INDEPENDENT 2024-07-10 00:09:16

Five Indian soldiers killed in ambush by suspected rebels in Kashmir

Suspected rebels fighting against Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir ambushed an army vehicle on Monday in the region’s south, killing five Indian soldiers and wounding other five, officials said.

No insurgent group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack took place in the Kathua district of the Indian-controlled Kashmir while the military was on a routine patrol, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Police and army reinforcements were rushed to the area, a massive cordon was set up and a search operation was underway, the officer said.

The attack was the latest in a flurry of violence that erupted on Sunday, when police said two gunbattles killed two Indian army soldiers and six suspected militants in the Kulgam district. Earlier in the day, militants fired at an army camp in the district of Rajouri, wounding a soldier.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 but coveted in its entirety by both. The two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars over Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training insurgents to fight its forces for control of Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies.

Various rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence from India or seeking to merge it with Pakistan, which most Muslim Kashmiri residents in the Indian-controlled sector support. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

Kenyan court rules 2022 killing of Pakistani journalist was unlawful

A Kenyan court on Monday ruled that the 2022 shooting death of a Pakistani journalist by police in Nairobi was unlawful and unconstitutional, a lawyer and his family said.

Justice Stella Mutuku in the ruling in Nairobi also faulted Kenya’s attorney general and the director of public prosecutions for laxity in investigating the shooting of Arshad Sharif, after police opened fire at his car at a roadblock checkpoint.

Sharif’s family has accused an elite Kenyan police unit of intentionally killing Sharif. The 50-year-old journalist had fled Pakistan earlier that year to avoid arrest at home on charges of maligning Pakistan’s national institutions.

A panel of Pakistani investigators in December 2022 concluded that the killing of Sharif was a “planned assassination.” Their report suggested that the bullet that fatally wounded Sharif was fired from either inside the car or from close range.

Kenyan authorities are still investigating the killing and none of the police officers linked to the shooting has been arrested or charged.

In Monday’s verdict, the court asked Kenyan authorities to conclude their probe of the officers. The court also ordered the government to compensate Sharif’s family 10 million Kenyan shillings ($78,000).

Dudley Ochiel, a lawyer for Sharif’s widow, Javeria Siddique, said the ruling was a “big win for the man’s family and friends in Kenya, Pakistan and all over the world.”

Mr Ochiel said he expects the public prosecutor to file a case against two officers suspected of fatally shooting Sharif at the roadblock.

The killing shook Pakistan and days later, thousands came out for Sharif’s funeral.

Pakistan has said no state institution was involved in his death.

Ms Siddique, who filed a complaint against Kenyan police together with Kenyan journalists’ unions, said although she knew that her husband would not come back, “at least now everyone knows that he was killed intentionally”.

Police had initially blamed the shooting on “mistaken identity” during a search for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.


Musambi reported from Nairobi, Kenya.

Man rushed to hospital after shark attack in Western Australia

A man is in hospital after a reported shark attack on a remote beach in western Australia.

Ambulance services rushed to Fourteen Mile Beach, a picturesque spot on Western Australia’s northwest coast, at about 11am on Monday following the reports of a shark attack.

When they arrived, they found a male victim who had been mauled by an unknown species of shark. It is believed he had been spearfishing when the attack happened.

The victim was then rushed to a nursing post for treatment at Coral Bay about 25 miles north. A Western Australia country health service spokesperson said the man was in a stable condition.

A member of the public said later they had spotted an unknown species of shark five metres offshore in the area.

Tracker SharkSmart also reported that a shark of similar length had been spotted off the coast of nearby Exmouth just 10 minutes before the attack.

The incident came after the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development issued shark advice earlier on Monday when a whale carcass was spotted floating near Point Cloates, about 39 miles north of where the shark bite happened.

Swimmers near Fourteen Mile Beach have now also been urged to “take additional caution” when near the coast and to “be aware of any signage and beach closures”.

Shark attacks are not particularly common in the area; one local said after this latest attack that it was only the third or fourth off Fourteen Mile Beach in decades.

But in April, a man was bitten by a shark at the Bombie surfing spot near Exmouth, about 105 miles to the north.

Rohingya teenager killed in Bangladesh by shell fired from Myanmar

A Rohingya teenager in Bangladesh has been killed and two others were hospitalised with injuries after being hit by a mortar shell fired from Myanmar.

Mohammad Zubair, 18, and others were crab fishing in the Naf River near the Myanmar border when they were hit by a shell fired from the other side, Mohammad Osman Gani, officer-in-charge of Teknaf police station, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Zubair succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital, while the other two were transferred to Chittagong Medical College Hospital for treatment.

Mr Gani said authorities were investigating whether the incident took place during their attempt to cross the border and that it was not known who carried out the attack.

