Volume 18 Issue 464-Rajab 26, 1439 AH April 13, 2018

   :: International News
::More than 250 killed in Algerian military plane crash

ALGIERS: An Algerian military plane crashed and caught fire on Wednesday killing 257 people, mostly army personnel and members of their families, officials said. An AFP photographer at the scene saw the charred wreckage of the plane in a field near the Boufarik airbase from where the plane had taken off. Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of fire trucks with their sirens wailing rushed to the scene of the crash about 25 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of Algiers. The defence ministry said in a statement that 247 passengers and 10 crew were killed without mentioning any survivors. Deputy Defence Minister General Ahmed Gaid Salah visited the site and ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the crash, the defence ministry said. The Ilyushin II-76 transport plane was bound for Tindouf in southwest Algeria. Algeria has suffered a string of military and civilian aviation disasters. Two military planes collided mid-flight in December 2012 during a training exercise in Tlemcen, in the far west of the country, killing the pilots of both planes. In February 2014, 77 people died when a military plane carrying army personnel and family members crashed between Tamanrasset in southern Algeria and the eastern city of Constantine. Only one person survived after the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft came down in the mountainous Oum El Bouaghi region. The defence ministry blamed that crash on bad weather. An Air Algerie passenger plane flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers crashed in northern Mali in July 2014, killing all 116 people on board including 54 French nationals. In October the same year, a military plane crashed in the south of the country during a training exercise, killing the two men on board. That came more than a decade after all but one of the 103 people on an Air Algerie Boeing 737-200 died in March 2003 when it crashed on takeoff in the country’s south after an engine caught fire. Source:

::At least 19 wounded in cross-LoC shelling by Indian forces

Heavy Indian shelling from across the Line of Control (LoC) left at least 19 persons, including women and children, wounded in different parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Wednesday, officials said.The shelling started in Khuiratta sector of Kotli district at about 2:30pm and was the “heaviest” in many months, according to Khuiratta Assistant Commissioner (AC) Ali Asghar. “The Indian troops indiscriminately targeted houses and educational institutions without an iota of shame,” he said, as he spoke to Dawn from Seri village, amid the thunder of falling shells.
According to AC Asghar, seven persons, including three women, were injured in Seri village, while a teenager was injured in Janjot Bahadur village. He identified the victims in Seri as Munir Begum, 50, Somia Zubair, 28, Moeen Riaz, 22, Sheharyar Jabir, 22, and his cousin Aamer Suleman, 21, Anwar Begum, 80, and Abdul Qadeer, 25. The victim in Janjot Bahadur village was identified as Danish Rauf, 16.
District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital Kotli superintendent Dr Tariq Mehmood told Dawn that most of the injured persons had been brought to his facility. “Some of them are in critical condition,” he said.
AC Asghar added that apart from human casualties, three buffaloes of one Mistri Tofeeq were also killed in the neighbouring Tain village. He said that the shelling had also damaged many houses. The assistant commissioner revealed that some shells landed on the premises of Girls Inter College and Boys High School Seri where students were appearing in 10th-grade exams under the AJK Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) in the second (afternoon) shift.“Panic spread at both centres and students ran out for their lives. Fortunately, no one was wounded,” he said.
Kotli’s deputy commissioner Abdul Hameed Kiani told Dawn that he had written to the BISE chairperson to fix some other date for Wednesday’s paper. Subsequently, exam centres in Seri had also been shifted to Gora Balyal and Syedpur villages, he added.
Also read: Valley of death: Being young and restless in KashmirIn Poonch district, heavy shelling started in Battal sector of Hajira district at about 4:30pm, and left 10 persons wounded in different villages, according to deputy commissioner Raja Tahir Mumtaz.
A day before that, three persons were wounded in Charhoi and Khuiratta sectors of the same district.

