Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region

Update Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region
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This screengrab picture taken from video released on June 23, 2024 by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti shows an area sealed off by police following deadly attacks on churches and a synagogue in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan. (RIA Novosti via AFP)
Update Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region
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This photo taken from video released by Golos Dagestana shows smoke rises following an attack in Makhachkala, republic of Dagestan, Russia, on June 23, 2024. (Golos Dagestana via AP)
Update Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region
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This screengrab picture taken from video released on June 23, 2024 by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti shows an area sealed off by police following deadly attacks on churches and a synagogue in Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan. (RIA Novosti via AFP)
Update A view shows emergency service vehicles on the street of Makhachkala in southern Russia, June 23, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. (Reuters) 
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A view shows emergency service vehicles on the street of Makhachkala in southern Russia, June 23, 2024, in this still image obtained from a video. (Reuters) 
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Updated 24 June 2024
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Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region

Gunmen kill 15 police officers, priest and multiple civilians in Russia’s southern Dagestan region
  • Gunmen targetted two Orthodox churches, a synagogue and a police post in two cities
  • Six of the gunmen were shot and killed as the incidents unfolded, says governor

MOSCOW: Gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a police post in attacks across two cities in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan on Sunday, killing an Orthodox priest and multiple police officers, the region’s head said.
“This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country,” Sergei Melikov, governor of the Dagestan region, said in a video published early on Monday on the Telegram messaging app.
Melikov said that more than 15 police officers “fell victim” to what he said was a “terrorist attack,“” but he did not specify how many of the police were killed and how many were injured. Russia’s Interfax agency reported that at least 15 police officers were killed.
The simultaneous attacks across the cities of Makhachkala and Derbent came three months after 145 people were killed in an attack claimed by the Daesh (Islamic State) on a concert hall near Moscow, Russia’s worst terrorist attack in years.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in the volatile North Caucasus region.
“We understand who is behind the organization of the terrorist attacks and what goal they pursued,” Melikov said, without disclosing further details.

Six of the gunmen were shot and killed as the incidents unfolded, Melikov said. Russian state news agencies cited the National Anti-Terrorist Committee as saying that five of the gunmen had been killed.

Russia’s state media cited law enforcement as saying that among the attackers had been two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district, who had been detained by investigators.
Melikov said that among the dead, in addition to the police officers, were several civilians, including an Orthodox priest who worked in Derbent for more than 40 years. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said on Telegram that the priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov, was “brutally murdered.”
Dagestan’s RGVK broadcaster said Kotelnikov had served more than 40 years in Derbent.
“The synagogue in Derbent is on fire,” the chairman of the public council of Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities, Boruch Gorin wrote on Telegram.
“It has not been possible to extinguish the fire. Two are killed: a policeman and a security guard.”
He added: “The synagogue in Makhachkala has also been set on fire and burnt down.”

Days of mourning
June 24-26 have been declared days of mourning in Dagestan, Melikov said, with flags lowered to half-staff and all entertainment events canceled.
The restive region was in the 2000s hit by an Islamist insurgency spilling over from neighboring Chechnya, with Russian security forces moving aggressively to combat extremists in the region.
In recent years, attacks had become rarer, with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) saying in 2017 that it had defeated the insurgency in the region.
The agencies reported exchanges of gunfire in the center of Makhachkala. They cited the interior ministry as saying that exits from the Caspian Sea port of around 600,000 had been closed, and that conspirators who were still at large may yet attempt to flee the city.
About 125 km (75 miles) south of Makhachkala, gunmen attacked a synagogue and a church in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Authorities were quoted as saying that both the synagogue and church were ablaze, and that two attackers had been killed.
Russian media cited the head of the country’s federation of Jewish communities as calling for people to avoid reacting to “provocations.”
In Israel, the Foreign Ministry said the synagogue in Derbent had been burned to the ground and shots had been fired at a second synagogue in Makhachkala. The statement said it was believed there were no worshippers in the synagogue at the time.
Russian authorities have pointed to militant Muslim elements in previous incidents in the region.
In October, after the war in Gaza broke out, rioters waving Palestinian flags broke down glass doors and rampaged through Makhachkala airport to look for Jewish passengers on a flight arriving from Tel Aviv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West and Ukraine of stirring up unrest inside Russia in connection with the incident.

Russia’s FSB security service in April said it had arrested four people in Dagestan on suspicion of plotting a deadly attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall concert venue in March, which was claimed by Daesh.
Militants from Dagestan are known to have traveled to join the Daesh group in Syria.
In 2015, the group declared it had established a “franchise” in the North Caucasus.
Dagestan lies east of Chechnya where Russian authorities battled separatists in two brutal wars, first in 1994-1996 and then in 1999-2000.
After the defeat of Chechen insurgents, Russian authorities have been locked in a simmering conflict with militants from across the North Caucasus that has killed scores of civilians and police.

