Rainstorm kills at least 91, injures over 160

A powerful dust storm and rain have swept parts of northern and western India, causing houses to collapse, toppling trees and leaving at least 91 people dead and more than 160 injured, officials said Thursday.

The devastation was particularly severe in Agra, the northern city that is home to the iconic Taj Mahal. Forty-three people died there as the wind speed touched 80 mph, said Sanjay Kumar, the relief commissioner for Uttar Pradesh state. There was no damage to the monument.

In total, at least 64 people died and 67 were injured in the state, Kumar said.

In the western state of Rajasthan, the Press Trust of India said 27 died and 100 were injured. Most deaths were caused by house collapses and lightning.

The rainstorm caught people by surprise as the monsoon season is still more than six weeks away.

— Associated Press


Refu­gee shelter raided as official talks tough

Hundreds of German police officers raided a refugee shelter in the southern town of Ellwangen on Thursday, days after a mob of migrants prevented authorities from deporting a 23-year-old man from Togo.

The police operation came as Germany’s top security official presented a new “master plan on migration.”

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer vowed that he would do everything he could to clamp down on illegal immigration, speed up asylum procedures and deport rejected asylum seekers as quickly as possible.

Four people, including one police officer, were taken to the hospital for injuries suffered during the raid Thursday, while eight were treated at the scene.

Seehofer, a hard-liner on immigration, said he wants to quickly implement new procedures to limit the overall number of asylum seekers in Germany. He also vowed to do everything possible to deport criminal and extremist migrants faster.

As part of the new plan, the government wants to place asylum seekers in centralized centers with up to 1,500 other migrants for up to two years. They will not be distributed across the country before their applications are processed. Judges will work inside these centers, and, if they reject applicants, those failed candidates will be deported straight from there.

Seehofer said he also wants the government to declare several nations — including Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria — as “secure home countries,” reducing the chances that applicants from there will be granted asylum.

Those who do receive asylum will need to integrate better into German society, Seehofer said.

— Associated Press


Palestinian Authority slashes Gaza salaries

The Palestinian Authority cut salaries for its staff in the Gaza Strip by 20 percent on Thursday and failed to make up for skipping the previous month’s pay, leaving civil servants in the impoverished territory fuming and complaining that they are pawns in a factional power struggle.

About 38,000 civil servants in Gaza learned of the new disruptions to their incomes upon arriving at their banks on payday, intent on withdrawing cash ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins May 16.

Last month, they were not paid. Many were hoping for two months’ pay this month but instead received a single month’s pay that was reduced without explanation.

Palestinian Authority salaries in the other Palestinian territory, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, were paid in full.

The Islamist group Hamas seized control of Gaza from forces loyal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, prompting Israel and Egypt to clamp down on the territory, where 2 million people live under a de facto blockade.

As part of an Egyptian-mediated effort, Hamas said last year that it would cede the territory’s control to Abbas’s authority. But many Gazans still feel victimized by the power struggle between the two groups.

The Gaza wage cuts were the second round in as many years. The Palestinian Authority still administers the payroll for civil servants in the territory.

In April 2017, Abbas slashed Gaza salaries by 30 percent. He has also cut authority staff numbers in Gaza by ordering early retirement for nearly a third of employees.

Economists said the cuts would shrink the tax revenue collected in Gaza by Hamas, exacerbating the group’s budgetary shortfalls.

— Reuters

Scottish appeals board to review Lockerbie conviction: Scotland's criminal appeals body said it will review the case of a Libyan convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, as his family tries posthumously to clear his name. Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground. Megrahi lost one appeal and abandoned another before being freed in 2009 on compassionate grounds. He died of cancer in 2012, still protesting his innocence.

German staffer with Red Cross abducted in Mogadishu: Gunmen sneaked into the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in Somalia's capital and seized a German nurse and a Somali colleague, the aid group said. The attack was carried out despite the presence of nearly 10 security guards. The ICRC said it was moving 10 non-Somali staffers to Kenya and "winding down" activities in parts of Somalia outside the capital. A day earlier, a Somali staffer with the World Health Organization was shot dead elsewhere in Mogadishu.

2 killed in attack targeting Pakistan nuclear agency bus: Police in Pakistan said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck a bus carrying employees of the country's nuclear agency, killing two people and wounding several. A police officer said the attack targeted the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission bus in Punjab province. He said the assailant opened fire on the bus, prompting the driver to stop the vehicle and chase him. The attacker then set off his explosives.

— From news services