News In Brief International

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Indian court orders life in jail for top Kashmiri separatist Yasin Malik

By Suchitra Mohanty and Fayaz Bukhari

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday (May 25) ordered life in jail for Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik for funding “terrorist” activities and other charges, a judge said, prompting street protests outside the politician’s residence. Special Judge (NIA) court Parveen Singh noted, “The crime becomes more serious as it was committed with the assistance of foreign powers and designated terrorists.  The seriousness is further increased by the fact that it was committed behind the smokescreen of an alleged peaceful political movement.” The court pronounced separate sentences, besides a fine of over Rs 10 lakh, for various offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code. All the sentences were ordered to be run concurrently. The court said it is high time that it is recognised that terror funding is one of the gravest offences and has to be punished more severely.  The court had earlier on May 19 convicted him in the case after he had on May 10 pleaded guilty of the charges. The court had twice given him the opportunity to re-think his decision to admit the grave charges. Malik would now have an option to challenge his sentence only in appeal before the Delhi High Court. The case has triggered strong reactions from neighbouring Pakistan. Malik’s Pakistan origin wife, Mushaal Hussein Mullick tweeted, “BJP wants to punish my husband to increase Modi’s Hindutva fascist vote bank…India must end these war crimes and  politics and hatred and intolerance.” During the arguments on the quantum of the sentence, the National Investigation Agency sought the death penalty against Malik. For his part, Malik claimed he has followed the principles of Mahatma Gandhi since 1994 since he laid down the arms. With regard to demand for the death penalty, he said he would not beg for anything and the case is before the court to decide. “I have worked with seven Prime Ministers of the country and I have a legacy,” he said.

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Palestinian lives at risk if EU continues to withhold aid: NRC

By Al Jazeera Staff | 24 May 2022

A humanitarian organisation has warned that the European Union’s continued delay in distributing aid to vital sectors in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip is putting Palestinian lives at risk, with dire consequences for patients needing treatment at occupied East Jerusalem hospitals. Since 2021, the EU has withheld a large proportion of its funding to the Palestinians  nearly $230m  under the pretext that Palestinian school textbooks need to undergo revisions and changes. But, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the suspension of aid is paralysing critical sectors and impeding services, including healthcare in occupied East Jerusalem, where hospitals provide life-saving treatments to Palestinians from across the territories. “These restrictions punish terminally ill patients who cannot get life-saving medicine and force children to go hungry when parents cannot afford to buy food. Palestinians are paying the cruellest price for political decisions made in Brussels,” said Jan Egeland, the NRC’s secretary-general. The rights group, which helps displaced people, said that at least 500 cancer patients, diagnosed since September 2021, have been unable to access adequate, life-saving treatments at Augusta Victoria Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem. This has led to avoidable deaths, according to the Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of churches, which operates the hospital. Patients already under the care of the hospital have endured significant delays in critical treatment, the group said in a statement. The EU’s decision to withhold the badly needed aid has also had dire consequences on the cash support needed for Palestinian livelihoods. Since November 2021, the group said, as many as 120,000 people, most of them in Gaza, have not received financial support, while Palestinian Authority (PA) employees have had their salaries cut by 20 percent. “We do not ask to live like the rest of humanity, just a quarter of the life they live would suffice, no more,” said Muhammad, a 74-year-old man from Gaza whose sole source of income is assistance from the Ministry of Social Development, which in turn relies on EU aid. For close to two years, he has not received any cash aid, which is badly needed to support his disabled wife and to be able to afford adequate housing. Al Jazeera has reached out to the EU for comment. The Gaza Strip has been battered by years of Israeli siege and bombardment, which has pushed much of the population below the poverty line and rendered 63 percent of its population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. Some 2.1 million Palestinians, out of 5.3 million, need humanitarian assistance, according to ECHO, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. The EU is the largest donor to the PA with some $1.4bn spent under the European Union Joint Strategy 2017-2020, and some $886m in humanitarian assistance since 2000. Fifteen EU member states have signed a letter to the European Commission criticising the delay in providing the funds, and have called for their immediate release.(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA)

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Mass Shootings in the United States May-2022

By: Christine Hauser

May 13: Milwaukee

At least 16 people were wounded by gunfire in a shooting in downtown Milwaukee, in a popular nightlife area blocks from the arena where an N.B.A. playoff game ended hours earlier, the authorities said.

May 14: Buffalo

A memorial to the victims of the mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times A gunman armed with an assault-style weapon killed 10 people and wounded three others at a Tops supermarket in a predominantly Black section of Buffalo, the authorities said. The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, 18, is white, and the 10 people who died were all Black. Before the attack, Mr. Gendron had posted a nearly 200-page racist screed online. He has pleaded not guilty. He faces life in prison if convicted.

May 15: Laguna Woods, Calif.

