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Monday, June 9, 2014

29 killed as Taliban hit Karachi airport

At least 29 people were killed and 26 others injured after heavily-armed terrorists disguised as security forces stormed Karachi airport--Pakistan's busiest --on Sunday night and exposed the vulnerability of the nuclear-armed country's vital installations.

The latest Pakistani Taliban assault was the most daring since they had struck at a naval base in Karachi in May 2011. It came despite a split within the Taliban ranks and demonstrated their ability to carry out coordinated attacks at will.

Officials said the slain included 10 attackers, who stormed the international airport just before midnight. They were disguised as Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel. Explosions and gunfire continued across the airport throughout the night. But no aircraft was damaged and passengers were evacuated and all flights diverted. The siege ended at dawn on Monday when all attackers were killed.

Karachi's Jinnah Hospital spokesperson Seemi Jamali said 19 bodies were brought there. They included 11 airport security personnel, a paramilitary ranger, a civil aviation official and five Pakistan International Airlines employees. "Anoth

er 26 people were wounded with five of them critical,'' she said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and threatened more assaults to send a message to the government. "We are still alive and strong enough to react to the killings of innocent people in aerial strikes on their villages," said Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

He said the attack on the airport was aimed to avenge slain Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud's killing in a US drone attack in November last year. Shahid dismissed the talks' offer.

"Pakistan used peace talks as a tool of war. It killed hundreds of innocent tribal women and children. This is our first attack to avenge the death of Hakimullah Mehsud," he said. "We are yet to avenge deaths of hundreds of innocent tribal women and children in Pakistani air strikes.'' The Taliban warned it is just the beginning. "We have taken revenge for one, we have to take revenge for hundreds," its spokesperson said.

"We will continue carrying out such attacks.'' In Karachi, paramilitary Pakistani Rangers director general Maj Gen Rizwan Ak

Jhtar said the attackers appeared to be of Uzbek, Tajik and Afghan origin.

"They came in two groups of five each. While seven were killed by the forces, three attackers blew themselves up.'' An intelligence official said it appeared the terrorists aimed to hijack a plane that passengers were boarding at the main terminal.

Sources said an initial investigation report submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revealed the terrorists wanted to destroy airplanes and paralyze air traffic operations.

A Rangers' officer told reporters the attackers were carrying Indian weapons.
But Maj Gen Akhtar dismissed alleged Indian involvement as "too early and premature''. Modi team behind strike: Hafiz Saeed J uD chief Hafiz Saeed, who is believed to be the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, took to Twitter to allege that Narendra Modi's "new security team" is responsible for the attack on the Karachi airport. Saeed said Pakistan knew who the "real enemy" was and called on the Pakistani government to "show some spine" and "end exchange of gifts with India". AGENCIES

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

`Mumbai is noisiest city in the world'

Mumbai is hostage to air and water pollution at dangerous levels, and is probably the n the world, ahead of Delhi and Kolkata. Maharashtra's economic survey , released a day before World Environment Day (Thursday), paints a grim picture for the rest of the state as well. Of particular concern is growth in solid waste, which needs incineration, against a decline in waste that is recyclable or can be used as landfill. This is a threat to soil and groundwater.

"The data shows that the city is the noisiest in the world and poses a serious threat to one's ears, brain and heart. Almost every area in Mumbai has high sound levels.
The administration should have the strong will to implement a stringent enforcement mechanism," said environmental activist Sumaira Abdulali.

Air pollution has serious health implications, including strokes and heart attacks, and in extreme cases lung cancer, said Dr Altaf Patel, former professor at J J Hospital and presently a director of medicine at Jaslok Hospital. "The more you breathe fresh air, the more is your life expectancy ," he said. "As for water pollution, especially by heavy metals, it can lead to heart attacks and cancer, besides causing hypertension and mental disturbance." 2 of 5 accidents in state occur in its capital umbai accounted for 38% of road accidents in Maharashtra during M 2013, according to the state's economic survey, which is a percentage up from the preceding two years. While the number of accidents per 10,000 vehicles in Maharashtra was 30 in 2013, for Mumbai it was 109. The total number of on-road motor vehicles in the state as of January 1, 2014 was 228 lakh (20,504 vehicles per lakh population, which translates into one vehicle for a family of five), an increase of 9.4% in a year. Over 23 lakh vehicles (10.2% of total) are in Mumbai. As evidence of growing congestion in the city, the survey found the number of vehicles per km of road length to be 94 in the state and 700 in Mumbai. TNN

State files review petition against SC forest land nod

Wants To Protect Green Cover But Residents Upset

In a move that may spell trouble for more than 3 lakh people who bought property on land deemed private forest, the government has filed a review petition against a Supreme Court order that allows residents to live there. But those residing there are upset with the state's decision, maintaining that there was nothing illegal about the properties in the green belt.

The revenue and forest department has moved the apex court, asking it to review the removal of "private forest" tag to swatches of land across the state, including Mulund, Bhandup, Borivli, Kanidvli, Thane, Virar, Badlapur and Ambernath.
"The forest cover is much less than the national average. Allowing regularization of constructions on forest land will lead to further depletion of the green cover. The department also feels that owing to ambiguity in forest rules, the law has not been interpreted properly . So the state has filed a review petition," a senior forest department official in Thane said. The review petition was filed in April. "The subject will come up for hearing only after court reopens following vacation."

The SC last year set aside a 2008 Bombay high court judgment that had declared houses built on plots deemed private forest land in Mumbai and Thane as illegal. The apex court said the administration could not demolish constructions on the green belt by declaring them "private forest" and issuing notice under section 35 (3) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The properties were to be regularized.

The state's recent effort to review the SC order has not gone down well with residents. "The government collects taxes from residents. This shows that there is no illegality. Despite knowing that it is wrong, the state has gone ahead and filed a review pet ition. This is nothing but harassment by the bureaucracy ," said Thane resident Pandharinath Samant. "What were revenue and forest officials doing when the urban development department and the civic bodies gave permissions and clearances to developers for building and registering the houses?" Now with the filing of the review petition, the process of regularizing the houses has also been put on hold. "The status quo on the issue continues as the DF government awaits Supreme Court's verdict on the review petition," the official said.

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