::Pakistan is already reaping benefits from CPEC, says PM Abbasi at economic forum

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, addressing the opening ceremony of the Boao economic forum in China’s Hainan province on Tuesday, said regional connectivity, open trade and increased economic growth were the key to promote tolerance and deny space to extremism.
“In Pakistan today, step by step, brick by brick, a brave new Asia is taking shape,” he said.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is fast reaching fruition, said the PM, terming it an excellent example of an open, coordinated, and inclusive development paradigm that benefits all stakeholders. “We have already begun reaping dividends of CPEC rail, road and infrastructure projects. CPEC investment and its spin-off effects have generated thousands of jobs. 10,000 MW have been added to our national grid, ameliorating our chronic energy shortages.” He said the development of the deep seaport of Gwadar was proceeding at a fast track, at the southern tip of this Corridor. “On completion, it would not only serve as a transit and transshipment hub, but become an economic nucleus.”“Pakistan’s economy is growing 6 per cent annually,” he said. “Over the medium-term, our growth rates are expected to surpass global averages. And by 2050, we will be the worlds fifteenth largest economy.”
Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Ambassador Masood Khalid and other senior officials also attended the event.Boao Forum is a non-governmental and non-profit international organisation which was formally inaugurated in 2001. It aims to promote and deepen economic exchanges, coordination, cooperation within Asia, between Asia and other parts of the world.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his keynote address at the event, pledged to take steps to further open the world’s number two economy, indirectly addressing major complaints by the United States in a simmering trade row.
Xi promised a “new phase of opening up” and said that Beijing “does not seek a trade surplus” and hopes to increase imports. He said China will take measures to liberalise automobile investment, significantly reduce tariffs on cars this year and protect intellectual property — all areas that have been high on the list of demands by Washington.

::Houthi missiles over Riyadh, Jazan, Najran and drone over Abha intercepted: Coalition

LONDON: The Saudi Arabian-led coalition announced Wednesday that its air defense systems intercepted at least three Houthi missiles launched toward the capital Riyadh, as residents of the capital posted on social media their accounts of hearing a loud explosion and seeing smoke in the sky.
Three rockets were intercepted in the capital and the southern cities of Jizan and Najran, according to state media and the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
The missiles followed the downing of two Houthi drones earlier on Wednesday in Jizan and the nearby city of Abha, the coalition said.Houthis militia have launched missiles at Riyadh in recent months, and dozens have been fired at southern Saudi Arabian cities that border Yemen.
A missile fragment last month killed an Egyptian resident of Riyadh — the first death reported in the capital as a result of the Houthi missile strikes.
The coalition also announced that its defence systems have downed a drone that was directed towards Abha airport and a second drone that was heading towards civilians neighborhood in Jazan. The coalition spokesperson explained that the drones resembles the types and specifications of those used by the Iranians. The coalition warned Houthi militia and those supporting them for using terrorist suicide attacks tactics against civilian areas, saying that the coalition will respond in the most decisive way against those terrorist intrusions targeting residential areas in the kingdom.
The spokesperson added that those supplying the Houthi militias with drone capabilities will also pay a dire price.

