Chennai, Jan 23 (IANS) Videos and speeches of Sri Lankan Islamic State leader Zahran Hashim were used by 'jihadi' gang 'Shahadat is our Goal' to radicalise youths in Tamil Nadu during 2017-2018 calling for violent jihad to liberate their associates lodged in prisons.
Various social media groups, especially on WhatsApp, were created by the gang which later started disseminating materials advocating violent jihad in the region. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) revealed these facts in its charge sheet filed against 10 arrested members of the gang in a special court in Chennai on Saturday.
Sri Lankan cleric Moulvi Hashim was the alleged mastermind behind the bomb attacks that hit the country's capital Colombo as well as the towns of Negombo and Batticaloa on Easter Sunday in 2019. Over 250 people, including 45 children and 40 foreign nationals, were killed in the deadly explosions.
Sheik Dawood, 33, Mohamed Rifas,37, Muparish Ahamed, 23, Abubakar Siddiq, 24, Ahamed Imithiyas, 31, Mohamed Rashid, 25, Hameed Asfar, 23, Liyakath Ali, 30, Sajith Ahamed, 23, and Rizwan Mohammed, 26 - all from different districts in Tamil Nadu - are the 10 arrested accused against whom the NIA framed charges under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act and Arms Act.
The case was originally registered on April 2, 2018 at Keelakarai Police Station in Ramnathapuram district of Tamil Nadu after the arrest of Mohamed Rifas, Muparish Ahamed and Abupakkar Sithik from Keelakarai. Lethal weapons including swords along with pamphlets pertaining to the terrorist gang 'Shahadat is our Goal' were seized from their possession and the NIA re-registered the case on January 10, 2019.
Investigation in the case has established that the charge-sheeted accused persons were radicalised by violent jihadi ideology, said the NIA.
"Prime accused Sheik Dawood and Mohamed Rifas had conspired with co-accused and organised meetings at various places in Tamil Nadu, since Ramadan, 2017, with the intention of radicalising and recruiting the co-accused and others for 'shahadat' (martyrdom) to establish Islamic rule in India," NIA said.
"The accused had created various social media groups, especially on WhatsApp and were disseminating materials advocating violent jihad, including the videos and speeches of the Sri Lankan ISIS leader Zahran Hashim."
The accused had also prepared pamphlets titled "Shahadat is our Goal" calling for violent jihad to liberate their associates lodged in prisons, said the anti-terror agency, adding Sheik Dawood and Mohammed Rifas had also attempted to carry out terrorist acts by procuring illegal firearms in order to liberate their jailed associates.
Washington, Jan 23 (IANS) US President Joe Biden has signed two executive orders, one to expand food assistance to low-income Americans, and the other to raise minimum wage to $15 for federal employees.
"We need to tackle the growing hunger crisis in American," Xinhua news agency quoted Biden as saying before signing the orders on Friday.
He noted that one in seven households in America, more than one in five Black and Latino households in America, report they do not have enough food to eat.
That includes 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children, the President continued.
With the signing of one of the executive orders, the Department of Agriculture will consider taking immediate steps to make it easier for the hardest hit families to enrol and claim more generous benefits in the critical food and nutrition assistance areas, he said.
The order would also increase Pandemic-EBT, an electronic debit card program for students who would have qualified for free or reduced-price meals at school.
The second order Biden signed is to improve collecting bargaining power and protections for federal workers, and direct the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to increase the minimum wage for federal employees to $15 per hour.
Biden also highlighted the need for the Congress to roll out more sweeping aid, saying that the $1.9 trillion 'American Rescue Plan' he proposed last week has gained support from bipartisan economists and Wall Street analysts.
The package includes over $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly such as more funding for testing and vaccine distribution; roughly $1 trillion in direct relief to households; and over $400 billion for hard-hit small businesses and communities.
"We cannot, will not let people go hungry. We cannot let people get evicted because of nothing they did themselves. We cannot watch people lose their jobs. We have to act," Biden said.
"We must act decisively and boldly to grow the economy. The bottom line is this: we're in a national emergency. We've got to act like we're in a national emergency," he added.
Lucknow, Jan 24 (IANS) Combat aircraft, including the top-of-the-line Rafale or Sukhoi, will soon be able to land and take off from an airstrip being developed on the 340-km long Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh.
The government is developing a stretch of 3.2 kilometres near Sultanpur district on the Expressway where combat aircraft can land and take off. "The stretch is being developed in such a manner that any combat aircraft can land and take off. It is part of the Expressway and we are in regular talks with the Indian Air Force," Awanish Kumar Awasthi, Additional Chief Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh government, told IANS.
Awasthi, the 1987-batch officer, is looking after expressway projects in the state. The officer said that 85 per cent of the total work of the Purvanchal Expressway has been completed and he is hopeful that by March it will be completed fully.
