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New Zealand 50 martyred as ‘terrorist’ attack  at two mosques

New Zealand bans military type semi-automatic weapons used in mosque massacre

An Australian gunmen martyred at least 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch  the worst attack in the Pacific country’s history. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference that the mosque shootings appeared to be a well-planned “terrorist attack”.

 “This is, and will be, one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” an ashen-faced Ardern said. The prime minister also said two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles were found and were disarmed. The mosques on target were the Masjid Al Noor in central Christchurch and another one in suburban Linwood.

Sam Clarke, a reporter with TVNZ, spoke with several people inside the Masjid Al Noor mosque when the shooting began. He told Al Jazeera a man entered with an automatic weapon and began firing.

“A gunman – dressed in black with a helmet carrying a machine gun – came into the back of the mosque and started firing into the people praying there,” said Clarke. It was later confirmed that 30 worshippers were killed at the mosque, including women and children.

‘Australian’ attacker : As many as 41 people died at one mosque, seven at another and one person died in hospital, New Zealand’s Police Commissioner Mike Bush told reporters, describing the attack as a “very well-planned event”. Bush said four suspects, including a woman, were apprehended in connection with the attacks. One of the arrested men had been charged with murder.


New Zealand attack: Suspect donated money to Austrian far right

Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says there is a link between a far-right movement in his country and the suspect in an attack on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in which 50 Muslims were shot dead.

The suspect, a 28-year-old white supremacist identified as Australian-born Brenton Tarrant, donated 1,500 euros ($1,700) to the anti-immigration Identitarian Movement in Austria (IBOe) in early 2018, according to prosecutors.

On Monday 25th March, the home of Identitarian Movement spokesman Martin Sellner in Austria’s capital, Vienna, was searched as part of an investigation into possible links to the suspect.

“It has been confirmed that there is a financial link between the man who perpetrated the attack in New Zealand and the Identitarian Movement in Austria,” Kurz told reporters following a cabinet meeting. He also said the link would be investigated thoroughly and that he had talked to interior and justice ministers about dissolving the far-right Identitarian Movement. Austria’s intelligence body also said the suspect visited Austria last November.


Taliban leader Omar lived next to US Afghan base

ISLAMABAD: Taliban founder Mullah Omar lived within walking distance of US bases in Afghanistan for years, according to a new book that highlights embarrassing failures of American intelligence. Washington believed the one-eyed, fugitive leader had fled to Pakistan, but the new biography says Omar was in fact living just three miles from a major US Forward Operating Base in his home province of Zabul before his death in 2013.

“Searching for an Enemy”, by Dutch journalist Bette Dam, reveals the Taliban chief lived as a virtual hermit, refusing visits from his family and filling notebooks with jottings in an imaginary language. Dam spent more than five years researching the book and interviewed Jabbar Omari, Omar’s bodyguard who hid and protected him after the Taliban regime was overthrown.

According to the book, Omar listened to the BBC´s Pashto-language news broadcasts in the evenings, but even when he learned about the death of al-Qaeda supremo Osama Bin Laden rarely commented on developments in the outside world.

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 which led to the fall of the Taliban, the US put a $10 million bounty on Omar and he went into hiding in a small compound in the regional capital Qalat, Dam writes.

The family living at the compound were not told of the identity of their mystery guest, but US forces twice almost found him.

At one point, a US patrol approached as Omar and Omari were in the courtyard. Alarmed, the two men ducked behind a wood pile, but the soldiers passed without entering. A second time, US troops even searched the house but did not uncover the concealed entrance to his secret room. It was not clear if the search was the result of a routine patrol or a tip-off. Omar decided to move when the US started building Forward Operating Base Lagman in 2004, just a few hundred metres from his hideout. He later moved to a second building but soon afterwards the Pentagon constructed Forward Operating Base Wolverine — home to 1,000 US troops, and where American and British special forces were sometimes based — close by. Despite his terror at being caught, he dared not move again, rarely even going outside and often hiding in tunnels when US planes flew over. According to Dam, Omar would often only talk to his guard and cook, and used an old Nokia mobile phone, without a sim card, to record himself chanting verses from the Holy Quran.

