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United States claims it is committed to destroying IS

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WASHINGTON: The United States claimed it was committed to destroying the so-called Islamic State group, which bombed a voter registration centre in Kabul on Sunday, killing 57 people and injuring 119.

“The United States, along with our Afghan and international partners, is committed to destroying ISIS in Afghanistan, which has claimed responsibility for this vicious attack,” said US Acting Secretary of State John J. Sullivan. “We stand with the people and government of Afghanistan in their fight against terrorism.”

The group — known as the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) in the region — is active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

The United States declared IS-K a foreign terrorist organisation on Sept 29, 2015, but Pakistan is more focused on IS-K, as most of its activists come from anti-Pakistan militant groups, such as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“This senseless violence targeting innocent civilians exercising their fundamental democratic rights exposes the savagery and inhumanity of terrorists,” said Sullivan while condemning Sunday’s suicide attack.

Last year, Gen John Nicholson, who commands US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that TTP provided the core fighting group for IS-K.

He also claimed that TTP militants from Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal agency joined IS-K en masse.

Almost all these militants consider Pakistan their main enemy and have carried out dozens of attacks inside Pakistan, killing hundreds of civilians, including children at schools.

IS-K has set up bases inside Afghanistan and Islamabad claims that they receive assistance from both India and Afghanistan for attacking targets inside Pakistan.

In his statement to the Senate panel, Gen Nicholson also acknowledged that former TTP members in IS-K were fighting the Pakistani state.

“The majority of the fighters in the IS right now came from the TTP, the Pakistani Taliban, and joined the banner of the IS,” he said.

Although IS-K is a US-designated a terrorist group, until recently, the United States did not consider it a major threat to its interests in Afghanistan, but a sudden increase in IS-K activities, particularly its attacks on Afghanistan government targets, seem to have persuaded Washington to renew its pledge to eliminating IS-K.


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International

DNA test confirms death of Sri Lanka Easter blasts mastermind

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Colombo: Sri Lankan authorities have confirmed through DNA tests that one of the two suicide bombers who died in the Shangri-La Hotel bombing during Easter Sunday attacks was Zahran Cassim, the leader of the local terror group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ).

Zahran, the mastermind behind the Easter blasts, led the attack on the Shangri-La hotel and was accompanied by a second bomber identified as Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim. He was killed inside the luxury hotel where he blew himself up.

A senior analyst at the Government Analyst’s Department said that the DNA tests done using the blood samples of Zahran’s wife, his daughter and a brother have proved that he died in the suicideattack on Shangri-La Hotel.

 

Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, killing more than 250 people and injuring 500 others.

The ISIS terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed the local terror group NTJ for the bombings. The victims included over 40 foreigners, 10 of whom were Indians.

Zahran was one of the two suicide bombers at the Shangri-La Hotel where 36 people including 12 foreigners died.

The hotel’s CCTV footage showed the two bombers with heavy back packs arriving at the hotel’s restaurant on the third floor.

Zahran’s wife and the four-year-old daughter survived the suicide bombings carried out five days after the Easter Sunday at a terror group hideout.

Some 15 people, including Zahran’s father and two brothers, were killed at an eastern province hideout of the NTJ terror group.

They exploded bombs after an exchange of gun fire with the troops during a raid of the safehouse on a tip off.

Zahran’s wife and daughter were pulled out of the blasted house with burn injuries by the troops the following morning.

The analysts’ report was to be presented to the police’s crime investigations department on Tuesday.

The department is scheduled to hand over the finalised reports regarding the attacks on Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La, Zion Church in Batticaloa and Dehiwala Tropical Inn, to the CID.
The suicide bombers of the other churches such as Kochchikade and Katuwapitiya have also been identified.

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Indo-American judge orders Trump accounting firm to hand over records to Congress

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Washington: An Indian-American judge has rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to block House Democrats from getting his financial records, dealing an early setback to his administration in its legal battle with Congress.

Judge Amit Mehta of the DC District Court on Monday decisively ruled in favour of the House Oversight Committee, whose chair, Elijah Cummings had subpoenaed 10 years’ worth of Trump’s financial records from accounting firm Mazars USA back in April.

He told the accounting firm Mazars that it will need to turn over Trump’s accounting records from before he was president to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee, CNN reported.

 

In a 41-page opinion, Mehta of the DC District Court dealt a significant blow to the White House as he rejected Trump’s attempt to block the committee’s subpoena, asserting that Congress is well within its authority to investigate the president. Mehta’s ruling is narrow in that it only deals with the House Oversight Committee’s Mazars subpoena.

But it’s a key development in the larger, ongoing subpoena battle between Trump and Congress, because it gives Democrats legal ammunition when they go to court to enforce other outstanding subpoena requests. The Trump administration recently issued a blanket denial of all Democrats’ subpoena requests, saying the information they seek is politically motivated.

Democrats, on the other hand, say the administration’s actions amount to an unprecedented attempt to block Congress from its constitutionally mandated oversight. The House of Representatives has flagged the ruling to a judge in New York, where another court is considering challenges to House subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capitol One for more Trump records, CNN said.

Congress specifically can probe the president for conflicts of interest and ethical questions, Mehta wrote. He cited everything from the presidency of James Buchanan, to the Teapot Dome scandal, to Watergate and Whitewater to back up his ruling.

Mehta noted that in the past 50 years, Congress had twice investigated a sitting president for alleged criminal activity before starting impeachment proceedings — Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, and Bill Clinton during the Whitewater scandal.

“History has shown that congressionally-exposed criminal conduct by the president or a high-ranking Executive Branch official can lead to legislation,” Mehta wrote.

“It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a president for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct — past or present — even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry,” he added.

Trump’s legal team plans to appeal, a person familiar with the case said Monday. Mehta’s opinion, coming not even a week after a hearing in the case, will kickstart a race to appeals courts.

Mazars won’t have to turn over the subpoena for another seven days, according to the judge, but other courts will have to step in to stop the accounting firm from complying with Congress after that.

The House Oversight Committee subpoena of Mazars seeks a vast amount of communications and financial records related to the firm’s work for Trump himself, as well as his businesses and foundation from 2011 through 2018.

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European nations donate more than USD 5 mn to N Korea

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Seoul: Switzerland donated about USD five million in humanitarian assistance to North Korea in a bid to improve the health and nutrition condition in the impoverished country that is facing its worst drought in decades, a United Nations data divulged on Wednesday.

According to the data provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which tracks incoming funding for aid agencies, Switzerland donated USD 4.98 million last month for the World Food Programme’s (WFP) projects in North Korea, Yonhap reported.

Russia came next with USD four million, followed by Sweden and Canada with USD 2.44 million and USD 570,000, respectively, the data showed.

 

Pyongyang has been experiencing its worst drought in 37 years, raising fears that crops due to be harvested next month, like wheat and barley, will also suffer.

The WFP found worryingly low food consumption levels, limited dietary diversity and families being forced to cut meals or eat less.

The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation recently reported that North Korea’s crop output last year hit the lowest level since 2008, adding that an estimated 10 million people, or about 40per cent of its population, are in urgent need of food.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Monday granted sanctions exemption to allow the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to carry out aid programs, including clean water facilities, medicines and food, in the North.

North Korea has been subjected to sanctions by the United States and the UN due to its repeated short-range missiles testing. However, humanitarian activities are not banned under international sanctions, but related materials are subject to sanctions waivers from the UN.

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