Hundreds of Iraqis flee militants’ advance

Hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children are fleeing their homes, fearing clashes, kidnapping and rape after Islamic militants seized swathes of northern Iraq.

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About half a million people have fled their homes since Monday, according to a UN estimate.

Fighters of al-Qaeda breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, seized the northern city of Mosul in a stunning assault on Monday.

Since then, the militants have moved southward towards the capital, Baghdad, in the biggest crisis to face Iraq in years.

“Masked men came to our house and they threatened us: ‘We will get to you.’ So we fled,” said Abed, a labourer who abandoned his home on the edge of Mosul.

“They kidnapped other people. They took away some people for interrogation.”

He said rumours were spreading that ISIS fighters – as well as masked bandits taking advantage of the chaos – were seizing young women for rape or forced marriage.

Many of the displaced said they were on the move because they feared retribution by Iraq’s military – underscoring the grave sectarian tensions that have allowed the ISIS fighters, who are Sunni extremists, to conquer so fast and deeply.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is mostly Sunni, and many residents have long complained of discrimination and mistreatment by the Shi’ite-dominated central government.

“We were worried the struggle would get bigger, that Maliki’s army would shell us,” said a middle-aged Sunni woman, referring to the country’s Shi’ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

“Whoever will rule us – let them rule us,” said her husband Talal Ahmad, 62. “We just want our children to be safe.”

In Kalak, Kurdish forces took possession of at least a dozen Iraqi military vehicles abandoned by soldiers as they fled their posts ahead of the advancing ISIS fighters.

One fleeing Iraqi soldier said he was ordered by his officer to abandon his post even before ISIS fighters reached the area.

“We didn’t even raise our weapons,” said 38-year-old Shaker Karam. “We didn’t even see a terrorist.”

UN children’s agency UNICEF said thousands of displaced, particularly children, were sheltering in schools, hospitals and mosques outside Mosul, many without adequate water, sanitation or shelter. The Red Cross said it had distributed food and relief to 8000 people near Mosul.

Many fled with little more than the clothing on their backs and, arriving without money, said they would have to rely on donations.

Talal Ahmad’s family of 12 was sleeping in the back of a pick-up truck that was lined with thin mattresses.

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Fake flower delivery robber gets two years

An armed robber who posed as a flower delivery man before tying up two sisters and ransacking their home has been sentenced to at least two years in jail.

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Kyrillos Ghaly was an active member of his Coptic Christian community in Sydney and a model student when he graduated from high school in 2005.

But after relocating to Adelaide to study dentistry his life went into a downward spiral, Judge Anthony Blackmore told Sydney’s District Court on Friday.

He moved into a share house where his flatmates were taking drugs, dropped out of university and accumulated debts with loan sharks.

Then in November 2012, Ghaly armed himself with knives and broke into a home in Sylvania Waters in Sydney’s south and another in Minchinbury in the city’s west.

At Minchinbury, the court heard Ghaly posed as a ‘Roses Only’ flower delivery man, telling the two sisters that the blooms were for “finishing your HSC”.

Once inside, he tied the two girls up and stole jewellery and cash from their home, before saying “All right, it’s been fun”, as he left.

At the Sylvania robbery, the court heard Ghaly held a knife to his victim’s neck, telling him: “If you speak out of turn I will slit your throat”.

He later turned to the man and said: “I’m sorry for what I have put you through, I wish we could have met under better circumstances”.

Judge Blackmore said the robberies had clearly been terrifying for the victims and involved a degree of planning by Ghaly.

He said the 27-year-old had since undergone extensive rehabilitation, had entered an early guilty plea and was clearly contrite for what he had done.

Ghaly, who is now studying physiotherapy, previously told the court that he was on drugs at the time of the offences.

Judge Blackmore sentenced him to a maximum of four years for two counts of armed robbery and one count of break and enter.

Taking into consideration time served, he is eligible for parole in July 2015.

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Where did Friday the 13th come from? (And where is it going?)

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and combined with the full moon tonight anyone suffering this niche phobia will likely face compounded trauma.

