29 March: Dozens killed by blasts on Moscow underground train system

By Branko Brkic 29 March 2010

Also today: Dozens killed by blasts on Moscow underground train system; Iraqi election loser refuses to accept result; Obama visits US troops in Afghanistan; Pope tells faithful that media reports on Church sexual abuse just gossip; Abu Dhabi prince missing in Moroccan glider crash; South Korean naval ship sinks in mysterious circumstances; Missing Chinese human rights campaigner found.

Dozens killed by blasts on Moscow underground train system


Some 37 people were killed by two explosions on the Moscow Metro at the peak of the morning rush hour. The blasts hit central Lubyanka station, and included 14 dead inside a train and 11 on the platform. A second explosion occurred about 40 minutes later at the Park Kultury station, in which12 people were killed. No-one has yet claimed responsibility, but authorities have declared it a terrorist incident on a system that carries 5.5 million passengers a day. Immediate suspicion falls on the troubled region of Chechnya, where Islamist militants are fighting the Russian government for a separate state. Chechen separatists have previously bombed Russian metro trains and were responsible for the deaths of hundreds in a Moscow theatre some years back, as well as the deaths of hundreds of children held hostage in a school.

Photo: A general view shows a site near Park Kultury metro station in Moscow March 29, 2010. At least 37 people were killed and 33 wounded on Monday when suicide bombers detonated explosives on two packed Moscow metro trains during the morning rush hour, the worst attack in the Russian capital for six years, officials said. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

Read more: The New York Times, Guardian, Agence France-Presse, Reuters


Iraqi election loser refuses to accept result


Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has challenged election results that show him coming in a close second to his chief rival, Sunni-backed Ayad Allawi. If he succeeds in blocking the secular Shiite Allawi from forming a coalition government, it could unleash a new bout of sectarian violence just as the US is preparing to pull all its troops out of the country. Final results of the March election show Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition winning 91 parliamentary seats with support from Sunnis, and al-Maliki’s Shiite-led bloc gaining 89. Al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government quickly demanded a recount after refusing to accept the results. But international observers said the vote was fair and transparent.

Read more: AP, The Telegraph, Bloomberg


Obama visits US troops in Afghanistan


US President Barack Obama, on his first presidential visit to Afghanistan, told US forces they were there to help Afghans forge a hard-won peace, adding they would prevail against their enemies and keep America safe and secure. Obama left Afghanistan almost immediately after meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and stressed the need to tackle corruption and drug-trafficking. Obama ordered the deployment of an extra 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan in December last year, but only a few thousand of the extra forces have arrived so far.

Read more: BBC, Press Trust of India, Guardian


Pope tells faithful that media reports on Church sexual abuse just gossip

Vatican City

Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims massed in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican that faith will give him the courage not to be intimidated by critics, after media reports implicated him for not reporting sexual abuse scandals that are rocking the Catholic Church. The pontiff led tens of thousands of people in a Palm Sunday service at the start of Holy Week commemorating Easter. He didn’t directly mention the scandal, but said he wouldn’t be intimidated by the “petty gossip of dominant opinion”, adding that man can sometimes “fall to the lowest, vulgar levels” and “sink into the swamp of sin and dishonesty”. It appears the Pope was referring to the reports in the media, not the allegations of abuse within the Church.

Read more: BBC, The New York Times


Abu Dhabi prince missing in Moroccan glider crash


Rescuers are searching for Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the head of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, after his glider crashed into an artificial lake in Morocco. The pilot of the aircraft was rescued unhurt, but Al Nahyan – who is the younger brother of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader of the United Arab Emirates – could not be found. The glider crashed into the Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah Dam, which forms the lake, some 35 kilometres south of the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Read more: Gulf News, AP, Voice of America


South Korean naval ship sinks in mysterious circumstances

South Korea

A South Korean naval ship appears to have been split in two by an explosion that left 46 sailors missing for three days in near-freezing water. The two halves are lying on the sea bed, but bad weather has stopped divers from reaching the wreckage. The cause of the explosion remains unclear, but the South Koran military are investigating the possibility of an accidental onboard explosion, a blast caused by hitting rocks or sea mines, or a deliberate attack. The vessel sank near the disputed maritime border with North Korea, but officials say there’s no indication North Korea was involved. The North last week threatened to launch a nuclear war over allegations that the US and its allies were trying to destabilise the isolated country. The world had better hope the naval ship suffered an accident.

Read more: CNN, Xinhua, The New York Times, Bloomberg


Missing Chinese human rights campaigner found


Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, missing for more than a year after being detained and allegedly tortured by police, told Western journalists by phone he was living “a quiet life” near Wutai mountain, a Buddhist landmark in northern Shanxi province. But many questions remain about Gao’s situation after he told Reuters he had been released six months ago, having been abducted by police in February 2009. He has also spoken by phone to his two children, who along with his wife sought political asylum in the US. Reuters said it had taken steps to verify Gao’s identity, after another human rights lawyer, Li Heping said he had also spoken to the missing man. His disappearance prompted the US and the EU to ask China to investigate the matter.

Read more: The Telegraph, The Epoch Times, Guardian


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