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17 killed in blast outside Cairo hospital

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At least 17 people were killed and 32 others injured in an explosion involving several vehicles in front of the National Cancer Institute in Cairo, an Egyptian Minister has confirmed.
 
Health Minister Hala Zayed said at a press conference on Sunday night that among the injured, five remain in critical condition and that at least 54 people have been transferred from the cancer institute to other medical centres in the area, reports Efe news.
 
Zayed did not mention the cause of the explosion on Sunday evening, though she noted that it took place in front of the hospital and not inside, as was initially reported.
 
According to the state news agency MENA, the explosion occurred when a vehicle speeding the wrong way down the street collided with other cars, causing a fire that affected part of the hospital.
 
Several vehicles were engulfed in flames outside the hospital and corroborated that there was a fire.
 
The Egyptian health official said that authorities were searching for other bodies that may have fallen into the Nile River, which is located beside the hospital.
 
The Office of Information of the University of Cairo, to which the cancer institute belongs, said in a statement that the explosion affected part of the building facade but that the staff and patients were safe.
 
Police sources initially speculated that the explosion might have originated from an oxygen container inside the building.
 
The Attorney General's Office has sent a team to the scene of the incident to begin the official investigation.
 
IANS
 

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29 killed in US mass shootings in less than 24 hours

 
Gunman kills at least 20 in El Paso shooting
At least 29 people were killed and over 40 others were injured in two separate incidents of mass shootings in the US states of Texas and Ohio in less than 24 hours, media reports said.
 
In Ohio, nine people, including the perpetrator, were killed and 16 others were injured early Sunday morning in the shootings outside the Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton city's Oregon area.
 
The incident took place after mass shooting in Texas's El Paso city killed 20 people and injured 26 others on Saturday.
 
According to the Dayton Police Department, the first call of the Ohio incident came in at around 1 a.m.
 
"We had officers in the immediate vicinity when the shooting began and were able to respond and put an end to it quickly," the BBC quoted the Dayton Police Department as saying in a tweet.
 
Assistant Police Chief Matt Carper told the media that officers on patrol managed to take down the shooter who is yet to be identified. Carper said the subject fired a "long gun" with multiple rounds.
 
He added that it was "very fortunate that the officers were in close proximity".
 
Nothing more was known about the shooter, but Carper said they were "anxious to discover" a motivation.
 
Police believe the suspect acted alone and that there was no remaining threat to the community, but the investigation, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was going on. 
 
Footage posted on social media showed people running as dozens of gunshots echoed through the streets. It also showed several bodies on the floor covered in white sheets.
 
A note saying staff members were safe appeared on Ned Peppers' Instagram page after the incident and on the nearby Hole in the Wall bar's Facebook page, the BBC said.
 
In Texas, the attack took place at a Walmart store near the Cielo Vista Mall in the city located close to the US-Mexico border that has close to 700,000 inhabitants.
 
The suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, is currently in police custody.
 
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said that the Walmart was full of shoppers buying back-to-school supplies at the time of the attack.
 
The identities of the victims were yet to be ascertained. Allen told the media that the tragic incident could be dubbed as "hate crime".
 
El Paso Police and the FBI are investigating whether an anonymous white nationalist "manifesto", shared on an online forum, was written by the gunman, the BBC reported. 
 
The document said the attack was targeted at the local Hispanic community.
 
Governor Greg Abbott described the attack as "one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas", while President Donald Trump called it "an act of cowardice".
 
Authorities have termed the Texas shooting as the eighth deadliest in modern US history.
 
The attacks came less than a week after a teenage gunman killed three people at a California food festival. 
 
IANS
 

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9 killed, 16 injured in Ohio mass shooting

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At least nine people were killed, including the shooter, and 16 others injured in a mass shooting on Sunday that took place near a bar in the US state of Ohio, the second such incident that came less than 24 hours after a similar carnage in Texas where 20 persons were shot dead.
 
First reports of the shooting came in at about 1 a.m., that took place outside the Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton city's Oregon area.
 
"We had officers in the immediate vicinity when this shooting began and were able to respond and put an end to it quickly," the BBC quoted the Dayton Police Department wrote in a tweet.
 
Assistant Police Chief Matt Carper told the media that officers on patrol managed to take down the shooter who is yet to be identified.
 
"Our people are very well trained for a situation like this," he said, adding it was "very fortunate that the officers were in close proximity".
 
Nothing more was known about the shooter, but Carper said they were "anxious to discover" a motivation.
 
Police believe the suspect acted alone and that there is no remaining threat to the community, but the investigation, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was ongoing, the Officer added. 
 
Footage posted on social media showed people running as dozens of gunshots echoed through the streets. It also showed several bodies on the floor covered in white sheets.
 
A note saying staff members were safe appeared on Ned Peppers Instagram page after the incident and on the nearby Hole in the Wall bar's Facebook page, the BBC said.
 
Meanwhile, a witness told the BBC that he was at a nearby event when they were told to evacuate.
 
"I was very shocked," he said. "We all evacuated quickly and safely. We were told to avoid the Oregon district."
 
"I got to my car, I could see cops, multiple ambulances. When I drove past I saw a lot of cops and ambulances."
 
Sunday night's incident came hours after the mass shooting at a Walmart store near the Cielo Vista Mall in the city of El Paso on Saturday which also left over 25 people injured.
 
A 21-year-old suspect is currently in police custody. 
 
The motive for this shooting was also not immediately clear. But the El Paso Police said that the shooting could be dubbed as possible hate crime. 
 
Authorities have termed it as the eighth deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
 
The two attacks came less than a week after a teenage gunman killed three people at a California food festival. 
 
IANS

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20 killed in Texas mass shooting, suspect in custody

 
Gunman kills at least 20 in El Paso shooting
At least 20 people were killed and 26 others injured in a mass shooting at a shopping centre in the US state of Texas, authorities said, adding that a 21-year-old suspect was now in police custody.
 
The massacre took place on Saturday at a Walmart store near the Cielo Vista Mall in the city of El Paso, a few miles from the US-Mexican border, the BBC reported. El Paso's population of 680,000 people comprise 83 per cent of Hispanic descent.
 
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said reports of an active shooter were received at 10.39 a.m., and law enforcement officers were on the scene within six minutes.
 
The Walmart was full of shoppers buying back-to-school supplies at the time of the attack.
 
