Pakistan evacuates thousands as floods hit plains

Updated 12 September 2014

Pakistan evacuates thousands as floods hit plains

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani troops used helicopters and boats to evacuate thousands of marooned people from the country’s plains where raging monsoon floods inundated more villages Thursday, as the Indian military dropped food for hundreds of thousands of people marooned in flood-hit areas of Indian-held Kashmir.
Pakistani and Indian officials said the death toll had reached 461 in the two countries.
Flash floods have washed away crops, damaged tens of thousands of homes and affected over a million people since Sept. 3, when heavy monsoon rains lashed Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province and Kashmir the Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir on Thursday and told flood victims that his government would do whatever it can to rebuild their damaged homes. “I am grieved over the deaths caused by the floods,” he said in a televised speech.
Ahmad Kamal, a spokesman for Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, said 261 people have been killed and 482 injured in Pakistan. “The situation is still alarming as flood waters are entering the country’s plains in the Jhang district, inundating more villages and affecting thousands,” he said.
The military said it was expanding relief operations in Punjab, where the Chenab River overflowed. Troops in helicopters and boats evacuated 4,000 more people from Jhang, it said.
Kamal said high floods were likely to reach the southern Sindh province later this week.
Authorities were supplying tents, food and other items to survivors, but many complained that the government was not doing enough. “I feel as If I am a beggar, as I have to wait for hours to get free food,” a survivor told a Pakistani news channel.
Hafiz Saeed, who heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an anti-India charity, accused India of releasing flood waters that caused destruction in Pakistan.
“Pakistan should take notice of this situation,” he told a Pakistani news channel late Wednesday, adding that he was providing food to hundreds of thousands of flood victims in Jhang.
India says Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which it blames for a 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people.
Pakistan and India have a history of uneasy relations, but relations have improved in recent years. Each side has offered to help the other recover from the floods, the worst to hit Pakistan since 2010, when some 1,700 people died.
The Kashmir region in the northern Himalayas is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Two of the three wars the countries have fought since their independence from Britain in 1947 have been over control of Kashmir.
In India, Sandeep Rai Rathore, head of the National Disaster Response Force, said Thursday that 80 army and air force transport aircraft and helicopters were dropping drinking water, biscuits, baby food and food packets for hundreds of thousands of marooned people in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.
Officials said the flooding has killed 200 people in India, where anger and resentment was mounting over what victims described as a slow rescue and relief effort.
“We want water and food. We will die here. Please drop some food packets,” The Hindustan Times newspaper quoted S. Lala, a stranded resident of Srinagar, as saying.
With flood waters receding in parts of region, authorities prepared to cope with the spread of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.
Eighty army medical teams were already operating in the region and have treated more than 10,000 patients. Relief materials including 2,000 hospital bed sheets, blankets and tents, drinking water and cooked food were being airlifted to the region, the Indian government said in a statement.
In Srinagar, the main city in Indian-held Kashmir, most government hospitals and clinics were flooded and unable to treat patients.
Rathore said the water was receding slowly in and around Srinagar after reaching a peak of 17 feet (6.5 meters) in some places early this week. He said flood victims were demanding food and drinking water, and some were so angry that they pelted rescuers with stones.
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Sharma reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writer Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.


Suicide blast kills 19 at education center in Afghan capital

Updated 36 min 27 sec ago

Suicide blast kills 19 at education center in Afghan capital

  • Blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area
  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center, police

KABUL: A suicide attack at a learning center in the Afghan capital killed 19 people as students prepared for exams on Friday morning, police said.

The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.

“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.

Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.

“Security teams have reached the site, the nature of the attack and the details of the casualties will be released later,” the interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor earlier tweeted.

“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end to the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.

Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001.

Such accusations picked up again after they swept back to power.

Hazaras are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.

Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.

Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.

No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier IS claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.

In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.

And in April this year, two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.

Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary education, while the Islamic State also stand against the education of women and girls.


At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

Updated 39 min 44 sec ago

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck an educational center

KABUL: A suicide bombing at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 19 people on Friday morning, police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Zadran said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.


Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Updated 30 September 2022

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

  • The 10,600-ton Yu Shan is the latest in Taiwan’s ambitious program to modernize its armed forces

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s navy took delivery on Friday of a new, domestically made amphibious warfare ship that can be used to land troops and bolster supply lines to vulnerable islands, part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s defense self-sufficiency push.
The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the latest development in Tsai’s ambitious program to modernize the armed forces amid increased pressure from China, which claims the island as its own.
Speaking at the delivery ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said the ship was a testament to Taiwan’s efforts to boost production of its own warships and achieve the goal of “national defense autonomy.”
“When it comes to China’s military threats, only by strengthening our self-defense capabilities can there be true peace,” she said. “It is our constant policy and determination to implement national defense autonomy so that the military has the best equipment to defend the country.”
China carried out war games near Taiwan last month to show its anger at a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chinese military activity has continued though at a much-reduced tempo.
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship is armed with a cannon for use against air and surface targets, anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung said as well as being an amphibious warfare vessel, with space for landing craft and helicopters, it will assume the “main transport role” for the South China Sea and offshore Taiwanese islands that lie close to the Chinese coast, long considered easy targets for China in the event of war.
Though the United States is Taiwan’s most important international arms supplier, Tsai has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Although Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items such as new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is another of Tsai’s focuses, with submarines in production and a launch in 2020 of the first of a fleet of highly maneuverable stealth corvettes.


Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Updated 30 September 2022

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to be stopped for Russia to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
There was a warning too from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardize prospects for peace.
Putin has doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering a major reversal on the battlefield this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands more men to fight in Ukraine. Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
“The cost of one person in Russia wanting to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a worthwhile life, or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday evening address.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” said Zelensky, who earlier spoke of Ukraine delivering a “very harsh” reaction to Russian recognition of so-called referendum results.
Moscow plans annexation of eastern and southern provinces after what Ukraine and Western countries said were sham votes staged at gunpoint in Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The territory Russia controls amounts to more than 90,000 square km, or about 15 percent of Ukraine’s total area — equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the intermediary step of signing decrees on Thursday paving the way for occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelensky promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be taken, an official said.

CEREMONY
On the eve of the planned ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said that “all mistakes” made in a call-up announced last week should be corrected, his first public acknowledgment that it had not gone smoothly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but has often appeared oblivious to individuals’ service record, health, student status or even age.
Russia says the referendums, ostensibly asking people in the four regions whether they wanted to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will give a speech, meet leaders of the self-styled Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that Russian forces occupy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the Red Square concert, as he did a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A stage has been set up on the Moscow square with giant video screens and billboards proclaiming the four areas part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation ... would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” United Nations Secretary General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory, denouncing the referendums. “The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said at a conference of Pacific Island leaders on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pressed Putin in a call to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

NUCLEAR UMBRELLA
Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia. Putin has said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia is billing as a celebration comes after Moscow has faced its worst setbacks of the seven-month-old war, with its forces routed in Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Our situation (in Luhansk region) is more difficult than in the Kharkiv region. There is no effect of surprise here,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday. “They (the Armed Forces of Ukraine) are advancing. And I hope we will receive very positive news in the near future.”
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province.
“The most difficult area for us remains (Lyman). Allied forces are holding their ground. And given that reinforcements will be coming, I believe we will make a breakthrough there,” Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.


US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

Updated 29 September 2022

US Senate approves $12 billion in new aid for Ukraine

  • It provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country's finances stable and keep the government running
  • It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine

WASHINGTON: The US Senate approved $12 billion in new economic and military aid for Ukraine Thursday as part of a stopgap extension of the federal budget into December.
The measure, agreed by senators of both parties, includes $3 billion for arms, supplies and salaries for Ukraine’s military, and authorizes President Joe Biden to direct the US Defense Department to take $3.7 billion worth of its own weapons and materiel to provide Ukraine.
It also provides $4.5 billion for Kyiv to keep the country’s finances stable and keep the government running, providing services to the Ukrainian people.
It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to declare the annexation of parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops on Friday.
“Seven months since the conflict began, it’s crystal clear that American assistance has gone a long way to helping the Ukrainian people resist Putin’s evil, vicious aggression,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“But the fight is far from over, and we must, we must, continue helping the brave, valiant Ukrainian people.”
The Ukraine aid is part of a short-term extension of the federal budget, which is to expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30 without the parties in Congress having agreed to a full-year allocation for fiscal 2022-23.
The extension, or continuing resolution, will keep the government running into December, but it has to first be approved by the House of Representatives to avoid shutting down parts of the government on Monday.