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As Islamic State pushes on Iraq's Ramadi, 2000 families flee

Written By Unknown on Kamis, 16 April 2015 | 21.50

BAGHDAD: Clashes between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants pressing their offensive for Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province, has forced more than 2,000 families to flee from their homes in the area, an Iraqi official said Thursday.

The Sunni militants' push on Ramadi, launched Wednesday when the Islamic State group captured three villages on the city's eastern outskirts, has become the most significant threat so far to the provincial capital of Anbar.

It is seen as an attempt by IS to stage a counteroffensive after suffering a major blow earlier this month when Iraqi troops routed the group from Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

Sattar Nowruz, from the Ministry of Migration and Displaced, said that the over 2,000 families that fled Ramadi were in a ``difficult situation'' and have settled in southern and western Baghdad suburbs.

Tents, food and other aid are being sent to them, he said. The ministry is also assessing the situation with the provincial government in order ``to provide the displaced people, who are undergoing difficult conditions, with better services and help,'' Nowruz added.

On Thursday, sporadic clashes were still underway, according to security officials in Ramadi. The center of the city has been firmly in the hands of Baghdad government forces, though some of the far suburbs and outskirts had fallen to the Islamic State, which last year captured large swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq, along with about a third of neighboring Syria. That blitz stunned the Baghdad government and pushed the country into its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes were backing the Iraqi troops in Ramadi on Thursday and were targeting the three villages Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya captured Wednesday by the extremists, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media.

They described Ramadi as a ghost town with empty streets and closed shops after most of the residents had deserted it.

Ramadi and the city of Fallujah to the east, roughly half-way on the road to Baghdad, were major al-Qaida strongholds during the eight-year U.S.-led invasion, and fighting in Anbar was especially costly for Americans troops. Many of the militants were eventually forced to flee Iraq or go into hiding in the latter years.

In January 2014, Fallujah was the first major Iraqi city seized by the Islamic State group.

On a visit to Washington, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday made no mention of the events in Ramadi, speaking instead optimistically about gaining Sunni tribal fighter participation in the government's battle against the Islamic State group and saying that about 5,000 tribal fighters in Anbar had signed up and received light weapons.

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Chinese president to visit Pakistan, hammer out $46-billion deal

ISLAMABAD: Chinese President Xi Jinping will launch energy and infrastructure projects worth $46 billion on a visit to Pakistan next week as China cements links with its old ally and generates opportunities for firms hit by slack growth at home.

Also being finalized is a long-discussed plan to sell Pakistan eight Chinese submarines. The deal, worth between $4 billion and $5 billion, according to media reports, may be among those signed on the trip.

Xi will visit next Monday and Tuesday, Pakistan's foreign ministry said.

READ ALSO: Lakhvi affair to affect Modi visit to China, Xi visit to Pakistan

Commercial and defence ties are drawing together the two countries, which share a remote border and long-standing mistrust of their increasingly powerful neighbour, India, and many Western nations.

"China treats us as a friend, an ally, a partner and above all an equal — not how the Americans and others do," said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Pakistan parliament's defence committee.

Pakistan and China often boast of being "iron brothers" and two-way trade grew to $10 billion last year from $4 billion in 2007, Pakistani data shows.

Xi's trip is expected to focus on a Pakistan-China Economic Corridor, a planned $46 billion network of roads, railways and energy projects linking Pakistan's deepwater Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with China's far-western Xinjiang region.

It would shorten the route for China's energy imports, bypassing the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia, a bottleneck at risk of blockade in wartime.

If the submarine deal is signed, China may also offer Pakistan concessions on building a refuelling and mechanical station in Gwadar, a defence analyst said.

China's own submarines could use the station to extend their range in the Indian Ocean.

"China is thinking in terms of a maritime silk road now, something to connect the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean," said a Pakistani defence official, who declined to be identified.

For Pakistan, the corridor is a cheap way to develop its violence-plagued and poverty-stricken Baluchistan province, home to Gwadar.

China has promised to invest about $34 billion in energy projects and nearly $12 billion in infrastructure.

Xi is also likely to raise fears that Muslim separatists from Xinjiang are linking up with Pakistani militants, and he could also push for closer efforts for a more stable Afghanistan.

"One of China's top priorities on this trip will be to discuss Xinjiang," said a Western diplomat in Beijing. "China is very worried about the security situation there."

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Alice from Wonderland- The new fashion icon

LONDON: The world has found a new fashion icon - Alice from Wonderland.

