Death toll continues to rise in eastern India train crash

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People look on at the site of a collision between an express passenger train and a goods train in Nirmaljote, near Rangapani station in India’s West Bangal state on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
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The incident is the latest to hit India’s creaking rail network, which carries millions of passengers each day. (X: @airnewsalerts)
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Updated 17 June 2024

Death toll continues to rise in eastern India train crash

  • Goods train hit the Kanchanjunga Express traveling to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal
  • Accident happened after the driver of the freight train disregarded a signal

KOLKATA: A freight train smashed into the rear of a stationary passenger train in India’s West Bengal state on Monday, killing at least 15 people and injuring dozens, police said, in an accident that railway authorities blamed on driver error.

Media showed images of the pile-up, with containers from the goods train strewn nearby, and one carriage left nearly vertical after the accident, which comes just over a year after a signaling error caused one of India’s worst rail crashes.

Fifteen bodies were pulled from the mangled carriages, Abhishek Roy, a senior police official in the eastern state’s district of Darjeeling, the site of the accident, told Reuters.

Fifty-four people were injured and rescue teams from the police and national disaster response force were working to clear debris from the derailed carriages, Roy added.

The goods train hit the Kanchanjunga Express traveling to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, from the northeastern state of Tripura, driving three carriages of the passenger train off the rails.

It was not immediately clear how many passengers were on board at the time.

Rescuers used iron rods and ropes to work free one carriage of the passenger train that had been swept upwards to lodge on the roof of the freight train by the impact of the collision.

The dead included the driver of the freight train and a guard on the passenger train, Jaya Varma Sinha, the head of the railway board that runs the countrywide network, told reporters.

The accident happened after the driver of the freight train disregarded a signal, Sinha added.

Rescue work has been completed, Sinha said, and authorities are working to restore traffic, with the damage less extensive than initially feared.

“The guard’s compartment in the passenger train was badly damaged,” she added. “There were two parcel vans attached ahead of it which reduced the extent of damage to passengers.”

Nearby residents heard a loud crash and saw the pile-up upon going to investigate, several told the ANI news agency, in which Reuters has a minority stake.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences on the loss of life and said Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was on his way to the site.

About 288 people died a year ago in the neighboring state of Odisha, in India’s worst rail crash in more than two decades, caused by a signal failure.

Opposition parties criticized Modi’s government for its record on rail safety.

“The increase in railway accidents in the last 10 years is a direct result of the mismanagement and negligence of the Modi government, which results in loss of lives and property of passengers on a daily basis,” Modi’s main opponent and Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi said in a post on X.

France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year

Updated 58 min 48 sec ago

France’s Bastille Day parade meets the Olympic torch relay in an exceptional year

  • Bastille Day marks the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789
  • The Olympic torch relay is joining up with thousands of troops marching in Paris beneath roaring fighter jets to mark Bastille Day

