Pakistan bombings: Taliban admits Shabqadar attacks

At least 120 people were wounded in the blasts at the training centre for the Frontier Constabulary in Shabqadar, Charsadda district.

After early suspicions that one of the bombs was planted, police said both blasts were suicide attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the attack to avenge the death of Osama Bin Laden earlier this month.

The al-Qaeda leader was killed during a US commando raid in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad on 2 May.

Friday's attack came hours before army chiefs appeared before parliament to explain their actions over Bin Laden's death.

At the closed-door briefing, ISI chief Lieut-Gen Ahmed Shujaa Pasha is reported to have told MPs that he had offered his resignation after the Navy Seals raid, but had been turned down by the army chief.

'Deadliest attack'

The bombings happened as newly trained cadets from the Frontier Constabulary were getting into buses after completing their course.

The Frontier Constabulary is used to police the regions bordering Pakistan's tribal areas.

"Both attacks were suicide attacks," said the police chief of Charsadda district, Nisar Khan Marwat.

"The first suicide bomber came on a motorcycle and detonated his vest among the Frontier Constabulary men," AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

"When other [Frontier Constabulary] people came to the rescue to help their colleagues, the second bomber came on another motorcycle and blew himself up."

At least 66 of the dead were recruits, but there were also civilian casualties, officials say. A number of vehicles were destroyed in the blast.

"I was sitting in a van waiting for my colleagues. We were in plain clothes and we were happy we were going to see our families," Ahmad Ali, a wounded paramilitary policeman, told AFP.

"I heard someone shouting 'Allahu Akbar' [God is great] and then I heard a huge blast. I was hit by something in my back shoulder.

"In the meantime, I heard another blast and I jumped out of the van. I felt that I was injured and bleeding."

Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar has been inundated with casualties and doctors said they were fighting to save the lives of 40 critically injured cadets.

"It's the first revenge for the martyrdom of... Bin Laden. There will be more," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the Reuters news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Shabqadar lies on the border with Afghanistan, about 35km (22 miles) north-west of Peshawar, not far from the militant stronghold of Mohmand.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says the security forces have often been the target of such attacks as they fight the Pakistani Taliban across the north-west of the country, but Friday's bombing is the deadliest attack this year.

He adds that the Pakistani army - which has come under intense scrutiny and criticism over the Bin Laden affair - is likely to point out that this attack is an illustration of the sacrifices it has made in the "war on terror".

'Living dead'

After Friday's parliamentary briefing, Pakistan's information minister said Lieut-Gen Pasha had told MPs he was ready to take responsibility for any criminal failing.

"If any of our responsibility is determined and any gap identified, that our negligence was criminal negligence, and there was an intentional failure, then we are ready to face any consequences," said the minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, citing the general.

Mr Awan told Express TV that killing Bin Laden had been a shared US-Pakistani goal but the Americans had breached Pakistan's sovereignty by going after him on their own.

The spy chief also told parliament Bin Laden had been isolated and "living like a dead man", the minister said.

"We had already killed all his allies and so we had killed him even before he was dead," Mr Awan cited Lieut-Gen Pasha as saying.

Our correspondent says many politicians and members of the public appear to be less concerned about Bin Laden's presence in Pakistan and more about the way the US was able to carry out its raid without official permission.

The US gives billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Pakistan, but has questioned its reliability as an ally in combating the militants.

In recent years, Taliban militants have killed hundreds of people in bombings and other attacks across Pakistan.

Thailand police arrest man with rare animals in luggage

The animals - all under two months old - had been drugged and put into cages in the man's suitcases, police said.

The suspect, a 36-year-old man from the United Arab Emirates, was trying to board a flight from Bangkok to Dubai.

Several people are thought to be involved and an investigation into a trafficking network is under way.

The man was seized by undercover police at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport while he was waiting to check-in as a first-class passenger.

Officers had been monitoring him since his black market purchase of the rare animals, said the Freeland Foundation, an anti-trafficking group based in Thailand.

'Virtual zoo'

There were two leopards, two panthers, an Asiatic black bear and two macaque monkeys in the man's luggage.

"It looked like they had sedated the animals and had them in flat cages so they couldn't move around much," said Steven Galster, director of Freeland, who was present at the arrest.

Some of the animals were placed inside canisters with air holes.

"It was a very sophisticated smuggling operation. We've never seen one like this before," Mr Galster said. "The guy had a virtual zoo in his suitcases."

Last month, Thai customs officials seized 1,800 protected lizards said to be destined to be sold as food.

The Bengal monitor lizards, stuffed into blue mesh bags and hidden behind fruit, were found in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border.

Lizard meat is valuable and seen as a delicacy in parts of Asia.

US presses Pakistan on Bin Laden

Mr Obama told CBS show 60 Minutes the government in Islamabad had to find out if any of its officials knew of the al-Qaeda leader's whereabouts.