Palestinians mass at Gaza border to mark protest anniversary

Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied at the Israel-Gaza border on Saturday 30 March, facing off against Israeli tanks and troops on the first anniversary of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations. Israeli forces had massed the other side of the fortified frontier, with tensions already high after a rocket attack from Gaza and Israeli air strikes earlier in the week. Four Palestinians were killed on Saturday, Gaza medical officials said. Three were 17-year-olds shot dead by Israeli troops while protesting, they said, adding another person was killed at an overnight protest hours before the main rally. But Saturday’s rally was smaller than expected, despite concerns that the anniversary would see a major escalation. Loudspeakers at border protest camps played Palestinian nationalist songs and Hamas, the armed Islamist movement which controls Gaza, had ordered schools to shut for the day to encourage participation.

The protesters are demanding the end to a security blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and want Palestinians to have the right to return to land from which their families fled or were forced to flee during Israel’s founding in 1948.

Israel rejects any such return, saying that would eliminate its Jewish majority.

Hundreds of Palestinian men, some from Hamas, were deployed in bright orange vests to deter people from going near the fence. There was also less acrid black smoke swirling around with little sign of tyre-burning, as on previous weekends. The Israeli military said there had been around 40,000 protesters, some hurling grenades and explosives.

YEAR OF PROTEST : Around 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started on March 30 last year, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. An Israeli soldier was also killed by a Palestinian sniper.


Trump backs Israeli sovereignty over Golan

President Trump said it was time for the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights that it seized from Syria in 1967, giving a boost to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of his re-election campaign. “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Recognition of the disputed area, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally, would mark a major shift in U.S. policy days before Netanyahu arrives in Washington to meet with Trump and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Netanyahu has been pressing for the United States to recognize its claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights and raised that possibility in his first White House meeting with Trump in February 2017.


US blasted at UN for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan

27-3-2019 | US widely denounced at UN Security Council after Trump signed off on Israel’s 1981 annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. The United States came under sharp criticism from 14 other UN Security Council nations for its decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights in violation of international law. The Security Council met at the request of Syria, which in a letter to the council called the American move a “flagrant violation” of UN resolutions.

President Donald Trump signed a proclamation Monday in which the United States recognised Israel’s annexation of the strategic plateau that it seized in 1967 and annexed in 1981.

Speaker after speaker at the council session supported Syria’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and opposed Israel’s annexation after Trump’s proclamation.

“This unilateral action does nothing to assist in finding a long-term peaceful solution to the conflict in the Middle East,” South Africa’s UN Ambassador Jerry Matjila said.

Syria’s closest ally, Russia, urged governments to continue to view the Golan Heights as Israeli-occupied territory. “If anybody feels any temptation to follow this poor example, we would urge them to refrain from this aggressive revision of international law,” Russia’s Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said.

France warned any attempt to turn away from international law was “doomed to fail”, as the United States prepares to unveil its Middle East peace proposals.

US deploys THAAD missile defense systems to Israel for very first time

4 Mar, 2019 | (Source: RT News)

The US military has delivered THAAD missile defense systems to Israel for the very first time. The deployment comes as a part of a joint exercise and is aimed to show the US’ “continued commitment” to Israel’s “regional security.”

The advanced systems were deployed to Israel in early March, US and Israeli military officials revealed. The THAADs  Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems  will be stationed in the country’s south, alongside some 200 US military personnel.

“During the deployment, our service members will work in various locations throughout Israel and will practice operational procedures for augmenting Israel’s existing air and missile defense architecture,” the US European Command said in a statement, adding that the exercise serves as a “demonstration of the United States’ continued commitment to Israel’s regional security.”

“The American THAAD system is considered among the most advanced systems in the world, and together with our defense systems, we are stronger in dealing with threats, close or distant, emanating from all areas of the Middle East,” he said.


‘We aren’t slaves’:

Erdogan defies US pressure over S-400 deal with Russia, says S-500 may follow

Ankara is not a slave to an America in which Washington decides which weapons system Turkey can purchase, the country’s president proclaimed, stressing its deployment of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems will proceed as planned. Ankara’s resilience against US pressure over the purchase of the S-400 systems remains rock solid, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clarified on Wednesday, stressing that Turkey is a sovereign nation which has the right to choose its trade partners and arms suppliers. “It’s done. There can never be a turning back. This would not be ethical, it would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat,” Erdogan told Kanal 24.


Turkey can buy Su-35s from Moscow if US doesn’t ship promised F-35s

Washington risks losing the Turkish arms market if it continues to delay the delivery of F-35s agreed upon with Ankara, as Turkey can simply switch to buying warplanes from Russia, RT was told.

“If the US fails to ship the jets to Turkey, Ankara can certainly buy the Su-35s from Russia instead,” Viktor Litovkin, a military analyst with the Moscow-based TASS news agency, told Russian News(RT).

