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International

UN official calls for ending Israeli blockade on Gaza

Gaza: A UN official Wednesday described keeping an Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for almost seven years as "a collective punishment", Xinhua reported.

The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Pierre Krahenbuhl pledged to defend Gaza and work hard to end the blockade.

20 killed in Nigerian attacks

Abuja: At least 20 people were killed in attacks launched by gunmen in two Nigerian villages, local media reported Wednesday citing witnesses and security sources.

Early Wednesday, unidentified gunmen attacked Wala Village, about 130 km from Maiduguri, capital of the northeastern state of Borno, and killed about 18 people, Xinhua quoted a local daily as saying.

A security officer, who declined to be mentioned, also confirmed the attack, saying the Department of State Security (DSS) had been officially informed of the incident.

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20 killed in Nigerian attacks

Abuja : At least 20 people were killed in attacks launched by gunmen in two Nigerian villages, local media reported Wednesday citing witnesses and security sources.

Early Wednesday, unidentified gunmen attacked Wala Village, about 130 km from Maiduguri, capital of the northeastern state of Borno, and killed about 18 people, Xinhua quoted a local daily as saying.

A security officer, who declined to be mentioned, also confirmed the attack, saying the Department of State Security (DSS) had been officially informed of the incident.

Sikhs allowed to carry kirpans in Canadian missions

Toronto : The Canadian government has approved a new policy which allows Sikh visitors to Canadian diplomatic missions abroad to wear kirpans.

Sikh visitors will be permitted to retain their kirpans - a religious symbol - when entering Canadian missions abroad, a statement issued by the country's foreign affairs, trade and development ministry said.

However, the individual should secure the kirpans within a sheath, attached to a fabric belt and worn under the clothing across the torso.

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Upper house eases citizenship norms for Russian speakers

Moscow : The upper house of parliament Wednesday approved a law
making it easier for Russian-speakers to obtain citizenship.

"If these people or their ascendants live permanently or lived earlier in Russia or on a territory belonging to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, within Russian state borders," they can obtain Russian citizenship after giving up their previous citizenship, the law says.

The main criterion to get citizenship will be knowledge of Russian and its use in daily life.

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Ukraine on verge of civil war: Putin

Moscow : The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has brought the country to the verge of civil war, Kremlin said in a statement Wednesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephonic conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel late Tuesday night warned of the possibility of civil war, the Kremlin press service said Wednesday.

The two leaders "exchanged opinions about the anti-constitutional course of the incumbent Kiev authorities towards the suppression by force of popular protests in southeastern Ukraine," the Kremlin statement said.

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New York Police ends spying on Muslims

Washington : New York Police Department has disbanded a controversial surveillance unit started after the September 11, 2001, attacks to catalogue information on Muslim businesses and mosques across the New York region.

Developed with the CIA's help after 9/11, the so-called Demographics Unit-or Zone Assessment Unit-has been the target of controversy and civil lawsuits.

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Two dead, 293 missing as ship sinks off South Korea

Seoul : A passenger ship with 459 people aboard, mostly high school students, sank in waters off South Korea's southwest coast Wednesday, leaving at least two people dead and 293 others missing, a official said.

Lee Kyung-ok, vice minister of Security and public administration, said two people have been found dead, and 164 people were rescued, but 293 others were confirmed missing, Xinhua reported.

A 22-year-old female crew member and a male high school student have been found dead.

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Five killed in Canada house party stabbing

Toronto : Five people were killed in a stabbing rampage during a house party in the southwest Canadian city of Calgary early Tuesday. One suspect has been arrested, police said.

Police received reports of a stabbing soon after midnight at a house in a quiet suburban neighbourhood where police officers found three people dead, Xinhua quoted police as saying.

Two more died of their injuries while being rushed to the hospital, the police said, adding that the victims included four men and a woman, reportedly all in their late teens or early 20s.

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Ukraine crisis amplifies need for defense cooperation: NATO

Brussels : NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Tuesday said that the Ukraine crisis has amplified the need to strengthen cooperation between NATO, the European Union and other partners.

"We need to train and exercise more together -- for instance, the NATO Response Force and the EU Battle groups -- so that we stand ready for whatever the future may bring," Xinhua quoted Rasmussen as saying while arriving for the EU defence ministers talks in Luxembourg.

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