An Obama administration official said the US wanted to speak to Bin Laden's widows, who are in Pakistani custody.

Pakistan has denied knowing Bin Laden was holed up in Abbottabad.

In an interview being broadcast on Sunday, President Obama told CBS the al-Qaeda leader must have had "some sort of support network" in Pakistan, but he did not know whether it included government officials.

"We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of [Pakistan's] government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate," the US president said in the interview, which was conducted on Wednesday.

'Library' of intelligence

US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon meanwhile told NBC talk show Meet the Press that Islamabad needed to establish how Bin Laden lived for six years a short drive from the capital and beside a military academy.

With Bin Laden dead, there has been speculation about whether his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, will take over as al-Qaeda leader.

But Mr Donilon said the Egyptian "is not anywhere near the leader that Osama Bin Laden was".

He also said the Pakistani authorities needed to provide the US with access to Bin Laden's three widows, who were taken into custody after last week's US commando raid.

American officials have meanwhile been poring over computer files seized by US special forces from the hideout.

"It's [the intelligence cache] about the size, the CIA tells us, of a small college library," said Mr Donilon.

On Saturday, the Pentagon released from the material five home videos featuring Bin Laden, with the audio removed.

They included a message by the al-Qaeda leader to the US and footage of Bin Laden watching an item about himself on TV.


US officials said the Abbottabad compound was a command and control centre from where Bin Laden had actively led al-Qaeda.

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Strong quake shakes buildings in Japan’s capital

A strong earthquake of magnitude 5.8 hit central Japan on Saturday morning, according to the US Geological Survey. The quake, which shook buildings in Tokyo, struck at 11:19 am (0219 GMT), 83 kilometres (52 miles) north of the capital and at a depth of 20 kilometres, the USGS said.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said the tremor did not disrupt the emergency crews who are working around the clock to cool crippled reactors at a nuclear plant hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month. That earthquake - the biggest ever recorded in Japan -- struck on March 11, triggering a huge tsunami and leaving 13,591 people dead, with another 14,497 still unaccounted for.

Tens of thousands of people lost their homes, while many others were forced to evacuate after a series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant sent radiation spewing into the air.

Mohandas Pai, Infosys Technologies' HR director resigns from board

Infosys' director incharge, Human Resource and Administration, Mohandas Pai resigned on Friday from the board of the company with effect from June 11, 2011. Infosys' board of directors will meet on April 30 to finalise plans for the company's leadership as chairman NR Narayan Murthy retires in August 2011.

Former Microsoft India head, Ravi Venkatesan was appointed as additional director on the board. In the middle of its biggest management transition ever since Infosys was founded, the company is aiming for a larger share of revenue from retail, banking and healthcare customers by shifting the roles of leaders handling multiple business units.

Pai had been in a finance role as Chief Financial Officer of Infosys since 1994, and later took responsibility for the critical functions of human resources and education. He is also a well-known public face and has been part of various committees such as the Kelkar committee for reforming direct taxes and is currently on the SEBI board

Japan nuclear disaster tops scale

Japan's prime minister vowed to wind down the month-long crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant "at all costs" Tuesday after his government officially designated the situation there a Chernobyl-level nuclear accident.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he wants the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, to produce a timetable for bringing the disaster to an end, "and they will be doing that soon." And a day after his government warned that thousands more people would need to be evacuated from the surrounding region, he pledged to provide jobs, housing and education for those uprooted by the accident.

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Magnitude 6.6-quake jolts Japan coast

Fires burned in northeastern Japan Monday evening after a powerful earthquake rattled the region, sending a landslide into Iwaki City, authorities said. A preliminary estimate put the quake's magnitude at 7.1, which was later lowered to 6.6, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A series of smaller quakes continued to shake the region. Residents in Tokyo also felt the jolts. A tsunami warning issued by Japan's Meteorological Agency was later canceled.

Monday's initial quake was centered about 164 kilometers (101 miles) northeast of Tokyo, or about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Workers at the plant were asked to evacuate for a time, but later returned to resume their efforts to cool the troubled nuclear facility. The Tohoku Electric Power Company said 220,000 households and businesses in Fukushima were without power after Monday's quake, which came a month after a deadly magnitude-9 quake and tsunami devastated the island nation.

Japan set to extend nuclear evacuation zone

Japan plans to extend the evacuation zone around its crippled nuclear plant because of high radiation levels, local media reported Monday, with engineers no closer to regaining control of six reactors hit by a giant tsunami one month ago. Concern at Japan's inability contain its nuclear crisis, caused by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is mounting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan's ruling party suffering embarrassing losses in local elections Sunday and neighboring China and South Korea voicing criticism. Engineers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo said Sunday they were no closer to restoring the plant's cooling system which is critical if overheated fuel rods are to be cooled and the six reactors brought under control. They are hoping to stop pumping radioactive water into the ocean Monday, days later than planned.

