Death of 10-year-old Sara Sharif in UK was ‘an accident,’ grandfather claims

Death of 10-year-old Sara Sharif in UK was ‘an accident,’ grandfather claims
A photo combination issued by Surrey Police on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023 showing Urfan Sharif, left and Beinash Batool. (Surrey Police via AP)
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Updated 06 September 2023
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Death of 10-year-old Sara Sharif in UK was ‘an accident,’ grandfather claims

Death of 10-year-old Sara Sharif in UK was ‘an accident,’ grandfather claims
  • Grandfather says that Urfan, Sara’s father,  left the UK ‘because of fear'
  • It is believed three family members  flew to Pakistan with their five children the day before Sara’s body was found

LONDON: The father of Sara Sharif, a 10-year-old found dead at her home in the English town of Woking in Surrey on Aug. 10, claims his daughter’s death was an accident, according to the girl’s grandfather.

Post-mortem tests reportedly revealed that Sara had sustained “multiple and extensive injuries.” The cause of death has yet to be determined but investigators have been told it is “likely to be unnatural,” according to Sky News.

Police in the UK want to speak to Sara’s father, Urfan Sharif, his partner, Beinash Batool, and his brother, Faisal Shahzad Malik. It is believed that they traveled to Pakistan with their five children the day before Sara’s body was discovered.

Pakistani police have been searching for them for several weeks but have yet to locate them. Officers believe the family arrived at Islamabad International Airport early on Aug. 10, traveled to Jhelum, where they stayed for a few days, then spent a few hours in the village of Domeli before leaving there on Aug. 13.

Sara’s grandfather, Mohammed Sharif, said he saw his son while Urfan was in Jhelum, the city in which he was raised.

“It was an accident,” the 68-year-old told the BBC, referring to Sara’s death. “He didn’t tell me how it happened.”

Asked why his son had traveled to Pakistan if his daughter’s death was an accident, he replied: “Because of fear. His daughter died and when you go under so much trauma, obviously you can’t think properly.”

When pressed on his son’s decision to fly to Pakistan, he added: “All I can say is that they should have faced the case. They should have stayed there and faced it instead (of coming to Pakistan). They will ultimately go back to the UK and face their case.

“I have a deep sorrow that my granddaughter passed. The grief will stay with me for the rest of my life. Everything about her was so beautiful. You cannot single out one thing; she was a very lovely granddaughter.”

Speaking during a TV interview, Mohammed had a message for his son and those who fled from the UK with him: “Wherever they are, they will be able to listen to this. I say they should come out, defend their case, whatever it is. They should answer the questions. I don’t say they should stay in hiding.”

He denied having any other, more recent contact with his son.

Last month, authorities in Jhelum told Sky News that Imran Sharif, Sara’s uncle, had been held in custody. He allegedly told officers: “Beinash was home with the children. Sara fell down the stairs and broke her neck. Beinash panicked and phoned Urfan.”

Members of the Sharif family in Jhelum have taken police to court twice for alleged unlawful detention of several of Urfan’s brothers and brothers-in-law. After the first time it happened, police said they would not arrest them again.

“We have had so many problems the last three weeks,” Mohammed told the BBC. “Some of my sons are on the run, others are with the police. No one is making contact with us because of fear of the police.”
 


US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children

US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children
Updated 9 sec ago
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US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children

US slams Russia over alleged abduction of Ukrainian children

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday again accused Russia of taking Ukrainian children, some of whom were put up for adoption, after fresh media accounts detailed alleged abductions.

“This is despicable and appalling. These Ukrainian children belong with their families inside Ukraine,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.

“Russia is waging a war not just against the Ukrainian military — but against the Ukrainian people.”

An investigation by the Financial Times, published Wednesday, identified and located four Ukrainian children allegedly transferred to Russia, then offered for adoption on the website usynovite.

The children are aged between 8 and 15 years old.

According to the report, the name of one child was changed to Russian and no mention is made on the site of their Ukrainian origins.

Ukraine is demanding the return of nearly 20,000 minors it says have been illegally taken by Russia since the start of Moscow’s invasion in 2022.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, over the allegations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told AFP last month that he planned to make the return of children a top priority at this weekend’s summit in Switzerland on ending the war.


US expands Russia sanctions, targets chips sent via China

US expands Russia sanctions, targets chips sent via China
Updated 10 min 33 sec ago
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US expands Russia sanctions, targets chips sent via China

US expands Russia sanctions, targets chips sent via China

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday dramatically broadened sanctions on Russia, including by targeting China-based companies selling semiconductors to Moscow, as part of its effort to undercut the Russian military machine waging war on Ukraine.

Among the steps, the US Treasury said it was raising “the risk of secondary sanctions for foreign financial institutions that deal with Russia’s war economy,” effectively threatening them with losing access to the US financial system.

It also said it was moving to restrict the Russian military industrial base’s ability to exploit certain US software and information technology services and, with the State Department, targeting more than 300 individuals and entities in Russia and beyond, including in Asia, Europe and Africa.

Separately, the Commerce Department said it was targeting shell companies in Hong Kong for diverting semiconductors to Russia, taking steps that would affect nearly $100 million of high-priority items for Moscow including such chips.

It will also expand its lists of items Russia cannot import from other nations to cover not just US-origin products but US-branded goods, meaning those made with US intellectual property or technology, a senior Commerce official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

US-made chips and other technology have been found in a wide array of Russian equipment, from drones to radios, missiles and armored vehicles, recovered from the battlefield, Ukrainian officials say.

After seizing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighbor in 2022, triggering a host of new US economic sanctions on Moscow.

While many analysts do not expect US and other nations’ sanctions to materially change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus, they believe they will both make it harder for Moscow to wage war and, over time, weaken Russia’s economy.