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Fortunately, the internet is here to help. No matter how obscure an interest, belief or phobia, the digital recesses of the web are likely to provide solace, and the The Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Centre is drolly demonstrative of this phenomenon.

Friday the 13th is widely considered an unlucky day in Western folklore. The idea of such superstition seems like a relic from ancient mythology; an irrational belief borne of ignorance in a time when gods were trusted to provide answers to the universe. Despite years of scientific and technological advancement and the evolution of human culture, superstition lives on in the digital age – it may even be resurgent, thanks to the internet.

With increased connectivity and digital communication allowing faster and ever more transactions – both economic and interpersonal – superstitions have the potential to accelerate and influence ever larger swathes of the population.

An early example of thirteen signalling bad luck is found in Norse legend, when mischievous Loki arrives as the thirteenth dinner guest at Valhalla, and ultimately causes the death of the god Baldur. This event is echoed in Christianity’s Last Supper, with Jesus and his twelve apostles making up the unlucky thirteen.

Yet widespread superstition around Friday the 13th being unlucky has only been commonplace since the early twentieth century. The 1907 publication of Thomas W Lawson’s novel Friday the Thirteenth has been isolated as a catalyst that combined the portentous nature of thirteen with the historically unlucky day of the week Friday in the popular imagination.

The novel tells the story of an unscrupulous stockbroker using superstition to cause panic on Wall Street on the inauspicious date. A fitting start to the Friday the 13th myth, considering that the condition of financial markets depend in large part on superstition and emotion, or as economist John Maynard Keynes called it, ‘animal spirits’.

Keynes coined ‘animal spirits’ to describe the instincts, appetites and feelings that guide human behaviour around economic transactions, with superstition playing a substantial role. Superstitions often arise due to a lack of control, and money markets are a good example despite economics being regarded as one of the more rational disciplines.

With increased connectivity and digital communication allowing faster and ever more transactions – both economic and interpersonal – superstitions have the potential to accelerate and influence ever larger swathes of the population.

Digital communication has caused superstition to grow rather than retreat in our scientific, technological age. The intangible nature of the web means that our everyday communications now exist in a space between the physical and the ethereal. This space is allowing more room for both fantasy and delusion.

But is the growing feeling of lack of control – of ceding power to technology – making us more paranoid with good reason? We used to scoff at conspiracy theorists who claimed that the government is watching everything we do, but the Snowden revelations proved them right.

Widespread surveillance might be the fantasy proved very real, but there is inherent danger in indulging all manner of paranoia. Sociologist Gerald Bronner warns that the internet is an “incubator of contemporary mythologies”, saying that ease of access allows people with fringe beliefs to congregate and disseminate misinformation at an accelerated rate.

This phenomenon is giving rise to a trend of asserting belief in facts rather than merely accepting them as read. “I believe in global warming” or “I believe in immunisation” are common utterances, as if the actuality of the earth heating up or modern medicine preventing the spread of disease were fabulous stories that one can choose to believe. This proves problematic when the flipside is considered – that one can also choose not to.

Modern mythmaking is on the ascent. Instability and lack of control has always driven superstition – ~feelings~ as it would be termed on social media – and the continuing anxiety around Friday the 13th is merely one example. As anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss observed, superstition has been so prevalent throughout disparate human cultures that “we should ask ourselves if we are not confronted with a permanent and universal form of thought”.

How else to explain ever-emerging mythology like The Slender Man or Smile Dog, which incorporate tech elements combined with superstitious beliefs and horrors. Facilitated by digital subcultures congregating on forums like 4chan, Reddit and Creepypasta, the internet is our new collective nightmare.

Yet the internet has the power to dispel superstitions as well as encourage them. Black cats were once regarded as unlucky, particularly if one happened to cross your path. Yet with the advent of the internet of cute animal photos, black cats cross our digital paths every day with not a hint of superstitious distress. Friggatriskaidekaphobia sufferers too now have hope that their superstitious anxiety can be cured with the help of the internet, freeing them to focus on more logical paranoia, like scopophobia – the fear of surveillance.

