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Two dead as Venezuela ‘crushes military rebellion’

Two people have been killed and at least eight others captured in an armed attack by “terrorists” on a Venezuelan military base, President Nicolas Maduro announced on state television.

A previous count by army chief General Jesus Suarez Chourio said that one died and one was gravely wounded in the attack on Sunday on the base in the northwestern city of Valencia, which the military said was quickly put down.

Maduro also said that 10 other men have escaped and authorities were hunting for them.

One of the attackers was badly wounded during the assault, army chief Chourio said.

The Venezuelan president said 20 men in all entered the Paramacay base shortly before 4 am local time. He said soldiers assigned as night guards were caught by surprise and the intruders were able to work their way to the base’s weapons supply.

The president said troops battled with the intruders for about four hours.

The president alleges the attack was “paid for” by anti-government leaders based in Miami and Colombia.

Diosdado Cabello, the Socialist Party’s deputy, earlier said troops acted quickly to quash the assault.

Meanwhile an opposition party official said that a local leader was shot dead at a protest near the military base. It is unclear, however, if Haydee Franco was referring to one of the two fatalities mentioned by Maduro.

Military officials said the rebels, whom they described as “terrorists,” were trying to steal weapons.

Earlier on Sunday, a small group of men dressed in military fatigues, some armed with assault rifles, released a video declaring an uprising in Carabobo state, where Valencia is located.

In the video, a man identifying himself as Captain Juan Caguaripano said that any unit refusing to go along with its call for rebellion would be declared a military target.

“We demand the immediate formation of a transition government,” Caguaripano said. He was flanked by about a dozen men in military uniforms.

“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”

One witness in the area told the Reuters news agency of hearing gunshots before dawn.

Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from Caracas, said a civil society group that monitors the military has raised questions about Caguaripano and the attack on Paramacay.

Citing Control Ciudadano, our correspondent said: “What’s strange about this man who speaks in the video, who says he’s a captain in the army, is that he was wanted by the government in 2014, also for trying to organise some sort of insurrection.

“So how is he free? And how is he once again doing the same?”

Venezuela has been rocked by a wave of anti-government protests in the past several months that have left more than 100 people dead.

The reported attack in Paramacay comes two days after government allies inaugurated a new legislative superbody that the opposition and dozens of countries denounced as a power grab by President Nicolas Maduro.

In its first act on Saturday the Constituent Assembly ordered the dismissal of the country’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega, a vocal government critic.

The opposition is struggling to regain its footing in the face of the government’s tactics and re-emergence of old, internal divisions.

Courtesy: Aljazeera

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New Venezuela assembly fires dissenting attorney general

CARACAS (AFP): A new assembly loyal to President Nicolas Maduro fired Venezuela’s attorney general, a vociferous critic, in its first working session Saturday, bolstering international criticism it is supporting a “dictatorship.”

The body, the Constituent Assembly, made the sacking of Luisa Ortega its first order of business since it was elected in a widely condemned vote a week ago.

It also said Ortega would face trial for “irregularities” from her time in office.

Ortega, who was barred by dozens of soldiers from entering her offices, said she refused to recognize her sacking, or the assembly’s swearing in of Tarek William Saab, the national ombudsman, in her place.

“I am not giving up, Venezuela is not giving up and will not give up against barbarity, illegality, hunger, darkness and death,” she said.

Ortega has been a thorn in Maduro’s side for months, breaking ranks with him over the legality of the Constituent Assembly.

One of the assembly’s most prominent members, Diosdado Cabello, said of the firing, “This is not a personal, political lynching, just carrying out the law.”

But Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Canada all immediately slammed the decision, which some called “illegal.”

“The first action of the constituent assembly has been to further dismantle Venezuela’s separation of powers and democracy,” Canada’s foreign ministry said on Twitter.

Ortega’s sacking had been widely expected. But its swiftness – and the fact it was a unanimous vote – stirred wide unease.

