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25 November, 2012


Sixteen die from toxic cough medicine in Pakistan

­At least 16 people have died in Lahore, Pakistan after drinking toxic cough syrup. According to officials, more than 20 drug takers drank a locally- manufactured medicine in order to get intoxicated on Saturday evening, but fell seriously ill minutes later, with five dying on the spot. The rest were transported to a hospital where eight more died on Sunday. The remaining seven to ten patients are in critical condition, the hospital says. According to doctors, all of them were between 15 and 30 years of age. Following the incident, the owner of the pharmacy was arrested and the rest of the toxic medicine confiscated.


Crowd assaults three women near Tahrir square – reports

­Three women have been sexually assaulted as a crowd of some 300 young people looked on near Tahrir Square, Egypt’s leading paper Al-Ahram reported. The attack took place near the Qasr al-Dobara Church, which had been turned into a field hospital after crowds of protesters began their sit-in on Tahrir Square. After the assault the women escaped their attackers to hide inside a nearby administrative building. Protesters participating in the sit-in reportedly beat and chased off the attackers.


Hamas intensifies security to maintain truce

­Hamas has toughened security measures to maintain an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, arresting at least six militants as they tried to fire short-range rockets into Israel. The militants belonged to a Salafi groups which is blamed for the intensified rocket fire from Gaza in recent months prior to and during the recent eight-day exchange that killed 168 Palestinians and six Israelis, Xinhua reports, citing Hamas sources.


Utility worker punctured pipe prior to gas explosion

A utility worker punctured a high-pressure pipe and a spark ignited an explosion that injured 18 people on Friday, a Massachusetts state fire marshal said in a statement. The cause of the spark is still unknown. The blast damaged more than 40 buildings, including a nearby day care center. The worker was responding to reports of a natural gas leak when he punctured the pipe. Columbia Gas is set to hold a news conference later on Sunday.


Russia to conduct surveillance flight over US – Defense Ministry

Russian military inspectors will conduct a surveillance flight above the United States under the international Treaty on Open Skies, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The flight will take place between November 25 and December 3 in a Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft. It will start from the Travis Air Force Base in California, and its maximum range will be 4,250 kilometers. Russian and US specialists will operate surveillance equipment on board the aircraft. The treaty came into force in 2002 and currently has 34 member countries. It runs a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its members.


Egyptian state TV channels disappear from airwaves

A number of Egyptian state TV channels disappeared from the airwaves Sunday evening. The connection was broken by sources outside Egypt, and an investigation is currently underway to identify the cause. The networks eventually resumed terrestrial transmissions, but satellite broadcasts have yet to be restored, Ahram Online reports. Several of the channels have been set to a new frequency in order to resume broadcasting.


Netanyahu says pilots will be needed again if Hamas breaks ceasefire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told pilots on Sunday that if the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is kept, they can continue preparing for the “next campaign.” The leader said that if the quiet is violated, pilots could go back to “hitting what remains of the Hamas stockpile of weapons.” He also told reservists that they may be needed again later, The Jerusalem Post reports. Netanyahu has warned that Israel will react strongly if Hamas breaks the ceasefire. The agreement went into effect on Wednesday, after eight days of cross border attacks killed 166 Palestinians and six Israelis.


Eleven killed in Nigeria suicide bombings

Two suicide bombs have killed at least 11 people and wounded 30 more at a military church in Kaduna state in northern central Nigeria. According to local military officials, a bus entered the barracks and was driven into the wall of the church, where it exploded. It caused no casualties, and curious worshippers gathered around the scene looking at the debris. The next blast occurred minutes later, as a car blew up outside the church.


Spain rejects talks with ETA

The Spanish government has rejected a proposal today by armed Basque separatists to negotiate the conditions of ETA’s dissolution, saying that it will only accept the complete and unconditional dissolution of the organization. Earlier, the ETA offered to negotiate on the exchange of prisoners and a weapons handover, in return for taking responsibility for the victims of ETA’s long-running terror campaign. The organization also demanded that the Spanish government accept responsibility for the torture of arrested ETA militants, as hundreds of separatists are imprisoned across the country.


