News In Brief International

Civilians among four killed in Kashmir, families demand bodies

Families also accuse the Indian forces of using the two civilians as ‘human shields’ during a deadly gun battle in Srinagar.

By Rifat Fareed | 15 Nov 2021

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir  A day after Indian armed forces claimed to have killed two suspected rebels and their “associates” in a gun battle in Indian-administered Kashmir, the families of at least three slain men say it was a “cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians” and are demanding their bodies be returned to them.

Police say the gun battle in Hyderpora locality in the region’s main city of Srinagar began on Monday 15 November, evening after police received a tip-off about the presence of rebels in a shopping centre.

In the battle that lasted for hours, the police said they killed two suspected rebels and claimed two others  businessman Altaf Ahmad Bhat, 48, who owned the shopping centre, and Mudasir Gul, 40, a dental surgeon who was also into real estate  were killed in the crossfire.

A witness, who did not want to be named, said he saw Gul and Bhat being used “as a human shield by the Indian forces during the search operation in the building”.

“The police assembled us all at one place and took away our mobile phones. Bhat was taken away by them three times. While they allowed him to come back twice, he didn’t return the third time. Gul was also taken away by the forces. Then in some time, we heard firings,” he said.

‘We won’t eat until we get father’s body’

At Bhat’s home in Srinagar’s Barzulla locality, his two daughters  Noha, 15, and Naifa, 13  remain in grief and shock. Their brother Ibaad, seven, is too young to comprehend the loss.

“In the morning, my father dropped me off for my tuition classes. At 4pm, I called and asked him to buy me pastry. He would normally return home by 6pm. But when I called him again, he did not pick up. Soon, the phone was switched off,” Noha told Al Jazeera.

The Indian authorities refused to hand over the bodies to the families and buried them in a graveyard 80km (50 miles) away in Kupwara district along the border with Pakistan.

According to a new government policy, suspected Kashmiri rebels killed in gun battles with the security forces are buried in faraway graveyards to prevent large gatherings or mass protests on their funerals. In some cases, authorities have also denied handing over the bodies of civilians allegedly killed by the forces.

“We just want to give a dignified burial to our father. We want his grave to be near our home. We are not even asking for justice,” said Noha.

“When we protested and asked a police official, ‘Uncle, give my father’s body’, he laughed shamelessly. I froze and did not know how to respond. How could they kill our father, and bury him so away from us?”

Pakistan strongly condemned the spate of extra-judicial killing of Kashmiris by Indian occupation forces in recent weeks including the martyrdom of nine Kashmiris in the last two days.

“At least 30 Kashmiris have been extra-judicially killed in fake encounters and so called ‘cordon and search operations’ since October 1, 2021,” according to the spokesperson.

“It is repugnant that in many instances even the mortal remains of the martyred Kashmiris are not being handed over to their families for religious rites,” he lamented.

The spokesperson of ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Jammu and Kashmir dispute has to be resolved in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “Pakistan will continue to provide all possible support for the realisation of that objective.”(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA News Agency)

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Xi, Biden wrap up ‘virtual’ meeting amid rising tension

Biden promises candor, Xi greets ‘old friend’ in U.S.-China talks

By Erin Hale in Taipei

(Mon.15 Nov 2021) US President Joe Biden called for better and more “honest” communication between China and the US during a virtual call with Chinese President Xi Jinping where both leaders played up their close relationship.

The two leaders were holding discussions over video conference at a time when the two countries’ relationship is deteriorating over issues including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing’s treatment of the predominantly Muslim Uighurs in its far western region of Xinjiang.

In his opening remarks ahead of the call night in the US, Biden acknowledged that competition between the US and China was expected but said it was his and Xi’s personal responsibility as leaders to ensure that rivalry did not veer into conflict, according to a White House transcript.

“It seems to me we need to establish some common sense guardrails, to be clear and honest where we disagree, and work together where our interests intersect, especially on vital global issues like climate change,” Biden said.

“And I think it’s very important, as I’ve told other world leaders when they ask about our relationship, is that we have always communicated with one another  with one another very honestly and candidly,” he also said. “We never walk away wondering what the other man is thinking.”

Biden’s comments contrast with the early days of his administration when a meeting in March between top US and Chinese officials turned into an acrimonious confrontation as Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat and a member of the Politburo, told Secretary of State Antony Blinken not to meddle in China’s internal affairs.

Speaking from Beijing, Xi said the two countries faced multiple challenges.

He referred to Biden as “my old friend,” and said the rivals must work more closely together. “China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation,” he said.

