Yemen war leaves 320,000 children starving: UNICEF

Hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen face life-threatening malnutrition, millions lack access to health care or clean water, and some have been drafted as soldiers in the year-old war, the UN says.


A UNICEF report on Tuesday said all sides had “exponentially increased” the use of child soldiers in the conflict between Houthi forces, allied to Iran, and a Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

It knew of 848 documented cases, including boys as young as 10.

“On average, at least six children have been killed or injured every day,” said the report Childhood on the Brink.

Nearly 6 children are killed or injured every day in war-torn #Yemen 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/z2txPGi1FB @UNICEF_Yemen pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/uDvoi5Y2ZP

— UNICEF (@UNICEF) March 29, 2016

UNICEF has confirmed 934 children directly killed and 1356 injured, but says they are “only a tip of the iceberg”.

“Sixty-one per cent of those (children) killed and injured were in (Saudi-led) air strikes across the country,” Julien Harneis, UNICEF’s Representative in Yemen said.

All sides have violated international law by using indiscriminate and disproportionate force that means “children die unnecessarily and wrongly”, he said, citing multiple coalition strikes on outdoor markets.

Basic services and infrastructure are “on the verge of total collapse,” with attacks on schools, hospitals and the water and sanitation system.

387k children across war-torn #Yemen don’t have access to education 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/z2txPGi1FB @UNICEF_Yemen pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/LRnbRKt87a

— UNICEF (@UNICEF) March 29, 2016

The UN said last week the warring parties had agreed to a cessation of hostilities from April 10 and peace talks from April 18, after a year of war that has killed more than 6200 people.

Nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the verge of famine, the UN’s World Food Programme said last week.

The report said an estimated 320,000 children risk severe acute malnutrition, which can leave a child vulnerable to deadly respiratory infections, pneumonia and water-borne diseases. But UNICEF is only able to reach 200,000 of them, Harneis said.

Nearly 10 million children need aid to prevent a further deterioration.

UNICEF estimates nearly 10,000 children under 5 years may have died in the past year from preventable diseases, because of lower vaccination rates and declines in treatment.

A year since conflict in #Yemen began, the lives of millions of children being devastated 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/z2txPGi1FB pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/HlRfSvIr8d

— UNICEF (@UNICEF) March 29, 2016

I’m fit, says Adelaide Crows captain

Adelaide captain Taylor Walker has allayed concerns over a lingering foot injury, declaring himself a certain starter against arch AFL rivals Port Adelaide.


Walker returned to Adelaide wearing a protective moon boot after the Crows’ season-opening loss to North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium last Saturday night.

Walker said on Wednesday he had been troubled by a sore foot for the past month but was in no doubt to front against the Power in Saturday’s showdown at Adelaide Oval.

“I’m just trying to get a bit of weight off it early in the week,” he told reporters.

“We have got our main session today I will do the full session.

“It won’t effect me at all … I have had a bit of a sore foot for over a month or so now and Etihad is probably the hardest deck that we play on.”

The Crows enter the Port clash after slipping to a 10-point away loss to North Melbourne which Walker blamed largely on ill-discipline.

Adelaide conceded some costly 50 metre penalties, among them a goal after Scott Thompson was penalised under the new 10m protected zone rule.

“There were some things that we could control that we will change in critical moments,” Walker said.

“We understand we played some really good footy against North but not quite good enough.

“There were a couple of 50 metre penalties with the new rules that we are still trying to get a grasp on.

“But if we can fix those up, there’s a few things that will help us.”

Midfielder Matt Crouch avoided sanction for his high hit on North’s Jarrad Waite while Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Ricky Henderson are among players pressing for selection after strong SANFL games.

No alert on death ship captain: officials

The immigration department made a conscious decision not to issue an alert for a self-confessed gun runner wanted for questioning after captaining a so-called “death ship”, a Senate hearing was told.


Three seamen died – one man vanished overboard, another fell down a staircase, and the third was crushed to death on a conveyor belt – in August and September 2012 on the Japanese coal carrier Sage Sagittarius.

Two of the deaths are the subject of a NSW coroner’s inquest.

The immigration department had the ship’s captain, Filipino national Venancio Salas Jr, who is a person of interest, on its radar since 1994 through border exit and entry encounters, a Senate inquiry was told on Wednesday.

But there was no specific alert against Salas, even though he had been working on another ship for eight months off the Australian coast.

“In this case, on the basis of the information in our own holdings on this individual we made the assessment that we did not need to put an alert on this individual,” department official Adam Meyer told the hearing.

