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NIA arrests ex-terror convict in Bengaluru cafe blast case

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Bengaluru, May 24 (IANS) Three days after a massive crackdown was launched across four states in the Rameshwaram Cafe blast case in Bengaluru, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Friday arrested one more accused who is an ex-convict in a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror conspiracy case.

According to an official statement issued by the NIA, the arrested person has been identified as Shoaib Ahmed Mirza (35) alias Chhotu, a resident of Hubbali, Karnataka.

Mirza is the fifth accused to be arrested in connection with the low-intensity blast that rocked the Rameshwaram Cafe in Bengaluru on March 1, injuring at least 10 persons.

The NIA investigation has revealed that Mirza was convicted earlier in a LeT terror conspiracy case, and was released from jail later. In 2018, he befriended and introduced accused Abdul Matheen Taha to an online handler suspected to be living abroad.

Mirza also provided an e-mail ID for encrypted communication between the handler and Taha, who was arrested on April 12 from his hideout in Kolkata along with co-accused Mussavir Hussain Shazib.

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The NIA has so far conducted extensive searches at 29 locations across India in connection with the case.

The suspected terrorists reportedly aimed to target techies and instill fear among software professionals in Bengaluru. They also believed that such an incident would harm India’s global image.

The probe revealed that Mussavir Shazid visited the cafe in Bengaluru on March 1 and planted a low-intensity improvised explosive device (IED) on its premises.

–IANS

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Vadhavan port will be a game changer for Maha; to help achieve $1 trillion economy: Minister

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Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) Maharashtra Ports Minister Sanjay Bansode has said that the proposed Vadhavan port cleared by the Union Cabinet will be a game changer for Maharashtra.

The Union Cabinet recently approved the Rs 76,220 crore port at Vadhavan in Palghar district of Maharashtra.

During an interaction with IANS, Sanjay Bansode said the project would boost industrial development and also generate employment opportunities.

“I sincerely thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Cabinet as the development of Vadhavan port will provide huge employment opportunities for the local people during the construction phase as well as the operation phase. Many posts including driver, mechanic, painter, carpenter, electrician, watchman, computer operator will be created for those who are less educated. In addition, there will be tremendous opportunities for highly educated ones in the field of management, engineering and others,” the Minister said.

He said it will further boost industrial development due to multiple business opportunities in its surroundings and also in the adjoining areas of the state.

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“The Vadhavan port will be a game changer for Maharashtra, and it will help the state to achieve its ambitious target of a $1 trillion economy,” the Minister said.

Despite a series of talks by the Maharashtra government and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority and also the recent public hearing, a section of villagers and fishing community are strongly opposed to the port development. On being asked how he plans to address their concerns, Sanjay Bansode said: “There is no opposition to the port development. The Chief Minister, two Deputy Chief Ministers and myself have held several meetings with the farmers and fishing community.

“Those talks were quite positive. The project will certainly help Maharashtra’s growth scale to a new high. The government is committed to addressing the concerns raised by those opposing the project. I appeal to them to extend their cooperation in the development of the port at Vadhavan. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute has provided training for aspiring fishermen to enhance their skills. This is an ongoing programme as interested persons can avail this training,” he told IANS.

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The Minister also said that Shankhodhar Shrine, a place of worship of the locals, will be preserved. His assurance on the matter came after the villagers expressed concern that the Shankhodhar Shrine, dedicated to Lord Ram, would be damaged due to the port development project.

“It is far away from the port project site and there will be no risk to Shankhodhar Shrine,” he said.

“Also, let me make it clear that there is no proposal to set up a crude oil refinery in the master plan of the port project. In fact, crude oil refining was never thought of. It is requested that no one should take notice of such false propaganda in this regard,” the Minister said as it was learned that the villagers are opposed to the “proposed” crude oil refinery there.

(Sanjay Jog can be contacted at sanjay.j@ians.in)

–IANS

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Telangana demands Centre allot coal mines in the state to Singareni Collieries

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Hyderabad, June 20 (IANS) The Congress government in Telangana has urged the Centre not to auction coal mining blocks in the state and allot them to public sector miner Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL).

A day before the launch of the 10th tranche of auctions of coal mines by the Ministry of Coal in Hyderabad, Deputy Chief Minister and Finance and Energy Minister, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said all the mining blocks in the coal belt area of the state should be allotted to the SCCL.

A delegation of the state government led by Vikramarka will meet Union Coal and Mines Minister G. Kishan Reddy on Friday to make a representation in this regard.

Addressing a press conference along with Agriculture Minister Tummala Nageswara Rao in Khammam, the Deputy CM said the state would seek allotment of new mines through nomination, not auction, as SCCL was a public sector company.

They said if Singareni was not allotted new coal mines, its very existence would be at stake.