China’s state media noted the “friendly tone” of the opening of the discussions, and reflected the “personal relationship” between the two leaders, Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, told the state-run Global Times. The two men previously met in person while each was serving as vice president under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hu Jintao respectively.

“It’s rare for heads of state to have such a long conversation, and such a good relationship is seen as a positive condition for handling bilateral ties,” Wu told the paper.

The virtual summit lasted for more than three and a half hours, wrapping up shortly before 12.30pm (04:30 GMT) Beijing time, according to Chinese state media.

The two leaders have spoken by phone twice since Biden’s inauguration in January, but Xi has not travelled overseas since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, ruling out the chance of a face-to-face meeting.

China’s ruling party kicks off plenary expected to boost Xi’s power

(8-11-2021) Chinese Communist Party’s 400-plus member Central Committee likely to pave the way for President Xi Jinping to secure an unprecedented third five-year term as president at the 20th Party Congress next year.

The top leaders of China’s ruling Communist Party have started a pivotal meeting expected to further firm President Xi Jinping’s grip on power.

Some 400 members of the party’s powerful Central Committee gathered in Beijing on Monday for the four-day plenary. State news agency Xinhua said Xi opened the meeting with a work report and “explanations on a draft resolution on the major achievements and historical experience” for the party through its 100-year history.

Monday’s meeting, like all meetings of China’s secretive leadership, is being held behind closed doors.

Steering the post-pandemic economy as well as the question of Taiwan could also be on the meeting agenda this week.

Rewriting history

The Central Committee resolution would mark the third of its kind in the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The first, passed under Mao in 1945, helped cement his authority over the CCP four years before it seized power. he second, under Deng Xiaoping in 1981, saw the regime adopt economic reforms and recognise the “mistakes” of Mao’s ways.

This third resolution will set the stage for the 20th Party Congress next year, at which Xi is widely expected to declare that he will serve a third term in office, cementing his position as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Having scrapped term limits in a 2018 constitutional amendment, Xi has not appointed a clear successor and is expected to lead until at least 2027.

The CPC Central Committee meets at least once a year, and is reshuffled every five years during the national congress. State media has hailed Xi’s leadership in the run-up to this week’s meeting, with Xinhua declaring he is “a man of profound thoughts and feelings.”

As well as “a man who inherited a legacy but dares to innovate, and a man who has forward-looking vision and is committed to working tirelessly.”             (Source: TRTWorld and agencies)

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China’s new military  Toy might dominate the Pacific, analysts warn

(11 Nov, 2021) Construction of Beijing’s super carrier is nearing completion, US experts have said. The latest satellite images from a shipyard in Shanghai show the vessel equipped with high-tech technology to launch aircraft from the water.

The world’s largest naval force, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), might soon be reinforced with a new aircraft carrier. The huge vessel, which is more than 1,000 feet (over 300 meters) long, will add to China’s two seagoing airbases. Commonly known as the Type 003 and yet to receive a formal name, it is believed it will help Beijing exercise control over the Pacific. Fitting several dozen planes, helicopters, and support aircraft, analysts believe the powerful addition to the Chinese army will be at least equal to its US counterparts’ capabilities.

Final touches are being made to the super carrier at the Jiangnan Shipyard on the Yangtze River, the American Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) revealed this week. “Based on available information and observed progress at Jiangnan, the authors estimate that the Type 003 will launch in roughly three to six months,” its report said.

The US analysts explained that they had received the latest satellite imagery of the Chinese construction site from a commercial firm. According to the high-quality photographs, steady progress has been made on the carrier’s construction throughout the year, with its main external components now nearly complete.

Two large openings in the deck were recently sealed shut, meaning engines had been inserted in the hull. The flight deck, designed to operate heavier aircraft than China’s older carriers, is already fitted with a control tower island, with radars and elevators expected to be added soon. Moreover, the Type 003 might be equipped with a new launch system, similar to the ones developed for the US Navy carriers, the report suggests.

The advanced aircraft carrier was commissioned by the government in late 2019, and is expected to enter service by 2024, according to the Pentagon’s estimates. In its 2021 annual report to Congress on China’s military developments, the US Department of Defense acknowledged Beijing’s growing capabilities, saying China’s navy “is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing its previous generations of platforms that had limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants.”

(Source: (RT) Russian NEWS Agency)

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China builds mockups of U.S. Navy ships in area used for missile target practice

By Yew Lun Tian (9-11-2021)

A satellite picture shows a weapons test range that incorporates a number of simulated U.S. Navy Carrier strike group vessels as targets, in the Taklamakan Desert, western China November 1, 2021.

