US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
A display of the remnants of Iranian drones used to carry out the 2019 attack on Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. (AFP/File)
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Updated 05 July 2022

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
  • Navy targets weapons and drugs in Arabian Gulf and Red Sea

JEDDAH: The US Navy is offering cash rewards of up to $100,000 for information leading to the interception of smuggled weapons and narcotics in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.

The initiative by the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet does not directly name Iran but analysts said it was clearly aimed at curbing the flow of Iranian arms to the Houthi militia in Yemen and restricting the lucrative regional drugs trade operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Any destabilizing activity has our attention,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins said. “Definitely we have seen in the last year skyrocketing success in seizing both illegal narcotics and illicit weapons. This represents another step in our effort to enhance regional maritime security.”
Operators fluent in Arabic, English and Farsi will staff a phone hotline, and the Navy will also take tips online in Dari and Pashto. Payouts can be as high as $100,000 or the equivalent in vehicles, boats or food for tips that include information on planned attacks targeting Americans.
Asked whether new seizures could increase tensions with Iran, Hawkins listed the weapons and drugs the Navy hoped to intercept under the program. “That’s what we’re after,” he said. “That’s not in the interest of regional stability and security.”

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The fleet and its allies seized $500 million in drugs alone in 2021, more than the four previous years combined, and intercepted the shipment of 9,000 weapons, three times the number in 2020.
Despite a UN Security Council arms embargo on Yemen, Tehran has long been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weapons to the Houthis in Yemen. UN experts have examined missiles aimed at civilian targets and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and traced the components back to Iran.
The rewards program is the latest initiative under 5th Fleet Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who also launched a drone task force last year amid rising tension with Iran. The US Navy and Revolutionary Guard naval forces have had several encounters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Houthis said last week they were monitoring increased US activity in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.“Because of this, defense and confrontation options are open,” a spokesman said.


UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 26 sec ago

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank

Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank
Updated 6 min 41 sec ago

Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank

Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank
  • The gunman entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon branch in the Hamra neighborhood in west Beirut with a firearm, security source said

BEIRUT: An armed man demanding deposits frozen by his bank took an unspecified number of hostages on Thursday at the Federal Bank of Lebanon, a security source said and a Reuters witness said.
Lebanese banks have limited withdrawals of hard currency for most depositors during the country’s three-year financial meltdown, which has left more than three-quarters of the population poor.

 


The man entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon branch in the Hamra neighborhood in west Beirut just before noon on Thursday with a firearm, the security source told Reuters.
Some customers in the bank managed to flee before he shut the doors on the rest, said the source, who was not able to specify how many clients or employees were in the branch.

 


Two shots were subsequently fired, according to Lebanese media station Al-Jadeed.
A Reuters witness could see a bearded man in a black shirt behind the gated entrance to the bank speaking to several men in plainclothes on the outside.
“Let them give me back my money!” he was heard telling them.

 

The following is a live update of the events as they unfold. All timings are GMT:

09:30am - Al Jadeed Television confirms that Basem Al-Sheikh Hussein, 42, has taken hostages in a branch of Federal Bank Lebanon in Hamrah Street in Beirut, demanding his money back.

He has $210,000 and his brother has $500,000 in accounts in the bank. Direct negotiations are ongoing between the families of the hostages and Hussein.


Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton

Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton
Updated 37 min 13 sec ago

Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton

Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton
  • ‘The US Justice Department has made allegations without providing valid evidence, creating a new work of fiction’
  • US Justice Department: Plan likely in retaliation for the killing of Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020

