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Imran Khan: Pakistan court suspends jail sentence in graft appeal

A Pakistani court on Monday granted former Prime Minister Imran Khan an appeal of his conviction for graft and suspended his 14-year jail sentence, his lawyer said, a relief for his embattled party which had won most seats in February’s national polls.

Just a week ahead of the Feb. 8 elections, Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi were both handed a 14-year sentence on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts by an anti-graft court.

Despite the suspension, Khan will remain in jail on multiple other sentences which were imposed on the ex-cricket star ahead of the polls, which also disqualified him from holding any public office for 10 years.

Islamabad High Court said that the couple’s graft sentence will remain suspended until a final decision on the conviction which will be taken up for arguments and evidence as a main petition after Eid holidays, said the lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar.

“No evidence backs up this conviction,” he told reporters outside the court in Islamabad, saying that was why the court suspended the sentence on first hearing of the appeal.

Khan and his wife were charged with illegally selling gifts, worth more than 140 million rupees ($500,000) and received during his 2018-2022 premiership, from a state treasury known locally known as the “Toshakhana”.

A list of these gifts shared by a former information minister included perfumes, diamond jewellery, dinner sets and seven watches, six of them Rolexes - the most expensive being a “Master Graff limited edition” valued at 85 million rupees ($304,000).

Khan was also handed a three-year prison sentence in August for the same charge by another court, but that sentence had been suspended on appeal.

Khan and his party say the legal cases against him were based on made-up charges to keep him out of politics at the behest of the country’s powerful army after he had fallen out with the military’s generals. The army denies the accusation.

The military has directly ruled Pakistan for half of its history since its independence from British rule in 1947. The military holds oversized role in making or breaking governments in the nation of 241 million people.

Source: Reuters --Agencies

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Nepal earthquake death toll increases to 128

At least 128 people were killed and dozens injured in Nepal when a strong earthquake struck the western area of Jajarkot, officials said on Saturday, as houses in the area collapsed and buildings as far as New Delhi in neighbouring India shook, Reuters reported

The quake occurred at 11:47 p.m. (1802 GMT) on Friday with a magnitude 6.4, Nepal’s National Seismological Centre said. The German Research Centre for Geosciences measured the quake at 5.7, downgrading it from 6.2, while the U.S. Geological Survey pegged it at 5.6.

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Sri Lanka unequivocally condemns terrorist attack in Moscow, Russia

Sri Lanka strongly condemns the dastardly terrorist attack which occurred at the Crocus City shopping center in Moscow, Russia on 22 March 2024 causing tragic loss of civilian lives and injury. Such cowardly acts of violence against civilians are abhorrent and have no place in civilized society.

The Government and the people of Sri Lanka extend their heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the People and the Government of the Russian Federation at this time of grief.

Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations must be unequivocally condemned and eradicated. Sri Lanka reaffirms its commitment to the global fight against terrorism and stands ready to collaborate with the international community to address this grave threat to peace and security.

The Government of Sri Lanka wishes all those who were injured a speedy recovery.

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Afghanistan hit by third earthquake in a week

Afghanistan has been struck by a third earthquake in a week, just days after two other quakes killed over 1,000 people. The latest tremor, a magnitude 6.3 quake, struck near the city of Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city. So far, there have been no reports of casualties, but the quake is likely to have caused further damage to a country already reeling from an economic crisis.

The previous two quakes, which struck on Saturday, hit the Zindajan district of Herat province, about 40km from the city of Herat. The quakes were powerful enough to level entire villages, and the death toll is expected to rise as rescuers continue to search for survivors.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, due to its location near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. In June 2022, the province of Paktika was hit by a magnitude 5.9 quake which killed more than 1,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

The latest earthquake is a further blow to Afghanistan, which is already facing a number of challenges, including a severe economic crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and a wave of violence. The country is also struggling to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The international community has been quick to respond to the latest earthquake, with a number of countries and organizations pledging aid to Afghanistan. However, the scale of the challenge is immense, and it is clear that Afghanistan will need ongoing support in order to rebuild and recover.

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King Charles diagnosed with undisclosed form of cancer

King Charles III has been diagnosed with cancer and began treatment on Monday, Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

It did not state what type of cancer the King has been diagnosed with. The cancer was identified during the King's recent hospital 3-day treatment for a benign enlarged prostate.

"A separate issue of concern was noted, and subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer", the Palace said. Charles, 75, who assumed the throne last May, will postpone public duties, but will continue to undertake state duties.

His treatment is being carried out on an out-patient basis, and he does not need to stay overnight in hospital.

Charles’ son Prince William, 41, is the heir to the throne.

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Israel declares 'state of war alert'

Israel’s military announced a “state of war alert” on Saturday after militants from Gaza fired a deadly barrage of rockets and sent gunmen into Israeli territory in a major escalation of the long-running conflict between the two sides.