Both aircraft have comparable characteristics, Litovkin said, adding that Moscow wouldn’t risk leaking sensitive military technology because the jet’s software is hard to crack. It would not require much effort to smoothly integrate the planes into the Turkish military either.

Politicians in Washington have been trying to pressure key NATO ally Turkey to drop its deal to buy S-400 anti-air missile defense systems from Moscow. This week, US senators tabled a draft bill calling for a ban on the transfer of 100 F-35s, previously agreed with Turkey, unless it guarantees that it won’t buy weapons from Russia. The delivery of the US-made planes was already effectively blocked by the Senate last year.

The Turkish leadership, meanwhile, strongly defended its right to buy arms from whoever it wants, and repeatedly reaffirmed that it will stick to the S-400 contract.

The attempts to pressure Ankara are “a sign of unfair competition” the US employs to “steamroll” the sale of its own anti-air missile defense system, the MIM-104 Patriot Pac 3, Litovkin said. He believes that Washington is likely to continue blackmailing its ally for as long as it can, but at some point will be forced to concede and deliver the promised jets to Turkey.

Power in space: Mission Shakti Space debris warning after India destroys satellite

NEW DELHI (28 March 2019)  India has entered an elite space club with the Defence Research and Development Organisation blowing up a satellite in a Low Earth Orbit into smithereens.  India is the fourth country to have carried out an ASAT test. India expects space debris from its anti-satellite weapons launch to burn out in less than 45 days, its top defense scientist said, seeking to allay global concern about fragments hitting objects. The comments came a day after India said it used an indigenously developed ballistic missile interceptor to destroy one of its own satellites at a height of 300 km (186 miles), in a test aimed at boosting its defenses in space.

Critics say such technology, known to be possessed only by the United States, Russia and China, raises the prospect of an arms race in outer space, besides posing a hazard by creating a cloud of fragments that could persist for years.

G. Satheesh Reddy, the chief of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, said a low-altitude military satellite was picked for the test, to reduce the risk of debris left in space.

“That’s why we did it at lower altitude, it will vanish in no time,” he told Reuters in an interview. “The debris is moving right now. How much debris, we are trying to work out, but our calculations are it should be dying down within 45 days.”

Few satellites operate at the altitude of 300 km, from which experts say the collision debris will fall back to earth, burning up in the atmosphere in a matter of weeks, instead of posing a threat to other satellites.

In 2007, China destroyed a satellite in a polar orbit, creating the largest orbital debris cloud in history, with more than 3,000 objects, according to the Secure World Foundation. Because the impact altitude exceeded 800 km (500 miles), many of the resulting scraps stayed in orbit. “Some of it could still be there,” Reddy said, adding that India had been much more careful in conducting its test. The acting US defence secretary has warned that the testing of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons can create a “mess” in space after India destroyed one of its own satellites. Patrick Shanahan said the US was still studying the Indian test, which Delhi insisted it carried out in low-earth orbit to not leave space debris. The U.S. military’s Strategic Command was tracking more than 250 pieces of debris from India’s missile test and would issue “close-approach notifications as required until the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said.

Reddy identified the military satellite shot down as Microsat R, weighing about 750 kg (1,653 lb) and launched on Jan. 24. by the Indian Space Research Organization for the purpose of the test. A week after launch, it was moved into a different orbit in preparation for the test.

“The technology has been completely proven, we hit it with centimeters of accuracy, probably less than 10 cm,” Reddy said.


Once Rafales come, Pakistan won’t come near LoC or border

CHANDIGARH: Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief B S Dhanoa said that Rafale jets will the best combat aircraft in the Indian sub-continent and once these are inducted, Pakistan won’t dare to come near the Line of Control (LoC) or the international border.

In an exclusive talk with ANI on Rafale’s air-to air capability in a combat situation, Dhanoa said, “When the Rafale comes in, it will ensure that the deterrence of our air defence will increase manifold and they (Pakistan) will not come anywhere near our Line of Control or border. That kind of capability we will possess for which presently they (Pakistan) don’t have an answer.”

On the sidelines of a function organised here for the induction of four US-made Chinook helicopters, he was asked about the situation on February 27 when Pakistani F-16 jets tried to attack Indian military positions, a day after the IAF strikes in Balakot in Pakistan in response to the Pulwama terror attack.

The first Rafale aircraft under a 36-plane deal with France is scheduled to be delivered in September to the IAF.

