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Pakistan Taliban commander confirms peace talks after four years of unrest

THE deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban announced yesterday that the militant group was in peace talks with the government and an agreement to end its brutal four-year insurgency was within striking distance.

The statement by Malvi Faqir Mohammad will likely stoke further concerns in Washington over Pakistan's reliability as a long-term partner in the fight against extremists. But it represented the first time a named Taliban commander has confirmed the group is negotiating with the Pakistani government.

Tensions grow in Congo over poll row

CLASHES between opposition protesters and security forces broke out in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday, killing at least one, a day after election authorities named incumbent President Joseph Kabila winner of a disputed poll. Gunfire rang out in some cities, including the capital Kinshasa, after Mr Kabila's main challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi, said he rejected the official results and declared himself the new leader.

Hospital 'warned on safety' before fire

A PRIVATE hospital in eastern India where dozens died in a fire last Friday failed to update its safety procedures despite being ordered to do so months ago, officials said yesterday.

Most of the victims died in their beds from inhaling noxious black smoke while medical staff fled the scene. One more person died from injuries yesterday, raising the death toll to 91. Six hospital directors were charged with culpable homicide and are being held in custody for 10 days while authorities investigate.

Gbagbo supporters protest at court

Hundreds of supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo protested outside the International Criminal Court yesterday, saying there can be no peace in his country until he is released.

Gbagbo was extradited last month to face charges of murder, rape and other crimes allegedly committed by his supporters as he clung to power after last year's elections.

Plane crash in Philippines kills 13

A small plane has crashed into a school building in Paranaque, near the capital of the Philippines, Manila.

At least 13 people were killed, including two children. Paranaque's Mayor Florencio Bernabe said no classes were in session at the time. A fire at the school quickly spread to surrounding shanty houses.

Police clear out Occupy Boston site

Police arrested dozens of people early yesterday as they cleared away the remaining Occupy Boston encampment in the city's financial district in a mostly peaceful action.

Authorities, including more than 100 police officers, swept into the area before sunrise. Some 32 men and 14 women were arrested, mostly for trespassing.

Thirty die in South African van crash

THE driver of an overloaded van lost control, veered into the oncoming lane and collided with a lorry in central South Africa, leaving 30 people dead, police said yesterday.

Police spokesman, Mmako Mophiring, said 29 of those killed were passengers on the van, which was certified to carry 23 but was carrying 35. A truck passenger also died.

Sunday Independent