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Top judge named to head Christchurch massacre inquiry

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WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday named a Supreme Court judge to lead an inquiry into the massacre last month of 50 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques.

“The government will ensure no stone is left unturned as we examine as quickly as possible how the March 15 attack happened, what could have been done to stop it and how we can keep New Zealanders safe,” Ardern said.

The Royal Commission probe, the most powerful judicial inquiry available under New Zealand law, will be led by Supreme Court Judge William Young and report its findings by December 10, she said.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-avowed white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 of attempted murder over the mosque attacks in the southern city.

Ardern said the probe, due to begin hearing evidence on May 13, would play a critical role in ensuring “such an attack never happens again”.

The inquiry will involve consultation with the Muslim community and look into whether New Zealand counter-terror agencies placed an “inappropriate concentration” of resources in tracking Muslim militants while neglecting the threat from far-right extremism.

It will probe Tarrant’s activities before the attack, including how he obtained a gun licence, weapons and ammunition, and his use of social media, Ardern said.

Tarrant live-streamed his attack and published a lengthy manifesto online before launching his rampage.

What knowledge intelligence agencies had of his activities and whether any laws impeded the gathering and sharing of information by the agencies will also be part of the inquiry, she said.

Since the attacks, the government has tightened the country’s gun laws, is reviewing legislation dealing with hate speech and called for social media giants to do more to combat online extremism.

 

 

 

 

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Islamic State group claims Sri Lanka bombs that killed hundreds

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COLOMBO: A local group on Tuesday said it was behind a devastating string of suicide attacks against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 320 people on Easter Sunday.

The claim emerged more than 48 hours after the near-simultaneous blasts tore through three high-end hotels popular with foreigners and three churches packed with Christians marking Easter.

It came after Sri Lanka’s government said initial investigations suggested the attack had been carried out as “retaliation” for shootings at two mosques in New Zealand last month that killed 50 people.

The Sri Lankan government had already pointed the figure at a little-known local extremist group, but said it was investigating whether they had international support.

“Those that carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters,” a statement released by the group’s propaganda agency Amaq said.

It presented no immediate evidence for the claim, or further details on the attackers.

 

 

 

 

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Kim’s schedule for Russia visit seen to be taking shape

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VLADIVOSTOK: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s schedule for a visit to Russia appears to be taking shape, with his security and protocol staff spotted making final preparations in Vladivostok for his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow and Pyongyang have confirmed that Kim will visit Russia for the summit, but they did not disclose its date and venue. Media speculate that he is likely to arrive by train in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday and hold the talks the following day.

Kim Chang-son, the North Korean leader’s protocol chief, and other staff members have been seen checking facilities in Vladivostok, including those of the Far Eastern Federal University, where the leaders of the two countries are expected to meet.

A diplomatic source here said that Moscow and Pyongyang appear to be fine-tuning the schedule for a dinner between Kim and Putin on Wednesday and their formal meeting the next day.

Should he decide to travel by train, Kim would travel a distance of around 1,200 kilometers from Pyongyang on a trip expected to take 20 hours or more given the poor railway conditions in some stretches toward the border with Russia.

The federal university on Russky Island of Vladivostok is seen as the most likely summit venue, as it has so far hosted a series of top-level international events, including the 2012 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The university is also a site of Russia’s annual Eastern Economic Forum designed to publicize and strengthen Moscow’s policy initiative to attract investment for and expedite the development of the Far Easter region.

Security on a bridge leading to the insular university is relatively easy to control, another reason why the university has been cited as a likely summit site.

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US sanctions over Iran oil will ‘intensify Mideast turmoil’: China

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BEIJING: China warned Tuesday that the US decision to impose sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil will “intensify turmoil” in the Middle East and in the international energy market.

The White House announced Monday it was calling an end to six-month waivers that had exempted several countries — including major importer China — from unilateral US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

“China firmly opposes the US implementation of unilateral sanctions and its so-called long-armed jurisdiction,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

“The relevant move by the United States will intensify the turmoil in the Middle East and the turmoil in the international energy market.”

In seeking to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero, the Trump administration is targeting the country’s top revenue earner in its latest no-holds-barred move to crush the economy and scale back the clerical regime’s influence.

 

 

 

 

 

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