PARIS: Paris hosted an extra-special guest for France’s national holiday Sunday — the Olympic flame lighting up the city’s grandiose military parade for Bastille Day.
Just 12 days before the French capital hosts exceptionally ambitious and high-security Summer Games, the torch relay joined up with thousands of soldiers, sailors, rescuers and medics marching in Paris beneath roaring fighter jets.
While people around France mark the day with concerts, parties and fireworks, here’s a look at what the holiday’s about, and what’s different this year:
What does Bastille Day celebrate?
On July 14, 1789, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress and prison in Paris, heralding the start of the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy.
The holiday is central to the French calendar, with events across the country. It aims to embody the national motto of ‘’liberty, equality and fraternity,” though not everyone in France feels the country lives up to that promise.
The Paris parade is the holiday’s highlight. This year, it paid tribute to those who freed France from Nazi occupation 80 years ago, with a re-enactment of the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944, and a presentation by service members from the 31 countries whose troops contributed to the liberation. About half are African nations that were under French colonial rule during World War II.
Who takes part?
Some 4,000 people and 162 horses marched in the tightly choreographed show, among them units that served in NATO missions in eastern Europe, against Islamic extremists in the Sahel, protecting French territories in the South Pacific and global shipping corridors. They were joined this year by three German officers from a cross-border brigade.
The ornamental uniforms are rich in symbolism — most notably those of the French Foreign Legion sappers, with long beards, leather aprons and axes from their original role as route-clearers for advancing armies.
Overhead, 65 aircraft flew in formations, including a British Typhoon fighter alongside French Mirages and Rafales, rescue helicopters and aircraft used in missions from Afghanistan to Mali or international drug busts.
President Emmanuel Macron kicked Sunday’s events off with a review of the troops.
Military bands and choirs played an important role, performing a medley of French military songs, American jazz tunes, a Scottish bagpipe ballad — and the Marseillaise.
The numbers are scaled back compared with previous years, because of Olympics security measures. Around 130,000 police are deployed around France for the holiday weekend.
What’s the political context?
This year’s Bastille Day offered Macron a moment of distraction from the political turmoil he unleashed with snap elections that weakened his pro-business centrist party and his presidency.
The result left a deadlocked parliament with no one clearly in charge. The prime minister could leave office within days, while the left-wing alliance that won the most seats is struggling to agree on a proposed replacement.
Meanwhile, Russia’s war in Ukraine is threatening Europe’s security. At a meeting with military leaders Saturday, Macron said France will keep up support for Ukraine and called for higher defense spending next year because of ‘’approaching threats.’’
What’s different this year?
The Olympic torch relay reached Paris just in time.
The parade wrapped up with the arrival of the flame, escorted by riders on horseback, 25 torchbearers, and cadets dressed in the five Olympic colors forming the shapes of the five interlocking Olympic rings.
The first torchbearer was Col. Thibault Vallette, equestrian gold medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, who passed it on to a group of young athletes smiling broadly as they passed it hand-to-hand in front of the presidential tribune.
Usually, the parade travels from the Napoleon-era Arc de Triomphe to the Concorde plaza, where France’s last king and queen were beheaded.
This year, Concorde has been transformed into a huge Olympic venue for breakdancing, skateboarding and BMX. So the parade route headed to the Bois de Boulogne park on the city’s edge instead.
Olympic venue construction around the Eiffel Tower means spectators can’t gather beneath the monument to watch its annual fireworks show, either.
After its Bastille Day appearance, the torch relay will swing by Notre Dame Cathedral, the historic Sorbonne university and the Louvre Museum before heading to other Paris landmarks Monday.

Eight female bodies recovered from Nairobi dump: police

Updated 14 July 2024

Eight female bodies recovered from Nairobi dump: police

NAIROBI: A total of eight bodies, all of them female, have been recovered so far from a dumpsite in a Nairobi slum, Kenya’s acting police chief said on Sunday.
“They were severely dismembered in different states of decomposition and left in sacks,” Douglas Kanja told a press conference, adding that investigations into the gruesome find are ongoing.
Kanja said the first six corpses were found on Friday and body parts of another two women were found on Saturday.
“I would like to assure the public that we are committed to conducting transparent, thorough and swift investigations,” he added.
Kanja also called for public cooperation in the investigation “so that we bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to book.”
Kanja took up his post only this week after the resignation of national police chief Japhet Koome in the wake of public fury over the deaths of dozens of protesters during anti-government demonstrations last month.

Arab Americans react with shock at attempted assassination of former president Trump

Updated 14 July 2024

Arab Americans react with shock at attempted assassination of former president Trump

CHICAGO:Arab American leaders from the left and the right of American politics said they were in shock that former president Donald Trump was lightly injured in an apparent assassination attempt against him while he was speaking to a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night.

Initial reports and live television showed Trump addressing the rally and he turned his head to the right as he was speaking when three loud gunshots were heard. Trump grabbed his right ear, which was bloodied, as he was brought to the ground and covered completely by four by Secret Service agents.

