Kazakhstan bus fire kills 52

AKTOBE: A bus has caught fire in north-western Kazakhstan, killing 52 people, the interior ministry has said. Five people managed to get out and were treated by rescue workers on the spot, reports said. The accident happened at 1030 local time on Thursday (0430 GMT) in the Irgiz district of Aktobe region. The bus is thought to have been carrying Uzbek citizens to or from Russia along the Samara-Shymkent route, said local media.

The route, which is about 2,200km (1,300 miles) long, is frequently used by Uzbek migrant labourers travelling to construction sites in Russia, observers said.

The emergency services ministry told AFP news agency that 55 passengers and two drivers had been aboard the bus. Five passengers received medical assistance. The remainder were killed, it said in a statement. But the causes of the deadly blaze are so far unclear.

Emergency officials have opened a telephone hotline for worried relatives. A local journalist, Askar Aktileu, posted a picture of the burned-out wreckage on his Instagram page. —AFP

Last three years hottest on record: UN

GENEVA: The last three years were the hottest on record, the United Nations weather agency said yesterday, citing fresh global data underscoring the dramatic warming of the planet.

Consolidated data from five leading international weather agencies shows that “2015, 2016 and 2017 have been confirmed as the three warmest years on record”, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.

It added that 2016 remains the hottest year ever measured due to the warming effect of El Nino, while 2017 was the warmest non-El Nino year, beating out 2015 by less than one-hundredth of a degree.

“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,” WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

The 21st century has so far been a period of the hottest weather, accounting for 17 of the 18 warmest years on record. The WMO also highlighted the intensification of weather and climate related disasters, which hit record levels in the United States last year, while multiple countries were devastated by cyclones, floods and drought. —Agencies

Man died, two injured in knife attacks in Melbourne

By SJA Jafri

MELBOURNE: Police said a man died after he was found outside a block of flats in North Melbourne, while two men in their 20s were attacked by a group on a street in Noble Park.

Police said the victim of the North Melbourne stabbing died at the Royal Melbourne Hospital after being treated by paramedics at the scene.

Emergency crews were called to the entrance of the flats, on Courtney Street, about 4:45am.

Police said they have not yet worked out the circumstances of the stabbing and were door knocking the area this morning.

Russell Mulry, who works nearby on Queensberry Street, said he was shocked to hear what had happened in an area he said was not usually violent.

“You get the few odd people walking around the streets as you do in every suburb and town, but I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary,” he said.

In Noble Park, two men in their 20s were stabbed after they were approached by a group of men.

“Investigators have been told the pair was walking in the vicinity of Corrigan Road and Green Street about 1:00am when they were approached by five to six men armed with a knife, they made demands for cash,” a police statement said.

South Korea to continue talks with ‘clear eyes’

SEOUL: South Korea says it will continue high-level talks with North Korea with clear eyes amid global warnings that Pyongyang might be playing for time to continue its nuclear-arms programme.

We have to make the most of the opportunity, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told the media.

The two Koreas earlier agreed to march under a unified Korea flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South.

The talks come as the US and its allies vowed to keep pressure on the North.

On Wednesday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said sanctions were really starting to hurt, expressing confidence that the pressure would eventually force the North to the negotiating table over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Last year, US President Donald Trump said that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.

Also on Wednesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the world should not be blinded by Pyongyang’s recent charm offensive.

It is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea, Mr Kono said, Reuters news agency reported. —Agencies

Indian boy shot dead in police crossfire

LUCKNOW: An eight-year-old boy was shot and killed in police crossfire in northern India, an officer said yesterday.

Madhav Bharadwaj was playing with friends in Uttar Pradesh state when he was shot dead in front of his grandfather late Wednesday.

Police said they went into the boy´s village on a tip-off that suspected robbers were hiding out there, and it was unclear who fired the bullet that struck him.

Villagers, however, told local media that only police were shooting. “Three policemen came to the village and asked the (suspects) to gather at the terrace of a nearby temple for a talk. But suddenly the cops began firing,” the boy´s grandfather told the Times of India newspaper.

“My poor grandson was playing nearby and got hit. I froze for a moment. I was unable to understand what had happened.” Rajesh Kumar Sonker, a superintendent of police in Mathura district where the incident took place, told AFP an investigation was under way.  —AFP

7 ethnic Rakhine killed as Myanmar police open fire at riot: Official

YANGON: Myanmar police opened fire on a crowd of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as they tried to seize a government office late yesterday, in unrest that left seven dead and injured around a dozen more, police told AFP.

