US backs India’s right to defend itself after Kashmir attack

Indian soldiers examine the debris after a suicide attack on a military convoy on Thursday killed 44 paramilitary policemen. (Reuters)
Updated 18 February 2019
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US backs India’s right to defend itself after Kashmir attack

  • India’s government said it had evidence the group Jaish-e-Mohammad, had the backing of Pakistan and demanded Islamabad take action
  • India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR: The United States has told India it supports its right to defend itself against cross-border attacks, the government said on Saturday, as New Delhi considers retaliation against a car bombing in disputed Kashmir claimed by Pakistan-based militants.

Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have risen again after New Delhi, incensed by the deadliest attack in Kashmir in decades, demanded that Pakistan act against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group behind the bombing.

Pakistan condemned Thursday’s attack in which 44 paramilitary police were killed when the bomber slammed into a military convoy and denied any complicity.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Friday night, promising to help bring those behind the attack to justice, the Indian foreign ministry said in a readout of the phone call.

“The two NSAs vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan cease to be a safe haven for JeM and terrorist groups that target India, the US and others in the region,” the foreign ministry said.

“They resolved to hold Pakistan to account for its obligations under UN resolutions,” it added.

India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir, which the neighbors both claim in full but rule in part.

Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has faced calls for retribution from Indians on social media as well hardline groups demonstrating in the streets, said on Saturday he had given a free hand to the military to respond to acts of violence.

“The country understands the anger simmering within the soldiers,” he said at a political rally in western Maharashtra state.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling group faces a tough general election in April-May.

India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over Kashmir since their independence from Britain in 1947. In 2001, an attack on its parliament building prompted New Delhi to mobilize the military along the border with Pakistan in a standoff that lasted a year.

On Friday, India withdrew trade privileges to Pakistan in what it said was the first step to isolate Pakistan for not acting against Islamist militants operating from its soil.

As the bodies of the policemen who died in the car bomb reached their homes in small towns across India, crowds waving the Indian flag gathered in the streets to honor them and demand revenge.

Others held flowers as they walked behind the coffins in the towns of Jabalpur, Varanasi and Moga, television showed.

Tens of thousands of troops, paramilitary police and state police are deployed across scenic Kashmir to quell the nearly 30-year revolt there, India’s only Muslim-majority region.

In Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, authorities imposed a curfew for a second day after mobs attacked vehicles and pelted stones at the homes of Kashmiris.

Sanjeev Verma, the divisional commissioner of Jammu, said that the curfew will remain until further orders to maintain law and order. An army column staged a flag march.

In New Delhi, leaders of political parties met and said they stood behind the government in its resolve to tackle terrorism.

The attack comes at a difficult time for Pakistan, as it struggles to attract foreign investment and avert a payments crisis, with foreign currency reserves swiftly diminishing.

On Friday, it summoned India’s deputy envoy in Islamabad to reject the accusations against the country.


Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

Updated 59 min 18 sec ago
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Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

THE HAGUE: Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of the Al-Nusra Front militant group, prosecutors said.
The 47-year-old man, identified only by his nom de guerre Abu Khuder, was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands, the Dutch federal prosecutor said.
“The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander or a terrorist Jabhat Al-Nusra battalion,” the prosecutor said in a statement, using another name for the Al-Nusra front.
It said he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan).
The arrested Syrian has lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit, the statement said.
Police searched the suspect’s house and recovered documents, a computer and a smartphone, it said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Friday.
He was arrested based on information provided by German police, where six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided, it added.
German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
The Al-Nusra Front was allied to Al-Qaeda but renounced ties to the group. Under a new name, it now dominates the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which holds administrative control of the Syrian city of Idlib.
The arrest of the Syrian comes as the Netherlands grapples with the problem of what to do with home-grown radicals who went to fight in Syria.
At least 315 people left the Netherlands since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to join militant groups, according to Dutch media reports quoting official figures.
Around 85 have been killed in the fighting and 55 have returned.
The issue was highlighted in March when the Dutch husband of a British-born teenager who fled to join Daesh said he wanted her to live with him in the Netherlands along with their child.