Pakistan police battle militants after deadly airport raid

Updated 16 December 2012
0

Pakistan police battle militants after deadly airport raid

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Police battled militants armed with automatic weapons, grenades and mortars in northwest Pakistan’s Peshawar on Sunday, a day after a deadly Taleban raid on the city’s airport.
Fierce firing broke out after officers acting on an intelligence report tried to storm a house near the aiport, where a suicide and rocket attack on Saturday evening killed five civilians and the five attackers and wounded 50 other people.
The assault late Saturday, claimed by the Pakistani Taleban, sparked prolonged gunfire and forced authorities to close the airport, a commercial hub and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Peshawar on the edge of the tribal belt.
It was the second Islamist militant attack in four months on a military air base in nuclear-armed Pakistan. In August 11 people were killed when heavily-armed insurgents wearing suicide vests stormed a facility in the northwestern town of Kamra.
Two police officers were wounded in Sunday’s renewed fighting during which militants threw a hand grenade, senior police officer Imtiaz Altaf told AFP.
“A militant has been killed. The encounter is still continuing. Militants are fully equipped with automatic weapons, hand grenades and mortars,” Altaf said.
Imran Shahid, a second police official, confirmed the shootout but said it was not yet clear how many attackers were involved.
Live television footage showed troops and police entering a street amid gunfire, while an AFP reporter heard fierce firing in the area.
A PAF statement said five attackers were killed on Saturday and no damage was done to air force equipment or personnel.
Doctor Umar Ayub, chief of Khyber Teaching Hospital near the airport, said five civilians had also been killed and some 50 wounded.
“The Base is in total control and normal operations have resumed. The security alert was also raised on other PAF air bases as well,” the air force added.
Peshawar airport is a joint military-civilian facility. Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Pervez George said the passenger side remained closed but there had been no damage to the terminals.
The air force said Saturday’s attackers used two vehicles loaded with explosives, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. One vehicle was destroyed and the second badly damaged.
Security forces found three suicide jackets near one of the vehicles, it said.
“Security forces consisting of Pakistan Air Force and Army personnel who were on full alert, cordoned off the Base and effectively repulsed the attack,” the air force said.
Television pictures showed a vehicle with a smashed windscreen, another damaged car, bushes on fire and what appeared to be a large breach in a wall.
Five nearby houses were destroyed after rockets landed on them and several other houses developed cracks, while the bomb squad detonated five out of eight bombs found near the base after the attack.
Pakistani Taleban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location that the group would continue to target the airport.
“Our target was jet fighter plans and gunship helicopters and soon we will target them again,” he said.
The armed forces have been waging a bloody campaign against the Taleban in the country’s northwest in recent years and the militants frequently attack military targets.
Aside from the August attack on Kamra, in May 2011 it took 17 hours to quell an assault on an air base in Karachi claimed by the Taleban. The attack piled embarrassment on the armed forces just three weeks after US troops killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Pakistan says more than 35,000 people have been killed as a result of terrorism in the country since the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Its forces have for years been battling homegrown militants in the northwest.


Identifying wildfire dead: DNA, and likely older methods too

A search and rescue volunteer takes notes while combing through areas destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, US, November 13, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 min 39 sec ago
0

Identifying wildfire dead: DNA, and likely older methods too

  • It is sometimes impossible to extract DNA from incinerated remains, and trying to identify remains through DNA requires having a sample from the person when alive or building a profile by sampling close relatives

NEW YORK: Authorities doing the somber work of identifying the victims of California’s deadliest wildfire are drawing on leading-edge DNA technology, but older scientific techniques and deduction could also come into play, experts say.
With the death toll from the Northern California blaze topping 40 and expected to rise, officials said they were setting up a rapid DNA-analysis system, among other steps.
Rapid DNA is a term for portable devices that can identify someone’s genetic material in hours, rather than days or weeks and more extensive equipment it can take to test samples in labs. A 2017 federal law provided a framework for police to use rapid DNA technology when booking suspects in criminal investigations, and some medical examiners have started using it to identify the dead or are weighing deploying it in disasters.
“In many circumstances, without rapid DNA technology, it’s just such a lengthy process,” says Frank DePaolo, a deputy commissioner of the New York City medical examiners’ office, which has been at the forefront of the science of identifying human remains since 9/11 and is exploring how it might use a rapid DNA device.
The technology, and DNA itself, has limits. It is sometimes impossible to extract DNA from incinerated remains, and trying to identify remains through DNA requires having a sample from the person when alive or building a profile by sampling close relatives.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope of identifying the dead without DNA.
“There’s two ways to approach it: You could do a DNA-led identification effort ... (or) more traditionally, the medical examiner and their team of people will try to establish the biological profiles of the unidentified and try to identify them through more traditional methods,” says Dr. Anthony Falsetti, a George Mason University forensic science professor and forensic anthropologist and a specialist in evaluating human remains.
In fact, more traditional methods, such as examining dental records, are often a first step. Partially, that’s because victims might have dental X-rays but not personal DNA profiles. Other medical records — of bone fractures, prosthetics or implants, for instance — also can be helpful.
And after a disaster, a crucial part of identifying victims is developing a manifest of the missing people, studying the site for clues as to who might have been there and meticulously searching for remains, sometimes by having a forensic anthropologist sift carefully through the debris, DePaolo said.
“Ultimately, you may be able to identify that you have a female, a male, a child” from studying the remains, but science won’t give them a name, he said. In such cases, authorities may have to rely on reasoning to match what’s known about the remains to who is known to be missing.
“That manifest may ultimately be the only thing you have to potentially identify that the victims that were recovered from that location could be those victims,” he said.
New York medical examiners have worked to match nearly 22,000 fragments of human remains to the 2,753 people killed at the World Trade Center. More than 17 years later, 40 percent of the dead have never had any of their remains identified. But the painstaking process still yields results: The remains of one victim, 26-year-old Scott Michael Johnson, were identified in July for the first time.
Whatever the process proves to be for California authorities, DePaolo said, “it’s a tough and complex job that they have ahead of them, and our condolences go out to them.”