The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of one of the most-loved children's books, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

British curators have now reinvented her as the fashion icon saying she strongly influenced the way people dressed and inspired designers and stylists the world over.

To mark the anniversary, the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood has brought together garments, photographs, rare editions and illustrations to show Alice as both a follower of fashion and a trendsetter.

Using book cover designs by Vivienne Westwood and Japanese Lolita clothing, The Alice Look is showing how Alice has always embraced contemporary style.

The display culminates with a new commission by Josie Smith, pattern-cutter who will make fashion literally out of fiction, producing a 3-D version of Alice's Wonderland outfit using fabric printed with text from the book.

Exhibition curator Dr Kiera Vaclavik told TOI in an interview "At first Alice followed fashion rather than influencing it directly. As new editions of the books were produced, her look was updated to reflect contemporary trends. But in the 20th century, Alice also began to emerge as a style icon. Almost 150 years after the first publication of Wonderland, she is still widely imitated by children and adults, including countless celebrities. In addition, Alice is a reference point and source of inspiration for leading designers, stylists and photographers".

So what are the specific fashion trends Alice started?

Dr Vaclavik added "In the 1930s, hairbands began to be referred to as Alice bands and this name has remained ever since. Today, Carroll's heroine adorns a wide array of clothing and accessories. Her look has inspired specific garments and fabric collections, as well as fashion shows, design projects, shoots, advertising campaigns and department store windows throughout the world".

"I first became interested in Alice and fashion during my doctoral research and it became clear to me that fashion's love affair with Alice was an international phenomenon and I find that fascinating, especially because Carroll himself wrote virtually nothing about his heroine's appearance in the Alice books. She is a fashion icon now more than ever".

"In the 19th century, Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett and the works of Kate Greenaway both sparked fashion crazes not dissimilar to the Potter mania which swept the world in recent years. All of these, though, have been relatively short lived. What makes Alice special, and indeed unique, is the fact that she is still shaping the way people dress across the world, a century and a half after she first appeared," Dr Vaclavik added to TOI. ? On May 9, a one-day conference will be held at the Museum exploring Alice as both follower of fashion and trend-setter, with papers spanning the century and half since the publication of Wonderland. It will look closely at what Alice wears and what this can tell us about her, and at some of the diverse practices of dressing as Alice in different parts of the world.

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Kerry: still confident US can conclude Iran nuclear deal

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 15 April 2015 | 21.50

LUEBECK (GERMANY) : US secretary of state John Kerry said Wednesday he is confident that the US administration can conclude a nuclear deal with Iran after president Barack Obama agreed to sign legislation giving Congress the right to reject an agreement.

Kerry joined his counterparts from the Group of Seven industrial powers at a meeting in northern Germany on the gathering's second day, flying in overnight after discussing Iran with lawmakers in Washington.

''Yesterday there was a compromise reached in Washington regarding congressional input,'' Kerry told reporters in the Baltic Sea port of Luebeck. ''We are confident about our ability for the president to negotiate an agreement, and to do so with the ability to make the world safer.''

Kerry said the challenge of finishing the negotiations with Iran over the next 2{ months would loom large over the G-7 meeting.

Its host, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said ministers would discuss the deal between the US administration and Congress, which he said would have ''a certain influence'' on whether a deal with Iran can be achieved by a June 30 deadline.

Steinmeier said other topics would include conflicts in the Middle East, prospects for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, efforts to combat the Islamic State group, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the impact of climate change on political stability in Africa and Asia, and the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.

''The weather in international politics is quite stormy,'' he said. ''The conflict in eastern Ukraine is only two hours away from here.''

Steinmeier said the G-7's top diplomats would also issue a statement on maritime security, noting that Luebeck was plagued by pirates until the Hanseatic League _ an alliance of northern European trading cities _ cracked down on the raiders some 600 years ago.

Although Russia was ejected from what was the G-8 last year over its support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Steinmeier praised Moscow for what he called its ''constructive attitude'' in not blocking a UN Security Council resolution imposing an arms embargo on Houthi rebel leaders in Yemen.

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Egypt, Saudi mull military exercise amid Yemen airstrikes

CAIRO: Egypt and Saudi Arabia are considering whether to hold joint military exercises in the kingdom as airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition pounded Shia rebels in Yemen on Wednesday.

The airstrikes targeting Yemeni rebels known as Houthis began on March 26 in an effort to halt their advance across the Arab world's poorest country. Hundreds have been killed and over 121,000 have been displaced amid the turmoil.

The Houthis have captured Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and forced Western- and Gulf-backed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country.