This is the second such incident of cross-border shelling in two years since another teenager died in 2022 after a shell fired from Myanmar exploded in Bangladesh.

At the time Bangladesh said it would lodge a strong protest with Myanmar over the incident.

More than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state during a military crackdown in 2017 live in overcrowded camps in southern Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar.

The latest bout of aggravated fighting between the Arakan Army (AA), an armed group of the Rakhine ethnic minority seeking autonomy from the central government, and the Myanmar junta has once again displaced tens of thousands in Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh.

Thomas Andrews, a UN special rapporteur, last week said the crisis in Rakhine was “terrifying” and people were at risk of facing “genocidal violence” similar to what the community suffered eight years ago.

The violence in Rakhine escalated in November last year when the AA ended a ceasefire which had largely held since a military coup wrested power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

As fighting rages in western Myanmar near the Maungdaw border of Myanmar, the sounds of explosions and airstrikes have created panic among local residents.

”The war in Myanmar across the river has been going on for the past six to seven months, bringing fear into our lives,” said Nur Hossain, a 55-year-old fisherman.

“The deafening sounds of shells have become a regular occurrence, and sometimes we even see warplanes. Today, we saw airstrikes again.”

The escalating violence has spurred some Rohingya Muslims to flee into Bangladesh, even as Dhaka insists it cannot accept more refugees from the neighbour.

“Some people have managed to enter Bangladesh in various ways and have taken refuge in different places,” said Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, the Bangladesh official tasked with refugee relief and repatriation.

He added: “I believe some people are being allowed to enter unofficially.”

The AA has captured nine key towns in the coastal province and pursued its offensive to take more territory in a nationwide struggle that has left the junta at its weakest since the coup.

In May, the UN human rights office warned of “frightening and disturbing reports” about fresh violence in Rakhine, pointing to attacks on Rohingya civilians by both the military and the AA.

Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN agency, highlighted the burning of the town of Buthidaung, air strikes, shootings at unarmed fleeing villagers, beheadings and disappearances in the northern part of Rakhine in recent weeks.

“Some of the most serious allegations concern incidents of killing of Rohingya civilians and the burning of their property,” she said.

Deadly flooding threatens rhinos in India’s Assam as six drown

Six rhinos are among at least 129 animals killed in severe flooding at one of India’s best-known wildlife reserves.

Devastating floods triggered by torrential rains over the past few weeks have led to growing concern for residents of Assam’s Kaziranga park, famous for its large population of rhinos.

Assam is battling its worst flooding since 2017, when more than 300 wild animals died at Kaziranga.

The greater one-horned rhinoceros, Rhinoceros unicornis, is found in just nine protected areas in Nepal and India, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In India, the species is listed under the “vulnerable” category.

In its annual “State of the Rhino” report released in September 2023, the International Rhino Foundation said the population of the greater one-horned rhino in India and Nepal had increased to more than 4,000.

There were only about 200 left in 1904.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma shared a picture of a stranded rhino calf in the park and said he had “instructed its immediate rescue”.

The floods “have affected humans and animals alike”, he said, “and Team Assam is working round the clock to aid everyone”.

Rescue workers have saved 96 animals so far, News18 reported.

Assam, along with eastern India, is flooded almost every year as rains swell the mighty Brahmaputra river and its tributaries.

But this year’s floods have been particularly severe, impacting over 2.1 million people across 28 districts of the state. At least 78 people have died.

The state’s disaster management agency said over 386,000 people were currently sheltering in 515 relief camps.

Although water levels in the Brahmaputra had fallen in recent days, the agency said, the flood situation was still severe.

The chief minister attributed the floods primarily to the breaching of eight embankments and heavy rains in the upstream state of Arunachal Pradesh. “No human intervention can stop it,” he said.

The Brahmaputra flows 1,280km through Assam before entering Bangladesh. It is one of 13 major rivers currently flowing above the danger level in northeast India.

Australian tourist town declares three-day curfew after violence

Australian police have imposed three nights of curfew on the popular tourist town of Alice Springs after a series of violent assaults and a brawl involving 80 people.

One of the alleged assaults targeted four off-duty officers who were walking home. It was not immediately known if the offenders identified them as police, Northern Territory police commissioner Michael Murphy told reporters.

The curfew would act as a “pressure-relief valve” and improve the safety of the community, said chief minister Eva Lawler.

“I love Alice Springs but the offending and behaviour we have seen over the last 96 hours will not be tolerated,” she said.

“We want to stamp out this poor behaviour,”  Ms Lawler told reporters. “The curfew will provide police extra powers to get on top of the situation.”

It was not a “political” decision, she said, and was made for the safety of the town’s residents.

