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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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Final document at Ukraine peace summit backed by 80 countries

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Vienna, June 16 (IANS/DPA) The final declaration of the Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland was approved by 80 of the 93 participating states at the close of the two-day event on Sunday.

Countries that did not sign include six states from the G20 group of the world’s most important economic powers — Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, India and Indonesia, according to a list published by the Swiss hosts.

Armenia, Bahrain, Thailand, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Colombia and the Vatican also did not back the document released at the Burgenstock mountain hotel resort near Lucerne.

Brazil, India, South Africa and the UAE are united with Russia in the so-called BRICS group and maintain a friendly relationship with Russia despite its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The draft of the final declaration took this into account and does not explicitly condemn Moscow for its actions.

Instead, it recalls the Charter of the United Nations: “In particular, we reaffirm our commitment to refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” the text reads.

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The principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, must be respected, it stated.

The signatories also favour protecting the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya, which is occupied by Russia, and agree that any threat to use nuclear weapons should be condemned.

They also call for unhindered grain exports from Ukraine, which are particularly important for impoverished countries in Africa and other parts of the world.

The declaration also advocates the exchange of prisoners of war and the return of children and other civilians abducted from Ukraine to Russia.

Earlier in the day, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer anticipated an incomplete backing of the document, while downplaying the significance of this.

This was only because of its exact wording, according to Nehammer, rather than reflecting a lack of support for efforts to broker peace in Ukraine.

The basic common position would not be affected, he said: “That’s why I’m not so worried if not everyone signs now.”

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The question of the scope of a follow-up conference was also still difficult to answer. Before Russia also takes a seat at the negotiating table, another conference in a different format is conceivable, Nehammer added.

“You really have to see it as a process,” he said.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the conference as such brought significant progress.

Kuleba said that all countries that were not present were also aware of the impetus provided by the meeting. Overall, the process that has been initiated is very welcome. He said: “We are on the right track.”

Kuleba again stressed the need to support Ukraine militarily with the highest quality weapons possible. The stronger Ukraine is, the more willing Moscow will be to negotiate peace, according to him.

The aim of the event was to initiate a peace process in which Russia would also be involved in the long term. Officials from Moscow were not invited on this occasion and did not express a wish to attend.

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–IANS/DPA

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India among 12 countries that avoid signing final communique of Ukraine Peace Summit

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) India on Sunday said that it has decided to “avoid association with the joint communique or any other document” emerging from the two-day ‘Summit on Peace in Ukraine’ being held at Burgenstock near Lucerne in Switzerland.

“Our participation in this summit and continued engagement with all stakeholders is with a view to understanding different perspectives, approaches and options to find a way forward for a sustainable resolution of the conflict,” said Pavan Kapoor, Secretary, West, at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) who led the Indian delegation at the event.

“In our view, only those options acceptable to both parties can lead to abiding peace,” Kapoor, India’s former Ambassador to Russia, added.

Around 100 delegations, including 57 heads of state and government, attended the summit which aimed at initiating the process for a lasting and just peace in Ukraine. Eighty countries and four European institutions signed the final joint communique.

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Besides India, several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Armenia, Libya, Indonesia, Bahrain, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates, have also refrained from signing the final communique of the Peace Summit.

In his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held on the sidelines of the 50th G7 Summit in Italy’s Apulia on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reiterated that New Delhi continues to encourage peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict through dialogue and diplomacy.

“Had a very productive meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky. India is eager to further cement bilateral relations with Ukraine. Regarding the ongoing hostilities, reiterated that India believes in a human-centric approach and believes that the way to peace is through dialogue and diplomacy,” PM Modi posted on X after meeting Zelensky.

Last year, India had abstained from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on a resolution titled ‘Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine’, citing that it “lacked basic concepts” for achieving a sustainable peace in the region.

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PM Modi has also consistently advocated that no solution can ever be arrived at the cost of human lives and that escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one’s interest. “India shares the global concerns over the situation in Ukraine and supports any collective desire to facilitate peaceful resolution of the conflict,” the MEA Secretary said in Switzerland on Sunday.

The countries and organisations which supported the joint communique include Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, the Council of Europe, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Palau, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor Leste, Turkiye, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.

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–IANS

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Jordan says 14 pilgrims dead, 17 missing during Haj in Saudi Arabia

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Amman, June 16 (IANS) Jordan on Sunday confirmed the deaths of 14 citizens and the missing of 17 others who were performing Haj rituals in Saudi Arabia.

Sufian Qudah, the spokesperson for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, said in a statement that the Jordanian side is following up with concerned Saudi authorities on burials or home returns of the deceased at their families’ request, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Saudi authorities were also continuing the search for the 17 missing pilgrims, according to the statement.

The statement did not detail further nor disclose the cause of the tragedy, but the Jordanian Foreign Ministry reported a day earlier that six Jordanians had died of heat stroke during the Haj pilgrimage.

