Macron calls national security meeting to discuss Pegasus spyware

Macron calls national security meeting to discuss Pegasus spyware
In this Monday, July 20, 2020 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on his mobile phone during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels. (File/AP)
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Updated 22 July 2021

Macron calls national security meeting to discuss Pegasus spyware

Macron calls national security meeting to discuss Pegasus spyware

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron has called a national security meeting on Thursday morning to discuss the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware after reports about its use in France emerged this week, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
“The president is following this subject closely and takes it very seriously,” Attal told France Inter radio, adding that the unscheduled national security meeting would be “dedicated to the Pegasus issue and the question of cybersecurity.”


After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Updated 5 min 13 sec ago

After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
  • The country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians last week against taking part in the vote

MOGADISHU: Somalia has postponed elections that were due to start on Sunday after months of delays in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country, officials told AFP.

Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls were due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates. The election cycle was due to end with a presidential poll on Oct. 10.
“Even though the plan was the upper house election to start around the various states today, there is a delay, the election may not take place as planned,” a member of the electoral commission said.
The delay was due to the fact that federal regions were neither able to submit candidates’ lists in time, nor to form local committees to cast the ballots, the source added.
A spokesman for the federal government, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, told AFP that the elections were “postponed,” without providing details.
Last week, the country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians against taking part in the elections, which were due to kick off after months of deadlock and delays.
The threat, in an audio message purportedly recorded by Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, underscores the security challenges facing the election process in the country.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.
Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leaders of Somalia’s five states were unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

SPEEDREAD

Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when the country’s leadership was unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

After months of stalemate that at times turned violent, the political leaders finally agreed last month on a voting timetable.
According to the agreed plan, delegates from the five federal states, chosen by various clans in that state, elect parliamentarians, who then elect a president. The process was due to kick off on Sunday.
But according to several sources, the sole state that was capable of carrying out a vote “during the week” was Jubaland. The state has already chosen its delegate committee and could publish a list of candidates “during the week.”
“We are expecting the election to take place soon,” said Mohamed Adan, a senior government official in Jubaland. Another source said the electoral process could kick off in the state later on Sunday.
In Puntland state, sources said the elections were delayed because of “technical reasons.”
In Galmudug state, the local parliament is on a break and will reconvene in early August.
In South-West state, the process is blocked because the regional president is out of the country.
Somalia’s political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gunbattles on the streets of Mogadishu. Under pressure the president, commonly known as Farmajo, reversed the extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.
The ballots follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.
Successive leaders have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and the Al-Shabab insurgency has prevented such an exercise. The upper house vote will be followed by elections for the lower house from Sept. 12-Oct. 2, according to an updated timetable issued last week.
According to a statement issued in June, both assemblies were due to convene to vote for the president on October 10, but no date for this election was given in the updated timeline.
Somalia has not held a direct one-person, one-vote election since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup and went on to rule for two decades.
Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991 and Somalia sank into anarchy.


Pakistani-Indian music label plans joint release every month

Pakistani-Indian music label plans joint release every month
Updated 25 July 2021

Pakistani-Indian music label plans joint release every month

Pakistani-Indian music label plans joint release every month
  • Tarish Music formed this year to bring together subcontinental artists
  • Latest track featuring stars Atif Aslam and Sajal Aly crossed 2.4 million views since release

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani-Indian music label behind Atif Aslam’s most recent hit said it is planning to release collaborations every month bringing together artists from Pakistan and India — two neighboring countries that have been locked in enmity for the past seven decades.

While relations between Pakistan and India have been tense since the partition of the British-ruled subcontinent into Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India in 1947, the independent music record label, Tarish Music, seeks to create a bridge between them by bringing together artists from both countries.

The label was established earlier this year by producers Omer Ahmad and Tarun Chaudhary.

“The plan is to release 12 songs a year with six singers from India and six from Pakistan,” the label's Pakistani co-owner, Ahmed, said in a recent interview. “We’ll release a song every month.”

Their latest track, “Rafta Rafta,” which features Pakistani stars — singer Aslam and actress Sajal Aly — was released on Wednesday on Eid Al-Adha.

Shot in Pakistan’s scenic mountainous northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, “Rafta Rafta” was written by Indian singer and songwriter Raj Ranjodh and Pakistani director Hassam Baloch.

Having crossed 1 million views on the day of release, the song has now been listened to more than 2.4 million times on YouTube and is now the platform’s third top trending piece.

“It was an amazing experience working with Atif Aslam, everyone knows how loved he is in the subcontinent,” Ahmad said. “In terms of music, he always comes up with something fresh, innovative and different. His vocal skills are on another level.”