Trump raised his hand in the air as he was walked off the rally stage embraced by five Secret Service agents.

Arab Americans reacted with anger and expressions of concern over the attempted assassination in which at least one person was thought to have been killed, as well as the suspected shooter, initial news reports stated. 

Many said it is the result of the hatred that has been directed at Trump by his foes, especially on social media like Facebook, and because of the continued polarization that has divided America politically and socially.

“They tried everything from impeachments to indictments, and when everything failed, they tried to actually assassinate him,” Dr. Massad Boulos told Arab News minutes after the attempted assassination in Pennsylvania.

“But this has just made him the 47th president of the USA. He’s been making calls from the hospital and he’s in a very positive spirit.”

Boulos’s son Michael is married to Tiffany Trump, one of the former president’s daughters.

Boulos said that he was told by the president’s aides in the past that “former president Trump has been asking for a beefed-up security to be provided for weeks, but the Biden administration has refused.”

Yards away, a member of the audience was declared dead from the bullet as it passed the president. A second female audience member was seriously injured as the crowd began screaming.

President Joe Biden issued a statement to say he is grateful that “he is doing well” and emphasized that “there is no place for political violence.” 

Biden said on national TV that he “reached out to Trump at the hospital.” Sources said the Biden campaign confirmed that it is pulling down campaign commercials that have been very critical of Trump.

Bishara Bahbah, chairman of Arab Americans for Trump, blamed “the atmosphere of hatred against President Trump” that has been intensifying over the past several years.

“The Democrats have been demonizing him, making all kinds of horrible attacks against him and against his family. I am not saying they are behind this, but, at the same time, the hatred emanating from the Democratic Party and some of its leaders and members of Congress is making its way down to people like this person who tried to assassinate him,” Bahbah told Arab News.

“I believe he will come out stronger now as a result and that the people will rally around him. We are grateful that he survived. Violence cannot be tolerated. We pray for him that he remains safe.”

Arab Americans on the right and the left said they were “in shock at the violence” that was broadcast on live television.

Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington D.C., said: “There is a lot we don’t know. But, what we do know is that violent rhetoric can give rise to violent behavior. We need to take action and that violence is never the way to resolve political differences. Our gun-crazy culture is out of control.”

Mohammed Jaber, a trustee on the suburban District 230 High School Board in Orland Park, said: “No human should fear for their life, whether it is a politician or a civilian. We can all agree to disagree, but everyone should be respected regardless of one’s view. It’s completely wrong what happened to Trump at this campaign rally.”

Samir Khalil, president of the Arab American Democratic Club of Illinois, said: “It is truly sad that so many tragic events around the world and the leading democracy nation reach this level of tragic political violence. As a human being I am saddened by this violent behavior. We should expect more intervention from the free world to influence peace and harmony not wars and no more hate. May God bless humanity of the world and the great USA.”

Mary Basta, mayor of the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, said: “I am deeply saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred today.  Prayers go out to the victims and their families during this incredibly difficult time. Such acts of violence are unacceptable and have no place in our society and do not reflect the sentiment of true democracy.”


World leaders react to Trump rally shooting

Updated 14 July 2024

World leaders react to Trump rally shooting

  • Trump rally shooting in Pennsylvania leaves two dead, two injured 
  • Presidents, prime ministers globally speak out against political violence 