The identities of the victims were yet to be ascertained but Allen told the media that "ages and genders of all these people injured and killed are numerous in the age groups", adding that the tragic incident could be dubbed as "hate crime".
 
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Twitter that three Mexicans were among those killed in the shooting spree. But this is yet to be confirmed.
 
Meanwhile, the suspect who is in custody was a resident of the Dallas-area city of Allen, about 1,046 km east of El Paso, the police chief said, adding that authorities were looking at potentially bringing capital murder charges against him.
 
Although Allen did not identify the suspect, a law enforcement source has named him as Patrick Crusius.
 
Crusius reportedly attended Collin College in McKinney, Texas from fall 2017 through spring 2019. 
 
The District President of the school, Neil Matkin, issued a statement saying that Collin College was "saddened and horrified by the news".
 
"Collin College is prepared to cooperate fully with state and federal authorities in their investigation of this senseless tragedy. We join the Governor and all Texans in expressing our heartfelt concern for the victims of the shooting and their loved ones," Matkin said.
 
CCTV images said to be of the gunman and broadcast on US media showed a man in a dark T-shirt wearing ear protectors and brandishing an assault-style rifle.
 
El Paso Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were investigating whether an anonymous white nationalist "manifesto", shared on an online forum, was written by the gunman, reports the BBC. 
 
The document said the attack was targeted at the local Hispanic community.
 
While addressing the media later Saturday, Governor Greg Abbott described it as "one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas".
 
"We as a state unite in support of these victims and their family members... We must do one thing today, one thing tomorrow and each and every day after this - we must unite."
 
President Donald Trump described the attack as "an act of cowardice".
 
"I know that I stand with everyone in this country to condemn today's hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people," he wrote on Twitter.
 
Walmart tweeted that it was "in shock over the tragic events" and was "working closely with law enforcement".
 
The attack came less than a week after a teenage gunman killed three people at a California food festival. 
 
Saturday's shooting has been dubbed the eighth deadliest in modern US history.
 
IANS
 

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India offers line of credit of $170 million for Conakry Water Supply Project in Guinea

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India has offered a line of credit of $ 170 million for Conakry Water Supply Project in Guinea as visiting President Ram Nath Kovind stated that the country remains committed to strengthen the economic ties in support of Guinea’s National Development Plan.
 
Kovind landed arrived here on August 1 evening on the final leg of his three-nation visit to Benin, The Gambia and Guinea. He became the first Head of State/Head of Government from India to visit Guinea.
 
On his arrival at the Conakry Airport, President Kovind was received by the President of Guinea, Prof Alpha Conde and accorded a ceremonial welcome.
 
During his meeting with President Conde yesterday, he said India was keen to upgrade and enhance its political relations with Guinea. In keeping with the importance India attaches to enhance its ties, it has opened the Indian Embassy in Conakry in January this year. Subsequently, the President led delegation-level talks between the two sides.
 
Kovind said India has provided financial assistance for projects identified by Guinea in the energy, health and transportation sectors, including regional hospitals projects. India extended a new line of credit of $ 170 million for the Conakry Water Supply Project, he said.
 
He was happy to note that India was among the top trading partners of Guinea. India’s growth and Guinea’s natural strengths complement each other. Indian companies were keen to invest in Guinea, especially in the mining, infrastructure, health and pharmaceutical sectors.
 
“India appreciates Guinea’s leading role in the affairs of the African Union, especially in dealing with issues of peace, security and stability in West African nations. Terrorism is one of the gravest threats to humanity today and we must work together to strengthen the global fight against this evil,” he added.
 
Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to reformed multilateralism and for comprehensive reforms of the UN Security Council to make it more representative, accountable, transparent, inclusive and effective. President Conde conveyed support for India’s candidacy as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2021–2022.
 
The two Presidents witnessed the signing and exchange of MoUs on cooperation in the field of the traditional system of medicine and homoeopathy. Mous were signed between Guinea and the Telecommunications Consultants India Limited for participation in the R-VBAB Network Project and between the countries for cooperation in the field of renewable energy.
 
Later in the evening, the President attended a banquet hosted in his honour by Conde.
 
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India committed to strengthening Gambian capacity to build institutions: Kovind

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India was committed to strengthening the Gambian capacity to build institutions and help democracy deliver, President Ram Nath Kovind said here yesterday.
 
Addressing the National Assembly of The Gambia, Kovind said that India and Africa shared the same development challenges and were both driven by similar imperatives. Africa’s economic projection and India’s growth can complement each other.
 
“Our trade and investment relations are growing. Our bilateral trade stood at over US$ 62 billion for 2017-18. India has become the fifth largest investor in Africa with cumulative investments at over US$ 54 billion. The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement launched this month will make Africa the largest free trade area in the world. India views this development as yet another opportunity to boost economic ties with Africa,” he added.
 
“Our development cooperation, based on African priorities and sustainable partnerships, is a key feature of our engagement with the continent. After South Asia, the African continent is the largest recipient of Indian overseas assistance. As many as 181 Lines of Credit have been extended to 41 countries for a total amount of US$ 11 billion. Our projects have made a great difference to the quality of life of the African people, all over the African continent,” he pointed out.
 
The President said India cherishes its privileged development partnership with The Gambia.  India has, in keeping with The Gambian priorities, extended support for its social and economic progress - from capacity building, financial assistance to implementing infrastructure projects. 
 
India has provided concessional lines of credit worth US$ 78.5 million to support programs of rural development, agriculture, drinking water, healthcare and setting up the physical infrastructure of The Gambia. Another line of credit of US$ 92 million has been extended.
 
“Each year, we receive young Gambians in India for education, for skilling and for navigating the digital world. We remain committed to strengthening The Gambian capacity to build institutions and help democracy deliver,” he added.
 
Later in the evening, the President addressed the Indian community at a reception hosted by Rajeev Kumar, Ambassador of India to Senegal and Gambia. 
 
Addressing the gathering, he said, “In our quest for development and growth, the overseas Indian community is an invaluable partner. We are keen to connect with them deeper and stronger. To support our diaspora abroad, we have a special focus to make public service delivery smooth, hassle-free and efficient. 
 
“We have undertaken several measures to make it easier to obtain passport, consular documents and OCI cards. To reach those in need, we have employed social media, apps and digital platforms for quicker and targeted service,” he added.
 