 

 


Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China

Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China
Updated 5 sec ago
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Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China

Donald Trump says Taiwan ‘should pay’ US for defense against China
  • Former US president: ‘You know, we’re no different than an insurance company. Taiwan doesn’t give us anything’
  • While Washington does not diplomatically recognize the island, it is a key partner and major weapons provider to Taipei
TAIPEI: Taiwan “should pay” the United States for defense, US presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a wide-ranging interview that has cast doubt on the relationship between Washington and Taipei should he be re-elected in November.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek published on Tuesday, the former president was asked if he would defend self-ruled Taiwan from China, which claims the island as part of its territory.
“I know the people very well, respect them greatly. They did take about 100 percent of our chip business. I think, Taiwan should pay us for defense,” he said, according to a transcript released by Bloomberg.
“You know, we’re no different than an insurance company. Taiwan doesn’t give us anything.”
While Washington does not diplomatically recognize the island, it is a key partner and major weapons provider to Taipei, and recently passed a multi-billion-dollar military aid package aimed at countering Beijing in the region.
Taiwan is also a major powerhouse in the crucial semiconductor industry, producing the majority of the advanced microchips needed to power the global economy.
A leader in the field is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which has been a key beneficiary of Washington’s Chips and Science Act — passed in 2022 to attract companies to invest in building chip factories on American soil.
Thanks to the law, TSMC is building two plants in the United States and announced plans for a third in April, bringing its total investment up to $65 billion.
Trump lamented in the interview that Washington was “giving them billions of dollars to build new chips in our country, and then they’re going to take that too.”
“I don’t think we’re any different from an insurance policy. Why? Why are we doing this? They took almost 100 percent of our chip industry, I give them credit,” he said.
Acknowledging Trump’s comments on Wednesday, Taiwanese Premier Cho Jung-tai pointed out Taipei had steadily boosted its defense budget in recent years.
“We are willing to take on more responsibility; we are defending ourselves and ensuring our security,” he told reporters during a press briefing.
“We are also clear that Taiwan-US relations have been very strong in recent years. Maintaining peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and Indo-Pacific region is our common responsibility and goal.”
China has said it will never renounce the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has also ramped up rhetoric about “unification” being “inevitable.”

European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says

European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says
Updated 15 min 18 sec ago
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European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says

European Commission didn’t provide enough information about COVID-19 vaccine deals, EU court says
  • According to the court, the procurement of vaccines on behalf of all 27 member states allowed the bloc to quickly gather 2.7 billion euros

BRUSSELS: The European Commission did not allow the public enough access to information about COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreements it secured with pharmaceutical companies during the pandemic, the EU general court said Wednesday.
The decision came a day ahead of a vote at the European Parliament at which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is seeking reelection.
A group of EU lawmakers had taken legal action after the Commission refused to grant them complete access to COVID-19 vaccine contracts secured between the EU’s executive arm and manufacturers.
The pandemic shed light on the issue of transparency surrounding the negotiations for vaccines between the EU and big pharmaceutical groups. The EU Commission was mandated by member countries to organize the joint procurement of vaccines during the pandemic and led negotiations with manufacturers.
According to the court, the procurement of vaccines on behalf of all 27 member states allowed the bloc to quickly gather 2.7 billion euros ($2.95 billion) to place an order for more than a billion doses of vaccines.
In 2021, some members of the European Parliament asked for the full details of the agreements, but the Commission only agreed to provide partial access to certain contracts and documents, which were placed online in redacted versions. It also refused to say how much it paid for the billions of doses it secured, arguing that contracts were protected for confidentiality reasons.
In a statement, the court said that “the Commission did not take sufficient account of all the relevant circumstances in order to weigh up correctly the interests at issue.”
Two years ago, the EU’s ombudsman said in a separate case that the Commission was responsible for “maladministration” for mishandling a request for access to text messages between its president and the CEO of pharmaceutical company Pfizer regarding COVID-19 vaccine purchases.
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly recommended that the European Commission “do a more extensive search for the relevant messages” relating to such purchases after a story published by the New York Times revealed that von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had exchanged text messages and calls about vaccine procurements for EU countries.
A journalist then asked the Commission for access to the text messages and other documents, but the executive branch did not provide any texts, saying no record of such messages had been kept. Commission officials had argued that text messages are ephemeral and don’t contain important information to justify their inclusion in a document management system.


Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
Updated 17 July 2024
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Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
  • Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran ‘strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump’

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “malicious” accusations by US media implicating it in a plot to kill former US president Donald Trump.
CNN reported Tuesday that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot against the former president, prompting his protection to be boosted. Other US outlets also reported the alleged plot.
CNN said the alleged plot was not linked to Saturday’s shooting at a Trump campaign rally in Pennsylvania, in which the former president was wounded and a supporter killed.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years” after Tehran threatened revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in neighboring Iraq.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations called the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran “strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump.”
He added however that Iran remains “determined to prosecute Trump over his direct role in the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.”
Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overseeing Iranian military operations across the Middle East.
Trump ordered his killing in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport.


Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe

Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe
Updated 17 July 2024
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Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe

Trump’s VP pick J.D. Vance signals shift away from Ukraine, Europe
  • J.D. Vance was one of the fiercest opponents of the approval of $61 billion in new military aid for Ukraine
  • Republican VP candidate: ‘NATO countries can’t be welfare clients of the US’

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump picked J.D. Vance — a staunch opponent of aid for Kyiv who wants Washington to refocus on Asia — as his running mate, signaling a potential shift away from Europe if the Republican candidate wins in November.
Vance — a 39-year-old retired US Marine and best-selling author — is ideologically close to the former president, and his views on foreign policy could help shape Trump’s second term in office if he defeats Democrat Joe Biden.
“I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another as a country,” the senator from Ohio said on a podcast in April.
Vance was one of the fiercest opponents of the approval of $61 billion in new military aid for Ukraine, which was stalled by Republican lawmakers for months earlier this year — a time in which Russia made battlefield gains.
The United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in military assistance for Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
But Vance and other Trump allies in Congress argue that Washington cannot continue to fund the war indefinitely, and a Trump victory in November would throw future American assistance for Ukraine into doubt.
Trump has said he would quickly end the conflict, raising the specter that Kyiv could be pushed to negotiate with Moscow from an unfavorable position.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that he was not concerned about the prospect of another Trump presidency, despite indications his administration could be more sympathetic to the Kremlin.
“I think that if Donald Trump becomes president, we will work together. I’m not worried about this,” Zelensky told a news conference.
Asked on Tuesday about the consequences of a Trump presidency for Ukraine, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said both lawmakers and the American public back continued support for Kyiv.
“The American people strongly support continued assistance to Ukraine. They strongly support allowing Ukraine and helping Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s aggression. It’s not just the American public, but it’s bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress,” Miller told journalists.
For Vance, European countries have relied on the United States for security for far too long, and he advocates a shift to increasingly concentrate on East Asia.
“NATO countries can’t be welfare clients of the US,” Vance told Fox News in June, while he said in February that “we have been subsidizing European security to the tune of trillions of dollars.”
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, Vance argued that “the United States has to focus more on East Asia. That is going to be the future of American foreign policy for the next 40 years, and Europe has to wake up to that fact.”
“The point is not we want to abandon Europe. The point is we need to focus as a country on East Asia, and we need our European allies to step up in Europe,” he said, urging the continent to “take a more aggressive role in its own security.”


Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect

Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect
Updated 17 July 2024
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Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect

Thai police say cyanide killed 6 foreigners in Bangkok hotel, including suspect
  • The rapid-acting, deadly chemical was found on drinking glasses and a teapot in the room at the luxury Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel
  • The six were all of Vietnamese ethnicity, two of those US nationals, and were found dead late on Tuesday

BANGKOK: Cyanide poisoning was likely the cause of the deaths of six foreigners whose bodies were found in a room in a plush Bangkok hotel, with the suspected killer among the dead, Thai police said on Wednesday
The rapid-acting, deadly chemical was found on drinking glasses and a teapot in the room at the luxury Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel, and interviews with relatives of the dead revealed there had been a dispute over debt related to an investment, police said.
The six were all of Vietnamese ethnicity, two of those US nationals, and were found dead late on Tuesday. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation had assisted police with the investigation, police said.
“We found cyanide in the teacups, all six cups we found cyanide,” Trirong Phiwpan, Commander of the Thai police evidence office, told a press conference.
“After staff brought tea cups and two hot water bottles, milk and tea pots ... one of the six introduced cyanide.”
The results of an autopsy were expected within the next day, police said.
Vietnam’s government said its embassy in Bangkok was closely coordinating with Thai authorities on the case, while the US State Department said it was monitoring the situation and local authorities were responsible for the investigation.
The Grand Hyatt Erawan, operated by Erawan Group , has over 350 rooms and is located in a popular tourist district known for luxury shopping and restaurants.
News of the deaths, initially reported by some Thai media as a shooting, could be a setback for Thailand as it bets heavily on its vital tourism sector reviving an economy that has struggled since the pandemic.
Thailand is expecting 35 million foreign arrivals this year, up from 28 million last year who spent 1.2 trillion baht ($33.71 billion).
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Tuesday urged a swift probe into the issue to limit the impact on Thailand’s travel sector.