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Battle for Syria's Aleppo airport intensifies

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February 23, 2013

23:38  Battle for Syria's Aleppo airport intensifies:  The battle for Syria's second-largest airport intensified today as government troops tried to reverse recent strategic gains the rebels have made in the northeast in their quest to topple President Bashar al-Assad. 

Assad's troops have been locked in a stalemate with rebels in Aleppo since July when the city, the largest in Syria, became a major battlefield in the 2-year-old conflict which the United Nations says has killed at least 70,000 people. Rebels have been trying to capture the international airport for months.
23:36  Drug-tainted horsemeat likely in food chain: France:  Horsemeat containing a drug potentially harmful to humans has likely entered the food chain, France said today, adding health concerns to the food scandal raging across Europe. 

A spokesman for the French agriculture ministry told AFP several horse carcasses containing the drug Phenylbutazone have probably ended up being eaten by consumers. Phenylbutazone is an anti-inflammatory treatment for horses which is potentially harmful to humans and by law is supposed to be kept off plates.
22:57  Pistorius tweets thanks on first day out on bail:  South African Paralympic icon and murder suspect Oscar Pistorius today said he was thankful for prayers offered to his family and that of his slain girlfriend, a day after he was freed on bail. 

"Thank-you to every person that has prayed for both families, Osca" read a tweet posted by his brother Carl, in the track star's first public reaction, outside of his court appearances, since his arrest for the Valentine's Day killing of Reeva Steenkamp. The Olympic "Blade Runner" was spending his first day out on bail with his family pending trial for the killing of his lover.
22:12  Vatican denies swirling rumors as pope prepares for final days:  The Vatican sought Saturday to tamp down rumors involving sex, money and gay priests that have been swirling in the Italian media and have been linked by some to Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign.

The strongly-worded denial came on the eve of the pope's last Angelus blessing, expected to draw huge crowds of the faithful, before he stands down on Thursday.

Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said it was "deplorable" that as the time for the Roman Catholic cardinals to elect a new pope approaches, a rash of "often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories" has appeared.
21:32  Leakage reported in six underground nuclear waste tanks in US:  Radioactive leaks have been reported in at least six underground nuclear waste tanks in one of the most contaminated nuclear site on earth - in northwestern US state of Washington - raising concerns about delays in emptying the ageing tanks. 

However the Governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee, who said that there is no immediate or near-term health risk associated with these newly discovered leaks, which are more than five miles from the Columbia River.
20:45  MIT gunman: Man with rifle reported on campus:  A man with a long rifle and body armor was spotted in a building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CBS News and other outlets reported on Saturday morning.

The school's website reported that "multiple law enforcement agencies have responded," and urged students to stay indoors.
20:34  Montek's plane waits in air as cows invade airstrip:  A plane carrying Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia cound not land for quite some time today due to a cow herd grazing on the airstrip near here and it touched down only after officials stepped in and shooed the cattle away. 

 The pilot of the plane carrying Ahluwalia noticed some cows grazing at the Tata Steel Jharia division airstrip at Bhauran, about 23 kms from here, at around 10.50 AM and made some rounds in the air before the airstrip was cleared of the cattle for the plane to land, Superintendent of Police of Dhanbad Ravi Kanth Dhan said.
20:33  Iran refuses to go beyond nuclear obligations:  Iran today said it will not go beyond its obligations or accept anything outside its rights under the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), ahead of talks with major powers on its disputed nuclear drive. "We will not accept anything beyond our obligations and will not accept anything less than our rights," said the Islamic republic's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, quoted by ISNA news agency.

"Iran has fulfilled its NPT obligations as an active and committed member, therefore (it) should gain all of its rights," Jalili said in an address to Iranian nuclear industry officials.
20:31  Pakistani Shiites demand trial of extremist leader:  Pakistani Shiites today demanded that the head of a banned Sunni militant group be put on trial, a day after he was arrested following deadly sectarian attacks in the city of Quetta. 

Malik Ishaq, the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), was held yesterday after two recent bombings in the southwestern city targeting the Shiite Hazara minority killed more than 180 people, sparking nationwide protests. The outlawed militant group, linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for both attacks.
19:31  PM to visit Hyderabad tomorrow:  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Hyderabad tomorrow to take stock of the situation in the aftermath of twin bomb blasts there. Singh will visit the hospital where the injured are being treated besides taking a briefing from Chief Minister Kiran Reddy, sources said. 

