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news without borders

Militants attack Pakistan hotel, 18 dead
PESHAWAR: Rescuers have pulled 18 bodies from the rubble of a luxury hotel in northwest Pakistan hit by a suicide car bomb, as blame fell yesterday on Taliban rebels avenging a military push. Two United Nations employees were among the dead and more aid workers were wounded in the massive blast that devastated the Pearl Continental in Peshawar late on Tuesday, in what the senior UN official branded a “heinous attack”. A top provincial official said the blast was likely the latest in a string of attacks by militants seeking to extract revenge for a six-week offensive against them in swathes of the northwest. Police hunting for the dead moved from room to room in the five-star hotel, large parts of which were reduced to rubble when three attackers shot security guards and then slammed an explosives-laden truck into the building. “The blast is a reaction to the army offensive in Swat and Malakand. The possibility of this type of terrorist attack cannot be ruled out in future,” North West Frontier Province information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said. He said the death toll had risen to 18, as rescue workers continued to pull people from the wreckage of Peshawar’s ritziest hotel. “I fear that eight to 10 people or maybe even more are still trapped under the debris,” said Shafiullah Khan, a police officer at the scene. Police investigator Abdul Ghafoor Afridi said 57 people were injured, including foreigners. The UN said the dead included two of its employees – Serbian national Aleksandar Vorkapic, who worked for the refugee agency UNHCR, and Perseveranda So of the Philippines, who worked for children’s agency Unicef. “On behalf of the United Nations community in Pakistan, I strongly condemn this heinous attack,” said Fikret Akcura, UN resident coordinator in Pakistan, adding that four UN employees were also wounded. “No cause can justify the killing and injuring of humanitarian workers and innocent civilians.” Afridi said three attackers in two vehicles shot their way through a security barrier and into the hotel compound, where they managed to detonate about 500kg of explosives packed in a small truck. Grainy CCTV footage broadcast on Pakistani television channels showed a car driving quickly through a security post, swiftly followed by the truck. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. About a dozen aid workers were staying at the hotel before heading out to refugee camps in North West Frontier Province, where Pakistan launched military action in three districts on April 26 to try to crush Taliban rebels. – AFP

Rudd calls for end to vigilante action
CANBERRA: Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for calm as Indian students led “vigilante” patrols yesterday after a second night of protests in the wake of attacks on foreign students in Sydney and Melbourne. Scores of Indian students took to the streets of western Sydney, leading to two police arrests, after attacks in both Sydney and Melbourne which have sparked diplomatic protests and fears of an international student exodus from Australia. “It’s unacceptable for anyone to commit an act of violence against any student of any ethnicity anywhere in Australia,” Rudd told local radio. “It’s equally unacceptable for so-called reprisal attacks and for so-called vigilante action as well. “I think everyone just needs to draw some breath on this and I think we need to see a greater atmosphere of general calm,” Rudd said. Rudd made his appeal after Indian students formed vigilante-like groups at train and bus stations in Melbourne following a string of attacks in the city over the past 18 months which Australian authorities insist have been crime-related. Indian students believe the attacks have been “racist”, warning of a culture of “curry bashings” in Australia, where foreign students are the country’s third biggest export earner, worth more than US$12 billion (RM42 billion). China’s government last week joined India in raising concern about sporadic attacks on Chinese students in recent years, urging Australian authorities to ramp up security. In a bid to ease tensions, police in Melbourne ordered groups of young Indian men patrolling three suburban railway stations at St Albans, Thomastown and Springvale to disband after they gathered to prevent more attacks on their countrymen. In Sydney, around 70 people gathered in the western suburb of Harris Park, where Indian community representatives claimed to have been attacked by ethnic Lebanese-Australian gangs, responding with baseball bats. – Reuters

eXtra: Getting the message across pg 10

Search at crash zone turns to black boxes
FERNANDO DE NORONHA (Brazil): After helping Brazil’s navy recover at least 41 bodies from the Atlantic, France yesterday turned to hunting for the black boxes from

an Air France jet that came down last week, killing all 228 people on board. A French military nuclear submarine, Emeraud, was to arrive at the crash zone, 1,100km off Brazil’s northeast coast, in an effort to locate the homing beacons from the data and voice recorders of flight AF 447. – AFP

restricted duties after allegations of torture against suspects arrested in an anti-drugs operation last year, police said yesterday. Newspapers said the alleged ill-treatment included “waterboarding”, a simulated drowning method that has been used by CIA interrogators. – Reuters

realignment surgery has given birth to a second child, ABC News reported on Tuesday. Thomas Beatie, who is legally male but decided to keep his female sex organs during chest reconstruction surgery and testosterone therapy, attracted worldwide headlines last year after revealing his pregnancy. – AFP

British cops suspended over torture charges
LONDON: Six British police officers have been suspended or placed on

‘Pregnant man’ gives birth to second child
LOS ANGELES: A man who was born a woman before undergoing gender

Earth-Venus collision likely, but you are safe
PARIS: A force known as orbital chaos may cause our Solar System

to go haywire, leading to possible collision between Earth and Venus or Mars, according to a study released yesterday. The good news is that the likelihood of such a smash-up is small, around one-in-2500. And even if the planets did careen into one another, it would not happen before another 3.5 billion years. Indeed, there is a 99% chance that the Sun’s posse of planets will continue to circle in an orderly pattern throughout the expected life span of the Sun another five billion years. – AFP