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Mourners gather in Baghdad for Soleimani’s funeral procession

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TEHRAN QASEM SOLEIMANI PROTEST

Baghdad, Jan 4 A huge crowd of mourners gathered in Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Saturday to participate in a funeral procession for the Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump.

The crowd in Baghdad was also there to mourn the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Front (PMF), who was also killed in the Friday airstrike near the Baghdad International Airport, the BBC reported.

The gathering in Baghdad on Saturday marked the beginning of days of mourning for Soleimani, who was the head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Mourners started gathering in Baghdad from early Saturday morning, ahead of the start of the procession, waving Iraqi and militia flags and chanting “death to America”.

The procession then snaked though the streets, some carrying portraits of Soleimani and some of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Deputy Ambassador to Baghdad Mousa Tabatabaie told Tehran’s state-run IRNA news agency that funeral processions for Soleimani would also be held in the Iraqi holy cities of Najaf and Karbala on Saturday, reports Press TV.

Soleimani’s body will arrive in Iran on Saturday evening where authorities have declared three days of mourning.

According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, a funeral procession for the IRGC commander will also take place in Tehran on Sunday morning, during which Khamenei will participate in a prayer ceremony.

The body will then be taken for burial in the city of Kerman, Soleimani’s birthplace.

Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have vowed to retaliate against the US over Soleimani’s death.

Friday’s attack came after Iraqi protesters on Tuesday stormed the US embassy compound in Baghdad to protest the American air raids conducted on December 29 against five bases of Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, claiming the lives of 25 people.

World

5 killed in France building fire

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Fire

Paris, Feb 27 (IANS) Five people were killed and seven others injured in a building fire in the French city of Strasbourg on Thursday, the local fire service said in a statement.

According to local media, firefighters responded to the incident at 1.16 a.m. after receiving an alert that there was smoke in the seven-storey building, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some 23 people were rescued and the fire was brought under control.

The cause of the blaze was under probe.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and Mayor Roland Ries of Strasbourg have expressed their condolences to the victims and their families on social media.

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Business

US Commerce Sec Wilbur Ross eyes strengthening economic ties with Pakistan

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US President Donald Trump and Pak PM Imran Khan

Islamabad, Feb 27 : US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Pakistan and explored areas where both countries could renew their economic partnership and step up efforts to enhance economic, trade and investment ties, the media and government officials said on Thursday.

During his visit on Wednesday, the US official along with his trade delegation held detailed discussions with Prime Minister Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan, and Abdul Razak Dawood, advisor to the premier on commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment, reports Xinhua news agency.

Khan said that Ross’s visit would help in realizing the shared vision of Pakistan-US leadership to transform the bilateral relationship into a broad-based, multifaceted and economic-centred partnership.

The Prime Minister also underscored the need to “take full advantage of trade and investment opportunities” in Pakistan, stressing the importance of enhancing business-to-business cooperation between the two countries.

During his separate meeting with Dawood, the Commerce Secretary said that several American companies hoped to enhancing their investments in Pakistan, adding that Islamabad and Washington would have to collectively work to promote the volume of their bilateral trade.

“We want to play our full part in the progress and development of Pakistan,” Ross said.

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India calls USCIRF remarks on Delhi violence ‘misleading’

“Instead, reports are mounting that the Delhi police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.”

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Delhi Violence

New Delhi/Washington, Feb 27 : India on Thursday hit back at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), by calling their scathing remarks on the Delhi violence “factually inaccurate and misleading”.

The USCIRF had said that the Delhi violence in which over 30 people were killed, was specifically targeted against Muslims.

Rebutting their comments, the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said: “We have seen the comments made by USCIRF, sections of the media and a few individuals regarding recent incidents of violence in Delhi. These are factually inaccurate and misleading, and appear to be aimed at politicising the issue.”

The government said that the law enforcement agencies were working on the ground to prevent violence and ensure restoration of confidence and normalcy.

“Senior representatives of the government have been involved in that process. Prime Minister has publicly appealed for peace and brotherhood. We would urge that irresponsible comments are not made at this sensitive time,” the statement added.

Earlier, USCIRF had expressed “grave concern over the ongoing violence taking place in Delhi” and accused India of “targeting and potentially disenfranchising Muslims across the country, in clear violation of international human rights standards”.

USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava in a statement had said: “According to reports, several mosques have also been set alight or vandalized. Many Muslim residents have been forced to flee the area. This unrest comes in the wake of widespread protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act following its passage in December 2019.”

“The brutal and unchecked violence growing across Delhi cannot continue,” Bhargava said, adding that the Indian government must take swift action to ensure the safety of all of its citizens.

“Instead, reports are mounting that the Delhi police have not intervened in violent attacks against Muslims, and the government is failing in its duty to protect its citizens.”

USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said the ongoing violence in Delhi and the reported “attacks against Muslims, their homes and shops, and their houses of worship are greatly disturbing”.

One of the essential duties of any responsible government, he said, is to provide protection and physical security for its citizens, regardless of faith.

“We urge the Indian government to take serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence.”

In its annual report last year, the USCIRF classified India as a “Tier 2” country for engaging in or tolerating religious freedom violations that meet at least one of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious standard for designations as a “country of particular concern (CPC)”, under the International Religious Freedom Act.

The ongoing violence in North-East Delhi erupted after clashes between pro and anti-CAA protesters on Sunday.

Besides the casualties, over 200 others have been injured in the deadliest violence in the national capital in decades.

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