Bodies of two policemen found in Quetta

QUETTA: Two bullet-riddled bodies of policemen have been found from the Saddar police area in Quetta on Friday.

According to Saddar Police, they received information about two bodies in a deserted grassy field near Sabzal road on Friday morning.

They deceased have been identified as of Abdul Salam and Abdur Rehman, both constables of Crime Investigation Department police.

According to the coroners report, both policemen had been shot dead with automatic weapons some time late last night.

The bodies have been shifted to Bolan Medical Complex hospital and investigation is underway.


Sweeping powers

The interior ministry has decided to give the paramilitary Rangers in Karachi sweeping powers to curb violence, specifically the targeted killings that are occurring with increasing frequency in the city. Among these powers is the authority to arrest anyone involved in violence for 90 days.

According to official figures, 256 people have been killed in the past six months alone in incidents of targeted killing. There can be no two views on the need for the state to deal firmly with criminals and violent elements within the ambit of the law. But we question the wisdom of giving such extensive powers to the Rangers. Are the Rangers meant to aid Karachi’s regular force in curbing crime? Or does the move reflect the state’s lack of trust in the capabilities of the police force?

Reports about the increase in the Rangers’ powers had been circulating for months. Some have justified giving the Rangers more powers because of the general consensus that the police are too politicised to be able to operate independently. It is argued that if the Rangers carry out operations against politically linked suspects on their own, they could do a better job. Well-connected suspects are said to be freed from police custody because of their links to those with clout. Though the politicisation of the police is no secret, bypassing the civil law-enforcement structure is surely not the answer. In order to achieve results, wouldn’t it be better to overhaul the provincially controlled police and improve the investigation process than grant the federally controlled Rangers far-reaching powers?

We must also see the Rangers’ past record in Karachi to decide whether giving the paramilitary force extra powers would be beneficial in the long term. The Rangers have been in the metropolis for over two decades now. Their performance can be described as patchy at best; they have also been criticised for standing aside when a deteriorating law and order situation has caused trouble to flare in the city. The Rangers’ commercial activities have also drawn censure. Police reform and de-weaponising Karachi are the key to peace in the metropolis, not sweeping powers for the Rangers.

One dies, four hurt in Karachi road mishaps

KARACHI: Reckless driving claimed life of young woman, while four others sustained injuries in different road incidents on Saturday.

A 20-year-old Rozina died when a dumper hit her in Orangi Town No 1 in the jurisdiction of Orangi Town Police Station. Police arrested driver, impounded the dumper and registered the case.

Separately, a 35- year-old motorcyclist Shahdab was hit by unknown taxi at Bilal Colony in North Karachi. The victim was rushed to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, where his condition was termed precarious.

In third incident, one Abdul Shakoor, 35, Samia, 28 and Ameera, 10 were seriously hit by unknown car at Shahra-e-Faisal near Awami Markaz.

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One hurt in Beirut bomb blasts

BEIRUT: Lebanese police say one person was hurt when two hand grenades exploded in two neighborhoods of Beirut overnight in renewed tensions sparked by the weekend death of a demonstrator.

Police say unknown attackers hurled a grenade on a road underpass in the Shiite-populated south Beirut suburb of Tayyouneh early Tuesday.

Another grenade exploded near a cafe in the south Beirut suburb of Jnah, injuring one.

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Australia wildfire arsonist given in police custody

MELBOURNE: Australian police called for calm Monday as a suspected arsonist was named in court after a swarm of wildfires killed more than 180 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

A magistrate lifted an order suppressing the name of 39-year-old Brendan Sokaluk, who prosecutors say started a fire that killed some 11 people and razed about 200 homes.

Sokaluk, who has been charged with arson causing death and intentionally lighting a bush fire, did not appear in court and was remanded in custody until the next hearing on April 14.

He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail if convicted on the arson charge.

Sokaluk was arrested in a small country town last Friday over a bush fire near Churchill east of Melbourne before being transferred to the Victoria state capital for his own safety.

Earlier, state police chief Christine Nixon had appealed to the public to stay away from the court.

“We hope that we don’t have to deal with a gang of people who are angry and concerned about this arrest. We know people are,” state police commissioner Christine Nixon told reporters.

“Coming to court and protesting is not an appropriate thing to do.

“We will make sure he is protected and can go before the justice system, as he should, and be dealt with through that process.”

There was a heavy police presence in court for the hearing Monday, but no angry protesters turned up.