The early morning rocket attack, which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described as “massive”, left at least one person dead and multiple wounded.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that runs Gaza, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack and called for a general uprising against Israel.

“If you have a gun, get it out. This is the time to use it – get out with trucks, cars, axes, today the best and most honorable history starts,” Hamas military commander Muhammad Al-Deif said in a recorded message.

Dubbing the operation “Al-Aqsa Storm” he said that the group had “targeted the enemy positions, airports and military positions with 5,000 rockets” and that the assault on Israel was a response to attacks on women, the desecration of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the ongoing siege of Gaza.

The IDF warned Israelis who live near Gaza to stay in their homes or head to shelters.

“In the last hour, the Hamas terrorist organization had begun a massive shooting of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and terrorists infiltrated into Israeli territory in a number of different locations,” the IDF said in a statement Saturday morning. Sirens warning of incoming rockets continued for at least three hours after the initial barrage.

“The Hamas terrorist organization is the sovereign in the Gaza Strip and is responsible for this attack. It will face the consequences and responsibility for these events,” it added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Israel was facing “a very difficult moment,” writing in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I wish to offer strength to the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, and to all the security forces and rescue services. I send my encouragement and strength to all the residents of Israel who are under attack,” he added.

CNN teams in Jerusalem heard rocket warning sirens and booms, likely the interceptions of incoming rockets, as sirens continued to sound around Israel.

The first round of rockets was fired at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning local time (11:30 p.m. ET), when most Israelis are likely to have been asleep.

It is rare for Palestinian militants to be able to make it into Israel from Gaza which is sealed off and heavily watched by Israel’s military.

Israel television Channel 12 reported that the infiltrators from Gaza had entered Kibbutz Beeri, saying that residents were urging the IDF to rush to the kibbutz.

Channel 12 also reported that infiltrators had taken hostages in Netiv HaAsara.

Israeli authorities did not immediately confirm any details about those reports.

Social media footage obtained by CNN showed multiple masked gunmen in a pickup truck driving down a street in the Israeli city of Sderot. Gunfire could also be heard in the video.

One woman died and at least 15 people were wounded across southern and lowland regions of Israel in the militant attacks, Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service said a mid-morning update on Saturday.

MDA said the woman who was killed was in her 60s, revising her age down from 70s, which CNN had earlier reported.

Two people are in critical condition, six in moderate condition and seven have minor injuries, MDA said in a statement.

The MDA said teams “respond to areas of reported missile falls and live firing incidents,” and urged people to heed instruction from authorities and to carefully and promptly go to a protected area when an alarm sounds.

MDA spokesperson Zaki Heller also urged people to donate blood and said a special blood donation drive is being organized in Tel Aviv for Saturday morning “due to an urgent need.”

The rockets, which were witnessed by a CNN producer in Gaza, prompted sirens as far north as the Tel Aviv area, east to Beer Sheva, and many other locations in between.

Social media footage obtained by CNN showed the aftermath of a rocket strike in the coastal city of Ashkelon where multiple cars could be seen burning next to an apartment complex, a thick plume of black smoke billowing into the air.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are conducting security assessments at Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu’s office said.

Gaza is one of the most densely packed places in the world, an isolated coastal enclave of almost 2 million people crammed into 140 square miles.

Governed by Hamas, the territory is largely cut off from the rest of the world by an Israeli blockade of Gaza’s land, air and sea dating back to 2007. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border crossing, Rafah.

Israel has placed heavy restrictions on the freedom of civilian movement and controls the importation of basic goods into the narrow coastal strip.

Source: CNN -


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More chaos in the Middle East as blasts in Iran kill 103 people

The Middle East was plunged into more chaos when at least 103 people were killed and 141 wounded in twin blasts in the southern Iranian city of Kerman on Wednesday (3rd), Iranian media reported. It was not immediately clear who was responsible.

It was not clear if the attacks were carried out by one of the dissident groups within Iran, or if they were somehow connected to the Gaza War. Iran has remained the arch-enemy of Israel for decades.

Tensions have been rising across the Middle East from the start of the Gaza War in October, with the attacks by Iranian-backed Houthis of Yemen against shipping in the Red Sea adding another dimension to the situation. The U.S. has openly accused Iran of encouraging the Houthis to attack shipping, and claimed that an attack on a ship near India two weeks ago had been by a drone launched from Iran.

The blasts took place at an event marking the 4th anniversary of the death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a U.S. drone attack while he was in Iraq.

Soleimani was the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps elite Quds Force when he was killed in January 2020 in the U.S. strike at Baghdad’s international airport.

He was famed for his key role in spreading Iranian influence in the Middle East. Soleimani strengthened Iran’s ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as Syria’s al-Assad and Shia fighters in Iraq.