In military circles, there has been a talk that if Rafales were in the IAF, these would have not have allowed the Pakistan planes to come close to the LoC. The Rafales will be armed with Meteor air-to-air missiles which have the capability of shooting down enemy planes at strikes ranges upto 150 kms.

Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa asserted that at present, it is going to be the best aircraft in terms of the weapons capability in the Indian sub-continent and would be also the best in comparison with what China and Pakistan have.

“We are going to get Rafale in the month of September. Rafale will give a tremendous jump to our capability and it is superior to all the aircraft in the inventory of both our adversaries,” he said.

Ethiopian Airlines jetliner crashes shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board

An Ethiopian Airlines flight with 157 people on board crashed in eastern Africa on Sunday 10 March morning. Investigators have recovered both flight recorders from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 that crashed just outside Addis Ababa, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew, according to the carrier. “The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of ET302 have been Recovered,” the state-owned airline announced.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which was bound for the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, came down minutes after taking off from Ethiopia on Sunday.  It was not immediately clear what caused the crash of the recently-acquired Boeing 737 MAX 8 model, which was involved in another aviation disaster in Indonesia last year.

Michael Ryan :

Irishman Michael Ryan was among the seven dead from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), a Rome-based humanitarian organisation distributing billions of rations every year to those in need. The aid worker and engineer known as Mick was formerly from Lahinch in Co Clare in Ireland’s west and was believed to be married with two children and living in Cork. His projects have included creating safe ground for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and assessing the damage to rural roads in Nepal which were blocked by landslides.

Joanna Toole :

 Joanna Toole, a 36-year-old from Exmouth, Devon, was heading to Nairobi to attend the UN Environment Assembly when she was killed.


Italy endorses China’s Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

Giselda Vagnoni : Reuter : 23 Mar. 2019

ROME (Reuters) – Italy endorsed China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan on Saturday, becoming the first major Western power to back the initiative to help revive the struggling Italian economy.  Signing ceremony was the highlight of a three-day trip to Italy by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the two nations boosting their ties at a time when the United States is locked in a trade war with China. The rapprochement has angered Washington and alarmed some European Union allies, who fear it could see Beijing gain access to sensitive technologies and critical transport hubs.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio played down such concerns, telling reporters that although Rome remained fully committed to its Western partners, it had to put Italy first when it came to commercial ties. “This is a very important day for us, a day when Made-in-Italy has won, Italy has won and Italian companies have won,” said Di Maio, who signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Italian government in a Renaissance villa. Taking advantage of Xi’s visit, Italian firms inked deals with Chinese counterparts worth an initial 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion). Di Maio said these contracts had a potential, future value of 20 billion euros. he Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lies at the heart of China’s foreign policy strategy and was incorporated into the ruling Communist Party constitution in 2017, reflecting Xi’s desire for his country to take a global leadership role. The United States worries that it is designed to strengthen China’s military influence and could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.


ISIL defeated in final Syria victory: SDF

(23-3-19 )  The US-backed fighters in Syria have declared military victory over ISIL , ending a four-year battle against the group that once held territory spanning a third of Syria and Iraq. After weeks of heavy fighting, the tent camp where the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) fighters) had made their final stand in the village of Baghouz was bombed to shreds.

A field pitted with abandoned trenches and bomb craters, and littered with scorched tents and the twisted metal carcasses of vehicles, was all that remained. Half buried in the dirt was a tattered shred of ISIL’s notorious black flag, while a giant yellow flag belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fluttered atop a shell-pocked building.

“Baghouz is free and the military victory against Daesh has been achieved,” tweeted Mustafa Bali, a spokesperson for the Kurdish-led SDF, referring to ISIL by its Arabic acronym.

The elimination of the last stronghold in Baghouz brings to a close a gruelling final battle that stretched across several weeks and saw thousands of people flee the territory and surrender in desperation, and hundreds killed.

It is not known whether the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is still alive or where he might be hiding.

It spells the end of the ISIL group’s so-called caliphate, which at its height four years ago was home to some 8 million people, but the group still maintains a scattered presence and sleeper cells across Syria and Iraq. The campaign to take back the territory by the US and its partners has spanned nearly five years and unleashed more than 100,000 bombs and killed untold numbers of fighters and civilians.


