Eastern Europe

At Least 68 Dead as Riot and Fire Engulf a Venezuela Police Station

Officials say 68 people are dead after a riot and fire erupted Wednesday night at a Venezuelan jail.

The blaze at the Valencia city police station’s lockup was reportedly sparked by prisoners setting mattresses alight in a jailbreak attempt. Many are believed to have asphyxiated due to smoke inhalation.

Nearly all the victims were inmates, Tarek Saab, the chief state prosecutor, revealed on Twitter. Two women visiting the station overnight also died.

He said four attorneys have been assigned to investigate the incident.

Families are demanding answers and justice amid one of the worst prison catastrophes to hit the nation, where penitentiary conditions have frequently been decried by human rights activists.

Photo: AP/ Juan Carlos Hernandez

Police, politicians accused of joining Sri Lanka’s anti-Muslim riots

Police and politicians backed by the country’s former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa joined anti-Muslim riots that rocked Sri Lanka’s Kandy district this month. Scores of Muslim mosques, homes and businesses were destroyed as mobs ran amok for three days in Kandy, the central highlands district previously known for its diversity and tolerance.

The government declared a state of emergency and blocked social media platforms for a week to control the unrest. The role of police and some local Buddhist politicians suggests the Sri Lankan government lost control of elements of its security forces, and that the violence was more than a spontaneous outbreak fuelled by fringe Buddhist extremists and hate-speech spread on social media. Rajapaksa has denied that he or other leaders of his party were involved.

Police said the allegations against officers and politicians were being investigated. Victims and witnesses, whose accounts were partly backed by CCTV footage seen by Reuters, described members of an elite paramilitary police unit, the Special Task Force (STF), assaulting Muslim cleric and leaders.

Photo: Reuters- Dinuka Liyanawatte

Czech protesters inflamed by police role for Communist MP

Thousands of demonstrators brought the centre of Prague to a standstill on Monday night in a display of anger over the appointment of a communist-era riot squad officer to head the Czech parliament’s police watchdog.

Chanting “communists are murderers” and “we have had enough”, protesters held sheets of paper rolled up to resemble police batons in an expression of indignation over the installation of Zdeněk Ondráček, a Czech Communist party MP, as chair of the parliament’s general inspection of security forces commission.

The choice of Ondráček to head a sensitive committee overseeing police wrongdoing was confirmed in a parliamentary vote last week despite objections that he had served in a unit that beat up pro-democracy demonstrators in the 1989 Velvet Revolution before the fall of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Monday’s protest coincided with simultaneous demonstrations in 10 other Czech cities and towns, including the second largest city, Brno.

Police, protesters clash in Kiev; 50 detained

Ukrainian police and demonstrators at a tent camp have clashed outside the parliament building in the capital, Kiev.

Police say 50 people were detained. The Interfax news agency quoted a top police official, Andrey Kryshchenko, saying six protesters sought medical help after the Saturday morning clash and four officers were injured.

The tent camp was set up in October by supporters of Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president who became a prominent opposition figure in Ukraine. Saakashvili was deported from Ukraine on Feb. 12.

The protesters are demanding the establishment of a national an anti-corruption court. Kryshchenko says the clash occurred when police arrived for an investigation related to a conflict Tuesday in which 15 police were hurt.

Photo AP /Serhii Nuzhnenko

Catalonia, riot against the king Felipe VI

Five people were slightly injured in the center of Barcelona during police charges against a group of independent protesters, who took to the streets to protest against King Felipe VI during his visit to the city to inaugurate the Mobile World Congress.

The incidents occurred when the ‘Mossos d’Esquadra’, the regional police of Catalonia, prevented a group of independents from arriving at the Palau de la Musica where the King was expected. In evicting the demonstrators, some of whom carried banners of independence and slogans shouted for “political prisoners”.

Five infants die in Guinea unto post-election riots.

At least five small children have died in a fire in Guinea linked to post-election riots in a town in the center of the country, government officials said on Wednesday.

The children died in Dinguiraye on Tuesday, said Minister of Territorial Administration Bourema Conde and blamed their deaths on the fighting.

In a statement on state television, he did not specify what caused the fire and gave no details of the children who he said were infants. A gendarmerie spokesman said: “There were five children who died in the clashes.”

The violence is linked to opposition fears that President Alpha Conde may seek to change the constitution to seek a third term at elections in 2020. Conde has declined to comment on his intentions.

Clashes broke out between young people wielding clubs and knives in several cities after opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo alleged fraud in Sunday’s long-delayed vote for mayors and neighborhood chiefs.

Violence has also been reported since Sunday in the capital Conakry, where young people erected barricades and burned tires in some suburbs, and in the nearby city of Kindia, where a young man died on Monday in confrontations with security forces.



Kiev protests

Violent protests erupted outside Kiev’s parliament building on Tuesday as the government debated a controversial bill to reintegrate the Russian-occupied Donbas region with the rest of the country.

Riot police attempted to control crowds which had gathered at a camp of supporters of pro-European Ukrainian opposition figure Mikheil Saakashvili, who is also the former president of Georgia

Strikes and protests hit Greece

Over 6,000 people demonstrated in the capital in protests against the reforms, as parliament adopted controversial reforms demanded by the country’s creditors, including curbs on industrial action.

Some protesters threw paint and pieces of masonry at riot police guarding parliament.

The police fired back with tear gas.


Photo: Reuters

Prison riot in Brazil leaves 9 dead

The riot began in the afternoon of New Year’s Day at the rural penitentiary in the outskirts of the state capital, Goiania.

The riot began when a group of armed inmates invaded a wing controlled by a rival gang.

One of the victims was decapitated.

After a shootout, more than 100 members of both factions escaped.