‘US hitting Daesh much harder after NY attack’

Pedestrians and bicyclists stop to photograph a memorial on West Street two days after a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path alongside the Hudson River, in New York, U.S., on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Updated 04 November 2017
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‘US hitting Daesh much harder after NY attack’

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: President Donald Trump said the US military has stepped up its attacks against Daesh following Tuesday’s New York City truck attack.
The alleged attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, told FBI interrogators that he was inspired by the terrorist group, and Trump tweets that the group claimed him as “their soldier.”
Trump says, “Based on that, the Military has hit ISIS “much harder” over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us!”
It is not immediately clear whether Trump approved any direct retaliatory strikes following the attack.
The president is calling Saipov a “degenerate animal.”
Daesh has claimed responsibility, without providing proof, for a truck attack earlier this week that killed eight people in the deadliest assault on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.
The militant group on Thursday described accused attacker Sayfullo Saipov, 29, as “one of the caliphate soldiers” in a weekly issue of its Al-Naba newspaper.
The Uzbek immigrant was charged in federal court on Wednesday with acting in support of Daesh by plowing a rented pickup truck down a popular riverside bike trail, crushing pedestrians and cyclists and injuring a dozen people in addition to those killed.
Saipov told investigators he was inspired by watching Daesh propaganda videos on his cellphone, felt good about what he had done, and asked for permission to display the group’s flag in his room at Bellevue Hospital.
Saipov was taken to Bellevue after being shot in the abdomen by a police officer before his arrest.
Earlier this week, Trump suggested sending Saipov to the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, where terrorism suspects apprehended overseas are incarcerated. But on Thursday, he said doing so would be too complicated.
The US president has also urged Congress to end the Diversity Immigrant Visa program under which Saipov entered the US in 2010.
The diversity program, signed into law in 1990 by Republican President George H.W. Bush, was designed to provide more permanent resident visas to people from countries with low US immigration rates.
Five Argentine tourists, a Belgian woman, a New Yorker and a New Jersey man were killed in Tuesday afternoon’s attack.
One of the two criminal counts Saipov faces, violence and destruction of motor vehicles causing the deaths of eight people, carries the death penalty if the government chooses to seek it, prosecutors said.
Saipov waived his right to remain silent or have an attorney present when he agreed to speak to investigators from his hospital bed, the criminal complaint said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has said it has located another Uzbek man, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, who it said was wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the attack.
Citing an unnamed law enforcement official, ABC News reported on Friday that Saipov placed a telephone call to Kadirov immediately before he carried out the attack. ABC News said the significance of the call was not known.


South Africa inquiry into top-level state graft opens

Updated 20 August 2018
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South Africa inquiry into top-level state graft opens

JOHANNESBURG: A judicial inquiry into alleged corruption at the top of government in South Africa is scheduled to open on Monday when the first public hearings begin.
The hearings by a panel led by the country’s second highest judge, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, will probe allegations of corruption and fraud in the public sector during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure.
Although the panel does not have powers to arrest or prosecute, evidence it collects can be used in any future prosecution.
Zuma appointed the judicial inquiry into the alleged graft in January on the orders of a high court.
A month later, on February 14, he was forced to resign from office as criticism grew from within the ruling ANC party over multiple corruption scandals.
State corruption in post-apartheid South Africa was first exposed formally two years ago by the country’s former ombudswoman Thuli Madonsela, who issued a damning report and called for a judicial inquiry into Zuma’s relationship with a wealthy business family.
Zuma was accused of being in the sway of the Guptas — a wealthy family of Indian origin — allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.
Pravin Gordhan, a former finance minister, but now responsible for state companies, has estimated that around 100 billion rand ($6.8 billion) of state funds may have been looted through corrupt practices.
Justice Zondo has vowed that the investigation into the so-called “state capture,” will be carried out thoroughly regardless of who is being investigated.
“I will investigate anybody and everybody no matter who he or she is. This commission will do its job properly. We owe that to the people of South Africa.” he said earlier this year.
The first witnesses to appear before the commission include a former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, an ANC lawmaker Mabel Mentor and the former government spokesman Themba Maseko.
The local Sunday Times said Zuma has been “invited” to appear before the panel, but the commission’s spokesman declined to comment on the newspaper report.
Initially tasked to probe and conclude its findings within six months, the commission has asked for an extension of up to two years.
Zuma’s successor as president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to crack down on government corruption, which he has admitted was a serious problem.
“I would hope that the inquiry gets to the bottom of how the South African state was captured in the way it was and what can be done to prevent this from happening again,” David Lewis, the executive director of South Africa’s non-profit organization Corruption Watch, said.