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Iraq rules out missile strike in explosion at military base

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Baghdad, April 24 (IANS) An Iraqi investigation committee has said that the huge explosion, which occurred on April 20 at Kalsu military base in Iraq’s central province of Babil, resulted from the explosion in ammunition and missile depots, not as a result of a missile strike.

The technical committee ended its investigation and concluded that “the intensity of the explosion and the size of the material scattered from the projectiles, missiles, and other explosive materials could not in any way be caused by a missile,” according to a statement released on Tuesday from the Security Media Cell, a media outlet affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command.

The statement said that “the size of the crater caused by the explosion confirms the occurrence of a very large explosion of weapons and highly explosive materials that were present in the place” as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

It also said that the Iraqi Air Defence Command confirmed that there were no drones or combat aircraft in the airspace of the province before and during the explosion, the statement added.

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On Saturday, a huge explosion occurred after midnight and was followed by a fire in Camp Kalsu, which houses bases of the Iraqi army, federal police, and Hashd Shaabi forces, leaving one Hashd Shaabi fighter killed and eight others injured, including a soldier.

Meanwhile, the US Central Command said on Saturday in a post on social media platform X that “the US has not conducted airstrikes in Iraq today”.

CNN quoted an Israeli official as saying that Israel was not involved in the attack on the Kalsu military base in Iraq.

–IANS

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Islamic State threatens India-Pakistan T20 World Cup match in New York, officials assure heightened security

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New York, May 29 (IANS) The Islamic State terrorist organisation has issued an ominous threat against the T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan to be held here next month and New York officials said on Wednesday that they are heightening security.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that she has “directed the New York State Police to engage in elevated security measures, including an increased law enforcement presence, advanced surveillance, and thorough screening processes”.

Bruce Blakeman, the head of Nassau County, bordering New York City, where the match will take place, said: “We make sure that we are on top of every situation that could potentially arise. Now to that end, we have taken many many precautions.”

“We take every threat seriously. There are the same procedures for every threat. We don’t minimise threats. We track down all of our leads,” he added.

The Islamic State terrorist organisation known by its initials, IS, posted on a British chat site an image of the cricket stadium at Eisenhower Park in Nassau County with drones flying over it showing the date, “9/06/2024”, the date of the India-Pakistan match.

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A screenshot of the post was broadcast on a news report by NBC New York TV. The channel reported that county leaders “say they’ve made the request to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to make Eisenhower Park a no-fly zone for drones”.

New York officials downplayed the ISIS post as not a “credible threat”, while at the same time asserting that they were monitoring the situation. increasing security measures and committing resources for any eventuality.

Governor Hochul said: “While there is no credible public safety threat at this time, we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

“My Administration has been working for months with federal law enforcement and Nassau County to ensure New Yorkers and visitors are safe,” she said.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that while “to date, there are no credible threats”, his department “continues to monitor the situation and we are proactively deploying resources to maintain safety as you continue your day-to-day activities”.

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Even if ISIS has not organised an attack, the threat of lone wolf attacks — members or sympathisers launching attacks on their own — remains.

The World Cup Cricket stadium, which has a 30,000-capacity, was built specially for the tournament and will share the matches in the US with the arena in Dallas. It will kick off on June 1 with an exhibition match between India and Bangladesh, which will be followed by the regular tournament matches starting on June 3, pitching India and Sri Lanka, and running till June 12 with an India vs US match.

NBC New York said that the security preparations for the World Cup event were the largest that Nassau County has undertaken and it is being treated on par with presidential debates.

As part of the safety precautions, it said: “Local hospitals also involved just in case they’re needed”.

The British newspaper Express first reported on the threat, which it said was also directed against sporting events in Europe. It said that ISIS “followers are encouraged to target major events” including the Cricket World Cup.

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“There were also extensive discussions on the forum as to how the terror group should use drones laden with explosives to murder civilians at major sporting events across Europe,” the Express said of the postings on a chat group posted on the British website Matrix.

