Detention of 100 Christians raises concerns about religious crackdown in China

A prominent Chinese pastor and legal scholar is one of 100 Christians detained by authorities after he was reportedly arrested on allegations of “inciting subversion of state power.” Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, were taken into police custody early last week in the city of Chengdu, where they run the Early Rain Covenant … Continue reading “Detention of 100 Christians raises concerns about religious crackdown in China”

A prominent Chinese pastor and legal scholar is one of 100 Christians detained by authorities after he was reportedly arrested on allegations of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, were taken into police custody early last week in the city of Chengdu, where they run the Early Rain Covenant Church, according to ChinaAid, a US-based nonprofit that advocates on behalf of China’s Christian communities. A church parishioner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Wang’s arrest in a phone call with CNN.

    Authorities with China’s National Religion Bureau did not respond to a request from CNN seeking comment.Western governments and civil rights advocates outside China have condemned the mass arrest of the Early Rain parish as the latest move in Beijing’s stepped up crackdown on independent religious practice. Read MoreChina has been accused of carrying out a systematic campaign of human rights violations against hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uyghurs in the far western region of Xinjiang. China says its actions there are meant at combating violent extremism, and it has repeatedly denied claims that the region has turned into an Orwellian surveillance state.Sam Brownback, the US ambassador at large for international religious freedom, cited the actions against the Early Rain Church and the reports from Xinjiang when announcing that China was one of ten countries designated a “country of concern” when it comes to religious freedom Tuesday.”My particular concern now for China is they’ve increased these actions of persecution against faith community,” Brownback said. “China isn’t backing away from the religious persecution; it seems to be expanding.”China is officially an atheist state, but religious practice is legal in the country — albeit under the central government and Chinese Communist Party’s rules and surveillance. But some of the country’s faithful attend underground or unregistered houses of worship to practice their religion freely. Police have accused Early Rain of operating without registering with authorities, and Human Rights Watch says Wang and members of his church have been the subject of frequent harassment in recent years. “Everyone who supports religious freedom should stand with Wang Yi and speak out against the Chinese government’s repression of religion,” said Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch.Rights advocates say the crackdown against underground churches and religious practice that’s not state-sanctioned is less about religious practice itself and more about the Chinese Communist Party making sure it remains firmly in control of civil society. “Under President Xi, the government has further tightened control over Christianity in its broad efforts to ‘Sinicize’ religion or ‘adopt Chinese characteristics’ — in other words, to ensure that religious groups support the government and the Communist Party,” Human Rights Watch said.

      “The shutdown of a Protestant church in Chengdu epitomizes the Xi Jinping government’s relentless assault on religious freedom in China,” said Human Rights Watch’s Wang.”It makes a mockery of the government’s claim that it respects religious beliefs.”

11 dead in suspected religious food poisoning incident in India

Food shared among participants in a religious ceremony is believed to have caused at least 11 deaths and put more than 90 worshipers in hospital, police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka said Saturday.

The religious food offering, or “prasad,” involved was vegetable rice. “We believe the ‘prasad’ was poisoned,” Dharmender Kumar Meena, Police Superintendent of Chamarajanagar district, told CNN.”There was a foundation-laying ceremony of a new Hindu temple and following the event the ‘prasad’ was distributed. People started vomiting shortly after,” Meena said.

    Samples of the food have been sent to a laboratory for examination, Meena said.Indian policeman inspect the kitchen of a temple on Saturday after the incident.Of those hospitalized, 29 are in a critical condition, the head of the Chamarajanagar district administration, B.B. Cauvery, told CNN. Many of them have stomach pain and “most of them are showing symptoms of nausea and dehydration,” she said. Read MoreTwo children were among those who died, Cauvery said.Five people have been detained for questioning, two of them from the temple management and three from the village, police said.The incident occurred in Sulivadi village in the Chamarajanagar district, to the south of Karnataka state.

      The Karnataka state government has announced a compensation payment equivalent to $7,000 to the next of the kin of the deceased.Karnataka’s chief minister, who visited some of those taken ill in the hospital, ordered the state police chief to investigate further.

