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Russia’s Investigative Committee has pledged to probe alleged incidents of police abuse of citizens that have occurred over the past two years in the central republic of Tatarstan.

The pledge was announced amid continuing controversy over the alleged bottle-rape of a detainee in a police station in Tatarstan’s capital, Kazan, and the man's death a short time later.

Since the alleged incident, scores of people have come forward and alleged that they have also been victims of police brutality in Kazan.

In the case of the detainee who died earlier this month, five police officers have been charged with abusing their positions, forging arrest papers, and deliberately inflicting serious physical harm.

Several senior Kazan police officers have been fired.

Human rights activists have called for a thorough investigation.

Based on reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS
The United Nations says the number of people seeking asylum in Western countries rose 20 percent last year, with high numbers of people fleeing conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Ivory Coast.

The United Nations' refugee agency, the UNHCR, said that Afghans topped the overall list of asylum seekers to the world's richest countries in 2011, followed by Chinese and Iraqis.

More than 35,700 people from war-torn Afghanistan sought asylum last year, the agency said -- a one-third increase in comparison to 2010.

The number of Pakistanis and Syrians applying for asylum also jumped significantly.

The UNHCR said asylum applications to 44 industrialized countries rose 20 percent in 2011 to nearly 450,000 -- up from 370,000 in 2010.

This is the highest number of asylum applications since 2003.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

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