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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dozens Dead as Car Bomb Explodes in Central Damascus

A car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital Damascus killing 53 people and injuring at least 200, according to state media. News agency SANA said that the victims were mostly “school students and people driving their cars”. The bomb was apparently aimed at the ruling Ba’ath party headquarters in Mazraa, although the blast also hit the Russian embassy. No staff at the embassy were injured. In a statement posted on Facebook, Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, denounced that those behind the blast were “terrorists” and said it condemned the action “regardless of the perpetrator or the justification”. Another three explosions were recorded in the capital, with two car bombs exploding government security centres in the north-eastern district of Barzeh and mortal shells hitting a Syrian army building in the city centre. No casualties were reported as a result of these blast. Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin said the attacks signalled that the government was no longer able to secure Damascus effectively. “Whoever was behind the attack had managed to go through many checkpoints until they got to the point where they can explode the car.”

Multiple Explosions Kill At Least 15 in India

Three bombs exploded on Thursday in the southern city of Hyderabad, one of the country’s main IT hubs. They were placed on bicycles and went off in a crowded market area, killing at least 15 people and injuring dozens of others. All major Indian cities were placed on high alert, according to the local media. Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that the blasts “took place within a radius of 150 metres”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the act a “dastardly attack”. He also took to Twitter to “appeal to the public to remain calm and maintain the peace”. Hyderabad was the scene of a similar attack in August 2007, when two blasts took place simultaneously at least 34. The city’s Director General of Police, V. Dinesh Reddy, told the Hindu newspaper that “it appears to be a terrorist attack, though we have not yet got full information of the incident”.

Lead Pistorius Case Detective Dismissed Because of Own Murder Charges

It was revealed on Thursday that the police officer leading the Oscar Pistorius murder case is facing murder charges himself. Detective Hilton Botha opened fire on a minibus full of passengers in 2011 as he chased a man accused of murdering a woman and disposing her body down a drain. The charges were initially dropped, but were reinstated by South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on February 4, 10 days before Pistorius shot Reeva Steenkamp in Pretoria. NPA spokesman said the decision was “completely unrelated to this trial”. Chief of Police Riah Phiyega said Botha would be removed from the case while his charges were investigated. She said he would be replaced by Lieutenant General Vinesh Moonoo, described as South Africa’s “top detective”. Earlier in the day, the courtroom became an unexpected focal point when the leading magistrate had the hall evacuated because of an unspecified “threat to the court”. The hearing will resume on Friday.

Birmingham Men Found Guilty of Mass Terror Plot

Three men from Birmingham who planned to carry out an attack greater than the July 7 attack on London and 9/11 in the US have been found guilty of terrorism charges. Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27 and Ashik Ali, 27, were found guilty of being “central figures” in the plan, which involved blowing bombs in rucksacks in busy areas. They were arrested in 2011 shortly before carrying out their attacks and police described the men as “committed, passionate extremists”. The jury at Woolwich Crown Court heard that the men received training from al-Qaeda associates in Pakistan and had pre-recorded martyrdom videos before coming back to the UK. Justice Henriques, who delivered the verdict, told the men that “you were seeking to recruit a team of somewhere between six and eight suicide bombers to carry out a spectacular bombing campaign, one which would create an anniversary along the lines of 7/7 or 9/11. It’s clear that you were planning a terrorist outrage in Birmingham”.

Tibetan Teens Die in Double Immolation in Southwestern China

Two Tibetan teenagers died after setting fire to themselves in Sichuan province in southwestern China, a region where such acts are not common. Eighteen-year-old Sonam Dargye and a 17-year-old identified only as Rinchen were protesting China’s rule of Tibet. The deaths were reported by US-based Radio Free Asia and followed the another self-immolation case reported on Friday. A 49-year-old man, Namlha Tsering, had set fire to himself in the middle of a busy street in Xiahe, in the northwestern province of Gansu. An image posted on the internet showed a man in flames in the middle of the road while cars passed him by. More than 100 people have set themselves on fire and died since 2009 in protest at China’s rule. Of these, 85 have died. According to Washington-based NGO International Campaign for Tibet, at least 22 of those were aged under 18.

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