Police are still investigating some of the other fires that raged through Victoria state, with arson suspected in at least one other major blaze that destroyed the town of Marysville and killed up to 100 people.

“Our teams are working hard. We hope to be able to come to some conclusions about that fire (Marysville), particularly, in the not too distant future,” Nixon said.

Firefighters were still battling eight blazes burning out of control as the government announced Monday that a national day of mourning for the victims would be held.

The death toll of 181 is expected to rise as more bodies are found in the charred rubble of homes and towns, police say.

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Bus-truck collision kills 16 in Egypt

CAIRO: Sixteen people were killed when a bus collided with a truck in Egypt on Sunday.

Police said that this accident happened due to speedy driving on a highway between two cities of Egypt – Ismailia and Abu Hamad.

The 16 killed also included four children and the dead bodies and the wounded were shifted to a hospital in Ismailia.

Road accidents are common in Egypt due to speedy driving and pathetic condition of roads.

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Suspect charged in deadly Australian fire

MELBOURNE, Australia – Authorities charged a man Friday with lighting one of the wildfires that killed a total of more than 180 people in Australia, and whisked him into protective custody to guard him from public fury.

Police said the suspect was charged with one count of arson causing death and intentionally lighting a wildfire near the town of Churchill that killed at least 21 people. It was one of hundreds of fires that raged through southeastern Victoria state Feb. 7, leaving 7,000 people homeless and razing entire towns.

The suspect also was charged with possessing child pornography.

The disaster’s official death toll is 181, but efforts to find and identify victims were continuing and officials expected the final tally to exceed 200. More than 1,800 homes and 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometers) of forests and farms were burned.

The suspect’s identity was being kept secret for his own safety, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Dannye Moloney told a news conference. He was brought to the state capital of Melbourne from Morwell, 75 miles (120 kilometers) to the east and near the the town of Churchill.

“He has been moved from that area and moved to the Melbourne metropolitan area for security reasons,” Moloney said.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported from Morwell that the suspect was formally charged in the town’s magistrate’s court, but that he did not appear. He was ordered to be held in custody and to undergo psychiatric evaluation, the broadcaster said.

Police said in a statement that Magistrate Clive Allsop banned publication of any details or photographs of the man that could identify him. Another court hearing was scheduled for Monday.

If found guilty, the man faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison for the deadly arson charge, and a maximum of 15 years on the second arson charge.

Police have said they believe foul play was the cause of at least two of the deadly blazes, including the Churchill fire. Those suspicions disgusted the country and prompted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to describe the fires as possible mass murder.

Ruth Halyburton, whose home in the town of Marysville was burned to the ground, said Friday she could not comprehend why anyone would want to light wildfires.

“Words can’t describe how I feel about them,” Halyburton told The Associated Press at a relief center in nearby Alexandra. “I’m a Christian, but I don’t think to kindly of people if they go light a match and destroy people’s property and lives. They don’t have a brain in their head.”

Marysville, a town of some 500 people, was almost completely destroyed Saturday by one of the fires — but not the Churchill blaze.

Firefighters still struggled to contain about a dozen blazes and one of them flared up Friday and menaced the town of Healesville, coming within less than a mile (1 kilometer) and sending embers dropping like rain over houses.

The threat was downgraded after a few hours, but it served as a reminder that the disaster may not be over yet.

“You can’t see anything. All you can see is smoke, and you can’t even see where the fire is actually coming from,” plant nursery owner John Stanhope told ABC radio from Healesville during the flare-up. “It’s just thick smoke everywhere and everyone is just very much on edge.”

Firefighters raced to take advantage of cooler weather, rain and lighter winds and lit controlled burns Friday in efforts to prevent further breakouts.

The catastrophe’s scale became clearer Friday. Officials raised the tally of destroyed homes by 762 to 1,831, and the number of people left homeless or who fled their homes and have not returned was raised by 2,000 to 7,000.

Officials said the nation had pledged more than 75 million Australian dollars ($50 million) in donations to various charities for survivors. Rudd ordered military bases to be opened to house some of the homeless.

The disaster increased the urgency for a nationwide fire warning system, which has been snarled for years in bickering between state and federal officials.

“I am determined to see this thing implemented across the nation,” Rudd said late Thursday. “If it means cracking heads to ensure it happens we’ll do that.”

Officials partly blamed the dramatic death toll on the number of people who appeared to have waited until they saw the fast-moving blazes coming before trying to flee. Many bodies were found in burned-out cars.

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