Anne Treasure works in communications, is a recent survivor of the book industry, and exists mainly on the internet.

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Ukraine ceasefire deal disputed by Russia

Russia has denied claims from the Ukrainian government that the two countries have agreed on a permanent ceasefire for eastern Ukraine.

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“(Vladimir) Putin and (Petro) Poroshenko really did discuss steps which would lead to a ceasefire between rebels and Ukrainian troops,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

“But in principle Russia cannot agree on a ceasefire as it is not a participant in the conflict.”

About an hour earlier, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko announced that he and Mr Putin had agreed to a permanent truce.

As a result of my telephone conversation with Russian President we reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire on Donbass.

— Петро Порошенко (@poroshenko) September 3, 2014

A statement released by President Poroshenko said the leaders had agreed to a ‘permanent ceasefire’ for the region. This was later amended.

“The conversation resulted in an agreement on ceasefire regime in the Donbas,” the statement read.

“The parties reached mutual understanding on the steps that will facilitate the establishment of peace.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Peskov said the leaders found they “largely share” the same views on how to stop the violence in east Ukraine.

“The heads of state exchanged opinions about what needs to be done first in order to bring an end to the bloodletting in the southeast of the country as soon as possible,” he told Russian news agencies.

“The views of the presidents of the two countries about possible ways out of this difficult crisis overlap to a considerable degree.”

The pair met last week in Minsk but made no progress towards ending the conflict, which has intensified in recent weeks.

Western nations have accused Russia of deploying troops in Ukraine, but Moscow have repeatedly denied these claims.

The talks come as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia is banning uranium sales to Ukraine and opening an embassy in Kiev.

Mr Abbott also said the government is considering sending support to Ukraine through aid and non-lethal military assistance.

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Shehzad in trouble over religious chat

Ahmed Shehzad violated his central contract by making religious comments to Sri Lanka player Tillakaratne Dilshan and he could be disciplined, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan said on Friday.

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“Shehzad has breached the central contract in which it is clearly written that you will not involve in any religious or political discussion with others,” Khan said in the southern city of Karachi.

“There can be a disciplinary action against him.”

The PCB has already formed a three-member committee headed by international cricket operations director Zakir Khan to investigate the issue.

Shehzad was caught on camera last Saturday telling Dilshan “if you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven.”

Dilshan’s reply was not audible, and Shehzad went on to say, “Then be ready for the fire.”

They were walking back to the dressing room after Sri Lanka won the third and deciding one-day international in which Dilshan scored an unbeaten 50.

There was no official complaint from Sri Lanka Cricket or match officials, but Shehzad told PCB officials on Wednesday it was a “personal discussion,” with Dilshan and there was nothing more to it.

Dilshan told espncricinfo广西桑拿, that he would also not lodge any complaint.

“I don’t remember even what I said to him,” Dilshan said. “I have no issues at all. I was just quite happy with the win at the time.”

Dilshan was born to a Muslim father and a Buddhist mother and was known as Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan.

He shed his Muslim name shortly after his international debut in 1999 and took up the name Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage Dilshan with an ethnic Sinhalese-Buddhist identity.

Shehzad is due to accompany the Lahore Lions to India to compete in the Champions League next week, and is one of the top contenders to be named Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain.

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Storm seal finals berth with Broncos win

Melbourne Storm’s Cameron Smith delivered a captain’s knock to give his team every chance of a top four NRL finals berth with a drama-packed 22-12 win over Brisbane at AAMI Park.

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Smith shrugged off a possibly serious ankle injury that temporarily forced him off the field while centre Mahe Fonua scored two second half tries to seal the last round win and a place in the play-offs.

The Storm moved into fourth, however Penrith and North Queensland can still leap-frog them with wins against the Warriors and Manly respectively.

Brisbane meanwhile could drop out of the eight should the ninth-placed Warriors or 10th-placed Parramatta, who face the 15th-placed Canberra on Saturday night, win.

Smith left the field with 11 minutes remaining in the first half with the injury diagnosed as syndesmosis – a high ankle sprain which usually means at least a week out.