Explosion at restaurant in Japan injures more than 40, officials say

More than 40 people were reported injured after an explosion took place at a restaurant in northern Japan on Sunday, officials said.

The blast took place around 8:30 p.m. in a neighborhood about 2 miles from the center of Sapporo, the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido that's located about 700 miles north of Tokyo.

Police said at least 41 people were injured, most of them mildly, though one is in serious condition. They are being treated at nearby hospitals.

The blast, which took place in an area with residential and dining establishments, sent debris into area streets and a large plume of smoke rose from the scene, according to Kyodo News.

Images on social media showed flames rising from the area as firefighters attempted to work over collapsed debris.

Police officers were keeping people from approaching the damaged building out of fear of additional blasts, the Japan Times reported.

“I heard a ‘bang,’ which sounded like thunder, and my condo was shaken,” a man who lives nearby told the news outlet.

Another clerk at a nearby restaurant told Japanese broadcaster NHK there was a "tremendous sound."

"The explosion broke the window glass of the shop where I work," the clerk said. "It seems there are many injured people on site."

Additional details about the cause of the blast and extent of those injured were not immediately known.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed

Strike, lockdown shut Kashmir amid anger over killings

SRINAGAR, India – A security clampdown and a strike sponsored by separatists fighting against Indian rule shut most of Indian-administered Kashmir on Sunday, a day after chaotic protests and fighting killed seven civilians and four combatants in the disputed region.

Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear fanned out across the region in anticipation of anti-India protests and clashes. Shops and businesses closed in other areas with no security restrictions.

At least seven civilians were killed and over three dozen injured Saturday when government forces fired at anti-India protesters following a gunbattle that left three rebels and a soldier dead.

Residents accused troops of directly spraying gunfire into the crowds. Police said in a statement that they regretted the killings but that the protesters had come "dangerously close" to the fighting.

Separatists who challenge India's sovereignty over Kashmir said the killings were part of India's state policy and called for three days of mourning and a general shutdown in Kashmir.

Authorities stopped train services and cut cellphone internet in Srinagar and other restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of the Kashmir Valley, a common government tactic to prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organized and stop dissemination of protest videos by Kashmiris.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989.

The killings of the seven civilians and three rebels angered Kashmiris who deeply resent Indian rule and support rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during India's counterinsurgency operations despite repeated warnings from the Indian authorities.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

North Korea marks 7th anniversary of Kim Jong’s Il death

PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Koreans are marking the anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong Il seven years ago with visits to statues and vows of loyalty to his son, Kim Jong Un.

As snow fell Sunday, a steady flow of North Koreans offering flowers and paying respects to the late leader could be seen at Mansu Hill in central Pyongyang, the location of huge bronze statues of the "Dear Leader" and national founder Kim Il Sung.

The anniversary observations were expected to continue through Monday across the country.

Though focused on remembrances of his father, the anniversary also marks Kim's own rise to power.

The death of Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17, 2011, thrust Kim into power when he was still in his late 20s and a virtual unknown figure outside of the North. But, despite many predictions from outside experts that he wouldn't be up to the task, Kim has managed to consolidate power, bolster the country's economy in the face of intense international sanctions and attain a goal his father and grandfather could only dream of — he is the first North Korean leader to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.

As the nation remembered his father, there was no mention in the state media of the issues that have gotten the most attention elsewhere, including a flurry of speculation in South Korea that Kim might visit Seoul by the end of the year, or how he intends to deal with growing frustration in Washington over the slow pace of denuclearization talks between the two countries.

The national news agency, KCNA, instead ran stories about memorials to Kim Jong Il in Libya, Russia and Serbia.

Even so, the anniversary was being watched closely for any signs of change or hints of what the country's leadership may be planning in the months ahead.

With Kim's power base seemingly more solid than ever, and his recent effort to establish himself on the world stage through summits with President Donald Trump and others, North Korea watchers have been on the lookout for signs that his own personality cult is being bolstered.