A gunman killed one person and critically wounded four other members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif. The congregation, which holds services at the Geneva Presbyterian Church, overpowered the gunman and hogtied him, preventing further bloodshed, the authorities said. The suspect, David Chou, 68, is a Las Vegas man with a wife and child in Taiwan who had traveled to Orange County with a grievance against Taiwanese people, the authorities said. He was charged with murder and five counts of attempted murder in what the Orange County sheriff, Don Barnes, called a “politically motivated hate incident.”

May 24: Uvalde, Texas

A gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio. Law enforcement officers fatally shot the gunman, identified as Salvador Ramos, 18, but not until well over an hour after he walked into the school, raising questions about whether lives could have been saved if they had acted sooner. The U.S. Justice Department has said that it would review the law enforcement response.

June 1: Tulsa, Okla.

Several people were shot and five were killed at a medical building next to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Okla., the Tulsa police said. The police said the gunman was believed to have killed himself. The group recorded 693 mass shootings last year, with 28 involving four or more fatalities.

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Canada protests after aircraft ‘buzzed’ by Chinese jets

Chinese Fighter Jets are frequently Buzzing Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora

 taking part in Operation NEON

By RFA Staff | 02 June 2022

China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter jets have repeatedly “buzzed” a Canadian reconnaissance aircraft on a U.N. mission in East Asia, with over two dozen intercepts deemed dangerous, a media outlet in Canada reported. “Buzzing” means flying extremely close and fast. On these occasions the Chinese jets came as close as 20 to 100 feet (six to 30 meters) to the Canadian plane, according to a report Wednesday in Canada’s Global News. The network quoted anonymous sources in the Canadian government and military as saying the government lodged “multiple” diplomatic complaints with Beijing for what they called the “unsafe and unprofessional conduct” of the Chinese pilots. The Canadian maritime patrol aircraft CP-140 Aurora, manned by rotating crews, is currently taking part in U.N. Operation NEON to monitor sanctions against North Korea. A spokesperson for the Canadian Department of National Defence was quoted as saying that the incidents are “of concern and of increasing frequency.”   There have been around 60 such incidents since December with the planes sometimes coming so close the pilots could make eye contact with each other, risking a mid-air collision, the report said. The Chinese government is believed not to have responded to Canada’s complaints, the report said. The Aurora is “Canada’s primary airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft,” according to the Canadian government website. It “provides a full range of maritime, littoral and overland surveillance capabilities for domestic and deployed missions.” It is unclear which type of Chinese aircraft were involved in the “buzzing” incidents.

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Someone in cockpit’ behind China Eastern plane crash: Report

Boeing 737-800 plunged inexplicably from its cruising altitude into the ground in March, killing all 132 people on board.

(18 May 2022) US investigators believe someone in the cockpit deliberately crashed a China Eastern flight that suddenly plunged to the ground in southern China in March, the Wall Street Journal has reported. The Boeing 737-800 was on its way from Kunming to Guangzhou on March 21 when it dropped from its cruising altitude of 29,000 feet into a mountainside, killing all 132 people on board. It was mainland China’s worst aviation disaster in nearly 30 years. The flight data recorders recovered from the crash site were sent to the United States for analysis and show that someone  possibly a pilot or someone who had forced their way into the cockpit  input orders to send the aircraft into a nosedive. “The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit,” a person familiar with the preliminary assessment by experts on the US National Transportation Safety Board told the Journal. The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities have said. One source told the Reuters news agency that investigators were looking at whether the crash was a “voluntary” act. Screenshots of the Wall Street Journal story appeared to have been censored on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, and messaging app Wechat on Wednesday morning. Rescue workers stand in a silent tribute to the passengers and crew who died when China Eastern flight MU5735 suddenly plunged to the ground in March [File: cnsphoto via Reuters] The Civil Aviation Administration of China said on April 11, in response to internet rumours of a deliberate crash, that the speculation had “gravely misled the public” and “interfered with the accident investigation work”. Boeing and the NTSB declined to comment to news agencies and referred queries to Chinese regulators. China Eastern did not immediately respond to requests for comment. According to a report from Boeing, investigators found no evidence of “anything abnormal,” China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said in April. In a statement, the CAAC said staff had met safety requirements before takeoff, the plane was not carrying dangerous goods and did not appear to have run into bad weather, although the agency said a full investigation could take two or more years.