“It has been a truly delightful experience overall.”

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America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general
Updated 25 July 2021

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general
  • Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault
  • Taliban's assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts and border crossings

KABUL: The United States will continue air strikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, a top US general said Sunday, as the insurgents press on with offensives across the country.
Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.
The Taliban's deadly assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.
"The United States has increased air strikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, told reporters in Kabul.
McKenzie acknowledged that there were tough days ahead for the Afghan government, but insisted that the Taliban were nowhere close to victory.
"The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong," he said.
"Taliban victory is not inevitable."
McKenzie's remarks came as Afghan officials in the southern province of Kandahar said fighting in the region had displaced about 22,000 families in the past month.
"They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas," Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.
On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.
"The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close," Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.
"We are now trying to organise our security forces."
Local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to be about 154,000.
Kandahar resident Hafiz Mohammad Akbar said his house had been taken over by the Taliban after he fled.
"They forced us to leave... I am now living with my 20-member family in a compound with no toilet," said Akbar.


UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID
Updated 25 July 2021

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID
  • “Please — if you haven’t yet — get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” Javid tweeted
  • Britain has one of the highest official COVID death tolls

LONDON: British health minister Sajid Javid was accused of insulting coronavirus victims on Sunday after urging people to take a COVID-19 vaccine and “learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
Javid, who replaced Matt Hancock as health minister last month after his predecessor stepped down for breaking COVID rules by kissing an aide in his office, began his job by urging people to learn to live with the virus.
Britain, which has one of the highest official COVID death tolls, has shifted its strategy to fight coronavirus from using restrictions to limit its spread to opening up society in the hope vaccines will protect most people from serious illness.
Cases are high, but so is uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, and officials argue the shift is needed to help businesses in sectors such as hospitality and the night-time economy.
Writing on Twitter, Javid said on Saturday he had recovered after testing positive for COVID. “Symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines,” he said.
“Please — if you haven’t yet — get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, was one of several lawmakers from opposition parties and people who have lost family members to the pandemic to criticize his use of the phrase “cower from.”
“127,000 people have died from this virus, tens of thousands of whom would still be here if it wasn’t for the catastrophic failures of your government,” she said on Twitter.
“So how dare you denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe.”


Briton held in Somalia alleges torture by CIA-linked officials

David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 25 July 2021

Briton held in Somalia alleges torture by CIA-linked officials

David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • War on Terror practices including sensory deprivation, waterboarding still used, document claims

LONDON: A British citizen has raised concerns that highly controversial forms of torture and interrogation practices used during the War on Terror are still being employed by US-linked officials.

David Taylor, whose identity was made anonymous following a family request, claimed he was tortured in Somalia and interrogated by US intelligence officers.

The torture practices, Taylor alleges, were used by Somalian authorities to force him into CIA cooperation, and involved hooding, sensory deprivation and waterboarding.

His London-based family have warned that UK intervention in his case is essential to ending his two-year detention in the African country.

A document relating to the legal case also shows that Taylor was questioned by two US FBI agents in Mogadishu on June 30.

It says: “They asked the claimant whether he wished to live in the US. They also showed him pictures of various individuals asking him whether he knew them.”

One of the people Taylor was shown an image of was a man imprisoned for supporting the terror group Al-Shabaab. It suggests that the alleged CIA involvement is aimed at targeting the Somalian-based militant group, which has launched dozens of deadly attacks around east Africa.

Taylor moved to Somalia in 2009 and was arrested a decade later in 2019 after visiting Yemen to organize his return to London.

He was transferred to Mogadishu, arrested and driven to a location near Mogadishu by anonymous individuals, who Taylor alleges were CIA agents.

The legal document stated: “He found himself in a room with a white lady and a white man. The lady spoke in an American accent and identified herself as ‘Roxanne.’ Taylor asked her to confirm the agency or organization she represented but she refused to do so.”

It added that Taylor subsequently faced daily interrogation, including having a gun pointed at his head after refusing to cooperate.

Later that year, he was transferred to a Mogadishu prison, where he currently lives in a cell with about 60 other prisoners. Taylor said that he has received death threats from other prisoners and has been accused of operating as a British spy.

His son said: “My dad has been left to languish in a foreign prison, in dangerous conditions, without charge or any proper reason. He is a UK citizen and he has had no support from his country. To know that my dad has faced torture, interrogation and violent threats to his life is terrifying and extremely distressing.

“I am heartbroken and afraid of what might happen to him if he stays there any longer. How can this still be allowed to happen?”