THT 10 YEARS AGO: 1 killed,150 hurt in Tarai clashes

Siraha, February 19, 2008

One person was killed and over 150 others injured when cadres of agitating United Mandhesi Democratic Front (UMDF) clashed with police in different parts of Siraha district on seventh day of indefinite strike today.

According to police, Rajesh Thakur of Bishanpur-4, who was injured in police firing in Siraha, died in Koshi barrage area while he was being rushed to BP Koirala Institute of Health and Sciences for treatment this evening.

Among the injured, four persons were seriously injured in Siraha and Lahan when police opened fire on the agitators. Police fired dozens rounds of bullets and tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Meanwhile, the DAO imposed curfew in Siraha and Lahan municipalities from 7 pm to 4 am and 6:30 pm to 4 am the next day respectively, CDO Balkrishna Panthi said. In Mahottari, agitators set district traffic police office on fire this afternoon. They also vandalised a fire engine heading from Jaleshwor municipality.

As the agitators began to vandalise the zonal office of public service commission, the curfew was imposed from 3:30 pm today to 3 am on Wednesday effective in the wards 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 of Jaleshwor municipality, CDO Netra Prasad Sharma said. In Janakpur, more than 24 persons were injured when agitators clashed with police in different places throughout the day.

The local administration has clamped curfew in Biratnagar and its surrounding locales for indefinite period from 11:00 am today after the clash between the bandh organizers and the locals.

Communist icon Castro bows out

Havana, February 19, 2008

Ailing revolutionary icon Fidel Castro permanently gave up the Cuban presidency today, ending five decades of ironclad rule of the island marked by his brash defiance of the United States.

In a message published by the online version of the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, the 81-year-old Castro said he would not seek the presidency again when it is decided later this week. “I neither will aspire to nor will I accept — I repeat — I neither will aspire to nor will I accept, the position of president of the Council of State and commander-in-chief,” Castro wrote, almost 19 months after undergoing intestinal surgery and handing power temporarily to his brother Raul Castro. “It would betray my conscience to take up a responsibility that requires mobility and total commitment that I am not in physical condition to offer,” he said.

Castro did not say who he thought should be his successor as president, though most analysts believe Raul Castro, 76, is the obvious choice. But the elder Castro’s reference to a “middle generation” suggests that younger leaders such as Vice President Carlos Lage, 56, should not be ruled out.

US President George W Bush said today that Fidel Castro’s decision to step down should begin a “democratic transition” in Cuba.