SLG Syndication

SLG Syndication is committed to aggregating excerpts from news published by international news agencies and key insights on contemporary issues published by think tanks. Our aim is to facilitate the expansion of its reach while giving due credit to the original source.

Indian investigators link Coimbatore car blast to Sri Lanka Easter bombings

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Those involved in last October’s car explosion in front of Coimbatore’s Sangameswarar temple operated an Islamic State (IS) module inspired by Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the Easter 2019 bombings in Sri Lanka, the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe has found, the Hindu reported.

Hindu’s report reads further as follows;

A source privy to the investigation said that the agency has unearthed material and digital evidence which showed that the 12 persons who have been found to be involved in the blast so far were inspired and radicalised by Hashim.

The evidence showed that they watched multiple videos of Hashim. Jameesha Mubin, the suspected mastermind of the Coimbatore blast, recorded a video of himself before carrying out the attack on Sangameswarar temple, as is typically done by IS suicide bombers. The farewell video was shot in a style similar to the one shot and released by Hashim before the Easter Sunday bombings. In the video, Mubin said that he wanted to become a shaheed (martyr). The module is believed to have had plans to release the video. However, that did not happen.

“Evidence strongly support that they acted like an IS module inspired by Hashim,” said the source, adding that the agency could not find links to any outside handlers in the module’s operation so far.

Common link

The investigation into the Coimbatore car blast, in which Mubin was killed, has also revealed that Hashim was the common point of inspiration for the IS module behind the car blast and another module headed by Muhammed Azharudheen, which was busted by the NIA in June 2019. Mr. Azharudheen was a Facebook friend of Hashim himself.

Y. Shiek Hidayathullah, an associate of Azharudheen in the first IS module, was also arrested for his alleged role in the car blast. Mr. Hidayathullah’s brother Sheik Safiullah and two others, namely Mohammed Hussain and A. Shajahan, were arrested by the Coimbatore city police a few days later in June 2019. The police had found that they planned to carry out a terror attack on places of worship using a truck laden with explosives.

“Several materials were seized from the trio by the police. They also studied how to make explosives. The investigation has found common links from the first module to the latest one,” said the source.

Preventing bail

NIA is nearing the completion of its investigation into the car blast and is planning to submit a chargesheet against 11 accused (Mubin was killed in the blast) before April 21. Chargesheeting the 11 persons, currently in judicial custody, before April 21 is also aimed at preventing them from getting the benefit of statutory bail in the UAPA case after 180 days. (It is normally a 90 day period, and was extended by the court to 180 days on the request of the investigating agency.) 

Strong tremors felt in India and Pakistan after 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan

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Strong earthquake tremors, lasting for several seconds, were felt in Delhi and neighbouring cities late on Tuesday evening. According to reports, the earthquake shocks, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, were felt in Turkmenistan, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The epicentre of the earthquake is believed to be 90 km from Kalafgan in Afghanistan.

Earthquake tremors were felt in Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar, Pakistan’s ARY News report said.

In India, besides Delhi, heavy tremors were also felt in Jammu and Kashmir, western Uttar Pradesh.

“An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter Scale hit 133km SSE of Fayzabad, Afghanistan today at 10:17 pm IST,” said National Centre for Seismology. The US Geological Survey said the earthquake rocked Afghanistan its epicentre was 40 kilometres south-southeast of the Afghan town of Jurm.

The Delhi Fire Services said that they have received a call about the tilting of a building in the Shakarpur area in East Delhi. However, Fire Director Atul Garg said no building was found tilted. “An initial call was given by some of the neighbours. The occupants of the building were not aware of the call,” he said. 

Delhi has witnessed quake jolts in the past few months but this was the strongest in the recent past. Speaking to India Today, some residents in Nodia said they felt the tremors which they said lasted about 2-3 minutes. Videos have been pouring in of people in panic as the tremors, which lasted for over 30 seconds, struck.

In Jammu and Kashmir, devotees rushed out of guest houses in Katra. Shubham, a guest house owner, said very strong tremors were felt and all the devotees rushed out of the guest house. “With Maa Vaishno Devi’s blessings, there was no loss of lives and they are returning to their hotels.”

In Punjab, people gathered in open spaces in Ludhiana, Bathinda and other cities. “I was sitting on the sofa and talking to my son when it started shaking. I raised an alarm. Everyone rushed out, very strong tremors were felt,” a woman said. Another woman said she was setting her bed when her husband raised an alarm and told her to rush out. 

