the start of the holy month. The mosque's facade was ravaged, shops nearby were detroyed and several nearby cars were damaged.

It was the second major bomb attack in a week in Hillah, one of the most insurgent-hit towns in southern.

Iraq, the heartland of the Shiite majority. Al-Qaida in Iraq, one of the country's deadliest militant groups, has called for stepped up attacks during Ramadan and has declared an all-out war on Iraq's Shiites. The blast, which police believed was caused by a planted explosive, killed at least 25 people and wounded at least 87, said Dr. Adnan al-Nashtah of the city's health department.

The explosion detonated on the sidewalk next to the mosque's entrance at 6 p.m. as hundreds of men gathered at the mosque, located in the center of Hallah, for prayers before returning home to eat the meal that ends the day's sunrise to sunset fast. Others were there for a funeral service being held inside the mosque for the funeral of a restaurant owner who was killed by a bomb that ripped through his restaurant Monday.

The attack came five days after a car bomb exploded in a crowded Hillah market, killing 10 people, including three women and two children in the town about 60 miles south of Baghdad. A day earlier, a string of car bombs hit in Balad, a Shiite town north of Baghdad, killing around 100 people.

On Feb. 28, a suicide car bomber hit Shiite police and national guard recruits in Hillah, killing 125 people - the deadliest single bombing of the insurgency.

The Hillah bombing was the latest in a string of attacks by Sunni-led insurgents that have targeted Shiite Muslims in the lead-up to an Oct. 15 referendum on Iraq's new constitution. Insurgents have vowed to wreck the vote. Thousands of U.S. troops are currently waging two major offensives to try to put down al-Qaida in its strongholds in the mostly Sunni northwest of Iraq.

Moderate Sunni Arab leaders are campaigning against the constitution, trying to defeat it at the polls because they say it will fragment Iraq into Shiite and Kurdish mini-states in the south and north, leaving Sunnis in a weakened central zone.


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Trapped Russian submariners rescued
Former British Foreign Secretary Cook dies
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India relaxes visa regime for Pak nationals

India, Malaysia sign agreements to boost ties

Malaysian PM arrives on Sunday on 5-day visit to India
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India, Israel set up Joint Study Group to boost trade ties
India, Israel review bilateral ties
India-China decide to set up a JSC
Arafat Buried in Chaotic Scenes in West Bank
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Indian spy planes picked Osama near NE Pak
China supports India's claim to UN SC seat





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