The President noted that the Indian community has always risen to the occasion whenever called for help by the local government. During the Ebola crisis in this region, the community contributed handsomely to The Gambian government efforts for emergency assistance. Whenever the National Hospital in The Gambia has had a shortage of medicines or consumables, the community has got together and provided the same.
 
Kovind will leave this evening for Guinea – the last leg of his three nation visit to Benin, The Gambia and Guinea. Before leaving for Guinea, the President will inaugurate an exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi and Khadi in Banjul.
 
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US sanctions Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

 
U.S. sanctions Iran's foreign minister
The US has imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the latest move by Washington in its "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran.
 
The Treasury Department said on Wednesday that it was imposing sanctions on Zarif for acting on behalf of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
 
"Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran's Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei)," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
 
The sanctions freeze any assets Zarif may have in America, the department said.
 
Zarif tweeted that the US had imposed sanctions on him because it considered him as a threat to its agenda.
 
The Iranian Foreign Minister brushed off the sanctions on Twitter, saying: "The US' reason for designating me is that I am Iran's 'primary spokesperson around the world'... Is the truth really that painful? It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran."
 
"Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda," he tweeted.
 
Tensions between the US and Iran heightened since Washington in 2018 withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers. After pulling out from the deal, US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, including measures aimed at slashing its oil exports to zero. 
 
Tehran responded by breaching the limit on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium set under the nuclear deal. It stepped up production of enriched uranium, used to make reactor fuel but also potentially nuclear bombs, in May.
 
Last week, talks were held in Vienna to try to save the nuclear deal. After meeting representatives from the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, a senior Iranian official said the atmosphere had been "constructive".
 
Fears of a direct US-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several suspected attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran's downing of a US surveillance drone, and a plan for US air raids on Iran in June that Trump called off at the last minute.
 
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi reacted angrily at the sanctions targeting Zarif.
 
"The peak of stupidity and inconsistency of America's leaders is at a point where they don't recognize Dr Zarif as being influential in Iran's policy but with the ultimate ignorance they sanction him! The Americans have a strong fear of the logic of Dr Zarif and his negotiating skills," he wrote on social media.
 
IANS
 

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Osama bin Laden's son dead, say reports

Hamza bin Laden, seen in a screenshot from a video released by the US Central Intelligency Agency in 2017 (IANS)
Hamza bin Laden, seen in a screenshot from a video released by the US Central Intelligency Agency in 2017 (IANS)
Hamza bin Laden, the son of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and a rising figure in his late father's violent Islamist group, is believed to have died in an airstrike, US media outlets reported citing intelligence officials.
 
The date, location and other circumstances surrounding the death weren't immediately clear, but communication among militants suggested he had been killed, the officials said, according to reports.
 
US President Donald Trump and top administration officials didn't immediately confirm the reports of the death. 
 
"I don't want to comment on it," Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the reports. 
 
Hamza bin Laden, thought to be aged about 30, had released audio and video messages calling for attacks on the US and other countries.
 
In February, the US government offered $1 million for information about him, and Saudi Arabia revoked his citizenship. 
 
Hamza bin Laden's death was first reported by NBC News. Reports said he was killed in a military operation in the last two years and the US government was involved, but the exact date and time were unclear.
 
US officials had become increasingly concerned in recent years about his repeated threats and calls for attacks on Americans at home and abroad as well as against America's allies. 
 
US government and private analysts say that Al Qaeda is much weaker than it was in its heyday and less potent than its ideological rival Islamic State. But, they say, Al Qaeda is still capable of inspiring terrorist attacks and has several lethal affiliates worldwide, according to Efe news.
 
In its base in South Asia, Al Qaeda's "core has been seriously degraded. The death or arrest of dozens of mid and senior-level Al Qaeda operatives ... has disrupted communication, financial support, facilitation nodes and a number of terrorist plots," the US State Department said in its most recent report on terrorism in 2017. 
 
"Al Qaeda, however, remains a focal point of 'inspiration' for a world-wide network of affiliated groups," it added. 
 
The State Department had imposed sanctions on Hamza bin Laden in 2017, saying at the time that he was actively engaged in terrorism. 
 
He was believed to have been born in 1989 in Saudi Arabia and was the only known son of Osama bin Laden who was still aligned with the terrorist group behind the September 11, 2001, attacks. 
 
One of Osama bin Laden's sons was killed along with him in 2011 during a Navy Seals raid on their compound in Pakistan. A third son distanced himself from Al Qaeda. 
 
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri declared Hamza bin Laden an official member of the group in 2015, and the State Department said that he had married the daughter of Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the September 11 attacks. 
 
IANS

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India offers $ 500,000 grant for Skill Development & Cottage Industry Project in The Gambia

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India has offered a grant of US$ 500,000 for a Skill Development & Cottage Industry Project in The Gambia.
 
The offer came during delegation-level talks between visiting President Ram Nath Kovind and The Gambian leaders. In addition, the two sides also signed and exchanged an MuU on cooperation in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy.
 
Kovind arrived in the West African country yesterday on the first-ever visit by a Head of State or Government from India.  On arrival at the Banjul Airport, he was received by The Gambia President Adama Barrow and accorded a ceremonial welcome.  
 
The President commenced his engagements today with a visit to the State House where he was received by Barrow. During the subsequent one-to-one discussions with his counterpart, the President congratulated Barrow for his victory in the Presidential elections held on December 2016 that led to the restoration of democracy in The Gambia.
 
He said that was a watershed moment for The Gambia and for the democratic world. He also thanked him for writing a piece - ‘What Mahatma Gandhi means to me’ to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
 
Kovind received the instrument of ratification of the International Solar Alliance Framework Agreement from the Gambian President.  This will open up new opportunities for collaboration between the two countries on solar energy and help in combating climate change. In addition, India is also working for setting up solar projects in select villages in The Gambia.
 
The President said the capacity building was one of the strengths of India. “We are happy to partner The Gambia in training and capacity building. India also agreed to offer training in the fields of judiciary, police, administration and technical expertise, as per Gambia’s request and in line with the priorities of The Gambia. In recent months, India has organised special training programmes for The Gambian Permanent Secretaries and senior civil servants as well as diplomats,” he added.
 
Barrow acknowledged the positive role played by the Indian community for the progress and prosperity of The Gambia. He conveyed his deep appreciation of the contribution made by the Indian community for the development of The Gambia.
 
