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Posts tagged ‘Indian Peninsula’

India warns of ‘crushing response’ to Kashmir suicide attack

February 16, 2019

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India’s prime minister warned of a “crushing response” to the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 41 people and was the deadliest in the divided region’s volatile history.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed the blame for Thursday’s bombing squarely on neighboring Pakistan, which India accuses of supporting rebels in Kashmir. “Our neighboring country thinks such terror attacks can weaken us, but their plans will not materialize,” he said Friday, adding that government forces have been “given total freedom” to deal with the militants.

“Security forces have been given permission to take decisions about the timing, place and nature of their response,” he said. Pakistan’s ruling party rejected Modi’s allegation, saying India’s governing party was blaming Islamabad for political gains in the upcoming national election.

“The Indian allegations against Pakistan over yesterday’s incident are part of the election campaign,” said Naeemul Haq, a senior leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which came to power in last year’s parliamentary election. He said the violence in Kashmir was “the result of the brutalities of Indian occupied forces in Kashmir.”

The attack has ratcheted up already high tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors, who both administer parts of the disputed territory but each claim it entirely. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced Friday that New Delhi was withdrawing the most-favored nation trade status given to Pakistan and would take all possible diplomatic steps “to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan of which incontrovertible evidence is available of having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident.”

India’s Foreign Ministry also summoned the Pakistani ambassador to protest the attack. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the country condemns acts of violence anywhere in the world and denied any involvement. “We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” it said in a statement.

Rebels, many of whom want Kashmir united with Pakistan, have been fighting Indian control since 1989. But the Muslim-majority region has experienced renewed attacks and repeated public protests in recent years as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, has challenged New Delhi’s rule with a mixture of violence and social media.

About 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian crackdown. Last year’s death toll was the highest since 2009, with at least 260 militants, 160 civilians and 150 government forces killed.

In Thursday’s attack, a local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into a bus traveling in the paramilitary convoy. In addition to the dead, the attack wounded nearly two dozen other soldiers, India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force spokesman Sanjay Sharma said.

Police said the bus was destroyed and at least five other vehicles were damaged. The Greater Kashmir newspaper reported that militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility. A pre-recorded video circulated on social media sites showed the purported attacker in combat clothes and surrounded by guns and grenades.

Authorities imposed a security lockdown in the southern Kakapora area to stop people from assembling at the home of the militant who allegedly attacked the convoy. Still, hundreds of people were able to reach his home by crossing rice fields and orchards, and offered prayers there.

Authorities suspended security convoys in the Kashmir Valley on Friday and Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Srinagar to review the security situation. He said civilian traffic would be stopped during the movement of convoys in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, three top Kashmiri leaders known as the Joint Resistance Leadership who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir said they regretted the killings. They said in a statement that India’s “muscular military approach to counter an essentially political and human problem is wreaking havoc in Kashmir, especially on the next generation.”

“Those who are here to execute this policy are also under stress and paying a price with their lives,” they said. The attack has raised tensions elsewhere in Hindu-majority India. Hundreds of residents carrying India’s national flag in Hindu-dominated Jammu city in the Muslim-majority state burned vehicles and hurled rocks at homes in Muslim neighborhoods, officials said. Authorities imposed a curfew and appealed for restraint.

Some people were reported injured in the mob attacks. Nearly 100 protesters chanting slogans such as “Pakistan down, down!” and “Attack Pakistan, Attack,” burned an effigy of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in a park close to India’s Parliament in New Delhi. They later dispersed.

The U.S. singled out Pakistan in a statement condemning the attack. “The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region,” the statement from the White House press secretary’s office said.

It said the attack strengthened U.S. resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation with India. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and regularly exchange fire along their highly militarized border in Kashmir.

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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Death toll in deadliest car bombing in Kashmir climbs to 41

February 15, 2019

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — The death toll from a car bombing on a paramilitary convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir has climbed to 41, becoming the single deadliest attack in the divided region’s volatile history, security officials said Friday.