Border Force Queensland regional commander Terry Price argued that there was intelligence that his team can access to make assessments independent of alerts.

“There has not been an alert per se on this individual, however it doesn’t ordinarily mean we’re not interested,” he said, pointing out that Salas had been subject to a search and questioning in January this year when he arrived into Gove.

The hearing was told the department only placed an alert on Salas on February 16 this year, because of a subpoena to the NSW coronial inquiry.

Committee chair Glenn Sterle pointed out that on that day Owen Jacques, a journalist from Maroochydore covering the coronial inquest, alerted the counsel assisting that Salas was arriving into Weipa during a break in proceedings.

“How can we have all these agencies and nobody talking to each other?” Senator Sterle said.

“I don’t accept the premise that there was a breakdown (of communications),” immigration department official Jim Williams said.

“With respect, to say nobody knew he was here was not correct, because we do get a report he’s here.”

Government senator Barry O’Sullivan slammed immigration officials during the hearing for withholding top secret intelligence about the case.

Senator Sterle also expressed his frustration at the officials: “I’m trying to think of the right words without swearing.”

“We’re not sitting down at the corner pub chucking a few darts, thinking how we can solve the problems of the world over a few Carlton Drys – we have asked some serious questions in terms of national security.”

The flag of convenience inquiry was sparked after an ABC Four Corners episode about the case of the Panama-flagged “death ship”, Sage Sagittarius.

UAE turns screws on Qatar

The United Arab Emirates has tightened the squeeze on fellow Gulf state Qatar by threatening anyone publishing expressions of sympathy towards it with up to 15 years in prison, and barring Qatari passport or resident visa holders entry.


Efforts to defuse the regional crisis – prompted on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran – showed no immediate signs of success.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash threatened more curbs if necessary and said Qatar needed to make “iron-clad” commitments to change policies on funding militants. Qatar vehemently denies giving such support.

US President Donald Trump took sides in the rift on Tuesday, praising the actions against Qatar, but later spoke by phone with Saudi King Salman and stressed the need for Gulf unity.

His defence secretary, James Mattis, also spoke to his Qatari counterpart to express commitment to the Gulf region’s security. Qatar hosts 8000 US military personnel at al Udeid, the largest US air base in the Middle East and a launchpad for US-led strikes on the Islamic State militant group.

Kuwait’s emir has also been seeking to mediate, meeting Saudi’s king on Tuesday.

Qatar’s isolation from powerful fellow Arab states advanced, however.

UAE-based newspaper Gulf News and pan-Arab channel Al-Arabiya reported the crackdown on expressions of sympathy with Qatar.

“Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” Gulf News quoted UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi as saying.

On top of a possible jail term, offenders could also be hit with a fine of at least 500,000 UAE dirhams, the newspaper said, citing a statement to Arabic-language media.

Since the diplomatic row erupted, slogans against and in support of Qatar have dominated Twitter in Arabic, a platform used widely in the Arab world, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Newspapers and television channels in the region have also been engaged in a war of words over Qatar’s role.

The UAE’s state-owned Etihad Airways, meanwhile, said all travellers holding Qatari passports were currently prohibited from travelling to or transiting through the emirates on government instructions.

Foreigners residing in Qatar and in possession of a Qatari residence visa would also not be eligible for visa on arrival in the UAE, Etihad spokesman said in an email.

UK election campaign enters final day

Britain has entered the final day of campaigning ahead of a parliamentary election that will define its approach to leaving the European Union but has been overshadowed by two militant attacks in as many weeks.


Prime Minister Theresa May unexpectedly called the June 8 election seven weeks ago, seeking to boost her parliamentary majority ahead of the start of Brexit negotiations and to win more time to deal with the impact of the EU divorce.

But the campaign has seen a number of unexpected twists, including the deadliest militant attack in Britain since 2005 and a sharp contraction in May’s once commanding lead of over 20 percentage points in opinion polls.

Attacks by Islamist militants in Manchester and London threw the spotlight on security, while May was forced to backtrack on a social care policy pledge in a move that pundits said was unprecedented in British election campaign history.

“Give me your backing in the polling station tomorrow to battle for Britain in Brussels,” May said. “Get those negotiations wrong and the consequences will be dire.”

May has repeatedly said only she can deliver the right deal for Britain and that opponents would lead its $US2.5 trillion ($A3.3 trillion) economy to ruin in the negotiations with the EU.

Pollsters expect May to win a majority.