Four weeks after the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl quarter of a century ago, the government was moving to extend a 20 km evacuation zone due to high levels of radiation, the Asahi newspaper reported. The government has so far refused to widen the zone, despite being urged to by the International Atomic Energy Agency and countries like the United States and Australia advising its citizens to stay 80 kms away from the plant.

South Korea schools shut over radioactive rain

Many South Korean schools have cancelled classes as officials scrambled to quell fears that rain contained radioactive material from Japan's stricken nuclear plant. More than 130 primary schools and kindergartens in Gyeonggi province surrounding the capital Seoul cancelled or cut classes today after rain began falling on orders from the provincial education office. An office spokesman called it part of "preemptive measures for the safety of students". The office had told schools on Wednesday to cancel or shorten classes due to "growing anxiety among students and parents over conflicting claims on the safety of radiation exposure". Schools in remote areas, where students have a long walk to class, were particularly encouraged to cancel activities. At schools which stayed open, teachers were advised to suspend outdoor activities.

Complaints from parents mounted on the website of Seoul city's education office, which refused to cancel classes and called for a calm response to the fears. "Please order class cancellation. I'm worried to death about my kid and can't sleep," said one posting. Education authorities in North Chungcheong province south of Gyeonggi postponed football, baseball and other sporting events. Concern grew in the nation closest to Japan after the weather agency said on Monday that radioactive material from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant may be carried to the peninsula by south-easterly winds. The amount of radioactive material contained in the rainfall is too tiny to pose any health threat, the prime minister's office said today, calling for education offices to refrain from "making parents nervous".

Air Force to cut 22 general officer jobs

The Air Force will lose 22 general officer billets and will have eight of its top scientist positions downgraded as part of wide-ranging cuts by the Pentagon aimed at shrinking the size of the military budget. A 48-page memo written by Defense Secretary Robert Gates provides further detail in his drive to free up $178 billion over the next five years.In the memo, dated March 14 but not yet publicly released, Gates lists an array of cost-cutting measures — from reforming the intelligence budget to slashing 1,000 contractors over two years from the Missile Defense Agency. The Air Force issued a statement declaring its support for “efficiency efforts.”

“This review was part of a comprehensive review of Service, [Office of Secretary of Defense], Defense Agencies, and Combatant Command staffs,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician said. “It built upon previous initiatives, and demonstrates commitment to proper stewardship of the mission and resources entrusted to the Air Force. A reduction or elimination doesn’t signify less emphasis on the affected organization’s mission or importance to the Air Force.”

U.S. to stop using strike aircraft as fighting in Libya rages on

The use of U.S. strike aircraft in Libya is set to expire Monday as uncertainty lingers about whether Western allies will arm opposition members trying to oust Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Over the weekend, fierce destruction permeated the city of Misrata, which has been choked off by pro-Gadhafi forces surrounding the city. "We need a lot of help in Misrata. There's so much death there," said Mustafa Abdul Hamali, a 46-year-old taxi driver who lost half of a leg. "I was driving in my car with my wife, and my car just blew up. I don't know what happened." Khalid Moteridi, a 32-year-old businessman-turned-rebel fighter, said the situation in Libya's third-largest city has turned dire.

"It¹s a tragedy by all means," he said. "No electricity, no food, no water. We¹re trapped from all sides by the Gadhafi forces." A doctor in Misrata told CNN government forces shelled a clinic, leaving one dead and 15 injured on Sunday. Last week, a hospital official said 398 people have been killed since the Libyan conflict began last month. He feared there were more deaths that his hospital didn't know about. Some rebels from Misrata got a bit of a reprieve Sunday, when a Turkish hospital ship picked up more than 300 of the wounded fighters. Their injuries included amputated limbs, broken bones and shrapnel wounds.

6.7-magnitude quake strikes off Indonesia

Indonesia-Apr 4: Hundreds of residents fled an Indonesian port town for higher ground today when an earthquake struck south of Java with a magnitude estimated by US seismologists at 6.7. The epicentre in the Indian Ocean was 24 km miles deep, the US Geological Survey said, after initially estimating it at 10 km underground, and 277 kilometres south of the Javanese coast. Indonesian seismologists put the magnitude at 7.1 and issued a tsunami warning, saying the tremor had the potential to cause a killer wave and asking recipients of its public alert SMS to warn others of the danger. The warning was later cancelled. When the quake struck hundreds of residents in the seaport town of Cilacap fled inland and to higher ground by motorbike, car and on foot, an AFP reporter said. "They were all panicking and shouting ''quake, quake''," the reporter said. Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia''s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said shaking from the tremor had been felt in Pangandaran and Cilacap districts in Java. "This quake roused people from their sleep," he said. "We have not received any reports of damage or casualties so far." The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre had said that there was no risk of a widespread destructive wave, but there was a "very small possibility of a local tsunami". The earthquake epicentre was 241 km from the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island, and seismologists said the tremor was felt there, but no tsunami warning alert was issued for Australia. "We had reports from there that they felt it," Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepson told AFP, adding that it was described as a "moderate type quake".

