Srinagar, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Armed soldiers and police fanned out across much of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday as separatists challenging Indian rule called for a general strike to mourn the deaths of civilians and armed rebels during confrontation with government forces.
The death toll of civilians in an explosion after a gunbattle between government forces and militants the previous day climbed to seven as another injured young man died at a hospital on early Monday.
Government forces Monday patrolled streets in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar and enforced a security lockdown in the downtown neighborhoods in anticipation of anti-India protests. Businesses, schools and shops remained shut and public transport stayed off the roads.
Eight combatants, including five militants and three Indian soldiers, were killed in a pair of gunbattles on Sunday, officials said, triggering massive anti-India protests and clashes during one of the fighting in which nearly three dozen people were injured. The seven civilians were killed in an explosion at the site in southern Kulgam after the fighting ended, police and residents said.
Protesting villagers in Kulgam made several attempts to reach the site where the rebels were trapped, barraging troops with stones and abuse. They were trying to distract the soldiers who apart from guns and grenades also used explosives to blast the house where the rebels were cornered, residents and police said.
Authorities offered condolences to the families of slain and reiterated that gunbattle sites should not be visited by civilians until they're cleaned from any leftover explosives.
Some residents blamed Indian troops for excessive use of explosives in populated areas and deliberately leaving explosives at the site.
"It's routine with them (Indian army) to blast homes with explosives for killing holed up militants. High over their victory of killing Kashmiris, they leave the area without clearing it from unexploded explosives," said Farooq Ahmed, a resident in southern Kulgam area where Sunday's incident occurred. "It's so sinisterly planned, and it has happened so many times."
Anger spiraled in the region after the deaths, sparking protests and clashes at many places. Separatist leaders called for Monday's strike to protest what it described "Indian occupation forces crossing all limits of repression to break Kashmir's freedom struggle."
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Tokyo, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — Japanese-born Marine biologist Osamu Shimomura, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, has died. He was 90.
His alma mater Nagasaki University said Monday that Shimomura died Friday of natural causes.
Shimomura and two American scientists shared the 2008 Nobel prize for the discovery and development of a jellyfish protein that contributed to cancer studies.
Shimomura was born in Kyoto in 1928 and studied in Nagasaki, where he survived the Aug. 9, 1945, U.S. atomic bombing.
After earning chemistry degree in 1951, he moved to Princeton University, where he found the protein from 10,000 jellyfish samples on America's West Coast.
Male, Oct 22 (AP/UNB) — The Maldives' top court on Sunday dismissed the outgoing president's petition seeking an annulment of last month's presidential election result.
The five-member Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the election was conducted within the law. No other details were immediately known.
The Election Commission had declared opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih the winner of the Sept. 23 election against President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Yameen's party challenged the result, alleging vote rigging, fraud and corruption in the election process.
Four of the five members of the Election Commission fled after the election, citing intimidation by Yameen's supporters.
President-elect Solih's spokeswoman, Mariya Didi, said "the case was based on conjecture and conspiracy theory."
"We are pleased that the court ruled unanimously to uphold the will of the people. There is zero evidence that the election was fixed," Didi said in a tweet.
President Yameen "should do the honorable thing: accept defeat & ensure a smooth transfer of power," she said.
The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago known for its luxury resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. Yameen is accused of rolling back many of the democratic gains.
Solih was chosen as the Maldivian Democratic Party's presidential candidate in July after exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed abandoned plans to run because of a past criminal conviction that made him ineligible.
Nasheed had been serving 13 years in prison before his exile in a verdict that was widely criticized as politically motivated. The Supreme Court earlier this year ordered Nasheed's release and retrial, but the government refused to implement the ruling.
Yameen had expected to contest the election virtually unopposed, with all of his potential opponents either in jail or forced into exile. Following the Supreme Court order to release and retry Nasheed, the government arrested the chief justice and another judge. The remaining three Supreme Court justices then reversed the order.
In the Maldives' first multiparty election in 2008, Nasheed defeated 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in 2012 amid public protests over his order to the military to detain a sitting judge. He lost the 2013 election to Gayoom's half brother, Yameen, who has reversed many of the country's democratic gains.
Gayoom is now an ally of the pro-Nasheed coalition and was jailed by his half brother.
Yameen's administration has also jailed his former vice president, two defense ministers, the chief justice and a Supreme Court judge, as well as many other politicians and officials.
Seoul, 22 Oct (AP/UNB) — Military officers from the two Koreas and the U.S.-led U.N. Command met again at the Koreas' border village Monday to examine an ongoing effort to disarm the area.
Demilitarizing the Panmunjom village inside the Koreas' heavily fortified border was among many agreements the Koreas struck in September to lower military tensions between the rivals.
Under the deals, troops from the Koreas began clearing mines from Panmunjom earlier this month before withdrawing weapons and guard posts there. They eventually plan to have 35 unarmed personnel from each side guard the village.
Monday's trilateral talks are the second in kind in about a week. Officially, the village is jointly overseen by North Korea and the U.N. Command, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The talks are to review the demining work and discussing future steps in the area, South Korea's Defense Ministry said in a statement.