BEIJING, Nov 8 (Reuters) – China’s military has built mockups in the shape of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and other U.S. warships, possibly as training targets, in the desert of Xinjiang, satellite images by Maxar showed on Sunday 7th Nov. 2021.

These mockups reflect China’s efforts to build up anti-carrier capabilities, specifically against the U.S. Navy, as tensions remain high with Washington over Taiwan and the South China Sea. The satellite images showed a full-scale outline of a U.S. carrier and at least two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers had been built at what appears to be a new target range complex in the Taklamakan Desert.

The images also showed a 6-meter-wide rail system with a ship-sized target mounted on it, which experts say could be used to simulate a moving vessel. The complex has been used for ballistic missile testing, the U.S. Naval Institute reported, quoting geospatial intelligence company All Source Analysis.

China’s anti-ship missile programs are overseen by the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF). China’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military, the PLARF conducted its first confirmed live-fire launch into the South China Sea in July 2020, firing six DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles into the waters north of the Spratly Islands, where China has territorial disputes with Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries.

The tests at sea may have shown China “they are still far from creating an accurate ASBM,” said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “I don’t think the desert targets are going to be the final stage. It’s meant for further refinement.”

An anti-ship ballistic missile test in the desert would not reflect the realistic conditions of a marine environment, which could affect sensors and targeting, but would allow China to carry out the tests more securely, Koh said.

“The best way to test it and keep it out of the prying eyes of the U.S. military and intelligence assets is to do it inland,” he said.

Neighbouring countries, concerned about the missiles hitting other ships around the target, might also object to China’s testing at sea, he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in July this year that the United States will defend the Philippines if it comes under attack in the South China Sea and warned China to cease its “provocative behaviour”.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Taiwan says China can blockade its key harbours, warns of ‘grave’ threat

By: Yimou Lee

TAIPEI, Nov 9 (Reuters) – China’s armed forces are capable of blockading Taiwan’s key harbours and airports, the island’s defence ministry said on Tuesday, offering its latest assessment of what it describes as a “grave” military threat posed by its giant neighbour.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring democratic Taiwan under its control and has been ramping up military activity around the island, including repeatedly flying war planes into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Taiwan’s defence ministry, in a report it issues every two years, said China had launched what it called “gray zone” warfare, citing 554 “intrusions” by Chinese war planes into its southwestern theatre of air defence identification zone between September last year and the end of August.

Military analysts say the tactic is aimed at subduing Taiwan through exhaustion, Reuters reported last year.

At the same time, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is aiming to complete the modernisation of its forces by 2035 to “obtain superiority in possible operations against Taiwan and viable capabilities to deny foreign forces, posing a grave challenge to our national security”, the Taiwan ministry said.

“At present, the PLA is capable of performing local joint blockade against our critical harbours, airports, and outbound flight routes, to cut off our air and sea lines of communication and impact the flow of our military supplies and logistic resources,” the ministry said.

In October, Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern theatre of the zone over a four-day period, marking a dramatic escalation of tension between Taipei and Beijing.

The recent increase in China’s military exercises in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone is part of what Taipei views as a carefully planned strategy of harassment.            (Source: Reuters)

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US blacklists Chinese firms for allegedly aiding Pakistan’s nuclear activities

Reuters | November 24, 2021

WASHINGTON: The US Commerce Department put a dozen Chinese companies on its trade blacklist citing national security concerns and in some cases their help with the Chinese military’s quantum computing efforts.

The department also said 16 entities and individuals from China and Pakistan were added to the blacklist for contributing to Pakistan’s nuclear activities or ballistic missile programme.

In total, 27 new entities were added to the list from China, Japan, Pakistan, and Singapore.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement that the move will help prevent US technology from supporting the development of Chinese and Russian “military advancement and activities of non-proliferation concern like Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear activities or ballistic missile program”.

The Commerce Department said Hangzhou Zhongke Microelectronics Co. Ltd., Hunan Goke Microelectronics, New H3C Semiconductor Technologies Co. Ltd., Xi’an Aerospace Huaxun Technology, and Yunchip Microelectronics were placed on the Commerce Department’s entity list for their “support of the military modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army”.

It also added Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at Microscale, QuantumCTek, and Shanghai QuantumCTeck Co. Ltd. to the list for “acquiring and attempting to acquire US-origin items in support of military applications”.

Suppliers to these companies will need to apply for a license before selling to them, which is likely to be denied.

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NATO expands reconnaissance activities near Russia’s border

(12/11/2021) The focus of US reconnaissance aircraft activities in the Black Sea region has shifted from Crimea to Russia’s southern Krasnodar Region and the North Caucasian coast. In the past 24 hours, several reconnaissance planes were detected above the Black Sea. There is no more doubt that the United States is exploring the region as a possible theater of war, said experts interviewed by Izvestia.