Virtually all homes and public offices in North Korea feature portraits of the elder Kims, who are also memorialized in countless statues, mosaics and cenotaphs around the country. North Korean adults wear pins over their hearts bearing the likenesses of Kim Il Sung of Kim Jong Il, or both.

This year's anniversary has so far offered no major departures from past precedent.

The North has yet to come out with a Kim Jong Un pin or to order his image join the others on every wall, though Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, have been referred to with increasingly lofty titles — "chairman" for Kim and "respected first lady" for Ri. A special portrait of the young chairman was unveiled recently at a ceremony to welcome the visit of Cuba's president, but none have appeared in public since. And unlike his father and grandfather, Kim's Jan. 8 birthday has yet to be declared a national holiday or even marked on most calendars.

None of that should be assumed to be a sign of weakness, however. It could in fact indicate strength.

Kim is generally afforded the same reverential treatment by the state media and for maintaining a respectful step behind his predecessors, he is credited with showing humility and confidence.

___

Talmadge is the AP's Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @EricTalmadge

Sri Lankan president reinstates the prime minister he sacked

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka's president reappointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister on Sunday, nearly two months after firing him and setting off a long political stalemate in the South Asian island nation.

The move promises to ease the crisis, but could also be the beginning of a difficult cohabitation between Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena, who are in now rival camps. A new Cabinet is expected to be sworn in soon.

Wickremesinghe's United National Party said on its official Twitter account that Wickremesinghe took the oath before Sirisena. The swearing in took place privately, with only a few lawmakers in attendance.

"Now I will assume duties of the office of prime minister," Wickremesinghe told cheering supporters gathered at his official residence after he was sworn in.

"Unfortunately, during the past few weeks, the progress of this country and the development programs that we undertook were stalled," he said. "Not only that, the country went backward. Today we commit firstly to bring back normalcy and resuming the development program."

Sirisena abruptly dismissed Wickremesinghe on Oct. 26 and appointed former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. Wickremesinghe insisted his removal was unlawful. Rajapaksa, meanwhile, failed to get Parliament's approval, losing two no-confidence votes.

Still, Rajapaksa continued to hold office with Sirisena's support, and his opponents went to court. The Court of Appeal suspended Rajapaksa and his Cabinet from functioning in their offices. Rajapaksa asked the Supreme Court to lift the suspension, but it refused and extended the suspension until mid-January, forcing Rajapaksa to resign on Saturday.

Sri Lanka had been without a government from the time Rajapaksa was suspended by the Court of Appeal and was facing the danger of being unable to spend government money from Jan. 1 without a budget. It is also committed to repay $1 billion in foreign debts in January.

"We can be proud of the way our Parliament and Supreme Court did their duties according to the law," Wickremesinghe said Sunday, adding that the Supreme Court had strengthened the freedom of the citizens by interpreting the law accurately.

"We all need a normal life, we need our progress and it is to this that we are committed," he said.

Sirisena was health minister in Rajapaksa's Cabinet when he defected to join Wickremesinghe and challenge Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election. After winning the election, he formed a government with Wickremesinghe as prime minister, but the two leaders started to have differences.

Sirisena opposed Wickremesinghe's liberal economic policies and his moves to investigate alleged abuses during Sri Lanka's long civil war, which ended in 2009. He had insisted on not reappointing Wickremesinghe even though Rajapaksa lost the two no-confidence votes.

North Korea marks 7th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s death

PYONGYANG, North Korea – North Koreans are marking the seventh anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong Il with visits to statues and vows of loyalty to his son and successor, Kim Jong Un.

As snow fell Sunday, tens of thousands of people offered flowers and paid respects to the late leader at Mansu Hill in central Pyongyang, the location of huge bronze statues of the "Dear Leader" and national founder Kim Il Sung.

The anniversary observations were expected to continue through Monday across the country.

The death of Kim Jong Il on Dec. 17, 2011, thrust his son into power when he was still in his late 20s and a virtual unknown figure outside of the North.

Despite many predictions from outside experts that he wouldn't be up to the task, Kim Jong Un has consolidated his power, bolstered the country's economy in the face of intense international sanctions and attained a goal his father and grandfather could only dream of — he is the first North Korean leader to possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of reaching the United States.

