Turkish claims that a well-known Saudi writer and government critic was slain inside his country’s diplomatic mission in Turkey have put the Trump administration in a delicate spot.
Members of Congress have grown increasingly insistent in recent days that the administration get to the bottom of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post. He had apparently drawn the wrath of the Saudi government, which has become an ever-closer United States (US) ally under President Donald Trump.
Angry lawmakers likely won’t cause the administration to turn away from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But they could throw a wrench into arms sales that require their approval and demand the US scale back support for the Saudi military campaign against rebels in Yemen.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has warned that if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government, it would be “devastating” to the US-Saudi relationship.
Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C, said the disappearance of the journalist sends a “chilling message” and called for the Saudis to “immediately investigate and verify Jamal’s location”.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, a longtime critic of the Saudi government, went further. He said he’ll try to force a vote in the Senate this week blocking US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He told local radio in his home state that he wants to end the arms shipments if there’s “any indication” the Saudis are “implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them”.
Saudi Arabia denies involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance, and the Trump’s administration’s response has been far more cautious than that coming from Capitol Hill.
The administration has expressed concern but has refused to even entertain questions about what the consequences would be if Turkish allegations turn out to be true that the 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after entering it on Oct 2 to get routine paperwork for his marriage while his Turkish fiance waited outside.
“We don’t know what has happened to him. We don’t have any information on that,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s why I want to say, we don’t want to make any judgements about what happened, and we call for a thorough and transparent investigation.”
The Washington Post said it has repeatedly asked the Saudi and Turkish governments for information about Khashoggi’s whereabouts but has not received any satisfactory answers.
“Instead, reports about Jamal’s fate have suggested he was a victim of state-sponsored, cold-blooded murder,” CEO and publisher Fred Ryan said in a statement late on Tuesday. “Silence, denials and delays are not acceptable. We demand to know the truth.”
Analysts said there were reasons for skepticism about the Turkish account. Ties between Ankara and Riyadh are at a low point over Turkey’s support for Qatar in that country’s year-long dispute with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. Saudi Arabia is also annoyed by Ankara’s rapprochement with the Kingdom’s archrival, Iran.
Amid Indo-Pak tension, Navy deployed nuclear submarines, aircraft carrier
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.
‘Don’t have any grudge’: Husband of victim says he forgives NZ mosque gunman
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.”
China says 13,000 Xinjiang ‘terrorists’ arrested since 2014
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.