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Pakistan detains scores in lynching of Sri Lankan: Police

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Police arrested 13 suspects and detained dozens of others in the lynching of a Sri Lankan employee at a sports equipment factory in eastern Pakistan, officials said Saturday.

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A mob of hundreds of enraged people descended on the factory in the district of Sialkot in Punjab province Friday after the Sri Lankan manager of the factory was accused of blasphemy.

The mob grabbed Priyantha Kumara, lynched him and publicly burned the body, according to police. Factory workers accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of the Prophet Muhammad.

Punjab police chief Rao Sardar said Saturday that investigators arrested prominent suspects after seeing their clear role on video in instigating workers to violence, killing the manager and dragging his body outside, and taking selfies with his burning body and proudly admitting what they did.

Sardar, in his initial report to authorities, said the victim had asked the workers to remove all stickers from factory machines before a foreign delegation arrived. It said the incident started at around 11 a.m. and three constables reached the factory to control the situation shortly after.

Hassan Khawar, spokesman for the Punjab government, said the provincial police chief was personally overseeing the investigation.

Khurram Shahzad, a police official in Sialkot district, said 123 suspects were detained in ongoing raids.

The lynching was widely condemned by Pakistan’s military and political leadership, prominent social and religious figures and civil society members.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sugeeswara Gunaratne said Friday that Sri Lanka’s embassy in Islamabad was verifying details of the incident with Pakistani authorities.

In the conservative society of Pakistan mere allegations of blasphemy invite mob attacks. The country’s blasphemy law carries the death penalty for anyone found guilty of the offense.

Friday’s attack came less than a week after a mob burned a police station and four police posts in northwestern Pakistan after officers refused to hand over a mentally unstable man accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran. No officers were hurt in the attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan’s government has long been under pressure to change the country’s blasphemy laws.

A Punjab governor was shot and killed by his own guard in 2011 after he defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy. She was acquitted after spending eight years on death row and, following threats, left Pakistan for Canada to join her family.

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Saudi tourist killed by elephant in Uganda park

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A Saudi tourist was trampled to death by an elephant during a game drive at a popular park in Uganda, a wildlife official said Wednesday.

The attack happened on Tuesday at the Murchison Falls National Park when the man left the vehicle he was travelling in with friends, said Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesman Bashir Hangi.

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“They stopped along the way and the deceased went out of the car, an elephant charged at him, killed him on the spot,” Hangi said in a statement.

The victim was identified as Ayman Sayed Elshahany.

Park officials said police will investigate Elshahany’s death as they review security protocols to “avoid repeat of such incidents.”

Animal attacks are not unheard of in the East African country.

In 2018, a leopard snatched and ate the three-year-old son of a female game ranger at another park in the west of the country.

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US responds to Russia’s security demands in Ukraine crisis

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The US delivered its response to Russia’s security demands, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, the latest step in the high-stakes diplomacy over Moscow’s buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.

The response delivered by Ambassador John Sullivan on Wednesday sets out “a serious diplomatic path forward, Blinken told reporters in Washington. “We are open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way.

The report delivered to officials in Moscow largely sticks to points made by Blinken and other US officials: It rejects Russia’s demand that NATO close its door to potential Ukraine membership in the future, but offers suggestions for areas of mutual interest, such as arms control talks and greater transparency over troop movements and military exercises, Blinken said.

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“We will uphold the principle of NATO’s open door, Blinken said, repeating the US and European position that Russia shouldn’t get to dictate which nations join the military alliance.

“We also do lay out areas where we believe that together we could actually advance security for everyone, including for Russia, Blinken said.

The top US diplomat said he expects to speak with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the “coming days, adding that the US response won’t be released publicly.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to speak to reporters soon on the alliance’s response to Russia.

Tensions have soared as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, though officials in Moscow have repeatedly said they have no intention of invading the country.

Nevertheless, a top official of the pro-Kremlin ruling party who’s also a senior member of the Senate, Andrey Turchak, suggested it could send “certain weapons to the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Openly arming the separatists would undermine Russia’s claims — rejected by Ukraine and the West — that it’s not a party to the conflict.

Russia has said it will decide on whether to continue diplomatic efforts with the US and its allies based on the written answers.

The Kremlin has said it wants the US to respond to its key demands — no further expansion of NATO to the east, no deployments of weapons there that can strike Russia and a pullback of alliance forces in the region — even though Washington has made clear those are non-starters.

Moscow has said previously that the talks the US did offer publicly on limiting missiles and reducing risks around military maneuvers were positive, but not sufficient to address its security concerns.

Even as talks continued and Russia awaited the replies in recent days, the Kremlin continued its buildup of troops, tanks and equipment near Ukraine’s borders, with a major deployment to Belarus for exercises. Russia has said the forces aren’t a threat to anyone, but has refused Western calls to reverse the buildup.

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US to shut down Afghan embassy, strip diplomats of immunity: Sources

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The US government has informed Afghanistan’s diplomats that they will shut down the embassy in Washington and the consulate missions in Los Angeles and New York, sources familiar with the matter tell Al Arabiya English.

The Afghan diplomats will also be stripped of their diplomatic immunity, according to a memo sent to the Afghan diplomats at the beginning of the week.

– Developing

Read more: Once-bustling Afghan Embassy in US down to few diplomats

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