TEHRAN: Iran dismissed as “fiction” Thursday US allegations it had plotted to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton in retaliation for the assassination of one of its top commanders.
The US claim comes at a crunch moment in talks on reviving a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that Washington had abandoned in 2018 but has said it wants to rejoin, with Iran now considering what European Union mediators have called a “final” text.
“The US Justice Department has made allegations without providing valid evidence, creating a new work of fiction,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.
“This time they have come up with a plot involving individuals like Bolton whose political career has failed,” Kanani scoffed.
“The Islamic republic warns against any action that targets Iranian citizens by resorting to ridiculous accusations.”
The US Justice Department said Wednesday that it had indicted a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards over allegations he had offered to pay an individual in the United States $300,000 to kill Bolton.
The plan was likely set in retaliation for the US killing of top Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020, the department said.
Guards member Shahram Poursafi is also alleged to have dangled the possibility of a second target he said would earn the ostensible assassin $1 million.
The court papers did not identify that alleged target, but according to US media outlet Axios, it was former secretary of state and CIA director Mike Pompeo.
The person Poursafi was dealing with was actually an informant for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the court filings.
Poursafi was charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, which carries up to 10 years in prison; and with providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot, which carries a 15-year sentence.
The Justice Department said Poursafi remains at large and is believed to be in Iran.
“Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences,” current White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned after the charges were announced.
Soleimani, a revered figure in Iran, was killed in a US drone strike just after he landed at Baghdad’s airport on January 7, 2020.
Since his death, Tehran has vowed to take revenge, and the United States has ramped up security for prominent current and former officials, including Pompeo, who was leading the State Department when Soleimani was killed.
Bolton, like Pompeo a strong critic of Iran, was national security adviser in the White House of former president Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019.
He was strongly opposed to the 2015 deal putting limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and supported the Trump administration’s unilateral pullout from the pact in May 2018.
Bolton blasted Iran’s government as “liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States” in a statement on Wednesday.
Kanani said the US Justice Department’s “baseless claims” were a smokescreen to “avoid being held to account for the numerous crimes in which the US government has been directly implicated, like the cowardly assassination” of Soleimani.


Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry

Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry
Updated 11 August 2022

Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry

Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry
  • Salma Baghat was stabbed 17 times in Zagazig city
  • Latest in a string of ‘revenge’ murders by men

A man has been arrested for killing his 20-year-old girlfriend in a stabbing frenzy after she refused to marry him, in the latest case of femicide that has shocked the nation.

In a statement, Egypt’s Public Prosecution said that it had detained 22-year-old Islam Mohammed pending an investigation into charges of the premeditated murder of Salma Baghat, which took place in Egypt’s Zagazig city.

The prosecution said the young woman and her family rejected his offer to marry her due to his “bad behavior, abnormal beliefs, and his addiction to drugs.”

Mohammed, who attended Al-Shorouk Academy with Baghat, admitted to authorities that he killed her on Tuesday because she had rejected him and refused to comply with his demands to stop seeing her friends and quit her job.

Mohammed stabbed Baghat 17 times as she was leaving a building in the city, according to local media reports.

The prosecution said the man then posted a picture online of the victim’s body after the attack.

Baghat’s killing is the latest in a string of “revenge” murders.

The murder of 21-year-old Nayera Ashref outside her university campus in broad daylight in June this year sparked outrage across Egypt. Prior to her murder, Ashraf had repeatedly refused the advances of Mohamed Adel.

According to the Erdaak Foundation for Development and Equality, an estimated 7.8 million girls and women in Egypt have experienced some form of gender-based violence.

In 2020 alone, there were 415 violent crimes reported against girls and women in the country, the organization said in a report published last year.


Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’

Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’
Updated 11 August 2022

Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’

Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’
  • ‘Japan hopes that this ceasefire will contribute to a stabilization of the situation in Gaza’

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Wednesday welcomed the Gaza ceasefire and said that the problems between the Palestinians and Israel “cannot be resolved through violence.”

Following a fierce series of bombings by Israel and a response by Palestinians in Gaza, tensions have grown in the region, although a ceasefire has been agreed to.

“Japan hopes that this ceasefire will contribute to a stabilization of the situation in Gaza and lead to an improvement of the socio-economic situation locally. We call on all stakeholders to comply with the agreement and call for maximum self-restraint.”

Hayashi said the many casualties amongst the general public that have resulted from the clashes “is a big and deep concern for us, and I’d like to express my condolences to the victim’s families.”

The foreign minister expressed Japan’s official position on the Palestinian cause saying, “Violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East. We believe that it can only be resolved through negotiation and efforts to build confidence between the parties. Therefore, we call on all those involved to make the strongest efforts possible.”

Hayashi made his remarks in reply to Arab News Japan’s question in a press conference at the ministry held right after participating in the inauguration of the new cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Hayashi was retained as Foreign Minister in the new lineup.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan