Maryland man charged with Daesh-inspired plot pleads guilty to planning separate airport attack

Maryland man charged with Daesh-inspired plot pleads guilty to planning separate airport attack
Maryland State House is seen on August 21, 2023 in Annapolis, Maryland (AFP)
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Updated 21 August 2023
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Maryland man charged with Daesh-inspired plot pleads guilty to planning separate airport attack

Maryland man charged with Daesh-inspired plot pleads guilty to planning separate airport attack
  • Felony carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years

SILVER SPRING: A Maryland man charged in 2019 with planning a Daesh-inspired attack at a Washington, D.C., area shopping and entertainment complex pleaded guilty on Monday to engaging in a separate plot to drive a stolen van into a crowd of people at a nearby airport.
Rondell Henry’s plea agreement with Justice Department prosecutors could lead to his release from federal custody as soon as October, when a judge is scheduled to sentence him in the airport plot, which Henry abandoned. Henry, who has remained in custody for over four years, didn’t harm anybody before police arrested him.
Henry, 32, of Germantown, Maryland, pleaded guilty to attempting to perform an act of violence at an international airport, court records show.
Henry admits that he stole a U-Haul van from a parking garage in Alexandria, Virginia, drove it to Dulles International Airport in Virginia and entered a terminal building on March 27, 2019.
“Henry unsuccessfully attempted to follow another individual into a restricted area of the airport, but the other individual prevented Henry from entering the restricted area,” according to a court filing accompanying his plea agreement.
Henry later told investigators that he went to the airport because he “was trying to hurt people there” and “was going to try to drive through a crowd of people,” but ultimately left because “there wasn’t a big enough crowd” at the airport, according to the filing.
Henry pleaded guilty to a felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. But prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that an appropriate sentence for Henry would be the jail time he already has served and lifetime supervised release with mandatory participation in a mental health treatment program, according to his plea agreement.
US District Judge Paula Xinis, who isn’t bound by that recommendation, is scheduled to sentence Henry on Oct. 23. He will remain jailed until his sentencing hearing.
Henry’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond Monday to an email seeking comment on his guilty plea and plea deal.
Henry was charged in 2019 with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, the Daesh group. But the charge to which he pleaded guilty is unrelated to what authorities had said was a Daesh-inspired plot to carry out an attack at National Harbor, a popular waterfront destination in Maryland just outside the nation’s capital.
Monday’s filing doesn’t mention the Islamic State or specify any ideological motivation for an attack at the airport.
Henry left the airport and drove the stolen U-Haul to National Harbor, where he parked it. Police arrested him the next morning after they found the van and saw Henry jump over a security fence.
Henry told investigators he planned to carry out an attack like one in which a driver ran over and killed dozens of people in Nice, France, in 2016, authorities said. A prosecutor has said Henry intended to kill as many “disbelievers” as possible.
Monday’s court filings don’t explain why Henry didn’t plead guilty to any charges related to the alleged National Harbor plot.
The case against Henry remained on hold for years amid questions about his mental competency. Last year, Rondell Henry’s attorneys notified the court that he intended to pursue an insanity defense.
Xinis had ruled in February 2020 that Henry was not competent to stand trial. She repeatedly extended his court-ordered hospitalization.
But the judge ruled in May 2022 that Henry had become mentally competent to stand trial, could understand the charges against him and was capable of assisting in his defense. Xinis said a March 2022 report on Henry’s medical condition found experts had restored his mental competence.
Prosecutors have said Henry watched Daesh group propaganda videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas. Investigators said they recovered a phone Henry had discarded on a highway in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence, including images of the Islamic State flag, armed Islamic State fighters and the man who carried out the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.
Henry is a naturalized US citizen who moved to the country from Trinidad and Tobago more than a decade ago.


Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes

Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes
Updated 4 sec ago
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Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes

Bangladesh relaxes curfew as unrest recedes
  • Thousands of troops are still patrolling cities and a nationwide Internet shutdown remains largely in effect
  • Banks, government offices and the country’s economically vital garment factories had already reopened on Wednesday
DHAKA: Bangladesh further eased a nationwide curfew Thursday as students weighed the future of their protest campaign against civil service hiring rules that sparked days of deadly unrest last week.
Last week’s violence killed at least 191 people including several police officers, according to an AFP count of victims reported by police and hospitals during some of the worst unrest of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s tenure.
Thousands of troops are still patrolling cities and a nationwide Internet shutdown remains largely in effect, but clashes have subsided since protest leaders announced a temporary halt to new demonstrations.
Hasina’s government ordered another relaxation to the curfew it imposed at the height of the unrest, allowing free movement for seven hours between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.
Streets in the capital Dhaka, a sprawling megacity of 20 million people, were choked with commuter traffic in the morning, days after ferocious clashes between police and protesters had left them almost deserted.
Banks, government offices and the country’s economically vital garment factories had already reopened on Wednesday after all being shuttered last week.
Student leaders were set to meet later Thursday to decide whether or not to again extend their protest moratorium, which is due to expire on Friday.
Students Against Discrimination, the group responsible for organizing this month’s rallies, said it expected a number of concessions from the government.
“We demand an apology from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the nation for the mass murder of students,” Asif Mahmud, one of the group’s coordinators, said.
“We also want the sacking of the home minister and education minister.”
Mahmud added that the estimated toll in the unrest was understated, with his group working on its own list of confirmed deaths.
Police have arrested at least 2,500 people since the violence began last week, according to an AFP tally.
Protests began after the June reintroduction of a scheme reserving more than half of government jobs for certain candidates, including nearly a third for descendants of veterans from Bangladesh’s independence war.
With around 18 million young people in Bangladesh out of work, according to government figures, the move deeply upset graduates facing an acute jobs crisis.
Critics say the quota is used to stack public jobs with loyalists to Hasina’s Awami League.
The Supreme Court cut the number of reserved jobs on Sunday but fell short of protesters’ demands to scrap the quotas entirely.
Hasina, 76, has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.
Her government is also accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy
Updated 32 min 35 sec ago
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Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy

Indonesia launches ‘Golden Visa’ to lure foreign investors, boost economy
  • Five-year ‘Golden Visa’ requires individual investors to set up a company worth $2.5 million, while a 10-year visa requires a $5 million investment
  • Individuals not looking to set up a company must place $350,000 and $700,000 to gain a 5-year and 10-year permit respectively

JAKARTA: Indonesia launched a long-term visa scheme on Thursday intended to attract foreign investors, President Joko Widodo said, with amounts of up to $10 million giving them a 10-year visa and access to Southeast Asia’s largest economy.
The five-year “Golden Visa” requires individual investors to set up a company worth $2.5 million, while a 10-year visa requires a $5 million investment.
Individuals not looking to set up a company must place $350,000 and $700,000 to gain a 5-year and 10-year permit respectively, and the money can be used to buy Indonesian government bonds, public company stocks, or place deposits.
Corporate investors are required to invest $25 million to get five-year visas for directors and commissioners. They need to invest $50 million to gain a 10-year visa.
If the investment is made in the new $32 billion capital city currently being built in the jungles of Borneo island, $5 million dollars will gain investors a 5-year visa and $10 million a 10-year visa, the immigration agency said.
Several countries offer similar investment visa schemes, but others, including Canada, Britain and Singapore, have scrapped such schemes as governments conclude they do not create jobs and could be a means to park speculative money.
Jokowi, as the president is commonly known, said the visa was intended to lure “good quality travelers.”
“We’re launching the golden visa to make it easier for foreign nationals to invest and contribute in Indonesia,” he said.
Silmy Karim, chief of the immigration agency, said Indonesia had granted golden visas to almost 300 applicants since it began testing the permits out last year, attracting $123 million.
Silmy also said the authorities are discussing ways to grant a special status for foreign nationals of Indonesian descent, modelled after the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), which allows foreigners of Indian ancestry to visit, work and live in India indefinitely. That could be issued by October, he added.
Silmy said the plan was intended to respond to calls for Indonesia to allow its citizens to hold another passport.


Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways

Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways
Updated 25 July 2024
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Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways

Frankfurt airport temporarily halts flights as climate activists protest near runways
  • Last Generation climate activists said in a statement that six protesters had cut through a fence and had reached various points around the Frankfurt airport runways

BERLIN: Frankfurt airport, Germany’s busiest, temporarily suspended sflights on Thursday morning after climate activists staged a demonstration near the airport runways.
“Passengers are asked not to go to the airport for the time being,” the airport said on social media platform X, asking them to check their flight status and allow for extra travel time.
Last Generation climate activists said in a statement that six protesters had cut through a fence and had reached various points around the Frankfurt airport runways with posters reading “Oil kills.”
The group, which wants the German government to pursue a global agreement to exit oil, gas and coal by 2030, has listed several countries across Europe and North America where similar disruptions are planned as part of a protest campaign that began on Wednesday.
Germany’s Cologne-Bonn airport, the country’s sixth-largest, suspended flights for several hours on Wednesday after climate activists glued themselves to a runway, while similar actions at other European airports had been foiled by authorities.


Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila

Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila
Updated 25 July 2024
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Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila

Philippine tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of oil capsizes off Manila
  • The MT Terra Nova was heading for the central city of Iloilo when it capsized in Manila Bay
  • An oil spill stretching several kilometers has been detected in the busy waterway

MANILA: A Philippine-flagged tanker carrying 1.4 million liters of industrial fuel oil capsized and sank off Manila on Thursday, authorities said, as they raced to contain a spill.
The MT Terra Nova was heading for the central city of Iloilo when it capsized in Manila Bay, nearly seven kilometers off Limay municipality in Bataan province, near the capital, in the early hours.
The vessel went down as heavy rains fueled by Typhoon Gaemi and the seasonal monsoon have lashed Manila and surrounding regions in recent days.
An oil spill stretching several kilometers has been detected in the busy waterway.
“We are racing against time and we will try to do our best to contain it immediately and stop the fuel from leaking,” Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said at a briefing.
He warned that if all the oil in the tanker were to leak, it would be the biggest spill in Philippine history.
“There is a big danger that Manila will be affected, even the shoreline of Manila, if the fuel will leak, because it is within Manila Bay,” Balilo said.
Thousands of fishermen and tour operators are dependent on the waters for their livelihoods.
Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said 16 of the 17 crew members had been rescued from the stricken vessel.
A search was underway for the missing crew member, but Bautista said strong winds and high waves were hampering response efforts.
Four of the crew were receiving medical treatment.
A photo released by the coast guard showed the MT Terra Nova almost entirely submerged in rough seas.
An oil slick stretching about 3.7 kilometers was being carried by a “strong current” in an easterly, north-easterly direction, the coast guard said in a report.
Coast guard Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gavan said he ordered a probe into the incident.
Marine environmental protection personnel have been mobilized to help contain the slick.
“It will definitely affect the marine environment,” Balilo said, describing the amount of oil on the ship as “enormous.”
One of the worst oil spills in the Philippines was in February 2023, when a tanker carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil sank off the central island of Mindoro.
Diesel fuel and thick oil from that vessel contaminated the waters and beaches along the coast of Oriental Mindoro province, devastating the fishing and tourism industries.
The oil dispersed over hundreds of kilometers of waters famed for having some of the most diverse marine life in the world.
Thousands of fishermen were ordered to stay ashore, and swimming was banned.
In 2006, a tanker sank off the central island of Guimaras spilling tens of thousands of gallons of oil that destroyed a marine reserve, ruined local fishing grounds and covered stretches of coastline in black sludge.


US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity

US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity
Updated 25 July 2024
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US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity

US says air drills with South Korea will ‘sharpen’ capacity
  • Seoul and Washington’s air forces started around three weeks of joint drills Tuesday in Suwon, south of Seoul
  • Joint US-South Korea drills typically infuriate Pyongyang, which views them as rehearsals for invasion

SEOUL: Ongoing air drills with South Korea will “sharpen” their joint combat capabilities, the US military said Thursday, as the nuclear-armed North ramps up threats and a balloon blitz against Seoul.
Seoul and Washington’s air forces started around three weeks of joint drills Tuesday in Suwon, south of Seoul, involving US F/A-18 and F-35B combat aircraft.
The drills “will further sharpen our combat capabilities,” US Marine Lt. Col. Jarrod Allen said in a statement.
Joint US-South Korea drills typically infuriate Pyongyang, which views them as rehearsals for invasion, and the North is particularly sensitive to fighter jet exercises as experts say its air force is the weakest link in its military.
Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points in years, with the North sending thousands of trash-carrying balloons southwards and Seoul’s military blasting K-pop and anti-regime messages from border loudspeakers.
On Wednesday, the North said it was “fully ready for all-out confrontation with the US,” responding to comments by former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee for the November election, touting his ties to Kim Jong Un.
Trump said “I think he misses me” and it’s “nice to get along with somebody that has a lot of nuclear weapons.”
While in office Trump met with Kim three times, beginning with a landmark summit in Singapore in June 2018, but the pair failed to make much progress on efforts to denuclearise the North.
A few months after Singapore, Trump famously told a rally of his supporters that the two men had fallen “in love.”
But their second summit in Hanoi collapsed in 2019, over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
In a commentary released on Wednesday, North Korea said while it was true Trump tried to reflect the “special personal relations” between the heads of states, the former US president “did not bring about any substantial positive change.”
“Even if any administration takes office in the US, the political climate, which is confused by the infighting of the two parties, does not change and, accordingly, we do not care about this,” it added.