Russia rejects reports Daesh behind New Year’s Eve blast

The New Year’s Eve blast killed 39 people. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019

Russia rejects reports Daesh behind New Year’s Eve blast

  • Investigation on the explosion that ripped through an apartment block in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk, killing 39 people
  • Daesh claimed the operation was carried out by members of its Caucasus branch

MOSCOW: Russian investigators said Friday that a New Year’s Eve blast that killed 39 people was likely the result of a gas explosion, dismissing reports that the Daesh group was behind it.
The Investigate Committee said it was still investigating the explosion that ripped through an apartment block in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk, killing 39 people.
On New Year’s Day, three more people died when a minibus exploded not far from the affected building in the city.
On Thursday, an article in Deash’s weekly Arabic-language newspaper Al-Naba said the group was behind the blasts.
It said the Daesh group did not claim responsibility earlier for “security reasons.”
Daesh claimed the operation was carried out by members of its Caucasus branch, the media outlet said.
The Investigative Committee said it was too early to draw any conclusions as a probe was still under way.
“Conclusions about the circumstances of the tragedy in Magnitogorsk will be made following a set of investigative measures,” spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said in a statement.
She said a gas explosion was still the investigators’ main line of inquiry, even though they were considering all possibilities.
She said media should not trust “reports of terrorist organizations which — as we know — take credit for all high-profile accidents in various countries.”
A spokesman for the FSB said the security service would not comment. “All information will be published shortly,” he told AFP.
Immediately after the apartment blast, President Vladimir Putin and top ministers rushed to the scene of the tragedy, while the FSB quickly ruled out foul play.
Shortly after the explosions two local media outlets, citing law enforcement sources, said the apartment block blast was likely the result of a terror attack.


Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

Updated 5 min 49 sec ago

Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

  • During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days
  • The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi was shrouded in a toxic haze for the second straight day on Thursday, and visibility dropped due to cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds that let deadly pollutants hang in the air.
The air quality index crossed 400 on a scale of 500, indicative of “severe” conditions that pose a risk for healthy people and can seriously impact those with existing diseases.
The index measures the concentration of deadly pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to such pollutants can contribute to the risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Federal pollution control officials were tracking the air quality status, Prashant Gargava, member secretary at the Central Pollution Control Board, told Reuters.
The board falls under the federal environment ministry.
Under an emergency action plan, authorities shut down brick kilns and halted all construction activity during the day.
During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days, according to a record of official data compiled by Reuters.
The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month.
Air quality levels have crossed 400 for a second time this month despite farm fires from Delhi’s neighboring states — blamed by authorities as the primary cause for poor air quality in recent weeks — coming to an end with the onset of winter.
“Now fire counts are almost stopped except in a few routine incidences and hence no contribution to Delhi’s air quality is expected now onwards for the season,” government-run monitor SAFAR said.
The relentless focus on stamping out farm fires every year tends to deflect scrutiny from authorities that are falling behind on cleaning up industry or improving public transport, critics say.
Vehicular exhausts, along with emissions from industry, contribute more than 50% of Delhi’s air pollution on most days through the year, according to official estimates.
SAFAR forecast rain later on Thursday, but added that Delhi’s air quality was likely to deteriorate next week due to foggy conditions.