With attention focused on the anniversary, there was little mention in the state media of the issues that have gotten the most attention elsewhere, including a flurry of speculation in South Korea that Kim might visit Seoul by the end of the year.

But the North's official Korean Central News Agency ran a lengthy commentary late Sunday that slammed the United States for "slander" and "sheer malice" against the country and for dragging its feet on efforts to improve relations after Kim's summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

The commentary deliberately focused its criticism on the State Department and administration officials, not at Trump, suggesting that Pyongyang remains open to another summit. Trump has suggested he could meet Kim again early next year.

With Kim's power base seemingly more solid than ever, and his recent effort to establish himself on the world stage through summits with Trump and others, North Korea watchers have been on the lookout for signs that his own personality cult is being bolstered.

Virtually all homes and public offices in North Korea feature portraits of the elder Kims, who are also memorialized in countless statues, mosaics and cenotaphs around the country. North Korean adults wear pins over their hearts bearing the likenesses of Kim Il Sung of Kim Jong Il, or both.

The North has yet to come out with a Kim Jong Un pin or to order his image join the others on every wall, though Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, have been referred to with increasingly lofty titles — "chairman" for Kim and "respected first lady" for Ri. A special portrait of the young chairman was unveiled recently at a ceremony to welcome the visit of Cuba's president, but none have appeared in public since. And unlike his father and grandfather, Kim's Jan. 8 birthday has yet to be declared a national holiday or even marked on calendars.

None of that should be assumed to be a sign of weakness, however.

Kim is generally afforded the same reverential treatment by the state media, and for maintaining a respectful step behind his predecessors, he is credited with showing humility and confidence.

___

Talmadge is the AP's Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @EricTalmadge

Xi Jinping Fast Facts

Here’s a look at the life of Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China.

Personal:
Birth date:
June 1953Birth place: Fuping County, Shaanxi Province, China (some sources say Beijing)Birth name: Xi Jinping