A statement late Tuesday from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's office after he met Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said they had agreed to form a commission to investigate whether to hold ''a major strategic exercise'' in the kingdom involving Egyptian, Saudi and other Gulf forces.

The statement gave no further details about the exercise. Egypt, a member of the anti-Houthi coalition, has said in the past that it would send ground forces into Yemen if the military deemed it necessary. The coalition says operations are still in the air phase but that all options remain on the table.

Shia powerhouse Iran has helped the Houthis with aid and political support but they both deny Tehran is arming the rebels, an assertion made by Hadi, the Saudis and the United States.

In Iran, president Hassan Rouhani condemned Saudi Arabia over the airstrikes, accusing them of colluding with the US and seeking to dominate the region.

''Why are you dropping bombs on innocent people in Yemen by employing donated aircrafts from the US?'' he said in a speech broadcast on state television. ''Why are you destroying all the infrastructure of a weak country?''

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Iraq's Yazidis, haunted by war, mark a New Year

LALISH(IRAQ): Only miles from the front lines of the war against the Islamic State group, thousands of Iraq's besieged Yazidis lit candles at their most revered shrine to mark the start of their New Year, which began Wednesday.

Traditionally, members of this ancient sect leave colored eggs outside their homes for New Year in the belief it helps God identify them, but countless of Yazidis fled their towns as the Islamic State group rampaged through northern Iraq last year. The extremists kidnapped thousands of Yazidis, killing men and enslaving and raping women.

Their plight sparked the US to form a coalition in August and begin launching airstrikes against the militants, which continue even now. But some Yazidis remain refugees in their own lands, fearful of the future.

Thousands of Yazidis gathered Tuesday night at their sect's holiest shrine in Lalish, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul. They lit candles and torches that bathed their faces, tired yet joyous, in soft orange light.

''According to our traditions, we firstly wish the best to other nations, then we ask God to give every human being a decent life,'' said Luqman Soleiman, 45, a teacher at Lalish's temple.

However, he said the New Year would offer no solace for the Islamic State group, referring to it by the derogatory Arabic acronym Daesh.

''This poison, which is called Daesh, will be eliminated from everywhere, all around the world and the ideology of Daesh will evaporate from people's mind, because their ideas are not suitable for human beings,'' he said.

Hanifa Alias, a displaced woman now living at a camp in Dohuk, counted herself lucky to be surrounded by family, though she acknowledged the sorrow that remained even at this joyous time.

''We're all together, but still, home is better,'' she said.

Here is an Associated Press gallery of photographs of Yazidis in Iraq gathering to celebrate the New Year.

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Islamic State militants target Moroccan embassy in Libya

Written By Unknown on Senin, 13 April 2015 | 21.50

TRIPOLI, Libya: A Libyan official says a bomb placed in a garbage bin targeted the Moroccan Embassy in the capital, Tripoli. There were no casualties in the attack, which was claimed by Libya's Islamic State affiliate.

Security spokesman Essam al-Naas says the bomb went off early Monday. Morocco condemned the attack and called for an investigation.

Libya's branch of the Islamic State group said in a statement on its Twitter account that ''soldiers of the caliphate'' targeted the building but gave no motive. It also posted several photographs of the embassy, including one of an empty street at night and another showing flames caused by the explosion.

The same group claimed responsibility for an attack on the South Korean Embassy in Tripoli early on Sunday, which killed one guard and one passer-by.

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Hillary hits the road after declaring run for White House

WASHINGTON: Hillary Clinton-spotting is the hottest activity in the US and world media right now after one of America's most recognizable people, who has been the First Lady, a New York Senator, and Secretary of State, hit the road after declaring on Sunday that she is in the running for President in 2016.

The star candidate, who in her three-decades of intensely public life has already racked up a with a resume and cachet rarely found in presumptive presidential race nominees, is headed to Iowa. It is an early voting state that is traditionally the starting point for those campaigning for party nomination. She has two scheduled events on Monday in the so-called Hawkeye state, and she can be certain she will get both hawk-eyed scrutiny and hawkish attention despite her efforts to kickstart her campaign in a low-key manner.

READ ALSO: Hillary Clinton takes White House bid on the road

That strategy included releasing a 138-second video on Sunday declaring her Presidential bid that is being minutely analyzed even as she jumped into a van with aides - rather than into a flashy GulfStream jet or a ritzy campaign bus trailed by endless media - for the 1046 mile road trip. The effort appeared to be to present herself as an ordinary, against-odds candidate connecting with ordinary people instead of the odds-on political insider that she is.

