News Flash – 9 March 2018

National News



Thirteen injured in explosions at Tarapur MIDC units


MUMBAI: Thirteen people suffered burn injuries after a series of explosions took place in boilers at four pharmaceutical factories in Boisar-Tarapur MIDC late on Thursday night. Three of the injured are said to be in serious condition. Efforts to contain the fire that spread to over one acre is still underway. Preliminary reports suggest that the explosion took place at Novaphene Speciality Ltd, E-107, in Boisar MIDC industrial area. Palghar district superintendent of police Manjunath Singe said that three of the labourers have sustained serious burn injuries. He said that efforts were on to contain the fire. The entire area was put on high alert. It is suspected that highly combustible chemical stocked in the factory led to the explosion that spread to three neighbouring units and the area has been cordoned off. The blasts led to tremors that were felt up to 12km from the periphery of the factories. District officials said that efforts were underway to bring the flames under control.



Plane stranded on runway as tyre bursts, flights delayed up to 1 hour



MUMBAI: Flight operations at the Mumbai airport were suspended for about 30 minutes on Thursday after a freighter aircraft burst a tyre on landing which left it stranded on the main runway. With the secondary runway, the only other runway the Mumbai airport has, under repairs flight arrivals and departures had to be suspended. While two arrivals were diverted, departures were delayed by an average of 30 minutes. “Full emergency was declared by the Mumbai air traffic control after an aircraft belonging to UPS airlines flight 015 from Bangkok reported hydraulic failure,” said a Mumbai airport official. At 12.09 pm the aircraft touched down on main runway 27, only to suffer a tyre burst that left it stranded on the runway. “With the aircraft stranded on the runway, flight operations from runway 27 had to be suspended. During such emergencies, the practice is to move flight operations to the secondary runway. But that couldn’t be done and so for 28 minutes no flights took off or landed at the city airport,” said a source.


Around 12.40 pm, the aircraft was towed away off the runway, a quick runway inspection was carried out and flight operations commenced again. The runway closure had two arriving flights diverted to other airports. It hit departures scheduled post noon and flights to destinations like Goa, Kolkata, Indore, Nanded, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok etc. were delayed by an average of 45-60 minutes. Later, the departure delays dropped to an average of 30 minutes and by 3 pm, the effect had petered out. “After passengers had boarded and the aircraft doors closed, we were seated inside the aircraft for over an hour,” said a passenger on board Jet Airways flight 345 to Hyderabad. The flight scheduled to depart at 1 pm left around 2.10 pm. “Every 20 minutes, the Captain made an announcement, informing passengers that the departure has been further delayed,” the passenger said.



Parents thrash Security Guard for molesting KG student

An officer tries to reason with protesting parents at the girls’ school on Thursday.



KOLKATA: Tension gripped a south Kolkata government girls’ school on Thursday after allegations of a security guard molesting at least two kindergarten students surfaced on Wednesday. Around 250-300 guardians allegedly stormed the residence of the guard and assaulted him, his wife and his children. The guardians said they had first complained verbally to the school authorities. However, the school sought a written complaint. The Alipore police have arrested the guard, Rameshwar Singh (47), and are investigating allegations of him being involved in a similar case in 2015. He has been charged under IPC sections pertaining to molestation and the section 12 of the POCSO Act. The police will lodge a counter case against the guardians for assaulting the guard’s family after getting a formal complaint from the latter. According to guardians that TOI spoke to, the two girls returned home after school on Wednesday and told their parents how Singh had asked them to follow him to his residence after offering them chocolates. The incident occurred around 9am when the school offers the mid-day meal to students.


Around 6.45am on Thursday parents gathered outside the school and to demand action against the suspect. Around 10am, when the school was getting over, the parents forced entry into Singh’s house, which is in the same compound as the school. Parents claimed that Singh and his son had threatened them. Following an argument, the guardians thrashed Singh and his family. Cops then detained Singh and his son. A case was later registered at the Alipore police station. As parents barricaded the main entrance, they demanded Singh’s arrest, dismissal of all male staffers and installation of CCTV cameras. “The accused had earlier entered the students’ bathroom in 2015, but the school did not sack him. Such behaviour is unacceptable,” said a guardian whose daughter studies in Class I. The school principal told TOI that she was not aware of a any complaint against Singh in 2015. “Till now, though, we have not received any written complaint. We shall cooperate in the probe,” she said.



International News



Mosque, shops attacked in anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka


COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police said petrol bombs were hurled at a mosque on Thursday as hundreds of troops patrolled a troubled central district where anti-Muslim violence has left three people dead. Muslim-owned businesses were set on fire and vandalised in several parts of Sri Lanka, police said, days after an island-wide state of emergency was imposed to curb riots in Kandy. Armoured vehicles and heavily-armed troops fortified the hill district, where internet services remain suspended and an evening curfew is in place. The government ordered the internet blackout after police discovered mobs of Sinhalese rioters were using social media to coordinate attacks on Muslim establishments. More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence by mobs from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority. A 24-hour curfew was imposed on Wednesday afternoon after a hand grenade exploded in the hands of an attacker, killing him and wounding 11 others, officials said. The day-time curfew was eased following a calm night but tensions remain high in the tourist hotspot and schools shuttered. But in Kuruvita, 125 kilometres (78 miles) south of Kandy, police said petrol bombs were lobbed at a mosque. Little damage was inflicted and three suspects are being pursued. In Weligama, 240 kilometres south of Kandy, a Muslim-owned business was attacked, police said, while Muslim establishments were pelted with stones in at least two other locations outside Kandy. Sri Lanka’s telecoms regulator asked internet providers to block access to Facebook and other social media platforms to prevent the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech.


