UK counter-terror police involved in ‘mosque attack’ probe

One man was arrested after the attack in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, central England. (File/AFP)
One man was arrested after the attack in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, central England. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2023

UK counter-terror police involved in ‘mosque attack’ probe

One man was arrested after the attack in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, central England. (File/AFP)
  • One man was arrested after the attack in Birmingham, central England on Monday evening
  • It came after an 82-year-old man was set on fire outside a mosque in the Ealing area of west London on the evening of Feb. 27

LONDON: Counter-terrorism officers are involved in an investigation into the attempted murder of a man who was set alight after leaving a mosque, UK police said on Tuesday.
One man was arrested after the attack in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham, central England, just after 7:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Monday.
It came after an 82-year-old man was set on fire outside a mosque in the Ealing area of west London on the evening of February 27.
The Birmingham force said it was aware of the previous attack.
“We are working with the Metropolitan Police Service to see whether they are linked,” a spokesman said.
West Midlands Police chief superintendent Richard North said counter-terrorism police were supporting the investigation.
They had “access to specialist capabilities to help establish the full circumstances,” he added.
In the latest attack, it is thought the victim, who was walking home from a nearby mosque, was sprayed with an unknown substance then had his jacket set on fire.
He suffered burns to his face and was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.


South Korean faces up to 10 years in prison for opening plane door

South Korean faces up to 10 years in prison for opening plane door
Updated 26 min 43 sec ago

South Korean faces up to 10 years in prison for opening plane door

South Korean faces up to 10 years in prison for opening plane door
  • The 33-year-old told investigators that he felt suffocated and tried to get off the plane quickly

SEOUL: A man who opened an emergency exit door during a flight in South Korea was formally arrested Sunday and faces up to 10 years in prison on a charge of violating the aviation security law, officials said.

During a preliminary questioning, the 33-year-old told investigators that he felt suffocated and tried to get off the plane quickly, according to police.

Twelve people were slightly injured on Friday after he opened the door of the Asiana Airlines Airbus A321-200, causing air to blast inside the cabin and terrifying passengers. Some testified they suffered severe ear pain and saw others screaming and crying. A video shared on social media shows passengers’ hair being whipped by air blowing into the cabin.

Normally, the emergency exit doors cannot be opened mid-flight due to the difference in air pressure inside and outside of the aircraft. But during Friday’s incident, the man succeeded in opening the door likely because the plane was flying at a low altitude while preparing to land and there wasn’t much difference in pressure, according to Asiana Airlines officials.

The Transport Ministry said the plane was at 213 meters when the man pulled the door open. The plane was preparing to land in Daegu on an hour-long flight from the southern island of Jeju with 200 people on board. They included teenage athletes on their way to a track and field competition, according to Asiana Airlines.

On Sunday, a district court in Daegu approved a warrant to formally arrest the man. Police earlier sought the arrest warrant, citing the graveness of the crime and a possibility the man may flee, according to Daegu police.

“I wanted to get off the plane soon,” the man, whose face was covered by a black hoodie, a cap and a mask, told reporters at the court ahead of its review of his arrest warrant. “I’m really sorry to kids,” he said, in a likely reference to the teenage athletes.

Daegu police said they have up to 20 days to investigate the man before determining whether to send him to prosecutors for a possible indictment.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for breaching the aviation security law that bars passengers from handling entry doors, emergency exit doors and other equipment on board, according to the Transport Ministry.

Daegu police said the man, surnamed Lee, told them that he was under stress after losing a job recently and that he wanted to get out of the plane soon because he was feeling suffocated just before landing.

The people who were taken to hospitals were mainly treated for minor problems such as breathing difficulties.

Asiana Airlines said in a statement that starting from Sunday, it stopped the sale of emergency exit seats on its 174-seat A321-200 planes and the 195-seat A321-200s as a safety precaution. Lee was seated near the emergency exit, airline officials said.


Indian PM inaugurates new parliament building amid opposition boycott

Indian PM inaugurates new parliament building amid opposition boycott
Updated 28 May 2023

Indian PM inaugurates new parliament building amid opposition boycott

Indian PM inaugurates new parliament building amid opposition boycott
  • Opposition describes inauguration by Narendra Modi ‘direct assault’ on democracy
  • New parliament part of controversial, $2.8bn Central Vista project

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated on Sunday a new parliament building in New Delhi amid a boycott of the ceremony by 20 opposition parties.

