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Jumpei Yasuda: Captured Japanese Journalist Pleads For Help


The Japanese government said on Monday that it was doing all it could to secure the release of a Freelance journalist, Jumpei Yasuda, being held hostage by an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Reuters reported.

The statement from govt came after a photograph, apparently uploaded on internet, showed a man with long beard and dressed in orange suite holding a placard written in Japanese. “Please help me. This is my last chance,” said the sign, written in shaky characters and signed “Jumpei Yasuda.”

Jumpei Yasuda, a Japanese freelance journalist came to attention in March, when a video surfaced him reading message for his country and family. According to media reports, Yasuda was captured by a group called Nusra front in Syria.

While quoting Japan’s Chief Cabinet spokesman Yoshihide Suga, Reuters reported that the government was analyzing the new photo and believed it was Yasuda.

“Since preserving the safety of Japanese citizens is our most important duty, we are making use of a broad net of information and doing everything we can to respond,” Suga told a news conference.

Earlier in 2015, the Islamic State terrorists beheaded two Japanese nationals – a self-styled security consultant and a veteran war reporter Kejni Goto. The gruesome executions captured the attention of Japan but the government said at the time it would not negotiate with the militants for their release.

Meanwhile Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed source claiming to be a mediator for the Nusra Front reported that Yasuda would be passed to Islamic State if the government did not negotiate.

UK Grants Asylum To Maldives’ Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed


United Kingdom is reported to have granted political refugee status to former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, media reports quoting his lawyer.

A prominent human rights campaigner and Maldives’ first democratically elected President, 49-year-old Nasheed was allowed to go to Britain in January for a spinal cord surgery following a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India and the UK.

His lawyer Hasan Latheef claimed on Monday that Nasheed had been granted political refugee status, but the British government has not yet confirmed the reports.

“In the past year, freedom of the press, expression and assembly have all been lost. Given the slide towards authoritarianism in the Maldives myself and other opposition politicians feel we have no choice but to work from exile – for now,” Nasheed said in a statement confirming his exile.

Nasheed became Maldives’ first democratically elected leader in 2008, ending three decades of rule by former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and served for four years before he was toppled in what he called a coup backed by the military and police.

Nasheed was jailed for 13 years on terrorism charges after being accused of illegally ordering the arrest of a judge in a trial that put a spotlight on instability in the Maldives.

His arrest lead to the massive anti-govt protests in the island-nation and has been widely criticized by the United Nations and various foreign governments.

Twin Attacks Leave Three Cops Dead In Kashmir


Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahiden on Monday claim the responsibility of killing three Jammu and Kashmir Police personals in twins attacks in state’s summer Capital – Srinagar.

According to the reports,the first attack took place in Zadibal area of Srinagar city, where a cop and Assistant Sub-Inspector rank officer was killed.

Police have identifed the deceased personals as ASI Nazir Ahmad and Constable Bashir Ahmad.

Reports added that, the second attack came within a few hours at around noon in Tengpora locality of city outskirts.

An official said that one cop was critically injured in the attack who later succumbed to his injuries.

His identity was not immediately known.

Soon after the attacks, security was intensified in and around the city.
Reports said that police and paramilitary forces erected barricades at many places to nab the militants.

Meanwhile, National Conference working president and former CM Omar Abdullah Monday termed the killings of three policemen in Srinagar as “worrying”.

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Modi In Iran: 12 Agreements India Signed With Iran Including Chabahar Pact


India on Monday signed 12 agreements with Iran, including a historic pact to operate a strategic port in Chabahar, which will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and central Asia using a sea-land route.

Here are 12 Crucial Agreements India Signed With Iran:

  • India-Iran cultural Exchange Programme
  • Policy dialogue between two Governments and interaction between Thinks Tanks
  • Enhancing cooperation of training diplomats.
  • Cooperation in the field of science and Technology.
  • Institutional mechanism for cooperation to promote cultural exchange.
  • Bilateral contract on Chabahar port for port development and operations.Pact 1
  • MoU on current specific terms for Chabahar port project.
  • Confirmation statement for extending credit of INR 3000 crore for the import of steel rail and implementation of Chabahar port.
  • Framework of cooperation supporting and encouraging foreign trade and foreign investment.
  • MoU facilitating possibility of joint exploration, manufacturing aluminum steel.
  • MoU to provide requisite services for the construction of Chabahar-Zahedan railway line.
  • MoU for cooperation facilitating exchange of information and knowledge in the field of archival matters.Pact 2

EgyptAir Flight MS804 To Cairo ‘Disappears Mid-Air’


EgyptAir A320 aircraft flight number MS804 is missing since early morning after it lost contact with radar above the Mediterranean sea when it was flying from Paris to Cairo. According to the EgyptAir, the fight has 56 passenger and 10 crew members on-board.