But if she fails to beat handsomely the 12-seat majority her predecessor David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and her authority will be undermined both inside her Conservative Party and at talks with the 27 other EU leaders.

When May stunned political opponents and financial markets by calling the snap election, her poll ratings indicated she could be on course to win a landslide majority on a par with the 1983 majority of 144 won by Margaret Thatcher.

But May’s poll lead has shrunk over the past three weeks. Latest polls put her party anywhere between 12 to 1 point ahead. One projection said she would win a majority of 64 seats.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a radical socialist once written off by many as a no-hoper leading his party to its worst election defeat, has run a strong campaign.

May and her husband Philip were greeted with jeers of “Vote Labour” as they visited a London meat market on Wednesday.

The last week of campaigning has been held in the shadow of an attack by three Islamist militants who on Saturday drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before heading towards bars and restaurants, slitting throats and stabbing people, killing seven people and injuring dozens.

Corbyn has put the Conservatives on the back foot over the issue of security, critcising May for a drop in police numbers in her time as interior minister. May hit back with a pledge to crack down on Islamist extremism and strengthen police powers.

Two Australian terror victims mourned

The ‘Angel of London Bridge’ and a much-loved Brisbane nanny are being mourned as Australian victims whose lives were claimed in the London terror attacks.


The family of Brisbane 21-year-old Sara Zelenak confirmed her death on Wednesday, a day after relatives of South Australian nurse Kirsty Boden identified her as the other Australian among the seven killed in the weekend attack.

Ms Zelenak was killed after being separated from her friend while trying to flee from the chaos as three men ploughed a van through pedestrians on London Bridge on Saturday night.

Ms Boden was hailed a hero, and dubbed by British media the ‘Angel of London Bridge’, for running to help victims of the stabbing and van attack, only to fatally stabbed herself.

“As she ran towards danger, in an effort to help people on the bridge, Kirsty sadly lost her life,” her family said.

“We are so proud of Kirsty’s brave actions which demonstrate how selfless, caring and heroic she was, not only on that night, but throughout all of her life. Kirsty – we love you and we will miss you dearly.”

Ms Boden, 28, worked in the theatre recovery ward at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, which said she was a “one in a million” nurse who “always went the extra mile for the patients in her care”.

It was unclear if Ms Boden was hurt on the bridge or when the three men in the van went on a stabbing rampage in nearby Borough Market before they were shot dead by police.

Ms Zelenak’s mother Julie Wallace had told Brisbane radio station 97.3FM she was fortunate to evade two prior terror attacks.

Ms Zelenak had a ticket but did not go to the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, the site of last month’s suicide bombing, and was also at Westminster Bridge a day before that deadly rampage in March.

Her family had been bracing for the worst after appealing for information in a Facebook post shared hundreds of times on Monday, saying she usually rang her mother daily.

“Even though there was limbo for days, there was still a bit of hope,” her aunt, Tara, said on Facebook.

“We are all so distraught to have lost our little Sara.

“She is the most beautiful, happy, positive young lady with so much to live for.

“Her heart and spirit will live on in all of us.”

Visiting Sydney to launch the Invictus Games, Prince Harry paid tribute to the women and acknowledged the role of the thousands of Australians living in London.

“Australians form an important and vibrant part of the fabric of life in London and we are reminded of that in good times and bad,” the prince said.

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their friends and families.”

The women’s deaths follow that of Melbourne man Sam Ly, 28, who was among the 52 killed in the London bombings in 2005.

Government officials are yet to release the names of the women, however Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken with Ms Zelenak’s family.

“I am a father … Kirsty or Sara could be one of my kids, it could be one of your kids,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW on Wednesday.

“This is heart-rending, this is the last thing anybody expects to happen to their children when they are in London.”

Vic Islamic Council withdraws from deradicalisation program after attack

The heart-broken mother of 36-year old Kai Hao, also known as “Nick” Hao, flew from China to Melbourne upon learning of her son’s tragic death.


The 63 year-old, who doesn’t want to be identified by name, says she is devastated.

“The child is for my old age and now I have lost my support. I will go back to China now and all I will bring back is my son’s remains.”

Flowers and cards have been placed outside the serviced apartment in Brighton, in Melbourne’s southeast, where the recently-married father of one worked as a receptionist.

Also present on Monday night was a 36 year-old woman, who was held hostage before being released unharmed.

The two police officers seriously injured in the gun-fight are recovering in hospital after minor surgery.

The family of deceased gunman Yacqub Khayre, a Somali refugee, say he had been fasting for Ramadan and, despite his extensive criminal history, appeared quite settled in the days leading up to the attack.