The US and NATO have conducted an aerial operation in the Black Sea region, sources in the Russian Defense Ministry told the newspaper. A refueling aircraft has been deployed to the region, which made it possible for planes to remain in the air almost the entire day. According to the sources, the operation also involved the Ukrainian Armed Forces as Ukraine’s Bayraktar drones were seen in the areas where NATO’s aircraft conducted their flights. The Russian Defense Ministry stated earlier that NATO countries had stepped up activities involving their naval forces, aerial and maritime reconnaissance means.

NATO is indeed expanding its activities in the region, Deputy Head of the Department of Management and Social Technologies at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Inna Vetrenko pointed out. “The number of NATO’s ships and planes keeps rising. Moreover, they have come really close to our border, as 30 kilometers is nothing. Russia won’t take hasty steps in such a situation because chances are that they are pressuring us to make mistakes. However, there will definitely be a well-conceived response,” she added.

The United States does view the Black Sea region as a future battlefield, military expert Vladislav Shurygin emphasized. “A strategy is being developed that will cover all possible options for military conflicts in the region,” he stressed. “This requires collecting as much intelligence as possible, determining the composition of the Russian group of forces and assessing it. This is what a US command ship and reconnaissance aircraft are engaged in. There are highly qualified specialists on board USS Mount Whitney who are processing the information they are getting,” the expert explained. NATO’s intelligence is interested not only in military facilities but also in crucial social, industrial and infrastructure ones, Shurygin said.

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Religious Freedom Designations (U.S. PRESS STATEMENT)

ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE | NOVEMBER 17, 2021

The United States will not waver in its commitment to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for all and in every country. In far too many places around the world, we continue to see governments harass, arrest, threaten, jail, and kill individuals simply for seeking to live their lives in accordance with their beliefs.  This Administration is committed to supporting every individual’s right to freedom of religion or belief, including by confronting and combating violators and abusers of this human right.

Each year the Secretary of State has the responsibility to identify governments and non-state actors, who, because of their religious freedom violations, merit designation under the International Religious Freedom Act. I am designating Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Eritrea, Iran, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” I am also placing Algeria, Comoros, Cuba, and Nicaragua on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”  Finally, I am designating al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as Entities of Particular Concern.

The challenges to religious freedom in the world today are structural, systemic, and deeply entrenched. They exist in every country.  They demand sustained global commitment from all who are unwilling to accept hatred, intolerance, and persecution as the status quo. They require the international community’s urgent attention.

We will continue to press all governments to remedy shortcomings in their laws and practices, and to promote accountability for those responsible for abuses. The United States remains committed to working with governments, civil society organizations, and members of religious communities to advance religious freedom around the world and address the plight of individuals and communities facing abuse, harassment, and discrimination on account of what they believe, or what they do not believe.

(Courtesy : U.S. Department of State)

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Russia and China sign a contract to build a joint heavy helicopter

By  Yegor Aleyev/TASS

MOSCOW, November 8. /TASS/. Russia and China have signed a contract stipulating the joint development of a heavy helicopter, Andrey Boginsky, head of the Russian Helicopters holding, said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“In 2016, during your visit to Beijing, an intergovernmental agreement was signed. Since 2008, intensive negotiations have been going on, and this year, on June 25, we signed a contract,” he said.

According to Boginsky, the Russian side will develop some elements, including the transmission, tail rotor and anti-icing systems. The helicopter will take about 13 years to build, he added.

About the project0

Under the 2016 intergovernmental agreement, the Russian Helicopters holding and the Chinese company Avicopter will jointly develop the advanced heavy helicopter AC332 AHL and launch its serial production in China to meet demand in the Chinese market.

Earlier, it was reported that China’s Avicopter will be the lead developer, while Russian Helicopters will design a number of key parts of the future helicopter.

The Chinese side will carry out the organization of the heavy helicopter program as a whole, including design, construction of prototypes, testing, certification, preparation and serial production, as well as the promotion of the helicopter to the market and overall coordination of work. The Russian holding, in turn, will provide technologies, as well as develop an engineering proposal and individual machine systems on a contract basis.

The maximum take-off weight of the helicopter will be 38.2 tonnes, the service ceiling will be 5,700 meters. The flight range will reach 630 km, the maximum speed – 300 km/h. The carrying capacity of the AHL when the cargo is located inside the fuselage will be 10 tonnes, and up to 15 tonnes when the cargo is placed as an external load.

