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Senior police officer arrested over Sri Lanka protest death

A top Sri Lankan police officer was arrested Wednesday after ordering his subordinates to fire on anti-government protesters, in clashes that left one man dead and nearly 30 others wounded.

Last week’s demonstration in the town of Rambukkana was one of many around the country protesting a rise in fuel prices in the island nation, which is suffering through a crippling economic crisis.

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Police used tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowd, which had blockaded a busy highway and railway line linking the capital Colombo with the central city of Kandy.

Senior Superintendent K.B. Keerthiratne was taken into custody on a murder warrant over the incident, during which a 42-year-old father of two was shot dead.

“The magistrate held that the officer was responsible for giving illegal orders to fire live ammunition,” a court official told AFP.

“Four constables who fired at the crowd are also being arrested.”

Police had initially maintained that the crowd attempted to torch a fuel tanker and officers fired to prevent a bigger calamity.

But the presiding magistrate ruled that evidence presented to the court showed the shooting took place after the demonstration had been brought under control.

Sri Lanka has seen weeks of protests over rising living costs and acute shortages of food, fuel and other essentials.

Crowds have demanded the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over mismanagement of the economic crisis, the country’s worst since independence from Britain in 1948.

The painful downturn took hold after the coronavirus pandemic walloped vital revenue from tourism and remittances.

The government has defaulted on its $51 billion external debt and opened talks with the International Monetary Fund for an emergency bailout.

Utilities unable to pay for fuel imports have imposed lengthy daily blackouts to ration power, while long lines snake around service stations as people queue for diesel, petrol and kerosene.

Hospitals are short of vital medicines and the government has appealed to citizens abroad for donations.

Trade unions have announced they will stage a one-day strike on Thursday to protest runaway inflation.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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