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US withdrawal prompted collapse of Afghan army: Report

(18 May 2022)  The withdrawal of US forces and military contractors last year has been touted as “the single most important factor” in triggering the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), according to an interim report by the United States government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction. Washington has spent nearly $90bn on the Afghan army since 2002 in its efforts to fight the Taliban armed rebellion. The Taliban regime was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) points to decisions made by former US President Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden as having precipitated the collapse of the Afghan army in August 2021 and the subsequent Taliban takeover. The US-Taliban agreement signed by the Trump administration in February 2020, by which Washington agreed to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan, “set in motion a series of events crucial to understanding the ANDSF’s collapse”, the report said. “Many Afghans thought the US-Taliban agreement was an act of bad faith and a signal that the US was handing over Afghanistan to the enemy as it rushed to exit the country,” SIGAR concluded. By August 15, 2021, when the Taliban reached the gates of the capital Kabul, six of the seven corps of the Afghan army had surrendered or dissolved. “These US decisions had the additional impact of providing fuel for the Taliban propaganda machine. For ANDSF forces already physically isolated, facing supply shortages, and weathering aggressive Taliban propaganda efforts aimed at demoralising them, paranoia … exacerbated an already challenging environment,” SIGAR found.(SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES)

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Indian officials meet Taliban in Kabul in first visit since US exit

(Thu. 02 June, 2022) A team of Indian officials met the acting Taliban foreign minister of Afghanistan on Thursday to discuss bilateral ties and humanitarian aid, the Taliban said, in what was the first such visit to Kabul since the chaotic US withdrawal last year. The Taliban administration’s acting foreign minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, met with an Indian foreign ministry delegation led by senior official J.P. Singh.“The meeting focused on India-Afghan diplomatic relations, bilateral trade and humanitarian aid,” Taliban foreign ministry spokesman, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, said on Twitter. Balkhi said the minister called the visit a “good beginning in ties between the two countries”. Asked if New Delhi now officially recognized the Taliban administration, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters they were “reading far too much into the visit”. India has donated about 20,000 tonnes of wheat, 13 tonnes of medicines, 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine, and items of winter clothing, with more medicine and food grains on the way, it said. India pulled its officials out of Afghanistan last August and closed its embassy, although it is keen to retain ties with the country. Bagchi declined to say when the embassy might be reopened, except to say that local staff had continued to function and ensure proper maintenance and upkeep of its premises there. (Source: Reuters)

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Iraq balks at greater Chinese control of its oilfields

By Sarah Mcfarlane  and Aref Mohammed

LONDON/BASRA, May 17 (Reuters) – Iraq’s oil ministry thwarted three prospective deals last year that would have handed Chinese firms more control over its oilfields and led to an exodus of international oil majors that Baghdad wants to invest in its creaking economy.Since the start of 2021, plans by Russia’s Lukoil (LKOH.MM) and U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) to sell stakes in major fields to Chinese state-backed firms have hit the buffers after interventions from Iraq’s oil ministry, according to Iraqi oil officials and industry executives. Selling a stake to a state-run Chinese company was also one of several options being considered by Britain’s BP (BP.L), but officials persuaded it to stay in Iraq for now, people familiar with the matter said. China is Iraq’s top investor and Baghdad was the biggest beneficiary last year of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, receiving $10.5 billion in financing for infrastructure projects including a power plant and an airport. But when it comes to further Chinese investment in major oilfields, Baghdad has drawn a line in the sand. Iraq’s government and officials at state-run firms are concerned that further consolidation of fields in the hands of Chinese companies could accelerate an exodus of Western oil companies, a total of seven Iraqi oil officials and executives with companies operating in Iraq told Reuters in interviews. Supported by state-run oil company officials, Iraq’s Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar dissuaded Lukoil last year from selling a stake in one of the country’s largest fields, West Qurna 2, to Chinese state firm Sinopec , three people familiar with the matter said. China’s strengthening relationship with Iran has helped its position in Iraq due to Tehran’s political and military influence there, but the oil ministry is wary of ceding more control over the country’s key resources, some officials said.

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G7 warns Russia-Ukraine war stoking global food crisis

(14 May 2022) The Group of Seven leading economies have warned that the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and urgent measures are needed to unblock stores of grain that Russia is preventing from leaving Ukraine. German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G7 diplomats, said on Saturday the war had become a “global crisis”. Baerbock said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, would face hunger in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a sizeable share of the worldwide supply. In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, the G7 pledged to provide further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.(SOURCE: AP)

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Saudi oil giant Aramco’s first-quarter profits surge 80 percent

(15 May 2022) Oil giant Saudi Aramco said its profits soared more than 80 percent in the first three months of the year as the state-backed company cashes in on the volatility in global energy markets and soaring oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The bumper first-quarter earnings by the firm formally known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co show a record net income of $39.5bn, up from $21.7bn during the same period last year. The surge was “primarily driven by higher crude oil prices and volumes sold, and improved downstream margins”, Saudi Aramco said in a press release. “Energy security is vital and we are investing for the long term, expanding our oil and gas production capacity to meet anticipated demand growth,” said Aramco Chief Executive Amin Nasser.

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