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Trump says ‘big price to pay’ for Syria chemical attack

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Beirut/Washington: US President Donald Trump said there would be a “big price to pay” after medical aid groups reported dozens of people were killed by poison gas in a besieged rebel-held town in Syria.
As international officials worked to try to confirm the chemical attack which happened in the town of Douma, Trump took the rare step of directly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the incident.
The Syrian state denied government forces had launched any chemical attack and Russia, President Bashar al-Assads most powerful ally, called the reports bogus.
"Many dead, including women and children, in the mindless chemical attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay," Trump wrote on Twitter.
The White House declined to clarify what consequences Trump had in mind. Last year, the United States launched a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base days after a sarin gas attack in northwestern Syria blamed on Assad.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned against any military action on the basis of "invented and fabricated excuses", saying this could lead to severe consequences.
A joint statement by the medical relief organisation Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defence service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said 49 people had died in the attack. Others put the toll even higher.
The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet Monday afternoon on the chemical attack at the request of the United States and eight other members, diplomats said.
Last week Trump said he wanted to pull US troops out of Syria, though his advisers have urged him to wait to ensure Islamic State militants are defeated and to prevent Assad
s ally Iran from gaining a foothold there.
There are about 2,000 U.S. troops on the ground in the country working to help fight Islamic State militants.
A top Trump security aide said on Sunday the United States would not rule out launching another missile attack. “I wouldnt take anything off the table," said Tom Bossert, the White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser, in an interview.
"We are looking into the attack at this point," he said, adding that the photos of the incident are "horrible."
In one video shared by activists, the bodies of around a dozen children, women and men, some with foam at the mouth, were seen. "Douma city, April 7 ... there is a strong smell here," a voice can be heard saying.
One factor in Trump
s decision to bomb Syria last year was the television images of dead children.
Trump will be joined at the White House on Monday by John Bolton, who takes over as White House national security adviser.


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23 killed as thunderstorms, dust storm lash Pakistan

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Islamabad: Massive thunderstorms and a dust storm lashed Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces, killing at least 23 people, injuring scores of others, according to media reports

Heavy rain and storm caused by a westerly wave uprooted electricity poles and trees in different parts of the country and also damaged properties on Monday.

Intermittent downpour in western, central and northern parts of the country for the past few days has rendered mud houses susceptible to the collapse, while land slide and flash floods in some areas have already made several roads dangerous for travel, Dawn reported.

 

Thunderstorm in Punjab province resulted in the collapse of several buildings, leaving at least nine persons, including two women, dead. Four deaths were reported in Khanewal district; three in Hasilpur area of Bahawalnagar district; and two Dunyapur tehsil of Lodhran district. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Chitral valley, a woman and two men died when the roof of their house collapsed and fell on them.

In Balochistan province, authorities declared emergency on Monday after torrential rains and flash flooding wreaked havoc and killed at least nine persons, including a child. Heavy rainfall in Quetta, Gwadar, Chagai, Harnai, Duki, Jewani, Jaffarabad, Kohlu, Sibi, Barkhan, Chaman and other districts of Balochistan caused flooding in nullahs and drains which severed land link in various parts of the province, the Express Tribune reported.

The low-lying areas had been submerged due to continuous rainfall in Kohlu and adjoining areas. In separate incidents related to the dust storm that hit Karachi, four persons, including two young girls died, an equal number of fishermen went missing and dozens of others suffered injuries, according to officials and rescue services.

Gusty winds also uprooted several trees, poles and signboards, broke windowpanes of some high-rise buildings and damaged the walls of schools and homes in Karachi.

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Iran’s legislature labels US troops in Mideast as terrorist

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TEHRAN: Iran’s lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill labelling US forces in the Middle East as terrorist, a day after the US terrorism designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard formally took effect, state TV reported.

Defence Minister Gen. Amir Hatami introduced the bill authorising the government to act firmly in response to “terrorist actions” by US forces. It demands authorities use “legal, political and diplomatic” measures to neutralise the American move, without elaborating.

The US move aims at “thwarting Iran’s influence,” and shows that America’s longstanding sanctions against Iran have become ineffective, Hatami told lawmakers.

 

During the debate, some hard-liner lawmakers had demanded listing the entire US army and security forces as terrorist.

The TV report said 204 lawmakers approved the bill, out of 207 present at the session in the 290-seat chamber. Two lawmakers voted against the bill and one abstained.

However, it remains unclear how the bill’s passage in parliament would affect the Gourd’s activities in the Persian Gulf, where the US Navy has in the past accused Iranian patrol boats of harassing American warships.

The Revolutionary Guard has forces and wields influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and is in charge of Iranian missiles that have US bases in their range.

The Guard’s designation the first-ever for an entire division of another government adds another layer of sanctions to the powerful paramilitary force and makes it a crime under US jurisdiction to provide it with material support.

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US asks its citizens to reconsider travel plans to Pakistan

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Washington: The US has advised its citizens to reconsider their travel to Pakistan due to terrorism and asked them not to travel to restive Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), identified as the most dangerous areas due to terror attacks.
While Pakistan in general has been placed in “Level Three” category in the latest travel advisory issued by the US , several parts of the country, including Balochistan, KPK province, PoK and India-Pakistan border, have been placed in the most dangerous “Level Four” category, in which US citizens are asked not to travel due to high risk areas.
“Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or near Pakistan, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and/or a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR),” the State Department said in the travel advisory.
Asserting that terror groups continue plotting possible attacks in Pakistan, the State Department said that terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, military installations, airports, universities, tourist locations, schools, hospitals, places of worship and government facilities.
“Terrorists have targeted US diplomats and diplomatic facilities in the past, and information suggests they continue to do so,” it said.
Terrorist attacks continue to happen across Pakistan, with most occurring in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Large-scale terrorist attacks have resulted in hundreds of casualties, it said.
“Do not travel to Balochistan province,” the State Department said, adding that active terrorist groups, an active separatist movement, sectarian conflicts and deadly terrorist attacks against civilians, government offices and security forces destabilise the province.
Similarly, in the PoK, it warned that militant groups are known to operate in the area and the threat of armed conflict between India and Pakistan remains. “Indian and Pakistani military forces periodically exchange gun and artillery fire across the Line of Control (LoC),” it said.
Noting that India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border, the travel advisory said the only official Pakistan-India border crossing point for persons who are not citizens of India or Pakistan is in the province of Punjab between Wagah and Attari.
“Do not travel to KPK province, which includes the former FATA,” the advisory said.
Active terrorist and insurgent groups routinely conduct attacks against civilians, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government offices, and security forces. “These groups historically have not discriminated between government officials and civilians. Assassination and kidnapping attempts are common, including the targeting of polio eradication teams,” it said.

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