South Africa to downgrade status of its embassy in Israel once ‘modalities’ are finalized

Concerned with Israeli treatment of Palestinians and the lack of willingness to negotiate a two-state solution, the South African President announced that he remains committed to downgrading his country’s embassy in Tel Aviv. “We are clear on our support for the achievement of the Palestinian state, alongside the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security with its neighbors,” Cyril Ramaphosa told the parliament this week, urging the government to implement South Africa’s ruling party’s 2017 resolution which called for downgrading the country’s embassy in Israel to the status of a liaison office, because of the “continued Israeli violations of the rights of Palestinians.”

The South African government remains seized with the modalities of downgrading the South African Embassy in Israel and we will communicate once Cabinet has fully finalized on this matter.

​Israeli-South African diplomatic ties have been something of a love-hate relationship over the last seven decades. After South Africa become one of the first nations to recognize Israel in 1948, its ties with the Jewish state flourished under its white-minority rule. However, following the collapse of the notorious apartheid political system, which discriminated against the black majority, the country began to lean towards support of Palestinians, staging demonstrations and boycott campaigns against the state of Israel.


Ferry capsize kills nearly 80 in Iraq’s Mosul

(MARCH 21, 2019) Most of the casualties on the ferry were women and children who could not swim, said the head of Mosul’s Civil Defence Authority Husam Khalil. He said the ferry had been loaded to several times its capacity. “It can normally carry 50 people. There were 250 on board before the incident,” he said.

Five ferry workers were arrested after late on Thursday, security sources said. Rescue workers were still looking for missing passengers. The boat was ferrying people to a man-made island used as a recreational area by families, according to one witness. “I was standing near the river back when suddenly the ferry started to tilt left and right, and passengers began screaming before it capsized,” said Mohamed Masoud, a local civil servant.


Mozambique cyclone claims more victims as death toll exceeds 400

BEIRA (Reuters) – The number of people killed in Mozambique after a cyclone tore through southern Africa and triggered devastating floods has risen to more than 400, a government minister said on Saturday 23 March, as the United Nations warned of the risk of further flooding. Cyclone Idai lashed the Mozambican port city of Beira with winds of up to 170 km per hour (105 miles per hour) last week, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and putting the lives of millions at risk. “The situation is getting better, still critical, but it’s getting better,” Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia said, adding that it was becoming easier to work on the ground.

“But unfortunately the number of dead is increasing, we have now 417 people who have lost their lives,” he said. The floods have left thousands of people scrambling for shelter, food and water.  “Courtesy  Reuters”


Al Shabaab attack on Somali ministry in Mogadishu kills at least 15

MOGADISHU (23-3-2019) – Somalia’s al Shabaab stormed a government building on Saturday, detonating a suicide car bomb in the heart of the capital Mogadishu with at least 15 people, including an assistant minister, killed during the ensuing gun battle. In the latest bombing claimed by al Shabaab, an Islamist group which is fighting to establish its own rule in Somalia, based on a strict interpretation of sharia law, a huge explosion shook central Mogadishu and a large plume of smoke rose above a building housing Somalia’s ministries of labour and works.

The four militants who attacked the building were shot dead. Another militant was a suicide car bomber and so he also died,” Major Ali Abdullahi, a police officer told Reuters.


In India’s Assam, Muslim families evicted weeks before elections

Authorities evict more than 600 families from their homes accusing them of illegally occupying government land.

by Abdul Kalam Azad

Hojai, India – After battling for life for five days at a hospital in Guwahati, the capital of the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Kulsuma Begum succumbed to her injuries on March 11.

Her mother-in-law alleged police and paramilitary forces barged into her house to physically remove Kulsuma – who had given birth to a baby boy just two hours ago – during an eviction drive at Sarkebasti village in central Assam’s Hojai district, about 150km east of Guwahati.

Authorities in the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) forcibly evicted more than 600 Muslim families from their land in Hojai, saying the families, including Kulsuma’s, had encroached upon government land.

“Seven to eight policemen entered the house and started ransacking it. I could take some stuff out. When I came back I saw Kulsuma was lying on the floor and couldn’t move,” Ramisa Khatun told Al Jazeera.

“I took up the baby as I feared they might kill him,” said Ramisa, 50. As Kulsuma was being ushered out of the house she collapsed, said Ramisa.

Seven to eight policemen entered the house and started ransacking it


The 22-year-old was rushed to Guwahati after a local hospital in Hojai referred her to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where a doctor said she had “suffered shock”.

‘Harassed, discriminated’: Story of Assam’s Bengali origin people

In one corner of the Guwahati hospital corridor, the newborn baby was sleeping next to Ramisa on a visibly dirty blanket. The baby has now been handed over to the family.

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