Police have already identified anti-Muslim messages being shared on social networks, including a video posted by a hardline Buddhist monk urging violence against Muslims. Muslims in Kandy complained that security forces and police – equipped with special powers to detain under the emergency provision – were slow to react as the violence unfolded. “The main junction is going up in flames. At the same time, the authorities are folding their arms and watching,” said Muslim businessman M. Jaffer, as quoted in Thursday’s Daily FT newspaper. Former Sri Lankan cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara alluded to the island’s history of ethnic violence in urging his countrymen “to say no to racism”. “We have to make sure that in Sri Lanka anyone and everyone feels safe, loved and accepted regardless of ethnicity or religion,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday and ordered security forces to use the full force of the law against troublemakers. Military officials said more reinforcements were sent to the area on Wednesday night to assist police who resorted to teargas to disperse rioters the previous evening. The United Nations has condemned the violence and urged Colombo “to ensure that appropriate measures are swiftly taken to restore normalcy in affected areas”. The Kandy region, 115 kilometres (72 miles) east of the capital Colombo, is popular with tourists as well as Buddhist pilgrims.


Holidaymakers have been urged to avoid the hill resort but no foreigners have been reported involved in the unrest. “Shops are opening, and more people can be seen on the roads since the curfew was lifted,” a police official in the area said by telephone. Kandy is home to Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The chief custodian of the UNESCO-listed temple, Pradeep Nilanga Dela, said foreign tourists and pilgrims were flocking to the shrine despite the tensions. The unrest began Monday after a Sinhalese man died following injuries sustained at the hands of a Muslim mob last week. Conflict escalated when a Muslim man was found dead in a burnt building on Tuesday. Sinhalese Buddhists are the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, making up 75 percent of its 21 million people. Muslims make up 10 percent of the population. Parliament on Tuesday issued an apology to the island’s Muslim minority for the latest violence targeting them in the Indian Ocean island. Mobs also set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week. Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged. In June 2014 riots between Buddhists, led by radical monks, and Muslims left four dead.



US drone targeting Pakistani Taliban kills 21 in Afghanistan



DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Two missiles fired from a US drone hit a militant facility in neighboring Afghanistan, killing 21 insurgents, including the son of the head of the Pakistani Taliban, two Pakistani intelligence officials and local Taliban commanders said on Thursday. The strike, which according to the officials took place on Wednesday, targeted a compound frequented by Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. The intelligence officials said that Fazlullah was apparently not there, but his son was killed in the strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, miles away from Pakistani border. Three Pakistani Taliban commanders also confirmed the strike and militant casualties. Pakistani officials and the Taliban commanders spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media. The United States made no comment on the strike. There was also no immediate comment from NATO, Afghan authorities or the Pakistani government. It was unclear whether the bodies of those killed in Wednesday’s drone strike would be brought to Pakistan for burial.


Islamabad has for years has asked Washington and Kabul to take action against Fazlullah and other Pakistani Taliban, who are believed to be hiding in neighboring Afghanistan and who cross the porous Afghan-Pakistan border to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul, for its part, has long complained that Islamabad is not taking enough action against militants who use Pakistani soil to launch attacks against U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan. In recent months, President Donald Trump‘s cranked up pressure on Pakistan to act against militants by suspending key security assistance to the country. Pakistan denies providing sanctuary to militants and says it has carried out several military operations in the country’s tribal regions and elsewhere to kill or arrest militants. Fazlullah’s is the son-in-law of a Sufi Mohammad, a radical anti-U.S. cleric who was recently freed by Pakistan. The cleric, imprisoned in Pakistan in 2009, was released in January from a prison in the northwestern city of Peshawar, following a court order for his release on health grounds earlier that month.



UK terror arrests hit record levels in 2017



LONDON: The number of arrests made for terror offences in Britain hit a new record of 412 in 2017, according to latest UK government figures released on Thursday. This marks a rise of more than 58 per cent over the previous year, when there were 216 arrests. “This was the highest number of arrests in a year since the data collection began,” the UK Home Office data notes. The arrests include 61 women, accounting for 15 per cent of total arrests, and a record number of suspects of white ethnic appearance, and 66 per cent who considered themselves to be British or dual citizens. The year 2017 witnessed 36 victims killed and hundreds injured in high-profile terrorist attacks in the country, including attacks on Parliament, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park. Part of the increase in arrests was accounted for by large-scale police operations in the wake of the terror attacks. A third of the arrests resulted in a criminal charge, but not all for terror-related offences, with some people detained released without further action, on bail or under alternative measures, the figures reveal.


“Of the 110 persons charged with a terrorism-related offence in the year ending 31 December 2017, 29 had been prosecuted (as at 15 January 2018, the time of data provision to the Home Office), all of which were convicted. A further 76 were awaiting prosecution, four were not proceeded against, and one case was pending,” the Home Office said.  As at December 31, 2017, there were 224 persons in custody in Britain for terrorism-related offences, an increase of 24 per cent on the 181 persons in custody in the previous year, continuing the upward trend seen in terrorist prisoners over the last few years. Of those in custody last year, the majority (86 per cent) held Islamist extremist views, a further 9 per cent held far right-wing ideologies and 5 per cent other ideologies. Police revealed the use of a variety of legal powers to investigate terror suspects, including 767 stop and searches under the UK’s Terrorism Act – which resulted in 61 arrests – and more than 16,000 checks at land, sea and airports. There were increases in the number of arrests across all ethnic groups in Britain last year, with the largest for those of white ethnic appearance – 61 per cent, from 90 to a record 145 arrests. There was also a 37 per cent increase in the number of arrests of Asian people (from 124 to 170), the report stated.

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