3 of 4 suspects charged in Russia concert hall attack admit guilt during court hearing

3 of 4 suspects charged in Russia concert hall attack admit guilt during court hearing
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Combination image showing Moscow concert massacre suspects (left to right) Shamsidin Fariduni, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, and Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev. (Reuters and AFP photos)
3 of 4 suspects charged in Russia concert hall attack admit guilt during court hearing
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This video grab taken from a handout footage released by Russia's Investigative Committee on March 24, 2024 shows law enforcement officers escorting to court one of the suspects in the concert hall attack. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2024
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3 of 4 suspects charged in Russia concert hall attack admit guilt during court hearing

3 of 4 suspects charged in Russia concert hall attack admit guilt during court hearing
  • The four terrorism suspects, all citizens of Tajikistan, were ordered held in pre-trial custody until May 22
  • All four appeared in court heavily bruised with swollen faces and Russian media said they were tortured during interrogation

MOSCOW: Three of the four suspects charged with carrying out the concert hall attack in Moscow that killed more than 130 people admitted guilt for the incident in a Russian court Sunday.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court formally charged Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Mukhammadsobir Faizov, 19; and Shamsidin Fariduni, 25, with committing a group terrorist attack resulting in the death of others. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The court ordered that the men, all of whom are citizens of Tajikistan, be held in pre-trial custody until May 22.
Mirzoyev, Rachabalizoda, and Shamsidin Fariduni all admitted guilt after being charged. The fourth, Faizov, was brought to court directly from a hospital in a wheelchair and sat with his eyes closed throughout the proceedings. He was attended by medics while in court, where he wore a hospital gown and trousers and was seen with multiple cuts.




Mukhammadsobir Faizov, one of the four massacre suspects, was brought to court in a wheelchair from a hospital, where he was treated for multiple cuts. (AP)

The other three suspects appeared in court heavily bruised with swollen faces amid reports in Russian media that they were tortured during interrogation by the security services.
One suspect, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, had a heavily bandaged ear. Russian media reported Saturday that one of the suspects had his ear cut off during interrogation. The Associated Press couldn’t verify the report or the videos which purported to show this.
The hearing came as Russia observed a national day of mourning, following the attack Friday on the suburban Crocus City Hall concert venue that killed at least 137 people.
The attack, which has been claimed by an affiliate of the Daesh group, is the deadliest on Russian soil in years.
Russian authorities arrested the four suspected attackers Saturday, with seven more people detained on suspicion of involvement in the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address to the nation Saturday night. He claimed they were captured while fleeing to Ukraine, something that Kyiv firmly denied.
There was a heavy police presence around the court as the suspects were brought in.
One of the suspects was led blindfolded into the courtroom. His blindfold was removed and a black eye was visible.




Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, a suspect in the Crocus City Hall shooting on Friday is escorted by an FSB officer in the Basmanny District Court in Moscow, early on March 25, 2024. (AP Photo)

The attack, which has been claimed by an affiliate of the Daesh group, is the deadliest on Russian soil in years.
Russian authorities arrested four suspected attackers on Saturday, with seven more detained on suspicion of involvement in the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a nighttime address to the nation, on Saturday. He claimed they were captured while fleeing to Ukraine, something that Kyiv firmly denies.
Family and friends of those still missing waited for news of their loved ones as Russia observed a day of national mourning on Sunday.
Events at cultural institutions were canceled, flags were lowered to half-staff and television entertainment and advertising were suspended, according to state news agency RIA Novosti. A steady stream of people added to a makeshift memorial near the burnt-out concert hall, creating a huge mound of flowers.
“People came to a concert, some people came to relax with their families, and any one of us could have been in that situation. And I want to express my condolences to all the families that were affected here and I want to pay tribute to these people,” Andrey Kondakov, one of the mourners who came to lay flowers at the memorial, told The Associated Press.
“It is a tragedy that has affected our entire country,” kindergarten employee Marina Korshunova said. “It just doesn’t even make sense that small children were affected by this event.” Three children were among the dead.
As rescuers continue to search the damaged building and the death toll rises as more bodies are found, some families still don’t know if relatives who went to the event targeted by gunmen on Friday are alive. Moscow’s Department of Health said Sunday it has begun identifying the bodies of those killed via DNA testing, which will take at least two weeks.




This video grab taken from a handout footage released by Russia's Investigative Committee on March 24, 2024, shows law enforcement officers escorting two of the concert hall attack suspects to court. (AFP)

Igor Pogadaev was desperately seeking any details of his wife’s whereabouts after she went to the concert and stopped responding to his messages.
He hasn’t seen a message from Yana Pogadaeva since she sent her husband two photos from the Crocus City Hall music venue.
After Pogadaev saw the reports of gunmen opening fire on concertgoers, he rushed to the site, but couldn’t find her in the numerous ambulances or among the hundreds of people who had made their way out of the venue.
“I went around, searched, I asked everyone, I showed photographs. No one saw anything, no one could say anything,” Pogadaev told the AP in a video message.
He watched flames bursting out of the building as he made frantic calls to a hotline for relatives of the victims, but received no information.
As the death toll mounted on Saturday, Pogodaev scoured hospitals in the Russian capital and the Moscow region, looking for information on newly admitted patients.
But his wife wasn’t among the 182 reported injured, nor on the list of 60 victims authorities have already identified, he said.
The Moscow Region’s Emergency Situations Ministry posted a video Sunday showing equipment dismantling the damaged music venue to give rescuers access.
Putin has called the attack “a bloody, barbaric terrorist act” and said Russian authorities captured the four suspects as they were trying to escape to Ukraine through a “window” prepared for them on the Ukrainian side of the border.
Russian media broadcast videos that apparently showed the detention and interrogation of the suspects, including one who told the cameras he was approached by an unidentified assistant to an Islamic preacher via a messaging app and paid to take part in the raid.
Putin didn’t mention ISIS, known as Daesh in Arabic, in his speech to the nation, and Kyiv accused him and other Russian politicians of falsely linking Ukraine to the assault to stoke fervor for Russia’s fight in Ukraine, which recently entered its third year.
US intelligence officials said they had confirmed the Daesh affiliate’s claim.
“ISIS bears sole responsibility for this attack. There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
The US shared information with Russia in early March about a planned terrorist attack in Moscow, and issued a public warning to Americans in Russia, Watson said.
The raid was a major embarrassment for the Russian leader and happened just days after he cemented his grip on the country for another six years in a vote that followed the harshest crackdown on dissent since the Soviet times.
Some commentators on Russian social media questioned how authorities, who have relentlessly suppressed any opposition activities and muzzled independent media, failed to prevent the attack despite the US warnings.
Daesh, which fought against Russia during its intervention in the Syrian civil war, has long targeted Russia. In a statement posted by the group’s Aamaq news agency, the Daesh Afghanistan affiliate said that it had attacked a large gathering of “Christians” in Krasnogorsk.
The group issued a new statement Saturday on Aamaq, saying the attack was carried out by four men who used automatic rifles, a pistol, knives and firebombs. It said the assailants fired at the crowd and used knives to kill some concertgoers, casting the raid as part of the Daesh group’s ongoing war with countries that it says are fighting against Islam.
In October 2015, a bomb planted by IS downed a Russian passenger plane over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board, most of them Russian vacationers returning from Egypt.
The group, which operates mainly in Syria and Iraq but also in Afghanistan and Africa, has claimed responsibility for several attacks in Russia’s volatile Caucasus and other regions in past years. It recruited fighters from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.


Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says

Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says
Updated 10 sec ago
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Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says

Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says
DAGESTAN: Gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a police post in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan, and two police officers were killed, news agencies quoted the Russian Interior Ministry as saying.
Six people were wounded in the attacks.
The reports said one officer was killed when shots were fired at a synagogue in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community in the North Caucasus. An exchange of fire also took place in an Orthodox Church in the town, a UNESCO heritage site.
Another exchange of shots took place at a police post in Makhachkala, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) to the north along the Caspian Sea coast and the main city in Dagestan, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia.

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated
Updated 23 June 2024
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UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated
  • The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds

LONDON: The chief data officer of Britain’s Conservative Party has taken a leave of absence, British media reported Sunday, following growing allegations that the governing party’s members used inside information to bet on the date of Britain’s July 4 national election before it was announced.
The Sunday Times and others reported that Nick Mason is the fourth Conservative official to be investigated by the UK’s Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election.
The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.
The reports came after revelations in recent days that two Conservative election candidates, Laura Saunders and Craig Williams, are under investigation by the gambling watchdog. Saunders’ husband Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning, has also taken a leave of absence following allegations he was also investigated over alleged betting.
Police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘s police bodyguards was arrested Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office. The arrest came after the gambling regulator confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offenses concerning the date of the election.”
The growing scandal, just two weeks ahead of the national election, has dealt a fresh blow to Sunak’s Conservative Party, which is widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.
Sunak said this week that he was “incredibly angry” to learn of the allegations and said that anyone found to have broken the law should be expelled from his party.
Sunak announced on May 22 that parliamentary elections would be held on July 4. The date had been a closely guarded secret and many were taken by surprise because a vote had been expected in the fall.
Saunders, a candidate standing in Bristol, southwest England, has said she will cooperate fully with the investigation.
Williams was Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary as well as a member of Parliament running for reelection on July 4. He has acknowledged that he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission for placing a 100-pound ($128) bet on a July election before the date had been announced.
Senior Conservative minister Michael Gove condemned the alleged betting and likened it to ” Partygate,” the ethics scandal that contributed to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ouster in 2022.
That controversy saw public trust in the Conservatives plummet after revelations that politicians and officials held lockdown-flouting parties and gatherings in government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” Gove told the Sunday Times. “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”
Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said “people are sick and tired of this sleaze” and that Sunak must intervene and order an official inquiry.
The Conservative Party said it cannot comment because investigations are ongoing.


Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement
Updated 23 June 2024
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Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement
  • Chetan Singh Solanki wants to inspire energy independence across the world
  • He takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement

NEW DELHI: Four years ago, at the height of his restlessness over the growing threat of climate change on the planet, Chetan Singh Solanki decided to embark on a journey to spark a change for the environment.

