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Indian train crash death toll jumps to 233, another 900 injured

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At least 233 people were killed and 900 were injured when two passenger trains collided in India’s Odisha state, a government official said on Saturday, making the rail accident the country’s deadliest in more than a decade.

The death toll from Friday’s crash is expected to rise, the state’s Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said on Twitter, Reuters reported.

He added that over 200 ambulances had been called to the scene of the accident in Odisha’s Balasore district and 100 additional doctors, on top of 80 already there, had been mobilised.

Early on Saturday morning, Reuters video footage showed police officials moving bodies covered in white cloths off the railway tracks.

Video footage from Friday showed rescuers climbing up one of the mangled trains to find survivors, while passengers called for help and sobbed next to the wreckage.

The collision occurred at about 19:00 local time (1330 GMT) on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express, running from Bangalore to Howrah, West Bengal, collided with the Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai.

Authorities have provided conflicting accounts on which train derailed first to become entangled with the other. The Ministry of Railways said it has initiated an investigation into the incident.

Although Chief Secretary Jena and some media reports have suggested a freight train was also involved in the crash, railway authorities have yet to comment on that possibility.

An extensive search-and-rescue operation has been mounted, involving hundreds of fire department personnel and police officers as well as sniffer dogs. National Disaster Response Force teams were also at the site.

On Friday, hundreds of young people lined up outside a government hospital in Odisha’s Soro to donate blood.

According to Indian Railways, its network facilitates the transportation of over 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of ageing infrastructure.

Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared a day of state mourning on June 3 as a mark of respect to the victims.

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Nine Hindu pilgrims dead in India’s Jammu after militant attack, police say

At least nine people were killed and 33 injured when a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims plunged into a deep gorge after a suspected militant attack in the Indian federal territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, police said.

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At least nine people were killed and 33 injured when a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims plunged into a deep gorge after a suspected militant attack in the Indian federal territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, police said.

News of the attack came as Narendra Modi took oath as prime minister for a record-equalling third term and drew criticism from the main opposition Congress party, Reuters reported.

“This shameful incident is the true picture of the worrying security situation in Jammu and Kashmir,” opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said on X.

“Militants ambushed the bus” – opposition leader

The Himalayan region, which is also claimed by Pakistan, has been roiled by militant violence since the start of an anti-Indian insurgency in 1989. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, although violence has tapered off in recent years.

“Militants ambushed the bus and fired at it indiscriminately. The bus fell into a gorge, leading to the death of 9 pilgrims, and 33 are injured,” said Mohita Sharma, district police chief of Reasi.

The last major attack on Hindu pilgrims in the region happened in 2017 when a bus was targeted, killing eight people, read the report.

Sunday’s attack comes a day after police chief RR Swain said the number of local militants in the territory was dropping but 70-80 foreign militants remained active.

The injured have been moved to nearby hospitals and a search for the attackers has been launched, police said in a statement.

A state official earlier said at least 10 pilgrims were feared dead.

A forensic official inspects the bus that plunged into a gorge after being shot at by suspected militants. Photo AP

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Pakistan’s army says bomb blast kills seven soldiers

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A bomb blast targeting a military truck killed seven soldiers on Sunday in northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, the army said.

The incident took place in the Lakki Marwat district which is on the edge of a lawless tribal region divided on both sides of the border, Reuters reported.

The improvised explosive device exploded near the military vehicle, killing seven soldiers including an officer, the army said in a statement.

“The perpetrators of this heinous act will be brought to justice,” it said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, read the report.

The tribal region has long been a safe haven for Islamist militants who operate on both sides of the border.

An umbrella group of Islamist and sectarian militant groups called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been waging a war against the state to try to overthrow the government. It wants to run Pakistan as an Islamic state governed by its own harsh interpretation of Islam, read the report.

Islamabad says the TTP leaders have taken refuge in neighbouring Afghanistan, where they run camps to train Islamist militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan.

Kabul has previously said rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have soured in recent months. Islamabad says Kabul is not doing enough to tackle militant groups targeting Pakistan.

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Iran announces list of six approved candidates for June 28 elections

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Iran’s Guardian Council, a 12-member election supervisory body, has finalized the list of candidates for president and submitted it to the Interior Ministry, Mohsen Eslami, the spokesperson for Iran’s Election Headquarters, confirmed.

According to IRNA, the council finalized the candidate list for the 14th presidential election on Sunday.

Six candidates have been named. They are Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Massoud Pezeshkian, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh, Alireza Zakani, Saeed Jalili, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Elections have been called for June 28 and come in the wake of president Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash on May 19.

Head of parliament, Qalibaf, 62, who is a former military commander, has been seen as a potential front-runner. In a speech last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seemed to signal his support for Qalibaf, analysts have said.

The council also approved the candidacies of lawmaker Pezeshkian; Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator and Khamenei’s representative on the Supreme National Security Council; Tehran Mayor Zakani; Ghazizadeh, a conservative deputy to Raisi; and Pourmohammadi, a former interior and justice minister.

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