Mercosur suspension

Maduro and his Socialist party have “completely taken hostage” Venezuela’s institutions through “an undemocratic mechanism that is utterly dictatorial,” the leader of the opposition-controlled legislature, Julio Borges, told reporters.

As Ortega’s firing was being announced, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil declared Venezuela was indefinitely suspended from the South American trading bloc Mercosur for its “rupture of the democratic order”.

The international onslaught added to US sanctions imposed on Maduro after the Constituent Assembly’s election.

Maduro responded in an interview with an Argentine radio station that “Venezuela will not be taken out of Mercosur – never!”

He accused his Argentine counterpart, Mauricio Macri, of trying to impose a “blockade” on Venezuela and US President Donald Trump of wanting to grab the country’s vast oil reserves.

Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, this week ruled out foreign military intervention and said Washington did not want to give Maduro a pretext for blaming the US for his mounting woes.

The country’s economic and political crisis, he said, is “on Maduro’s shoulders,” he said, calling Venezuela an “authoritarian dictatorship.”

The United States, the European Union and major Latin American nations including Mexico, Argentina and Chile have all rejected the Constituent Assembly.

The body’s legitimacy was struck a hard blow this week when a British-based firm that supplied the voting technology, Smartmatic, said the turnout figure was “tampered with” and greatly exaggerated.

Supreme powers

The principal task of the Constituent Assembly is to rewrite the constitution, something Maduro promised will resolve Venezuela’s troubles.

“We are going to win back peace,” the president said.

While working on its mission, the assembly holds supreme powers over all other branches of government.

Initial suggestions were that it would need only six months to complete its work.

But it announced on Saturday that it would stay in place for up to two years – beyond the end of Maduro’s term, due to end in 2019.

Its 545 members, including the president’s wife and son, are all Maduro allies because of

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Wildfire forces evacuation of Portugal Water Park

LISBON (AFP): A wildfire raging in northern Portugal amid scorching temperatures forced the evacuation on Saturday of a water park and the closure of a highway, firefighters said.

Over 70 firefighters backed by 21 vehicles were battling the blaze in scrubland near Vila Caiz, located about 55 kilometres northeast of Porto, the civil protection agency said.

Firefighters evacuated the Parque Aquatico de Amarante and closed a stretch of the A4 highway as a precaution, according to Commander Jose Pereira – the head of the firefighters in the nearby town of Avintes.

“It was mainly because of the smoke,” he told public television RTP adding it was not immediately clear how many people were in the water park at the time.

Portugal’s national weather office placed 13 regions on a yellow alert – the third highest level in a four-tier alert system – on Saturday because of the heat.

Temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in some southern areas.

After an uncommonly dry winter and spring, almost 79 percent of the Portuguese mainland was enduring extreme or severe drought at the end of July, according to the national weather office.

In June over 60 people were killed, and more than 250 were injured, in a giant wildfire at Pedrogao Grande in central Portugal that raged for five days.

Many of the victims were trapped in their cars by the flames.


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Japan marks 72 years since Hiroshima atomic bomb

TOKYO (AFP): Japan on Sunday marked 72 years since the world´s first nuclear attack on Hiroshima, with the nation´s traditional contradictions over atomic weapons again coming into focus.

The anniversary came after Japan sided last month with nuclear powers Britain, France and the US to dismiss a UN treaty banning atomic weapons, which was rejected by critics for ignoring the reality of security threats such as North Korea.

Japan is the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking at the annual ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near the ground zero, said Japan hoped to push for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that all countries can agree.

“For us to truly pursue a world without nuclear weapons, we need participation from both nuclear-weapons and non-nuclear weapons states,” Abe said in his speech at the annual ceremony.

“Our country is committed to leading the international community by encouraging both sides” to make progress toward abolishing nuclear arms, Abe added without directly referring to the UN treaty.

Japanese officials have criticised the UN Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty as deepening a divide between countries with and without nuclear arms. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons took part in the negotiations or vote on the treaty.

