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Iran seizes vessel in Gulf for allegedly smuggling diesel fuel – ISNA

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have seized a vessel in the Gulf for allegedly smuggling 250,000 litres of diesel fuel to the United Arab Emirates, Iran’s semi-official Students News agency ISNA reported on Monday.

“It was detained near Iran’s Greater Tunb island in the Persian Gulf…the crew have been handed over to legal authorities in the southern Hormozgan province,’’ ISNA said, without elaborating on the nationalities of the crewmen.

The reported seizure coincided with raised international tensions following a weekend attack on a major oil installation in Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s long-time regional foe.

Responsibility for the strike was claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, while the U.S. has blamed Iran for the strike.

Iran denies the accusation.

Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the fall of its national currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling by land to neighbouring countries and by sea to Gulf Arab states.

Iran stepped up its fight against smuggling fuel earlier this month when its coast guards seized a vessel for smuggling fuel in the Gulf and detained its 12 Filipino crew members.

In July, Iran seized a British oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations, two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar accused of taking oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.

Iran’s Adrian Darya 1, formerly Grace 1, was released last month.

It’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said on Monday that the British-flagged Steno Impero oil tanker will be released soon.

The latest reported ship seizure by Iran follows a series of incidents involving shipping in and near the Gulf after U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports took full effect in May.

The incidents coincided with stepped-up attacks by the Houthis on targets in Saudi Arabia. (Reuters/)

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Trump lashes out at second witness, as lawyer says ‘no crime’

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Lashing

 U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at a government official who will testify in public in the coming week, as part of the impeachment inquiry.

This is a move that comes on the heels of a previous barb that Democrats said was witness intimidation.

Jennifer Williams testified in a closed-door session that she was concerned that the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amounted to an “unusual and inappropriate” demand that Ukraine probe Joe Biden, his domestic rival.

Trump tweeted that Williams, “whoever that is” should meet with other opponents of the president and “work out a better presidential attack”.

Williams works for the vice president and will testify on Tuesday.

Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine – who seems to have been removed to enable a channel to pressure on Zelensky, according to other testimonies – was testifying before Congress on Friday when Trump bashed her career on Twitter.

Trump had previously disparaged Yovanovitch in his call with Zelensky, calling her “bad news” and cryptically saying: “She’s going to go through some things.”

Democrats denounced what they saw as witness intimidation by the president.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, took to Twitter to declare: “Democrats have NO crime and NO victim!”

He also called the impeachment inquiry a “travesty and embarrassment to our country”.

Trump himself claimed impeachment was a “partisan weapon,” and pointed to public statements from both Zelensky and the Ukranian foreign minister which seemed to indicate they did not feel pressure to investigate Biden.

Testimonies, however, are painting a picture of a president and his allies who were seeking dirt on Biden, with allegations that military aid to Ukraine was made dependent on a probe.

YEE

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim

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Sri Lanka’s new president, Rajapaksa sworn in after record victory

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Sri Lanka’s new president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in on Monday after record victory.

Swearing-in

 Sri Lanka’s former defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, was sworn in Monday as the country’s new president after a record election victory, officials said.

The swearing-in took place before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya in front of a historic Buddhist temple in Anuradhapura, 180 kilometres north east of the capital.

Rajapaksa, the candidate for the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (Peoples’ Party), recorded a comfortable victory with a majority of more than 1.3 million votes in the country’s presidential polls, according to election results.

He received around 52 per cent of the vote, compared to the 42 per cent for his chief rival, ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa.

Both of the two favourites to win had focussed their campaigns on the theme of security in the wake of this year’s Easter Sunday bombings by extremist Islamist groups that left the entire nation shaken.

President-elect Rajapaksa is the younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was in power from 2005 to 2015.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as defence secretary under his brother and was responsible for directing the military campaign against Tamil rebels, leading to their final defeat in 2009.

YEE

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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UNODC unveils new Nigeria handbook on counter terrorism investigations

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UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the European Union(EU) and the Nigeria Police Force unveiled a new Nigeria Handbook on Counter-Terrorism Investigations.

Mr Sylvester Atere, Communications Officer, UNODC Nigeria, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday in Abuja.

According to Atere, the handbook is developed exclusively for Nigerian investigators working in the counter terrorism arena.

He said that terrorist incident poses unique and significant challenges to the law enforcement agents and security professionals saddled with the responsible of finding the perpetuators of the crime and preventing another attack.

The UNODC added that the new Handbook was designed to help Nigerian investigators develop the skills and approaches necessary to ensure that evidence left behind at crime scenes was recovered and analysed.

The office also stated that the handbook would ensure that investigative leads are effectively identified and pursued, and that potential intelligence opportunities are leveraged and exploited.

The Inspection-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu was quoted as saying that “the multi-faceted challenges posed by 21st century terrorist organisations require the adoption of innovative approaches both on the frontline and in cyberspace.

“As terrorism evolves, so must we, this Handbook is a demonstration of continuous and sustained UNODC support towards strengthening the Nigeria Police Force.”

He welcomed the launch of the Handbook and thanked UNODC for its contribution to Nigeria’s struggle against terrorism.

The statement also quoted Mr Oliver Stolpe, UNODC Country Representative to Nigeria, as saying that ” by combining sound foundational principles with the latest advances in forensic science and investigative best practice, we hope that this Handbook will become an indispensable aid for police trainers working across the country.

“It will help a new generation of Nigerian counter terrorism investigators to hold offenders to account and deliver justice to their victims.”

Amb.  Ketil Karlsen, Head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria, emphasised the important role that law enforcement could play in combatting terrorism.

“The EU is supporting the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in Nigeria in a comprehensive and multifaceted way.