Poll shows public support for Brown's budget plan is slipping

A new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California shows 46% of likely voters backing the governor's proposed five-year extension on some taxes, a drop from 53% two months ago. The treasurer's office says delaying a vote on extensions to November could force the state to issue IOUs.

Public support for Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to solve the budget crisis with a June election is eroding as other officials warn that delaying such a move until late fall, as the governor is considering, could trigger a cash crisis and a fresh round of state-issued IOUs.

A new survey from the independent Public Policy Institute of California shows that 46% of likely California voters back Brown's call for a five-year extension on some sales, income and vehicle taxes to help balance the state's books. Just two months ago, 53% of voters surveyed by PPIC said they would approve of the taxes.

The public appetite for a special election also seems to be on the wane. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they wanted one; in January, two-thirds said they welcomed an opportunity to vote on Brown's proposal. The governor promised voters during his campaign last year that they could sign off on any tax hikes

Five Republicans woo Iowa voters ahead of 2012 race

HendersonFive possible Republican White House hopefuls including Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty courted conservative voters on Monday in Iowa, the state that holds a critical early contest on the road to the party's 2012 presidential nomination.

Former House of Representatives Speaker Gingrich, former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer and former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain took turns bashing President Barack Obama.

Republicans aim to deny Obama a second term as president.

The Iowa caucuses, an important early prize in the race for the Republican nomination, are scheduled for February 6, 2012. No leading Republican, including the five who appeared at the event in Iowa, has yet formally launched a candidacy.

Meanwhile, a top aide to real estate tycoon Donald Trump visited Iowa on Monday to gauge interest in the idea of a Trump bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump, a billionaire and the celebrity star of NBC's "The Apprentice," has been flirting with a presidential run, speaking to a conference of conservatives in Washington last month. Many Republicans doubt he is serious.

Protest and Counter-Protest of King's Muslim

American Muslims
Two groups of protesters met on Tuesday outside King's office, one to protest the hearings and the other to support them.

According to the Wall Street Journal, about 100 people showed up to represent each side. No arrests were made, but police intervened to set up barricades between the two groups after individual confrontations erupted into shouting matches.

King acknowledged the support shown him. "Al-Qaida is recruiting right under our radar screen," he said in an interview. "We are not going to cave to political correctness. There is a real threat to the country from the Muslim community and the only way to get to the bottom of it is to investigate what is happening."

Inna Arolovich of the American Association of Jews from the Former Soviet Union supports King and the hearings. "I believe that radical Islam is threatening each of us, including peaceful Muslims," she said. "It is a very real threat."

Dr. Shaik Ubaid of the Muslim Peace Coalition USA's New York chapter explained their concerns. "We are worried about the way the hearings are being conducted. It will demonize the Muslim community. He should work with the Muslim community who has been working with the FBI and others and get to the root cause of this."

Pax Christi also protested the hearings, as did several individuals, at least one of whose Muslim son Mohammad Salman Hamdani was an EMT who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York.

"American Muslims also died," Hamdani's mother said. "We sacrificed for this nation, for our nation. We are fighting on the front also. We are contributing members of society. For anybody to accuse the American Muslims of collective guilt is not right. We were attacked by foreign terrorists, criminals without a nation, al-Qaida."

State of the Union, Barack Obama must turn words into action

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union

address Tuesday contained the usual laundry list of initiatives big and small — including many that require bipartisan cooperation for success.

But a POLITICO look at his wish list shows that, at best, he’ll probably be able to check off only a few of his agenda items, and Republicans are only part of the problem.

He put Democrats on the spot with an earmark ban, irked them by renewing his call for a freeze on discretionary spending and challenged them to limit medical malpractice lawsuits.

But heading toward his 2012 reelection, these are fights Obama seems willing — even eager — to have. He might not get everything he wants or even very much of it. But if Republicans balk, Democrats, led by the president, can call them out on it. If Democrats resist, Obama can create distance between himself and his less popular colleagues on the Hill.

POLITICO rates the odds of success for 10 key proposals. Items scoring zero have the least chance of happening. Those scoring 5 have the easiest track.

Five-year freeze on domestic spending

Idea: Obama proposed the cap as a “down payment toward reducing the deficit.”

Pro: The president claims the move would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, giving him a punchy talking point to show he is serious.

Con: It’s barely a dent. The deficit for this fiscal year alone is $1.5 trillion, congressional scorekeepers say.