Syrian rebels seize helicopter base near Damascus – activists

­Syrian rebels have captured a helicopter base near the capital Damascus after overnight battle with government forces, activists claimed. The rebels reportedly destroyed two helicopters in the attack as well as a radar station, and 15 personnel were taken hostage. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 15 rebels and eight soldiers were killed in the fighting, which started the day before.


Blast hits Nigerian military church, casualties unknown

­A blast has struck a military church in north-central Nigeria after a service in the barracks. The number of casualties remains unknown, and no group has claimed responsibility for the explosion so far. The town of Jali, where the incident took place, is around 40 kilometers from the city of Kaduna, which has recently been attacked by the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.


Indian gay rights activists hold parade

Hundreds of gay rights activists marched through New Delhi demanding tolerance. The protesters called on the government to allow people to specify the gender category of their choice on the national census, voter identity cards and all other government documents. Homosexuality is slowly gaining public acceptance in India's bigger cities, though many of the marchers covered their faces with scarves or wore masks as they have not told their friends and families about their sexuality. Same-sex relationships are still not socially accepted in India and are criminalized, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


Shia Muslims celebrate Ashura

Shia Muslims around the world are celebrating Ashura, the holiest time of year for their faith. The Day of Ashura falls on the10th day of Muharram (the first month in the Islamic calendar), and marks the climax of the Mourning of Muharram – the martyrdom of Hussein in a battle at Karbala in the deserts south of present-day Baghdad. Ashura is a national holiday in some Shia regions of Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Bahrain. The event is one of the defining moments in the historic split between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam.


Israel accuses Palestinian of spying for Hezbollah

Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency has arrested Palestinian Azzam Mashahara on charges of espionage. Mashahara is accused of supplying Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon with information on sensitive government sites, including parliament. He is also charged with maintaining contacts with a foreign agent and passing information to the enemy. The suspect is a resident of east Jerusalem and has an Israeli identity card, giving him the right to travel freely within Israel, unlike Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip.


Cash-strapped Poland and Portugal bow out of Eurovision 2013

­Poland and Portugal have confirmed that economic woes have forced both nations to withdraw from the Eurovision Song Contest 2013. Portugal, which was given a €78-billion bailout by Brussels last year, has only missed the annual event three times in the last half-century. Poland bowed out a second time due to the financial pressure of co-hosting the European Football Championships.


Hezbollah leader vows to attack Israel in future wars

­The head of Lebanon's Hezbollah said the organization would fire thousands of rockets into Israeli cities in any future conflicts. Nassan Nasrallah’s statement comes just days after a ceasefire was announced in a bloody eight-day conflict between Gaza and Israel. The Hezbollah chief also said that Israel will face "thousands of rockets that will fall on Tel Aviv and other areas if it launches an aggression." Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006.


Deadly flooding hits UK amid raging storms

­One woman was killed and two others injured in Exeter as floodwaters sweep the southwestern UK, and the country's Midlands. Over 500 homes in the area were reportedly flooded. During the night, four severe flood warnings – signaling life-threatening danger – were issued for Cornwall. The number of warnings was reduced by two after sunrise. Police warned residents of flooded regions not to travel unless absolutely necessary, and not to walk through contaminated water.


American human rights leader Lawrence Guyot dies at 73

­US human rights activist Lawrence Guyot has died in Maryland at the age of 73. Guyot worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as director of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which organized thousands of young people to register blacks to vote despite long-running violence and intimidation from authorities. He also headed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to include blacks in the state's delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention.


Turkey confirms talks with Israel over reinstating bilateral ties

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu confirmed that Turkey and Israel held diplomatic talks with the aim of reviving bilateral relations, Turkish media reported. Davutoglu explained that reconciliation between the nations will only be possible after Turkey's demands are met. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were frozen after Israel’s 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, which killed nine Turkish nationals. The talks were held before Israel’s 'Pillar of Defense' operation began in Gaza in November.


Vandals in Jerusalem target Arabs' cars

Israeli police are investigating vandalism attacks on cars belonging to local Arab residents of the Shuafat neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Overnight Saturday, the assailants punctured the tires of eight vehicles and sprayed "price tag Gaza" on one of them, the Jerusalem Post reported. The phrase “price tag” is associated with an extreme fringe of the Israeli settlement movement.


