In brief: Handout prompts deadly stampede

Kunda, India – Police launched a criminal investigation today into a deadly stampede at a Hindu temple in northern India as relatives made funeral preparations for the 63 victims, most of them women and children.

The stampede occurred Thursday afternoon as thousands of poor villagers scrambled for free food and clothes at a commemorative event at a temple in the small town of Kunda, on the northern plains of Uttar Pradesh state.

Authorities were not informed of the event beforehand and adequate measures to ensure the safety of participants were not in place, Superintendent of Police S.M. Mishra said.

Relatives also complained that organizers should have done a better job of controlling the crowds.

Mishra said police opened a criminal negligence case against the temple management.

Another Taliban leader arrested

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani intelligence agents have arrested a senior Afghan Taliban commander, the latest move in a crackdown on the insurgent network in Pakistan.

Agha Jan Mohtasim, a former finance minister for the Taliban before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, was detained in the southern city of Karachi, two intelligence officials said Thursday. One of the officials said two other Taliban associates were arrested along with Mohtasim, though he would not identify them.

The agents did not say when the arrests were made.

Pakistan and Afghan officials have said at least four other Afghan Taliban leaders have been arrested in Pakistan in recent weeks, including the No. 2 leader of the movement, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

The arrests have been hailed by U.S. officials and many analysts as a major blow to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Attacks target early voting

Baghdad – A string of deadly blasts shattered an early round of voting in Iraq on Thursday, killing 17 people and highlighting the fragile nature of the country’s security gains ahead of crucial parliamentary elections this Sunday.

Iraqi security forces were out in full force, trying to protect early voters in an election that will determine who will lead the country through the crucial period of the U.S. troop drawdown and help decide whether the country can overcome its deep sectarian divisions.

But three explosions – a rocket attack and two suicide bombings – showed the ability of insurgents to carry out bloody attacks. They have promised to disrupt the voting with violence.

“Terrorists wanted to hamper the elections, thus they started to blow themselves up in the streets,” said Deputy Interior Minister Ayden Khalid Qader, responsible for election-related security across the country.

Thursday’s voting was for those who might not be able to get to the polls Sunday. The vast majority of early voters were the Iraqi police and military who will be working election day – when the rest of the country votes – to enforce security. Others voting included detainees, hospital patients and medical workers.


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