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The ministers urged Kishan Reddy, who hails from Telangana, to take the initiative in allotting mining blocks to SCCL. Vikramarka said the government, if necessary, would take an all-party delegation to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request him to allot mining blocks to SCCL for its needs beyond 2030. He mentioned that currently coal is extracted from 40 mines in the state but 22 of these mines are nearing depletion. These mines are likely to close by 2030 and this will affect 42,000 direct employees and 26,000 outsourced workers of the SCCL.

The current coal production of 70 million tonnes is likely to drop to 15 million tonnes.

The ministers demanded that the Koyagudem coal block of Sattupalli that was auctioned recently should also be allotted to the SCCL.

They alleged that the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) had supported a bill brought by the BJP government in the Parliament to deprive the public sector companies of coal mines. The BRS MPs had supported an amendment made to the Mines and Minerals Act mandating the auctioning of coal mines and now the same party was opposing the auction. They said the then BRS government did not allow SCCL to participate in the auction and ensured that mining rights of the Koyagudem block were given to the companies whose leaders were closely associated with the party. Alleging that Singareni suffered losses during the BRS rule, they said the closure of old blocks and the non-allocation of new blocks resulted in a steep decline in the workforce.

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–IANS

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Trans-border arms and narco racket busted in Punjab, eight held

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Chandigarh, June 20 (IANS) The Amritsar Police Commissionerate, in a 10-day operation, busted a trans-border illegal arms and narco-terrorism hawala racket with the arrest of eight accused, Director General of Police, Punjab, Gaurav Yadav said on Thursday.

Apart from kingpin Ranjit Singh, alias Kaka, other arrested persons have been identified as Rajinder, Abhishek, Vishal, Lovepreet, Gurbhej, Gurjant and Jaspal, all residents of Amritsar.

DGP Yadav said police teams have also recovered 4.10 kg heroin, two pistols – a Pakistan-made Zigana pistol and a .32 bore pistol – along with 45 cartridges and Rs 2.07 lakh drug money from their possession.

Seven vehicles bought with drug money were also impounded.

The DGP said the operation is still ongoing to nab other entities with cross-border linkages and hawala involvement. The development materialised after investigations carried out by the Amritsar Police Commissionerate with the arrest of local drug peddler Rajinder of Amritsar from whom 500 grams heroin, Rs 40,000 drug money, a car, and a pistol were seized. Rajinder was also wanted by the Amritsar Rural Police in an attempt to murder case.

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–IANS

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Actor Darshan's police custody extended by 2 days; 'partner' Pavithra Gowda sent to judicial custody

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Bengaluru, June 20 (IANS) A Karnataka court on Thursday extended the police custody of Kannada superstar Darshan and three of his associates by two days till June 22 in connection with the brutal murder of a fan of the actor.

Along with Darshan, the police custody of three other accused in the case, Dhanraj, Vinay, and Pradosh, has been extended.

The court also sent Pavithra Gowda, Darshan’s ‘partner’ and co-star who is the first accused in the case, to judicial custody along with other accused persons, who will be taken to the Central Prison on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

Darshan, Pavithra Gowda, and 15 others have been arrested on charges of murdering Renukaswamy (33), a resident of Chitradurga.

The probe has revealed that Renukaswamy was a big fan of Darshan and had sent derogatory messages to Pavithra Gowda on social media. The victim was allegedly kidnapped, brought to Bengaluru, kept in a shed, and brutally tortured to death.

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Special public prosecutor Prasanna Kumar submitted before the court on Thursday that the four accused, including Darshan, are not cooperating with the police to track down the mobile phone of the deceased, which is crucial evidence in this case.

Darshan’s counsel Ranganath said, “Surprisingly, the prosecution claimed before the court that they have an eyewitness to the case. They also argued that the police have to find out the source of the Rs 30 lakh cash seized in connection with the case.”

“The remand application was not provided to us. Unless the remand application is given, the submissions made in the court will not stand. The magistrate took note of this objection and mentioned it in the order. We will take the matter to the high court, and there is precedence of the accused being freed when the remand application is not provided to the counsel of the accused,” Ranganath said.

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Sources claimed that on Wednesday, Darshan reportedly admitted to his involvement in the murder case, as per the remand copy submitted to the 24th ACMM court.

According to the remand copy, Darshan gave Rs 30 lakh to Pradosh, an accused in the case, to manage the police and lawyers, and to pay those who disposed of the body. The police have reportedly seized the money from Pradosh’s residence.

–IANS

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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina to begin India visit starting Friday

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New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will begin a two-day state visit to India starting Friday at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This will be the first incoming bilateral state visit after the formation of the government in India following the 18th Lok Sabha elections.

The External Affairs Ministry stated that, during her visit, Sheikh Hasina will hold bilateral consultations with PM Modi and is also scheduled to call-on President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is scheduled to call-on the Bangladeshi Prime Minister on Friday.

Sheikh Hasina was among the international leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi and the Union Council of Ministers on June 9, earlier this month.

–IANS

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