Recently in International News Blog Category

Police in the Netherlands said that at least 120 people we injured when two commuter trains crashed head-on in Amsterdam Saturday.

There were not immediate reports of fatalities, but out of the people injured, 13 suffered major injuries while 43 or 44 were badly injured, Reuters said.

According to a spokesman for railways group NS, a helicopter was used to bring the injured to a hospital, Reuters said.

It was not immediately clear how the two trains ended up on the same track but police are investigating, Voice of America said.

After a prison in Pakistan was attacked by Islamist militants, 384 of the 944 prisoners in the facility escaped.

The prison is located is Bannu, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an area known for a heavy militant presence, BBC said.

Iftikhar Khan, a senior police officer, said that four prison officials were wounded during the attack, which lasted longer than two hours, CNN said.

Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said that at least 20 of the escaped prisoners are very dangerous and that one was on death row for attempting to kill ex-President Pervez Musharraf, BBC said.

The attack, done by Pakistan's Taliban, apparently aimed to free a senior Taliban commander buf prison records were destroyed during the attack and officials have had trouble verifying the names of those who escaped, CNN said.

Avalanche traps and possibly kills 135 people

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An 80-foot deep, one-kilometer wide, Himalayan avalanche buried 124 Pakistan soldiers and 11 civilians Saturday near the Indian border.

Due to darkness and bad weather, rescuers had to postpone their search Saturday, Al Arabiya News said.

Over 150 soldiers with dogs, along with helicopters were sent to search after the avalanche engulfed the camp but after hours of searching, no bodies or survivors had been found, Al Arabiya News said.

The people are trapped in one of the harshest environments on Earth, the Chicago Tribune said. The Pakistani army battalion headquarters is located at an altitude of 15,000 feet near the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Mountain range,and temperatures can drop to minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, the Chicago Tribune said.

According to military experts, the climate and avalanche-prone terrain has claimed more lives than gunfire, the Chicago Tribune said.

Syrians work to clear antipersonnel mines near Turkey

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Syrian forces have placed hundreds of antipersonnel mines near the borders of Lebanon and Turkey in the recent months, causing causalities to anyone who tries to cross the border in attempt to seek some form of refuge from the war in Syria.

Mazen Hajisa and other volunteers have found a way to remove these deadly traps and have dug up more than 300 similar devices over the past two months, CNN said.

According to Human Rights Watch, antipersonnel mines are militarily weapons that mostly kill and injure civilians. The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty comprehensively prohibits the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines- 159 countries have joined the treaty, the Huffington Post said.

The devices are constructed in a green molded plastic case and are about the size of a soup bowl, CNN said. They also have a raised black cross on the top, Hajisa pointed out to CNN.

"If you put pressure on this trigger," Haijsa said, "It will explode," CNN quoted.

The land mines seem to be hidden along the boarder in an effort to close the widely-traveled smugglers' trails that go along the Middle Eastern frontier, CNN said.

Usually, experts wear armor and use specialized equipment to remove the land mines, but Hajisa discovered that the mines only detonate when pressure is applied to the top. He now uses a foot-long metal kebab skewer to dig up the mines, CNN said.

Due to increasing tensions between the northern border between Syria and Jordan, the country's land mine clearance program could be delayed- resulting in the civilians such as Hajisa to take the responsibility upon themselves.

Hajisa believes that this is his duty, CNN said.

"If I don't do this, how will the refugees escape from the regime?" Hajisa said. "They face two choices, either be killed by snipers and tanks, or be killed by land mines. The refugees must have a safe place to escape to," CNN quoted.

France Raises Terror Alert After a School Shooting

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A man on a motorbike opened fire with two handguns Monday in front of a Jewish school in France and killed four people, the Associated Press said.

Authorities said the gunman arrived in front of the Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse just before 8 a.m., started shooting, and killed a rabbi, his two young sons and a schoolgirl, CNN said.

The incident at the Ozar Hatorah school was the third time during the month that an assassin on a motorcycle has fired on minorities in the region, CNN said.

The same gun, a powerful .45-caliber handgun, used in the attack on Monday was also proved to be used in the attacks earlier this month, the Associate Press said. This information fueled suspicions that a serial killer who targets not only Jews but French minorities is on the loose, the Associated Press said.

"In all three cases, the attacker came on a motorcycle, apparently alone, and then sped away," the Associated Press said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy placed France's southwest region on the highest possible security alert level on Monday night, and informed the country that he will suspend his re-election campaign until at least that Wednesday due to the shooting, CNN said.

Afghanistan Avalanche Buries Village

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An avalanche covered Sherin Nazam village in Badakhshan province in northeast Afghanistan Sunday night causing over 140 people to be considered missing, and 39 confirmed dead.