Japanese officials routinely argue that they abhor nuclear weapons, but the nation´s defence is firmly set under the US nuclear umbrella.

Japan suffered two nuclear attacks at the end of the World War II by the United States — in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and in Nagasaki three days later.

The bombings claimed the lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 74,000 people in Nagasaki. Some died immediately while others succumbed to injuries or radiation-related illnesses weeks, months and years later.

Japan announced its surrender in World War II on August 15, 1945.

Many in Japan feel the attacks amount to war crimes and atrocities because they targeted civilians and due to the unprecedented destructive nature of the weapons.

But many Americans believe they hastened the end of a bloody conflict, and ultimately saved lives, thus justifying the bombings.

Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima in May last year, paying moving tribute to victims of the devastating bomb.

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Much of South Asia ‘could be too hot to live’ by 2100: study

NEW YORK (APP) – Climate change could result in much of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh becoming “too hot to live” by 2100, a recent study published in the Science Advances magazine has predicted.

The study titled Predicting Risks of Extreme Heat Waves in South Asia suggests that deadly heat waves towards the end of the 21st century in the densely-populated agricultural regions of South Asia would be above human survivability threshold, based on wet-bulb temperature (TW).

TW is defined as the temperature that an air parcel would attain if cooled at constant pressure by evaporating water within it until saturation.

Past climatology studies have been based on temperature projections alone. This one also considers humidity as well as the body’s ability to cool down in response.

The study presents several models that project risks from new types of extreme heat waves that are likely to hit South Asia hotspots.

The authors of the study led by former MIT research scientist Eun-Soon Im, now an assistant professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, identify areas where climate change is likely to severely impact human health and habitability in one of the most heavily-populated regions on Earth.

Global warming is gradually taking place with deadly ramifications., it said on the basis of analyses of results, one TW model projects temperatures to exceed the 35-C survivability threshold in parts of South Asia, including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

It cites the Ganges river valley, northeastern India and Bangladesh, the eastern coast of India, Chota Nagpur Plateau, northern Sri Lanka, and the Indus Valley of Pakistan as the areas which are likely to be inhabitable.

Going outdoors in large swathes of the densely-populated agricultural regions in this model might be a deadly venture.

According to another model, no regions are projected to exceed 35°C in temperatures; however, vast regions of South Asia are projected to experience episodes exceeding 31-C, which is considered extremely dangerous for most humans.

The vast region covered in the study is home to some 1.5 billion impoverished people who lack air-conditioning in their homes and cannot cope with the extreme heat.

Almost all world countries, including top air polluters such as the United States, China and India, signed a landmark climate agreement named the Paris Climate Accord, which went into effect on November 4, 2016.

The agreement obliged countries to make a unified effort to stop, or at least slow down, global warming.

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UN toughens sanctions on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS (AFP): The UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously backed a US-drafted resolution that significantly strengthened sanctions on North Korea, imposing a ban on exports aimed at depriving Pyongyang of $1 billion in annual revenue.

The sweeping measures were the first of that scope to be imposed on North Korea since US President Donald Trump took office and highlighted China´s willingness to punish its Pyongyang ally.

The resolution imposed a full ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state — stripping North Korea of a third of its export earnings estimated at $3 billion per year.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the stiffer measures brought the penalty imposed on North Korea for its ballistic missile tests “to a whole new level” and that the council had put leader Kim Jong-Un “on notice.”

“This is the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation,” Haley told the council after the vote.

“These sanctions will cut deep and in doing so, will give the North Korean leadership a taste of the deprivation they have chosen to inflict on the North Korean people.”

The resolution also prevents North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad whose earnings are another source of revenue for Kim´s regime.

It prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korea, bans new investment in the current joint companies and adds nine North Korean officials and four entities including North Korea´s main foreign exchange bank to the UN sanctions blacklist.

If fully implemented, the measures would tighten the economic vise around Pyongyang as it seeks to develop its missile and nuclear programs.