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British Consul General in Saudi Arabia converts to Islam

British Consul General to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia has embraced Islam and changed his name to Seif Usher. Messages of appreciation and felicitation have been pouring in for the British Consul General on social media. Muslims are praying for him and wishing him good fortune.

By: News Desk | 11 November 2021

A picture of him standing in the courtyard of the Holy Prophet’s mosque in Madinah has been making rounds on social media. A few days ago, he also shared the same picture on his Twitter account. He said, “I am very happy to return to my favorite city  Medina  and perform the Fajr prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque.”

Messages of appreciation and felicitation have been pouring in for the British Consul General on social media. Muslims are praying for him and wishing him good fortune. He also expressed gratitude over receiving warm wishes on social media from fellow Muslim brothers. Social media celebrity Mutah Wassin Shabazz Beale, better known as Napoleon, broke the news on Twitter. Mutah is a former member of Tupac’s rap group Outlawz. Beale has since converted to Islam and is now a motivational speaker.

The first British ambassador to perform Hajj

He is not the only British diplomat to convert to Islam. Previously, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis also embraced Islam and even went on to pilgrimage in 2016.

“I have converted to Islam after being in Muslim societies for 30 years, and right before getting married to Huda,” Arab News had quoted him as saying.

He was pictured in a white robe while performing pilgrimage. He had been based in Saudi Arabia since 2015. Collis had served several Middle Eastern countries including Syria, Iraq, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and India as well.

He also became the first British ambassador to perform Hajj. Saudi Arabian writer and female activist Fawziah Albakr had first broken the news on social media. “First British ambassador to the Kingdom undertakes the Hajj following his conversion to Islam. Simon Collis with his wife Huda in Makkah. Praise be to Allah,” wrote Fawziah on Twitter.

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Russia launches new warplane in Dubai airshow as UAE waits for F35

By Reuters | 15 November 2021

The Checkmate, which is due to make its first test flight in 2023 and start production by 2026, has yet to seal an order. The Lockheed Martin F-35 entered service in 2015 with the US Marine Corps.

Russia presented a prototype of its new fifth-generation fighter jet at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday, the 14 November 2021, as the UAE’s agreement to purchase U.S. F -35 is progressing slowly.

It was the first time that the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate, unveiled in July, has been shown outside Russia, and according to the Russian state news agency, it was visited by a delegation from the UAE.

A glitzy English computer simulation video showed the lightweight tactical fighter, capable of carrying five air-to-air missiles simultaneously, destroying multiple targets at once.

The Russian presentation introduced the Checkmate, which was inspected by Vladimir Putin when it was unveiled in July, as an economical fighter that can fly at speeds of Mach 1.8 and a distance of 2,800 to 2,900 kilometers.

The Checkmate, which is due to make its first test flight in 2023 and start production by 2026, has yet to seal an order. The Lockheed Martin F-35 entered service in 2015 with the US Marine Corps.

Yury Slusar, head of United Aircraft Corp, which is part of the Russian aerospace and defense conglomerate Rostec, said there had been “intensive contact” with the Russian air force.

Western diplomats doubt that Gulf states allied with the United States will buy sophisticated equipment like the Checkmate, although sales of Russian equipment in the Gulf have increased in recent years.

The UAE signed a preliminary agreement in 2017 to purchase Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and work jointly with Russia on a next-generation fighter, but so far it does not appear to have progressed.

“The UAE likes the idea of cultivating ties with the Russian defense industry, but it’s mostly a way to send a message to the United States,” said Jean-Loup Samaan, senior researcher at the United States. Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore.

Washington’s sale of 50 F-35 Lighting II fighter jets to the UAE has slowed amid concerns over the UAE’s relationship with China, including the prevalence of Huawei 5G technology in the country.

The United States agreed to sell the plane after the United Arab Emirates established ties with Israel last year. (Source: Reuters)

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Russia, Turkey to jointly produce fifth gen fighter jet?

Turkey has maintained that it will choose arms sales partners regardless of outside pressure and in spite of its membership of the US-led NATO military bloc.

By RT : 15 November 2021

Moscow is ready to help NATO-member Turkey develop its newest fighter jet, a leading Russian defense official revealed, on Sunday. Ankara has previously indicated it was open to cooperating on the matter with friendly countries.

“Russia has repeatedly expressed readiness to assist Turkey [in the development of a fifth-generation fighter jet], but right now this project is in the negotiation phase,” the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), Dmitry Shugayev, told RIA Novosti.

Ismail Demir, the chairman of the Presidency of Defense Industries, a Turkish government agency, told the media in September that Ankara was looking to cooperate with friendly states on the design of such an aircraft.

