Construction progresses at Russian plant for Iranian drones — report

An Iranian-made drone, operated by Hezbollah, flies near Lebanon's southern border with northern Israel on November 11, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
An Iranian-made drone, operated by Hezbollah, flies near Lebanon's southern border with northern Israel on November 11, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Updated 14 November 2023
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Construction progresses at Russian plant for Iranian drones — report

Construction progresses at Russian plant for Iranian drones — report
  • The building, according to other leaked documents, will be used for the mass production of Iran’s Shahed-136 that will include improving Iranian fabrication processes “and ultimately advancing the drone’s capabilities,” the report said

WASHINGTON: Satellite imagery shows progress in the construction in Russia of a plant that will mass produce Iranian-designed kamikaze drones that Moscow is expected to target against Ukrainian energy facilities, a research organization said on Monday.
Despite the headway, neither the United States nor its allies have imposed sanctions on the plant’s owner, JSC Alabuga, or its associated companies, said the Institute for Science and International Security report.
The White House, the Russian embassy and Iran’s UN mission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The report said a mid-September satellite image showed that new construction at the plant “directly” correlated with a leaked building floor plan that the Washington Post shared with the institute earlier this year.
The building, according to other leaked documents, will be used for the mass production of Iran’s Shahed-136 that will include improving Iranian fabrication processes “and ultimately advancing the drone’s capabilities,” the report said.
The satellite image also showed the construction of other structures and new security perimeters with checkpoints, the report said.
“With winter fast approaching ... Russia can be expected to accelerate its Shahed-136 attacks against Ukraine’s vital energy infrastructure, causing brutal living conditions for the civilian population,” the report said.
“A key overdue step” is for Washington to sanction Alabuga and its associated companies, the report continued.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky on Sunday warned his country to prepare for Russian strikes on energy infrastructure. Last winter — about 10 months into its invasion — Russia unleashed waves of such attacks, prompting rolling blackouts.
The plant is located 500 miles (800 km) east of Moscow in the Tartarstan Republic. Alabuga JSC is 66 percent owned by the federal government and 34 percent by the republic, the report said.
The White House in June said Russia and Iran appeared to be deepening their defense cooperation and that in addition to supplying drones, Tehran was working with Moscow to produce Iranian drones in Alabuga. 

 


India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims

India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims
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India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims

India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims
  • Modi, who is seeking a third consecutive term, referred to Muslims as ‘infiltrators’ during Sunday’s speech
  • Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi’s ‘deeply objectionable’ statement violated sections of law

NEW DELHI: India’s main opposition Congress party petitioned the Election Commission on Monday to act against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making what it said were “deeply objectionable” comments about Muslims that violated election laws.

Modi, who is seeking a rare third consecutive term, referred to Muslims as “infiltrators” during a campaign speech on Sunday, drawing widespread criticism from opposition groups.

In his speech, Modi said the Congress election manifesto promised to confiscate and redistribute the wealth of Indians, which it denies.

Modi said if the party adhered to remarks in 2006 of then Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that minority Muslims should have the “first claim on resources” to share in the fruits of development, then wealth would be distributed to “infiltrators” and those who have “more children.”

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates often refer to Muslim militants illegally crossing the border from Pakistan as infiltrators.

They have also criticized Muslims for their higher birth rates and invoked fears that India’s Muslim population would overtake that of its majority Hindus.

India’s estimated 200 million Muslims make up the world’s third-largest Muslim population. India has a population of 1.42 billion people.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi’s “deeply objectionable” statement violated sections of the law that prohibit candidates from asking people to vote or refrain from voting for anyone on the grounds of “religion,” “community” or “religious symbols.”

“We have asked the Election Commission to state that this is the position in law,” Singhvi told reporters, urging it to act against Modi in the same way it would against anyone else accused of similar offenses.

The Election Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Modi’s government has repeatedly been accused of discrimination against Muslims, with civil society, opposition groups, and some foreign governments raising concerns over decisions they say are aimed at fanning discrimination and keeping the BJP in power.

The government has denied all accusations, and Modi has said he works for the betterment of all.

Under election laws, the Election Commission can ask a party or its leader to respond to a complaint, issue adviseries cautioning them or prohibit them from campaigning for a specified period, or launch a criminal case against repeat offenders. India’s seven-week election began on April 19 and will end on June 1, with results due on June 4.


Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi

Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi
Updated 22 April 2024
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Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi

Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi
  • Macron had also reiterated to Netanyahu that France wanted an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron held phone calls on Monday with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to discuss ways of avoiding an escalation in the Middle East crisis, said France and Egypt.
The French presidency said Macron, in his call with Netanyahu, had reaffirmed Paris’s desire to avoid an escalation in the Middle East and to stand up to what it said were Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region.
The French presidency added that Macron had also reiterated to Netanyahu that France wanted an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza and said Paris was working to ease tensions arising from clashes on the border between Israel and Lebanon.
In a separate statement, Egyptian presidential spokesperson Ahmed Fahmy said Macron had also discussed the Middle East crisis with the Egyptian leader and that both Macron and El-Sisi had agreed on the need to avoid further regional escalation.


