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.

 

 


France intercepting 6 drones daily near Olympic sites: PM

Updated 2 sec ago
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France intercepting 6 drones daily near Olympic sites: PM

France intercepting 6 drones daily near Olympic sites: PM
The miniature flyers are sometimes operated by “individuals, maybe tourists wanting to take pictures,” Attal said
“That’s why it’s important to remind people of the rules. There’s a ban on flying drones,” he added

VELIZY VILLACOUBLAY, France: French security forces guarding sites set to be used in the Paris Olympics are intercepting an average of six drones per day, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said.
The miniature flyers are sometimes operated by “individuals, maybe tourists wanting to take pictures,” Attal said.
“That’s why it’s important to remind people of the rules. There’s a ban on flying drones,” he added during a visit to the event’s drone defense hub at Velizy-Villacoublay air base outside Paris.
“Systems are in place to allow us to very quickly intercept (drones) and arrest their operators,” Attal said. “We can’t allow anything to slip past us.”
He highlighted several incidents around the Olympic village on Sunday. According to a member of Attal’s team, the communications chief of the Brazilian delegation was apprehended over operating a drone.
“Any unauthorized drone will be jammed,” said Stephane Groen, France’s general in charge of air defense, as Attal visited a control room where an aerial vehicle had been spotted over the Stade de France stadium.
The defenders’ job is particularly tricky as they must avoid the remote vehicles falling while a sporting event is underway.
Nevertheless, “if in doubt, we always jam” a drone, Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said.
As well as drone defenses, other forms of anti-aircraft defense are in place around Olympic sites.
Around 18,000 French troops have been deployed to secure the Olympics, 11,000 of them in the Ile-de-France region around Paris.
In a French first, airspace in a 150-kilometer (93 miles) radius around Paris will be completely closed on Friday evening during the opening ceremony.


French security forces guarding sites set to be used in the Paris Olympics are intercepting an average of six drones per day, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said. (Reuters/File)

Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims

Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims
Updated 1 min 35 sec ago
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Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims

Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims
  • Rajapaksa halted his forced cremations policy in Feb 2021 after an appeal from then Pakistan PM Imran Khan during a visit to Sri Lanka
  • The government then allowed burials at the remote Oddamavadi area in the island’s east, but without participation of the bereaved family

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government Tuesday formally apologized to the island’s Muslim minority for forcing cremations on Covid victims, disregarding WHO assurances that burials in line with Islamic rites were safe.
The cabinet issued an “apology regarding the compulsory cremation policy during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the government said in a statement.
It said a new law would guarantee the right to burial or cremation to ensure the funeral customs of Muslims or any other community were not violated in future.
Traditionally, Muslims bury their dead. Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhists are typically cremated, as are Hindus.
Muslim representatives in Sri Lanka welcomed the apology, but said their entire community, accounting for about 10 percent of the island’s 22 million population, was still traumatized.
“We will now sue two academics — Meththika Vithanage and Channa Jayasumana — who were behind the forced cremation policy of the government,” Hilmy Ahamed, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told AFP.
“We will also seek compensation.”
Ahamed said a young Muslim couple suffered untold anguish when their 40-day-old infant was cremated by the state against their wishes.
Then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned burials despite his administration facing international condemnation at the UN Human Rights Council and other forums for violating Muslim funeral norms.
In a book published earlier this month, he defended his action saying he was only carrying out “expert advice” from Vithanage, a professor of natural resources, not to let Covid victims be interred.
She has no medical background.
Rajapaksa halted his forced cremations policy in February 2021 following an appeal from then Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan during a visit to Sri Lanka.
The government then allowed burials at the remote Oddamavadi area in the island’s east under strict military supervision — but without the participation of the bereaved family.
Rajapaksa was forced out of office two years ago following months of protests over an unprecedented economic crisis, which had led to shortages of food, fuel and medicines.


Philippine police deny man inhaling white powder in video is president Marcos

Philippine police deny man inhaling white powder in video is president Marcos
Updated 35 min 55 sec ago
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Philippine police deny man inhaling white powder in video is president Marcos

Philippine police deny man inhaling white powder in video is president Marcos
  • Police forensic experts present photos of Marcos and the unidentified man to compare their facial features

MANILA: A video allegedly showing Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos inhaling a white powder has been denounced as “fake” and “malicious,” with investigators on Tuesday presenting close-up images of his ear to prove it was not him.
The clip featuring a dark-haired man was part of a video shown at a rally in Los Angeles that was organized by a political group linked to Marcos’s predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.
The rally was livestreamed on the Facebook page of pro-Duterte broadcaster SMNI in the Philippines early Monday local time, hours before Marcos was due to deliver his annual State of the Nation address to Congress.
“It is obvious from the video that that is not our president. Their video is fake and obviously not real,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said Monday, after the video went viral on social media.
Teodoro said it was part of a “serious plan to destabilize our government.”
The video spread rapidly on Facebook, YouTube and TikTok. One Facebook post was viewed at least eight million times.
Duterte’s former spokesman Harry Roque shared it on his Facebook page with a caption in Tagalog reading: “You be the judge.”
It was viewed 17,000 times.
Police forensic experts held a news conference on Tuesday to prove the man in the video was not the president, presenting photos of Marcos and the unidentified man to compare their facial features.
Enlarged images of their faces and right ears were placed side by side to demonstrate that Marcos’s ear was larger in proportion to his face and had a different shape to those of the other man, whose ear curled over at the top.
“Be it AI (artificial intelligence) or imposter or whatever it was, as far as the (police) is concerned that is not the president,” Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos said Tuesday.
“That is a different person based on the ear. That’s not even considering the jawline and the entire facial structure,” Abalos said, describing the video as “malicious.”
The Marcos and Duterte families have had a bitter, public falling out as they attempt to shore up their rival support bases and secure key positions ahead of the 2025 mid-term elections.
Duterte and Marcos have accused each other of being drug addicts, although neither man has offered proof of their allegations.


Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims

Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims
Updated 23 July 2024
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Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims

Sri Lanka apologizes for cremating Muslim Covid victims
  • The cabinet issued an “apology regarding the compulsory cremation policy during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the government said in a statement

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government Tuesday formally apologized to the island’s Muslim minority for forcing cremations on Covid victims, disregarding WHO assurances that burials in line with Islamic rites were safe.
The cabinet issued an “apology regarding the compulsory cremation policy during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the government said in a statement.
It said a new law would guarantee the right to burial or cremation to ensure the funeral customs of Muslims or any other community were not violated in future.
Traditionally, Muslims bury their dead facing Makkah. Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhists are typically cremated, as are Hindus.
Muslim representatives in Sri Lanka welcomed the apology, but said their entire community, accounting for about 10 percent of the island’s 22 million population, was still traumatized.
“We will now sue two academics — Meththika Vithanage and Channa Jayasumana — who were behind the forced cremation policy of the government,” Hilmy Ahamed, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told AFP.
“We will also seek compensation.”
Ahamed said a young Muslim couple suffered untold anguish when their 40-day-old infant was cremated by the state against their wishes.
Then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned burials despite his administration facing international condemnation at the UN Human Rights Council and other forums for violating Muslim funeral norms.
In a book published earlier this month, he defended his action saying he was only carrying out “expert advice” from Vithanage, a professor of natural resources, not to let Covid victims be interred.
She has no medical background.
Rajapaksa halted his forced cremations policy in February 2021 following an appeal from then Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan during a visit to Sri Lanka.
The government then allowed burials at the remote Oddamavadi area in the island’s east under strict military supervision — but without the participation of the bereaved family.
Rajapaksa was forced out of office two years ago following months of protests over an unprecedented economic crisis, which had led to shortages of food, fuel and medicines.


India’s Modi focuses on jobs creation in first budget after winning polls

India’s Modi focuses on jobs creation in first budget after winning polls
Updated 23 July 2024
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India’s Modi focuses on jobs creation in first budget after winning polls

India’s Modi focuses on jobs creation in first budget after winning polls
  • India’s finance minister says economy grew at sizzling 8.2 percent rate duirng last fiscal year
  • Modi remains under pressure to generate jobs to sustain India’s economic growth

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s newly formed government presented an annual budget to Parliament that raises spending to generate more jobs and spur economic growth, while aiming to appease coalition partners it needs to stay in power.

In her budget speech Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government is focused on driving domestic growth through jobs, training and small businesses.

India’s inflation rate is stable and moving toward the government’s 4 percent target, she said, while the economy grew at a sizzling 8.2 percent rate in the last fiscal year.

“India’s economic growth continues to be the shining exception and will remain so in the years ahead,” Sitharaman said.

More than a decade after he first took office as prime minister, Modi is under pressure to generate more jobs to help sustain growth.

The proposed budget includes a $24 billion package for job creation over the next five years and raises spending on loans for small and medium-size businesses. It allocates $18 billion to support agriculture and farm technology, such as climate-resilient seed varieties.

It also would raise spending, to $133 billion, on construction of thirty million homes for the poor, schools, airports, highways and other infrastructure. The budget would cut taxes on big corporations and allocate more funds to two states, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, that are governed by the Modi government’s biggest coalition partners.

The government plans to build new airports, medical colleges and sports and tourism facilities in eastern India’s Bihar state, which is ruled by the Janata Dal (United) party.

Sitharaman also announced special financial support for southern India’s Andhra Pradesh state, ruled by the Telugu Desam party.

Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party is relying on those two regional parties to keep its coalition government in power after it failed to win a majority on its own in recent national elections.

India’s economy — the fifth largest in the world — is projected to grow at an annual rate of between 6.5 percent to 7 percent in the fiscal year ending in March 2025. But experts say the benefits of its rapid growth are shared unequally, as wealth of already affluent Indians has risen steadily without reaching the the majority of Indians who toil in the country’s large informal sector, where the quality of jobs is poor and precarious.

Billions of dollars worth of subsidies to manufacturing have not led to creation of enough jobs. To mitigate rising unemployment, the government said it will provide 12-month paid internship opportunities to 10 million young people in India’s top 500 companies for a five-year period. Sitharaman said the training cost will be borne by the companies.

According to the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy, youth unemployment was at 9.2 percent in early July, underscoring the challenge of delivering jobs in the world’s most populous country, where millions graduate every year.

Inequality has surged in India in the last decade. According to a report by World Inequality Lab, wealth concentrated in the richest 1 percent of India’s population is at its highest in six decades.

The government is aiming for a fiscal deficit of 4.9 percent of India’s gross domestic product for the 2024-25 financial year, lower than the 5.1 percent figure in February’s short-term budget, Sitharaman said.

India is one of the highest current sources of emissions that lead to global warming, but the government announced plans Tuesday to set up a new 800-megawatt coal-fired thermal power plant. Sitharaman said the government will also support development of small and modular nuclear reactors to help meet India’s future energy demand.

The budget also allocates $1.37 billion to address damage from floods. India, which is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts, has suffered an increase in flooding due to extreme rains and glacier melt in the last few years.

The budget requires approval from both houses of Parliament, but it is bound to be enacted as Modi’s coalition government holds a majority.