Two bombs exploded within a span of minutes in Hyderabad on Thursday evening, killing 16 people and injuring 117. The central government yesterday came under sharp attack in Parliament, with the Opposition saying terror was being dealt with in a casual manner.
19:18  Rs 10 lakh reward for info on Hyderabad blasts:  CCTV footage from Dilsukhnagar blast site was being examined by investigators, police said today, while Andhra Pradesh government announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for credible information leading to cracking of the case. 

Dismissing speculation that the CCTV cameras near the blast site were not functioning, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma said the video footage was available to them and was being analysed.
19:06  Hanging of Afzal Guru unfortunate: Yasin Malik:  Separatist JKLF Chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik has said that it was very unfortunate that Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's mercy petition was dismissed and he was hanged in secrecy. 

Guru had a constitutional and legal right to go again to the court after the dismissal of the mercy petition but he was not not given that opportunity, he told a local daily during his current trip to Pakistan.
18:54  Delhi gang rape case: Singapore doctors to depose:  Doctors of a Singapore hospital who had treated the December 16 gangrape victim were today asked by a court here to depose as witness through video conferencing. 

The doctors will record their evidence from Monday before Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna, who is holding the trial on day-to-day basis in the case. The victim was airlifted to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore on December 27, 2012, for further treatment on the advice of a team of doctors from Safdarjung hospital after 10 days of the incident.
18:45  Hackers post bomb threat on Bihar Tourism website:  A threat of Hyderabad-like blasts to avenge the hanging of Afzal Guru was posted on the website of Bihar Tourism department after it was attacked by hackers this morning. 

Bihar Tourism minister Sunil Kumar Pintu said the website remained hacked from morning till 2:30 pm. The hackers posted the threat to repeat Hyderabad-like blasts, besides message like 'Pakistan Zindabad', he said. 

The website is maintained by Mumbai-based IT company Amatya Media.
18:44  Top CPC body to finalise China's new Cabinet next week:  The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), headed by its new leader Xi Jinping, would meet next week to finalise a new Cabinet and administrative reforms as it is set to assume power in March in the once-in-a-decade leadership change. 

The Second Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of CPC, a key policy body, will be held here from February 26-28, according to a decision by the 21-member Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Saturday.
18:24  Blasts case: CCTV footage being examined:  Investigators today claimed to have got "vital clues" in the probe into the twin blasts in the city and were examining CCTV footage with the needle of suspicion zeroing in on banned militant outfit Indian Mujahideen. Police also announced Rs 10 lakh award for information leading to the perpetrators of Thursday's serial blasts that left 16 dead and 117 injured. 

"We have already gathered vital clues in the case. We are confident we will crack the case soon," state Home Minister P Sabita Indra Reddy said after a high-level review meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy.
17:18  SIT to probe Hyderabad blasts: Police Commissioner :  Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma addressed the media on the blasts case today. Here is what he said:

The police has handed over the investigation in the blasts cases to SIT. Six special teams are probing the attacks. Bomb detection squads have been increased.

ON CCTV cameras: The police have put up CCTV cameras for traffic management. CCTV cameras from Dilksuhnagar are being analysed. NO wires of CCTV cameras near the blast site have been cut. 265 cameras in the city are functioning.

The police have requested Rs 10 lakh reward for any information on bombers.

On alerts: In November, an intelligence team was sent to Delhi to interrogate and Indian Mujahideen modules in Delhi. Majority from the module were arrested. And no warning was taken lightly.   

Since November, the police have been on maximum alert. Entire police force was deployed.
16:42  Ex-Maldives prez Nasheed leaves Indian embassy:   Times Now reports: Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed leaves Indian embassy in Male after 11 days. Sources say that Nasheed's trial is likely to be deffered.

Forty-five-year-old Nasheed took refuge in the Indian high commission in Male to evade arrest warrant issued by a local court in a case concerning the detention of chief judge of the criminal court during his presidency in January last year.

Nasheed left the premises of the High Commission at 16.15 hrs (IST), says the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.

An Indian delegation was in Male to hold talks with the Maldivian government and resolve the crisis.  
16:05  51pc polling in Meghalaya in first five hours:  Defying a bandh called by militants in seven districts, 51 per cent of the over 15 lakh electorate cast their votes in the first five hours of pollingto the 60-member Meghalaya assembly today.   