Kovind noted that India was among the top trading partners of The Gambia. “Our bilateral trade in 2018-19 crossed US$ 200 million, representing an increase of nearly 100% in last two years. India seeks The Gambia’s continued support for Indian enterprises and investment and for the community. Both sides must work together to see how we can improve bilateral trade further in the coming years,” he added.
 
The President also attended a luncheon banquet hosted in his honour by Barrow.
 
Later in the evening, the President will address the National Assembly of Gambia. He will also attend the Indian Community Reception being hosted by the Ambassador of India to Senegal and Gambia.  
 
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India considers Benin a fast-growing economy, gateway to West Africa: Kovind

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India considers Benin as a fast-growing economy, a friendly partner and an important gateway to West Africa,  President Ram Nath Kovind said in his address to the National Assembly of Benin here yesterday.
 
The President said India remains committed to working with Benin to meet the aspirations of its people on the basis of ‘Collective Efforts, Inclusive Growth, With Everyone’s Trust’ and in accordance with the principles of South-South Cooperation.
 
He said he was happy to note that the Indian pharma Industry and hospitals were providing affordable healthcare solutions to the people in Benin. “Our partnership under the International Solar Alliance can help us light a million homes in a sustainable manner and provide access to energy to people in the remotest corners.
 
“As fellow democracies, India and Benin have much to share. We deeply appreciate the strengthening of democratic roots in Benin. The political journey Benin began in the 1990s has come a long way. Its uninterrupted consolidation over the last 30 years, in a complex and strife-torn region, is a shining example for many to follow,” he added.
 
Kovind noted that the Gulf of Guinea has been a corridor of prosperity. “Its safety and security are seminal for our continued growth and partnership. In this context, we both believe in freedom of navigation and abiding by international laws. We value Benin’s anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea and stand ready to enhance our defence and security partnership with Benin,” he said.
 
Referring to India, he said from global governance to global growth, the country was emerging as a key driver. “Our GDP of US$ 2.6 trillion is set to double in seven years. As India’s economy grows, so will our external engagement.  In this matrix, countries in Africa will continue to play a prominent role, as our trusted partners and as stakeholders in our prosperity. 
 
“India considers Benin as a fast-growing economy, a friendly partner and an important gateway to West Africa. India is today a leading trading partner of Benin. Our two-way trade touched a record $ 803 million in 2018-19,” Kovind said.
 
He said he was happy to note that Benin has benefited from India’s Duty-Free Tariff Preference scheme leading to an increase in Benin’s exports. He expressed confidence that e-visa facility to Benin would give a major boost to people-to-people relations and business ties.
 
The President also attended a banquet hosted in his honour by the President of Benin Patrice Talon.
 
This morning, Kovind addressed the Indian community at a reception hosted by Abhay Thakur, High Commissioner of India to Nigeria and Benin, before leaving for the Gambia.
 
Addressing the Indian community gathered from Benin, Niger and other African countries, the President said that much of what the two countries have achieved today, would not have been possible without the contribution of the vibrant Indian community in Benin.
 
He appreciated the work being done by the Indian Association in Cotonou. He noted that in the absence of an Indian Embassy in Benin, the Association has become an important bridge between our community members and the Indian Mission in Abuja, Nigeria.
 
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India offers $ 100 million Line of Credit for developmental projects in Benin

President  Ram Nath Kovind with the President of Benin, Mr. Patrice Talon at the Presidential Palace of the Marina, in Cotonou, Benin on July 29, 2019.
President Ram Nath Kovind with the President of Benin, Mr. Patrice Talon at the Presidential Palace of the Marina, in Cotonou, Benin on July 29, 2019.
India has offered a $ 100 million Line of Credit for developmental projects in Benin as President Ram Nath Kovind began his State visit to three West African nations – Benin, Gambia and Guinea.
 
This visit is the first-ever by an Indian Head of State or Government to the three countries.
 
The president, who arrived here on July 28, commenced his engagements yesterday with a visit to the Presidential Palace of the Marina in Cotonou where he was received by his counterpart Patrice Talon and accorded a ceremonial welcome.
 
During the subsequent one-to-one discussions with President Talon, Kovind said that it is indeed a great honour for him to pay the first-ever State Visit from India to Benin.
 
Subsequently, the President led delegation-level talks between the two sides. Speaking on the occasion, he said Benin and India share warm and friendly ties. India is keen to strengthen economic partnership with Benin.
 
He was happy to note that India has emerged as the largest trading partner of Benin with two-way trade crossing $ 800 million. Around 100 Indian or Indian-owned companies are operating in Benin. More Indian companies are interested in entering the Benin market, especially in mining. India seeks Benin’s support to help them grow their business, he added.
 
The President said India is committed to supporting Benin’s growth and development. He was happy to note that implementation of the $ 42.6 million Line of Credit for the upgrading of water supply schemes in 103 villages in Benin is proceeding well.
 
He announced a fresh Line of Credit worth $ 100 million for developmental projects in Benin. He also announced the extension of the e-visa facility to Benin. He expressed confidence that this facility will give a major boost to India-Benin business relations. 
 
India also offered to extend free tele-education courses to 15,000 Beninese students and telemedicine courses to 1,000 doctors and paramedics in Africa. In addition, the two sides discussed defence and security cooperation and India offered further training assistance to Benin to expand its anti-piracy capacity.
 
India thanked Benin for its support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Both countries reiterated their commitment to stand together in the global fight against terrorism and piracy. They also agreed to work together to combat climate change through the International Solar Alliance.
 
The two Presidents witnessed the signing and exchange of MoUs/agreements on Cultural Exchange Programme between the two countries for the years 2019-2023; MoU on Cooperation in the field of Export Credit and Investment Insurance; MoU between Benin & Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) for participation in the e-VBAB Network Project (Technology upgradation of Pan Africa e-Network Project (PAeNP)- Phase-I) of Ministry of External Affairs; Agreement on mutual exemption from the visa requirement for holders of Diplomatic, Official/Service Passports.
 
Later in the evening, Kovind was scheduled to address the National Assembly of Benin in Porto Novo. He was also due to  attend a banquet hosted in his honour by the President of Benin. 
 
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17 killed in Pakistan army aircraft crash

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At least 17 people were killed, including two pilots and five military personnel, when a plane of the Pakistan Army Aviation crashed in Rawalpindi on Tuesday.
 
Soon after the crash near Mora Kalu area, a massive fire broke out and engulfed several houses in the locality, reports Geo News.
 
According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), 11 civilians were among those killed and nine were injured.
 