The US expelled Turkey from its F-35 program in 2019, canceling the delivery of jets promised to Ankara after it rejected America’s demand to scrap the deal to purchase S-400 mobile air defense missile systems from Russia.

Turkey has maintained that it will choose arms sales partners regardless of outside pressure and in spite of its membership of the US-led NATO military bloc.

In 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed the fifth-generation multi-purpose Su-57 stealth fighter to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was touring an air show near Moscow.

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Russia starts delivery of S-400 missile systems to India

 By: Hemant Waje

(November 14, 2021) Russia’s Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugaev told Sputnik news that the deliveries are going as planned. FSMTC is the Russian government’s main defence export control organisation.

“The supplies of the S-400 air defence system to India have started and are proceeding on schedule,” he said.

In October 2018, India had signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems, despite a warning from the Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite United States sanctions.

India made the first tranche of payment of around USD 800 million to Russia for the missile systems in 2019.

The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system.

Following US sanctions on Turkey over the procurement of S-400 missile systems, there have been apprehensions that Washington may impose similar punitive measures on India.

Sources said after the first squadron is deployed, the Air Force would start focusing on the Eastern borders along with providing resources for training of personnel within the country. Indian Air Force officers and personnel have trained in Russia on the system.

The air defence system would give India an edge in South Asian skies as they would be able to take out enemy aircraft and cruise missiles from 400 km distance. The S-400 missile defence system is equipped with four different missiles which can engage enemy aircraft, ballistic missiles, and AWACS planes at 400 km, 250 km, the medium-range 120 km and the short-range 40 km.(Source: Press Trust of India)

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India’s Hindu hardliners attack Muslim ex-foreign minister’s home

Salman Khurshid’s home set on fire days after release of his book on Hindutva

(16 Nov 2021)  Hindu hardliners have attacked and set fire to the home of a former Indian foreign minister, police say, in the latest incident of religious violence that critics say has been inflamed under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Salman Khurshid, a Muslim from the main opposition Congress party, published a book last mont h in which he compared the kind of Hindu nationalism that has flourished under Modi to “extremist groups” such as ISIL (ISIS).

Police said a mob of about 20 people from a hardline local Hindu group massed outside Khurshid’s house near the northern city of Nainital.

“They shouted slogans, threw stones, broke several windows, ransacked [the entry] and set fire [to a door],” local police chief Jagdish Chandra told the AFP news agency.

The Times of India newspaper reported that the group had set fire to an effigy of Khurshid, fired shots and threatened the daughter-in-law of the caretaker with a gun. Khurshid, who served as foreign minister from 2012 to 2014, was away with his family at the time of the incident. He later posted images of the aftermath of the attack on social media.

“Shame is too ineffective a word,” Khurshid, 68, said on social media.

“I hoped to open these doors to my friends who have left this calling card. Am I still wrong to say this cannot be Hinduism?” he added.

Activists say that religious minorities in Hindu-majority India have faced increased levels of discrimination and violence since Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

In 2020, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom listed India as a “country of particular concern” for the first time since 2004. The listing continued in 2021.

Modi’s government rejects having a radical “Hindutva” (Hindu supremacist) agenda and insists that people of all religions have equal rights.SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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Over 300 Incidents of Christian Persecution Documented in India in 2021

10/22/2021 India (International Christian Concern)  A recently released report by human rights groups documented more than 300 incidents of Christian persecution in India in just the first nine months of 2021. If this trend continues, 2021 will likely surpass the highest number of Christian persecution incidents documented in a single year.

India has witnessed a significant rise in violence against Christians this year with 305 incidents recorded across 21 states during the past nine months. Surprisingly, official cognizance of the targeted violence was lax with only 30 complaints registered by police so far.

September had the highest number of incidents with 69, followed by 50 in August, 37 in January, 33 in July, 27 each in March, April and June, 20 in February and 15 in May.

These figures were published in a fact-finding report by the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) and United Against Hate and United Christian Forum (UCF) and released at a press conference in New Delhi on Oct. 21

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Uganda’s capital Kampala hit by deadly suicide bombings

(16 Nov 2021) At least three people have been killed and 33 others wounded in twin suicide bombings in Uganda’s capital Kampala, police said, the latest in a string of attacks over the past month.

The attacks took place within three minutes of each other and were carried out by three suicide bombers, police spokesman Fred Enanga told a news conference.

One of the explosions was on a street near the parliament building and the other near a police station. The explosion near parliament appeared to hit closer to a building housing an insurance company and the subsequent fire engulfed cars parked outside.

