- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2012

PATNA | At least 14 people were killed, including some children, in a stampede Monday night during a religious festival in the eastern state of Bihar, police said.

The stampede occurred as hundreds of Hindu worshippers gathered along the bank of the Ganges River in Patna to offer prayers to the sun god during the Chhath festival, police Superintendent Jayant Kant said.

A power outage sparked panic as crowds filled a makeshift bamboo walkway leading from the riverbank into the Ganges, he said, and people trampled one another as they fought to get to shore.

About 20 people were rushed to the hospital, some in critical condition, he said.

Deadly stampedes are fairly common during India’s often-chaotic religious festivals, which regularly include tens of thousands of worshippers.

Nine people were killed in a September stampede during another festival in eastern India.


Iran starts building pipeline to Syria for natural gas

TEHRAN | Iran has started construction on a $10 billion natural gas pipeline to key ally Syria, a news agency reported Monday, in an apparent nod of support to President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime and a further attempt by Tehran to boost energy exports battered by international sanctions.

The 750-mile project was first announced in July 2011 as Syrian rebels began stepping up the fight to topple Assad.

Many analysts predicted the pipeline would remain in the planning stages because of the countless risks involved, but Iran’s decision to start work — even just the beginning sections — is seen a public show of confidence in Mr. Assad’s ability to ride out the uprising.

It also reflects Iran’s wider efforts to expand natural gas and oil pipelines to Middle East and Asian markets as Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program cut into sales.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop atomic weapons, an allegation the Iranians deny.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said Iran has begun construction of the first phase of the project involving a 140-mile stretch at an estimated cost of $3 billion.

The pipeline will carry natural gas from the giant South Pars field in the Persian Gulf to Syria via Iraq, whose government has close ties with Iran.

Fars said the entire project is to be completed in the second half of 2013.


Police fire on crowd trying to stop ethnic rioting

NAIROBI | Kenyan police fired bullets and tear gas in downtown Nairobi on Monday in an effort to stop rioters from fighting with ethnic Somalis, one day after a roadside bomb exploded, ripping through a bus and killing nine people.

The fighting exposes increasing tensions between the sizable ethnic Somali-Kenyan community and Kenyan groups with no ties to Somalia.

Tensions have been rising over the past year as terrorists have carried out a series of grenade and bomb attacks in Kenya, including several on Christian churches.

Strained relations with Kenyan-Somalis go back decades when post-colonial boundaries were drawn. But the most recent flare-up began in October 2011, when Kenya sent troops into Somalia to fight the terrorist group al-Shabab.

After that deployment, al-Shabab threatened large-scale attacks in Kenya.

Sunday’s bombing ripped through a bus in Eastleigh, where Nairobi’s Somali community lives. Sheik Mohammed Shakul, a spokesman for Muslim leaders, said such attacks are “barbaric and un-Islamic” and do not represent Muslims.


Protesters, police clash on battle anniversary

CAIRO | Demonstrators in Egypt’s capital clashed Monday with police during a protest to mark a year since a five-day street battle with security forces in which dozens of protesters were killed, witnesses said.

The clashes erupted when protesters tried to destroy a concrete barrier security forces had put up to end last year’s fighting with activists who wanted the military rulers at the time to transfer power to a civilian government.

The official MENA news agency reported three police conscripts and three protesters injured in Monday’s ongoing clashes.

At least 45 protesters died in five days of fighting that began Nov. 19, 2011, to put pressure on the military, which took power after a popular uprising had overthrown President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The military responded by promising to hand over power by June 2012. It transferred control to Islamist President Mohamed Morsi after his election that month.


Plane lands safely after 10,000-foot plunge

ROME | An airliner flying from Havana to Milan, Italy, on Monday plunged 10,000 feet in 10 seconds after hitting unusually strong turbulence over the Atlantic, leaving passengers shaken and bruised, officials said.

The pilot determined that the plane suffered no structural damage, and two passengers who are physicians checked the injured and decided no one was seriously hurt, Giulio Buzzi, head of the pilots division at Neos Air, told Sky TG24 TV. The plane continued its trip to Milan’s Malpensa airport, where it landed safely Monday.

Meals were being served when suddenly there was “10 seconds of terror,” bruised passenger Edoardo De Lucchi told the Italian news agency, ANSA.

He recounted how plates went flying and some passengers not wearing seat belts bounced about.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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