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New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres



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WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ordered an independent judicial inquiry into whether police and intelligence services could have prevented the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15.

Ardern said a royal commission — the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law — was needed to find out how a single gunman was able to kill 50 people in an attack that shocked the world.

“It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to how this act of terrorism occurred and how we could have stopped it,” she told reporters.

New Zealand’s spy agencies have faced criticism in the wake of the attack for concentrating on the threat from Islamic extremism.

Instead, the victims were all Muslims and the massacre was allegedly carried out by a white supremacist fixated on the belief that there was an Islamist plot to “invade” Western countries.

“One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more,” Ardern said.
“New Zealand is not a surveillance state … but questions need to be answered.”

Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant, 28, who was arrested minutes after the attack on the mosques and has been charged with murder.

She said details of the royal commission were being finalised, but it would be comprehensive and would report in a timely manner.

It will cover the activities of intelligence services, police, customs, immigration and any other relevant government agencies in the lead-up to the attack.

The gunman livestreamed the attack online, although New Zealand has outlawed the footage as “objectionable content”.

Ardern reiterated her believe it should not be aired.

“That video should not be shared. That is harmful content,” she said when questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showing excerpts of the footage at campaign rallies for local elections this month.

Erdogan had angered both Wellington and Canberra with campaign rhetoric about anti-Muslim Australians and New Zealanders being sent back in “coffins” like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a World War I battle.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters travelled to Istanbul to meet Erdogan and address an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Peters said OIC members were full of praise for the support New Zealand had offered its small, tight-knit Muslim community in the wake of the killings.

“A number of them were weeping and sobbing at the demonstration (of support) by non-Muslim New Zealand towards the Muslim victims,” he told reporters.

“It was dramatic and I was told by countless ministers that they’ve never seen anything of that type.”

The body of an Indian student killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, meanwhile, was returned Monday to her grieving family in Kochi, where relatives remembered a bright young woman dedicated to her studies.

Ansi Alibava, 25, was the first of at least five Indians shot dead on March 15 to be repatriated.

The family planned to hold a funeral ceremony for the masters student in their nearby hometown of Kodungallur.






US piles pressure on Iran with new troop deployments



US piles pressure on Iran with new troop deployments

WASHINGTON: China and Russia warned Tuesday about escalating Middle East tensions after Washington said it would deploy 1,000 more troops to the region and renewed accusations that Iran was behind a tanker attack.

The US moves came as Iran set a 10-day countdown for world powers to fulfil their commitments under a nuclear deal abandoned by Washington, saying it would otherwise surpass the uranium stockpile limit mandated by the accord.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated ever since the US quit the deal, with Washington bolstering its military presence in the region and blacklisting Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

On Monday, Washington further upped the ante.

“I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said.

The United States has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a charge Tehran denies as “baseless.”









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Trump says US to begin removing ‘millions’ of illegal migrants



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WASHINGTON: The United States will start removing “millions” of illegal migrants next week, President Donald Trump said Monday, adding that Guatemala is preparing to sign a safe third country deal.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

He added that “Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement,” an apparent reference to a pact in which migrants entering Guatemalan territory would have to apply for refugee status there, not in the United States.

The US is facing a surge in migrant arrivals from Guatemala and other impoverished Central American countries which are plagued by gang violence.

The numbers have overwhelmed the ability of US authorities to temporarily shelter and process them.

Trump has called it “an invasion,” and has made the fight against illegal migration a central plank of his administration.

Earlier Monday the US said it would not offer any more aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras unless they take “concrete actions” to deter undocumented migrants from heading for the US.

For fiscal 2019, $370 million initially planned will be allocated to other foreign policy priorities, the State Department said, and all future aid is now conditional.

“We will not provide new funds for programs in those countries until we are satisfied the Northern Triangle governments are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the US border,” Ortagus said.







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Pak-China agree to expedite work on Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway



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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar and Ambassador of China Yao Jing during a meeting here on Monday agreed to expedite the work on Eastern Corridor from Sukkur to Hyderabad in BOT (Build, Operate, and Transfer) mode for its early completion.

The two dignitaries expressed satisfaction over the pace of projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.

CPEC: Sukkur-Multan motorway benefits people

The Sukkur-Multan section of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway being constructed under CPEC has vitalized the local economy and benefited the people in the area.

The motorway has a design speed of 120 km per hour, and it is a two-way six-lane road stretched from Sukkur, a city in Sindh province, to Multan, a city in Punjab province, People’s Daily Online reported here on Wednesday.

The project, being completed by the engineers of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) alongside local Pakistanis, has promoted private sector development and small and micro businesses in the local area and regions along the route.

A Chinese manager said the building materials such as gravel and cement were bought from local companies, accelerating the industrial chain cycle.

The construction corporation also worked with local companies to exploit natural resources, facilitating related industries such as transportation and sales.

The project officially started in the year 2016 has created job opportunities for graduates and specialized workers including 26-year-old Salman who came from a small town 130 kilometers away from Multan. After graduation, he applied for a job in the project.

With excellent English and professional skills, he was hired to lead about 1,000 Pakistani workers. A lot of Pakistani workers like Salman realized their potential in the construction project.

The motorway has created 23,000 positions, including administrative staff and senior technical workers. It has also helped create more than 40,000 jobs through the development of related industries.

The project has trained 4,500 machine operators and 2,300 administrators and technicians for Pakistan so far.

The CSCEC has sent a medical team to provide free services for 3,900 local people and has also built nine schools in Pakistan.

The project is expected to be completed by June 2019. By then, the distance from Sukkur to Multan will be shortened from 463 kilometers to 392 kilometers, and the travel time halved from 8 hours to 4 hours.

The Multan-Sukkur motorway is part of Peshawar-Karachi Motorway. This route starts from Karachi via Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Islamabad, Lahore, and other cities, and ends in Peshawar with a total length of 1,152 kilometers.







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