The Storm looked in disarray in his absence, with the Broncos scoring one try and the video referees over-ruling an on-field decision to award another to Andrew McCullough.

At the same time Smith was injured, Brisbane skipper Corey Parker also left the field for a concussion test after a heavy knock in a tackle.

He returned in time to convert Jack Reed’s 33rd minute try for his side to trail 12-10.

Reed’s night was cut short soon after when he dislocated his shoulder while making a charge in the final play of the first half.

Smith however was back into the fray three minutes into the second half, although the Storm didn’t have it all their own way.

A Parker penalty tied the match up and despite the home side’s best effort, Brisbane’s wall of defence held firm until the 65th minute.

Melbourne centre Mahe Fonua leapt high to take a Cooper Cronk bomb and then muscled his way across the line to break the deadlock.

Will Chambers, kicking in place of Smith, was unable to kick the conversion.

In the end it didn’t matter with Fonua intercepting a Ben Hunt pass and racing 55 metres, chased by three Broncos, to touch down.

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, who will be replaced by Wayne Bennett next season, said his team’s defence was rock solid after a costly early lapse when Ryan Hoffman and Cooper Cronk both scored.

“The jump they got on us in the end was the difference,” Griffin said.

“I thought from then we were on top for long periods of the game but unfortunately a kick and an intercept and we end up with nothing.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Griffin said that Reed would require his third shoulder reconstruction in as many years.

Despite his injury and absence, Smith still topped his team’s tackle count with 49, only surpassed by McCullough’s game-high 52.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he was hopeful that his skipper would be available to play their opening final next weekend.

“It’s not minor but it’s obviously not too serious otherwise he wouldn’t have gone back on,” he said.

“Hopefully our physio can get him up for next week.”

The coach was concerned that his team might run out of steam after a heavy travelling schedule leading up to the match and was proud they held firm.

“It was nice to get a win for a lot of reasons,” Bellamy said.

“Obviously we’re in the semis now but also for the guys who are departing, like Ryan Hoffman, we always want to send them out on a good note.”

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PM poised to unveil India uranium deal

India has promised that any uranium it buys from Australia will only be used to produce energy, not build nuclear weapons.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott is poised to overturn a long-standing ban on uranium sales to India when he announces a deal with his counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday.

The nuclear safeguards agreement stipulates that India must only use the uranium for peaceful purposes that adhere to recognised international safety standards.

Australia also expects India to meet the highest global standards of radiation and nuclear safety.

The agreement will prove controversial because India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty despite possessing an arsenal of atomic weapons.

Mr Abbott has defended India as a model international citizen and peaceful “democratic superpower” in the region.

But opponents claim the deal is reckless, pointing to the secrecy of India’s civilian nuclear industry, its poor safety record and quest to pursue a more sophisticated weapons stockpile.

It’s not clear how the agreement will be enforced but Mr Abbott has stated it’s not Australia’s job to tell India how to conduct its own business.

The agreement must first be considered by Australia’s parliamentary Committee on Treaties before getting the stamp of approval.

Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India has been a deep source of mistrust between the trading partners for years.

John Howard first gave in-principle support to the idea in 2007 but Kevin Rudd rescinded that once elected.

Julia Gillard convinced Labor in 2011 to lift its ban and negotiations for a safeguards agreement began with India the following year.

India wants to vastly expand its nuclear sector and hopes by the middle of the century a quarter of all its energy will come from uranium.

Australia, with the world’s largest known uranium reserves, is well placed to capitalise on this energy transformation.

India is Australia’s fifth-largest export market, with energy resources making up the lion’s share of the goods shipped across the Indian Ocean.

The energy-strapped nation bought nearly $5 billion worth of Australian coal last year alone.

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Root ton restores England pride in Leeds

Joe Root marked his first one-day international at his Yorkshire home ground with a century as England tried to avoid a series whitewash against India at Headingley on Friday.

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Root’s 113 was the cornerstone of England’s 7-294.