The triangle-shaped, four-storey building located in the heart of the capital cost nearly $120 million and is part of a controversial $2.8 billion revamp of the capital’s historic center called the Central Vista project.

Modi said the new parliament building was a “reflection of the aspirations of new India.”

“The new parliament building will be a testament to the dawn of a self-reliant India. It will be a witness to our journey toward a developed India,” he said at the inauguration ceremony.

FASTFACT

The triangle-shaped, four-story building located in the heart of the capital cost nearly $120 million and is part of a controversial $2.8 billion revamp of the capital’s historic center called the Central Vista project.

“Some moments in the developmental journey of a nation get immortalized, today is one such day. The new parliament complex will witness the realization of our developed India resolution.”

Modi also installed the Sengol, or a symbolic scepter, in the legislature’s lower house, a gold-plated object that the government claimed was gifted to India’s first prime minister on the eve of its independence from Great Britain in 1947.

The Central Vista project covers new construction of various government offices, including a residence and office for the premier as well as 10 blocks of buildings to house ministries and departments.

The government has stated that the new upgrades were necessary to increase seating capacity and allow for better facilities. The original parliament building, for example, dates to 1927 and had only around 800 seats combined for both the lower and upper house, while the newly inaugurated building had room for more than 1,000 seats.

Yet the project has sparked controversy since it was first announced, as civil society groups, opposition politicians, and environmentalists questioned the cost and need for all-new buildings.

Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has also been facing backlash for sidelining the President Droupadi Murmu by asking the PM to inaugurate the building instead. Though the Indian president is a non-elected and non-executive position, they are considered a ceremonial figurehead as the country’s first citizen and highest constitutional authority.

The opposition boycott was sparked by Modi’s decision to “inaugurate the new parliament building by himself,” which national and regional opposition parties said was “not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy.”

A joint statement issued by the opposition parties on Wednesday said: “When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the parliament, we find no value in a new building.”

Aditya Mukherjee, writer and former professor at Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, criticized the timing of the project and how it was carried out.

He told Arab News: “The whole project has been mired in controversy right from the beginning because the foundation was laid at a time when the whole nation was passing through a deadly second wave of coronavirus.

“No consultation was held before the foundation stone for the new parliament was laid.”

Sunday’s ceremonial event, which also involved religious rituals and Hindu priests, also came under scrutiny.

“The whole effort is just to glorify the current prime minister. It is a matter of great shame that a parliament of the world’s largest democracy is being inaugurated in the absence of the main opposition parties,” Mukherjee said.

 


Pakistani pilgrims laud Hajj arrangements

Pakistani pilgrims in Madinah have expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made by the government. (SPA)
Pakistani pilgrims in Madinah have expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made by the government. (SPA)
Updated 28 May 2023

Pakistani pilgrims laud Hajj arrangements

Pakistani pilgrims in Madinah have expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made by the government. (SPA)
  • Saudi authorities reinstated Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims in January and scrapped the upper age limit of 65

ISLAMABAD: With Hajj flight operation to Saudi Arabia in full swing, Pakistani pilgrims in Madinah have expressed satisfaction with the arrangements made by the government, saying their experience has so far been “better than expected.”

Saudi authorities reinstated Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims in January and scrapped the upper age limit of 65.

About 80,000 pilgrims are scheduled to perform Hajj under the government scheme in the ongoing year while the rest will be facilitated by private tour operators.

The first group of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrived in Madinah on May 22, while the last flight will depart from Pakistan on June 20.

According to Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Ministry, these pilgrims will depart for Makkah after spending eight days in Madinah.

“The arrangements made for us here by the Pakistani government are better than expected,” Mohammed Farrukh, a pilgrim from southern Karachi city, said in a video interview circulated by the ministry.

“(The ministry officials) have addressed all our concerns. For instance, we were worried about purchasing sacrificial animals for Hajj. But the government returned our money so we could buy the animal of our choice.”

Another pilgrim from Peshawar, Naveed Durrani, said he boarded the Hajj flight from Islamabad.

“The hotel (booked for us) is right opposite the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which is very convenient for us,” he added.

While most pilgrims maintained they had not faced any problem in the Kingdom, they said patience was still the key to a pleasant experience.

“I am here for Hajj for the first time and this experience has been very good,” said Zara, a pilgrim from Lahore who only revealed her first name.

