Friday, 7 August 2015

Nepal earthquake: 5 foreign nationals identified through DNA test

Nepal Police has confirmed the death of five foreigners reported missing in the Great Earthquake based on DNA verification.

The Central Police Forensic Science Laboratory (CPFSL) had conducted DNA profiling of the severed body parts recovered from various parts of the country and cross-matched the details with the DNA reports of the missing foreigners sent by Interpol.

Nepal Police had received DNA reports of 11 foreigners who were reported missing in Nepal by their families in the wake of the April 25 earthquake. The DNA reports that were sent from France, Canada and Spain are being used to match the DNA profiling conducted by the police laboratory of the remains.

Among the identified are three French, a Canadian and a Spanish national.

Police said the DNA profiling report sent to them from concerned nations was done on the basis of items used by these nationals before their departure to Nepal. DNA was extracted from a toothbrush of one of the foreign nationals, while blood stain in the razor was used for another.

The CPFSL conducts DNA profiling through blood, bone and hair with its root, among others. In case of bone, it is drilled and crushed into powdered form. Also, a process known as de-calcification is conducted to remove the calcium content in the bone which is then processed in a machine called the automated express to isolate the DNA.

“Following the isolation, the quantity of extracted DNA is studied which after some other complex processes will eventually lead to genotyping also known as DNA profiling,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Rakesh Singh. “We had to rely on Indian laboratories for such tests. But since a year, we have been able to conduct the profiling in police laboratory itself. And it has been used extensively after the earthquake to help identify the deceased.”

Similarly, CPFSL were also able to identify additional three dead bodies of foreigners through their fingerprints. The identified people are from Germany, Spain and Britain. In case of the British national, the authorities there were able to produce the fingerprint through his used tea-cup that had remained unattended ever since he left for Nepal. The fingerprint was used to match with the analysis conducted at the police laboratory.

Senior Superintendent of Police Janak Singh, chief of CPFSL said at present DNA and fingerprint analysis of over 40 appendages are underway that will help in identifying the details of the people who died in the earthquake.

Friday 7 August 2015

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Remains in Matterhorn Identified as 2 Japanese Missing Since 1970

Local police in Valais, Switzerland, said that remains found at the foot of the Matterhorn in 2014 have been identified as two Japanese climbers who had been missing for 45 years.

According to a police press release, the bodies were discovered in September 2014 at an altitude of about 2,800 meters. Forensic scientists had been conducting DNA testing and were able to identify the remains as two Japanese missing since Aug. 18, 1970. Searches at the time hadn’t located the two.

The Japanese foreign ministry confirmed that the bodies were the remains of Masayuki Kobayashi and Michio Oikawa, who were 21 and 22 years old when they went missing, respectively.

Local police said they have contacted the Japanese consulate in Geneva and have been in touch with family members of the two climbers in Japan.

The police said they have kept a record of those missing at the mountain since 1925. Bodies of some alpinists have been discovered as higher temperatures cause glaciers to retreat.

Friday 7 August 2015

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Afghan army helicopter crashes, killing all 17 aboard

An Afghan military helicopter crashed, killing all 17 people on board on Thursday, officials said, in a blow for a fledgling air force whose resources have been stretched since the withdrawal of most international troops last year.

The Taliban, mounting a growing insurgency, said it shot down the helicopter in the southern province of Zabul, but a government official blamed a technical failure and said there had been no gunfire.

Twelve soldiers and five crew died, said Gul Islam Seyal, a government spokesman in Zabul, on the same day as two suicide attacks blamed on the militant group. Thousands have been killed and wounded since the start of the year.

"There were two helicopters ... One of them had a technical problem and contacted the other one and informed the pilot of an emergency landing. As soon as it landed, it caught fire," Seyal said.

Provincial police chief Mirwais Noorzai said the cause of the helicopter crash was not yet known and was under investigation. The Defense Ministry said the crash appeared to have been caused by a technical problem, without elaborating.

Afzal Aman, the Defense Ministry's chief of operations, described it as "the worst calamity to hit the air force." He confirmed the casualty figure, and said the dead included a unit commander and 11 soldiers, as well as the crew.

Afghanistan's military has about 150 aircraft and 390 pilots, just a fraction of the air power that NATO used to fly support, evacuation and supply sorties before last year's drawdown.

The bulk of the Afghan fleet is made up of aging Mi-17 transport aircraft, but it was not immediately clear what type of helicopter was involved in the crash.

Friday 7 August 2015

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Cypriot officials say they may have found Greek aircraft shot down in 1974

Cypriot officials searching for the remains of a Greek military plane that crashed 41 years ago believe they may have discovered the aircraft buried near a war memorial on the outskirts of Nicosia.

The discovery of shards of metal has raised hopes that the bodies of the 19 soldiers still believed to be inside the plane’s incinerated fuselage could be recovered and returned to their families.

The Nord Noratlas, a Greek military transport aircraft, was brought down by friendly fire in the opening days of Turkey’s invasion of the island in 1974, with just one survivor among the 32 people on board. Twelve bodies were collected and identified from the crash site, but 19 soldiers remain unaccounted for.

Fotis Fotiou, the humanitarian affairs commissioner for Cyprus, said: “Initial findings are positive that the aircraft is here. My message to the relatives is that we will do whatever it takes to find the remains of their loved ones so they can be buried according to our Orthodox Christian customs and traditions, as well as with all appropriate honours.”

Fotiou said the second, more intensive phase of the dig will begin next week, with the assistance of experts from countries including Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, who specialise in military-related excavations.

He said possible explosives and ammunition may still be inside the aircraft’s fuselage, making the recovery work particularly risky.

Xenophon Kallis, an official at the Cyprus foreign ministry, said shards of aluminium and other metal found during the initial phase of the operation has boosted confidence that the aircraft is there.

The Noratlas crashed as it was coming in to land at Nicosia airport in the early hours of 22 July 1974.

The plane went down under withering volleys of friendly fire from the airport’s Greek Cypriot defenders, who were fearful of an imminent landing by invading Turkish forces to take the strategically important area.

It was one of 13 aircraft that arrived from Greece to help defend against the invasion, triggered when supporters of Cyprus uniting with Greece mounted a short-lived coup. The island has since been separated into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south.

Accounts from the time suggest word of the plane’s arrival reached the airport’s defenders too late. Fire from anti-aircraft batteries and other small arms tore through the Noratlas, which burst into flames and crashed several hundred metres from the now defunct airport that straddles a UN-controlled buffer zone.

The remains of 12 soldiers scattered around the crash site, which were collected and buried at a Nicosia cemetery, have been identified through DNA analysis.

But in two separate instances, families mistakenly received remains they should not have. The mistake was rectified after remains found later at the Nicosia cemetery were positively identified and returned.

Friday 8 August 2015

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Pakistan military helicopter crashes in northwest; 11 killed

A Pakistani military helicopter crashed in a mountainous region in the country's restive northwest on Thursday, killing at least 11 people on board, police said.

The helicopter, which serves as a medical assistance aircraft, was on the way to the northern town of Gilgit when it went down near the district of Mansehra in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said local police official Fida Khan.

"Rescuers have so far retrieved 11 bodies from the wreckage," he said, adding that the cause of the crash was unclear and that an investigation was underway.

However, a senior army officer told The Associated Press that the helicopter was carrying 12 people- including military doctors, paramedics and crew members - and was flying to Gilgit to evacuate a critically ill soldier when it went down, apparently because of bad weather.

The officer said the helicopter had taken off from Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. It crashed near Mansehra, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of the city of Peshawar. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters, had no other details and said the army had dispatched troops to the site of the crash.

The crash came months after another army helicopter crashed in the northern town of Naltar, killing four foreigners - ambassadors to Islamabad from the Philippines and Norway, as well as the wives of the ambassadors from Malaysia and Indonesia. Three crew members from the army were also killed at the time.

It took rescue workers at least two hours to reach the crash site due to the difficult mountainous terrain, Mushtaq Ghani, information minister of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told reporters.

Earlier in the day, another helicopter of the Pakistan Air Force had crashed in the tourist Chitral Valley near the Afghanistan border, which left several people injured. The PAF helicopter was also engaged in rescue operations in flood-hit areas.

On May 8, the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines were among seven people killed in a helicopter crash in the northern Gilgit district's Niltar valley, a popular skiing destination near the border with China.

Pakistan's army has been fighting local and foreign militants in the country's northwestern tribal regions bordering Afghanistan for nearly a decade. The military launched a major offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region last year and claims it has cleared 90 percent of the region of militants.

North Waziristan was considered to be the headquarters of the Pakistani Taliban until June 2014, when the army launched the long-awaited operation there.

Friday 7 August 2015

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