In 2017, 16 Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft had performed landings and touch-and-go manoeuvres on a stretch of the Lucknow-Agra Expressway. Back then, the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft had landed with Special Forces commandos as part of the drill.
The Centre has taken an initiative to develop roads and highways in a manner that permits combat aircraft to land and take off in times of crisis. The Indian military has for long flagged the threat of war fro two fronts. With the disputed border with China and Pakistan active at the same point of time, the armed forces are stretched to the maximum. The government is pushing for development of infrastructure for armed forces.
The Indian Air Force, Border Road Organization, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and state governments are working together to ensure that the quality of road or expressway permits its usage for landing and takeoff of IAF aircraft.
Earlier, the Prime Minister's Office had also issued directives in this regard, after which all the stakeholders had started working in sync.
The road construction agencies have been aligning and realigning the roads and highways design in consultation with the IAF to ensure that combat jets can use this infrastructure as and when required.
New York, Jan 23 (IANS) The second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump will begin in the second week of February, although the process for it will start next week when the document with the charges will be received by the Senate and the Senators will be sworn in as jurors.
Senate Democratic Party Leader Chuck Schumer announced the schedule on Friday night after he reached a deal with the Republicans, who wanted a two-week delay in starting the trial to give Trump to prepare his defence.
He said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deliver the Articles of Impeachment, as the chargesheet voted by the House of Representatives is known, to the Senate on Monday and the Senators will be sworn-in as jurors the next day, but the trial itself will not start till two weeks later.
"Make no mistake, a trial will be held in the US Senate, and there will be a vote whether to convict the President," Schumer said
Impeachment is the framing of charges against an official by the House, which then holds a judicial-style trial with senators as the jury. Two-thirds of them, 67 members in the 100-member Senate, will have to vote to convict.
Last year the Senate could not convict him at his first impeachment.
Trump has been accused of inciting an "insurrection" -- the January 6 storming of the Capitol building while Congress was in the middle of counting the electoral college votes from the November 3, 2020, election and ratifying the election of Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice President.
The delay in starting the trial also helps Biden, who wants his cabinet and other senior officials confirmed by the Senate and move forward his agenda to deal with the Covid-19 crisis and its economic fallout.
"The more time we have to get up and running to meet these crises, the better," he said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who made the deal for the delayed start of the trial, said that the impeachment was carried out in a "fast and minimal process" in the House.
"The sequel cannot be an insufficient senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself."
By agreeing to the delay, Schumer has undercut this argument and short-circuited an excuse that some Republicans may want to use.
The Senate is divided equally with each party having 50 members and the Democrats will have to get 17 Republicans to defect on the issue to get the two-thirds majority to convict Trump. McConnell and some Republicans have blamed Trump for the riot which left five people dead, including a police officer.
McConnell said in the Senate on Tuesday that "they were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence" to stop a function of the Congress. But he has not indicated how he would vote on the impeachment.
There have also been questions whether a president who is out of office could be impeached.
Schumer said: "I've heard some of my Republican colleagues argue that his trial would be unconstitutional because Donald Trump is no longer in office. The argument has been roundly repudiated debunked by hundreds of constitutional scholars, left, right and centre, and defies basic common sense.
"It makes no sense whatsoever that a predator could commit a heinous crime against our country, and then be permitted to resign, so as to avoid accountability and a vote to disbar them from future office." Trump's famous last words before boarding the Air Force One for the final flight to Florida was, "we will be back in some form". The aim of the impeachment would be to block Trump from running for office again.
New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) Indians are willing to risk worsening ties with China on the issue of human rights in Tibet, as per the findings of the IANS C-Voter Tibet Poll. This is the most significant finding of this survey. Almost two-third of Indians want to support the issue of Tibet even at the cost of worsening relationship with China. The brand equity of China has taken a beating over last one year and majority of Indians have further become anti-China in their perceptions.
Ironically, the state of human rights in Tibet is not that well formulated among the respondents, as per the survey. Hence, people are unaware of something but want the Indian government to take a strident stand over it. The very fact that majority of the Indians said they do not know anything about the human rights violations by China in Tibet should be a cause of concern, as per the survey.
Other surveys reflected that majority of them knew about the human rights violations of Muslims in the Uyghur region in China and Hong Kong in general, indicating much better media coverage of the issue and international information campaigns. But it is ironical to see that the world is not finding the cause of Tibet important enough to be mentioned along with Uyghur or Hong Kong.
There is better than merited opinion of international human rights bodies. In sharp contrast to meddling in Kashmir, most organisations are silent on Tibet. Every third Indian feels they are not doing enough on this front, as per the survey.
