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Over 50 killed as Taliban attack Afghan town
Kandahar, May 18
Hundreds of Taliban insurgents launched an attack on a town in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, and 13 policemen and 40 Taliban were killed in hours of fighting, government officials said today.

Catholics pray outside cinema showing ‘Da Vinci Code’
Paris, May 18
About 200 Roman Catholics demonstrated with prayer and song outside a cinema to protest the showing of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ at its opening in the French capital.

Unemployed Indians forced to sleep in parks
Dubai, May 18
About 31 Indian and Bangladeshi labourers, penniless and with no passports, have been sleeping in public parks in Dubai and Sharjah for over 22 months despite a court order to their former employer to pay their dues.

Retired Gurkhas can now become Brits
London, May 18
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has decided to allow hundreds of retired Gurkhas to take up British citizenship by changing the rules for issuing visas to the old soldiers.




 
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Preity Zinta and Czech model Eva Herzigova share a laugh
Preity Zinta (left) and Czech model Eva Herzigova share a laugh at the lunch honouring Bollywood stars at the Chopard Lounge during the 59th Cannes Film Festival in France on Thursday. — Reuters

Was Diana pregnant with Dodi’s child?
London, May 18
In yet another twist in the conspiracy theory of Princess Diana’s death Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed has revealed that Diana was pregnant with Dodi’s child when she died.

Why some can’t resist food
London, May 18
Scientists have discovered why some people just can’t resist food. They used scans to show the reward centres in some people’s brains are particularly sensitive to food advertising and product packaging.


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Over 50 killed as Taliban attack Afghan town

Kandahar, May 18
Hundreds of Taliban insurgents launched an attack on a town in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, and 13 policemen and 40 Taliban were killed in hours of fighting, government officials said today.

Helmand’s deputy governor, Mr Amir Mohammad Akhundzada, said it was the biggest strike in the province by the hardline Islamists since they were driven from power in late 2001.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks on foreign and Afghan government forces in recent months as thousands more NATO peacekeepers arrive. Violence in parts of the country is the worst it has been since the end of their rule.

The attack on the town of Mosa Qala, 470 km (300 miles) southwest of Kabul, was launched yesterday evening and the fighting went on until early today.

“Thirteen policemen were killed and six were injured,’’ Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said in a statement. “Forty persons on the enemy side were killed.”

In a separate incident, a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy in the generally peaceful western city of Herat, killing himself and an American civilian. A US Embassy spokesman said he was a State Department contractor training Afghan police.

Another suicide bomber attacked a US military convoy near Ghazni town, 125 km southwest of the capital, Kabul, killing himself and a man on a motorcycle but causing no casualties among US troops, an Afghan army officer said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Herat attack but there was no immediate claim for the second suicide blast.

A Canadian woman soldier was killed in fighting in neighbouring Kandahar province yesterday, hours before Canada’s parliament narrowly backed a two-year extension of Canada’s Afghan mission to 2009.

The US military said 18 Taliban were killed and 26 captured in the fighting in Panjwai district, 25 km west of Kandahar town.

In Helmand, Afghan forces were battling the insurgents after they withdrew from Mosa Qala, Akhundzada said. There had been civilian casualties but he said he did not know how many.

British troops are in charge of security in Helmand but no foreign soldiers were involved in the battle, Afghan officials said.

The Taliban focused their attack on government offices and police stations, and many shops in the town’s market caught fire during the battle, Akhundzada said.

The town is 40 km north of the province’s Sangin district, the scene of frequent clashes between Taliban and foreign and government forces.

A Taliban commander, speaking by telephone, said 30 policemen had been killed. Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency Taliban had captured the town but later withdrew.

NATO member nations are sending reinforcements to boost their peacekeeping force from 9,000 to 16,000. The force will soon take over in the perilous south in what is set to be the alliance’s toughest ground mission in its 57-year history.

With about 23,000 troops, the USA now has its largest force in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 after refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden, architect of the September 11 attacks. — Reuters

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Catholics pray outside cinema showing ‘Da Vinci Code’

Paris, May 18
About 200 Roman Catholics demonstrated with prayer and song outside a cinema to protest the showing of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ at its opening in the French capital.

Dozens of riot police yesterday forced the protesters to move to the other side of the Boulevard Saint-Germain, a main Left Bank thoroughfare where the Odeon theatre was showing the film, which also opened the Cannes film festival in southern France.

“We are, in fact, being attacked by a not-so-innocent fiction that will provide one more dreadful occasion to unleash hatred for Jesus Christ and his disciples,” said the Rev Xavier Beauvais of the St Nicolas du Chardonnet church — known for its traditionalist reading of the scriptures.

The group, which included many middle-aged protesters, sang hymns and knelt on the sidewalk to pray.