The blasts came just hours after an apparent Israeli drone strike in the Lebanese capital Beirut killed the deputy leader of Hamas, which is backed by Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the blasts, as did the Houthi government in Yemen.

It was not clear if the blasts were suicide bombings or bombs placed by the roadside. Iran's authorities vowed to track down the perpetrators.

The Head of Iran’s Judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, released a statement saying, “The agents and perpetrators of this grievous crime will undoubtedly be punished.”

The blasts took place at 2:50 p.m. Iranian time about 700m from the mausoleum of the slain general.

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Over 50 killed in blast at Pakistan rally to mark prophet’s birthday

The death toll from a suspected suicide bomb blast at a procession to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has climbed to over 50, officials and media reports say.

The powerful bomb exploded on Friday at a rally in Mastung district of Balochistan, wounding at least 100 others, including dozens in critical condition, media reports said.

“It seems a suicide attack” senior local police officer Javed Lehri, adding that the bomber blew himself up near the vehicle of Deputy Superintendent of Police Nawaz Gishkori.

Balochistan’s government administrator Atta Ullah said a senior police officer, Mohammad Nawaz, was among the dead. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals, he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

The country’s interior ministry confirmed a blast carried out by “terrorist elements” in Balochistan.

“The attack on innocent people who came to participate in the procession of Eid Milad-ul-Nabi is a very heinous act,” it said in a statement, referring to the prophet’s birthday.

Friday’s bombing came days after authorities asked police to remain on maximum alert as armed groups could target rallies making the occasion.

Muslims in Pakistan and around the world celebrate the birthday of Islam’s prophet by holding public gatherings.

While the celebration is accepted by a majority of Islamic sects, certain denominations view it as an unwarranted innovation.

Balochistan has in the past been the site of attacks by armed groups.

Earlier this month, at least 11 people, including a prominent religious leader, were injured in a blast in the same district, the Dawn newspaper said.

The gas-rich Balochistan province at the border of Afghanistan and Iran has been the site of a low-intensity rebellion by Baloch separatists for more than two decades.

The separatists initially wanted a share of the provincial resources, but later launched a movement calling for independence. (AL Jazeera)

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Kuwait’s Emir passed away

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah has died at 86.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we – the Kuwaiti people, the Arab and Islamic nations, and the friendly peoples of the world – mourn the late His Highness the emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, who passed away to his Lord today,” Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Sabah, the minister of his emiri court, said a statement aired on state television on Saturday.

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Morocco quake death toll crosses 1,000

UPDATE: Over 1,000 people are now known to have died in the massive 6.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked Morocco on Friday night, international media reported.

Morocco's Interior Ministry said 1,037 are known to have died and over 500 injured. The death toll is expected to rise further as hundreds of the injured are critical and more bodies are being pulled from the rubble. The Moroccan Army joined in the rescue effort and countries as far away as the UK, India and the U.S. offered emergency assistance.

The quake's epicenter was in the Atlas Mountains, 75 km from the city of Marrakesh. The tremor toppled buildings and sent millions scrambling out of their homes in the darkness. The ancient city walls of Marrakesh suffered significant damage.

The tremor occurred at 11:11 pm Morocco time when most people were asleep. The US Geological Survey said that the quake's epicenter was at a depth of 18.5 km.

This is not an area known for massive quakes. It is the largest earthquake ever recorded in Morocco, a country in North Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea just south of Spain.

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India’s BJP leads in 3 of 4 states in key regional elections

India’s governing right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in three of four in key regional polls, indicating a big boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the general elections slated to be held within six months, Aljazeera reported.

The heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, southern state of Telangana and northeastern Mizoram state voted last month in the provincial elections.

Vote counting began in four of the five states on Sunday morning, while counting in Mizoram is expected on Monday.

At midday (9:30 GMT) on Sunday, the BJP was leading in all three heartland states, which send 62 members to parliament, trends from the counting of votes showed on TV channels. Final results are expected by the end of the day.

The election results of the five states are expected to indicate voter mood ahead of the national elections in May in which Modi is eyeing a third consecutive term.

The Indian National Congress, India’s main opposition party, holds power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. (Aljazeera).

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Pakistani court suspends former PM Imran Khan’s graft conviction

The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday suspended former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent conviction on corruption charges, his lawyer Naeem Panjutha said, though it was unclear whether this would lead to his release from jail.

Khan was imprisoned on Aug.5 after being sentenced to three years in jail for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. As a result of the conviction, and with a national election expected in the coming months, Pakistan’s Election Commission also barred Khan from contesting elections for five years.

Khan had filed an appeal against the conviction.

“Our application has been accepted, and the sentence has been suspended,” Panjutha said on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The uncertainty over whether Khan would be automatically released as a result of the High Court’s decision is due to other court orders allowing for his arrest in other cases. It is not immediately clear how the ban on his contesting elections will be affected.

Source: Reuters -


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