    Father: Xi Zhongxun, revolutionary and vice premierRead MoreMother: Qi XinMarriages: Peng Liyuan (1987-present); Ke Lingling (divorced)Children: with Peng Liyuan: Xi MingzeEducation: Tsinghua University, Chemical Engineering, 1979; Tsinghua University, LLD, 2002 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industry Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryChinese buy English pub graced by Xi – Britain’s former prime minister David Cameron took Xi Jinping to The Plough for a real English experience — a pint of beer and some fish and chips — during Xi’s visit in 2015. Now the pub has been bought by Chinese investors.Hide Caption 1 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryWalking travel guide – After President Xi Jinping visited and called Sri Lanka a “splendid pearl” in September 2014, package tours to the country from China during the October 1st National Day holiday were quickly booked to capacity.Hide Caption 2 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryWest Lake romance – Lovers get more privacy at romantic West Lake in Hangzhou, thanks to the Chinese president.Hide Caption 3 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryLess instant noodles, more local seafood – “Don’t throw empty bottles everywhere,” Xi instructed his countrymen when visiting the Maldives. “Don’t damage their coral reef. Eat less instant noodles. Eat more local seafood.” Hide Caption 4 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryDumpling promoter – Baozi (steamed dumplings) from Beijing’s Qing-Feng, made famous after Xi queued, paid and picked up lunch by himself. Hide Caption 5 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryMacau cooler – Experts say Xi’s anti-corruption push has grounded a lot of VIP gamblers from visiting Macau — a major reason for a 27-28% plunge in stock values for major casino operators there last year.Hide Caption 6 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industry"Mich-Jinping" food guide – Xi Jinping lures a fan base for whatever he eats — even a bowl of pig-blood noodles.Hide Caption 7 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryArchitecture guide – In October 2014, Xi called for less “weird architecture” to be built in the country. Don’t worry, Guangdong Plastics Exchange, we still love you.Hide Caption 8 of 9 Photos: Xi Jinping tourism: How the Chinese president is changing China's travel industryFirst Lady influence – Overseas shops visited by China’s First Lady, Peng Liyuan, benefit from the “Peng Liyuan phenomenon.” Some products she purchases see a three-fold increase in sales, according to reports.Hide Caption 9 of 9Other Facts:
    Is considered to be a “princeling,” the son or daughter of a revolutionary veteran.His wife, Peng Liyuan is a famous folk singer in China.Timeline:
    1969-1975
    Works as an agricultural laborer in Liangjiahe, Shaanxi. Xi is among the millions of urban youths who were “sent down,” forced to leave cities to work as laborers in the countryside under Mao’s policies.1974 Joins the Communist Party of China.1979-1982 Works as the personal secretary to Geng Biao, the minister of defense. 1982-1985Serves as deputy secretary and then secretary of Zhengding, Hebei Province.April 1985Makes his first trip to the United States as part of an agricultural delegation.1985-1988Executive vice mayor of Xiamen, Fujian Province. 1988-1990 Party secretary of Ningde, Fujian Province.1990-1996Party secretary of Fuzhou, Fujian Province.1996-1999 Deputy party secretary of Fujian Province. 1999-2000Vice governor of Fujian Province.2000-2002Governor of Fujian Province.2002-2007Party secretary of Zhejiang Province.2007Is named party secretary of Shanghai. October 2007-presentPolitburo Standing Committee member.2007-2013President of the Central Party School.2008-2013Vice president of the People’s Republic of China.2010-2012Vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. February 2012 – Delivers a policy speech in Washington and meets with US President Barack Obama.November 15, 2012 – Succeeds Hu Jintao as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and as chairman of the CMC.March 14, 2013 – Xi is named China’s president by parliament. October 2014 – “The Governance of China,” a collection of Xi’s speeches, is published.November 12, 2014 – Obama and Xi announce a climate change agreement that would cut both countries’ greenhouse gas emissions by close to a third over the next two decades. The White House says the announcement marks the first time China has agreed to cut its carbon emissions.September 22-27, 2015 – During Xi’s first state visit to the United States, he meets with tech and business leaders in Seattle before flying to Washington to meet with Obama. October 20-23, 2015 – First state visit to the United Kingdom, to bolster economic and diplomatic ties.November 7, 2015 – Meets with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore, marking the first meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949.April 2016 – Assumes the title of “commander in chief” of the new joint forces battle command center, consolidating his control of the military.October 27, 2016 – Is declared the “core of the Chinese Communist party.” The title, originally held by Chairman Mao Zedong, reinforces Xi’s power.April 6-7, 2017 – Visits US President Donald Trump at the Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. The men engage in trade negotiations and discuss the North Korean nuclear threat. October 24, 2017 – Party delegates vote unanimously to make “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” a guiding principle. February 25, 2018 – The party proposes amending the country’s constitution to abolish term limits for presidents, allowing Xi to serve indefinitely as China’s head of state.March 11, 2018 – Parliament endorses the controversial change to the country’s constitution, paving the way for Xi to stay in power indefinitely. Out of 2,964 ballots, two delegates vote against the move and three abstain, suggesting minimal opposition to Xi’s push to rule for life. Passage requires two-thirds of the vote, which is a largely symbolic exercise.March 17, 2018 – Begins his second term as president, with no term limits. March 25-27, 2018 – Hosts a visit from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

      May 4, 2018 – Speaks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe via phone about the situation in the Korean Peninsula. This is the first time that the two leaders have ever spoken on the phone.December 1, 2018 – Meets with Trump to discuss tensions over trade during the G20 summit in Argentina.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Fast Facts

Here’s a look at the life of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India.

