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US Defence Secretary Mattis quits after clashing with Trump on policies

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WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly said he was quitting after falling out with President Donald Trump over his foreign policies, one day after Trump rebuffed top advisers and decided to pull all US troops out of Syria. Mattis announced plans to resign after a face-to-face meeting with Trump in which they aired their differences, a senior White House official said.

“Because you have a right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis said in his resignation letter, released by the Pentagon.

A US official said that Mattis’ departure had not been forced by Trump. Trump announced on Wednesday that U.S. troops in Syria would be withdrawn, a decision that upended American policy in the region. Officials said the president was considering a substantial U.S. pullout from the 17-year-long conflict in Afghanistan.

 

Mattis, a retired Marine general whose embrace of NATO and America`s traditional alliances often put him at odds with Trump, had opposed the decision on Syria, officials said. One official added it was a contributing factor to his resignation.

The news is certain to shock U.S. military allies, already bewildered by what they see as Trump`s unpredictable, go-it-alone approach to global security, and raises questions about whether Mattis` successor will be as steadfast about traditional treaty commitments, including to NATO. When Mattis interviewed with Trump for the job in 2016, he split with president-elect on a host of issues, including on NATO and the use of torture. Trump ultimately deferred to Mattis, who opposed the practice, signalling that he could be persuaded by his advisers.

But as time grew, Trump increasingly acted on his own instincts on a host of national security issues, choosing an “America First” agenda that contradicted Mattis` core beliefs.

Trump had also rebuffed Mattis` top pick to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choosing instead Army General Mark Milley. Mattis supported Milley but had favoured Air Force General David Goldfein. His letter indicated that he disagreed with Trump`s isolationist policies, writing that it was his belief the United States needed to maintain strong alliances and show allies respect.

Trump has withdrawn the United States from several international agreements since taking office in January 2017. The Mattis resignation letter also said that he believed the United States “must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours.” He identified Russia and China as countries that “want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model.”


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Amid Indo-Pak tension, Navy deployed nuclear submarines, aircraft carrier

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New Delhi: Aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarine Chakra, 60 ships and nearly 80 aircraft were put on operational deployment by the Indian Navy in the North Arabian sea in the wake of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack, officials said.

They said the naval assets were part of a mega exercise but they transited from the area of the drill for operational deployment soon after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that increased tensions between Pakistan and India.

At a tri-services press conference on February 28, the Indian Navy said it was in a high state of readiness to “deter, prevent and defeat” any “misadventure” by Pakistan in the maritime domain, reflecting a sense of its preparedness as well as seriousness of the situation.

 

“The major combat units of the Indian Navy including the Carrier Battle Group with INS Vikramaditya, nuclear submarines and scores of other ships, submarines and aircraft swiftly transited from exercise to operational deployment mode as tensions between India and Pakistan escalated,” Navy Spokesperson Capt DK Sharma said.

The naval assets comprising 60 ships of the Indian Navy, 12 ships of the Indian Coast Guard, and 60 aircraft were part of the theatre level operational readiness exercise (TROPEX 19), which commenced on January 19 in Andaman and Nicobar islands, and was to be concluded on March 10.

However, the Jaish-e-Mohammed sponsored Pulwama attack on February 14 led to the rapid redeployment of ships, submarines and aircraft for operations in North Arabian sea, Capt Sharma said.

“The overwhelming superiority of Indian Navy in all three dimensions — on surface, under-sea and in air — forced the Pakistan Navy to remain deployed close to the Makran coast and not venture out in the open ocean,” he said.

Twelve days after the Pulwama attack, Indian fighter jets bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan on February 26. Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations next day.

Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will assess outcome of the TROPEX in the Kochi naval base on Monday.

The day-long review by Admiral Lanba with all operational commanders is intended to examine the conduct of the exercise and to assess the operational preparedness of the Indian Navy, said the Navy spokesperson.

Exercise Tropex was followed by the largest coastal defence drill — ‘Sea Vigil’ on January 22 and 23 with participation of 13 coastal states and union territories along with all maritime stakeholders.

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‘Don’t have any grudge’: Husband of victim says he forgives NZ mosque gunman

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Christchurch: A man whose wife was killed in the Christchurch attack as she rushed back into a mosque to rescue him said he harbours no hatred toward the gunman, insisting forgiveness is the best path forward.

“I would say to him ‘I love him as a person’,” Farid Ahmad told AFP. “I could not accept what he did. What he did was a wrong thing.”

Asked if he forgave the 28-year-old white supremacist suspect, he said: “Of course. The best thing is forgiveness, generosity, loving and caring, positivity.”

 

Husna Ahmad, 44, was killed at the Al Noor mosque — the first of two targeted by the gunman.

Fifty people, at least four of them women, were killed in the attack on the mosques where worshippers had gone for Friday prayers.

Ahmad and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh to New Zealand in 1990 and have one daughter.

When the shooting started, Husna helped several people escape from the women’s and children’s hall.

“She was screaming ‘come this way, hurry up’, and she took many children and ladies towards a safe garden,” Ahmad said.

“Then she was coming back for checking about me, because I was in a wheelchair, and as she was approaching the gate she was shot. She was busy saving lives, forgetting about herself.”

Ahmad, 59, who has been confined to a wheelchair since being hit by a drunk driver in 1998, believes he escaped the hail of bullets because the gunman was focused on other targets.

“This guy was shooting one person two, three times, probably that gave some time to us to move out… even the dead he was shooting them again.”

Ahmad, who was a butcher but now sells homeopathy products, did not see his wife when he left the mosque and only learned of her death after someone photographed her body.

“Her picture was out in the social media, so somebody showed me the picture and I identified quite easily.”

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China says 13,000 Xinjiang ‘terrorists’ arrested since 2014

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Beijing: China says it has arrested nearly 13,000 people it describes as terrorists in the traditionally Islamic region of Xinjiang since 2014 and broken up hundreds of “terrorist gangs.”

The figures were included in a government report on the situation in the restive northwestern territory that seeks to respond to growing criticism over the internment of an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur (WEE-gur) and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.

China describes the camps as vocational training centers and says participation is voluntary. Former detainees say they were held in abusive conditions, forced to renounce Islam and swear allegiance to China’s ruling Communist Party.

 

The lengthy report issued Monday also says “law-based de-radicalization” in Xinjiang has curbed the rise and spread of religious extremism.

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