|Polish President Lech
Kaczynski dies in plane crash
President Lech Kaczynski and scores of others have been
killed in a plane crash in Russia.
Polish and Russian officials said no-one had survived after
the plane apparently hit trees as it approached Smolensk’s
airport in thick fog.
Poland’s army chief, Central Bank Governor, MPs and leading
historians were among more than 80 passengers.
They were flying in from Warsaw to mark 70 years since the
Katyn massacre of thousands of Poles by Soviet forces. The
BBC’s Adam Easton, in Warsaw, says the crash is a
catastrophe for the Polish people.
He says Prime Minister Donald Tusk was reportedly in tears
when he was told. Tusk, who runs the day-to-day business of
government, has called an emergency meeting of ministers.
A government spokesman said that according to the
constitution there would be an early presidential election,
and the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Bronislaw
Komorowski, would become acting president. The Russian
emergencies ministry told Itar-Tass news agency the plane
crashed at 10.56 Moscow time (06.56 GMT). Smolensk regional
governor Sergei Antufiev told Russian TV that no-one had
“As it was preparing for landing, the Polish president’s
aircraft did not make it to the landing strip,” he said.
“According to preliminary reports, it got caught up in the
tops of trees, fell to the ground and broke up into pieces.
There are no survivors in that crash.”
Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said it
could be assumed with “great certainty” that no-one had
“We still cannot fully understand the scope of this
tragedy and what it means for us in the future. Nothing like
this has ever happened in Poland,” Paszkowski said. It is
unclear how many people were on board. Polish officials said
the delegation was 88-strong, while local officials said 96
people had been killed. Russian investigators had earlier
said there were 132 people on the plane. Russian media
carried claims that the plane’s crew were at fault for the
“The pilot was advised to land in Minsk, but decided to
land in Smolensk,” said Andrei Yevseyenkov, a Smolensk
regional government spokesman.
The president was flying in a Tupolev 154, a Soviet-designed
plane that was more than 20-years-old.
Our correspondent says there had been calls for Polish
leaders to upgrade their planes. As well as the president
and his wife, Maria, a number of senior officials were on
the passenger list.
They included the army chief of staff Gen Franciszek Gagor,
Central Bank Governor Slawomir Skrzypek and deputy Foreign
Minister Andrzej Kremer. World leaders including Russian
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela
Merkel and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown offered their
condolences to Poland.
Kaczynski, who had fewer powers than the prime minister
but had a significant say in foreign policy, was a
controversial figure in Polish politics. He had advocated a
right-wing Catholic agenda, opposed rapid free-market
reforms and favoured retaining social welfare programmes.
|Kyrgyzstan mourns uprising ‘heroes’
Thousands of mourners have turned out in Kyrgyzstan’s
capital to honour the more than 70 people killed in
Wednesday’s violent uprising that forced the country’s
president to flee.
The country’s new self-proclaimed interim government
organised funeral and memorial services on the outskirts of
Bishkek, the capital, on Saturday, during a second day of
The services came as the interim government offered
Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the ousted Kyrgyz president, safe passage
out of the country if he agrees to officially resign his
Roza Otunbayeva, the leader of the interim administration,
told Al Jazeera that her government had started criminal
proceedings against the ousted president’s allies.
She said that the interim government was “pretty much in
control of the whole country”, but warned that there could
be more violence if Bakiyev tried to stay in office.
Anger bubbled over on Wednesday at Bakiyev’s administration
for rampant corruption and hikes in utility rates, sparking
violent protests that forced him to flee the capital for the
south of the country, where he retains support.
At Saturday’s memorial services, Otunbayeva told the crowd
that “those who died on April 7 are the heroes of
“It was our duty to establish justice. Those who are being
buried here today are all our children, the children of
Kyrgyzstan,” she said. (Al Jazeera)
|Several wounded in Iran bomb blast
A bomb blast outside a prison in the southwest Iranian city
of Ilam has wounded several people, the semi-official Fars
news agency reported.
“Moments ago a bomb detonated in front of the central prison
of the city of Ilam,” Fars said on Saturday, adding that the
wounded had been rushed to hospital.
“The explosion, which took place during a visitation period,
led to the injury of a number of individuals,” the Fars news
agency said, giving no further detail.
Mehr news agency, quoting a local police official, said at
least 19 people were wounded and that the blast led to the
escape of two prisoners.
There was no independent confirmation of the report. Kourosh
Saki, a medical official, said 14 people received medical
care but were later allowed to leave hospital.
“There were no deaths in the aftermath of the explosion,” he
Fars did not give any details on who might have been
responsible for the blast nor what the motive might have
been. Ilam, which is also the name of the province, is a
mountainous region bordering Iraq, and home to tribal people
as well as ethnic Kurds. Bomb attacks are relatively rare in
the Islamic Republic, which also borders Afghanistan and
Pakistan. (Al Jazeera)
|Thai protesters in standoff with
Thai security forces fired tear gas and
water cannons at anti-government protesters attempting to
break into military barracks in the heart of Bangkok on
Saturday, state media reported.
The site is the headquarters of the army command, according
to National TV.
The protesters have been rallying for weeks to demand new
elections. Earlier Friday, they stormed the compound of a
satellite center that distributes a signal for their
television station, which was shut down by the government.
Police agreed to restore the station on condition that
protesters vacate the compound.
After the group, known as the “red shirts,” retreated, a
group of 4,000 soldiers seized the Thai satellite company
and took the station, People Channel, or PTV, off air.
At least two dozen arrest warrants have been issued, police
Nearby streets were smoky from the canisters of tear gas
flung by authorities. Police in green fatigues carried
shields and some fired rubber bullets as they attempted to
quell the protesters gathered near Rajaprasong and Phan Fah
Protests have gripped the southeast Asian nation for weeks
as the demonstrators seek to oust Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva. A day earlier, the anti-government protesters
demanded that officials reopen their television station,
which was shut down amid accusations of misinformation.
Abhisit said the station was shut down “to restore peace and
order and to stop the spreading of false information to the
Thai public.” (CNN)