The 29 year-old Khayre once participated in a de-radicalisation program funded by the Victorian government and endorsed by the Islamic Council of Victoria.

Just yesterday the state’s corrections minister, Gayle Tierney, told parliament the program would be extended by four years and would be delivered by the Islamic Council of Victoria.

But the Islamic Council of Victoria says that statement is incorrect.

Spokesman Adel Salman says the Council is withdrawing its stakeholder support, and directing resources elsewhere.

“We’re looking to expand our focus on youth and youth issues, family violence, women’s issues, capability and development across the Muslim community and engagement with our partners across the broad spectrum.”

Mr Salman says the Council will provide advice and assistance if requested.


Claims Russian hackers’ fake news sparked Qatar’s regional crisis

The number of countries severing ties with Qatar has increased, with Mauritania also backing the move.


Trucks that should be streaming across the Saudi border, delivering vital food and supplies to Qatar, are banking up because of the worsening diplomatic crisis.

Qatar’s usually busy highways are all but empty after the Arab world’s biggest powers – including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – cut relations with the Gulf nation.

Qatari planes are banned from landing or crossing their air space, forcing them over Iran.

Supermarket shelf supplies are already dwindling and these shoppers are starting to feel the impact.

“I am feeling that there’s shortage of fresh chicken.”

“The only shortage I can see is the milk. Otherwise, I don’t think there is any shortage or… nothing unusual ….”

About two million of Qatar’s two-and-a-half million population are foreign nationals.

The Philippines is refusing to send any more workers, concerned about the fate of the 140,000 already there.

United States President Donald Trump is claiming credit for the pressure being placed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours, that accuse it of supporting terrorism.

Mr Trump has tweeted his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off”.

“They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar,” he wrote, “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

His spokesman, Sean Spicer, later tried to soften the presidential statements against Qatar, which is at the centre of US military operations in the region.

“The President had a very, very constructive conversation with the Emir during his visit in Riyadh. At that time, he was very heartened by the Emir’s commitment to formally joining the terrorist financing targeting centre and showing their commitment to this issue.”

And there are now suggestions Russia could be behind the crisis, with claims a fake news report planted by hackers contributed to the chaos.

Qatar says the US has sent FBI agents to investigate the alleged hacking incident.

Qatar’s neighbours accuse it of supporting Islamist militants, a claim Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani denies.

“There is no support going to Al Nusra or al-Qaeda or others. Whatever is being thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation.”

That misinformation has fuelled the worst split between these powerful Arab states in decades.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, says Qatar must take several steps, including ending its support for the Palestinian group Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, to restore ties.

“We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back with regard to its support for extremist groups, with regards to its hostile media, with regards to its interference in the affairs of other countries. And we have taken this step with great pain in order to make sure that Qatar understands that these policies are not acceptable and not sustainable and that they must change.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he hopes the various parties can negotiate a solution.

“We’re hopeful that the parties can resolve this through dialogue and we encourage that, that they do sit together and find a way to resolve whatever the differences are that have led to this decision.”


Eels urged to fix attack quickly

If there’s anyone who knows his defensive limits, it’s Beau Scott.


The Parramatta hardman is renowned for his grit and tenacity, exemplified when he collapsed with exhaustion after tackling himself to a standstill in State of Origin I last year.

So when Scott warns the Eels of the consequences of relying too much on their defence, they should listen.

“It’s going to take its toll on you,” Scott said on Tuesday.

“We need to get our attack together now.

“We’ve had enough time together as a playing group to form a few combinations, and that’s what we’ll be trying to get together over the next couple of weeks.”

The resurgent Eels have now strung three consecutive wins after shutting out Wests Tigers on Sunday, and are one of five teams on top of the table with six points.

However a poor points differential – their 52 total points is 14th in the NRL – leaves them in fifth.

“We’re far from our best,” Scott said.

“We’re winning games on the back of our defence. That’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. But to do it in a bit better fashion and put a few more points on teams would be nice as well.”

The recovery of skipper Kieran Foran’s hamstring should help.

The big-name recruit has struggled to stay on the training paddock over his first six months at Parramatta due to a troublesome hamstring injury.

But winger Clinton Gutherson said the Kiwi international recently left the rehab group and rejoined the rest of his teammates at training, which should finally result in an improved attack.

“(Corey Norman has) been out there with a few different halves throughout the pre-season. Now Foz’s hammy’s alright and we’re on the paddock there and playing – it’s just going to take a bit of time to gel,” he said.