Two-third of respondents acknowledged the Dalai Lama as an important cultural and spiritual influencer of modern India. In fact, the qualitative response from the samples suggests that a huge number of them consider the Dalai Lama as an Indian spiritual leader, and not as a foreigner.
On one hand, this could be considered a great achievement of assimilation, but on the other hand it also tells that not being aggressive on the China front has diluted the Tibetan brand identity of the Dalai Lama.
Therefore, a similar number support the conferment of highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on the Dalai Lama. This emotion is just an extension of the emotions expressed by the respondents in previous questions. The survey included a sample size of 3,000 people spread across the country.
US President Joe Biden has planned to keep Christopher Wray, appointed by his predecessor in 2017 as the FBI Director, in the same position, allowing him to continue serving out his 10-year term.
Wray was nominated by Trump in June 2017 to succeed James Comey who was abruptly fired amid the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) probe into the the former President's campaign's link with Russia, Xinhua news agency reported.
While she was queried at her first White House briefing on Wednesday about Wray's position, Biden's Press Secretary Jen Psaki did not give a direct response, adding that she had not spoken with the the President about it "in recent days", The Hill news website reported.
But in a tweet on Thursday, she said: "I caused an unintentional ripple yesterday so wanted to state very clearly President Biden intends to keep FBI Director Wray on in his role and he has confidence in the job he is doing."
The FBI director is appointed to a 10-year term, but does not necessarily serve the full term and can be fired by the President or choose to resign.
It was not immediately knows if Wray and Biden has spoken since the latter was inaugurated on Wednesday as the new President.
The Hill news report quoted an FBI official as sayingthat all interactions between the Bureau and Biden's team have been "very positive".
Biden's decision on Wray was welcomed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who commended the FBI Director for serving with "great professionalism and integrity".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she wants to speak to the administration of new US President Joe Biden about the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project that faces American sanctions.
At a press conference on Thursday, Merkel said that some transatlantic dispute, among them the Nord Stream 2 project, are still to be settled with the new US administration, Xinhua news agency.
She said that Germany and the US should "put everything on the table" and clarify the extent to which Washington can accept the project.
Such debates, she said, would now take place "on a broader foundation of shared convictions".
There is "just a broader space for political agreement with President Biden", the Chancellor added.
Washington and Berlin have long been at odds over the 1,230-km Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is designed to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea.
Former President Donald Trump has long voiced his discontentment about the project, complaining about Germany's large payment to Russia on energy and "delinquency" on military spending.
German government and officials have repeatedly condemned the US sanctions and Washington's extraterritorial administration.
At Thursday's presser, Merkel also welcomed the decrees that Biden had signed immediately after taking office and that it was once again possible to work together with the US at the World Health Organization (WHO) and on the Paris Agreement on climate change.
She said that "we can't now just count on political agreement" with Biden's administration, as there will also be discussions about "how we do things well for both countries".
"Europe will have to take on more responsibility... Not only militarily but also in the diplomatic arena and many other areas. We in Germany are ready for this and the European Union is also ready for this."
On Wednesday, Merkel congratulated Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration through government spokesman Steffen Seibert via Twitter.
"I look forward to a new chapter of German-American friendship and cooperation," she said.
Incarcerated RJD President Lalu Prasad will undergo a CT scan on Friday to ascertain his exact health condition even as a senior officer said he was "stable and recovering".
An official at the Hotwar jail in Ranchi said that the former Bihar Chief Minister's health had caused concern after he complained of uneasiness in breathing on Thursday evening. Subsequently, a team of doctors from Ranchi's Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences examined the RJD leader.
Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta also rushed to the RIMS and met with the doctors treating the veteran politician.
Jharkhand Inspector General of Police (Jails) Birendra Bhushon said that Lalu Prasad's health had deteriorated on Thursday but was now "recovering and stable".
Earlier, Lalu Prasad also underwent a Covid test and was found negative.
Lalu Prasad is suffering from kidney ailment, besides diabetes and high blood pressure. The RIMS doctors have diagnosed that his kidneys are damaged to the extent of 75 per cent. Doctors could go for a dialysis if his kidneys' functioning deteriorated further.
New York, Jan 22 (IANS) President Joe Biden's Defence Secretary-nominee Lloyd Austin has said that Pakistan's actions against anti-Indian terrorist groups are "incomplete" and that he will press Islamabad to stop giving them sanctuary.
In written replies to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said, "If confirmed, I will press Pakistan to prevent its territory from being used as a sanctuary for militants and violent extremist organizations."
Austin who needs the US Senate confirmation to be the defence secretary, provided written answers to questions from the Committee ahead of its hearings held earlier this week.