Mr Murphy said the violence over the weekend contributed to “significant harm and civil disturbances” and was the reason for the decision to impose the curfew, which would be in place from 10pm to 6am.

“The intent of this declaration is to disrupt the behaviours associated with the harm we’re seeing in Alice Springs,” he said. “It applies to all classes of people, it will apply to adults and it will apply to youths.”

New laws introduced in May empower the police commissioner to impose a lockdown for three days – and then ask for the government for an extension – to control any violent incidents.

“If I believe an extension is required I will put that in writing, about the reasons why I think that should occur,” the police chief said.

A police officer was allegedly run down by a vehicle and suffered arm and leg fracture over the weekend.

A group of local officials was assaulted on Saturday when they tried to contain “large-scale disturbance” involving around 80 people.

“That subsequently led to the assault of four off-duty police who were walking home,” Mr Murphy said.

The officers, a man and three women, were attacked by a group of about 20 young men.

While one of the female officers was pulled to the ground and had her purse stolen, another was punched in the face and kicked before her mobile was stolen.

The officers reported the assault to police after returning to their accommodation.

In a separate incident, police charged a man in the alleged stabbing of a 42-year-old woman on Sunday.

Community leaders have long identified alcohol abuse as a major factor behind violence in the town.

The curfew would be enforced “in the confines between Anzac Hill, Schwarz Crescent, down to the hospital, from the Stuart Highway across to Leichhardt and Stott Terrace”, Mr Murphy said.

“Anybody into the zone can be engaged by police, and they can be asked to leave,” he said.

“Or alternatively, they can be asked to stay if there’s another disturbance and they need to be contained for their own safety. A failure to abide to a request by police can lead to an offence, and it can lead to an infringement notice or an arrest.”

People can still enter the designated area during curfew hours if they are fleeing domestic violence, visiting family, travelling to care for someone, going to work or going to fast food restaurants, said Mr Murphy.

Alice Springs was put under a two-week curfew in March after a mass brawl involving 150 people, but it was enforced for only those under 18 years of age.

Alice Springs, a remote town in Australia’s vast outback region some 2,000km northwest of Sydney, is the gateway to major tourist attractions, including the giant red sandstone monolith of Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock.

Around a fifth of the town’s population are Indigenous Australians, who have been marginalised since the continent was colonised by Britain in the late 18th century.

Additional reporting by agencies

12 dead and 18 missing in landslide at illegal gold mine in Indonesia

A dozen people were killed after heavy rainfall triggered a landslide at an illegal gold mine on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Sunday.

Five people had been rescued but 18 were still trapped in the mine in the remote Bone Bolango region of Gorontalo province, local authorities said on Monday.

Nearly 35 villagers were searching for grains of gold in a small traditional pit mine when the landslide hit and buried them, Afifuddin Ilahude, a spokesperson for Gorontalo’s search and rescue agency, said.

He said rescue work was “hampered by heavy rain and blocked roads covered with thick mud and debris”.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said the landslide also damaged several houses and a bridge.

It warned of more rain in Gorontalo province on Monday and Tuesday and urged residents to stay vigilant.

“We have deployed 164 personnel from the national rescue team, police and military, to search for the missing people,” Heriyanto, head of the local rescue agency, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

He said rescue workers had to walk 20km to reach the landslide site as the roads were covered in thick mud and the rain wouldn’t relent.

“We will try to use an excavator once it’s possible,” Mr Heriyanto, identified by only his first name, said.

In May, flash floods and landslides sparked by torrential rain killed over 50 people in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province.

Additional reporting by agencies.

Iranian warship Sahand capsizes and sinks in port

A number of people have been injured after an Iranian warship capsized and sank during repairs at a port, according to the country’s state-run media.

The incident involved the Sahand, a 1,300-tonne naval frigate, and took place in Bandar Abbas, a southern port near the Strait of Hormuz.

A report in the IRNA news agency said the ship became unbalanced after taking on water while being repaired at the wharf.

“Several people sustained minor injuries in the incident and were taken to hospital,” IRNA said, citing the Iranian army’s news portal.

The navy said there was a possibility that the frigate could be “rebalanced” since the incident occurred in shallow water.

Social media images showed the Sahand tilted on its side.

Named after a northern Iranian mountain, the Sahand took six years to build and was launched into the Persian Gulf in December 2018.

The ship was equipped with surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft batteries, and advanced radar systems. Reports suggested that since its construction, the ship had been upgraded with new radar, medium-range air-defence missiles, and additional anti-ship missiles, potentially affecting its stability.

This is the third incident of an Iranian warship sinking in the past six years – the Damavand sank in the Caspian Sea in January 2018 after hitting a breakwater, and the Kharg sank in June 2021 following a fire in the Gulf of Oman.

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