Trump hailed the unanimous vote in the Security Council, saying the sanctions will have “very big financial impact!”

It was “the single largest economic sanctions package ever on North Korea. Over one billion dollars in cost to N.K.,” the US leader said on Twitter.

The United States entered into negotiations with China a month ago on the new resolution after Pyongyang launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4 which was followed by a second test on July 28.

But the measure does not provide for cuts to oil deliveries to North Korea as initially proposed by the United States — a move that would have dealt a serious blow to the economy.

The new raft of measures are the seventh set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first carried out a nuclear test in 2006.

Sanctions not an end

The United States has put heavy pressure on China, which accounts for 90 percent of trade with North Korea, to enforce the sanctions and the fate of these measures largely hinges on Beijing´s cooperation.

China and Russia had resisted the US push, arguing that dialogue with North Korea was the way to persuade Pyongyang to halt its military programs.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said the resolution “does not intend to cause a negative impact” to North Korea´s people and stressed that it called for a return to talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

“The fact that the council adopted this resolution unanimously demonstrates that the international community is united in its position regarding the nuclear issue of the peninsula,” said Liu.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia stressed that sanctions “cannot be an end in themselves” but rather “a tool for engaging this country in constructive talks.”

Backed by Japan, South Korea and its European allies, the United States has maintained that tougher sanctions would put pressure on North Korea to come to the table.

As negotiations at the United Nations entered the final stretch earlier this week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that Washington was not seeking regime change in North Korea and was willing to talk to Pyongyang.

Next step

Speaking to reporters after the council vote, Haley said “what´s next is completely up to North Korea.”

“The United States has been loud about it, now the international community has been loud and North Korea now has to respond,” she said.

Trump´s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said the United States would not tolerate the threat posed by North Korea´s missile and nuclear tests.

McMaster, in an interview with MSNBC, said Trump had told China´s President Xi Jinping it was no longer enough for North Korea to “freeze” its programs since it had already crossed “threshold capability” and the goal was now denuclearization.

South Korea´s foreign minister, meanwhile, held out a diplomatic olive branch Saturday, saying she was open to holding discussions with her North Korean counterpart at a security forum in the Philippines.

“If there is an opportunity that naturally occurs, we should talk,” Kang Kyung-Wha said as she landed in Manila on Saturday, according to South Korea´s Yonhap news agency.

North Korea´s top diplomat, Ri Hong-Yo, was attending the regional summit, which is hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Seoul last month proposed military talks with Pyongyang but the North refused to respond. Had they gone ahead, they would have been the first official inter-Korean talks since 2015.

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China warns India over ‘military buildup’ at border

BEIJING (Aljazeera) : China says India has been building up troops along its side of the border and demands an “immediate withdrawal” amid an increasingly tense stand-off in a remote frontier region high in the Himalayas.

The stand-off on a plateau, which lies at the China-India-Bhutan junction, is one of the worst border disputes between the nuclear-armed rivals in more than 30 years.

On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry demanded India must “immediately withdraw troops” from the region, known as Donglang in Beijing, and Doklam in New Delhi, if it cherishes peace.

The plateau is currently disputed between China and Bhutan with India supporting Bhutan‘s claim over it.

“It has already been more than a month since the incident, and India is still not only illegally remaining on Chinese territory, it is also repairing roads in the rear, stocking up supplies, massing a large number of armed personnel,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“This is certainly not for peace.”

India, meanwhile, denied any such military buildup.

In a statement to parliament on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj urged dialogue based on a written common understanding regarding the border intersection reached in 2012.

“India always believes that peace and tranquility in the India-China border is an important pre-requisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations,” Swaraj said, according to a transcript of her remarks released by her office.

“We will continue to engage with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels to find a mutually acceptable solution.”

‘Bottom line’

The standoff began in June when Chinese troops began building a road through the plateau.

India sent troops at Thimpu’s request, and warned China that construction of the road near their common border would have serious security implications.