Pakistan’s Dawn News reported that so far there was no news of any damage or loss of lives. The country’s rescue department had received a phone call each from Swabi and Lower Dir on which rescue teams were despatched. “No confirmed reports of any loss of life or property have been received yet. Rescue 1122 is on high alert and ready to provide services during any emergency,” rescue department chief general Dr Khateer Ahmad told Dawn. 

(With inputs from agencies)

Sri Lanka: Chamber congratulates Government on securing IMF Bailout

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The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce congratulates the Government on securing the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF. We appreciate the efforts of the Government led by the President, the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Secretary to the Treasury, other key officials and independent experts who have assisted in this process. We also appreciate the bilateral and commercial creditors for providing the necessary financial assurances towards debt restructuring. Along with the initial proceeds from the IMF program, we expect multilateral agencies to also support the country by unlocking fresh financing.

We acknowledge and hail the difficult steps taken by the Government in the lead-up to securing the EFF, such as cost-reflective tariffs for utilities, tax regime changes, legislation of the new Central Bank Act and the move towards a flexible exchange rate, to name a few.The country cannot afford to revert to an unsustainable subsidy driven economy and a fiscal deficit that is financed by the Central Bank. We believe this is a crucial point for the economy, with the implementation of long overdue economic reforms acting as a vital impetus towards sustainable economic revival.

We urge the Government to prioritize focus on reforms such as tax administration, State-Owned Enterprises, trade and competitiveness, labor and land reforms, which need to be unlocked in order to pursue a sustainable growth path. The country will need to prioritize these reforms in meeting its fiscal targets, which  will be central to the IMF program and debt restructuring. In focusing on revenue, the State should look at overall productivity improvement and curtailing of government expenditure where possible. These can be achieved by ensuring data driven and evidence based policymaking that will incorporate technology and digital tools.

The country must prioritize these reforms in order to ensure a successful 17thIMF program which will complement the macro stabilization efforts undertaken. The country cannot afford any pauses in the program, or returning for an 18th program with the IMF,where similar reforms will eventually and unavoidably need to be undertaken. In this regard, we request all political parties, civil society, trade unions and the public to view this IMF program positively and support the reforms process so that the country can move towards greater prosperity with a stable economy for all its citizens.

The Chamber recognizes that the Private Sector is an equal partner in ensuring an accelerated economic recovery, and to this end will continue to support the Government in implementing progressive reforms.

Russia Files Criminal Charges Against ICC Prosecutor and Judges

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The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has initiated criminal charges against Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan, as well as judges of the International Criminal Court Tomoko Akane, Rosario Salvatore Aitala and Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez, the Russian embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement. 

“On February 22, 2023, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan, acting as part of a criminal investigation, submitted applications to Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court for warrants of arrest in relation to citizens of the Russian Federation,” it added.

The statement reads further as follows;

“Based on this application, the above-named judges of the International Criminal Court issued illegal arrest warrants in relation to the President of the Russian Federation and the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights. This criminal prosecution is illegal by definition because there are no grounds for bringing criminal charges.

“According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons of December 14, 1973, heads of state enjoy total immunity and cannot be subjected to the jurisdiction of a foreign state.

“Actions by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court contain elements of offences as per Part 2, Article 299, Part 1, Article 30, and Part 2, Article 360 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, including knowingly ascribing criminal responsibility to an innocent person, combined with unlawfully accusing a person of committing a grave or especially grave crime, as well as preparing an assault against a representative of a foreign state benefitting from international protection with a view to complicating international relations.

“Actions by the judges of the International Criminal Court contain elements of offences as per Part 2, Article 301, Part 1, Article 30, and Part 2, Article 360 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, including knowingly illegal detention, as well as preparing an assault against a representative of a foreign state benefitting from international protection with a view to complicating international relations.”

IMF Statement on Lifeline for Sri Lanka

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The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved today a 48‑month extended arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with an amount of SDR 2.286 billion (395 percent of quota or about US$3 billion).

Sri Lanka has been hit hard by a catastrophic economic and humanitarian crisis. The economy is facing significant challenges stemming from pre-existing vulnerabilities and policy missteps in the lead up to the crisis, further aggravated by a series of external shocks.

The EFF-supported program aims to restore Sri Lanka’s macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, mitigate the economic impact on the poor and vulnerable, safeguard financial sector stability, and strengthen governance and growth potential. The Executive Board’s decision will enable an immediate disbursement equivalent to SDR 254 million (about US$333 million) and catalyze financial support from other development partners.

Following the Executive Board discussion on Sri Lanka, Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director, issued the following statement:

“Sri Lanka has been facing tremendous economic and social challenges with a severe recession amid high inflation, depleted reserves, an unsustainable public debt, and heightened financial sector vulnerabilities. Institutions and governance frameworks require deep reforms. For Sri Lanka to overcome the crisis, swift and timely implementation of the EFF-supported program with strong ownership for the reforms is critical.