WASHINGTON: World leaders reacted with shock to the wounding of Donald Trump in an assassination attempt against the former US president at an election rally.
Presidents and prime ministers globally spoke out against political violence and expressed their support for those affected by the shooting on Saturday, which killed one bystander and left two other spectators critically wounded.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned the attack.
“Once again, we are witnessing unacceptable acts of violence against political representatives,” the bloc’s top diplomat said.
British Prime Minister Keir Starmer said Sunday he was “appalled by the shocking scenes” at the rally.
“Political violence in any form has no place in our societies,” the premier said.
Referring to “these dark hours,” Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban offered his “thoughts and prayers” to Trump.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said she was “following with apprehension” updates from Pennsylvania and wished Trump a speedy recovery.
The right-wing leader expressed her hope that “in the following months of the electoral campaign, dialogue and responsibility can prevail over hate and violence.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was “appalled to learn about the shooting” and wished Trump a “speedy recovery.”
“Such violence has no justification and no place anywhere in the world. Never should violence prevail,” he said.
Argentina’s President Javier Milei blamed the “international left” after the assassination attempt.
“In panic of losing at the polls, they resort to terrorism to impose their backward and authoritarian agenda,” said the populist president.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the shooting “must be strongly condemned by all defenders of democracy and political dialogue.”
Costa Rica’s government condemned the attack and said it was following updates on “this unacceptable act.”
“As a leader in democracy and peace, we reject all forms of violence,” the presidency said.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric expressed his “unqualified condemnation” of the shooting.
“Violence is a threat to democracies and weakens our life together. We must all reject it,” said Boric.
In Bolivia, President Luis Arce said “despite our deep ideological and political differences, violence, wherever it comes from, must always be rejected by everyone.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply concerned by the attack on my friend.”
“Violence has no place in politics and democracies,” said Modi.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also spoke out against political attacks, saying “we must stand firm against any form of violence that challenges democracy.”
Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te offered his “sincere condolences” to the shooting victims.
“Political violence of any form is never acceptable in our democracies,” he said.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said it was “with great relief that we receive the news that former President Donald Trump is fine and well after the attempt to assassinate him.”
“Together with all democracy loving peoples around the world, we condemn all forms of political violence. The voice of the people must always remain supreme,” Marcos said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was “shocked by the terrible scenes” at the Trump campaign event, expressing his relief that the former US president was safe.
“This was an inexcusable attack on the democratic values that Australians and Americans share and the freedom that we treasure,” Albanese said.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Luxon echoed these views, writing “no country should encounter such political violence.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his wife Sara “were shocked by the apparent attack on President Trump.”
“We pray for his safety and speedy recovery,” Netanyahu said.

Donald Trump injured but safe in apparent assassination bid; shooter killed by Secret Service agents

Updated 14 July 2024

Donald Trump injured but safe in apparent assassination bid; shooter killed by Secret Service agents

  • One rally attendee killed, two spectators injured as gunman opens fire at Trump rally
  • Biden describes attack as “sick,” says “no place in America for this kind of violence”

BUTLER, Pennsylvania: Donald Trump was hit in the ear in an apparent assassination attempt by a gunman at a campaign rally on Saturday, in a chaotic and shocking incident that will fuel fears of instability ahead of the 2024 US presidential election.
The 78-year-old former president was rushed off stage with blood smeared across his face after the shooting in Butler, Pennsylvania, while the gunman and a bystander were killed and two spectators critically injured.
The Republican candidate raised a defiant fist to the crowd as he was bundled away to safety and said afterward “I was shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear.”
President Joe Biden, who is set to face Trump in November’s deeply polarized election, said the incident was “sick” and added that there was “no place in America for this kind of violence.”
“We cannot be like this,” Biden said.
As the bangs ran out, Trump, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap, grimaced and clutched a hand to his ear, with blood visible on his ear and cheek.
He fell to the floor as Secret Service agents swarmed onto the podium, surrounding him and escorting him roughly off the stage to a nearby vehicle.

“It is incredible that such an act can take place in our Country,” Trump said on his TruthSocial network within hours, in remarks sure to stoke political tensions already engulfing the United States.
“I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin,” Trump said.
“Much bleeding took place, so I realized then what was happening.”

The US Secret Service said in a statement that the suspected shooter “fired multiple shots toward the stage from an elevated position outside the rally” before being “neutralized” by agents.
It said Trump was “safe and being evaluated” while confirming the death of a spectator while two others were critically injured.
The shooter has not yet been identified.
Trump said in his statement that “I want to extend my condolences to the family of the person of the rally who was killed.”
With the attack sending shock waves around the world, Biden said that he hoped to speak to Trump soon.
The shooting happened shortly after Trump took the stage at his final campaign rally before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee next week.
Signaling the political stakes at play, possible Trump vice presidential pick J.D. Vance quickly blamed Biden’s “rhetoric” for the shooting.

The rally descended into panic after shots were heard and screams and shouts rang out.
“Let me get my shoes,” Trump was heard saying on microphone, as security agents helped him back to his feet.
He turned back to the crowd and repeatedly raised his fist, as well as mouthing words that weren’t immediately discernable, in what is set to become an iconic image.
Agents bundled the tycoon into an SUV, as he once more raised his fist to the crowd.
“We saw a lot of people go down, looking confused. I heard the shots,” said John Yeykal from Franklin, Pennsylvania, who was attending his first Trump rally.

Republicans, Democrats denounce violence

Former president Barack Obama said there was “absolutely no place for political violence in our democracy.”
Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell added: “Tonight, all Americans are grateful that President Trump appears to be fine after a despicable attack on a peaceful rally. Violence has no place in our politics.”
Billionaire Elon Musk reacted by quickly endorsing Trump.
“I fully endorse President Trump and hope for his rapid recovery,” Musk wrote on X, which he owns along with car manufacturer Tesla, as he shared a video of Trump pumping his fist while being escorted away.
The United States has a history of political violence, and presidents, former presidents and candidates have tight security.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 while riding in his motorcade, and his brother Bobby Kennedy was shot dead in 1968. President Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981.

Trump is due to receive his party’s formal nomination at the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in Milwaukee on Monday.
“This horrific act of political violence at a peaceful campaign rally has no place in this country and should be unanimously and forcefully condemned,” Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said on social media.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was horrified by what happened and was relieved Trump was safe. “Political violence has no place in our country,” he said.
A Secret Service spokesperson said on social media: “The Secret Service has implemented protective measures and the former president is safe ... This is now an active Secret Service investigation and further information will be released when available.”
CNN reported that Trump was injured, but gave no other details. It was not clear how or what injuries he may have sustained.

Witness saw shooter on rooftop

Ron Moose, a Trump supporter who was in the crowd, described the chaos: “I heard about four shots and I saw the crowd go down and then Trump ducked also real quick. Then the Secret Service all jumped and protected him as soon as they could. We are talking within a second they were all protecting him.”
Moose said he then saw a man running and being chased by officers in military uniforms. He said he heard additional shots, but was unsure who fired them. He noted that by then snipers had set up on the roof of a warehouse behind the stage.
The BBC interviewed a man who described himself as an eyewitness, saying he saw a man armed with a rifle crawling up a roof near the event. The person, who the BBC did not identify, said he and the people he was with started pointing at the man, trying to alert security.
“I am thinking to myself, why is Trump still speaking. Why have they not pulled him off stage,” said the man, who was wearing a red Trump hat. “Next thing you know, five shots rang out.”

The venue was abandoned with chairs knocked over and yellow police tape around the stage. A helicopter flew above and law enforcement officers walked through the area, the video feed showed. Armed law enforcement officers were also seen on a roof near the stage where Trump was standing.
Biden’s campaign was working to pause its television ads and halting all other outbound communication, a campaign official said on Saturday.
Trump, who served as president from 2017-2021, easily bested his rivals for the Republican nomination early in the campaign and has largely unified around him the party that had briefly wavered in support after his supporters attacked the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, attempting to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
The businessman and former reality television star entered the year facing a raft of legal worries, including four separate criminal prosecutions. He was found guilty in late May of trying to cover up hush money payments to a porn star, but the other three prosecutions he faces — including two for his attempts to overturn his defeat — have been ground to a halt by various factors including a Supreme Court decision early this month that found him to be partly immune to prosecution.