Couple indicted in Syrian bomb-making scheme

Federal Protective Services Police guard in Boston, Massachusetts, in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2018
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Couple indicted in Syrian bomb-making scheme

BOSTON: A husband and wife who ran an export business out of their Massachusetts home were indicted Wednesday on charges that they did business with a Syrian company that developed bombs used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, federal prosecutors said.
Anni Beurklian, 49, and her husband, Antoine Ajaka, 50, operated their company Top Tech US Inc. out of their Waltham home, the US attorney’s office in Boston said.
Between 2012 and 2018, the business exported electronics, computer equipment and other items to customers in Lebanon and Syria, according to the indictment. One customer was Syria-based EKT Electronics, which the US government alleges developed improvised explosive devices.
EKT was “involved in activities related to the acquisition, attempted acquisition, and/or development of improvised explosive devices, which were being used against US and coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to authorities.
As a result, the US Commerce Department requires anyone doing business with EKT to obtain an export license, which authorities say Top Tech did not do.
EKT’s manager was also named in the indictment.
The couple was engaged in plea negotiations when they fled the country in January to avoid prosecution, federal authorities said.
Both are originally from Lebanon. Anni Beurklian, who also goes by the name Anni Ajaka, is a naturalized US citizen. Antoine Ajaka, who also goes by Tony Ajaka, is a legal permanent resident of the US.
They are charged with conspiracy to violate US export laws and regulations, conspiracy to defraud the US, smuggling goods out of the US, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of justice.
“I am aware of the indictments and am in the process of reviewing and digesting the charges, which are serious,” their Boston-based attorney, Brad Bailey, said before declining further comment.


16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

Updated 26 June 2019
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16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

  • The accident occurred outside Mahamasina Stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark National Day

ANTANANARIVO: At least 16 people were crushed to death and dozens injured in Madagascar on Wednesday at a stadium hosting national independence day celebrations in the capital Antananarivo.
The bodies of sixteen victims, including three children, were stored at the mortuary of HJRA hospital in the city, AFP journalists said.
Hospital director Oliva Alison Rakoto had earlier reported 15 dead and 80 wounded.
According to witnesses at the hospital, the accident occurred in the afternoon outside the Mahamasina stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark the national holiday.
At the end of a military parade, security forces opened the gates to allow spectators to leave the enclosure, causing the crowd to mass outside the stadium, witnesses said.
The police then immediately closed the gates and blocked the crowd, witnesses said, causing a deadly pile up.
“When the organizers opened the gate, we were in the front row, in the queue,” said Jean Claude Etienne Rakotoarimanana, 29, who suffered bruises from the crush.
“Suddenly people ran to get in front of us. They shoved us, some even punched us and pulled us,” he added, saying he then fainted.
In September 2018, a deadly crush killed one person and injured 30 people in similar circumstances at the entrance of the same stadium during a football match between Madagascar and Senegal.