"The aircraft was on a routine training flight when it crashed, but there was no immediate word on the cause of the accident or the type of aircraft involved," the ISPR said.
 
Lt Col Saqib, Lt Col Wasim, Naib Subedar Afzal, Hawaldar Amin and Hawaldar Rahmat were among those killed, the military’s media wing added, reports Geo News.
 
Rescue teams and the Pakistan Army immediately reached the accident site. Rescue officials had doused the fire caused by the crash and moved the injured to a hospital, the ISPR added.
 
In 2016, a Pakistan International Airlines plane burst into flames after one of its two turboprop engines failed while travelling from remote northern Pakistan to Islamabad, killing more than 40 people.
 
The deadliest air disaster on Pakistani soil was in 2010 when an Airbus 321 operated by private airline Airblue and flying from Karachi crashed into the hills outside Islamabad while trying to land, killing all 152 onboard, reports Geo News.
 
IANS
 

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Bungee-jumper severely injured after cable snaps

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A bungee-jumper suffered severe spinal injuries as he plunged almost 100 metres to the ground after his leg harness snapped, as per the viral video of the horrific incident.
 
The incident occurred at the Rady Europy theme park in Poland's Gdynia last Sunday, media reports said.
 
The 39-year-old man, whose name was not revealed, jumped off an elevated platform on a crane, but went into a free fall as the harness rope snapped. 
 
Fortunately, he landed on a large inflatable cushion - breaking his initial fall - but bounced off and fell on the ground. 
 
He was immediately taken to hospital where it was found he had broken his spine but was not paralysed as his spinal cord was safe. He also had severe internal organ injuries.
 
Bungeeclub, which has been running the business for 19 years, said there have been no accidents for years, and they were cooperating with the police in investigating the incident.
 
IANS

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Five dead as twin earthquakes jolt Philippines

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At least five people were killed and 12 others injured in two earthquakes that struck the archipelago of Batanes north of Philippines' main Luzon island on Saturday, a local official said.
 
Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco told local media that five people were reported dead and 12 others injured in the first quake of 5.4-magnitude that struck before dawn on Saturday, Xinhua reported.
 
A historic church and other houses were damaged, she added.
 
The first quake, which struck at 4:16 a.m. local time, hit at a depth of 12 km, about 12 km northeast of Itbayat town.
 
The second quake of 6.4 magnitude struck at 7:38 a.m. local time.
 
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the second quake hit at a depth of 43 km about 19 km northwest of Itbayat. Both quakes were tectonic in origin.
 
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum told a local radio station that a quake of such intensity could cause slight damage to houses and infrastructure.
 
According to the institute, the tremors were also felt in the towns of Basco and Sabtang.
 
Aftershocks are expected, the institute said.
 
IANS

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Nirav Modi denied bail by UK court

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A British court on Thursday extended till August 22 the judicial custody of Nirav Modi in connection with the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case.
 
The Westminster Magistrates Court ordered the Metropolitan Police to place him in its custody till the next hearing on August 22.
 
The 48-year-old businessman, wanted in India, was arrested from Holborn here on March 19. Since then he has been fighting extradition proceedings.
 
Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation after the PNB alleged that they cheated it of Rs 13,500 crore with the involvement of some bank employees.
 
Modi also faces charges under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. The ED has filed a chargesheet against Choksi in a Prevention of Money Laundering Act Court in Mumbai.
 
Both fled India before details of the fraud emerged in January 2018.
 
IANS
 

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Priti Patel is Britain's new Home Secretary

Priti Patel (File photo: Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
Priti Patel (File photo: Xinhua/Han Yan/IANS)
Britain's new Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Indian-origin politician Priti Patel as Home Secretary here on Wednesday.
 
The 47-year-old who was a Member of Parliament (MP) from Witham in Essex since 2010 and has played a leading role in Boris Johnson's leadership campaign, takes over from Sajid Javid, who has been appointed Chancellor by the Prime Minister.
 
Javid, who was in the prime ministerial race, will be replacing Philip Hammond, who resigned in protest against the election of Johnson as the PM.
 
Patel has supported Johnson's bid for an early Brexit.
 
She was sacked by Theresa May in 2017 for breaching the ministerial code after holding unauthorized meetings with Israeli politicians.
 
Johnson also named Brexit hardliner Dominic Raab the Foreign Secretary.
 
Raab, 45, was also named as Johnson's effective deputy. He had resigned as Brexit minister in May's government last year objecting to the divorce deal struck with Brussels, saying it offered too many compromises.
 
The new British PM, immediately after taking oath, reiterated that the UK will exit the European Union by October 31. Johnson claimed that he would succeed in negotiating a deal with the EU before leaving the conglomerate.
 
IANS
 

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Li Peng, China's Tiananmen era PM, dies at 91

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Former Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng, infamous for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, has died, China's state media announced on Tuesday.
 
Li, 91, passed away on Monday in Beijing from an unspecified illness, Xinhua news agency reported. 
 
He served in several top positions in China in the 1980s and 1990s and was the Premier between 1987 and 1998. But he was best known as the "Butcher of Beijing" for his role in the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters during which he ordered the military to forcibly clear them with approval from then President Deng Xiaoping.
 
The subsequent crackdown led to an unknown number of deaths, although some sources have put the figure at over 1,000. 
 
He later defended his actions as a "necessary" step. It is said that Li strongly supported ending the civil protests by any means, considering them a serious threat to the survival of the regime.
 
That led to him clashing with the pro-reform section of the Communist Party of China, led by then General Secretary Zhao Ziyang.
 
Li's proposal for the iron fist prevailed in the internal debate and resulted in the declaration of martial law in Beijing, military intervention and the violent repression of protests along with Zhao's fall from grace.
 
Li's obituary in the Chinese state media begins with the different organs of the CPC announcing, with "great sorrow", the death of "an excellent member" of the party, a "real communist fighter", and distinguished leader of the Party and State.
 
In its obituary, Xinhua news agency said that Li "took decisive measures to stop the unrest and quell counter-revolutionary violence" during the Tiananmen protests.
 
China has consistently censored the massacre for the last three decades and avoids making a reference to any atrocities that occurred during it.
 
The Tiananmen Square crackdown was not mentioned in Li's autobiography, published in 2014, as it only covered the period up to 1983, the year when he took charge as the vice premier.
 
After his stint as the Premier, Li held the post of the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the highest legislative body in the country, until 2003.
 