World champions India had already won the series by going 3-0 up and it seemed they would restrict England to another meagre total when the hosts slumped to 4-117 off 29 overs after losing the toss.

But Root and Jos Buttler (49) repaired the damage with a fifth-wicket partnership of 108 and England’s bowlers had even more of a target to defend thanks to recalled all-rounder Ben Stokes’s unbeaten 33.

For England, it was initially an all-too-familiar story as India’s pacemen make early breakthroughs.

The runs then dried up against India’s spinners as wickets continued to fall.

England found themselves 2-39 off seven overs.

Alex Hales mistimed a pull off recalled paceman Umesh Yadav and holed out to midwicket for four.

Moeen Ali had been promoted to number three after making 67 at number seven in a nine-wicket thrashing by India at Edgbaston on Tuesday.

But left-hander Ali exited for nine when he sliced a wide length ball from Kumar to Yadav at third man.

Under-pressure England captain Alastair Cook, trying to break the shackles, made 46 before he top-edged a sweep against off-spinner Suresh Raina and was caught by India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Dhoni then stumped Cook’s fellow left-hander Eoin Morgan (14) off Ravichandran Ashwin’s off-spin.

But the re-introduction of Yadav saw Buttler uppercut him for six.

Buttler also pulled Ashwin for six and Root hoisted left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja over long-on for a six of his own.

England at last enjoyed a productive batting powerplay, scoring 55 runs for no wickets in five overs.

But Buttler fell when, having survived an lbw appeal, he set off for a non-existent single and was run out by opposing ‘keeper Dhoni.

Root, though, slog-swept Jadeja — whose nine overs cost 66 runs — for six to complete a 105-ball century.

But Root’s second and highest hundred in 36 ODIs ended when an intended ‘ramp’ off Mohammed Shami was caught by Ashwin at short fine leg.

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Uruguay punish Japanese blunders in bad start for Aguirre

The Sagan Tosu centreback miscontrolled a pass in the 34th minute which allowed Edinson Cavani to open the scoring, with the 23-year-old then dallying over a clearance and allowing Abel Hernandez to double the lead in the 73rd.

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“Uruguay are a very strong team so you can’t afford to make mistakes against them,” Aguirre was quoted as saying by Kyodo.

“We made two defensive mistakes and that decided the match tonight.”

Sakai was one of a number of changes that Mexican made to the Japanese line-up as he attempted to shake up a side that woefully underperformed at the World Cup in June.

Their group stage exit led to the resignation of the attack-minded Alberto Zaccheroni and the introduction of the more cautious Aguirre, who cast away a number of the World Cup strugglers.

The Mexican opted for a back four and played defender Masato Morishige in an unfamiliar defensive midfield position, with playmaker Keisuke Honda starting down the left and taking over the captaincy in the absence of Makoto Hasebe.

Another Aguirre debutant, Yusuke Minagawa, came close to giving the former Atletico Madrid coach the perfect start but the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker could only aim his free header from eight yards out over the bar in the 17th minute.

The miss proved costly as Sakai’s heavy touch was picked up by Cavani who was then put through by Diego Rolan to finish past Eiji Kawashima after the ball deflected off the rookie Japanese defender and over the goalkeeper.

The home side were lacking some creative flair as Uruguay, without suspended striker Luis Suarez and injured coach Oscar Tabarez who stayed home after a back operation last month, kept the hosts comfortably at bay.

The visitors then profited from another mistake by Sakai as Nicolas Lodeiro’s shot was parried by Kawashima but the defender tried to take a touch instead of hook clear and the ball squirmed to Hernandez, who swiftly knocked it through the keeper’s legs.

FC Tokyo striker Yoshinori Muto came on as a late substitute and almost marked his international debut with a sensational strike but his left foot effort from distance hit the inside of the post before bouncing clear.

Aguirre will have a quick chance to rectify the issues when Japan take on Venezuela on Tuesday as they continue the build up to their Asian Cup defence in January in Australia. Venezuela lost 3-1 to South Korea on Friday.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Button "massively relaxed" about his F1 future

The 2009 world champion’s current contract with McLaren expires at the end of the year and the team have yet to announce their lineup for 2015, when they are starting a new partnership with Honda.

