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India

Seven soldiers, civilian killed in Himachal building collapse

Seven soldiers and a civilian were killed and 28 others rescued after a four-storey building in Himachal Pradesh’s Kumarhatti town where Assam Rifles troopers were holding a party, collapsed due to rain, rescuers said on Monday.

Deputy Commissioner K.C. Chaman said six soldiers were still trapped in the debris and a rescue operation by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Army and the state police was on to save them.

The 28 people who were rescued comprised 17 soldiers and 11 civilians.

The dead included the building owner’s wife.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur along with his Cabinet Minister Rajiv Saizal, MP Suresh Kashyap and state Assembly Speaker Rajiv Bindal reached the spot and supervised the rescue operation.

Later, they met the injured.

Thakur, who has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident, said as per his information the structure was not raised as per building specifications.

He ordered the registration of an FIR against the building owner Shail Kumar, who was away when the structure collapsed.

According to officials, the incident took place at around 4 p.m. on Sunday when soldiers, belonging to the Assam Rifles of nearby Dagshai Cantonment, were having their party at the roadside eatery-cum-residential complex which caved in due to heavy rain.

Both soldiers and civilians were present in the building, located on the Kumarhatti-Nahan road, around 55 km from Shimla.

The Deputy Commissioner said first the fourth floor of the building collapsed. Then the entire building caved in.

Locals blamed unscientific construction methods and violations in the granting of construction-sanction for the building collapse.

(IANS)

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India

Civilian among three killed in Shopian gunfight in J&K

While a police statement said that three militants were killed in a gunfight in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district, it was confirmed later that one of the victim was a civilian.

The police said in a statement on Thursday that three militants were killed in the gunfight that took place earlier in the day in Handew village.

While two victims were identified as Yawar Mushtaq and Shakeel Ahmed, both Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants from Shopian, the third was identified as a civilian, Ishtiyaq Ahmed Bhat.

A soldier, Rohit Kumar Yadav who was injured in the gunfight, succumbed to his wounds on Thursday night in the Army’s 92 base hospital in Srinagar, the police said.

In Thursday’s two gunfights in Pulwama and Shopian districts killed a total of five militants, two civilians and two soldiers.

Three Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants, including a top commander identified as a Pakistan national Khalid Bhai, a civilian and a soldier were killed in a gunfight in Dalipora village of Pulwama.

Police said Khalid Bhai had masterminded the 2017 attack on the Lethpora CRPF camp in Pulwama district in which five troopers were killed.

In a third shootout between the security forces and militants in Kupwara’s Kandi forests on Thursday, there were no reports of any casualty.

(IANS)

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India

Omar on ‘dharna’ against civilian traffic ban on highway

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) Vice-President Omar Abdullah on Wednesday sat on a ‘dharna’ (sit-in) on the national highway against the ban on civilian traffic on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Accompanied by other senior NC leaders and party workers, Omar Abdullah sat on the ‘dharna’ on the national highway in Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar city.

NC supporters carried placards and shouted slogans against the ban on civilian traffic on Wednesdays and Sundays.

“Modi your high-handedness will not be accepted”, the NC workers shouted during the sit-in protest.

The decision to ban civilian and public transport on the national highway on Sundays and Wednesdays was taken by the state government to ensure the safety of convoys of security forces on the highway.

The decision was taken in the aftermath of the February 14 terror strike on the highway in Pulwama district in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed.

The uthorities have said the ban will not apply to medical emergencies, movement of lawyers, doctors, tourists, government employees, school buses and agriculturalists.

The have also said that magistrates have been deputed on all crossings on the national highway to permit bona fide civilian movement.

The decision to selectively allow civilian movement has not been able to assuage the common man’s anger.

Local traders dealing in perishable items like vegetables, mutton, among others, argue that their goods perish on storage as they are unable to carry on normal business during Sundays and Wednesdays in markets on the flanks of the national highway.

IANS

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India

Omar Abdullah slams curbs on civilian traffic on highway

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has slammed the state government’s decision to curb civilian traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Sundays and Wednesdays to secure the movement of security forces’ convoys.

Reacting to the decision, the former leader said in a series of tweets on Wednesday: “Has anyone in the administration applied their minds before planning to issue this highway closure order?

“Jammu and Kashmir is not Chhattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh where there are alternate routes. Here if you close the national highway you shut down all access to the valley. This is a lifeline.”

He further added: “I’ve made this suggestion before and in light of today’s highway closure order I feel the need to repeat it – why can’t the forces travel between Banihal and Baramulla by special trains? Quicker, safer and more comfortable for the security forces.”

Echoing Abdullah’s remarks, former IAS officer-turned-politician, Shah Faesal tweeted: “Policies imported from Israel will turn Kashmir into Palestine.

“The decision to close national highway to civilian traffic on every Wednesday and Sunday is extremely shocking. @RajnathSingh_in how will the employees attend office? How will patients travel? School children?”

The state government on Wednesday announced that no civilian traffic will be allowed on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Sundays and Wednesdays from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. to ensure the safety of the security convoys.

The restrictions will remain in force till May 31.

IANS