Several thousand Buddhist protesters had gathered for a ceremony in Mrauk U, an ancient temple complex that has so far remained unscathed by the military’s crackdown on the region’s minority Rohingya Muslim community.

It was not immediately clear why the rally descended into violence.

But the clashes came on the same day as a repatriation agreement was signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh to start the return of some 655,000 Rohingya refugees from squalid camps back over the border.

A police spokesman blamed the crowd for “starting the violence” after barging into a district administrative office and hoisting the Rakhine State flag.

“Security forces asked them to disperse and fired warning shots with rubber bullets… but they didn’t stop, so police had to use real bullets,” Myanmar police spokesman Colonel Myo Soe told AFP.

“Seven people were killed and 13 injured during last night’s violence in Mrauk U,” he said adding more than 20 police were wounded by sling shots and stones hurled by the crowd.

Mrauk U lies only a few dozen kilometres from the epicentre of violence that saw Rohingya driven in their hundreds of thousands into Bangladesh last August. Rakhine state is bisected by divisions and communal hatreds. —AFP

Man bitten by police dog in Melbourne

By SJA Jafri

MELBOURNE: A man was bitten by a police dog after he allegedly threatened officers with an axe in Melbourne’s north-west.

Police were called to resolve a neighborhood dispute between two men on a Delahey street about midnight.

One of the men allegedly grabbed a weapon and lunged at officers on-scene.

A police dog then attacked the offender, who was later taken to hospital for treatment.

21 states sue to stop net neutrality rollback

WASHINGTON: FCC Chairperson Ajit Pai led the organization in a repeal of net neutrality last year, but legislators and states have both indicated they won’t let things lapse without a fight. Twenty-one states, including New York, California, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia, have filed suit alongside the District of Columbia, requesting that the federal government review the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order.

Ajit Pai’s decision to rescind net neutrality protections has not been particularly popular with the American public. Public polling for net neutrality support showed repeatedly that US citizens favor keeping rules in place requiring ISPs to treat content equally. It certainly hasn’t helped that many of the objections to net neutrality involve completely false talking points about investment (it didn’t drop) or how the new rules gave the FCC control over what ISPs charge. The FCC chairperson who enacted net neutrality, Tom Wheeler, neither argued for sweeping powers or requested them. “An open internet – and the free exchange of ideas it allows – is critical to our democratic process,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.

“The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers – allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online. This would be a disaster for New York consumers and businesses, and for everyone who cares about a free and open internet. That’s why I’m proud to lead this broad coalition of 22 Attorneys General in filing suit to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality.” —Agencies

At least 33 human skulls found in western Mexico, official says

MEXICO CITY:  Police have discovered at least 33 human skulls buried in western Mexico, authorities said yesterday, the latest grisly find in a region that has suffered from increasing violence between warring drug cartels.

“So far 33 skulls have been found. All discovered in the same area,” said a government official in the Pacific state of Nayarit, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was not yet clear who the skulls belonged to or why they were buried in three shallow graves, the official said.

Investigations have been underway at the site in southern Nayarit since Saturday and further discoveries of human remains are possible, he said.

Nayarit has been one of the states hit hardest by an increase in gang-related killings, which helped push murders to a record high in Mexico in 2017.

Much of the killing stems from a power struggle between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, a gang based in neighboring Jalisco state, and their rivals in the Sinaloa Cartel of captured kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

U.S. authorities arrested Nayarit’s attorney general in San Diego last year on drug trafficking charges. —Agencies

Three dead in Turkey military plane crash

ISTANBUL: A Turkish military transport plane yesterday crashed in southern Anatolia, claiming the lives of three army personnel on board, the Turkish army said in a statement.

The plane, carrying two pilots and one technician, crashed in the southern Isparta province, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said, offering condolences to the families of “our heroic comrades” who were killed “as a result of a tragic accident.”

The cause of the crash was not immediately known but local governor Sehmus Gunaydin told the state-run TRT television there was dense and thick fog in the region. “We are working to reach the wreck” of the plane, he said. The CASA type plane took off from a base in western Anatolian province of Eskisehir at 0803 GMT and communication had been cut around 0950 GMT, and a search and rescue operation begun, the army said. In December last year, a Turkish fighter jet crashed near an airport in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir but the pilot was able to safely eject from the plane. —Agencies