The Eels host struggling Penrith at home on Sunday.

Northern part of reef ‘fried’: expert

The most pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef has been “fried” in the worst coral bleaching event on record, a reef expert says.


Professor Terry Hughes, the convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, says the federal government has failed to link its decisions – including scrapping a price on carbon and support for coal mining – to reef health.

He fears major bleaching events, driven by climate change, are starting to occur more frequently than the 10 years it takes the reef to recover.

Prof Hughes has just returned from aerial surveys that show devastating levels of bleaching in the northern part of the reef, from Cairns to the top of Cape York and beyond.

Of 520 reefs surveyed between Cairns and Papua New Guinea in recent days, just four appeared to be unaffected.

And 95 per cent of those reefs have been ranked in the two most severe categories of bleaching, meaning at least 30 per cent of their coral is affected, and in a vast number of cases more than 60 per cent.

The damage in the northern part of the reef far surpasses the previous worst bleaching in 2002, when 18 per cent of reefs were ranked in the two most severe categories.

“The north has fried,” Prof Hughes told AAP on Tuesday. “This is an ongoing, slow-motion train wreck.”

UNESCO last year decided not to list the World Heritage-listed reef as “in danger”, despite concerns over mining-related port developments and water quality.

In arguing against the listing, Australia pointed to the health of northern reefs – the very ones now hit by unprecedented bleaching.

“I hope these scientific findings will convince the commonwealth government to link its greenhouse gas policies to the vulnerability of the reef to climate change,” Prof Hughes said.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who toured bleached parts of the reef earlier this month, says damage in the northern section is the worst on record.

But he says the rest of the marine park area has seen only minor or moderate bleaching, and the government has ramped up surveying and research efforts in the face of the latest event.

Green groups have again rounded on Mr Hunt for approving Adani’s planned Carmichael coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee basin – the coal will be burnt in India to service the country’s electricity needs.

“The federal and Queensland environment ministers need to get off their hands and stop paving the way for Carmichael … at a time when the mining and burning of coal is driving climate change, warming our waters and bleaching our reef,” Greenpeace’s Shani Tager said.

State Mines Minister Anthony Lynham has said Queensland needs the economic benefits that will flow from the $16.5 billion mine.

On Tuesday, he said Queensland could have a healthy reef and a future in coal, noting most coal exports are metallurgical coal that’s not burnt but used to produce steel.

He did not mention the Carmichael mine, which also requires a massive upgrade of the Abbot Point coal terminal south of Townsville.

Put balanced budget first:CEDA

Forget about tax cuts and additional spending, the Turnbull government must focus on balancing the budget as its number one priority.


That’s the view of a national think tank analysis that believes a surplus is achievable in 2018/19, two years earlier than predicted by the government.

It comes amid further calls for a company tax rate cut in the May budget and reports suggesting the government is working on a $5 billion state funding deal for hospitals.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia says successive governments have promised to return the budget to surplus, but instead there have been eight years of continuous deficits at a time of sustained economic expansion.

“We believe no economic problem … is graver or more urgent in Australia than the persistence of large budget deficits,” the committee’s chairman Paul McClintock told the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.

Prolonged deficits penalise future generations, who will end up paying for current spending despite Australians being wealthier than they have ever been.

The CEDA report offers various combinations to achieve a balanced budget by raising an extra $15 billion in revenue and a cut in spending of $2 billion by 2018/19.

Among its options are calls for halving the capital gains tax discount, raising taxes on luxury cars, alcohol and tobacco, keeping the deficit levy and changes to superannuation tax concessions.

On the expenditure side, it suggests a reduction in assistance to industry and a lowering of the private health insurance rebate.

The Minerals Council of Australia wants the company tax rate cut from 30 per cent to 25 per cent, and then eventually to 20 per cent to match that of the UK.

“A reduction in Australia’s uncompetitive company tax rate would primarily benefit wage-earners and consumers, promote innovation and stimulate new foreign investment and economic growth,” the council’s chief executive Brendan Pearson said in a statement.

Bur Mr McClintock says while there might be an argument for this in the longer term, he questioned its feasibility when trying to deliver a balanced budget in a reasonable time.

Separately, the Australia Institute says there is no historical evidence that a company tax rate cut in Australia or across the OECD will produce economic or wages growth, or lead to higher levels of employment.

The institute’s executive director Ben Oquist says even a modest cut to 28.5 per cent for all businesses would cost the budget $9 billion over the four-year estimates.