The road gives China access to the so-called Chicken’s Neck, a thin strip of land connecting India’s central mass to its remote northeastern regions.

Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are now facing each other about 150 metres apart.

In a separate statement, China’s Defence Ministry said the country had shown goodwill and that its forces had exercised utmost restraint, but warned “restraint has a bottom line”.

“No country should underestimate the Chinese military’s confidence in and ability to fulfil its mission of safeguarding peace, and should not underestimate the Chinese military’s determination and will to defend the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” it said.

China’s military has held live fire drills close to the disputed area, and state television on Friday said more exercises had been conducted recently, though did not give an exact location.

In an editorial, the official China Daily said China was not in the mood for a fight, noting how the standoff has been “unusually restrained”.

“However, if good manners do not work, in the end, it may be necessary to rethink our approach. Sometimes a head-on blow may work better than a thousand pleas in waking up a dreamer,” the English-language paper added.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to visit China early in September for a summit of BRICS leaders.

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Firefighters extinguish blaze at Dubai skyscraper

Firefighters have extinguished a blaze that swept through one of the world’s tallest residential buildings in Dubai early on Friday, forcing occupants to flee their homes as burning debris showered down the sides of the 79-storey tower.

Dubai’s civil defence authorities said firefighting squads put out the blaze by around 4:00 am (0000 GMT) and were cooling the 337 metre-tall Torch tower.

The tower was evacuated and no injuries were reported, authorities said.

Flames shot up the sides of the building in the city’s upscale Marina district in the second blaze at the structure since 2015.

Firefighters and police sealed off surrounding streets, which were partially covered by dust and debris.

By 4.00 am the exterior of the building showed no sign of fire as residents and onlookers stood around staring up at the building, according to a Reuters news agency witness.

“We were sleeping and we woke up to the fire alarm and people screaming. We ran down the stairs and it took us about 10 minutes to reach from the 50th floor,” a resident who gave his name as George, told Reuters.

“The fire was very strong at that time, about 1 a.m. Then it started calming down over the next two hours. It started on the 67th floor, that’s what we were told,” he added.

Another resident, whose name was Mohammed and lives on the 12th floor, told Reuters the top part caught fire first and then lower levels followed as debris fell.

The government said it is working on providing shelter for the ones affected by the fire.

Hundreds of people were evacuated in 2015 from the same building when a massive fire swept through the tower.

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a Gulf Arab trade and investment hub.

Several skyscrapers in the United Arab Emirates have caught fire in recent years, including a towering inferno that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai on New Year’s Eve in 2016. In that blaze, as in others in Dubai in recent years, residents escaped without major injury.

Earlier this year, Dubai passed new fire safety rules requiring buildings with quick-burning side panelling to replace it with more fire-resistant siding.

Authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the UAE have cladding or panelling that safety experts have said accelerates the rapid spread of fires.

A devastating tower fire in London in June killed at least 80 people and prompted the UK to order more thorough testing on the cladding systems of its towers.

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UN: Yazidi genocide in Iraq still ongoing, unaddressed

ISIL’s genocide against Iraq’s Yazidis is still “ongoing” and remains “unaddressed” by the international community, the UN has said, marking three years since ISIL began killing and capturing thousands of members of the religious minority group.

The UN human rights Commission of Inquiry, which declared the killings of thousands of Yazidis by ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, to be a genocide, said on Thursday that the atrocity had not ended and that the international community was not doing enough to stop it.

“The genocide is ongoing and remains largely unaddressed, despite the obligation of states … to prevent and to punish the crime,” the commissioners said in a statement.

Fighters were driven out of the last part of the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq in May.

However, most Yazidis have yet to return to villages they fled when the group overran Sinjar in the summer of 2014, killing and capturing thousands because of their faith.

Nearly 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain in ISIL captivity, and control over Sinjar is disputed by rival armed groups and their regional patrons.

Justice for the crimes Yazidis suffered, including sexual enslavement, has also so far proved elusive.

