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Nation at a Glance

Illicit liquor kills 12 at PM’s power hub

Lucknow: Illicit liquor killed at least 12 people in the the Qaisarbagh area of the Prime Minister’s constituency, Lucknow, on Saturday, reports our special correspondent.

Seven persons are in hospital in serious condition. The toll is likely to rise as more people are being admitted to the hospital. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is in New York, sent his condolences.

The district administration and state excise department officials have formed three special squads to conduct door-to-door checks in the worst-affected areas of Ghosiana and Khatikana and some densely-populated pockets in the Qaisarbagh area.

“Our primary concern is to detect and destroy the stock of illicit liquor and ensure that there are no more deaths,” district magistrate Navneet Sehgal said.

Police said they had arrested the kingpin of the hooch trade. An inspector of the Qaisarbagh police station, the excise inspector of the area and five excise department constables have been suspended for laxity, officials said.

Local residents say illicit liquor was being brewed and sold on a large scale for many months, but authorities had turned a blind eye because some of them were receiving bribes from the liquor merchants.

Excise department sources estimate the annual turnover from the illicit trade to be Rs 50 crore in the Lucknow region alone. “This is nearly half of the sale of Rs 100-crore worth country-made liquor through official channels,” they say.

Aid blow to Kanishka accused

Vancouver (Reuters): Ripudaman Singh Malik, the wealthy Vancouver businessman accused in the 1985 Kanishka bombings, lost his bid on Friday to have Canadian taxpayers pay for his legal defence.

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge, Sunni Stromberg-Stein, did not believe Malik’s claim to have run out of money, and said his family had “manipulated facts” to make it appear they could not aid him financially while living in luxury. He had claimed to be a multi-millionaire at an earlier bail hearing. “Any perceived cash shortage is artificial and contrived,” the judge wrote in her 38-page decision rejecting his request for government financial aid.

Malik faces first degree murder and conspiracy charges along with Ajaib Singh Bagri for an Air-India plane bombing that killed 329 people and an attempt to bomb another Air-India plane that instead killed two Tokyo airport workers.

Rebels target army convoy

Srinagar (PTI): Militants on Saturday ambushed an army convoy and engaged troops in exchange of fire at three places even as a major Jaish-e-Mohammad hideout was busted in Jammu and Kashmir where 10 extremists and two personnel were killed and 14 injured.

Six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were also killed and three Rashtriya Rifles personnel injured in a gunbattle that lasted about 10 hours in Herman village of Pulwama district, official sources said. Another gunbattle that lasted almost two days in Rajouri district killed three militants and two security personnel and left two soldiers injured.

Shop owner shot at

Mumbai (PTI): A medical store owner had a miraculous escape when two unidentified gunmen fired at him from close range at northwestern suburb of Vile Parle on Saturday. The bullet grazed the back of Suryakant More (49), after a motorcycle-borne duo fired at him, police said. More, who was on his way to the sessions court in connection with a case, was rushed to Cooper Hospital and was discharged later. The cause of the attack was not immediately known, police said.

Fire at police HQ

New Delhi (PTI): A fire broke out at the police headquarters building in central Delhi on Saturday afternoon. No one was injured in the blaze that started around 1.30 pm in a room on the second floor of the building. Seven people, who were trapped, were rescued by firemen using a skylift vehicle.

Boy rescued

Morena (PTI): A seven-year-old boy who was kidnapped from near Kasturba school here has been rescued, police said. The kidnappers freed Sonu Sharma and escaped when the police raided their hideout at Ramnagar area in the town, superintendent of police Roopsingh Meena said.

Marina beach

Chennai (PTI): Marina beach, the second largest natural beach in the world, will be mechanically cleaned on Monday. The cost for cleaning the 3.2 km-long beach will be Rs 32 lakh. The machine is capable of cleaning it at the rate of 20,000 sq metres per hour.

Tick

Three animation films, written and directed by Indian children, have been selected for the prestigious Chicago International Children’s Film Festival to be held in Chicago from October 23 to November 2. The films were shortlisted from 500 entries.


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