::Iran scrambles to halt rial’s slide amid threat of US sanctions

Iran will enforce a 42,000-rial exchange rate for the US dollar as of Tuesday, in a move expected to end a currency crisis that has angered Iranians. The Iranian rial hit an all-time low against the dollar on Monday, when the majority of exchange offices in Tehran turned off their indicators amid fluctuating rates. Each dollar was reportedly trading for more than 60,000 rials on Monday, posting a whopping 16 percent rise against the Iranian currency compared to Sunday morning. “The country’s exchange rate will be 42,000 rials,” First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said in a broadcast speech, after an emergency cabinet meeting held on Monday evening. This will mark the end of a dual exchange rate system, including a preferential rate set by the Central Bank of Iran and a free market rate. “We will not recognise any other exchange rate in the market. To us foreign currency sold at any other price would be illegal,” Jahangiri said, easing concerns after rial’s sharp fall wreaked havoc for two days. This week’s currency turmoil came after another significant fall in the value of the rial in February, when the government was somehow successful in curbing the fluctuations through a crackdown on illegal traders as well as raising the interest rates. However, those policies were proved to work only as short-term remedies when the rial began its downward spiral in late March following the Nowruz holidays, which mark the beginning of the Iranian fiscal year. On Sunday afternoon, the majority of exchange offices in Tehran’s Ferdosi St, where many registered and unregistered currency traders do business, refused to trade the major global currencies, waiting for the markets to stabilise. As a result, long lines were formed in front of the few offices that did sell up to maximum $1,000 to each customer at a subsidised rate - fixed then at 49,500 rials for each dollar. At one office, a man wrote down the names of the people standing in line to let them in, while a police officer guarded the door. At a safe distance from this office and police forces, which were roaming the street, a man, seemingly in his fifties, was making known to pedestrians around him that he was willing to buy the dollar and euro at free market rates. “Most of these offices have stopped working. If they do buy, they offer prices as low as the preferential rate,” Alizadeh told Al Jazeera, refusing to give his first name. “I would pay up to 55,000 rials for each dollar, because I have customers waiting for it,” he said as markets prepared to close on Sunday afternoon. Rial’s slide is believed to affect the livelihood of ordinary Iranians by pushing up the price of imported goods, among other reasons, as well as leaving an impact on businesses. “The market’s reaction to such circumstances is a complete stop. No trader issues invoices until the exchange rates are stable,” Mohammadreza Ziaei, a businessman who runs a trading company importing raw materials for food industry, told Al Jazeera. “Raw materials are often sold on two-month credit. After the rial’s slide, the products I sold two months ago, not only fails to yield a 10 percent profit I expected, but I incur damage.” In his remarks, Jahangiri referred to both external causes as well as efforts by specific domestic political factions as causes of the rial’s devaluation. “It seems that non-economic causes and unpredictable factors have been effective in creating this issue.” The currency problem comes ahead of an expected decision by the US President Donald Trump on May 12 on whether Washington will re-impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic, lifted as part of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers. Some experts believe the uncertainty over the fate of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is among the reason behind the collapse of the rial. Meanwhile, Hesamodin Ashna, a senior adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, said in a vaguely written tweet on Sunday, that the rial’s fall was a new crisis which was similar to the one created in December. He was referring to deadly protests across Iran, which the government said were manufactured by its hardline opponents. Ashena did not elaborate.
Source: Al-Jazeera

::Facebook’s Zuckerberg apologizes to U.S. Congress, vows to do better

Throughout a five-hour hearing, U.S. senators from both sides of the aisle grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday. Zuckerberg faced 44 senators in a rare joint hearing of the Senate judiciary and commerce committees to talk about how his social media company protects user data and deals with election meddling, among other issues. In his opening remarks Tuesday, Zuckerberg, 33, said that Facebook didn’t do enough to prevent its tools from being used for harm — citing fake news, interference in foreign elections, hate speech and data privacy. But he rejected the suggestion that his company was “wilfully blind” and said he has made major changes to the service to seek out fake accounts and to better protect users’ privacy. Facebook revealed last month that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), which had ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, may have harvested data of 87 million users without their knowledge. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former Connecticut attorney general, produced a document his staff called a previously undisclosed 2014 agreement in which Facebook granted the researcher at the centre of the Cambridge Analytica scandal permission to sell data collected from Facebook users through a survey. Facebook has claimed it was deceived by the researcher, whose survey was used to collect data on up to 87 million users. Blumenthal asked if the document violated a 2011 consent decree on improving user privacy that Facebook reached with the Federal Trade Commission. Zuckerberg said no, but also said the document was “in conflict” with Facebook rules. Blumenthal decried Facebook’s “wilful blindness” and insisted it will only change its ways with strict regulation. Zuckerberg was asked about Russia’s use of U.S. social media during the 2016 elections — a subject of several congressional investigations and special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference. In his opening statement, he addressed Russian election interference and acknowledged, as he has in the past, that the company was too slow to respond and that it’s “working hard to get better.” The company has said that as many as 146 million people may have received information from a Russian agency that’s accused of orchestrating much of the cyber meddling in the election. “We will continue working with the government to understand the full extent of Russian interference, and we will do our part not only to ensure the integrity of free and fair elections around the world, but also to give everyone a voice and to be a force for good in democracy everywhere,” Zuckerberg continued. Zuckerberg added his company is “working with” the Mueller probe. Earlier this year Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies in a plot to interfere in the election through a social media propaganda effort that included online ad purchases using U.S. aliases and politicking on U.S. soil. Some of the Russian ads were on Facebook. “One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016,” Zuckerberg said. “We expected them to do a number of more traditional cyberattacks, which we did identify and notify the campaigns that they were trying to hack into them, but we were slow to identifying that type of new information operations. “He said Facebook has deployed new artificial intelligence tools and will continue to keep improving. “You know, there are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other Internet systems and other systems, as well. So this is an arms race,” he said. “I mean, they’re going to keep on getting better at this and we need to invest in keeping on getting better at this too.” He plans to have more than 20,000 people by the end of the year working on “security and content review.” Zuckerberg met Monday with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate commerce panel. Nelson said afterward that Zuckerberg was “forthright and honest to the degree he could” be in the private, one-on-one meeting. Nelson said he believes Zuckerberg is taking the congressional hearings seriously “because he knows there is going to be a hard look at regulation.” Democrats like Nelson have argued that federal laws might be necessary to ensure user privacy. Republicans so far have shown little appetite for such regulation, but that could change if there are future privacy scandals or Democrats gain control of Congress in this November’s elections. “I think he understands that regulation could be right around the corner,” Nelson said. Separately, Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Monday that the company is establishing an independent election research commission that will look into the effects of social media on elections and democracy. He said the commission will work with foundations across the U.S. to set up a committee of academic experts who will come up with research topics and select independent researchers to study them.
Source” CBC News

