Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 13th 2016 Contents A19
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A district in north-western
Pakistan has banned Valen-
tine s Day celebrations.
The local government in
Kohat, in Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa, has told police
officers to stop shops from sell-
ing Valentine s Day cards and
Kohat district is run by a
religious political party and
borders Pakistan s conservative
Valentine s Day is popular
in many cities in Pakistan, but
religious groups have
denounced it as decadent.
The Kohat district admin-
istrator Maulana Niaz Muham-
mad told the BBC Urdu s
Azizullah Khan: "Valentine s
Day has no legal grounds, and
secondly it is against our reli-
gion, therefore it was banned."
In 2013, human rights
activist Sabeen Mahmud held
a campaign in support of
Valentine s Day, but subse-
quently had to go into hiding
after receiving death threats.
She was killed in a drive-by
shooting in 2015.
Pakistan district bans Valentine's Day celebrations
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said
that he intends to retake "the whole country"
from rebel forces.
In a rare interview, he said that defeating the
groups ranged against him could take some time
due to the involvement of regional powers.
World powers have agreed to push for a cessation
of hostilities in a week s time.
The UN says it hopes to start delivering aid to
some besieged areas in Syria within the next 24
Assad expressed support for peace talks but
said negotiations did not mean "we stop fighting
More than 250,000 people have been killed and
some 11 million displaced in almost five years of
fighting in Syria.
Some Syrian cities have been cut off from
humanitarian aid for over a year because of fight-
ing. About 13.5 million people are in need of aid,
the UN says.
Assad was speaking in Damascus on Thursday,
ahead of the deal on the cessation of hostilities
that was agreed in Munich late on Thursday night.
He said government forces would try to retake
all of Syria "without any hesitation," but that the
involvement of regional powers meant that "the
solution will take a long time and will incur a
Assad rejected recent accusations by the UN
that his government was guilty of war crimes.
He said he believed there was a risk that Saudi
Arabia and Turkey, which both back Syrian rebel
forces, would intervene militarily in Syria. (AFP)
CARACAS---Venezuela has confirmed the first
Zika-related deaths in the country.
President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday
that at least three people have died in Venezuela
due to complications related to the mosquito-
borne Zika virus. He added that 68 people have
been hospitalised with complications confirmed
to be related to the virus.
Venezuela is reporting more than 5,000 sus-
pected cases of Zika since November of last year.
Local health organisations say the real number of
Zika is likely much higher.
Zika hit Brazil last year at the same time as the
country saw a sudden, dramatic jump in cases of
microcephaly, in which babies are born with
unusually small heads.
Investigators are also studying a possible link
to Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause tem-
porary paralysis and is sometimes fatal. (AP)
HAVANA---Pope Francis landed in Cuba
yesterday for the first-ever papal meeting
with the head of the Russian Orthodox
Church, a historic development in the
1,000-year schism within Christianity.
The pope s jetliner set down at Havana s
Jose Marti International Airport, where he s
scheduled to have a two-hour meeting with
Patriarch Kirill before heading off on a five-
day visit to Mexico, where the pontiff will
bring a message of solidarity with the victims
of drug violence, human trafficking and dis-
crimination to some of that country s most
violent and poverty-stricken regions.
While the meeting Havana has been hailed
in some Catholic circles as an important
ecumenical breakthrough, Francis has also
come under criticism for essentially allowing
himself to be used by a Russia eager to assert
itself among Orthodox Christians and on the
world stage at a time when the country is
increasingly isolated from the West.
The joint declaration is expected to touch
on the single most important issue of shared
concern between the Catholic and Orthodox
churches today: the plight of Christians in
Iraq and Syria who are being killed and driven
from their homes by the Islamic State group.
It is being signed in the uniquely ideal
location of Cuba: far removed from the
Catholic-Orthodox turf battles in Europe, a
country that is Catholic and familiar to Latin
America s first pope, but equally familiar to
the Russian church given its anti-American
and Soviet legacy.
The Vatican is hoping the meeting will
improve relations with other Orthodox
churches and spur progress in dialogue over
theological differences that have divided East
from West ever since the Great Schism of
1054 split Christianity.
But Orthodox observers say Kirill s will-
ingness to finally meet with a pope has less
to do with any new ecumenical impulse than
grandstanding within the Orthodox church
at a time when Russia is increasingly under
fire from the West over its military actions
in Syria and Ukraine.
Kirill, a spiritual adviser to Russian Pres-
ident Vladimir Putin, leads the most powerful
of the 14 independent Orthodox churches
that will meet this summer in Greece in the
first such pan-Orthodox synod in centuries.
Mexico s deadliest prison brawl in many
years was a bloodbath in which inmates
attacked each other with cudgels and
makeshift blades, authorities said yester-
day, underlining yet again the power that
drug cartels wield inside many of the
country s lockups.
Jaime Rodriguez, governor of the north-
ern state of Nuevo Leon, said 60 hammers,
86 knives and 120 shivs were used in the
previous day s fighting at the Topo Chico
prison in Monterrey, where 49 inmates
were hacked, beaten or burned to death,
and a dozen more injured.
At least 40 of the victims "died from
wounds from stabbing and cutting
weapons, blows from hammers and clubs,"
Rodriguez said at a news conference.
Authorities also seized various kinds of
contraband items from marijuana and
cocaine to televisions and USB memory
A dispute between rival factions of the
Zetas cartel was believed to be behind the
violence at Topo Chico, where inmates
sentenced for minor offences as well as
people who were still awaiting trial were
housed in overcrowded conditions alongside
many of the country s most hardened
Pope, Orthodox leader
in first-ever meeting
Hammers, shivs used in Mexico prison riot
Pope Francis and
the head of the
Kirill pose for
photos before their
meeting at the
Jose Marti airport
in Havana, Cuba,
yesterday. This is
the first-ever papal
meeting with the
head of the
Church, a historic
development in the
to retake Syria
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