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NEW YORK: New York will appoint an independent monitor to review counter-terror police investigations as part of reforms designed to protect Muslims from discriminatory and blanket surveillance, officials said Thursday.

Civil liberty campaigners welcomed the changes, which settle two lawsuits, saying the move by the country's largest police force sent a powerful message at a time of rising anti-Islamic sentiment.

The lawsuits alleged that New York police stigmatized communities based solely on religion, and that lawful political and religious activities were subject to unwarranted police surveillance following the 9/11 attacks.

The terms of the settlement, which were reached after more than a year of negotiations, must be approved by a federal judge.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which helped bring one of the suits, welcomed what it called a "watershed."

Discriminatory surveillance sowed fear and mistrust, drove down mosque attendance and forced religious leaders to censor conversations out of concern that they might be misunderstood, the group said.

Hina Shamsi, ACLU National Security Project director, said it introduced "much-needed constraints on law enforcement's

NEW DELHI: A strong 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India near the country's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh early Monday, the US Geological Survey said.

The tremor hit at 4:35 am (2305 GMT Sunday) 33 kilometres (21 miles) west-northwest of the city of Imphal, capital of Manipur state, USGS said.

In its initial assessment, USGS said "some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localised".

India's seven northeastern states, joined to the rest of

LONDON: Smoking is bad for pets too, the University of Glasgow said Tuesday, citing an ongoing study into the effects of second-hand smoke on dogs and cats.

Research under way at the Scottish institution has found that pets living in a smoky environment have a higher risk of health problems including some animal cancers, cell damage and weight gain.

"Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets," said Clare Knottenbelt, professor of small animal

BEIJING: China's parliament passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law on Sunday that requires technology firms to hand over sensitive information such as encryption keys to the government and allows the military to venture overseas on counter-terror operations.

Chinese officials say their country faces a growing threat from militants and separatists, especially in its unruly Western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds have died in violence in the past few years.

The law has attracted deep

THE HAGUE: Dutch prosecutors said Sunday they would "seriously study" claims by citizen journalists to have identified Russian soldiers implicated in the crash of flight MH17, shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

The claims are made by a British-based group of "citizen investigative journalists" called Bellingcat, which specialises in trawling through data on social media and other open sources.

"We received the report just after Christmas," Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch

JAKARTA: Families of those killed in an AirAsia plane crash last year in Indonesia have demanded that the airline apologise for negligence after a probe showed faulty equipment contributed to the accident.  

Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 plunged into the Java Sea in stormy weather on Dec 28 last year during what was supposed to be a routine flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.  

The crash killed 162 people.  

Relatives of some of the passengers, AirAsia officials and

GRENOBLE: A 39-year-old French soldier was killed Saturday while attempting a wingsuit jump in the Alps, the latest casualty in what is regarded as one of the most dangerous extreme sports, a rescue worker said.

The man died after jumping off the 2,525 metre-high (over 8,000-feet) summit of Le Brevent in the French Alps.

"When his flying companion reached the ground, he realised something had gone wrong. He probably crashed into" the mountain, a rescue worker said, confirming the soldier's

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