The Ron Howard movie, based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, has unleashed protests in Asia and elsewhere as it began opening around the globe. The Vatican has spoken out against the work.

“I’m against this because the main principle is to show that Jesus had a relationship with Mary Magdalene and had children,” one of the demonstrators protesters, Helene Rollot, told AP Television News. “I don’t need to see the movie. I just need to show that I’m against its principle.” A statement by the Civitas Institute, a traditional organisation which organised the protest, said The Da Vinci Code called the book and the movie an “imposture”, claiming they “weaken the Catholic faith.”

BEIJING: China hosted a premiere of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ hours before the gala opening at Cannes, Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

“With a shining cast and controversial plot, the movie is expected to be a massive hit both because of the novel’s worldwide sales record of over 4 crore copies and protests from religious circles,” Xinhua said in an overnight report.

Kicking off the annual Cannes film festival, Ron Howard’s adaptation of the Dan Brown bestseller, starring Tom Hanks, has been panned by most critics. — AP, Reuters

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Unemployed Indians forced to sleep in parks

Dubai, May 18
About 31 Indian and Bangladeshi labourers, penniless and with no passports, have been sleeping in public parks in Dubai and Sharjah for over 22 months despite a court order to their former employer to pay their dues.

The labourers were working for a UAE national who runs a construction company. Ever since they were dismissed in 2004, they have been forced to live like this even though a civil court here had ordered their former employer to pay their dues amounting to $1,26,615.

“The sponsor did not pay any of the labourers’ earnings, end-of-service benefits, return tickets, compensation for unlawful dismissals and many other dues,” the legal consultant of labourers, K. Shamsuddin was quoted in Gulf News.

He also alleged that the employer had retained their passports without any legal grounds.

“The police has arrested some of these workers as they were sleeping in parks, some others failed to show any identification as their visas have expired,” said Shamsuddin.

After being sacked, the labourers complained against their sponsor at the Labour Relations Department here.

However, as the two parties failed to reach a settlement, their case was referred to the Dubai Civil Court that ordered the sponsor to pay each of their claimants his dues, along with 9 per cent legal interest to them. — PTI

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Retired Gurkhas can now become Brits

London, May 18
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has decided to allow hundreds of retired Gurkhas to take up British citizenship by changing the rules for issuing visas to the old soldiers.

The response to change in visa rules has been quick from the Gurkhas. On Wednesday, 29 applications were lodged with the British Embassy in Kathmandu.

The Telegrapgh quoted 53-year-old Purna Gurung as saying that with life being so difficult in Nepal, anybody would grab at the chance to settle down in Britain.

The visa change addresses an anomaly that had infuriated veterans’ groups for years.

Official policy said only Gurkhas who retired after 1997 were allowed to settle in Britain while older veterans were excluded.

But the home office routinely granted older Gurkhas leave to remain while the Kathmandu Embassy refused to let them even travel to the UK in case they stayed.

Visa officers abroad are now told to use the same “discretion” as the home office. 
— ANI

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Was Diana pregnant with Dodi’s child?

London, May 18
In yet another twist in the conspiracy theory of Princess Diana’s death Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed has revealed that Diana was pregnant with Dodi’s child when she died.

In a BBC radio interview Fayed also launched an attack on Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, branding him a racist who “grew up with Nazis” and organised the murder of his son and Princess Diana because he could not tolerate the thought of their marriage.

The outburst is the latest chapter in a nine-year battle waged by Mr Fayed against what he claims is a conspiracy organised by Britain’s security services at the behest of the Royal Family.

While Mr Fayed has consistently claimed his 42-year-old son Dodi and Diana were murdered, the Egyptian businessman used Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show “A guy who grew up with the Nazis, you think he will accept my son to marry Princess Diana, the mother of the future King, and she was carrying his child? All this will be black and white from the investigation in Paris,” Al-Fayad was quoted by the Scotsman, as saying.

He dismissed Prince Philip as “nothing to do with the country, imported from Germany, half-Russian, grew up with the Hitler people, his aunt was married to Hitler’s general”.

Mr Fayed also used the BBC interview to claim that Diana had spoken with foreboding of her future while on holiday at the millionaire’s home in the south of France. — ANI

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Why some can’t resist food

London, May 18
Scientists have discovered why some people just can’t resist food. They used scans to show the reward centres in some people’s brains are particularly sensitive to food advertising and product packaging.

Greater stimulation of this area by food images is likely to encourage over-eating and obesity.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was carried out by the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit.

This helps explain why some individuals are more vulnerable to developing certain disorders like binge-eating.

Lead researcher Dr John Beaver said: “Previous studies in this area have assumed that brain activation patterns are similar in all healthy individuals.

“But the new findings demonstrate that, even in healthy individuals, some people’s brain reward centres are more sensitive to appetising food cues. — ANI 

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