New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US

New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US
Nikhil Gupta, accused by U.S. federal prosecutors of plotting with an Indian government official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. resident who advocated for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India, appears in federal court beside his defense attorney Jeffrey Chabrowe before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cott after his extradition from the Czech Republic, in New York City, U.S. June 17, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US

New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US
  • Nikhil Gupta was extradited to United States this month after his arrest in Prague last year
  • Gupta is accused by US of unsuccessfully plotting with Indian official to kill a US citizen

NEW DELHI: New Delhi is in touch with the family of an Indian man who is accused of plotting with an Indian government official to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States, the foreign ministry said on Friday in reaction to a Reuters report.
Nikhil Gupta, extradited to the United States this month after his arrest in Prague last year, has been accused by US federal prosecutors of unsuccessfully plotting with an Indian official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US citizen.
Gupta, 52, pleaded not guilty on Monday to murder-for-hire conspiracy charges in a court in Manhattan and a source close to his family told Reuters on Thursday that it wanted New Delhi’s help to “get justice.”
“We have so far not received any request for consular access from Gupta, but his family has got in touch with us,” Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told reporters. “We are in touch with the family members and we are looking at the matter as to what can be done on their request.”
The US government has said it thwarted the alleged plot to kill Pannun and warned India about concerns of its involvement.
India has designated Pannun an “individual terrorist” but has dissociated itself from the plot, saying it goes against government policy. Pannun advocates for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India.
The source, who declined to be named given the sensitive nature of a case that has diplomatic implications, had said Gupta’s family has not been able to establish direct contact with him since his extradition.
“Regardless of the allegations raised against him, he is an Indian citizen and a patriot who deserves the rights and protections granted by the government to its citizens.”
The source said the family believed Gupta “is a victim in this series of events” but that “he will get justice.”


Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued
Updated 14 sec ago
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Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued
  • Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port
SINGAPORE: Two large oil tankers were on fire in waters near Singapore, the authorities said on Friday, raising concerns about the environment as well as the impact on operations at the world’s biggest refueling port.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was alerted to a fire on Friday at 6:15 a.m. (2215 GMT) onboard both a Singapore-flagged tanker, Hafnia Nile, and a Sao Tome and Principe-flagged tanker, Ceres I.
A helicopter had evacuated two crew members to Singapore General Hospital, it said, without elaborating.
In a statement on social media, Singapore Navy said the frigate RSS Supreme had rescued the crews from the vessels and was providing medical assistance. It did not immediately give details.
The vessels were about 55km (34 miles) northeast of the Singaporean island of Pedra Branca on the eastern approach to the Singapore Straits. Photographs released by the Navy showed thick black smoke billowing from one tanker.
The cause of the fires was not immediately clear.
The 74,000 deadweight-tons capacity Panamax tanker Hafnia Nile (IMO 9766217) was carrying about 300,000 barrels of naphtha, according to ship-tracking data from Kpler and LSEG.
It was not immediately clear what fuel Ceres I (IMO 9229439) was carrying. The tanker is a very-large-crude-carrier (VLCC) of 300,000 deadweight-tons capacity and was last marked as carrying Iranian crude between March to April, ship-tracking data showed.
Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port and surrounding waters are vital trade waterways between Asia and Europe and the Middle East.

US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia
Updated 33 min 59 sec ago
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US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia
  • The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport

NEW DELHI: An Air India airplane flying from Delhi to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Russia after the crew detected a potential issue in the cargo hold area, the airline said on Friday, its second such incident on the route in just over a year.
Many carriers, including US and European Union airlines, avoid Russian airspace following the war in Ukraine, but Air India uses that route, giving it a flying time and cost advantage on US-bound flights.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport, the airline said in a statement.
It added Air India was “concerned about the passengers and staff and are making every effort possible to operate the ferry flight as soon as possible.”
The airport said the flight’s crew had been moved to hotels, and passengers were in the international departure area, which angered some of those stranded, according to social media posts.
Mayank Gupta, whose mother was on the flight, wrote on X he was “sad and angry” that her medicines and luggage remained on the airplane.
A passenger said on X that people were struggling to get food and water, posting a photo showing some passengers sleeping on the floor inside the airport area.
In another statement on Friday, Air India said representatives from the Indian consulate in Moscow traveled to Krasnoyarsk overnight and “are working with Russian authorities to allow passengers to move to hotels, which have been on standby throughout the night.”
The airport said the plane landed due to an activated smoke detector. Regulatory clearances have been obtained for a relief flight that will depart Mumbai at 11 a.m. India time (0530 GMT) on Friday and ferry the guests out of the airport, Air India said.
Shortly after the incident, Russia’s civil aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, said the aircraft had taxied to a parking spot after landing and there had been no signs of a fire or smoke onboard.
Boeing and a spokesperson for the US State Department deferred to Air India for comment on the incident.
Russia banned many foreign carriers from its airspace in retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine war, and many countries and airlines also banned their planes from crossing over all or part of Russia.
The bans have redrawn air routes and upset business models for some airlines that now need to fly around the world’s largest country. United Airlines canceled many of its non-stop US-India flights due to the issue.
In June 2023, an Air India Boeing plane on the same route was stranded for a day after reporting a technical issue. Passengers on that flight, including US citizens, were housed in makeshift accommodation at Russia’s remote Magadan airport.
Air India sent an aircraft a day later to pick up the stranded passengers.


Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again
Updated 16 min 21 sec ago
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Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again
  • The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden

MILWAUKEE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised Thursday to bring an end to raging international crises and restore American prestige on the world stage, saying he could “stop wars with a telephone call.”
The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden, telling the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee that the planet is “teetering on the edge of World War III.”
“We will restore peace, stability and harmony all throughout the world,” Trump said, without giving any detail on how he might do that.
“Under our leadership the United States will be respected again. No nation will question our power, no enemy will doubt our might, our borders will be totally secure.”

 


Trump placed the blame for conflicts around the world squarely on Biden — even those with roots stretching back far before the Democrat took office.
“There is an international crisis the likes of which the world has seldom been part of... war is now raging in Europe, in the Middle East, a growing specter of conflict hangs over Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and all of Asia,” he said.
He vowed to change all that if he is elected to a second term in the White House.
“I will end every single international crisis that the current administration has created, including the horrible war with Russia and Ukraine,” Trump said. But “to achieve this future, we must first rescue our nation from failed and even incompetent leadership.”
He also said he wanted Americans held abroad to be released — or else.
“The entire world, I tell you this: we want our hostages back and they better be back before I assume office or you will be paying a very big price,” said Trump — again failing to give any specifics.
He pledged to build a version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for the United States, ignoring the fact that the system is designed for short-range threats and would be ill-suited to defending against intercontinental missiles that are the main danger to the country.
And he suggested that Kim Jong Un — the reclusive North Korean dictator whom he met in person during his presidency, and whose country possesses a nuclear arsenal — longed to see him back in the White House.
“I get along with him, he’d like to see me back too. I think he misses me, if you want to know,” Trump said.

 


Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout
Updated 19 July 2024
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Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout
  • This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further
  • Protesters have called for an end to a quota system that reserves over half of civil service posts for specific groups

Dhaka: Bangladesh woke Friday to survey destruction left by the deadliest day of ongoing student protests so far, which saw government buildings torched by demonstrators and a nationwide internet blackout put into effect.

This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further after reports of clashes in nearly half of the country's 64 districts.

A police statement issued after a near-total shutdown of the nation's internet said protesters had torched, vandalised and carried out "destructive activities" on numerous police and government offices.

Among them was the Dhaka headquarters of state broadcaster Bangladesh Television, which remains offline after hundreds of incensed students stormed the premises and set fire to a building.

"About 100 policemen were injured in the clashes yesterday," Faruk Hossain, a spokesman for the capital's police force, told AFP. "Around 50 police booths were burnt".

Anti-quota protesters clash with the police in Dhaka on July 18, 2024. (AFP)

The police statement said that if the destruction continued, they would "be forced to make maximum use of law".

Police fire was the cause of at least two-thirds of deaths reported so far, based on descriptions given to AFP by hospital staff.

At least 26 districts around the country reported clashes on Thursday, broadcaster Independent Television reported.

The network said more than 700 had been wounded through the day including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.

Near-daily marches this month have called for an end to a quota system that reserves more than half of civil service posts for specific groups, including children of veterans from the country's 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Critics say the scheme benefits children of pro-government groups that back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 76, who has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.

Hasina's government is accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including by the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.

Her administration this week ordered schools and universities to close indefinitely as police step up efforts to bring the deteriorating law and order situation under control.

Mubashar Hasan, a Bangladesh expert at the University of Oslo in Norway, told AFP Thursday that the protests had grown into a wider expression of discontent with Hasina's autocratic rule.

"They are protesting against the repressive nature of the state," he told AFP. "The students are in fact calling her a dictator."

Students have vowed to continue their campaign despite Hasina giving a national address on the now-offline state broadcaster seeking to calm the situation.

"Our first demand is that the prime minister must apologise to us," protester Bidisha Rimjhim, 18, told AFP on Thursday.

"Secondly, justice must be ensured for our killed brothers," she added.

London-based watchdog Netblocks said Friday that a "nation-scale" internet shutdown remained in effect.

"The disruption prevents families from contacting each other and stifles efforts to document human rights violations," it wrote in a social media post on X.


US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds
Updated 19 July 2024
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US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds
  • The US remains the largest aid donor to impoverished Afghanistan nearly three years after the Taliban seized Kabul
  • Since the US withdrawal was completed in 2021, Washington has provided over $17.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: Two State Department bureaus could not prove compliance with internal policies for vetting aid groups in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan that received $293 million in funds, raising a risk that extremists may have profited, a US watchdog said on Wednesday.

“It is critical that State knows who is actually benefitting from this assistance in order to prevent the aid from being diverted to the Taliban or other sanctioned parties,” said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report.

The Taliban, the report said, has tried to obtain US aid funds “through several means, including the establishment of humanitarian organizations,” underscoring the need for the department to “fully and consistently assess the risks posed by its implementing partners.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SIGAR said three of five State Department bureaus were found in compliance with department regulations requiring vetting of aid fund recipients.

But the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs could not provide enough documentation to prove their adherence.

“State could not demonstrate compliance with its partner vetting requirements on awards that disbursed at least $293 million in Afghanistan,” it continued.

For that reason, “there is an increased risk that terrorists and terrorist-affiliated individuals and entities may have illegally benefitted,” it said.

The department agreed with the report’s conclusions and would “work to ensure compliance” with vetting requirements, it said.

The US remains the largest aid donor to impoverished Afghanistan nearly three years after the Taliban seized Kabul as the last US troops completed a chaotic pullout following 20 years of war with the Islamist militants.

Since the US withdrawal was completed on Aug. 30, 2021, Washington has provided more than $17.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan.