Indian police make arrests after tainted alcohol kills 69

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Relatives on an auto-rickshaw hold the dead body of Darshan Singh, who died after allegedly drinking spurious alcohol, at the Civil Hospital in Tarn Taran, some 25 km from Amritsar on August 1, 2020. (AFP / NARINDER NANU)
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Relatives and villagers stand near the burning pyre of Kirpal Singh, who died after allegedly drinking spurious alcohol, at Muchhal village, some 30 km from Amritsar on August 1, 2020. (AFP / NARINDER NANU)
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Updated 02 August 2020

Indian police make arrests after tainted alcohol kills 69

  • Police said 22 people have been linked to the production and distribution of the tainted liquor

NEW DELHI: Indian police said they arrested more than two dozen people on suspicion of selling tainted alcohol that killed at least 69 villagers and others in northern Punjab state.
Six police officers and seven other officials have been suspended for failure to prevent the sale of tainted liquor as a magistrate began an investigation into the deaths in three districts.
Police Officer Roshan Lal said Saturday that 69 people died, though local media reports put the number at 86.
The police chief for Punjab state, Dinkar Gupta, said the first five deaths were reported on Wednesday night in two villages in Amritsar district. Over the past three days another 48 deaths were reported Amritsar and two others districts, Tarn Taran and Batala. Lal told The Associated Press.
Gupta said the 25 suspects supplied the tainted alcohol to roadside eateries from where it was sold to travelers and the villagers.
The government statement said the deaths were due to “spurious” liquor and a crackdown on illegal alcohol manufacturing in the state was ordered.
Deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in India, where the poor cannot afford licensed brands from government-run shops. Illicit liquor is cheap and often spiked with methanol to increase potency.
In 2019, at least 133 people died after drinking tainted liquor in two separate incidents in India’s northeast Assam state. The victims were mostly tea plantation workers. That same year, another 80 people died from tainted liquor in northern Uttar Pradesh state.


Afghan assembly approves release of 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners

Updated 9 min 28 sec ago

Afghan assembly approves release of 400 ‘hard-core’ Taliban prisoners

  • Some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed

KABUL: Afghanistan’s grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, on Sunday approved the release of 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for the beginning of peace talks aimed at ending more than 19 years of war.
“In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said in a resolution.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had convened the assembly in the capital Kabul, where some 3,200 Afghan community leaders and politicians gathered amid tight security and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic to advise the government on whether the prisoners should be freed.
The Taliban militants had insisted they be released as a condition for entering peace talks with the government. With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
Western diplomats said talks between the warring parties will start in Doha this week.
Deliberation around the release of last batch of Taliban prisoners, accused of conducting some of the bloodiest attacks across Afghanistan, had triggered outrage among civilians and rights groups who questioned the morality of the peace process.
But ahead of November elections, US President Donald Trump is determined to fulfil a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.
The drawdown will bring the number of US troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
In a February pact allowing for the withdrawal of US troops, Washington and the Taliban agreed on the release of the Taliban prisoners as a condition for the talks with Kabul.