Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai

Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai
On Thursday, the BARC confirmed that the substance was natural uranium. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 May 2021

Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai

Security experts downplay uranium discovery in Mumbai

NEW DELHI: Experts said on Monday that a discovery of uranium was no cause for concern as it did not pose a security threat.
The comments came a day after India’s counterterrorism organization, the National Investigative Agency (NIA), took over the probe of a case involving the recovery of more than 7kg of natural uranium in Mumbai.
“I see a remote possibility of such uranium being misused to pose a threat to the nation,” Rajiv Nayan, a New Delhi-based expert on nonproliferation and arms control at the Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) think tank, told Arab News.
“Theoretically, the possibility of misuse is there, but only details will tell when the persons reveal why they were carrying the natural uranium,” Nayan added.
On May 5, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in the western Indian state of Maharashtra arrested two individuals for the possession of 7.1 kg of natural uranium worth $3 million in Mumbai.
The ATS lodged a case against Jigar Jayesh Pandya, 27, and Abu Tahir Afzal Choudhary, 31, before sending the samples to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai — India’s premier nuclear research facility — for testing.
On Thursday, the BARC confirmed that the substance was natural uranium.
According to officials, the duo was attempting to sell the uranium online when the ATS sent a fake customer and secured a substance sample. On Sunday, the NIA took control of the case and registered it under Section 24(1)(a) of the Atomic Energy Act (1962), which makes the possession of uranium without a license illegal and invites stringent punishment.
Both the ATS and the NIA were unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Monday. However, according to media reports, Tahir’s father owns a scrapyard in the Mankhurd area of Mumbai and bought a truck full of factory waste two years ago. The uranium was reportedly among other forms of industrial waste found on the vehicle. This is not the first time authorities have recovered the radioactive material, with Ajay Sahni, a New Delhi-based security expert and director of the Institute for Conflict Management, saying that “such seizures of uranium have taken place.”
Sahni told Arab News: “In the late 1990s or early 2000s, a couple of scrap dealers had picked up quantities of uranium and arrested them. These are low-level people who have accidentally come across a certain amount of uranium and hope to make a little bit of money out of it.”
He added: “I don’t think it raises any basic question of critical security importance. It raises questions of how such material is handled and safeguarded in the country.”
However, he warned that “if it falls into the wrong hands it can be used for very dangerous ends.
“We don’t know the details. It could depend on the nature of individuals and possible connections with terrorists or whether this could have been acquired by terrorists.
“They are not interested in using it for any particular purpose, or they were trying to make money. It depends where something like this goes.”
Sahni termed the find as a “failure” of India’s security system to manage or guard the uranium flow.
“This is a failure of the security system, but it is not easy to say whether it represents a major security failure,” he added.


Car bomb wounds 15 UN peacekeepers in north Mali

Car bomb wounds 15 UN peacekeepers in north Mali
Updated 11 min 30 sec ago

Car bomb wounds 15 UN peacekeepers in north Mali

Car bomb wounds 15 UN peacekeepers in north Mali
  • UN said on Twitter that an evacuation was under way after a car bomb struck a temporary base near Tarkint
  • All the wounded were German, German official told AFP

BAMAKO: A car bomb in northern Mali has wounded 15 UN peacekeepers, the United Nations said on Friday, in the latest attack in the war-torn Sahel state.
The UN said on Twitter that an evacuation was under way after a car bomb struck a temporary base near Tarkint, in the lawless north of the country. It didn’t provide further details.
However, a member of the German parliament’s defense committee, who requested anonymity, told AFP that all the wounded were German. Twelve were seriously injured, the MP said.
About 13,000 troops from several nations are deployed in the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission across the vast semi-arid country.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
A security official, who declined to be identified, told AFP that the forward operating base attacked on Friday was only set up the previous day, after a land mine damaged a UN vehicle in the area.
The peacekeepers set up the temporary base in order to remove the damaged vehicle, the security official said.
On Monday, six French soldiers and four civilians were wounded when a car bomb detonated near a French armored car in central Mali.


Muslim charities receive tens of millions from US philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Other charities receiving donations from MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, focus on holding tech companies to account for anti-Muslim hatred and helping young Syrians. (AFP/File Photo)
Other charities receiving donations from MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, focus on holding tech companies to account for anti-Muslim hatred and helping young Syrians. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 17 min 54 sec ago

Muslim charities receive tens of millions from US philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Other charities receiving donations from MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, focus on holding tech companies to account for anti-Muslim hatred and helping young Syrians. (AFP/File Photo)
  • MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, wants to empower ‘voices the world needs to hear’ with her $2.86 billion donation
  • Inner City Muslim Action Network, one of the benefactor charities, told Arab News that it plans to use the donation to become an ‘institution’

LONDON: Several Muslim charities operating across the US are among the 286 charities selected to receive a share of the SR10.7 billion ($2.86 billion) donation provided by MacKenzie Scott, who selected the organizations because they are “empowering voices the world needs to hear.” 

“Generosity is generative. Sharing makes more,” Scott wrote in a blog post announcing her donation. 

Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, said her money will go toward furthering higher education for the disenfranchised, strengthening arts and cultural institutions, as it will also toward “bridging divides” that lead to discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. Each of the 286 charities will receive $10 million.  