A local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into the convoy along a key highway Thursday. In addition to the dead, the attack wounded nearly two dozen other soldiers, India’s paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force spokesman Sanjay Sharma said.

The attack is ratcheting up already hostile tensions between India and Pakistan, who both administer parts of the disputed territory but each claim it entirely. India has blamed Pakistan for supporting the bombing, while Islamabad cautioned India not to link it to the attack.

India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced Friday that New Delhi was withdrawing the most favored nation trade status given to Pakistan and would take all possible diplomatic steps “to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan of which incontrovertible evidence is available of having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident.”

He said Home Minister Rajnath Singh would visit Kashmir later Friday and review security situation there, and warned that they will ensure “those who have committed this heinous act of terrorism and those who have supported it actively are made to pay a heavy cost.”

Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989, but the Muslim-majority region has experienced renewed attacks and repeated public protests in recent years as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, has challenged New Delhi’s rule with a mixture of violence and social media.

Officials said the militant in Thursday’s attack drove into a bus traveling in the convoy as it reached Lethpora, a town outside Srinagar. Police said the bus was destroyed and at least five other vehicles were damaged.

“The blast was so powerful that one cannot recognize whether the vehicle was a bus or a truck. Just pieces of mangled steel remain,” Sharma said. Videos circulated by local news groups showed ambulances rushing to the site and people running as smoke billowed from the damaged vehicles. Debris and body parts littered the road.

The Greater Kashmir newspaper reported that militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility. A pre-recorded video circulated on social media sites showed the purported attacker in combat clothes and surrounded by guns and grenades.

Indian Prime Minister Modi condemned the attack in a speech at a government function Friday saying India would give “a crushing response.” “Our neighboring country thinks such terror attacks can weaken us, but their plans will not materialize,” he said. He said government forces have been “given total freedom” to tackle militants.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the country condemns acts of violence anywhere in the world, and denied any involvement. “We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” it said in a statement.

The U.S., however, specifically singled out Pakistan in its statement condemning the attack. “The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region,” the statement from the White House press secretary’s office said.

It said the attack strengthened U.S. resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation with India. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and regularly exchange fire along their highly militarized border in Kashmir.

Kashmir experienced many car bombings from 2000 through 2005 that inflicted high casualties on Indian troops. The attacks prompted Indian authorities to procure bombproof armored vehicles for soldiers operating in the region.

Indian soldiers are ubiquitous in Kashmir and local residents make little secret of their fury toward their presence in the Himalayan region. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

Since 1989, about 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian crackdown. Last year’s death toll was the highest since 2009, with at least 260 militants, 160 civilians and 150 government forces killed.

Associated Press writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this report.

Police: 17 killed in fire at New Delhi hotel, 4 others hurt

February 12, 2019

NEW DELHI (AP) — Seventeen people died in a fire early Tuesday at a hotel in western New Delhi that left at least four others injured, police said. The fire at the Arpit Palace Hotel has been extinguished, but authorities are still investigating what sparked it, Deputy Police Commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said.

“We have to check the stability of the structure, check every room,” Randhawa said. The hotel is located in Karol Bagh, an area in India’s capital city full of shops and budget hotels that is popular with tourists.

Twenty-five fire engines responded to the blaze, which had engulfed all but the ground floor of the five-story hotel, fire officer Vijay Paul said. About three dozen people were rescued from the hotel, Paul said.

Among those rescued was Sivanand Chand, 43, a hotel guest who was jolted awake around 4 a.m., struggling to breathe. “When I got out of my room, I could hear ‘help, help!’ from adjoining rooms,” Chand told The Associated Press, adding that he opened the window and saw flames rising very fast.

“In 15 minutes, the whole room was black,” he said. The rescue took about 30 minutes because fire engine ladders could not initially reach Chand’s floor, he said. The injured were taken to hospitals, but their medical conditions were not immediately known.