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Button, the most experienced driver on the starting grid, has been with McLaren since 2010 and this year has Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen as his team mate.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who has reportedly been making overtures to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, recently fuelled speculation about Button by saying he was keeping an eye out for other top drivers who might become available.

Alonso has, however, said that he wants to extend his Ferrari contract beyond 2016 while Vettel is also tied to champions Red Bull for 2015 and has indicated he is not about to move.

“My situation has not changed. I am happy where I am,” Vettel told reporters at Monza. “But you never know what is happening in the future. Right now, I don’t feel the need to do something different.”

Asked ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix whether he felt relaxed about 2015, Button replied emphatically: “Massively relaxed.”

The Briton played down a recent television interview in which he had appeared to acknowledge that there was a possibility he could be facing retirement.

“If I’m not racing at the end of the season, so be it. I can’t do much about that,” he grinned. “But it’s not that I’m getting ready because I definitely don’t want to retire for many years.

“But when you’re asked the question so many times you’ve got to say something different else it gets boring. Not for you guys, but for me it gets boring. I’m SO bored of answering the same questions.”

Button, who made his debut with Williams in 2000 and is now 34, said he had heard a lot of nonsense in his time when it came to the driver market.

“Initially it’s annoying, but then you’re like ‘You know what, I’ve been here before, been in this situation before, heard it before’,” he said.

“So you just get on with your job, and I love racing in Formula One. Every time I jump in a car I do the best job I can – and it doesn’t matter who it’s for or where it is – I do the best for myself, the team and the fans.”

Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who drives for Lotus but has also been linked to other teams including McLaren, suggested that Alonso held the key to opening up the driver market but Button scoffed at that.

“That surprised me, actually,” he said. “I don’t really think he’s the key to the driver market. The two McLaren drivers are probably the key to the driver market, I would say.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Shahzad may face action for religious spat

The head of Pakistan’s cricket board says batsman Ahmed Shahzad could face disciplinary action over a religious spat with Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.

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Television footage showed Shahzad passing a religious remark at Dilshan after the third and final one-day international in Dambulla last week.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has set up a committee to look into the matter despite Sri Lanka Cricket and Dilshan not making an official complaint.

“Shahzad has breached the central contract in which it is clearly written that you will not involve in any religious spat with others so there can be disciplinary action against him,” PCB chief Shaharyar Khan told reporters on Friday.

After Sri Lanka notched a seven-wicket win to take the series 2-1 and the players were walking off the field, Shahzad was seen on TV footage saying to Dilshan: “If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven.”

Dilshan replied he doesn’t want to go there, to which Shahzad replied: “Then be ready for the fire.”

The remarks stemmed from reports that 37-year-old Dilshan was born to a Muslim father and a Buddhist mother and was originally named Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan.

The footage went viral on the Internet, prompting the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to summon Shahzad on Wednesday.

Dilshan said he didn’t even remember what was said.

“I have no issues at all. I was just quite happy with the win at the time,” Dilshan said in Colombo.

Shahzad, 22, has a history of disciplinary problems, having been fined 50 per cent of match fee after an altercation with Dilshan in the series last year.

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Rebels agree to Ukraine ceasefire

Ukraine’s Russian-backed separatists say they have agreed with Ukrainian officials on a ceasefire at peace talks in Minsk.

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“Representatives of Ukraine and Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic signed a ceasefire protocol from 6pm on Friday,” the Twitter account of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic said, without providing further details.

Officials on the ground in the Belarussian capital Minsk were not immediately available to confirm the statement.

The OSCE, which hosted the talks, said the ceasefire would begin at 1500 GMT on Friday (0100 AEST Saturday).

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Friday that Russia must withdraw its forces from the war-torn country for the proposed truce with rebel insurgents to hold.

“The peace plan must include a ceasefire, the withdrawal of the Russian army, bandits and terrorists, and the re-establishment of the border,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting shortly after talks on the ceasefire plan opened in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

He also called for the United States and Europe to act as guarantors to a ceasefire with pro-Moscow rebels.

“It must be supported by the United States and the EU. We will not manage with Russia on our own… we need guarantees,” Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting moments before rebels announced that a truce deal had been agreed at talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

Also shortly after the rebel announcement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said his envoy had signed a “preliminary” truce deal with pro-Russian militants aimed at halting the five months of fighting that has claimed 2600 lives.

“A preliminary protocol to the ceasefire agreement has been signed in Minsk. This protocol should enter into force on Friday,” Poroshenko wrote on his official Twitter account.

He also ordered his army commander to halt fire in Kiev’s campaign against pro-Russian insurgents at 1500 GMT on Friday (0100 AEST Saturday) under the terms of a new truce deal.

“I am ordering the head of the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine to halt fire starting at 6 pm (1500 GMT),” Poroshenko said on his website.

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Hawks finish strongly to defeat Cats

Defending premiers Hawthorn moved a step closer to a third consecutive grand final appearance with a 36-point win in a high-pressure qualifying final against Geelong on Friday night.

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Geelong surged late in the second term to level the scores at 6.5 (41) each at halftime.

But the Hawks kicked nine goals to the Cats’ four in the second half to win 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68) in front of a crowd of over 74,000 at the MCG.

Jordan Lewis and Jack Gunston kicked three goals each and Sam Mitchell and Bradley Hill were outstanding in midfield for the Hawks, who advance to the preliminary final in two weeks’ time.

Geelong, who were superbly led by tireless skipper Joel Selwood, will face the winner of Saturday night’s North Melbourne-Essendon elimination final next weekend in a knockout clash.

The Cats started the game full of running and kicked the first two goals of the game with Steve Johnson dominant. However playmaker Sam Mitchell had an impact for the Hawks who scored the last three goals of the first term to lead 3.4 (22) to 2.1 (13) at quarter-time.

The Cats kicked four goals in the second term including Josh Walker’s 51-metre effort after the siren to level the scores at halftime.

Gunston kicked two of Hawthorn’s four goals in the third term and the Hawks went to three-quarter time with a 14-point advantage, 10.8 (68) to 8.6 (54).

Luke Breust’s goal early in the final term put the Hawks ahead by 20 points but Mark Blicavs responded with a goal for the Cats at the 11-minute mark.

With less than eight minutes left on the clock, Jarryd Roughead weaved one through from the boundary as the Hawks went 22 points clear.

Lewis put an exclamation point on the win with two last-quarter goals, prompting a fist-pumping celebration from Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.

Hawthorn kicked clear with a five-goal last term to Geelong’s two.

Geelong coach Chris Scott revealed star forward/midfielder Steve Johnson is in doubt for next week’s sudden-death semi-final with an ongoing foot problem.

Johnson missed the last three rounds of the home-and-away season and returned on Friday night, picking up 17 disposals including nine in the first term.

Scott said Johnson had been cleared to play by the club’s medical staff but struggled to get through the game and was now in doubt for next week.

“That foot’s going to be a problem for us,” Scott said.

“He struggled through the night with that issue … he was sore.”

Geelong skipper Selwood’s 31 disposals included a game-high nine clearances.

Hawthorn’s 2013 Norm Smith Medallist Brian Lake completed another superb shut-down role, holding Geelong’s spearhead Tom Hawkins to seven possessions and one goal.

“He was pretty good tonight. He reads the ball in flight so well off the opposition’s kick,” Clarkson said.

The Hawks dominated possession and also led the tackles 81-59.

“To put real pressure on the Geelong ball-carriers is just crucial for us,” Clarkson said.

“We were able to turn the ball over and give ourselves a chance in the middle of the ground.”

Wingman Bradley Hill (27 disposals including 18 in the first half) was one of about a dozen key contributors for the Hawks but Mitchell, with a game-high 36 touches, was a stand-out.

“We’ve got a good running group and a good balance of inside and outside players,” Clarkson said.

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