The obituary said his death was a great loss for the CPC and the country.
 
IANS
 

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Boris Johnson elected UK PM, to take charge on Wednesday

 
Boris Johnson is the UK's next leader
Former Foreign Secretary and leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson was on Tuesday elected the leader of the ruling Conservative Party and the country's next Prime Minister.
 
Johnson defeated Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt by a margin of 92,153 votes to 46,656, announced Dame Cheryl Gillan, the co-chair of the party's parliamentary group, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, near Parliament house. 87.4 per cent of the 159,320 party members voted.
 
In his victory speech, Johnson began by acknowledging his varying popularity in the party saying: "I know there will be people around the place who will question the wisdom of your decision, and there may even be some people here who still wonder what they have done."
 
He said he had three priorities -- to "deliver, unite and defeat". The slogan, he said made the acronym 'dud' until "you added the final element, 'energise', which, in fact, made it 'dude'."
 
"I say to all the doubters -- 'Dude' we are going to energise the country. We are going to get Brexit done on October 31 and to take advantages of all the opportunities it will bring in a new spirit of 'can do'. We are once again going to believe ourselves and like a slumbering giant we are going to ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt," he said.
 
"I will work flat-out from now on with my team that I will build," he said. "The campaign is over and the work begins."
 
Praising Hunt, Johnson said he had been a font of "excellent ideas" and joked that he's planning to "steal them". 
 
He also congratulated Theresa May, whom he's long been a critic of. "It was a privilege to serve in her Cabinet," Johnson said. "Thank you, Theresa." May, in turn, congratulated her successor, promising him her "full support from the backbenches".
 
US President Donald Trump also tweeted his congratulations to Johnson, saying: "He will be great!"
 
EU Commission's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he was looking forward to working with Johnson "to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit".
 
Johnson has previously said the agreement May reached with the EU was "dead".
 
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacted to the news of Johnson's victory by tweeting he had "won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members", but "hasn't won the support of our country".
 
"Johnson's no-deal Brexit would mean job cuts, higher prices in shops, and risk our NHS being sold off to US corporations in a sweetheart deal with Trump. The people of our country should decide who becomes the Prime Minister in a general election," Corbyn said.
 
Johnson will not take office formally until Wednesday afternoon. May will face her final Prime Minister's questions in the House of Commons before tendering resignation to the Queen.
 
Johnson will then go to Buckingham Palace himself for his appointment to be confirmed -- before being driven to Downing Street to give a speech in front of the black door of No 10.
 
IANS
 

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Kashmir 'bilateral issue', Washington 'stands ready to assist': US after Trump's offer

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Hours after US President Donald Trump offered to mediate in the Kashmir issue, saying he had been requested to do so by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a claim India has rejected, the US Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells clarified that the Trump administration welcomes India and Pakistan sitting down to resolve the issue and the "US stands ready to assist".
 
Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, acknowledged that Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss -- echoing India's consistent stand on the subject.
 
"While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes #Pakistan and #India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist," Wells tweeted.
 
On Monday, President Trump claimed during a press conference with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan that Prime Minister Modi had asked him to mediate in the dispute with Pakistan.
 
India immediately rejected Trump's assertion. "No such request has been made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US President," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.
 
In his euphoria with the Pakistan Prime Minister offering to help resolve the Afghanistan war, Trump positioned himself as a mediator in the Kashmir dispute.
 
Speaking to reporters before his meeting in the White House with Khan, Trump asserted that during his meeting with Modi in Osaka, "We talked about the subject, (and) he actually said, 'Would you like to mediate, mediate or arbitrate?' I said, 'Where,?' (and he said) 'Kashmir'."
 
Trump made the claim about Modi while answering a question from a reporter about what he would do to help resolve the Kashmir issue.
 
Any request for mediation would be a major change in India's policy of not having third party involvement in the Kashmir issue, which India sees as a bilateral matter with Pakistan.
 
Denying that Modi had made a mediation request to Trump, Kumar said: "It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism. The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally."
 
Despite previously taking a stand against Islamabad-backed terrorism, Trump put himself in a neutral position equating India and Pakistan,
 
He said: "I think it (India-Pakistan dispute) is two-way street. You say that India is coming in and destabilising Pakistan, and India is saying Pakistan is coming and destabilising. There is a lot of room right there where we can meet."
 
When Trump said, "If you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I will be glad to do it", Khan immediately said, "Yes, Mr President," and added that he will have the prayers of millions if he accomplished it.
 
"I will speak to him (Modi) or you can speak to him," Trump said.
 
Trump said that he was surprised at how long the Kashmir problem has been dragging on.
 
Imran Khan interjected at this point to say the Kashmir problem has been going on for 70 years.
 
Trump continued: "I think they (India) would like to see it resolved, and I think you (Pakistan) would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be mediator."
 
"It's impossible to believe that two incredible countries that are very, very smart, with very smart leadership, can't solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate, or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that," the US President said.
 
Khan then added: "I would like to tell you that right now you will have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue."
 
To which Trump nodded and said, "It should be resolved. But he (Modi) asked me the same thing. So I think there is something. So, maybe we'll speak to him, or I'll speak to him and we'll see if we can do something."
 
"Because I have heard so much about Kashmir. Such a beautiful name, it's supposed to be such a beautiful part of the world. But right now, there's just bombs all over the place. So everywhere you go, there are bombs.. And it's a terrible situation, been going on for many years. If I can do anything to help, let me know," Trump said.
 
"I think they would like to see it resolved. And if I can help I would love to be the mediator," he added.
 
"The two countries that are incredibly smart, with incredibly smart leadership they can resolve an issue like that," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Trump claims Modi asked him to mediate on Kashmir

US President Donald Trump with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at their meeting at White House in Washington on July 22, 2019. (Photo: Twitter / @PTIofficial)
US President Donald Trump with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at their meeting at White House in Washington on July 22, 2019. (Photo: Twitter / @PTIofficial)
US President Donald Trump blindsided India in his mercurial style by stepping into the Kashmir quagmire with a claim on Monday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate the dispute with Pakistan.
 
India immediately rejected Trump's assertion. "No such request has been made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US President," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet.
 
In his euphoria with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan offering to help resolve the Afghanistan war, Trump positioned himself as a mediator in the Kashmir dispute.
 