“The Yazidis’ wound is still bleeding,” one man told Reuters news agency at a ceremony attended by several thousand people including the mayor and other local dignitaries, held at a temple at the foot of the mountain that dominates Sinjar.

“The Kurds and the Iraqi government are fighting for Sinjar and we are paying the price,” the man said.

ISIL fighters killed thousands of captured men during their attack on the Yazidis, a religious group whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions and are abhorred by ISIL.

About 3,100 Yazidis were killed – with more than half shot, beheaded or burned alive – and about 6,800 kidnapped to become sex slaves or fighters, according to a report published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

Enslaved women and girls are now reportedly being sold by ISIL fighters trying to escape the US-led coalition’s assault on the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, the UN commission said.

Control over Sinjar

The array of forces that drove ISIL, also known as ISIS, out of Sinjar are now vying for control of the area near the borders of Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces retook around half of Sinjar in late 2015, effectively annexing it to the autonomous region they hope to convert into an independent state.

A referendum on independence is due to be held in September, which the government in Baghdad opposes.

Mainly Shia groups, some backed by Iran, retook the rest of the Yazidi homeland in May, bringing them within metres of the Peshmerga forces.

Another group, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey, also gained a foothold in Sinjar and clashed with the Peshmerga earlier this year.

The PKK’s presence has made the area a target for Turkey.

“People are worried about returning,” General Ashti Kojer, the local head of Kurdish police, said.

“The [Sinjar] region has become a conflict zone.”

Kojer and another local official said the political environment was preventing international organisations from working on reconstruction and rehabilitation in Sinjar, further discouraging Yazidis from returning.

‘Stop Yazidi Genocide’

In a speech at Thursday’s ceremony, Mahma Xelil, the Yazidi mayor of Sinjar, said Nuri al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, was responsible for the tragedy because he was in charge when the ISIL fighters overran Mosul.

Other Yazidis blame the Kurds, who were defending the area at the time, for failing to resist the ISIL onslaught.

At the ceremony, people carried signs saying “Stop Yazidi Genocide”. Families streamed into cemeteries to remember their loved ones. Women wore bandanas saying “Genocide”.

In the city of Sinjar, posters and banners hung up on roundabouts depict harrowing scenes from the attack three years ago: families fleeing and distressed women and children.

Large parts of the city, which was also home to Muslim Kurds and Arabs, remain empty.

Around 1,000 Yazidi families have returned to Sinjar since the city was retaken in 2015, according to Jalal Khalaf, the director of the mayor’s office in Sinjar.

The city and the surrounding area had been home to around 400,000 Yazidis. Courtesy: Aljazeera

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‘Robert Mueller impanels grand jury’ for Russia probe

The Wall Street Journal newspaper is reporting that Robert Mueller, the US special counsel, has convened a grand jury in Washington, DC to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mueller’s inquiry is gaining steam and that it will probably continue for months, the report says.

Mueller is investigating Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with Russia as part of that effort.

Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with a meeting on June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr, a Russian lawyer and others, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

A grand jury is a group of ordinary citizens who, working behind closed doors, consider evidence and potential criminal wrongdoing that a prosecutor is investigating and decide on whether charges should be brought.

They are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments if there is evidence of a crime.

Legal experts quoted by the Wall Street Journal report said Mueller’s decision suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.

It also said a grand jury in Washington, DC, is more convenient for Mueller and his 16 attorneys – they work just a few blocks from the US federal courthouse where grand juries meet – than one that is far away in Virginia.

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected accusations that it tried to influence the US election. Trump has strenuously denied allegations of collusion.

He has also dismissed Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch-hunt”.

US stocks and the dollar weakened following the news, while US treasury securities gained.

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that Mueller, who was appointed special counsel in May, brought a former US justice department official to join his investigative team.

Greg Andres started on Tuesday, becoming the 16th lawyer on the team.

Courtesy: Aljazeera