::At least 7 civilians killed in fighting and protests in India-held Kashmir

At least seven Kashmiri people were killed in fighting in India-held Kashmir on Wednesday that sparked angry retaliatory protests and violent street clashes across the restive Himalayan region.
Kashmir — divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both — has witnessed a surge in violence with more than 100 people killed since the start of the year. In the latest shootout, Indian forces killed four Kashmiris in Kulgam district in southern Kashmir, police said. Hundreds of civilians marched on the village, chanting anti-India slogans and throwing stones at government forces who responded with live rounds, pellets and tear gas
“Two civilians died when they came close to the encounter site,” local police chief Shesh Paul Vaid told AFP. A soldier who was wounded during the fighting died later in a military hospital, Vaid said. tHE violence comes shortly after 20 people — including four civilians —. were killed on a single day earlier this month. ................Source:

::Russia issues more warnings against airstrikes on Syria

BEIRUT: Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime, saying it could trigger a direct military clash between the two former Cold War adversaries.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon went even further, saying any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted — a stark warning of a potential major confrontation in Syria.
US President Donald Trump threatened military action after last weekend’s suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus, which activists and rescuers say killed at least 40 people. The
Syrian government and its ally Russia deny that such an attack happened.
Asked about Moscow’s reaction to a possible US strike on Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia still hopes that all parties in the conflict will refrain from taking “steps that could gravely destabilize the fragile situation in the region.”
State news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday quoted Andrei Krasov, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee, as saying that Russia will treat a US airstrike on Syria “not just as an act of aggression but a war crime of the Western coalition.”
Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said in televised remarks Tuesday that a US strike in Syria could hurt Russian servicemen and trigger retaliation.He said that Russia has “the necessary means for that, and the Americans and their allies know that quite well.”
Shamanov emphasized that a retaliatory Russian strike could target US navy ships and aircraft. He added that the use of nuclear weapons is “unlikely.”Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, meanwhile, told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station that any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down. He said he was referring to a statement byRussian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces chief of staff.
“If there is a strike by the Americans, then... the missiles will be downed and the source of the missiles targeted,” Zasypkin said.
Meanwhile, European airspace authorities warned aircraft to be careful over the coming days when flying close to Syria because of possible military action against President Bashar Assad’s forces. The Eurocontrol airspace organization said that the European Aviation Safety Agency had sent a “Rapid Alert Notification” that flight operators needed to consider the possibility of air or missile strikes into Syria.
US officials have consulted with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack.
In a notice posted to Eurocontrol’s website, EASA said: “Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken.”




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