“Even if we complain about small issues, they are immediately addressed,” she added. “But we should remember that Hajj teaches us patience and how to be a good human, which is the key to a good experience.”


UK launches ad drive to deter Albanian migrants

The scheme is the latest attempt by UK authorities to control the number of migrants making the journey across the Channel.
The scheme is the latest attempt by UK authorities to control the number of migrants making the journey across the Channel.
Updated 28 May 2023

UK launches ad drive to deter Albanian migrants

The scheme is the latest attempt by UK authorities to control the number of migrants making the journey across the Channel.
  • They ‘face being detained and removed’ if they reach Britain illegally, adverts warn
  • Charity CEO: Campaign ‘repeats myth that refugee migration is illegal’

LONDON: The UK Home Office is launching an advertising campaign to discourage Albanian migrants from traveling to Britain illegally via small boats.

The scheme, which will use Facebook and Instagram, is the latest attempt by British authorities to control the number of migrants making the dangerous journey across the English Channel. Albanians “face being detained and removed” if they reach Britain illegally, the adverts warn.

So far this year, more than 6,000 migrants have crossed from mainland Europe into Britain using small vessels.

The Home Office did not release information about the advertising campaign’s cost, but said it would “make clear the perils” that migrants could face in making the journey.

It described Albania as a “safe and prosperous country,” adding that migrants are making “spurious asylum claims” following their arrival in the UK.

But the campaign, which will launch next week, has been criticized by migrant advocacy groups and the main opposition Labour Party.

Refugee Action CEO Tim Naor Hilton said the advertising is “pointless” and “repeats the myth that refugee migration is illegal.

He added: “If the government wanted to smash the smuggling gangs and stop people crossing the Channel in flimsy boats, it would create more safe routes for refugees to travel here to claim asylum.”

The new campaign follows a similar scheme launched last August by the Home Office, which also used social media to deter Albanian would-be asylum seekers.

Albanians were the top asylum claimants in the UK from January to March this year, with 13,714 people from the Balkan country filing applications.

Care4Calais CEO Steve Smith warned that the new advertising campaign would fail to meet its objectives.

“No amount of taxpayer-funded PR spin will deter refugees, who have experienced some of the worst things imaginable from war and conflict to torture and human rights abuses, from seeking a safe future,” he said.

“The only solution that will put people smugglers out of business, stop small boat crossings and save lives is to offer safe passage to refugees with a viable asylum claim in the UK.”

The campaign follows the launch of the government’s proposed Illegal Migration Bill, which aims to deport asylum seekers who arrive in the UK illegally to their countries of origin or Rwanda.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said: “We are determined to stop the boats and the campaign, launching in Albania this week, is just one component of the Home Office’s work upstream to help dispel myths about illegal travel to the UK, explain the realities and combat the lies peddled by evil people smugglers who profit from this vile trade.”


US conducts strike near site of Shabab attack in Somalia

US conducts strike near site of Shabab attack in Somalia
Updated 28 May 2023

US conducts strike near site of Shabab attack in Somalia

US conducts strike near site of Shabab attack in Somalia
  • Al-Shabab militants drove a car laden with explosives into the base, prompting a gunfight, local residents and a Somali military commander told AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States conducted an airstrike that destroyed stolen Al-Shabab weapons and equipment in Somalia near an African Union military base that was attacked by the group, officials reported Saturday.
The base in Bulo Marer, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, was housing Ugandan troops when it was raided Friday in an attack claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group.
In a statement, US Africa Command said that it “destroyed weapons and equipment unlawfully taken by Al-Shabab fighters,” without specifying when or where the weapons were stolen.
“US Africa Command conducted an airstrike against militants in the vicinity” of Bulo Marer on Friday, in support of the Somali federal government and the AU force known as ATMIS, it said.
Al-Shabab militants drove a car laden with explosives into the base, prompting a gunfight, local residents and a Somali military commander told AFP.
It was not immediately known if there were any casualties from the Al-Shabab attack.
US Africa Command said its “initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed” in its operation.
Pro-government forces backed by ATMIS forces launched an offensive last August against Al-Shabab, which has been waging an insurgency in the fragile Horn of Africa nation for more than 15 years.
The 20,000-strong ATMIS force has a more offensive remit than its predecessor known as AMISOM.
The force is drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, with troops deployed in southern and central Somalia.
Its goal is to hand over security responsibilities to Somalia’s army and police by 2024.