New York attack puts counterterror measures, immigration under focus

A police officer secures an area near the site of a terror attack in New York, on November 1, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 02 November 2017
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New York attack puts counterterror measures, immigration under focus

WASHINGTON: The deadliest terrorist attack in New York since 9/11 has once again put the spotlight on US measures in place to prevent such attacks.
The suspected attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, is a citizen of Uzbekistan who entered the US legally in 2010.
On Tuesday afternoon, Saipov drove a rented truck into a busy bike path in lower Manhattan along the Hudson River, killing eight people and injuring at least 11 others. Five of the victims were tourists from Argentina.
US media outlets are reporting that Saipov was under the radar of counterterrorism officials, and might have been previously questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 
It is not clear whether he had raised concerns because of his behavior and activities, or because of his affiliation with possible suspects in other investigations.
Eyewitnesses told police that the attacker allegedly began screaming “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) upon getting out of the truck, which struck a school bus before stopping. Officials investigating the attack are suggesting that literature was found near the crime scene suggesting that Saipov might have pledged allegiance to Daesh.
So far authorities are treating the crime as having been inspired by the terrorist group, but are yet to establish a connection between Saipov and Daesh that suggests it provided him with operational support.
Almost immediately after news of the attack was reported, President Donald Trump began commenting about it on his Twitter account.
On Wednesday morning, he appeared to assign at least partial blame for the attack on immigration laws passed by Democratic lawmakers.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted, referring to the Democratic senator.
Frances Townsend, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former President George W. Bush, and president of the Counter Extremism Project, said the attack suggests that Daesh continues to inspire attacks in the US and beyond.
“This attack followed the ISIS (Daesh) playbook: Use a truck or car, leave a note attributing it to ISIS, then get out with a knife or gun,” Townsend told Arab News.
He said the timing and location were not coincidental, and were meant to inflict significant damage and have symbolic value, being a few blocks away from the location of the World Trade Center.
The attack is likely to raise questions about whether Uzbekistan is facing a threat to its national security by militant groups. 
John G. Horgan, professor of global studies and psychology at Georgia State University, said challenging political conditions have led to a surge in Uzbeks leaving in search of a better life, and some have joined conflicts in other countries.
“Many Uzbeks joined Daesh, and this isn’t the first time an Uzbek national has been involved in terror attacks in the West,” Horgan told Arab News.
“An Uzbek man was involved in ramming a truck into a crowd of people in Sweden earlier this year.”
Townsend expressed similar concerns, saying: “Uzbekistan has long had an extremism problem.”
As to whether the attack will lead to tougher immigrations policies in the US, Mathew Levitt, director of the Stein Counterterrorism Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, expressed doubts about the effectiveness of such measures.
“Implementing a restrictive immigration policy isn’t going to address this problem,” he told Arab News.
“The most immediate threat today comes from individuals who’ve been radicalized at home. The radicalization didn’t happen abroad, it happened here.”


India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

Updated 22 September 2018
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India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

  • Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
  • Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”

DELHI: India’s prime minister was under fire over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after comments by former French President François Hollande. Hollande was quoted as saying Narendra Modi’s government had influenced the choice of a local partner.
Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
The opposition, led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, spent the past year alleging that the deal is a scam, in which India is overpaying for jets and the government is allowing a private company — billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense — to benefit instead of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
On Friday, Hollande, who cleared the intergovernmental deal when he was in office, was quoted as saying New Delhi had put pressure on Dassault to choose Reliance.
“We had no choice. We took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fueling a political storm in India.
The Indian government, however, has insisted all along that it had nothing to do with Dassault’s decision to work with Reliance Defense.
Under Indian defense procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip the Reliance Defense procured the contract .
“The PM personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to ...Anil Ambani,” said Mr. Gandhi in a tweet.
Gandhi further tweeted: “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a ... SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defense forces. Modi Ji you dishonored the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul.”
Gandhi repeated the charge in a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
The BJP, however, says that there is no corruption.
“The fact that two sovereign heads of States negotiated a deal means that there is no room for corruption,” said Sudesh Verma, BJP spokesperson.
Talking to Arab News Verma emphasized that “the highest integrity was maintained in the deal. Now the Congress is not talking of corruption but favoritism. Merely by saying that Reliance Defense was favored by us would not cut any ice. These are insinuations and are irresponsible.”
Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”
“No matter what the indian government says that perception is that the Indian government gave the offset contract to Anil Ambani, a guy who has no history of producing defense equipment,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi based political analyst.
He added: “The halo around Modi has been severely diminished after the recent revelations. This is something which it would be very difficult to live it down now.”