Speaking to reporters before his meeting in the White House with Khan, Trump asserted that during his meeting with Modi in Osaka, "We talked about the subject, (and) he actually said, 'Would you like to mediate, mediate or arbitrate?' I said, 'Where,?' (and he said) 'Kashmir'.
 
Trump made the claim about Modi while answering a question from a reporter about what he would do to help resolve the Kashmir issue.
 
Any request for mediation would be a major change in India's policy of not having third party involvement in the Kashmir issue, which India sees as a bilateral matter with Pakistan.
 
The claim -- regardless of the credibility issue -- will also roil India's politics because it would appear to be a departure from long-standing bilateral policy and India's consistent rejection of mediation or facilitation offers from several international leaders, including UN Secretaries-General.
 
Trump has a credibility issue and is known for making off-the-cuff remarks and exaggerated claims.
 
Trump's claim of arbitration goes beyond mediation, potentially giving him the authority to make an award.
 
Denying that Modi had made a mediation request to Trump, Kumar said: "It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross-border terrorism. The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally."
 
Despite previously taking a stand against Islamabad-backed terrorism, Trump put himself in a neutral position equating India and Pakistan,
 
He said: "I think it (India-Pakistan dispute) is two-way street. You say that India is coming in and destabilising Pakistan, and India is saying Pakistan is coming and destabilising. There is a lot of room right there where we can meet."
 
When Trump said, "If you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I will be glad to do it", Khan immediately said, "Yes, Mr President," and added that he will have the prayers of millions if he accomplished it.
 
"I will speak to him (Modi) or you can speak to him," Trump said.
 
Trump said that he was surprised at how long the Kashmir problem has been dragging on.
 
Imran Khan interjected at this point to say the Kashmir problem has been going on for 70 years.
 
Trump continued: "I think they (India) would like to see it resolved, and I think you (Pakistan) would like to see it resolved. And if I can help, I would love to be mediator."
 
"It's impossible to believe that two incredible countries that are very, very smart, with very smart leadership, can't solve a problem like that. But if you would want me to mediate, or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that," the US President said.
 
Khan then added: "I would like to tell you that right now you will have the prayers of over a billion people if you can mediate and resolve this issue."
 
To which Trump nodded and said, "It should be resolved. But he (Modi) asked me the same thing. So I think there is something. So, maybe we'll speak to him, or I'll speak to him and we'll see if we can do something."
 
"Because I have heard so much about Kashmir. Such a beautiful name, it's supposed to be such a beautiful part of the world. But right now, there's just bombs all over the place. So everywhere you go, there are bombs.. And it's a terrible situation, been going on for many years. If I can do anything to help, let me know," Trump said.
 
"I think they would like to see it resolved. And if I can help I would love to be the mediator," he added.
 
The two countries that are incredibly smart, with incredibly smart leadership they can resolve an issue like that, he said.
 
Trump was effusive about Pakistan's possible help in ending the Afghanistan War. "Pakistan's going to help us out to extricate ourselves (from Afghanistan)", he said.
 
He said that earlier Pakistan had failed to help the US, but ascribed it to failures of previous US and Pakistani leaderships.
 
On the issue of US payments to Pakistan, an issue of importance to Islamabad that is facing an economic crisis, Trump appeared positive.
 
"We paid $1.3 billion to Pakistan in aid for many years. The problem was Pakistan was not doing anything for us. They were subversive."
 
After he ended the aid about a year ago, he said, "to be honest, I think we have a better relationship with Pakistan right now than when we were paying that money. That money can come back".
 
IANS
 

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Sri Lankan President extends state of Emergency

Maithripala Sirisena (File photo: Xinhua/Easwaran/IANS)
Maithripala Sirisena (File photo: Xinhua/Easwaran/IANS)
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday extended the state of Emergency by another month due to the security situation in the country.
 
Sirisena signed an extraordinary gazette notification which said the emergency was in effect for public security, the preservation of public order and the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community, the Daily Mirror reported.
 
The President declared the state of emergency on April 22, a day after Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka killed over 250 people and injured hundreds.
 
He then extended it by one month on May 22 and then again on June 22, as security forces continued to conduct nationwide raids to hunt for suspects linked to the attacks.
 
The police said over 100 suspects had been arrested over the terror attacks so far.
 
IANS
 

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10 killed, 19 injured in China gas factory blast

Photo taken on July 19, 2019 shows the site of an explosion at a gas plant in Yima, central China's Henan Province. (Str/Xinhua/IANS)
Photo taken on July 19, 2019 shows the site of an explosion at a gas plant in Yima, central China's Henan Province. (Str/Xinhua/IANS)
At least 10 people have been killed, 19 severely injured and five others are missing after an explosion ripped through a gas plant in China's Henan Province, authorities confirmed on Saturday.
 
A device in the gas factory owned by the Henan Coal Gas (Group) Co. Ltd., located in the city of Yima, exploded at around 5.45 p.m. on Friday, according to the government of Sanmenxia City, which administers Yima, reported Xinhua news agency.
 
The blast also left an unidentified number of people slightly injured, according to the government. The injured have been sent to hospital for treatment.
 
Rescuers are searching the missing people, authorities said.
 
IANS

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Karnataka CM misses Governor's second deadline for floor rest

Karnataka Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy on Friday missed the second deadline of 6 pm set by Governor Vajubhai Vala to prove the Congress-JD(S) coalition government's majority in the Assembly.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy speaking after moving a confidence motion in the state legislative assembly, in Bengaluru on July 18, 2019.
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy speaking after moving a confidence motion in the state legislative assembly, in Bengaluru on July 18, 2019.
Karnataka Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy on Friday missed the second deadline of 6 pm set by Governor Vajubhai Vala to prove the Congress-JD(S) coalition government's majority in the Assembly.
 
"As the debate on the confidence motion moved by the Chief Minister on Thursday did not conclude in the Assembly, Speaker K. R. Ramesh Kumar could not conduct the floor test by the 6 pm deadline set by the Governor for the second time," an official told IANS.
 
The Governor directed the Chief Minister to prove the majority by 6 pm after the 1:30 pm deadline he set on Thursday night lapsed, as the discussions on the motion did not conclude by then even as the Speaker adjourned the House till 3 pm.
 
In response to the demand of the ruling Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) lawmakers to allow them to participate in the discussions, the Speaker said that he would extend the session's time for a couple of hours, but pleaded with them to end the debate by Friday and conclude the floor test.
 
The opposition BJP insisted on conducting the floor test by Friday night itself.
 