"The entire village was hit," Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the northern regional police, said in the Los Angeles Times. Many people are believed to be buried in their homes.

The first to arrive to the scene were people from a nearby village. They were joined on Tuesday by rescue workers from Darwaz district, who walked for two days to reach the isolated area, the New York Times said.

USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is planning to send supplies to the area. Tents and plastic sheeting will be sent through a partner in Tajikistan to assist people in the area, the New York Times said.

According to the Los Angeles Times, avalanches are most common during the end of winter and early spring due to the warmer weather. In February 2010, an avalanche killed nearly 200 people, trapping many in their cars and sending other vehicles over the edge of a cliff.

Costa Concordia Cruise Ship Case Begins

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Hundreds of survivors, victims' families, and lawyers of the wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia united on Saturday in Grosseto, Italy, for the first evidence hearing in the criminal investigation against the ship's captain and other staff, the New York Times said.

The hearing had to move from the courthouse to a 1,000-seat theater due to the large attendance. More than 50 lawyers were at the hearing on Saturday and more than 4,230 people are considered parties in the case, the New York Times said.

The giant cruise ship hit a rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13, tearing a gash in the hull and partly sank the ship, the New York Times said.

From the 4,234 passengers and crew, 17 people are declared dead and another 15 are still missing, Barbie Latza Nadeau said in the Daily Beast.

Saturday's hearing is directed towards analyzing the ship's recording devices to help pinpoint the exact order of events and procedures taken by the captain and crew.

Francesco Schettino, the former captain of the Costa Concordia, is under house arrest on preliminary charges of manslaughter, neglecting to report the accident to port authorities, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship before passengers were taken to safety, the New York Times said.

Captain Schettino, along with eight other employees of Costa Cruises are under investigation, the New York Times said.

Deadly Riot Kills Dozens in Mexican Prison

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An extreme riot killed 44 people last Sunday in a northern Mexican prison, the New York Times said.

Authorities said that a confrontation between inmates broke out around 2 a.m. Sunday and lasted several hours in a prison in Apodaca, Mexico, the New York Times said. The riot lasted a few hours before the state and federal police could control the prisoners, the New York Times said.

Investigators are exploring if the fight was started by rivals of the Gulf and Zeta cartels, who were once part of the same organization, the Associated Press said in the Herald Sun.

The different gang members are known for strong violence between each other, and therefore are normally separated in the prison. But the fight between two cell blocks, each with about 750 prisoners, held people from each gang, the Associated Press said.

The prison director, the director of security and a supervisor are being held for questioning due to theories that the 17 guards on duty could have been involved in the reasoning for the riot, the Associated Press said.

Inmates have been known to bribe guards for prostitutes, cellphones, TVs, parties, drugs, and even their freedom in other prisons, the New York Times said.

Vega rocket launches successfully

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A new rocket was successfully launched into orbit from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, carrying nine satellites.

After nine years of work, and roughly $930 million, the Vega rocket lifted off into space at 5:00 a.m. Monday morning at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northern Atlantic coast of South America, Fox News said.

According to China Daily, the main objective of the Vega rocket is to provide Europe with a safe, reliable and competitive ability to carry science and Earth observation satellites into orbit, China Daily said.

The Italian-built rocket is named after the second-brightest star in the northern hemisphere. It stands about 100 feet tall and is 10 feet wide. Its total weight at liftoff was about 137 metric tons, Fox News said.

The first three stages of the rocket are powered by solid propellant, and the fourth stage, called AVUM, relies on a liquid propulsion system, Fox News said.

According to China Daily, seven European Space Agency member states including Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland support the program, China Daily said.

The first commercial contract for Vega has already been signed by Arianespace, Vega's commercial operator. More contracts are under negotiation, said China Daily.

The roof of a sports center used for ice skating in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina collapsed Sunday due to snow, police said.

Similar to the Minneapolis Metrodome collapse in 2010, exactly a year and two months ago, the Skenderija sports center in downtown Sarajevo caved-in due to a heavy abundance of snow just after 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon, police spokesman Irfan Nefic said in Aida Cerkez's report for the Associated Press News.

According to Tim Nelson of the Associated Press, the Skenderjia sports center was built in 1969 and used during the 1984 Olympics for figure skating and hockey. Fortunately, only the skating complex was affected by the the record snowfall.

Snow has piled up to three feet as of Sunday, and temperatures as low as negative-8 throughout the week have made it difficult to clear the snow, said Nelson.

Authorities have closed schools and universities, and traffic is possible onldy down main streets and the streets that lead to hospitals. Authorities also have urged people to shovel in front of their buildings and to try to clear their roofs, said Cerkez.

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