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N.Korea fires two missiles in latest testing frenzy

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(Last Updated On: January 27, 2022)

Nuclear-armed North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, in the sixth round of missile tests this month, Reuters reported.

It is among the most missiles ever launched by North Korea in a month, analysts said, as it began 2022 with a display of a dizzying array of new and operational weapons.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected the launch of what it presumed were two ballistic missiles at about 8 a.m. from near Hamhung, on North Korea’s east coast. They travelled for about 190 km to a maximum altitude of 20 km, JCS said.

The suspected missiles appeared to have landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters.

According to Reuters Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government was gathering details on the launches but any tests of ballistic missiles were “deeply regrettable” and violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The U.S. government condemned the missile tests, a Department of State spokesperson said in a written statement, calling the launches a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

North Korea said this month it would bolster its defences against the United States and consider resuming “all temporally suspended activities”, an apparent reference to a self-imposed moratorium on tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

On Tuesday, North Korea fired two cruise missiles into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, amid rising tension over its series of weapons tests, Reuters reported.

Earlier in the month, North Korea tested tactical guided missiles, two “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after lift-off, and a railway-borne missile system.

“The (Kim Jong Un) regime is developing an impressive diversity of offensive weapons despite limited resources and serious economic challenges,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an international affairs professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Certain tests aim to develop new capabilities, especially for evading missile defences, while other launches are intended to demonstrate the readiness and versatility of missile forces that North Korea has already deployed, he added.

“Some observers have suggested that the Kim regime’s frequent launches are a cry for attention, but Pyongyang is running hard in what it perceives as an arms race with Seoul,” Easley said.

In a speech to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Han Tae Song, accused the United States of staging hundreds of “joint war drills” while shipping high-tech offensive military equipment into South Korea and nuclear strategic weapons into the region, read the report.

“(This) is seriously threatening the security of our state,” Han said.

The series of missile tests has drawn condemnation from governments in the United States and Japan and sparked meetings of the United Nations Security Council, which has sanctioned North Korea for violating resolutions that ban ballistic missile tests, Reuters reported.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration sanctioned several North Korean and Russian individuals and entities this month on accusations they were helping North Korea’s weapons programmes, but China and Russia delayed a U.S. bid to impose U.N. sanctions on five North Koreans.

On Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Japan and Korea Mark Lambert said that Washington has “no reservations” about talking with North Korea and is willing to meet anywhere and talk about anything.

“We have to have a serious discussion about the denuclearisation of North Korea, and if North Korea is willing to do that, all sorts of promising things can happen,” he said during a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

North Korea has defended its missile tests as its sovereign right for self defence, and said the U.S. sanctions proved that even as Washington proposes talks, it maintains a “hostile” policy toward Pyongyang.

“The recent test-firing of new types of weapons was part of activities for carrying out a medium- and long-term plan for development of national science,” Han said in his speech on Tuesday. “And it does not pose any threat or damage to the security of neighbouring countries and the region.”

According to Reuters North Korea has not launched long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or tested nuclear weapons since 2017, but began testing a slew of shorter-range missiles after denuclearisation talks stalled following a failed summit with the United States in 2019.

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Blast kills at least 19 worshippers at mosque in Pakistan

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

An explosion in a mosque killed at least 19 worshippers and wounded dozens more in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday, a hospital official said.

According to him, many of the casualties were police officers who had gathered for afternoon prayers.

The mosque was located close to a police housing block, and there were some 260 people inside when the blast occurred, according to police.

“It happened during prayers. A two-storey building has collapsed,” an eyewitness told local news channel Geo TV, saying he was just outside the mosque when explosion happened.

“We received 19 dead and over 90 injured from the Peshawar Police Lines blast,” said Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, referring to the neighborhood. “Many others are in critical condition.”

According to police there were more casualties buried beneath the rubble.

Footage from government broadcaster PTV showed police and residents scrambling to remove the debris and carrying wounded people on their shoulders.

“A portion of the building had collapsed and several people are believed to be under it,” police official Sikandar Khan said.

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Israel appears to have been behind drone strike on Iran factory: US official

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

Israel appears to have been behind an overnight drone attack on a military factory in Iran, Reuters quoted a US official said on Sunday.

Iran claimed to have intercepted drones that struck a military industry target near the central city of Isfahan, and said there were no casualties or serious damage.

The extent of damage could not be independently ascertained. Iranian state media released footage showing a flash in the sky and emergency vehicles at the scene, read the report.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military declined to comment. Arch-foe Israel has long said it is willing to strike Iranian targets if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear or missile programmes, but it has a policy of withholding comment on specific incidents.

Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said no US military forces were involved in strikes in Iran, but declined to comment further, Reuters reported.

That US officials were pointing to an Israeli role in the attack was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, citing several unidentified sources. One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters it did appear that Israel was involved. Several other US officials declined to comment, beyond saying that Washington played no role.

Tehran did not formally ascribe blame for what Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian called a “cowardly” attack aimed at creating “insecurity” in Iran. But state TV broadcast comments by a lawmaker, Hossein Mirzaie, saying there was “strong speculation” Israel was behind it.

The attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity and its supply of arms – including long-range “suicide drones” – for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.

The extent of the damage could not be independently confirmed. Iran’s Defence Ministry said the explosion caused only minor damage and no casualties.

“Such actions will not impact our experts’ determination to progress in our peaceful nuclear work,” Amirabdollahian told reporters in televised remarks.

An Israeli strike on Iran would be the first under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since he returned to office last month at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history, Reuters reported.

In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy linked the incident directly to the war there.

“Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. “Did warn you.”

Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but says they were sent before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Moscow denies its forces use Iranian drones in Ukraine, although many have been shot down and recovered there.

“Around 23:30 (2000 GMT) on Saturday night, an unsuccessful attack was carried out using micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) on one of the ministry’s workshop sites,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by state TV.

It said one drone was shot down “and the other two were caught in defence traps and blew up. It caused only minor damage to the roof of a workshop building. There were no casualties.”

A military official in the region said given the location of the strike in central Iran and the size of the drones, it was likely that the attack was staged from within Iran’s borders.

Separately, IRNA reported early on Sunday a massive fire at a motor oil factory in an industrial zone near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It later said oil leakage caused that blaze, citing a local official.

Iran has accused Israel in the past of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory. In July, Tehran said it had arrested a sabotage team made up of Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a “sensitive” defence industry centre in Isfahan.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years, Reuters reported.

Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for easing of sanctions.

Iran’s clerical rulers have also faced internal turmoil in recent months, with a crackdown on widespread anti-establishment demonstrations spurred by the death in custody of a woman held for allegedly violating its strict Islamic dress code.

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Bus crash in southern Pakistan kills at least 41

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(Last Updated On: January 29, 2023)

More than 40 people were killed after a bus fell into a ravine and caught fire in the southern Pakistani province of Balochistan on Sunday, officials said.

Forty-one bodies had been recovered from the wreckage, some burned beyond recognition, district police officer Israr Umrani told Reuters.

The bus carrying around 48 people crashed on the way from Balochistan’s capital of Quetta to the southern city of Karachi, officials said.

Dozens of people were combing through the wreckage, footage shared by the Edhi Foundation aid and emergency response organisation showed, and ambulance workers were carrying a dead body out of the debris, read the report.

Assistant Commissioner Hamza Anjum for Lasbela, a district in Balochistan, told Dawn newspaper the vehicle had crashed into a bridge, causing it to fall into a ravine and catch fire.

Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads in many rural areas are in poor condition, Reuters reported.

At least 22 people were killed in June, including nine members of one family when a passenger van fell into deep ravine in Balochistan.

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