The Express said: “Chat room members who shared the stadium threats listed their terror skills, including firing AK47 rifles, and discussed sums of money in pound Sterling, suggesting some might be based in Britain.”

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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Russia says prisoner swaps with Ukraine are paused, blames Kiev

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Moscow, May 29 (IANS/DPA) Russia’s commissioner for human rights on Wednesday blamed Ukraine for a months-long pause in prisoner exchanges by the two warring sides.

“Unfortunately, swaps have been suspended for several months because of Ukraine, which constantly puts forth new contrived demands,” Tatyana Moskalova told a session of the parliament, the TASS state news agency said.

Still, officials from both countries continue to visit prisoners of war held by the other side to monitor compliance with their rights, she said.

Moskalkova did not provide any further details on Kiev’s alleged demands.

The editor-in-chief of the state-controlled broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan, earlier published a list of 500 captured Ukrainian soldiers. She claimed that Kiev had only selected 38 fighters from the Azov regiment – an elite unit that has been accused in the past of far-right sympathies – and rejected the rest.

Russia has been waging a war against Ukraine for more than two years and currently occupies around a fifth of the country. The exact number of prisoners of war on both sides is unknown, but according to observers, the Russians have taken several times as many prisoners as Ukraine.

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The accusations from Moscow are likely aimed at destabilizing the political situation in Kiev and increasing the pressure on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky has vowed to return all captured soldiers to their homeland. The last exchange between the two countries took place in February 2024.

–IANS/DPA

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Turkey detains nine police officers over links to failed coup in 2016

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Istanbul, May 29 (IANS) The Turkish police on Wednesday detained nine police officers in the western province of Izmir over their alleged links to a network accused of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Six police officers currently serving in the Izmir Police Department, along with three former deputy police chiefs, were detained in a large-scale operation, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The operation was launched by the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office following the determination that the suspects were in contact with members of the Gulen movement, a network led by US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The network was accused by the government of infiltrating the state bureaucracy and then attempting a coup on July 15, 2016, which killed at least 250 people. Following the attempt, the government initiated a widespread crackdown on individuals suspected of having ties to the movement.

–IANS

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Sharp rise in fees for foreigners at elite Swiss universities

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Bern, May 29 (IANS/DPA) Studying at the elite Swiss universities ETH Zurich and EPFL Lausanne looks likely to become significantly more expensive for people from abroad in future.

The lower chamber of Switzerland’s parliament, the National Council, voted in favour of increasing tuition fees on Wednesday.

The proposal would mean that those who move to Switzerland to study would in the future pay at least three times as much as those already living in Switzerland.

At the moment Swiss citizens and foreigners pay the same amount, at ETH and EPFL less than €1,500 ($1,625) per year. The upper chamber of parliament still has to agree on the fee increase.

Members of parliament argued that Swiss students at renowned foreign universities also pay more, up to 40 times as much as domestic students. Another argument is that educational institutions are financed with taxpayers’ money, which is only raised from people who live in Switzerland.

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–IANS/DPA

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Israeli army claims three soldiers killed in Rafah

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Jerusalem, May 29 (IANS) The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on Wednesday announced that three soldiers of its Nahal Brigade were killed during the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s state-owned Kan TV news reported that the three were killed when a booby trap exploded in a building in the southern city of Rafah, bringing the total number of deaths of IDF soldiers to 639 since the current conflict broke out last October, Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to the report, the three soldiers set out on Tuesday afternoon to search buildings and combat infrastructure in southeast Rafah.

It added that upon entering one of the buildings, a powerful explosive detonated, causing a partial collapse of the structure and, subsequently, the soldiers’ deaths.

According to the IDF and Kan TV, three other fighters were seriously injured in the incident. In addition, the IDF reported that seven other soldiers were severely wounded in their fighting across the strip.

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–IANS

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