“Ambitious revenue-based fiscal consolidation is necessary for restoring fiscal and debt sustainability while protecting the poor and vulnerable. In this regard, the momentum of ongoing progressive tax reforms should be maintained, and social safety nets should be strengthened and better targeted to the poor. For the fiscal adjustments to be successful, sustained fiscal institutional reforms on tax administration, public financial and expenditure management, and energy pricing are critical.

“Having obtained specific and credible financing assurances from major official bilateral creditors, it is now important for the authorities and creditors to make swift progress towards restoring debt sustainability consistent with the IMF-supported program. The authorities’ commitments to transparently achieve a debt resolution, consistent with the program parameters and equitable burden sharing among creditors in a timely fashion, are welcome.

“Sri Lanka should stay committed to the multi-pronged disinflation strategy to safeguard the credibility of its inflation targeting regime. As the market regains confidence, the authorities’ recent introduction of greater exchange rate flexibility will help to rebuild the reserve buffer.

“Maintaining a sound and adequately capitalized banking system is important. Implementing a bank recapitalization plan and strengthening financial supervision and crisis management framework are crucial to ensure financial sector stability.

“The ongoing efforts to tackle corruption should continue, including revamping anti-corruption legislation. A more comprehensive anti-corruption reform agenda should be guided by the ongoing IMF governance diagnostic mission that conducts an assessment of Sri Lanka’s anti-corruption and governance framework. The authorities should step up growth-enhancing structural reforms with technical assistance support from development partners.”

The statement issued by the International Monetary Fund on 20 March 2023

US Accused of Plotting with Islamists to Kidnap Russian and Iranian Military in Syria

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The United States plans to form groups of radical Islamists in Syria to destabilize the situation in the country and kidnap Russian and Iranian military, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said in a press communiqué on Monday.

“[Terrorists] were instructed to incite hostilities in the Syrian south-west, in the central part of the country and east of the Euphrates River. For this, it is planned to form several detachments of radicals totaling about 300 people. After special training, they will be involved in attacks on military facilities in Syria and Iran. Part of the terrorists … are planned to be used in the capital region, including for the abduction of Russian and Iranian military personnel,” the SVR added.

The United States continues to use Islamist groups under its control in Syria to undermine the positions of the legitimate government of this country, headed by President Bashar Assad, the SVR said in a statement. Coordination is carried out from the US Al-Tanf military. The most important operations against government forces are planned by intelligence officers and representatives of the US Central Command.

The United States is planning to hand over dozens of four-wheel drive pickup trucks with heavy machine guns, as well as Igla man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), TOW and NLAW anti-tank missiles, to Islamist groups in Syria, SVR said.

“At the Al-Tanf [military base], the issues of arming the Daesh* are being resolved. In the near future, the groups being formed should be given several dozen all-wheel drive pickup trucks with heavy machine guns, as well as Igla MANPADS, TOW and NLAW anti-tank missiles,” the SVR said in a statement.

Washington’s close engagement with Islamic terrorists is a manifestation of state terrorism, the statement read.

“The United States continues to use Islamist groups under its control in Syria to undermine the positions of the legitimate government of this country, headed by [President] Bashar Assad,” the SVR said.

Russia urges Sri Lanka to oppose Western military aid to Ukraine

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Russia is deeply concerned with the increasing scale of military aid to Ukraine from the West. Military specialists from the US and other Western countries are actively engaged in training Ukrainian army personnel and are risking the involvement in confrontation with Russian Armed Forces. Unfortunately, this may result in direct clash between Russia and NATO, Russian Embassy in Sri Lanka said in a statement.

“The supplies of military products by the West to the Kiev regime imply the gross violation of international norms of arms trade, which prohibit delivery of weapons and military equipment to the armed conflict zones as well as its transfer to third parties without a consent from the country of origin. These restrictions are of great inconvenience to the collective West, which is trying to use the situation in Ukraine to change the existing rules of arms trade. Moreover, supplies of modern western weapons to Ukraine force Russia to take necessary responsive measures and may eventually result in the spread of the conflict theater to other European regions,” the statement added.

“Another reason for concerns of Russia is a threat of the abovementioned weapons getting to black market and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. According to our information, the Kiev regime is now directly involved in shadow arms trade, which makes Western countries guilty of assisting terrorism,” the statement further added.

“Washington is dictating European countries to intensify their military aid to Ukraine, pushing them to increase their state expenses for military and defense purposes. This will inevitably be exploited by American arms producing companies. However, the overall situation results in deepening of global economic crisis.”