Indeed, first reports from the road, even as the hack pack revved up vehicles to chase her down, showed her chatting up people in gas stations and eateries along the way. She isn't driving herself; she said in interview last year that she hasn't sat behind the steering wheel since 1996 when the Secret Service forbade her form driving when she was the First Lady.

Back in political parlors and the country's living rooms and kitchen tables, the video was being viewed and reviewed for substance and sincerity.

It is an unusual political ad, showing an assortment of Americans, including many minorities, talking about their hopes and aspirations as they undertake new challenges in their quotidian lives - getting ready for a job, to go to college, to have baby, to start a new business etc. Hillary Clinton does not even appear in the video till about 90 seconds into an ad that could till that point be mistaken for insurance or soap or a medication commercial.

''I'm getting ready to do something, too--I'm running for President,'' Hillary Clinton declares when she finally pops up. ''Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion,'' she says.

''I'm hitting the road to earn your vote, because it's your time. And I hope you'll join me on this journey,'' she concludes amid a collage of happy, optimistic people going about their lives.

How much the words and the sentiment will resonate will take some time to assess. Aside from being an easily recognizable face whose track record is full laid out (both an advantage and a disadvantage), Clinton leads most polls for the Democratic nomination with few early challengers; she even leads any potential face-off with major Republican nominees such as Jeb Bush.

But 18 months is an eternity in politics, and as America's most promising female presidential candidate ever launched her campaign, opposition attack dogs were already being let loose. From rabid, intemperate, conspiratorial attacks on social media to more reasoned arguments in informed debates, her political adversaries began chipping away at her record.

''Americans need a president they can trust and voters do not trust Hillary Clinton,'' Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. ''Over decades as a Washington insider, Clinton has left a trail '​​ofsecrecy, scandal, and failed policies that can't be erased from voters.'

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ISIS releases video, warns US of another 9/11 like attack

NEWYORK: Isis has released a video which states there is now "no safety for any American on the globe'" and that there will be another 9/11-style attack against the US.

The film features gruesome beheading scenes and clips of Isis forces in combat, in an attempt at displaying the strength of the Caliphate.

The 11 minute long video, titled 'We Will Burn America', was dated 10 March.

This is not the first Isis video aimed at the US - a video threatening to behead Barack Obama and turn the US into a Muslim province emerged online in January.

(The geographical position of America will not protect it, video says.)
The video's subtitles read: 'America thinks it's safe because of the geographical location.

'Thus you see it invades the Muslim lands, and it thinks that the army of the Jihad won't reach in their lands.

'But the dream of the American to have safety became a mirage. Today there is no safety for any American on the globe.'

It continued: 'But today, it's time for payback. By the grace of Allah, today the mujahideen are much more stronger and they have more rescources. Thus they are able to burn United States again.'

In addition to several mass beheadings, the death of U.S. journalist James Foley, and the burning of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, were shown.

The video also features the killings carried out by French-born gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, in Paris earlier this year, and Canadian Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's 2014 attack on the Canadian Parliament.

The Iraqi government is said to have last week regained control of the city of Tikrit from Isis forces, following a month long siege.

Isis also recently destroyed the Assyrian archaeological sites of Nimrud and Hatra and has since executed 300 people in response to an attempt by Iraq to liberate the Anbar region from Isis occupation.

The Caliphate expanded its foothold in Libya in February and March of this year.

Egyptian air strikes later rained down on their Libyan strong-holds, killing 64 militants, following the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians by Isis.

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Seven bodies found inside pickle factory in Pakistan

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 12 April 2015 | 21.50

KARACHI: At least seven persons, including wner of a pickle factory, were found dead today in a chemical tank of the same plant here in Pakistan, police said.

"Seven bodies have been found inside a chemical tank at a factory in Korangi Industrial area," said Deputy Inspector-General Muneer Sheikh.

The men had been identified as the owner of the pickle factory, Mehtab, and six workers, said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Junaid Sheikh.

Rescue workers said they acted upon receiving information about the presence of several bodies inside the factory, the News reported.

It was unclear if the men had fallen inside the tank or had been dumped there.

However, it appeared from initial investigation that one of the men had tripped over into the tank, while the other men fell while trying to save him, Sheikh said.

He said that police was carrying out further investigation to confirm out how the incident took place.

Seemi Jamali, head of emergency at the Jinnah Hospital where the bodies were taken, said it appeared that the men had died from suffocation, but the cause of death could only be confirmed following postmortem.

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