France won't impose ‘Magnitsky’ sanctions – ambassador

Paris has no plans to issue unilateral sanctions against Russian officials named on the so-called ‘Magnitsky list.’ The list identifies people allegedly responsible for Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky's controversial death in police custody. France will not support the US, which recently passed a bill leveling sanctions against those named on the list, French Ambassador to Moscow Jean de Gliniasty told Interfax. The European Parliament earlier recommended that its member-states impose similar sanctions over the Magnitsky case.


At least 3 dead, scores injured in Pakistan bomb attack

­A bomb blast in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, killed at least three people and injured around 35 others, local police reported. The explosion, believed to be a suicide bomb attack, targeted a Shia Muslim procession marking Ashura, a feast commemorating the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein. This was the second such attack in the district in less then two days. Pakistani authorities disabled cellphone services in the country's major cities to prevent mobile phones from being used as bomb triggers.


10 injured as plane makes emergency landing in Russia’s Urals

­An Antonov An-12 transport plane has crash-landed in the Khanty-Mansi region of the Russian Urals. The plane's 10 passengers suffered injuries and were taken to a hospital, an emergencies ministry spokesperson said. Two of the victims will need extensive treatment. The aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff, and caught fire on the ground.


Iran to unveil Hague memorial to chemical weapon victims

An Iranian-made monument to victims of chemical weapons will be unveiled next week in the Hague during an international summit of signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention. A fund to provide aid to victims of chemical weapons around the world will also be established during the meeting, Iranian Ambassador to the Netherlands Kazem Gharibabadi said.


One killed in student clashes in Kabul

­A student has been killed after Shiite and Sunni Muslim students clashed at Afghanistan's Kabul University, authorities report. At least six others have been injured. Police are investigating the cause of the riot, but it is beleived that the clash began as Sunni students tried to prevent their Shiite colleagues from observing Ashura, a major Shia holiday. Police have been called in to break up the fight. Lectures at the institution have been canceled for the next 10 days. Damage was reported to university buildings.


­Venezuelan road accident leaves scores dead and injured

At least nine people have died and over 20 have been injured in a motor accident in Venezuela, local media report. The accident took place at night on the highway 340 kilometers southeast of the capital Caracas, when a bus traveling at high speeds with 50 passengers crashed into a truck. Authorities fear that the death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition. Local news claims the bus was carrying a group of Jehovah's Witnesses.


­Canadian police recover $2 million in stolen charity goods

Two million dollars worth of toys and other merchandise stolen from a Salvation Army warehouse and sold for profit has been recovered by Toronto police. The load was so big that law enforcement had to use three tractor-trailers to haul 146 wooden platforms found in a warehouse in Brampton, northwest of Toronto. It is alleged that up to 100,000 items were stolen from a Salvation Army warehouse over nearly two years.


Sierra Leone reelects president

­Sierra Leone's incumbent leader has been sworn in after winning the country’s presidential election. President Ernest Koroma secured 59% of the vote, avoiding a second round. But the opposition, which received 37%, wowed to dispute the results after it says it witnessed “systematic and widespread irregularities, malpractices and injustices.” The election is only the third since the end of Sierra Leone's 11-year-civil war.


­Three injured in US State Department fire

Three maintenance workers have been seriously injured in a fire at the US State Department headquarter in Washington. One person suffered life-threatening injuries and two others had serious burns after they tried to put out the fire on the seventh floor before the arrival of the fire crew. All three are being treated at Washington Hospital Center. The building has now reopened after a brief evacuation.


­Basque group ETA announces dissolution plans

ETA, the main organization of the Basque National Liberation Movement, proposed a start to negotiations towards its own disarmament and dissolution, Xinhua reports. The reason behind the decision is to "bring home the prisoners and exiles," those being members serving in French and Spanish prisons or on the run from police. If successful, it “would bring about a definitive end of the armed conflict.” ETA has been the fronrunner in the Basque region’s 45-year struggle for national sovereignty.