British police: Four killed in Leicester explosion

In this image taken from video made available by Gem News, police attend the scene of an incident in Leicester, central England, on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 26 February 2018
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British police: Four killed in Leicester explosion

DUBAI: British police said Monday four people were killed in an explosion at a property in Leicester, a central English city, last night, while four others remain in hospital, one with serious injuries.
There was no indication that the explosion was linked to terrorism.
“The cause of the explosion will be the subject of a joint investigation by the police and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service,” local police said in a statement.
“We would ask that the media and public do not speculate about the circumstances surrounding the incident, but at this stage there is no indication this is terrorist related.”
The police said that six fire crews were on scene, including a specialist search and rescue team, supported by two search dogs.
“We will work closely with colleagues from the police as our enquiries into the circumstances continue today,” the police said.
The apparent explosion occurred Sunday evening on a stretch of road containing commercial and residential properties close to the city center.
The electricity supply to a number of properties in the area was cut while emergency services deal with the incident, police said.
The Fire and Rescue Service said it received calls shortly after 7:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) from the public reporting an explosion and a building fire.
It immediately dispatched six fire engines, a spokeswoman said.
“We were en route when the police called to say a building had collapsed,” she added.
Additional specialist search and rescue units were then dispatched, including a search and rescue dog, according to the spokeswoman.
“We’ve got no indication of what the cause is at this moment,” the spokeswoman said.
Six people were taken by ambulance to Leicester Royal Infirmary hospital following the incident, according to University Hospitals of Leicester, which runs three area medical facilities.
“Two of these patients are in a critical condition, while four are walking wounded,” it said on Twitter.
Officials had earlier advised people only to attend the accident and emergency department “if absolutely necessary.”
The fire service spokeswoman also said representatives from gas and electric provider companies were in attendance at the scene, under routine procedures.
Pictures and videos posted on social media showed a property engulfed in flames visible from a distance, with rubble and debris scattered around.
Graeme Hudson told AFP he lives close to the scene and felt the blast.
“It was very scary,” he said. “I live five minutes away... but my house shook. I went out and saw massive smoke and big flames.
“I quickly went out to see what’s happened,” he added. “(I) didn’t stay for long there because (I felt) unsafe for my 11-year-old son.”


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
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Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.