Personal:
Birth date:
December 25, 1924Death date: August 16, 2018

    Birth place: Gwalior, IndiaBirth name: Atal Bihari Vajpayee (some sources spell it Behari)Read MoreFather: Krishna Behari, a teacherMother: Krishna DeviEducation: Victoria College (Laxmi Bai College); Dayan and Anglo-Vedic College, M.A. in Political ScienceReligion: HinduOther Facts:
    Vajpayee’s family is of the Brahmin caste in India.He is a critically acclaimed poet and speaker.He is considered a champion of women’s rights and favors the eradication of the caste system.Vajpayee was elected to India’s Lok Sabha (House of the People) a record nine times and elected to the Rajya Sabha (House of the States) two times. He served as India’s Prime Minister three times.In his teens, joined Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).Timeline:
    1942 –
    Detained for 24 days for activities with the RSS.1951 – Joins the Jana Sangh, a conservative political party.1957 – Becomes leader of the Jana Sangh.1957 – Elected to the People’s Assembly, or Lok Sabha.1962 – Elected to a six-year term in the Rajya Sabha.1975 – Jailed along with other dissident politicians during a declared state of emergency.1977-1979 – Serves as the Minister for External Affairs when the Jana Sangh Party comes into power as the Janata Party.1980 – Helps found and becomes president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).1984 – Loses his seat in the People’s Assembly.1991 – Wins a seat in the People’s Assembly.1996 – Runs as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. Vajpayee wins, but his party’s government lasts only 13 days before it is ousted.March 19, 1998 – After the BJP assembles a winning coalition, Vajpayee is sworn in as prime minister.April 17, 1999 – Resigns after his government loses a parliamentary vote of confidence.October 13, 1999 – Sworn in again as prime minister after his party and its allies regain control.March 21, 2000 – Along with US President Bill Clinton, Vajpayee signs a statement on “US-India Relations: A Vision for the 21st Century,” while hosting Clinton in New Delhi. The document proposes many new endeavors, including a “pledge to reduce impediments to bilateral trade and investment, and to expand commerce between the two nations.”September 14, 2000 – Vajpayee addresses a joint session of the US Congress. He states that his visit to the United States has “consolidated relations between the world’s two largest democracies and marked a new era in bilateral and global affairs.”October 2000 – Undergoes knee replacement surgery.May 13, 2004 – Resigns after his party loses seats to rivals in parliamentary elections.December 29, 2005 – Announces his retirement from politics.February 2009 – Hospitalized in India with a respiratory infection.March 1, 2009 – Released from the hospital.December 25, 2014 – Vajpayee’s 90th birthday is observed nationally as Good Governance Day.March 27, 2015 – Prime Minister Narendra Modi confers India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna award, upon Vajpayee.

      August 16, 2018 – Vajpayee dies in New Delhi at the age of 93.October 2018 – Four Himalayan peaks near Gangotri glacier are named after Vajpayee.

13 miners feared dead in India after being flooded in illegal mine

Thirteen miners are feared dead in India after the shaft of a mine they were illegally digging collapsed and flooded in the remote northeastern state of Meghalaya.

Officials told CNN efforts are underway to pump water out of the coal mine in the state’s East Jaintia Hills district after the miners became trapped Thursday.”There is a river nearby and due to the overflowing of water, they have been trapped inside,” said F.M. Dopth, deputy commissioner of the East Jaintia Hills district’s administration. “We are pumping the water out right now with the help of a generator. The mine is inside a jungle near (the) Lytein Rver and was being operated illegally.”

    The miners are believed to be stuck 300 feet deep, Dopth said.India’s National Green Tribunal banned unscientific and unsafe coal mining in the state in 2014 in a method described as “rat-hole mining.” The term is used because of the small size of the holes dug. Read MoreHowever, illegal mining carried out by private landowners and the local community is widespread.The 13 miners are believed to be stuck 300 feet deep in the Meghalaya mine, an official says.”We are very concerned about the individuals and their lives. …,” Conrad Sangma, chief minister of the state Meghalaya, told reporters Friday.”At the same time, we are aware that illegal activities were going on, and this is something that is not correct, but I think appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time against people who are involved with illegal mining.” Sangma added, “This is something that is not acceptable to us, but I think what is most important right now is to save the lives of these individuals.”

      Meghalaya boasts large deposits of valuable minerals such as coal, limestone, kaolin, clay, granite, glass sand, and uranium. According to the state government, it has more than 576 million tons of coal reserves.