Solanki launched the energy swaraj journey in 2020 to inspire energy independence across the world, campaigning with the motto “Energy by Locals for Locals.”

He told Arab News: “I want to restore the environmental balance that we are already losing, and I want to do it at a global level because it is not a problem of one state or one country — it is a problem of the entire world.”

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s department of energy science and engineering, Solanki takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement who used nonviolent resistance as a tool for mass action.

Solanki believes in replicating a similar strategy to boost energy literacy among the people and inspire them to use cleaner energy as an alternative power source.

“It is the wrong energy that has created the problem (and) it is the right energy that will solve the problem. Clean energy and solar energy and to bring everybody on board is why I started this journey,” Solanki said. “My vision is aligned with Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of gram swaraj (village self-rule). I emphasize responsible energy consumption and localized production.”

The campaign was designed to be impactful and adopted by the masses.

“This is designed to trigger the mind that we all can be part of the climate solution. It is not rocket science — rich and poor, young and old, everybody can be part of it,” he added.

Chetan Singh Solanki talks to students as part of his nationwide journey to spur climate movement in this photo shared on June 8, 2024. (Energy Swaraj)

Through his journey, Solanki has earned the nickname “Solar Gandhi,” having covered 56,000 km on his solar-powered bus, which is equipped with essential amenities including an air-conditioned bedroom, office space, refrigerator and a working kitchen.

The vehicle is an “innovative mobile abode” that symbolizes his aspiration “for a forthcoming world driven by sustainable energy sources,” he said, adding that he plans to continue the nationwide journey until December 2030.

To him, it was clear that world governments “have not done enough,” despite annual climate conferences that are purported to address critical environmental issues.

“The business-as-usual approaches are not working nationally and internationally, and therefore the solution lies in becoming sensitive to planet Earth and its capacity to generate or regenerate,” he said.

Since his journey started in late 2020, Solanki said the campaign has been well received.

“I think there are good things happening and response has been good,” he said. “Energy literacy is the first step towards climate correction.”


Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio
Updated 23 June 2024
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Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

LONDON: The UK interior minister has defended a parliamentary aide who called the government plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda “crap,” in a leaked audio revealed by the BBC Sunday.
A controversial law by the Conservative government allowing irregular migrants arriving in the UK to be deported to Rwanda was finally passed in April, after months of parliamentary wrangling.
But in the recording James Sunderland, a parliamentary aide and Conservative party candidate, was heard saying: “the policy is crap, ok? It’s crap.”
“But it’s not about the policy. It’s about the effect of the policy,” he went on to say, speaking at a Youth Conservatives conference in April.
“There is no doubt at all that when those first flights take off it will send such a shockwave across the Channel,” Sunderland clarified.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was “surprised,” when asked about the audio, before saying Sunderland was making a “counterintuitive statement to grab the attention.”
Cleverly told Sky News on Sunday that his aide Sunderland “is completely supportive of the deterrent effect.”
Sunderland told the BBC he was “disappointed” to have been recorded at a private event, and said although the policy is “not the be all and end all,” it is “part of a wider response.”
No flights deporting asylum seekers have actually taken off yet for the African country, due to lengthy legal challenges and with parliament dissolved ahead of a looming general election on July 4.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the policy would only come into effect after the election, if he was re-elected.
The opposition Labour party — which looks poised to replace the Conservatives — has promised to scrap the Rwanda plan.
The government cleared a law allowing some asylum seekers to be deported in April, circumventing a Supreme Court ruling that said sending migrants to Rwanda in this way would be illegal because it “would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment.”
Supporters of the Rwanda policy say it will deter tens of thousands of annual cross-Channel arrivals by small boats, and insist the policy is already having an impact.
More than 12,000 irregular migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain on small boats this year, according to government data.


Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor

Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor
Updated 23 June 2024
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Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor

Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor
  • Sevastopol regularly comes under fire from Ukraine but the toll from Sunday’s attack was unusually high

MOSCOW: A Ukrainian missile attack Sunday on Sevastopol on the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula killed two people including a two-year-old child and wounded 22, the city’s Moscow-appointed governor said.
Sevastopol, a Black Sea port city and naval base on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, regularly comes under fire from Ukraine but the toll from Sunday’s attack was unusually high.
“According to provisional information, today’s attack by Ukraine’s armed forces on Sevastopol killed 2 peaceful residents, one of them a 2-year-old child,” Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev wrote on Telegram.
The governor said Ukraine had launched five missiles which Russian air defenses intercepted over the sea but fragments fell onto the shore area and pieces of shrapnel wounded people.
Razvozhayev said the missile fragments hit shore areas in the north of the city and set fire to a house and woodland.
Earlier Sunday, a drone launched by Ukraine on Russia’s southern Belgorod region killed a man, the governor said.
Three Ukrainian attack drones struck the town of Graivoron a few kilometers from the border with Ukraine, said Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, with one hitting a car park near a multi-story block of flats.
“A peaceful civilian was killed. The man died from his wounds at the spot,” Gladkov wrote on Telegram, while three were wounded.