Hard-line Hindus pressure Modi over temple at disputed site

November 26, 2018

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Tens of thousands of hard-line Hindus rallied Sunday to demand a Hindu temple be built on a site in northern India where hard-liners in 1992 had attacked and demolished a 16th century mosque, sparking deadly Hindu-Muslim violence.

The Hindu hard-liners are building pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to move quickly on the issue. Modi had promised to build the temple in 2014 elections that brought him to power. The next national elections are due before May.

Thousands of police and paramilitary forces were deployed in and around Ayodhya, 550 kilometers (350 miles) east of New Delhi, to prevent any attacks on Muslims, who comprise 6 percent of the town’s more than 55,500 people.

The rally brought Hindu holy men and activists to the town where the Hindu god Ram was believed to have been born. The demonstrators chanted slogans demanding the building of the temple and waved a banner that said, “No more requests, now it will be battle.”

“Hindus have waited for a long time. They are losing patience,” Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who heads the committee on the disputed land, told the crowd. “The time has come for the government to take a call.”

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ally in the federal government, the Shiv Sena party, asked Modi’s government to bring legislation to build the temple, as India’s top court is taking time to settle a land title dispute between Hindus and Muslims.

Shiv Sena’s chief, Uddav Thackeray, said if construction of the temple does not start, Modi’s government would not return to power. “The prime minister has to choose between the temple and the government,” he told reporters.

Hindu fundamentalists with pickaxes and crowbars razed the 16th century Babri Mosque to the ground in December 1992. Hindu groups say the mosque was built after a temple dedicated to Ram was destroyed by Muslim invaders.

The destruction of the mosque sparked riots across India that left at least 2,000 people dead. Thousands more died in later violence caused by disputes over the site. The issue was also taken to court. A lower court in 2010 ruled that the disputed land should be divided into three parts — two for the Hindus and one for the Muslims. The decision was challenged in the Supreme Court, but there has not been any decision yet.

India deports Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar

October 04, 2018

GAUHATI, India (AP) — India on Thursday deported its first group of Rohingya Muslims since the government last year ordered the expulsion of members of the Myanmar minority group and others who entered the country illegally.

The deportation was carried out after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute plea by the seven men’s lawyer that they be allowed to remain in India because they feared reprisals in Myanmar. They were arrested in 2012 for entering India illegally and have been held in prison since then.

Indian authorities handed the seven over to Myanmar officials at a border crossing in Moreh in Manipur state, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. Each carried a bag of belongings.

The Supreme Court said it would allow their deportation because Myanmar had accepted them as citizens. Government attorney Tushar Mehta told the judges that Myanmar had given the seven certificates of identity and 1-month visas to facilitate their deportation.

Most Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are denied citizenship and face widespread discrimination. Defense attorney Prashant Bhushan said the government should treat them as refugees, not as illegal migrants, and send a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to talk to them so they would not be deported under duress.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a brutal campaign of violence by Myanmar’s military. An estimated 40,000 other Rohingya have taken refuge in parts of India. Less than 15,000 are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many have settled in areas of India with large Muslim populations, including the southern city of Hyderabad, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, and the Himalayan region of Jammu-Kashmir. Some have taken refuge in northeast India bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Indian government says it has evidence there are extremists who pose a threat to the country’s security among the Rohingya. India is fighting insurgencies in northern Kashmir and in its northeastern states.

India, Pakistan clash in UN over support for terrorists

September 30, 2018

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — India’s foreign minister accused neighboring Pakistan of harboring terrorists in an angry speech Saturday before the U.N. General Assembly and rejected the notion that India is sabotaging peace talks with Pakistan, calling it “a complete lie.” Hours later, Pakistan shot back in its own speech, accusing India of financing terrorists and declaring that New Delhi “preferred politics over peace.”