UPDATES:

  • Flight MS804, en route from Paris to Cairo, has disappeared from radar mid-air.
  • EgyptAir says the plane’s emergency devices – possibly an emergency locator transmitter or beacon – sent a signal that was received at 4.26am local time, two hours after the last radar contact.
  • According to reports, The plane, an Airbus A320, left Paris at 11.09pm on Wednesday night.
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  • The airline said contact was lost around 16km/10 miles inside Egyptian airspace at 2.30am local time.
  • EgyptAir confirms that plane is carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members.

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    While revealing the nationalities of the passengers, The airline said the pane has 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, and one each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada on-board.

  • Search and rescue efforts are underway at the site where contact was lost, around 280km (175 miles) north of Egypt’s coast. Greece has joined the search and operation.
  • EgyptAir says the captain has 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 on the A320; the copilot has 2,766. The plane was manufactured in 2003.
  • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says “no theory can be ruled out” in investigating the disappearance.
  • There is no detail yet on possible reasons for the plane’s disappearance.
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CIA Tip-Off Led To Mandela’s Arrest In 1962: Report


Former late South African President Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962 after a tip-off from CIA agent to authorities in apartheid-era South Africa, thus beginning the leader’s 27 years behind bars, Sunday Times reported.

According to the newspaper, the comments were reportedly made by Donald Rickard, a former US vice-consul in Durban and CIA operative, to British film director John Irvin.

Irvin’s new film ” Mandela’s Gun “, about the months before the anti-apartheid icon’s arrest, is due to be screened at the Cannes film festival this week.

Mandela was eventually freed from prison in 1990 and went on to become South Africa’s president between 1994 and 1999 before dying in 2013 aged 95.

An article by James Sanders, who said he was asked by Irvin to investigate the issue, said the director travelled to the US earlier in 2016 and interviewed Rickard.

Rickard explained how Mandela was arrested as he travelled between Durban and Johannesburg but did not explain how he had learnt where he would be.

“I found out when he was coming down and how he was coming… that’s where I was involved and that’s where Mandela was caught,” Rickard was quoted as saying.

He added that Mandela was “completely under the control of the Soviet Union”.

“He could have incited a war in South Africa, the United States would have to get involved, grudgingly, and things could have gone to hell,” Rickard added.

However Zizi Kodwa, national spokesman of Mandela’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, called the revelation “a serious indictment” but said it was nothing new.

“It is still happening now — the CIA is still collaborating with those who want regime change.”

Rickard, who was reportedly employed by the CIA until 1978, died in March, two weeks after talking to Irvin.

Fire In The Valley


Tawqeer Hussain

If morning shows the day, then Mehbooba Mufti’s stint as the J&K chief minister seems riddled with unrest and obstacles

April 12. Handwara, north Kashmir. A group of young men raised the alarm as they saw a man in army fatigues entering a public toilet being used by a schoolgirl. As they rushed in to grab the intruder, he, reportedly, ran to the safety of a bunker. The news of the “controversial, yet proven” molestation bid spread like wildfire, after which hundreds of protesters stormed the streets of the restive town. Anti-army, anti-India slogans rent the air as stones were pelted at the forces. What happened next has multiple versions. One is that the men in uniform opened fire without warning, killing on the spot Iqbal Faroor Pir (21) and Nayeem Qadir Bhat (22), a budding cricketer who was reportedly chosen for a national-level training camp.

The Handwara deaths triggered protests in other parts of the Valley. And those resulted in two more deaths, including one in Kupwara. Matters worsened when a video of the minor girl went viral online. In the video, allegedly circulated by the army, the school-goer exonerated the soldiers of all accusations. She, instead, blamed the local youths for the ruckus. The army has since denied its role in the making and/or release of the video. But the damage was done already. Human rights groups joined the protests, demanding strict action against those who compromised the Handwara girl’s privacy and safety by releasing the video online. Reacting to the same, social activist FA Ganai says, “How can they release the video of victim, especially when she is minor… it might affect her future.”

In less than 24 hours, the Handwara incident became a major challenge for Mehbooba Mufti, the state’s first woman chief minister, who’d assumed office only a week ago.

As a member of the Opposition, Mufti had taken to the streets on innumerable occasions. Armed with the green PDP flag, she had been the face of many protests against civilian killings in Kashmir. But the roles have reversed now. Already under fire for the students-police clash at NIT Srinagar, following India’s exit from the World T20 tournament in March, Mufti’s first healing touch for Handwara was the removal of army bunkers. But that isn’t being considered relief enough from a politician who is known for being vocal against “erring” forces.

Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches law and human rights at Kashmir’s Central University, says the new chief minister has to walk the extra mile to deliver what others have failed to. “It is time for her to stand by what she promised and deliver what she has always demanded from others. It’s time she proves her pro-people stand.”

The Centre’s decision to send 36 companies of paramilitary forces to the Valley thwarts Mufti’s endeavour to send a stern message to the army. This is doubly embarrassing for a party that is in alliance with the BJP. “We are in constant touch with the Centre over the violation of Standard Operating Procedure by the armed forces in Handwara. We want assurance that such things won’t happen in future,” says a PDP leader on condition of anonymity.

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister and National Conference leader, criticised Mufti’s absence from the scene on the day Handwara went up in flames. Mufti was in Delhi that day to discuss the NIT fracas with the Union ministry. In his tweet, Abdullah accused Mufti of going on a “self-promoting tour of Delhi” while people under her rule fell to bullets fired “by security forces”.

While refusing to comment on whether Mufti has failed the state — she completed a month in office this week — Imran Nabi Dar, provincial spokesperson of NC, slams her for her absence on the day of the unrest. “Mehbooba should have returned the same day… and directed the army to restrain firing. But she didn’t and we lost two more lives the next day,” says Dar. The leader should have summoned the Unified Command — an umbrella body of security agencies in Kashmir headed by the CM — to a meeting and issued strict orders to the forces, he adds. “What happened in Handwara is unfortunate. It shouldn’t have happened, but let Mehbooba understand her responsibilities as a CM and behave like one,” says Dar.

Sans the guidance of her father and mentor, Mufti’s administrative skills have been called into question in the recent weeks. The political wedlock between her party and the BJP has brought her little solace as she grapples with the NIT and the Handwara crises. It’s not just her future as chief minister that depends on how she tides over this trouble but also that of her party, which is in an uneasy alliance with the BJP.

“The Handwara and the NIT issues have already left their mark on the Mehbooba government,” says Hussain, but if she tackles it well it could be a “turning point” in her career. “If Mehbooba succeeds in punishing security personnel for innocent killings, those criticising her today will shower praises on her,” he adds.

(This article was first published in Hindu Business Line on May 6, 2016 http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/know/mehbooba-mufti-fire-in-the-valley/article8561470.ece )

North Korea Expels BBC Journalist Over ‘Non-Objective’ Reporting


A BBC reporter in North Korea was detained and then expelled from the country over his reporting on the run-up to a rare ruling party congress, the British broadcaster said on Monday.

The reporter, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, was detained on Friday at Pyongyang airport as he was leaving the country with two other staff members- producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard, BBC said on its website.

The British broadcaster added that, “He was then questioned, alone for eight hours and later taken to airport”.

The three-person BBC team was in North Korea ahead of the Workers Party Congress that began Friday, accompanying a delegation of Nobel prize laureates conducting a research trip.

Meanwhile China’s official Xinhua news with bureau in Pyongyang reported that North Korea’s National Peace Committee had held a press conference on Monday stating Wingfield-Hayes had been expelled for “attacking the DPRK system and non-objective reporting.” The DPRK is North Korea’s official acronym.

 

Obama Opens Up About Raid That Killed Osama Bin Laden


Minutes into the famous operation to hunt down Al Qaeda Chief Osama Bin Laden, one of the Helicopter hit the ground.

Watching live from the famous situation room inside the White House, US President Barack Obama thought “This is not the ideal start,” he told CNN five years after the famous operation which led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011.

“We were all worried,” he said. “The good news was it didn’t crash. Our guys were able to extract themselves. The bad news was that the helicopter itself had been damaged,” Obama added.

The US navy SEALS carried on with their mission undeterred, knocking off opposition floor by floor, till they found bin Laden, who spotted them first and tried to take cover.

This was Obama’s first such interview discussing the surgical operation, which was carried out on Pakistani soil without reportedly informing them.

The president said he wanted to carry out the raid earlier than they actually did eventually, as he wanted members of his team of to weigh in, speak their mind, for or against it.

Retried admiral William McRaven, who headed the special operations forces then, was very impressed with the way the president and his team went about the deliberations.

“Regardless of what your politics are, you would have been incredibly proud of how the President and his national security team handled this very, very difficult and ambiguous situation,” he said on the same CNN programme on the fifth anniversary of the raid.

Then within sometime bin Laden was dead and was positively verified by ground intelligence officers.

 

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