As part of the September agreements, the two Koreas are removing mines from another frontline area where they plan their first-ever joint searches for the remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War. The Koreas also plan to establish buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries, and a no-fly zone above the border.
General-level officers from the Koreas are to meet at Panmunjom on Friday to discuss more details about how to implement the tension-reduction deals, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
Also Monday, officials from the Koreas separately met at their recently launched liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong for talks on how to cooperate in forestry sectors.
Seoul's liberal government is pushing for greater engagement with North Korea, but U.S. officials say such moves should be in tandem with global efforts to denuclearize North Korea.
Kabul, Oct 20 (AP/UNB) — Some Afghans lined up for hours to cast their vote Saturday in a chaotic start to parliamentary elections that are being protected by tens of thousands of security forces on alert nationwide following a campaign marred by relentless violence.
In some parts of the capital Kabul, voters waited for polls to open five hours after the official opening time of 7 a.m. In some of the city's western neighborhoods, voters were posting pictures of closed polling stations hours after they were scheduled to open.
Afghans hoping to bring change to a corrupt government have in the eight years since the last elections endured a resurgent Taliban that have carried out near-daily attacks on security forces, seizing large swathes of the countryside and threatening major cities.
The Islamic State affiliate, meanwhile, has launched a wave of bombings targeting the country's Shiite minority, killing hundreds. Both groups have threatened to attack anyone taking part in the vote.
Poll workers struggled with a new biometric system and in several polling stations workers took an extraordinary amount of time to locate names on voter lists. In some polling stations in Kabul, voting started considerably late leading to small disturbances by frustrated voters, some of whom had come to vote nearly two hours before polls opened.
The new biometric machines meant to curtail fraud were late additions to Afghanistan's elections and had not been tested in the field and workers had not had more than a few weeks to learn the system. Even the Independent Election Commission chairman, Abdul Badih Sayat, warned ahead of polling that the system might experience glitches and asked for voters' patience.
The chaos at the polls could compromise the legitimacy of Saturday's vote in the minds of many Afghans, who have already expressed fears of fraud aimed at keeping the warlords and politically corrupt who currently dominate Afghanistan's Parliament in power.
As the extent of the delays began to be known, Sayat went on national television to promise that everyone who wanted to vote would have an opportunity. He extended voting till 8 p.m. at those polling stations which opened as many as six hours late. For those polling stations that were still closed six hours after the 7 a.m. polling start, Sayat said they would vote on Sunday.
North of Kabul, thousands of outraged voters blocked a road after waiting more than five hours for a polling station to open, said Mohammad Azim, the governor of Qarabagh district where the demonstration took place.
Sayat said dozens of teachers who had been trained in the new biometric system had not shown up for work at the polling stations. It wasn't clear whether that was related to a Taliban warning directed specifically at teachers and students telling them to stay away from the polls.
It also wasn't immediately clear how many of the 21,000 polling stations across the country would be affected by the new closing time.
Afghanistan's deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq expressed outrage at the chaotic start to polling and assailed election preparation by the country's Independent Election Commission.
"The people rushed like a flood to the polling stations, but the election commission employees were not present, and in some cases they were there but there were no electoral materials and in most cases the biometric systems was not working," he said.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry said it had increased its deployment of National Security Forces to 70,000 from the original 50,000 to protect the country's 21,000 polling stations.
Elections in the two provinces of Kandahar and Ghazni have been delayed as well as in 11 of the country's nearly 400 districts.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani marked his ballot at the start of voting. In a televised speech afterward, he congratulated Afghans on another election and praised the security forces, particularly the air force, for getting ballots to Afghanistan's remotest corners. He also reminded those elected to Parliament that they are there to serve the people and ensure the rule of law.
The Independent Election Commission registered 8.8. million people. Wasima Badghisy, a commission member, called voters "very, very brave" and said a turnout of 5 million would be a success.
At a polling station in crowded west Kabul, Khoda Baksh said he arrived nearly two hours early to cast his vote, dismissing Taliban threats of violence.
"We don't care about their threats. The Taliban are threatening us all the time," said 55-year-old Baksh, who said he wanted to see a new generation of politicians take power in Afghanistan's 249-seat Parliament. He bemoaned the current Parliament dominated by warlords and a corrupt elite. "They have done zero for us."
Within hours of the start of polling, several minor incidences of violence had occurred in Kabul as well as several provinces as both the upstart Islamic State group affiliate and the Taliban have vowed to disrupt elections
In the run-up to the elections, two candidates were killed while polling in Kandahar was delayed for a week after a rogue guard gunned down the powerful provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq. In the capital of Kabul, security was tight, with police and military personnel stopping vehicles at dozens of checkpoints throughout the congested city.
Commission deputy spokesman Aziz Ibrahimi said results of Saturday's voting will not be released before mid-November and final results will not be out until later in December.
Ghani said Afghans alone are carrying out elections as he praised the millions of voters who registered, defying threats from insurgents.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said.