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North Korea elects Kim Jong party boss as special congress concludes

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PYONGYANG — North Korea on Monday wrapped up its first ruling party congress for 36 years — an event seen as a formal coronation for leader Kim Jong-Un, who was appointed to the post of party chairman.

The congress, which opened on Friday, has given 33-year-old Kim a podium to secure his status as rightful inheritor of the one-party state founded by his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, who also held the title of party chairman.

Thousands of delegates clapped and cheered enthusiastically as the country`s official head of state, Kim Yong-Nam, announced the new title which cements Kim`s status as the isolated state`s supreme ruler.

For the first time since they arrived last week, foreign journalists were allowed a rare glimpse inside the delegate hall, which was festooned in red and gold banners carrying the party`s logo.

Serious-looking men, and the occasional woman, dressed in sombre suits and servicemen weighed down by chests-full of medals filled row after row of red seats in the cavernous hall.

“Kim`s new position makes it very clear that the whole party meeting is only aimed at solidifying his legitimacy as the new leader,” said Koh Young-Hwan, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to the South in 1991.

Koh, who is now vice head of the South`s state-run Institute for National Security Strategy, said the rarity of the party congress conferred real authority on the new role.

As well as raising Kim to the post of party chairman, the congress formally endorsed his legacy ‘byungjin’ doctrine of twin economic and nuclear development.

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Delegates on Sunday unanimously adopted Kim`s working report on the party, which stressed the need to strengthen the North`s nuclear arsenal “both in quality and quantity”.

North Korea has carried out two of its four nuclear tests under Kim`s leadership, most recently in January when it claimed to have tried out a powerful hydrogen bomb — a claim experts have disputed.

The congress also enshrined a policy of not using nuclear weapons unless the country is attacked by another nuclear power, and of working towards reunification of the divided Korean peninsula. “But if the South Korean authorities opt for a war… we will turn out in the just war to mercilessly wipe out the anti-reunification forces,” said the report adopted by the North Korean delegates.

Kim was not even born when the last party congress was held in 1980 to crown his father, Kim Jong-Il, as the heir apparent to founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

When his own turn came, following the death of Kim Jong-Il in December 2011, the new young leader quickly set about shoring up his power base.

AFP

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5 dead as gunman attacks churchgoers in Russia

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At least five people were killed and another five were injured when a gunman attacked a crowd of people leaving a church on Sunday in Russia’s southern province of Dagestan, Russian news agencies reported.

The attack occurred in the village of Kizlyar in the Muslim-majority republic of Dagestan.

Russian news agencies said the attack occurred as churchgoers celebrated Maslenitsa, a Christian holiday marking the last day before Lent according to the eastern Orthodox calendar.

CCTV footage from the site of the deadly shooting shows a man armed with a rifle gunning down two women in broad daylight.

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A bearded man clad in a black vest and camouflage pants was seen crossing the street before opening fire on two female churchgoers as they left a service in Kizlyar in the Republic of Dagestan on Sunday afternoon. A woman walking several meters from the attacker was seen rushing away as the bloodshed unfolded.

The attacker was identified as a 22-year-old man local to the region, the TASS news agency said, citing the investigative committee.

He was shot and killed by security services who were on duty nearby, TASS said, adding that a hunting rifle, bullets and a knife were discovered on his person.

Initial reports suggested all five victims were women, TASS said, citing the local branch of the interior ministry.

Agencies

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