–IANS

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ALSO READ:  Report highlights worsening human rights situation in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
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Iran, UAE urge effective measures to stop Israeli attacks in Gaza

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Tehran, June 16 (IANS) Iran and the UAE on Sunday highlighted the necessity of effective measures to stop the ongoing Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip and ensure the entry of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

In a phone call, Iranian Caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan discussed the latest developments in Gaza and issues of common interest, according to a statement released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Bagheri Kani pointed to Israel’s “brutal crimes” against Palestinians, stressing the need for Muslim states to “use all available tools” to stop the Israeli attacks in Gaza as soon as possible and deliver sufficient aid to its long-suffering people, Xinhua news agency reported.

The UAE Foreign Minister, for his part, stressed the urgency to send humanitarian aid to Gazans and implement effective measures to stop the Israeli offensive, adding that the UAE was making all-out efforts to those ends.

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The Israeli army has been conducting a large-scale offensive on Gaza since October 7, 2023, after Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on the Israeli towns adjacent to the strip, killing nearly 1,200 people.

The Palestinian death toll from the ongoing Israeli attacks in the enclave has surpassed 37,000, with more than 85,000 people injured, according to the health authorities in Gaza.

–IANS

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IANS Analysis: Will South Africa's new coalition government herald a change in the country's orientation?

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New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Losing its parliamentary majority for the first time in the post-apartheid era, South Africa’s African National Congress is back in power under President Cyril Ramaphosa – but with the support of several coalition partners, including those whose stands in key policy areas are different. What will this portend for the continent’s powerhouse?

The ANC, which saw its vote share slump to 40 per cent and seats to 159 in the 400-member Assembly, was likely to return to power as any coalition without it, as the single largest party, was theoretically possible but practically impossible given the different political outlooks of the next five parties, spanning from far-right to far-left.

The present coalition is now largely centrist, given the centre-left and centre-right orientations of its two largest parties.

For the business community and inventors, there will be relief at the make-up of the new ruling dispensation as the crucial partner is the centre-right, pro-business Democratic Alliance, which secured 22 per cent in the May 29 polls, giving it 87 seats, propelling the coalition to well above the majority mark.

The leftist alternatives – uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), led by former President Jacob Zuma, which garnered 15 per cent (58 seats) to dethrone the old number three, the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which only got 10 per cent (39) – would have been more natural partners for the left-leaning ANC, but not in the present circumstances.

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The acrimony between Zuma and Ramaphosa, whom the former blames for his ouster from power and subsequent travails, ruled out any chance of their coming together, as the MK and Zuma repeatedly announced. On the other hand, the EFF’s plan of nationalisation and repossessing of land, seemed a little too far-fetched for the ANC to countenance, given that the prevailing economic malaise had led the voters to turn their faces away from it to bring it to this state.

Things could be tense with the DA too.

An amalgam of various groups emerging out of the apartheid-era National Party, it is largely deemed a party representing the country’s white minority. Under John Steenhuisen, its vote share in the May 29 election rose just a percentage point over 2019, indicating it has not capitalised on the ANC’s decline to gain much support among the black voters, but seems to have drawn the white voters it lost in 2019 when it was headed by Mmusi Maimane.

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The key point of contention between the two biggest partners could be over the ANC’s national healthcare policy, and its black economic empowerment programme, which the DA opposes as ineffective and the few benefits flowing in snapped by ANC leaders and their acolytes rather than the targeted population.

However, there might be some give or take on it as the ruling coalition proceeds with governance.

Foreign affairs could be another issue of tension, especially over the case of the Gaza conflict in which South Africa had taken a strident anti-Israel stand, snapping diplomatic links and espousing the Palestinian conflict in international forums including the International Court of Justice.

However, it remains to be seen how all these issues will play out.

The coalition alliance, which represents a broad social spectrum, seems a positive sign, given the two largest parties are joined by the fifth largest party, the Zulu-supported Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), with 17 seats from its around 4 per cent of the vote, as well as the far-rightish Patriotic Alliance, which brings another 9 seats.

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The ANC and the IFP, earlier headed by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, also had their own set of problems, especially the frequent incidents of violence between supporters of the ANC and the IFP, leading to scores of deaths. The IFP, however, remained an ally of the ANC till 2004.

Returning to a coalition with the ANC, the party now headed by Velenkosini Hlabisa since September 2023, looks to advance beyond its Zulu base, and strive for its chance in the sun, given the results of the present elections.

The ANC, which swept the 1994 polls – the first multi-racial after the end of the apartheid regime – under Nelson Mandela, had entered into a coalition then too, but the motive then was inclusivity, not necessity like the present. Under it, South Africa had greatly transformed. The performance of the coalition now will be key not only for the country, but also for the region, the continent, and the Global South.

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at vikas.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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