India’s Sushma Swaraj pointed to the fact that Osama bin Laden had been living quietly in Pakistan before he was found and killed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs, and said the mastermind of the 2008 attack in Mumbai in which 168 people died “still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity.” Pakistan has said there is not enough evidence to arrest him.

“In our case, terrorism is bred not in some faraway land, but across our border to the west,” Swaraj said. “Our neighbor’s expertise is not restricted to spawning grounds for terrorism, it is also an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity.”

Swaraj and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi were supposed to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week. India called it off only one day after it was announced, following the killing of an Indian border guard in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The two South Asian nations, always uneasy neighbors, face off under particularly tense conditions in that region at a “line of control” that cuts through a rugged mountain range. The announcement of the planned meeting had been considered an encouraging sign for restarting stalled talks between the nuclear-armed neighbors. New Delhi had agreed to hold the meeting in response to a letter from newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has written his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, stressing the need for positive change, a mutual desire for peace and a readiness to discuss terrorism.

“We accepted the proposal,” Swaraj said. “But within hours of our acceptance, news came that terrorists had killed one of our jawans. Does this indicate a desire for dialogue?” Qureshi said it was the third time that the current Indian administration had called off talks, “each time on flimsy grounds.”

He said in his speech that “Pakistan continues to face terrorism that is financed, facilitated and orchestrated by our eastern neighbor.” He referred to extremist attacks in his home country, including one at an army school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed more than 150 children, which he said were perpetrated by “terrorists supported by India.”

Qureshi’s afternoon speech prompted a vehement response from India, which exercised its right of reply at the end of the daylong meeting and accused Pakistan of spreading “fake allegations and fake facts.” Pakistan, in turn, responded by accusing India of “practicing terrorism as an instrument of state policy.”

Since independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, divided between the two countries but sought by each in its entirety. “The unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute hinders the realization of the goal of durable peace between the two countries,” Qureshi said. “For over 70 years it has remained on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council and a blot on the conscience of humanity.”

He welcomed the release of a report earlier this year by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights that mentioned “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces” in Kashmir. The report was written without visiting the region as both sides refused to grant unconditional access to the investigators. India at the time rejected it as a selective compilation of largely unverified information.

The U.N. has had a peacekeeping mission in the region since 1949, making it one of the world body’s longest-running peacekeeping operations. It is currently one of the smallest, with about 120 troops as of last month.

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed.

Highway overpass collapses in India, killing 18 people

May 16, 2018

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A highway overpass being built in north India collapsed, killing 18 people when an immense concrete slab slammed down onto the crowded road below, officials said Wednesday. Five injured people were pulled from the wreckage, police said. Two were seriously hurt.

Local media reports said four officials from the Uttar Pradesh state construction agency were suspended in the wake of the Tuesday collapse. Rescuers and crane operators worked through much of the night in the city of Varanasi to search for survivors and clear the wreckage, which had crushed cars, motorcycles and a bus. But fears that many more people were trapped were unfounded and the road was reopened Wednesday morning.

The slab appeared to be at least 50 feet (15 meters) long and 6 feet (2 meters) wide. “There was sudden rumble and within seconds we saw” the vehicles crushed, resident Ramesh Kumar Singh said in a telelphone interview. “It took at least a minute for the people around to realize what exactly had happened.”

Most of those killed were in vehicles traveling beneath the overpass, said senior police officer P.V. Ramasastry. The state’s top official ordered a probe into the collapse. He also announced a 500,000 rupee ($7,200) payment to families of those who died.

India has a long history of construction accidents caused by poor materials and inadequately trained workers. In 2016, a long stretch of elevated road being built through the city of Calcutta collapsed, killing 26 people and leaving 11 severely injured.

Prime Minister Narendra, whose political home is in Varanasi, said in a tweet that he was “extremely saddened” by the accident. “I pray that the injured recover soon.” Varanasi, an ancient temple city on the banks of the Ganges River, is a center of pilgrimage for Hindus.

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