“Today’s actions strike at their remaining avenues for international materials and equipment, including their reliance on critical supplies from third countries,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

The Treasury also said it was imposing sanctions on key parts of Russia’s financial infrastructure, including the Moscow Exchange (MOEX), which operates Russia’s largest public markets for equity, fixed income, foreign exchange and other products.

MOEX and its related subsidiaries have facilitated sanctions evasion by obscuring the identities of parties engaged in such transactions, a senior Treasury official told reporters. By sanctioning them, the official said, the US would force greater transparency on cross-border transactions, making it harder to evade sanctions.

MOEX, in a statement rushed out within an hour of the US moves on Wednesday, a public holiday in Russia, said the new sanctions had forced an immediate suspension of trading in dollars and euros on its leading financial marketplace.

The news came as President Joe Biden departed for a summit in southern Italy with leaders from other Group of Seven democracies: Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

One of the G7 leaders’ priorities is boosting support for Ukraine, now in the third year of resisting Russia’s invasion, and disarming the Russian war machine.

Peter Harrell, who served as White House senior director for international economics in 2021 and 2022, described the latest sanctions as a “paradigm shift,” partly because they expose foreign banks to the risk of being cut off from the US financial system if they deal with key large Russian banks.

The Treasury accomplished this by increasing to 4,500 the universe of Russian companies and individuals who could trigger such sanctions from about 1,200, the senior Treasury official told reporters.

“For the first time, the US is shifting toward something that begins to look like ... an effort to set up a global financial embargo on Russia,” Harrell said.


Iran frees imprisoned French citizen: Macron

Iran frees imprisoned French citizen: Macron
Updated 18 min 14 sec ago
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Iran frees imprisoned French citizen: Macron

Iran frees imprisoned French citizen: Macron

PARIS: Iranian authorities have released a French citizen held since September 2022, France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday, urging Tehran to free three other French citizens “without delay.”

“Louis Arnaud is free. Tomorrow he will be in France after a long incarceration in Iran,” Macron posted on X, thanking Oman in particular for helping to secure “this happy outcome.”


Biden faces first lawsuit over new asylum crackdown at the border

Biden faces first lawsuit over new asylum crackdown at the border
Updated 21 min 17 sec ago
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Biden faces first lawsuit over new asylum crackdown at the border

Biden faces first lawsuit over new asylum crackdown at the border
  • The order Biden issued last week would limit asylum processing once encounters with migrants between ports of entry reach 2,500 per day.

WASHINGTON: A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups sued the Biden administration on Wednesday over President Joe Biden’s recent directive that effectively halts asylum claims at the southern border, saying it differs little from a similar move during the Trump administration that was blocked by the courts.

The lawsuit — filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others on behalf of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and RAICES — is the first test of the legality of Biden’s sweeping crackdown on the border, which came after months of internal White House deliberations and is designed in part to deflect political attacks against the president on his handling of immigration.

“By enacting an asylum ban that is legally indistinguishable from the Trump ban we successfully blocked, we were left with no choice but to file this lawsuit,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the ACLU.

The order Biden issued last week would limit asylum processing once encounters with migrants between ports of entry reach 2,500 per day. It went into effect immediately because the latest figures were far higher, at about 4,000 daily.

The restrictions would be in effect until two weeks after the daily encounter numbers are at or below 1,500 per day between ports of entry, under a seven-day average. But it’s far from clear when the numbers would dip that low; the last time was in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order went into effect June 5, and Biden administration officials have said they expected record levels of deportations.

But advocates argue that suspending asylum for migrants who don’t arrive at a designated port of entry — which the Biden administration is trying to push migrants to do — violates existing federal immigration law, among other concerns.

Biden invoked the same legal authority used by the Trump administration for its asylum ban, which comes under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. That provision allows a president to limit entries for certain migrants if their entry is deemed “detrimental” to the national interest.

Biden has repeatedly criticized Trump’s immigration policies as he campaigns, and his administration argues that his directive is different because it includes several exemptions for humanitarian reasons. For example, victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied minors and those with severe medical emergencies would not be subject to the limits.

“We stand by the legality of what we have done,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on ABC’s “This Week” before the lawsuit was filed, saying he anticipated legal challenges. “We stand by the value proposition.”

Under Biden’s directive, migrants who arrive at the border but do not express a fear of returning to their home countries will be subject to immediate removal from the United States, within a matter of days or even hours. Those migrants could face punishments that could include a five-year bar from reentering the US or even criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, those who express fear or an intention to seek asylum will be screened by a US asylum officer but at a higher standard than currently used. If they pass the screening, they can pursue more limited forms of humanitarian protection, including the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits returning people to a country where they’re likely to face torture.


More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo
Updated 12 June 2024
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More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

More than 80 passengers killed in the latest boat accident in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo: A boat carrying more than 270 passengers has capsized on a river near Congo’s capital of Kinshasa, leaving more than 80 dead, President Félix Tshisekedi said Wednesday.

It was the latest deadly boat accident in the central African country where overloading is often blamed, including in February when dozens lost their lives after an overloaded boat sank.
A statement quoting Tshisekedi said the locally made boat capsized late Monday in Maï-Ndombe province along the Kwa River.
The boat was carrying 271 passengers to Kinshasa when it broke down due to an engine failure, according to the UN-backed Radio Okapi, citing Ren Maker, the water commissioner in the Mushi district where the accident happened.
Eighty-six of the passengers died while 185 managed to swim ashore, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) near the closest city of Mushie, Maker said.
He said the boat hit the edge of the river bank and broke up.
Congolese officials have often warned against overloading and vowed to punish those violating safety measures for water transportation. But in remote areas where most passengers come from, many are unable to afford public transport for the few available roads.