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THE STANS
Pakistani, Indian military commanders trade barbs in rare call
by Staff Writers
Islamabad (AFP) Oct 30, 2017


Pakistan confirms killing of two Chinese kidnapped 'by IS'
Islamabad (AFP) Oct 30, 2017 - Pakistan Monday confirmed the death of two Chinese nationals who were kidnapped in the southwestern city of Quetta, the foreign office said, months after the Islamic State group claimed it had killed them.

The pair, a man and a woman, were abducted in May this year from the city, capital of restive Balochistan province, which is at the heart of a multi-million dollar investment by Beijing in Pakistan but is also wracked by militancy.

They were dragged into a car by three unknown men, witnesses said, adding that another Chinese woman managed to escape.

In June the Islamic State group claimed it had killed them, but there had been no confirmation of their deaths from Pakistani or Chinese authorities.

"The DNA reports have confirmed that the two persons killed in Balochistan in June 2017 were the same two Chinese nationals, who were kidnapped from Quetta in May, 2017," Pakistan's foreign office said in a statement.

It did not give further detail on when or how their bodies were recovered. In September some local media reports suggested the bodies of two Chinese people had been found in Balochistan.

Authorities originally said the pair were studying Urdu at a local language centre, but Pakistan's interior ministry later said they had been preaching in Quetta. It did not specify what kind of preachers they were.

Hundreds of Chinese nationals started to pour into Pakistan after Beijing ramped up investment in its South Asian neighbour as part of a plan to link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in Balochistan with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.

The corridor is one of the largest projects in Beijing's "One Belt One Road" initiative, comprising a network of road and sea routes involving 65 countries.

Pakistan has been battling Islamist and nationalist insurgencies in mineral-rich Balochistan since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.

The IS group has been making inroads in the country through alliances with local militant outfits, although its presence is generally downplayed by the government.

Indian and Pakistani military commanders fired off heated accusations Monday in a rare telephone conversation between the nuclear-armed rivals over repeated cross-border firing in disputed Kashmir.

During the call initiated by Islamabad on a hotline, Pakistan's director-general of military operations lambasted his Indian counterpart for targeting "innocent civilians" near the Line of Control (LoC) -- the de facto border dividing the region.

"Indian troops are deliberately targeting innocent civilians including children... such deliberate actions are of serious concern and a violation of the 2003 agreement," said Major-General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, according to a statement.

India responded with a volley of its own accusations, saying Pakistan continues to send militants across the LoC to target Indian troops and places civilians near its military installations to aid insurgents.

"Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt emphatically stated that retaliatory firing by Indian troops has only been carried out in response to unabated support given by Pak Army to armed terrorists who infiltrate across the border and target Indian Army posts with heavy caliber weapons," said a statement released by the Indian side.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, but both claim the territory in full.

The neighbours regularly exchange fire across the border despite signing a ceasefire in 2003.

Tensions reached dangerous levels following a militant attack on an Indian military base in September 2016, with each side blaming the other for cross-border raids.

There have since been continued outbreaks of firing across the heavily militarised frontier, with both sides reporting deaths and injuries including to civilians.

New Delhi repeatedly accuses Pakistan of initiating firing to help insurgents cross into Indian-administered Kashmir to attack its forces.

Islamabad says it only provides diplomatic support to the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination.

THE STANS
Kurdish parliament says will reallocate Barzani powers
Arbil, Iraq (AFP) Oct 28, 2017
Parliament in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said it will meet Sunday to redistribute the powers of president Massud Barzani who is facing pressure to quit after last month's independence vote. A statement from Barzani will be read out at the meeting which is set to open at 1100 GMT, parliament said on Saturday. On Tuesday, parliament decided to freeze the activities of Barzani, his vi ... read more

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