"Till 1 pm around 51 per cent of votes were cast out ofthe 15 lakh plus voters in the state," Chief Election Officer P Naik said. He said that voting was more intense in Khasi JaintiaHills region despite a 36-hour bandh called from 6:00 pm yesterday by the banned Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council in seven districts.
14:53  Hyderabad blasts: 6 detained for questioning :  As the Hyderabad Police continues investigations in the serial blasts case, six people have been detained for questioning, reports NDTV.

The National Investigation Agency  is conducting raids at various places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, looking for alleged terror modules.
14:38  2G scam: A Raja wants to appear before JPC:  Reports our correspondent from New Delhi: Former telecom minister A Raja, who is an accused in the 2G spectrum scam, has sought Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar's permission to depose before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, probing the case, and render his side of the argument.

"In the deliberations on the JPC, some of the honourable members have expressed their desire that I should be called upon to depose before it. For the reasons set out in this letter, I respectfully submit that I am willing and indeed anxious to appear before the JPC, which may kindly be directed to summon me as soon as possible,' Raja writes.  
14:06  Fayaz Kagzai headed IM module behind Hyd blasts? :  Vicky Nanjappa reports from Hyderabad: Is Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Abu Jundal linked to the Indian Mujahideen module that carried out the Hyderabad blasts? Investigators say that the interrogation report of Jundal (an accused in the 26/11 case) would be revisited.

The information he has provided on his associate Fayaz Kagzai could hold the key to understand the Indian Mujahideen module, which is suspected to have masterminded Thursday's blasts, better.  

According to sources, Jundal had said in his interrogation that Kagzai controlled the Indian Mujahideen outfit, which carried out blasts in Pune and Hyderabad. Jundal, who was one of the men in the control room at Karachi staging the 26/11 attack, also confessed that he was moved out of Pakistan and sent to Saudi Arabia to help Kagzai, who was instrumental in setting up the IM base on the instructions of the LeT.
13:49  30 pc polling in Nagaland in first 3 hours :  Around 30 per cent votes were cast in the first three hours of polling in Nagaland, where election is on for its 60-member House today amidst unprecedented security.

Election is, however, being held for 59 seats today following the sudden death of Congress candidate P Chuba Chang of Teunsang sadar seat here yesterday.

The Election Commission has adjourned the polling in the constituency for a later date. Official sources said no untoward incident was reported from any part of the state, where two persons were killed and two others injured in poll-related violence in Tuensang and Wokha districts.
13:04  Hyd blasts: Police quiz two-time terror survivor :   Abdul Wasey Mirza, a 23-year-old unemployed youth who became the victim of a terror attack for the second time on Thursday during the Dilsukhnagar twin blasts, has been questioned by police which is not treating him as a suspect.

"As part of the investigations we only recorded his statement as a witness along with others," Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma told PTI.

When asked if Wasey was being treated as a suspect in the case, he said, "Nothing like that."
12:57  Blasts: Police to study 60 hours of CCTV footage:   Vicky Nanjappa reports from Hyderabad: The 60 hours of CCTV footage, obtained by the special cell of the Hyderabad police, will be crucial in cracking the twin blasts case. The police have managed to get access to footage from four cameras installed near the Dilsusknagar blast site.

The clearest images have been procured from a private camera installed on top of a house in the area. Two people are seen plating bombs on Thursday evening. Also, the police have managed to obtain footage from the camera at the nearby Sai Baba temple, which was first on the target list of terrorists.

However, these images are hazy. The other footage from the other two cameras may not be of much use to investigators. They primarily have captured the commotion caused by the blasts.     
12:07  Hyderabad blasts: Did Delhi, Maha cops have leads? :  Vicky Nanjappa reports from Hyderabad: Who had information on the recce of the blast sites in Hyderabad? That's the big question being raised as investigations proceed in attacks at Dilksukhnagar, which claimed 16 lives.   

According to sources in the special cell of the Hyderabad police, the Delhi police had the information first, which was in turn passed on to the Maharashtra police.
11:42  WB: Now, Mamata's men ransack police station:  Trinamool Congress workers ransack a police station in Chaigoria in North 24 Praganas, West Bengal. They allege that the police did not take action despite complaint of corruption against a Panchayat member.    
11:09  Hyderabad blasts: Did Maha ATS have key leads? :  NDTV reports: The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad is likely to have had crucial leads prior to the Hyderabad blasts case but failed to act on it quickly enough. Police are now investigating whether key suspects in the Pune blasts case of August last year were behind the Hyderabad blasts as well, the report says.