“A key focus is on backing Nigerian-led initiatives that strengthen criminal justice responses to terrorism.

“The Nigerian Handbook on Counter-Terrorism Investigations, developed with top international expertise from UNODC, will no doubt help conducting more coherent and valid investigations,” he said.

The Handbook on Counter-Terrorism Investigations was fully funded by the European Union as part of the longstanding EU-Nigeria-UNODC-CTED Partnership Project.

This is to support Nigeria to strengthen criminal justice measures for preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Iran warns of strong response to fuel price protests

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Nationwide protests in Iran against fuel price rises have resulted in more than 40 arrests and one police officer reportedly killed, as Iranian authorities warned of a strong response.

Protesters took to the streets of key cities across the country on Saturday in response to moves by the government to ration fuel and increase the price of petrol.

Iran’s government, caught in the midst of a deep economic crisis triggered by the U.S. sanctions, announced it was raising fuel prices late on Friday.

Now faced with paying three times as much in fuel costs, many Iranians have called for an immediate repeal of the price hike, amid fears of a deepening economic crisis and a halving in the value of the national currency.

News agency ISNA reported on Sunday that a police officer was killed during clashes between security forces and protesters in the western city of Kermanshah.

The Iranian secret service said it would take strong action against protesters taking part in vandalism.

State news agency IRNA cited the Intelligence Ministry as saying that it would “spare no efforts” in its efforts to safeguard national security.

The attorney general issued a similar warning to demonstrators on Saturday in comments carried by ISNA.

“The instigators are undoubtedly being directed from abroad and their actions are illegal and criminal,’’ Attorney General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, said.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the rationing and price rises.

“The political leadership of the country reached a technical decision, which should logically be then put into practice,’’ he said.

He added, however, that “authorities should use all their capacities to minimise people’s concerns over this (gasoline rationing) plan,’’ according to Mehr news agency.

Internet services have been unavailable for many since protests escalated on Saturday evening.

The Telecommunications Ministry said that online access had been “limited” for 24 hours on the orders of the National Security Council.

The Iranian parliament was holding a special sitting on Sunday to discuss the protests, but media reports suggest that the government has refused to delay the price rises.

According to the plan, Iranians will only be able to refuel only up to 60 litres of petrol per month at a litre price equivalent to 0.13 dollars.

Additional petrol incurs a higher price of between 24 and 30 cents, nearly the triple the previous price.

Many Iranians, who say 60 litres per month will not be enough, are, therefore, now faced with paying a higher petrol price.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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Crisis-swept Lebanon in gridlock after Safadi withdrawal

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Lebanon slipped deeper into political crisis on Sunday after the withdrawal of a top candidate for prime minister narrowed the chances of creating a government needed to enact urgent reforms.

Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, withdrew his candidature late on Saturday, saying it was too difficult to form a “harmonious” government with broad political support.

Safadi was the first candidate, who had appeared to win some consensus among Lebanon’s fractious sectarian-based parties since Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, pushed out by sweeping protests against the ruling elite.

Faced by the worst financial strains since its 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has pledged to carry out urgent reforms it hopes will convince donors to disburse some $11 billion pledged at a conference last year.

The unrest has kept banks shut for most of the last month.

They have imposed controls on transfers abroad and U.S. dollar withdrawals, and the pegged Lebanese pound is under pressure on an informal market.

Safadi became the presumed front-runner for prime minister after a meeting between Hariri, a Sunni politician, and Shi’ite groups Hezbollah and Amal, according to political sources and Lebanese media.

But no political force later endorsed him.

Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, according to its sectarian power-sharing system.

Protesters, who have filled Lebanon’s streets since Oct. 17, denounced the choice of Safadi, a prominent businessman and long-time politician they said was part of the elite they sought to oust.

“We are in a deadlock now.

“I don’t know when it will move again; it is not easy,’’ said a senior political source.

“The financial situation doesn’t tolerate any delay.’’

A second political source described efforts to form a new government as “back to square one”.

Safadi’s withdrawal leaves the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies with even fewer options unless they push for a close Sunni ally, a scenario that would likely reduce the chances of Lebanon winning international support.

Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist group by the U.S.

Hezbollah and Amal, along with President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian, have sought for Hariri to return as premier but have demanded the inclusion of both technocrats and politicians in the new cabinet.

But Hariri, who is aligned with Gulf Arab states and the West, has said he will only return as prime minister if he is able to form a cabinet composed entirely of specialists capable of attracting the international support.

Global rating agency S&P flashed the latest warning on Lebanon’s debt-saddled economy on Friday, lowering its foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings deeper into junk territory to ‘CCC/C’ from ‘B-/B’.

S&P cited rising pressure on central bank foreign currency reserves and diminished depositor confidence brought on by the bank closures and reported restrictions on hard currency movement.

Lebanon’s bank staff union said it would meet on Sunday or Monday to decide whether to call off a strike after receiving a security plan to keep branches safe and potentially re-open banks as early as Monday.

AIB

Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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2 suspects arrested for planning to attack French president – Report

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Two men close to the ultra-right were indicted for “terrorist criminal conspiracy” and placed in pre-trial detention, as part of the investigation of a bombing project against French President Emmanuel Macron.

Franceinfo, a French domestic rolling news channel, reported this on Saturday.

The two suspects, aged 30 and 45 respectively, were believed to have planned an action against President Macron during the commemoration of the centenary of the end of the First World War, in Nov. 2018, said Franceinfo quoting a Parisian judicial source.

The two were arrested Monday in Moselle, northeastern France.

They had been presented to an examining magistrate for their indictment.

The national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office had requested their detention on remand. (Xinhua/NAN)

YEE

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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