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At least 13 police personnel killed in Somali suicide attack

Monitoring Desk

MOGADISHU: At least 13 police personnel were killed in a suicide bomber blew up himself in a police uniform inside a police training camp in Somalia´s capital Mogadishu on Thursday.

Major Mohamed Hussein, Spokesman of Police department told media that the suicide bomber attack the General Kahiye Police Training Academy and blew up himself during a police parade.

The spokesman of the Al-Shabaab militants group, Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed responsibility of the attack and told local media that further details of causalities will later be provided.

Al Shabaab carries out frequent bombings in Mogadishu and other towns.


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23 civilians killed in US-led airstrikes in Syria


BEIRUT: At least 23 civilians were killed in US-led coalition airstrikes conducted in a village held by the Islamic State militants in Deir Ezzor province of Syria.

The Syrian Human Rights claimed that at least 23 civilians including eight children and six women were killed in airstrikes conducted by US-led forces and targeting the village controlled in the IS group.

There was no immediate comment from the US-led coalition on the alleged incident.

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Russia says Crimea’s status is non-negotiable

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Crimea’s status is not subject to discussion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

“As for Crimea, there is nothing to add here, this issue is not subject to any discussion any way,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia’s official news agency TASS.

Peskov’s remarks came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “We will return to the issue of Crimea.”

“There are certain differences on the modalities and now the situation is still far from a consensus,” TASS quoted Peskov as saying.

He added, however, that “this issue remains on the agenda.”

The initiative to deploy the UN mission to the contact line in eastern Ukraine had been put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Peskov noted. Tillerson went on to say that a sanctions regime imposed on Moscow will not change “until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is resolved and Ukraine’s territorial integrity is returned”.

Ukraine has been wracked by conflict since March 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after an illegal independence vote.

Russia’s annexation led Western powers, including the U.S., to impose sanctions against Moscow.

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Indonesian speaker ‘took $7.3m’ in kickbacks

Monitoring Desk

YOGYAKARTA: Former Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto pocketed $7.3 million in kickbacks from a government project to issue new ID cards, a court in Jakarta heard Wednesday.

Novanto, who was once described as “one of the powerful men and a great man” by U.S. President Donald Trump, is among several senior politicians accused of receiving money from the scheme.

The scandal came to light earlier this year and is estimated to have cost taxpayers around $170 million.

“The defendant unlawfully, directly or indirectly, intervened in the budgeting and procurement process of the national electronic identity card scheme,” Prosecutor Ahmad Burhanuddin told the televised hearing at Jakarta Corruption Court.

He said Novanto, 62, had received cash from two businessmen, Irvanto Hendra Pambudi Cahyo and Made Oka Masagung, totaling $7.3 million.

The former speaker, who has faced corruption claims in the past but never been convicted, also allegedly received a $135,000 Richard Mille watch.

The hearing was interrupted after Novanto, an influential politician from the opposition Golkar party, said he was unable to participate due to a bout of diarrhea.

The claim prompted jeers and laughter from observers. In the past, Novanto has avoided legal action by claiming ill health.

He was named as a suspect in the case for the second time on Nov. 10 after he repeatedly missed summonses for questioning by corruption investigators, saying he was ill and needed to be hospitalized.

The identity card program was launched in 2011 with the aim of providing greater data security and efficiency to Indonesia’s more than 250 million inhabitants.

According to investigators, around half of the project’s 5.8 trillion Indonesian rupiah ($434 million) budget was divided between 37 people, including Novanto and 23 other members of the House of Representatives.

Former Parliamentary Speaker Setya Novanto was temporarily forced to step down as house speaker over corruption allegations in 2015 after he was caught seeking shares worth billions of dollars from a U.S. mining company. Novanto was cleared of charges and returned as speaker, a role he quit again last week.

In its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International ranked Indonesia 90 out of 176 countries, with parliament cited as the most corrupt institution in the country.

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Seoul for unconditional NK talks

Monitoring Desk

SEOUL: South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyon on Wednesday invited North Korea to engage in talks without preconditions, local media said.

His comments echo those of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, when he called for negotiations without Pyongyang first committing to ending its nuclear program.

“North Korea should stop any further provocations and come out for talks without conditions,” Cho told a gathering of diplomats in Seoul, according to a Yonhap News Agency report based on a government statement.

He said South Korea was seeking to solve the nuclear issue through peaceful and diplomatic means, the agency reported, adding that Seoul was pushing to restore communication and increase cooperation with Kim Jong-un’s regime.

The dropping of any conditions before embarking on talks has led to speculation that South Korea and the U.S. could be adopting a new approach after years of Pyongyang’s defiance of UN resolutions.

The apparent change came nearly two weeks after North Korea said it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere on the U.S. mainland.

Among those present for Cho’s speech was the Chinese ambassador. President Moon Jae-in is currently visiting Beijing to meet China’s President Xi Jinping.

China is the North’s main backer and Xi has indicated he would welcome any move towards regional dialogue.

Later Wednesday, Russia welcomed Tillerson’s comments. “In general, we can state that such constructive statements are much better than the confrontational rhetoric that we have heard so far,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to official news agency TASS.