Read the full report on NDTV

10:23  Pakistan detains Lashkar-e-Jhangvi founder Malik Ishaq :   Pakistani authorities have detained the founder and former head of militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Malik Ishaq at his home in Punjab province.  

The group said that it carried out an attack in a Shia Muslim area of the southern city of Quetta last Saturday, which killed almost 90 people.
10:13  US joins lawsuit against Lance Armstrong:  The United States Department of Justice said it has joined the whistle-blower lawsuit against cyclist Lance Armstrong that was originally filed by a former teammate. The Justice Department will file its formal complaint in 60 days, reports CNN.

Armstrong, 41, was stripped of those titles last year after the US Anti-Doping Agency uncovered overwhelming evidence, with testimony from 26 witnesses, that he was at the heart of a major doping conspiracy. He has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.

Read the full report on CNN

10:01  Pentagon grounds its entire fleet of F35 fighter jets:   The United States military temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets -- used in the air force, navy and marines -- as a precautionary measure after a routine inspection detected a crack on an engine blade.

All F-35 flight operations have been suspended until the investigation is complete, the Pentagon said in a statement on Friday.
09:55  Secret Vatileaks report forced Pope to retire?:  A secret report on the Vatileaks scandal is rumoured to have forced Benedict XVI to retire, reports the Daily Mail.

The Pope has sent a top official to Colombia amid scandalous rumours about a secret report into the 'Vatileaks' scandal. The scandal erupted last year after papers taken from the pope's desk were published in a blockbuster book. The pope's butler was convicted in October of aggravated theft, and later pardoned, the report says.

Read the full report here
09:27  Polling begins in Meghalaya and Nagaland :  Polling began to elect 60 members to the ninth Meghalaya assembly from among 345 candidates today with an electorate of 15.3 lakh. Polling also began amidst tight security today to elect 60 members to the 12th Nagaland assembly from among 188 candidates with an electorate of 11.93 lakh eligible to vote.
09:25   Jammu-Kashmir highway closed due to heavy snow:  There has been heavy snowfall in Kashmir. The Jammu-Kashmir highway is closed. Water and power services are disrupted.
03:30  'Smiling Buddha' was a near failure: US cable:  The first nuclear weapon test carried out by India in 1974 was a 'near failure', claimed a secret US assessment made in 1996, but it does not explain the reasons for it to arrive at such a conclusion.

The National Security Archive, which obtained these documents from the state department under the Freedom of Information Act and made it public yesterday, noted that such an assertion by the US intelligence community may be a reference to the very low explosive yield of the 1974 nuclear tests.

The nuclear tests codenamed 'Operation Smiling Buddha', tested a thermonuclear device in the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan.

Though the yield of the device is debated since then, it is believed that the actual yield was around 8-12 Kilotons of TNT.

The intelligence assessment dated January 24, 1996 also revealed that it was the Indian scientific community who was pushing the then Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, for another nuclear test.
01:19  US detected Indian nuke test buildup in 1995:  In the last months of 1995, US intelligence agencies detected signs of India's nuclear test preparations at Pokhran but the satellite photos that analysts studied were 'as clear as mud', according to declassified documents published today.

The set of classified documents released by National Security Archive and Nuclear Proliferation International History Project through the mandatory declassification review process, sheds light on the intelligence watch over the Indian test site and the Bill Clinton administration's efforts to head-off a feared test.

Surveillance by US intelligence of the Indian test site at Pokhran was intense.
00:53  Mathai concludes US visit:  Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai concluded his three-day US trip after his meeting with Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, at the Pentagon, early this morning.

"Dr Carter's continued engagement with senior Indian officials demonstrates the importance the Defence Department places on US-India relations," a Pentagon spokesperson said after the meeting.

During his three-day trip to Washington, Mathai held wide range of talks on bilateral and regional issues with top American officials including his meeting with the new Secretary of State, John Kerry.
00:12  Top headlines of the last 24 hours:  
PICS: IAF's firepower at IRON FIST along Pak border

Are these the men who planted the bombs in Hyderabad?

'People thought the first blast was a gas cylinder burst'

Delhi gang rape: Mehra panel slams police, transport dept

Hyd blasts: Ammonium nitrate procured locally, say cops

Suriyanelli rape: Complaint lodged against Kurien

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