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Geopolitics

Karachi: 45 Dead, 150 Wounded In Bomb Blast

AFP, BBC (UK), VOICE OF AMERICA (USA)

Worldcrunch

KARACHI – The death toll has reached at least 45, with 150 wounded from a powerful blast in a mainly Shiite Muslim area of Karachi. There are reports that the explosion was set off by Sunni terrorists, although by midday Monday no group had claimed responsibility for the attack in the city of 21 million, Pakistan's largest.

The device was triggered as worshippers were coming out of mosques in Abbas Town, a Shiite neighborhood after Sunday evening prayers.

Authorities and civilians were still digging through the rubble of the holy place and the two partially collapsed apartment blocks on Monday in the search for survivors, reports the BBC.

Pakistan’s largest city was almost completely frozen on Monday, as the local government announced three days of mourning: “There will be no public transport on the roads today,” said Karachi Transporters Association chief Irshad Bokari, quoted by AFP.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is one of the extremist Sunni groups suspected of orchestrating the attack, as they are responsible for a growing number of bombings over the past few years, noted the BBC.

The city and the country have been the theater of many violent ethnic clashes: last year, 2,284 people died due to political, religious and ethnic conflicts in the city alone, reports VOA news.

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Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Photo of a technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

A technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

Wang Xiaojun / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steal to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

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Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

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