Kumaraswamy and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Krishna Byre Gowda appealed to the Speaker to extend the debate to Monday, assuring him to complete the floor test.
 
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah also sought time till Monday.
 
"The Chief Minister failed to prove majority in the Assembly by 1:30 pm, the deadline set by the Governor on Thursday," opposition BJP leader B. S. Yeddyurappa told the Speaker after the first deadline lapsed.
 
When the former three-time BJP Chief Minister urged the Speaker to conduct the floor test forthwith, Kumar said that he would do it after the discussions on the confidence motion were completed by the treasury and the opposition members.
 
"Voice vote on the confidence motion only after discussions on it by the treasury and opposition members. Division of votes will be looked into if anyone demands for it after the voice vote," said Kumar.
 
In a letter issued on Thursday night, Vala had directed the Chief Minister to prove majority by 1:30 pm on Friday, a time set in response to BJP's complaint to him on the dilatory tactics of the ruling allies on the confidence motion Kumaraswamy moved on Thursday.
 
"I require you to prove your majority on or before 1:30 pm tomorrow (Friday)," said Vala in the letter after his Thursday's order to complete the floor test by the end of the day also lapsed.
 
Resuming the inconclusive debate on the motion, stalled six times due to ruckus between the lawmakers of the ruling allies and the BJP, Kumaraswamy said that it was for the Speaker to decide on the Governor's order as to when he should prove the majority on the floor of the House.
 
"It is not for me to decide by when I should prove the majority. It is the Speaker who is the custodian of the House and has the supreme authority to decide how the session should be conducted," said Kumaraswamy.
 
Intervening in the debate, Byre Gowda said the Governor cannot give such an order on the motion which was being debated by the ruling parties and the opposition members.
 
"We fail to understand how the Governor could direct the Chief Minister to prove majority in a limited timeframe without completing the debate by both sides and hearing the reply on it by the Chief Minister as mentioned in the rule book," said Gowda.
 
A restive BJP told the Speaker not to allow the ruling combine to further delay the floor test as there was no stay on it from the Supreme Court on the trial of strength.
 
Rejecting the BJP's demand, ruling lawmakers asked the Governor to go back and accused him of being a BJP agent who was converting the Raj Bhavan into a BJP office.
 
About 20 legislators, including 14 from the Congress, 3 from the JD-S and 3 Independents, were absent in the 225-member Karnataka Assembly when the session began on Friday.
 
IANS
 

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After ICJ rap, Pakistan agrees to grant consular access to Jadhav

Kulbhushan Yadav
Kulbhushan Yadav
Acting on the International Court of Justice ruling, Pakistan has agreed to grant consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav "according to Pakistani laws", the Pakistan Foreign Office said.
 
In a statement released post-midnight, the Pakistan foreign office said it has informed Jadhav of his rights to consular access under the Vienna Convention.
 
However, the statement said that Pakistan will grant consular access to Jadhav "according to Pakistani laws".
 
"As a responsible state, Pakistan will grant consular access to Commander Kulbushan Jadhav according to Pakistani laws, for which modalities are being worked out," it said.
 
The move comes after the ICJ rapped Islamabad for continually denying Jadhav, incarcerated in a military jail in an unknown location in Pakistan, consular access in accordance with the Vienna Convention.
 
India on Thursday had asked Pakistan to "act immediately" on the ICJ verdict and grant consular access to Jadhav.
 
The ICJ has directed Pakistan for continued stay on the death sentence of Jadhav and to provide him consular access. Pakistan had refused to allow Indian officials to meet Jadhav ever since his "arrest" in March 2016 for alleged espionage. India had approached the ICJ after he was in April 2017 sentenced to death by a military court.
 
Islamabad's move comes ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to Washington, where he is to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on July 22.
 
Pakistan also arrested Mumbai attacks mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed on Wednesday, in another move ahead of the Imran-Trump meeting.
 
While acceding to the ICJ ruling on Jadhav, Pakistan has maintained that it will "proceed as per law".
 
The Foreign Office said after the ICJ ruling: "Having heard the judgment, Pakistan will now proceed as per law", which was also echoed by Imran Khan in his tweet on Thursday. 
 
"(I) appreciate ICJ's decision not to acquit, release & return Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to India. He is guilty of crimes against the people of Pakistan. Pakistan shall proceed further as per law," the Pakistan Prime Minister tweeted.
 
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Thursday said that India expects Pakistan to "act immediately" on the ICJ ruling and allow consular access to Jadhav.
 
"When the court says immediate action, it means 'immediate' and Pakistan should take immediate action. We are waiting for Pakistan to act," he had said.
 
Kumar said the ICJ in its verdict ruled that Pakistan "should take all measures to provide for effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentencing of Jadhav, and that this should include enacting appropriate legislation".
 
IANS
 

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23 killed in suspected arson attack at Japan anime studio

 
At least 23 feared dead after a fire at a Japanese animation studio
At least 23 people were killed and dozens injured in a suspected arson attack at a renowned animation studio in Japan's Kyoto city on Thursday, officials said.
 
According to the police, a man broke into the Kyoto Animation Co studio in the morning and poured what appeared to be gasoline around the studio and set it on fire. The 41-year-old suspect was detained and taken to hospital with injuries.
 
The Kyoto Fire Department had earlier said that 13 people died in the three-storey building, where about 70 people were believed to have been working when the fire erupted at around 10.35 a.m. 
 
It said that 10 people were later found with "no vital signs" inside the building. Reports said that at least 36 people were in hospital, some of them in a critical condition.
 
The police said some people witnessed the suspect screaming "drop dead" as he set fire to the building. Many bodies were found on the second floor of the building. Knives were also found at the scene.
 
Eyewitnesses said they heard a series of explosions and saw black smoke billowing out of the building. People were later seen being carried out of the studio covered in blankets, Kyodo News reported.
 
"A person with singed hair was lying down and there were bloody footprints," a 59-year-old woman who lives nearby told Kyodo News.
 
"I heard a bang. The black smoke rose and the burning smell was awful," said a hair salon manager.
 
Kyoto Animation, known for short as "KyoAni" in Japan, has produced popular TV animation series including "K-On!" and "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu), which depict the daily lives of high school girls.
 
On social media, many fans expressed their shock and posted pictures of their favourite KyoAni shows.
 
A GoFundMe campaign titled "Help KyoAni Heal" was also started, with more than $50,000 raised in an hour.
 
IANS

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