Among the Muslim recipients is the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a community organization that “fosters health, wellness, and healing in the inner-city by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts, and operating a holistic health center.”

Ali Bilal, IMAN’s deputy director, told Arab News that her charity takes a “holistic approach” to the health and wellness of their communities. This extends to caring for community members across criminal justice reform, police accountability, and providing arts and cultural events from their Chicago base and Atlanta satellite office.

“We view ourselves as a community organization that is rooted in Muslim values, culture, and faith in the broadest sense. But that serves anyone and everyone,” Bilal said. 

She continued: “Depending on the service or program we are talking about, the constituents range very widely. With our health center, about 40 percent of the folks we see are Muslim while 60 percent is everything and anything else.

“Where we are based in Chicago happens to be one of the most diverse neighborhoods on the south side. It is made up of African Americans, Latinos and there is still a smattering of Arabs that were born in the 90s.

“IMAN is run by people of various faiths, but it is unapologetically rooted in Muslim values of justice, compassion and mercy,” she said.

Bilal explained that IMAN planned to use Scott’s $10 million donation to turn her organization into an “institution, as opposed to a passing organization.” 

She said: “We envision using these funds in three main ways. One is an investment, which would mean we will not have to run the rat race year in and year out … this gift allows us the possibility to invest for our future.” 

A second area it will be used, Bilal said, is to invest in the charity’s physical infrastructure as new spaces will be purchased and new training facilities will be employed.

And finally: “The third area that we are planning to use this on is our people. We will make sure we maintain the most high-performing, healthiest, and most pleased staff that we can possibly create … we have a staff of incredible people, of leaders.” 

She added: “We want to continue to invest in that.”

Other charities set to receive Scott’s donations are focused on a slew of issues facing Muslims in the US and globally.

Muslim Advocates, a charity focused on “holding Facebook and other tech companies accountable for anti-Muslim hate online,” as well as other issues facing American Muslims, was also selected. 

The charity’s executive director, Farhana Khera, said: “We thank MacKenzie Scott for this extremely generous gift. This money will help further the mission of our Muslim-led organization that is accountable to the Muslim community and works to secure the rights of Muslims and all people.” 

Another charity included was Jusoor — meaning “bridge” in Arabic — which is dedicated to providing educational and entrepreneurship opportunities to young Syrians. Pillars Fund, a charitable organization that invests in community initiatives that advance “justice and opportunity for all,” was also selected.

MacKenzie’s vision, she said, is to amplify the impact of her gifts by empowering others. 

“We believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use. We encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she said.

She concluded her blog post, which has been viewed thousands of times, with a “favorite” quote from Islamic poet and scholar Rumi: “A candle as it diminishes explains, gathering more and more is not the way. Burn, become light and heat and help. Melt.”


159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse

159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse
Updated 25 June 2021

159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse

159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse
  • Mayor Daniella Levine Cava: ‘We do have 120 people now accounted for, which is very, very good news. But our unaccounted for number has gone up to 159’

SURFSIDE, United States: The number of people unaccounted for following the collapse of a Florida apartment block has risen to 159, the county’s mayor said Friday.
“We do have 120 people now accounted for, which is very, very good news. But our unaccounted for number has gone up to 159,” Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference.
Authorities have stressed it is still unclear how many people were inside the building when it pancaked in the early hours of Thursday, killing at least four people.


Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult
Updated 25 June 2021

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult
  • The meeting proposed by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • EU summits with Russia ended after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and the West imposed sanctions

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron defended on Friday a failed attempt by France and Germany to hold an EU summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after eastern European leaders shot down the initiative they said would send the wrong message to Moscow.
The meeting proposed by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which have both sought to take a less confrontational attitude with Russia in recent years, fractured EU leaders gathered in Brussels along an old East-West divide.
“There was no consensus for a quick summit. It’s no tragedy in my view,” Macron said. “The most important thing is to remain united. Divisions weaken us,” Macron told a news conference.
“The aberration today is that we’re the toughest power vis-a-vis Russia, despite the fact they’re our neighbor,” he said, adding that fellow EU leaders had not expressed the same objections when US President Joe Biden met Putin.
“We saw President Biden meeting President Putin a few weeks ago. I told my friends around the table: he didn’t ask for your opinion. And you see them meeting together and that’s not shocking to you. We’re the odd ones,” Macron said.
EU summits with Russia ended after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and the West imposed sanctions.
While Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Italy’s Mario Draghi said they supported the Franco-German proposal, many other leaders were opposed.
Latvia’s Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said the EU risked rewarding Russia with a summit even though diplomacy has failed to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed separatists.
“I have no obsession with a summit with the 27 (leaders),” Macron said. “I’ll be frank, I don’t need an EU summit to see Vladimir Putin. I saw him several times as president and I’ll continue to see him.”


Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken
Updated 25 June 2021

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken
  • ‘Actions that try to take the country by force, of course, are totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution’

PARIS: The Taliban’s actions in Afghanistan are totally inconsistent with the pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday during a visit to Paris.
“We’re looking very carefully at the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and were also looking very hard whether the Taliban is at all serious about peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Blinken told a joint news conference with his French counterpart.
“Actions that try to take the country by force, of course, are totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution,” Blinken added.