At least 12 die in fracas
Three suicide attackers killed at least nine civilians, most of them children, in a botched attack yesterday on the Indian consulate in an eastern Afghan city near the border with Pakistan, security officials said. Police fired on the militants as they approached a checkpoint near the consulate in Jalalabad, prompting one of them to set off their explosives-laden car, said Masum Khan Hashimi, the deputy police chief of Nangarhar province. The blast killed nine bystanders, and wounded 24. All three attackers also died, although it was not clear how many were killed by police fire and how many by the explosion. In New Delhi, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said all Indian officials in the consulate were safe. Afghanistan’s main insurgent group, the Taliban, denied in a text message that it had carried out the attack. Smaller militant groups based in Pakistan have targeted Indian interests in Afghanistan in the past.
Maoists blow up railway
Maoist guerrillas blew up a railway track in an eastern Indian state, disrupting rail traffic near Bodh Gaya, Buddhism’s holiest site, a railway official said yesterday. The blast came after Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar, which attracts Buddhists and other visitors from all over the world, was hit by multiple small bomb blasts last month. The government called the blasts a “terror attack” after nine bombs exploded but there has no claim of responsibility for the explosions. In the latest attack, Maoist rebels blew up a portion of railway track in Gaya district late on Friday night, an officer of the East Central Railway said. “No one was injured but rail traffic was disrupted for a few hours,” he said. Last month, more than 50 Maoist guerrillas ambushed a police patrol in Bihar, killing the district police chief and four others.
Niyazov tome discarded
Schools are to stop teaching lessons based on a spiritual guidebook written by the country’s eccentric former president, an education ministry official said on Friday. A book called the Rukhnama, supposedly written by late Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov, was given almost sacred status during his rule. However, his successor, former dentist Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, has dismantled much of Niyazov’s cult of personality. “From the start of the new school year, the subject Rukhnama [spirituality] will not be taught,” an informed source in the education ministry said on Friday. Instead of teaching the two-volume tome by the first president of the country, the new school curriculum will include classes on Turkmen and world culture, the official in the deeply secretive state said on condition of anonymity. Schools in 2011 lifted the requirement to pass exams on the Rukhnama in order to graduate.
Children die in landslide
Two children were killed in a landslide yesterday as heavy rains battered the south, bringing flooding to large areas, authorities said. The rains caused an avalanche in a suburb of the southern city of Zamboanga, burying three houses and killing a 14-year-old boy and his six-year old sister, Mayor Isabel Climaco-Salazar said. Three other districts of the city in the southern island of Mindanao were also flooded by rains that have battered the region for more than a week. In some parts of Mindanao, classes have been called off for more than a week due to the flooding with as many as 37,000 people evacuated, the civil defense office said.
Lead victims to get help
Doctors Without Borders say they can start treating child victims of one of the world’s worst recorded lead poisoning cases after a cleanup was held up for two years by a lack of funding. Michelle Chouinard said on Friday that more than 1,000 children need treatment that will take one or two years. She said it is too late to reverse serious neurological damage that has blinded some children and paralysed others. Her organization uncovered the scandal in 2010 when about 400 children convulsed and died in Zamfara state. The poisoning was caused by crude mining in a gold rush.
Madonna, Gaga ‘broke rules’
Officials are considering prosecution against Lady Gaga and Madonna after discovering they entered the country under incorrect paperwork. The office of Russia’s prosecutor-general has issued a statement confirming that neither singer obtained an appropriate visa prior to performing there last year. Madonna and Gaga traveled under cultural-exchange visas. These documents “do not grant their bearers the right to engage in any commercial activity,” authorities said. According to the Russian legal information agency, prosecutors are now considering asking Russia’s foreign ministry or federal migration service to press charges. Prosecutors launched their investigation after being contacted by one of the singers’ most outspoken enemies, Vitaly Milonov, who serves in St Petersburg’s municipal legislature and authored a law banning gay “propaganda.” After Gaga and Madonna spoke in support of gay rights at their concerts, Milonov tried to pursue them in court for “promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors.”
MPs told not to touch toes
Parliamentary officials want lawmakers to keep their hands off Margaret Thatcher’s toes. Authorities are considering roping off statues of former prime ministers, including Thatcher and Winston Churchill, because they are suffering wear and tear from legislators rubbing their toes for luck. Members of Parliament traditionally touch the statues in the House of Commons lobby before entering the chamber. Deputy House of Commons curator Melanie Unwin told Parliament’s Works of Art Committee that statues of Thatcher, Churchill, Clement Attlee and David Lloyd George “are seriously under threat due to the tradition of touching the toes of the statues for good luck.” The committee agreed that “Do not touch” signs should be put up.
Rome acts on Colosseum
The city of Rome from yesterday barred private vehicles from using the main road to the Colosseum to protect the iconic monument that has been blackened by pollution and is in a poor state. Cars, lorries and other private vehicles are barred from using the last trunk of the avenue Via dei Fori Imperiali, which links Piazza Venezia to the Roman amphitheater. Traffic has been diverted to an adjacent route and only public transport will be allowed on the old route. The decision was taken by the new mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, who would like eventually to make the Via dei Fori Imperiali a pedestrian area. The number of visitors to the Colosseum has increased from 1 million to around 6 million a year over the past decade, thanks mainly to the blockbuster film Gladiator. However, it has also fallen into disrepair in recent years and some experts have voiced concern that the foundations are sinking.