India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
Updated 22 April 2024
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India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
  • Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase after he was caught by Kolkata Knight Riders Harshit Rana
  • Visuals on social media showed Kohli having discussion with umpire after the match as pundits weighed in on dismissal

NEW DELHI: India star Virat Kohli has been fined half his match fee for an angry outburst in response to his dismissal from an Indian Premier League match, the league said Monday.

Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase on Sunday after he was caught and bowled by Kolkata Knight Riders pace bowler Harshit Rana and his team went on to lose by one run at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.

TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.

“Kohli committed a Level 1 offense under Article 2.8 of the IPL’s Code of Conduct,” an IPL statement said.

“He admitted to the offense and accepted the Match Referee’s sanction.”

Visuals on social media showed Kohli having a long discussion with an umpire after the match ended and pundits weighed in on the dismissal.

Former India batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu slammed the call and asked for the “rules to be changed“

Ex-India quick Irfan Pathan said on X, formerly Twitter, “if Virat Kohli was standing at the popping crease the ball would have been lower than his measured waist height, making it a legal delivery.”

Kohli has been the top run-getter in the T20 tournament so far with 379 runs in eight matches but his team Bengaluru remains bottom of the 10-team table with just one win.


Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
Updated 22 April 2024
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Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
  • More than 16,000 Filipino, American soldiers are involved in the annual exercises this year
  • Beijing, Philippines have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea

MANILA: Filipino and US forces began their annual joint military drills on Monday, segments of which will, for the first time, take place outside of the Philippines’ territorial waters following a string of maritime clashes between Manila and Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The exercises, known as Balikatan — Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder — will run up until May 10 and involve over 16,000 military personnel, along with more than 250 Australian and French forces.

For the first time since the annual drills started over 30 years ago, the Philippines and the US will conduct joint naval drills beyond the 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) of the Philippines’ territorial waters, in parts of the open sea claimed by China.

“This exercise represents the essence of unity, collective responsibility, and enduring partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America and other partners,” Philippines’ military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said during the opening ceremony.

“It is not a partnership of convenience but rather a clear reflection of our shared history, unwavering commitment to democracy and respect for international law in our pursuit of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Throughout the three-week exercise, soldiers from the two militaries will operate out of a joint command center to perform four major activities with a focus on countering maritime, air, land, and cyber attacks.

“It’s the first time that we are going beyond our (12) nautical miles,” Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, Philippines exercise director, told reporters.

The Balikatan training operations are not directed at a particular country, he said, but are more focused on the “development of interoperability,” with an increased complexity of the drills and scenarios to let soldiers learn more from one another.

The joint exercises take place as Philippine and Chinese coast guard and other vessels have featured in a series of increasingly tense territorial face-offs since last year, including Chinese use of water cannons against a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea last month, causing damage and injuries.

After the incident, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said his government would take countermeasures against “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks” by the Chinese Coast Guard.

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos had said in a statement.

The Philippines and China, along with several other countries, have overlapping claims in the resource-rich waterway, where a bulk of the world’s commerce and oil transits.

Beijing has been increasing its military activity over the past few years, with the Chinese Coast Guard regularly encroaching on the Philippine part of the waters, the West Philippine Sea, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague dismissing China’s expansive claims.

Don McLain Gill, an international studies lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, said the scope of this year’s Balikatan is a “clear reflection of Manila’s commitment to exercise its sovereignty and sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone.

“This year ’s exercise will also involve complex maritime security issues such as simulations of recovering islands from hostile forces, which add a practical dimension to collective self defense efforts by the like-minded partners,” he told Arab News.

“Clearly, securing the WPS based on international law will not bode well for China’s expansionist interests. While the Balikatan is aimed at improving joint preparedness amidst emerging challenges in the region, the challenge posed by China's expansionism is clearly one of the critical factors that provoke regional security.”


Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources
Updated 22 April 2024
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Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

DAKAR: Suspected extremists in central Mali are holding more than 110 civilians whom they abducted six days ago, local sources told AFP on Monday.
Three buses carrying the civilians were stopped on April 16 by “jihadists,” who forced the vehicles and the passengers to head toward a forest between Bandiagara and Bankass, a local group of associations and an elected official said.’

“We demand the release of more than 110 passengers of three buses abducted on Tuesday by jihadists,” a member of the group, Oumar Ongoiba, told AFP.

An elected official from Bandiagara, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said, “The three buses and the passengers, more than 120, are still being held by jihadists.”

Mali has since 2012 been ravaged by different factions affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group, as well as by self-declared, self-defense forces and bandits.

The worsening security situation has been compounded by a humanitarian and political crisis.

The violence spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, with all three countries seeing military regimes seize power.