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At least 31 dead in Iran train crash



At least 31 people were killed in Iran on Friday when a passenger train rammed into the back of an intercity express which had broken down, the provincial governor said.

More than 70 people were admitted to hospital after the crash in the northern province of Semnan on the main line between the capital Tehran and second city Mashhad, Mohammad Reza Khabbaz told state television.

The express train, operating one of Iran’s longest distances services from Tabriz in the northwest to Mashhad, had been forced to stop between stations by a mechanical failure, perhaps caused by the cold November weather, Khabbaz said.

Two of its coaches burst into flames when the train behind ran into the back of it at 7:50 am (0420 GMT).

The front four coaches of the second train — running from Semnan to Mashhad — derailed and overturned.

“One minute I was sleeping and the next I was being carried out of a coach on fire,” one hospitalised passenger told state television.

Initial reports had said that the express train was stopped in a station when the accident happened.

But Khabbaz said it was some four kilometres (two and half miles) outside Haft Khan station between Semnan and Damghan, the next major town.

At midday emergency services were still battling to put out the fire and rescue injured passengers from the overturned carriages.

The province’s Red Crescent director, Hassan Shokrollahi, said the remote location of the crash site had complicated rescue efforts.

“Due to the difficulty of access, only our helicopter has managed to reach the scene,” he said earlier in the day.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Semnan and Damghan.

Map showing location of the deadly train crash in Iran

Map showing location of the deadly train crash in Iran ©Jonathan Storey (AFP)

Iran's railway network has a patchy safety record

Iran’s railway network has a patchy safety record

Middle East

Loud explosion heard outside busy hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

Explosion hits busy road outside popular hotel in central Mogadishu.



Somalia Car Bombing

MOGADISHU: 16 people killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack at the entrance of  Wehliye hotel in Mogadishu. Most of the casualties are auto rickshaw drivers and passengers, according to witnesses.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The attacked was claimed by al-Shabab, Reuters news agency reported, citing the armed group’s military operation spokesman.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government, is frequently carrying out attacks in and around the capital.

More to follow.

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Middle East

Arab Parliament calls for ceasefire in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

The international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.



Eastern Ghouta

Cairo, March 17 (IANS/WAM) Arab Parliament President Meshal Al-Selmi has called for an immediate halt to the continued bombing in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus and in the rest of Syria.

In an urgent cable sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, Al-Selmi said that the bombing of the city led to the killing and wounding of hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children.

He said that the siege led to the worsening of conditions, leading to more victims due to the lack of food and medicine available to residents.

Al-Selmi said that the daily bombing of civilian populated areas was a “heinous” crime against humanity and ran counter to the rules of the international humanitarian laws and conventions.

He went on to say that the shelling was “unjustified” and amounted to war crimes, calling on the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes from continuing.

The Arab Parliament President urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and to take “urgent, effective and serious steps” on the ground for the protection of Syrian civilians from the daily bombardment, explosives and poisonous gases.

He renewed his call to the UN Security Council to implement an immediate ceasefire across Syrian territories and the withdrawal of armed forces of all countries interfering in Syrian domestic affairs.

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Middle East

De Mistura renews UN appeal for Syrian truce



Staffan de Mistura

Geneva, March 2 : The United Nations special envoy to Syria said on Thursday that the world body has and will not give up urging the implementation of its resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in the war-ravaged country.

“We will continue asking until we are red in the face, blue in the face, for both sides… to stop shelling each other’s areas and for convoys to be allowed to get to Eastern Ghouta in particular,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.

“Otherwise this (Eastern Ghouta) becomes a copy of Aleppo,” de Mistura said, referring to the northern Syrian city that became a major flashpoint in the country’s eight-year civil war.

Civilians have been evacuated from the besieged rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus for the first time since daily “humanitarian pauses” began on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

More than 580 people have been killed in Eastern Ghouta since the Syrian government and its allies intensified their bombardments on February 18, according to doctors.

The 393,000 civilians trapped in the enclave, the last major rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus, also face severe shortages of food and medical supplies.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday calling for a 30-day countrywide cease-fire, but it has not come into effect.

The resolution set no firm date for the truce to take effect.

It also excluded attacks on opposition forces identified as terrorists, who make up some of the estimated 580 opposition fighters entrenched in eastern Ghouta.

On Monday, UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, demanded that the ceasefire be brought into effect immediately.

“Eastern Ghouta cannot wait. It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” Guterres said at the opening of a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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