Factory fire kills at least 17
A fire at an industrial building on the outskirts of New Delhi broke out as workers were stuffing gunpowder into firecrackers, trapping many of them on the factory’s upper floors as it spread, and leaving at least 17 dead. The laborers were paid only a few dollars a day to work in harsh conditions, and at least 10 of those who died Saturday were women, two of whom were reportedly found tightly embracing each other. Frequent fires are a tragic reality in India’s urban areas: Factories in the New Delhi area catch fire with some regularity. A fire service official said the building that went up in flames over the weekend had no clear fire-safety arrangements. The Indian news media reported businessman Manoj Jain, who had rented the factory, had been taken into custody and faces charges in the case. It was unclear as of Sunday what had caused the fire. Jain had obtained a license to make plastic items, but firefighters found material used to pack firecrackers in the building, officials said.
Kabul siege caps violent 24 hours
The Taliban’s bloody, 14-hour siege on the Intercontinental Hotel, a major hotel in Kabul, finally ended Sunday, after six assailants terrorized much of the city with explosions and gunfire. The exact number of casualties remained unclear Sunday evening, and authorities said it may take days to determine the extent of the material damage. Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said 14 foreigners and four Afghans had been killed in the attack, and 10 others, including six members of the security forces, had been wounded. Local news outlets put the number of dead at 43. The siege capped a violent 24 hours across Afghanistan, where about 50 people were killed in four provinces as the 16-year war continues to spiral more violently, with no tangible signs of a resolution.
Pop singer leads pre-Olympic delegation to South Korea
Barbed-wire steel gates on the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea swung open for the first time in two years Sunday, allowing in an advance team of officials from the North, led by one of its most celebrated singers, to help plan for next month’s Winter Olympics. The visit by the seven-member North Korean delegation has been heralded as a thawing of tensions following a series of missile and nuclear tests by the North. The group will spend two days in South Korea to help prepare for cultural performances by North Korean singers, dancers and pop orchestra musicians during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. In South Korean media, it was North Korean singer Hyon Song Wol, inset, who stole the show. Nicknamed the "girl on a steed" by South Koreans after her most popular song, Hyon was greeted with a media frenzy usually reserved for one of the South’s own K-pop stars. She headed to Gangneung, an Olympic venue on the east coast where Hyon’s art troupe is scheduled to perform during the Games. The North Koreans will return to Seoul today to inspect a concert hall where Hyon’s troupe will have another performance.
King urges Pence to ‘rebuild trust’ after Jerusalem pivot
Jordan’s king appealed Sunday to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to "rebuild trust and confidence" in the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following fallout from the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Pence tried to reassure King Abdullah II that the U.S. was committed to restarting peace efforts and to a two-state solution, if both sides agree. Such a caveat deviates from long-standing U.S. support for that approach as the only possible outcome of any peace deal. Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem last month infuriated the Palestinians, who seek the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as a future capital. They accused the U.S. of siding with Israel and said Washington can no longer serve as a mediator. Jerusalem is the emotional centerpiece of the long-running conflict, and Trump’s policy shift set off protests and condemnation across Arab and Muslim countries. It posed a dilemma for Abdullah, a staunch U.S. ally who derives his political legitimacy in large part from the Hashemite dynasty’s role as guardian of a key Muslim site in Jerusalem. Any perceived threat to Muslim claims in the city is seen as a challenge to Jordan, where a large segment of the population is of Palestinian origin. — tbt* wires