Both the Senate and the House of Representative voted on Thursday to give him a waiver from a US law that prohibits retired military officials from becoming defence secretaries for seven years after their retirement. Austin retired only in 2016.
One of the Committee questions asked if there were changes in Islamabad's cooperation with Washington since it withheld security assistance in 2018. He wrote, "Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), although this progress is incomplete.
But he said, "Many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan's cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack."
Austin may be implying that the aftermath of the Pulwama attack in February 2019 had an influence on Pakistan. At least 40 Indian security personnel were killed in the Pulwama terrorist attack in February 2019. Tensions escalated between the neighbours when Indian Air Force jets bombed a camp in Balakot run by JeM, which claimed it was behind the attack. An Indian MiG-21 aircraft was shot down by Pakistan and its pilot was captured and released.
The JeM attack in India was condemned by the US and several countries as well as the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Asked what "tools and options" the US had to stop Pakistan giving sanctuaries to "militants and violent extremist organisations", he said that he would press that country, but noted, "Pakistan is a sovereign nation." He added, "Continuing to build relationships with Pakistan's military will provide openings for the United States and Pakistan to cooperate on key issues."
Under former President Donald Trump, the US had cut its troops in Afghanistan while negotiating a political settlement with the Taliban, giving its patron Pakistan a pivotal role in the peace process.
Austin acknowledged this, writing, "Pakistan will play an important role in any political settlement in Afghanistan." This makes the US dependent on Islamabad and limits the extent of its actions against it, which he implied.
"Pakistan is an essential partner in any peace process in Afghanistan. If confirmed, I will encourage a regional approach that garners support from neighbors like Pakistan, while also deterring regional actors, from serving as spoilers to the Afghanistan peace process," Austin said.
"I will focus on our shared interests which include training future Pakistan military leaders through the use of International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds," he said.
The IMET cooperation was blocked in January 2018 by Trump when he suspended defence programmes for Pakistan. But in late 2019, he approved the resumption of IMET, while keeping most of the $2 billion programme on hold.
Austin has experience of working in Afghanistan and with Pakistan. He was the commander of a joint task force of the US and its allies during 2003-05 in Afghanistan. "We also need to work with Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and to enhance regional stability," Austin said.
A team of Patna Police allegedly manhandled the guards of former CM Rabri Devi outside her residence, claimed her security personnel. The alleged incident happened on Thursday outside Devi's official residence at 10 Circular Road.
As per the claims of the security personnel, some job aspirants and party MLAs and MLCs came to the residence to meet Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav.
At the same time, a team of Patna's Secretariat police reached there and forcibly tried to evict them.
"Some job aspirants and party workers were scheduled to meet to Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav on Thursday. They were standing inside the barricading. Still, an ASI-rank officer along with some police personnel tried to disperse them," claimed a security official. "When we objected to the actions of Patna Police, they threatened us and used abusive language against us including women security personnel," he further claimed.
RJD state spokesperson Chitranjan Gagan told IANS that a meeting of MLAs and MLCs was scheduled at the former CM's residence. "Hence, it is obvious that a gathering would take place but they were not disrupting traffic movement," Gagan said. "People who are not satisfied with current government generally come here in expectation of getting their their problems addressed," added Gagan.
"As mass leaders, everyone comes there in expectation of get their grievances resolved. The Patna police officer claimed only those who did not get appointments were being dispersed. I want to ask the police about how they knew who had got an appointment and who didn't. This action of Patna police is completely unacceptable," Gagan said.
When contacted, a police officer said that those dispersed were unnecessaryily standing there, causing traffic disruptions. "We are removing only those persons who did not have appointments," he said.
A couple of days ago, the police had initiated a baton charge on Teacher Eligibility Test qualified job aspirants. Since than, a large number of them had assembled at Eco Park, near Rabri Devi's residence, demanding jobs.
In a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden, Amazon has said that its essential workers who cannot work from home should receive the Covid- 19 vaccine at the "earliest appropriate" time.
Amazon also said that the company stands ready to assist the Biden administration in reaching the goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of the new administration, GeekWire reported on Wednesday.
"The essential employees working at Amazon fulfilment centres, AWS data centres, and Whole Foods Market stores across the country who cannot work from home should receive the Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time," Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business, wrote in the letter.
"We will assist them in that effort," he said.
Amazon, which has over 800,000 employees in the US, earlier faced criticism from former and current employees who had alleged that the safety measures put in place by the company to protect warehouse employees were inadequate.
However, Amazon said that it invested $10 billion to help keep employees safe and deliver products to customers throughout 2020.
Clark, in his letter to Biden, said that Amazon has an agreement in place with a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines on-site at Amazon facilities.
"We are prepared to move quickly once vaccines are available," he said.
"Additionally, we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration's vaccination efforts," Clark said in the letter.