Earlier, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the attacks were carried out by “manipulated and confused” youths who were being hunted down by the security forces in the months since a failed assassination bid on a top government official.

“The terrorists invited us and we are coming for them,” he said on Twitter.

P.J Crowley, the former US Assistant Secretary of State, said ISIL must be regarded as a brand as much as a movement.

“The current state of the extremist movement is that rather than having a central caliphate, which has been defeated in Iraq and Syria, you now have an Islamic state brand that is acquired by local groups,” Crowley said.

“In this instance you have a local group with a grievance towards Uganda that is willing to fly the Islamic State flag.”

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Armenia and Azerbaijan’s new-old border Clashed

By Robin Forestier-Walker  :  19 Nov 2021

Both sides blame the other for starting the hostilities. Baku and Yerevan trade barbs as flare-up along shared border threatens fragile ceasefire agreement.

Since the early summer, the mobile phones of Armenian and Azerbaijani military combatants have provided partial but dramatic accounts of a new and evolving confrontation between the two countries.

Back in May, soldiers filmed themselves overrunning enemy outposts shouting in broken Russian at their opponents to leave, orchestrated with kicks to backsides, punches or volleys from assault rifles fired into the air.

In picturesque alpine meadows, platoons of Armenian and Azeri troops faced off, often just a few metres apart. It was a tinderbox that burst into flames on the afternoon of November 16.

While there is no independently verifiable information, military sources and local media reported a full-scale battle for several hours along a stretch of border between Azerbaijan and Armenia on or near Mount Ishkhanasar.

Both sides have reported casualties; Armenia said at least six soldiers were killed, while Azerbaijan announced the deaths of at least seven troops.

Nagorno-Karabakh region, a conflict that killed more than 6,500 people. (Source: Al Jazeera)

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Five dead, 40 wounded as car hits Wisconsin Christmas parade

SUV drives through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing five and injuring more than 40 people.

A car has ploughed through a Christmas parade in the US state of Wisconsin, killing five and injuring at least 40 people, according to the City of Waukesha.

The incident occurred at around 4:39pm (22:39 GMT) on Sunday 21th Noveber 2021, in Waukesha, about 32 kilometres (20 miles) west of Milwaukee.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly told reporters the city had “faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration.”

“I’m deeply saddened to know that so many in our community went to the parade but ended up dealing with injury and heartache,” Reilly said.

Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said a person of interest was in custody and the suspect vehicle had been recovered.

“A red SUV drove into our Christmas parade that we were holding downtown,” Thompson told reporters. Earlier, he had confirmed that more than 20 individuals had been injured but could not give estimates of the number of people killed.

“Some of the individuals were children and there are some fatalities as a result of this incident,” he said.

It was not known whether the incident was related to terrorism, but an earlier shelter-in-place order in the town of around 72,000 had been lifted, he added.

A video posted online showed a red SUV ploughing through the parade, appearing to run over more than a dozen people before crowds ran from sidewalks to offer assistance.

In a second video, police appeared to open fire on the vehicle as it crashed through street barriers.

The local CBS affiliate later showed a picture on Twitter of what appeared to be the red SUV involved with its hood crumpled and front fender hanging off, parked in a driveway.

Attorney General Josh Kaul, the state’s top law enforcement officer, said in a Tweet that what took place in Waukesha was “sickening.”

“I have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice,” he said.

Corey Montiho, a Waukesha school district board member, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his daughter’s dance team was hit by the SUV.

“They were pom-poms and shoes and spilled hot chocolate everywhere. I had to go from one crumpled body to the other to find my daughter,” he said. “My wife and two daughters were almost hit. Please pray for everybody. Please pray.”

Chris Germain, co-owner of the Aspire Dance Center studio, told The Associated Press news agency that he had about 70 girls in the parade ranging from as young as 2 being pulled in wagons to age 18.

Germain, whose own 3-year-old daughter was in the parade, said he was driving at the head of their entry when he saw a maroon SUV that “just blazed right past us”. A police officer came by on foot chasing after, he said. Germain said he jumped out of his own SUV and gathered the girls who were with him.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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Yemen war deaths will reach 377,000 by end of the year: UN

New UNDP report projects that the number of those killed as a result of Yemen’s war could reach 1.3 million by 2030.

23 Nov 2021

A new United Nations report has projected that the death toll from Yemen’s war will reach 377,000 by the end of 2021, including those killed as a result of indirect and direct causes.

In a report published on Tuesday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated that 70 percent of those killed would be children under the age of five.

It found that 60 percent of deaths would have been the result of indirect causes, such as hunger and preventable diseases, with the remainder a result of direct causes like front-line combat and air raids.