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At least 39 Yemenis dead in Saudi-led raid on police camp

Monitoring Desk

SANAA: Saudi-led coalition aircraft struck a military police camp in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday, killing at least 39 people and wounding 90 more, including some prisoners, an official and witnesses said.

The strike is part of an air campaign by the Western-backed coalition on the Iran-allied Houthis that has escalated since the Houthis crushed an uprising last week led by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and killed him.

One official in the camp said the coalition aircraft had launched seven raids on the camp, located in the eastern part of Sanaa, where some 180 prisoners were being held. The official said rescue teams had pulled out 35 bodies from the rubble, while the rest were not accounted for.

It was the latest in a string of air raids the coalition has conducted on Sanaa and other parts of the country, sometimes causing multiple casualties among civilians.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment on the report. The coalition denies that it targets civilians.

The United States and Britain provide political backing as well as weapons and logistical support for the Saudi-led coalition, which has been fighting since 2015 to restore Yemen’s internationally-recognised president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to power.


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Israel’s military drills signal possible war with Lebanon

Monitoring Desk

JERUSALEM: Military drills conducted by the Israeli army since the beginning of 2017 are being interpreted as preparations for a war against Lebanon, as the most recent drill was held along the country’s northern border.

Israel, which has launched eight exercises since March, held its largest drill in 20 years, the Light of the Grain, on Sept. 5-14.

The purpose of the drill, which took 18 months to plan, was to “ensure the readiness of the [Israeli] forces for any kind of scenario” against foreign powers, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said.

Israeli sources say the drill was launched to test if the IDF was ready against Hezbollah which has increased its military force in Lebanon.

The drill, beginning with a scenario of an attack on Israel, is significant as it has the largest capacity ever in the history of the Israeli army. Ground, navy and air forces used various defense systems to test their capacities in the drill. For instance, the Herm-es 900 unmanned aerial vehicle was used by the ground and air forces during the exercises. The last time the IDF conducted a drill of this scale was in 1998, as part of a conventional war with Syria.

The Light of the Grain drill’s focus on combating a comprehensive a foreign threat is being evaluated as Israel’s effort to adapt to changing security conditions in the region.

‘Beginning of the end’ for Israel, says Hezbollah leader

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Dec. 11 that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would mark the “beginning of the end” for Israel.

“Today the axis of resistance, including Hezbollah, will return as its most important priority … Jerusalem and Palestine and the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance in all its factions,” he added.

Stating that Trump’s decision on Jerusalem “has left the U.S. and Israel isolated against the rest of the world,” Nasrallah said the best response to Trump would be a third intifada on the occupied Palestinian lands.

He called on the Arab world to “adopt the Palestinians when they begin a new intifada,” and on Hezbollah’s allies to implement a united strategy “in the field” against Israel.

Nasrallah stated last month that Hezbollah, which views Israel as the biggest threat on its borders, has sent arms to Palestine territories before.

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Israel invites Saudi’s crown prince for official visit

Monitoring Desk

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Minister for Transportation and Intelligence Yisrael Katz invited Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Israel, according to the Israel-based Haaretz newspaper.

Katz also urged Saudi Ara-bia’s King Salman to extend an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan-yahu to visit the country.

The transportation and intelligence minister referred to Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab world and said that Prince Salman’s stance against Iran had cast him as an important partner for the U.S. and Israel.

An Israeli cabinet minister on Nov. 19 revealed that Israel has had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia amid common concerns over Iran, a first disclosure by a senior official from either country. Saudi Arabia does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel.

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Jadhav not an ordinary prisoner, Pakistan responds in ICJ

THE HAGUE (NNI): Pakistan has filed a reply with International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav case on Wednesday stating that the issue cannot be treated under The Vienna Convention as Jadhav is a special case.

“Jadhav is not a common prisoner, hence The Vienna Convention is not applicable on him,” it was argued.

Sources told that Fareeha Bugti submitted the reply in ICJ. In the reply, Pakistan refuted the Indian stance, saying that the Indian spy was caught during terror activities and he confessed to running a network for terrorism as well as being funded by the neighbouring state.

The informed sources told media that now it will be India’s turn to respond to the arguments. Pakistan will have another chance to submit the reply after their response.

It is likely that the hearing of Kulbhushan Jhadav case will be held in the middle of 2018.

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Palestinians have right to east Jerusalem as capital: Saudi king

RIYADH: Palestinians have the right to east Jerusalem as their capital, Saudi King Salman said Wednesday, echoing made at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) extraordinary summit in Istanbul which he did not attend.

“The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the king said.

King Salman’s address to the kingdom’s Consultative Council came as the OIC held an emergency summit in Istanbul in response to last week’s US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

During the summit, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the world to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as the “capital of Palestine”.

“I am inviting the countries who value international law and fairness to recognise occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” Erdogan said, adding that Muslim countries would “never give up” on this demand.

Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas in his address at the summit called the decision of US President Donald Trump a “flagrant violation of international law”.

“Jerusalem is and will forever be the capital of the Palestinian state,” Abbas told the meeting.

Abbas warned that there could be “no peace or stability” in the Middle East until Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of a Palestinian state.