“In this regard, the Russia urges the Sri Lanka to oppose the military aid of the Western countries to Ukraine by any means at its disposal. This is even more relevant due to the fact that Sri Lanka has recently gone through the horrors of Easter Sunday attacks and is now going through major economic difficulties, which are the result of global crisis provoked by the West.” the statement concluded.

Former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo is Sentenced for Three More Years in Prison

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On March 9, the judiciary of Peru extended the preventive detention of former left-wing President Pedro Castillo from 18 months to 36 months. Castillo was overthrown in a parliamentary coup in December 2022 and was sentenced to 18 months of preventive detention shortly after.

Supreme Court Judge Juan Carlos Checkley ordered the three-year pretrial detention for Castillo over alleged accusations of organized crime, influence peddling, and collusion in cases related to public works contracts and in the sale of fuel to the state-owned petroleum company Petroperú.

The ruling has been widely criticized as being politically motivated and part of the attempt to completely exclude the ousted president from political and civilian life.

In May 2022, the prosecutor’s office began investigating Castillo’s former Transportation Minister Juan Silva and six congressmen of the opposition center-right Popular Action party for irregularities in the tender for the construction of the Tarata III Bridge.

Businesswoman Karelim López, who was being investigated for money laundering at that time, had alleged that Silva accepted bribes in exchange for awarding public work contracts with Castillo’s authorization. Castillo has denied the charges, adding that he and his administration were being politically persecuted by the prosecutor’s office and the judiciary, whom he alleged are controlled by the conservative oligarchy.

Since Castillo’s ouster, thousands of citizens have been mobilizing to demand radical political changes. These include Castillo’s immediate release, his successor Dina Boluarte’s resignation, advancing the elections, and a referendum on a constituent assembly.

The Boluarte government has responded with brutal repression leading to at least 60 deaths and has left more than 1,200 people injured in Peru.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Swaziland’s Anti-monarchy Activists Face Increasing Repression Ahead of Elections

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Mvuselelo Mkhabela, a 21-year-old activist of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), who escaped from a hospital after being shot and tortured by the police, confirmed that he is safe in a video message released on March 9.

Mvuselelo is only the latest victim of the brutal repression unleashed by security forces of King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, against those who criticize the king. Mvuselelo was shot on February 28 while leading a protest against a government campaign to encourage people to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election, expected to be held in the second half of 2023.

CPS International Secretary Pius Vilakati told Peoples Dispatch that these elections “have nothing to do with the interests of the people of Swaziland.” Only those approved by the king’s local chiefs—who also control the community land —can contest the elections to the parliament of the southern African kingdom, where all political parties have been banned since 1973.

On February 28, Mvuselelo was shot, and then “the police picked me up and threw me in one of the vans they had brought,” he told Peoples Dispatch, while speaking from a hideout. The police tortured Mvuselelo for hours, finally bringing him to the hospital in the afternoon. That evening, a fellow party member snuck into the hospital and helped Mvuselelo escape.

The police remain on the lookout for him. Mvuselelo said that he must soon flee the country. Most political dissidents pursued by the monarchy end up in exile, mostly in South Africa, after going underground. Others have been assassinated or imprisoned on charges of terrorism.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

South African Trade Unionists Demand Freedom for U.S. Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

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On March 10, members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) marched to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria to demand freedom for journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been incarcerated for more than 40 years in the United States.

This march to demand his release was organized as part of an ongoing month-long global solidarity campaign that was launched on February 16 and involved a host of organizations, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 in the U.S. The campaign comes at a time when a judgment based on an appeal, which “would allow for a retrial” in the matter, is expected soon due to the discovery of previously unseen exculpatory evidence.

A former member of the Black Panther Party, 68-year-old Abu-Jamal has been convicted for the killing of a police officer, Daniel Faulkner, in Philadelphia in 1981.

Abu-Jamal had been targeted and surveilled by state forces since he was a young teenager. His trial and subsequent sentencing in 1982 were marked by official misconduct, corruption, and blatant racism, with the original presiding trial Judge Albert Sabo declaring that he was going to “help them fry the [racist slur].”

Abu-Jamal has been incarcerated under inhumane conditions, including severe medical neglect.

“The struggle for the civil rights movement in the 1960s captured the imagination of the world. Figures like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior, and Malcolm X became global icons—they fought and died for human justice,” NUMSA national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said in a speech outside the U.S. Embassy on March 10. “To our disappointment as peace loving South Africans, a Black man in America is always guilty in the eyes of the police.”

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

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