“In a budget-constrained environment it seems ridiculous to be proposing a $9 billion hit to revenue for a growth dividend that doesn’t seem to be there,” Mr Oquist told Sky News.

Death toll in Pakistan attack rises to 72

Pakistan says it will launch a military crackdown on militants in its most populous province, Punjab, following the Easter Sunday bombing that killed at least 72 people.


At least 29 children are among the dead after a suicide bomber struck in a busy park in Lahore, the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

It is the sound of a mourner at the funeral of 11-year-old Sahil Pervez, one of dozens of children killed in a bomb blast at Easter celebrations in Lahore.

The Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was specifically targeting Christians.

Now, relatives of the victims – including Sahil Pervez’s uncle, Aftab Gab – are demanding to know why more could not be done to prevent such an attack.

(Translated)”The government of Punjab had no security arrangements for the parks. Even today, here in this church. They are so lazy. Our request for our government — and especially the Prime Minister — is that he take personal interest to finish terrorism in this country.”

The attack’s severity has even prompted a call to action from Pope Francis.

During his Easter Monday address to thousand of worshippers at the Vatican, the Pontiff has demanded Pakistan’s authorities step up their efforts to protect religious minorities.

(Translated)”I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this vile and senseless crime, and invite you to pray to the Lord for the many victims and their loved ones. I appeal to civil authorities and all sectors of that nation to make every effort to restore security and serenity to the population, and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities.”

After visiting survivors at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital, Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded better coordination between security agencies to fight terrorism.

In a televised address, he renewed his pledge to hunt down the perpetrators, as well as any other groups posing a threat to the Pakistani people.

(Translated)”Today, I have come to you to renew my vow that we are accounting for each and every drop of blood of our martyrs. This score is being settled, and we will not sit comfortably until the last tranche of this account is settled.”

A full-scale operation has reportedly been launched involving paramilitary Rangers.

They will have powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects the same way they have been doing in the southern city of Karachi for more than two years.

The Pakistani amy has confirmed security forces have carried out five raids so far, making a number of arrests and seizing weapons.

It is yet another example of the civilian government granting special powers to the military to fight the militants.

Prime Minister Sharif says, despite the latest attack, his government has been getting results in recent years.

(Translated) “With the firm resolve of our armed forces, the endeavours of our police and institutions of national security, and the support of our people, the number of terrorist incidents has receded over the past three years. We will not let that number rise again, God willing. We will not allow the terrorists to play with the lives of the Pakistani people. This is my resolve, my government’s resolve and the resolve of 200 million Pakistani people.”

But some sections of the Pakistani court system have observed a full-day strike, demanding more measures be taken.

At one of several candlelight vigils across the country, lawyer Waseem Qureshi said all sections of government – and the international community – must work together against terrorism.

“At the same day, you can see that we are there — all the persons from different religions, castes and creeds are under the one umbrella, which is Pakistan. As terrorism is the global issue and the global challenge, I would like to request all the international communities, players and the stakeholders, especially the diplomats working in Pakistan, to arrange an international conference in Pakistan to combat and to resolve this global challenge.”



Easter petrol prices hit 11-year low

Motorists have enjoyed a bout of cheap petrol prices over Easter, but they could soon be forking out more to fill up their tanks.


Average petrol prices fell 0.4 cents a litre to 112.3 cents last week, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum.

That’s the lowest level in the week ahead of Easter for 11 years, CommSec chief economist Craig James said.

Fuel is the single biggest purchase made by households on a weekly basis, so paying less at the pump is good news for consumer confidence, he said.

“The low price of petrol represents a de facto rate cut for consumers,” Mr James said.

“So, as long as petrol signboards show $1.00-$1.20 a litre in major capital cities, spending growth will be supported.”

Petrol prices hit seven-year lows a month ago as global crude oil prices slid on concerns of a supply glut, CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said.

“With OPEC negotiations breaking down, Iranian sanctions being lifted and US oil inventories at record highs, supply was well exceeding demand,” he said.

But prices have lifted modestly in recent weeks, and Mr Sebastian expects this to continue in the short term.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen significant cuts to investment and a lot of shale oil producers going out of business,” he said.

He tipped a substantial pullback in supply over the longer term, which will lift costs at the bowser.

Mr Sebastian urged motorists to watch signboards to nab bargains in the discounting cycle.

“It tends to blow out to 14-20 days but at the low end of the cycle you’re virtually buying petrol at or below cost, and you can save yourself around 20 cents a litre,” he said.