News in Brief

Quake kills at least 156 people in China

A strong 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit a remote, mostly rural and mountainous area of southwestern China’s Sichuan province yesterday, killing at least 156 people and injuring about 5,500 close to where a big quake killed almost 70,000 people in 2008. The earthquake, China’s worst in three years, occurred at 8 A.M. in Lushan county near Ya’an city and the epicenter had a depth of 12 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said. ‏(Reuters‏)

Bombings mar first Iraq vote since U.S. exit

A dozen small bombs exploded and mortar rounds landed near polling centers in Iraq yesterday, wounding at least four people during voting in the country’s first provincial elections since the departure of U.S. troops. Two mortar rounds injured three voters and a policeman at a school used as a voting centre in Latifiya, south of Baghdad, soon after the start of the election that will measure parties’ political strength before parliamentary elections in 2014. A local al-Qaeda wing and Sunni Islamists have stepped up their campaign this year to undermine the Shi’ite-led government and stoke confrontation among the country’s combustible sectarian and ethnic mix. ‏(Reuters‏)

Pakistani judge remands Musharraf in custody

A Pakistani court remanded former president Pervez Musharraf in custody for two weeks yesterday as judges pushed ahead with plans to put the former army chief on trial for a crackdown on the judiciary during his time in office. Hundreds of lawyers jeered at Musharraf and scuffled with his supporters as he appeared at the Islamabad court a day after police arrested him at his home − a breach with an unwritten rule in Pakistan that ex-generals are above the law. The judge ruled that he be detained until his next court appearance on May 4 − though Musharraf’s lawyers said it was not immediately clear if the order meant he would have to go to jail or could be held under house arrest. ‏(Reuters‏)

Texas fertilizer plant didn’t heed disclosure rules

The fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the Department of Homeland Security. Yet a person familiar with the department’s operations said the firm that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, didn’t tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer. A U.S. congressman and safety experts have questioned whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock was responsible. ‏(Reuters‏)

Protests build in New Delhi after child rape

Angry crowds demonstrated in India’s capital Saturday after a 5-year-old girl was allegedly raped, tortured and kept in captivity for 40 hours, reviving memories of last December’s brutal assault on a woman that shook the country. Police arrested a man they accuse of the attack from the eastern state of Bihar, and brought him back to New Delhi for interrogation. Doctors say the girl suffered severe injuries and bruising, including to her neck and genitalia. Protests that began on Friday grew more intense after video footage showed a policeman slapping a woman protester, and following reports that investigators had offered the victim’s family 2,000 rupees ‏($37‏) not to file a case. It was the second case of alleged rape in 48 hours to trigger protests and heavy-handed policing. Public fury over the latest attack in the capital echoed the response to the gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus on December 16 in New Delhi. ‏(Reuters‏)