“In the case of Yemen, we believe that the number of people who have actually died as a consequence on conflict exceeds the numbers who died in battlefield,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since 2014, when the Houthi rebel movement seized much of the northern part of the country, including the capital, Sanaa, as the government fled. In March 2015, a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia intervened in the war with the aim of restoring the government.

The conflict has been deadlocked for years, with Yemen teetering at the brink of a famine, and tens of thousands of people killed. The situation in the country has been described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. At least 15.6 million people are living in extreme poverty.

The report projected grim outcomes in the near future should the conflict drag on.

It said some 1.3 million people would die by 2030, and that 70 percent of those deaths would be the result of indirect causes such as loss of livelihoods, rising food prices, and the deterioration of basic services such as health and education.

The report also found that the number of those experiencing malnutrition would surge to 9.2 million by 2030, and the number of people living in extreme poverty would reach 22 million, or 65 percent of the population.

Scenarios if war were to end now

The report also projected that extreme poverty could disappear in Yemen within a generation if the conflict were to end immediately.

Using statistical modelling to analyse future scenarios, the UNDP report said if peace were reached by January 2022, Yemenis could eradicate extreme poverty by 2047.

“The study presents a clear picture of what the future could look like with a lasting peace including new, sustainable opportunities for people,” said Steiner.

If the conflict ends, the report estimated economic growth of $450bn by 2050, in addition to halving malnutrition  currently affecting 4.9 million people  by 2025. Further projections showed that focused efforts on empowering women and girls across Yemen could lead to a 30 percent boost of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, coupled with a halving of maternal mortality by 2029.

However, the UNDP noted that the war “continues to propel in a downward spiral”.

“The people of Yemen are eager to move forward into a recovery of sustainable and inclusive development,” said Khalida Bouzar, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States. “UNDP stands ready to further strengthen our support to them on this journey to leave no one behind, so that the potential of Yemen and the region can be fully realised  and so that once peace is secured, it can be sustained.”

The report emphasises that the upward trend for development and wellbeing must be supported not just by peace efforts, but also by regional and international stakeholders to implement an inclusive and holistic people-centred recovery process that goes beyond infrastructure.

Investments focused on agriculture, women’s empowerment, capacity development, and effective and inclusive governance were projected to have the highest return on development.SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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The world nuclear club

While 32 countries generate atomic energy, nine have nuclear weapons and seven countries have both

By Mohammed Haddad and Hanna Duggal

 

With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference over, nations are making plans to move to green energy in a bid to tackle global warming. But nuclear energy is a particular sticking point. While it is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in OECD countries, some nations have spoken out against the categorisation of nuclear energy as climate-friendly. Across the globe, 34 countries harness the power of splitting atoms for generating electricity or for nuclear weapons.

Global nuclear energy

Nuclear energy provides roughly 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Of the 32 countries with nuclear power reactors, more than half (18) are in Europe. France has the world’s highest proportion of its electricity  at 71 percent  coming from atomic power. Up until 2011, Japan was generating some 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors; however, following the Fukushima disaster, all nuclear power plants were suspended for safety inspections.

As of 2020, just 5 percent of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association. Nuclear power constitutes some 20 percent of the United States’ electricity. About 60 percent of the country’s energy comes from fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas and petroleum, with the remaining 20 percent coming from renewable sources  wind, hydro and solar.

Nuclear warheads per country

Nine countries possessed roughly 13,150 warheads as of August 2021, according to the Federation of American Scientists. More than 90 percent are owned by Russia and the US. At the peak in 1986, the two rivals had nearly 65,000 nuclear warheads between them, making the nuclear arms race one of the most threatening events of the Cold War. While Russia and the US have dismantled thousands of warheads, several countries are thought to be increasing their stockpiles, most notably China.

According to the Pentagon’s 2021 annual report (pdf), China’s nuclear warhead stockpile is expected to more than triple and reach at least 1,000 by 2030. The only country to voluntarily relinquish nuclear weapons is South Africa. In 1989, the government halted its nuclear weapons programme and in 1990 began dismantling its six nuclear weapons. Two years later, South Africa joined the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as a non-nuclear country.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Established in 1968, the NPT aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The treaty bans signatories other than the US, Russia, China, UK, and France from acquiring nuclear weapons in return for allowing them to pursue peaceful nuclear programmes for power generation, overseen by the UN. As many as 190 nations are currently signed up for the treaty, with only India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan never being a party to it. North Korea signed the treaty in 1985 but withdrew from it in 2003. Three years later, under the leadership of Kim Jong Il, the country detonated its first nuclear weapon.

Source: Al Jazeera.

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