- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008


Stampede turns deadly for pilgrims

NEW DELHI | Thousands of panicked pilgrims stampeded Sunday at a remote mountaintop temple in northern India during celebrations to honor a Hindu goddess, sending dozens of people plummeting to their deaths and trampling scores more. Police said 145 people were killed.

Rumors of a landslide apparently started the panic at the shrine in the foothills of the Himalayas, said C.P. Verma, a senior government official in the Bilaspur district.

Pilgrims already at the Naina Devi Temple began running down the narrow path leading from the peak. There, they collided with devotees winding their way up.

With a concrete wall on one side and a precipice on the other, there was nowhere to escape and they were crushed. At one point, a guardrail broke and dozens of people fell to their deaths.

At the Bilaspur hospital in Himachal Pradesh state, rescue workers unloaded bodies wrapped in brown blankets from a truck and laid them in neat rows so they could be identified by relatives.

Tens of thousands of worshippers had flocked to the remote temple in the foothills of the Himalayas to celebrate Shravan Navratras, a nine-day festival that honors the Hindu goddess Shakrti, or divine mother.


Al Qaeda confirms death in air strike

CAIRO | Al Qaeda confirmed Sunday the death of a top commander accused of training the suicide bombers who killed 17 American sailors on the USS Cole eight years ago.

Abu Khabab al-Masri, who had a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, is thought to have been killed in an air strike apparently launched by the U.S. in Pakistan last week.

An al Qaeda statement posted on the Internet said al-Masri and three other top figures were killed and warned of vengeance for their deaths. It did not say when, where or how they died but said some of their children were killed along with them.

Pakistani authorities have said they think al-Masri is one of six people killed in an air strike on July 28 on a compound in South Waziristan, a lawless tribal region near the Afghan border.

Al-Masri is thought to have conducted experiments in chemical and biological weapons, testing materials on dogs.


Rivals resume power-sharing talks

JOHANNESBURG | Zimbabwe’s rival parties resumed power-sharing talks on Sunday, one day before the expiration of a deadline to conclude discussions over ending the country’s ruinous political crisis.

After nearly a weeklong break and suggestions the talks were deadlocked, negotiators met again in South Africa to resolve the crisis, which intensified after President Robert Mugabe’s controversial re-election.

“They started this afternoon,” said Mukoni Ratshitanga, spokesman for South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the talks that have been held in a secret location.

He said more talks were to occur on Monday, but declined to provide further details.

A spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Tapiwa Mashakada, confirmed that the party’s negotiators had returned to Pretoria for Sunday’s meeting.

The meeting came after a bomb exploded at Harare’s main police station Saturday night, shattering windows and damaging 13 offices and a kitchen, but causing no injuries, police said. It was not clear who was responsible.


Officer suspended in child’s shooting

JERUSALEM | Israeli police have questioned and suspended a border policeman suspected of fatally shooting a Palestinian boy during a protest against Israel’s separation barrier last week, a spokesman said Sunday.

Twelve-year-old Hamed Mussa was killed Tuesday by a live bullet fired by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank village of Nilin, a site for regular demonstrations against the controversial barrier.

“One border policeman that was at the scene at the time of the incident was questioned for 24 hours and sent for house arrest for five days in connection with the incident,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Agence France-Presse.

The police investigation, still under way, is being carried out among all border police units present near the flash-point village at the time, he added.

Israel says the projected 454 miles of steel and concrete walls, fences and barbed wire is needed for security, while Palestinians view it as a land grab that undermines their future state.

To date, Israel has built 57 percent of the projected barrier, most of it in the West Bank.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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