18 dead in heat wave

NEW DELHI: At least 18 people have died in a scorching heat wave that has swept through more than a dozen Indian states, the weather department and officials said on Friday.

The highest temperature of about 47.5 Celsius was recorded ion Thursday at Khandua in Madhya Pradesh. The heat wave has hit Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and at least a dozen other states, the India Meteorological Department said. Authorities have confirmed at least 18 people died from heat stroke in the eastern state of Orissa, according to Manoranjan Choudhary, an official at the state revenue department, which monitors heat-related deaths. Thirty-six other suspected heat wave deaths are being investigated, he added. — AP

Fiji in the dock

PERTH: Fiji will be suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands forum on Saturday after it showed “no intention of returning to democracy”, Australia’s foreign minister said.

A meeting of forum leaders in January said Fiji’s military leader Voreqe Bainimarama -- who overthrew the elected government in a 2006 coup -- had until May 1 to call elections. But Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said because Bainimarama had failed to meet the deadline, Fiji would be suspended from the forum onmidnight on Friday. — AFP

Afghanistan violence

KABUL: International and Afghan forces killed 15 militants in southern Afghanistan on Friday, the US military said. Gunmen attacked the troops’ convoy as they travelled to a village to talk to elders about security, the military said in a statement. The troops killed one militant in the initial firefight and another 14 as they pursued insurgents who were firing on them from a nearby hillside. No Afghan army or international forces were wounded and no civilian casualties were reported, the statement said.— AP

Speedy trial for riots

NEW DELHI: India’s highest court on Friday ordered speedy trials of key suspects in 2002 unrest between Hindus and Muslims that killed more than 1,000 people, officials said.

The Supreme Court set up six fast-track courts after a special investigation team completed a probe into the violence in the western state of Gujarat, the worst religious rioting in India in recent years. Key politicians and bureaucrats in the state could be among the defendants. During the seven years since the unrest, few have been prosecuted, prompting the Supreme Court intervention. Trials are expected to begin within a month. — AP