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One killed after hand grenade explodes during Japan's SDF training

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Tokyo, May 30 (IANS) A member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) on Thursday died over a hand grenade explosion during a training session in Yamanashi Prefecture, immediately west of Tokyo, according to local media reports.

The accident took place around 8.45 a.m. local time at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)’s training ground Kitafuji Exercise Area, where a 29-year-old male soldier taking part in the training was hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade thrown by another SDF member, reports Xinhua news agency.

The injured was rushed to a hospital unconscious but confirmed dead about two hours later, and the GSDF is investigating the cause of the incident which straddles the municipalities of Fujiyoshida and Yamanakako and connects to another training facility in neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture, national news agency Kyodo reported.

In recent years, the SDF has had frequent reports of training casualties. A shooting incident at a GSDF shooting range in Gifu Prefecture killed an SDF member and injured two others in June last year.

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Two Maritime SDF helicopters in April collided and crashed during a night-time anti-submarine drill, killing one and leaving seven others missing.

–IANS

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US Army kills senior Islamic State official in Syria

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Washington, June 20 (IANS/DPA) The US Army has said they have killed a high-ranking member of the Islamic State terrorist militia in Syria in an airstrike.

“US Central Command conducted an airstrike in Syria, killing Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim al-Janabi, a senior ISIS official and facilitator,” the US Central Command, or CENTCOM, said in a post on social media platform X on Wednesday.

“His death will disrupt ISIS’s ability to resource and conduct terror attacks,” it added.

“There is no indication any civilians were harmed in this strike.”

US troops are stationed in Syria to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State. They are deployed in areas controlled by the Kurdish militia YPG and its allies.

Despite the military victory over the extremist militia announced in 2019, its cells are still active in the country.

According to observers, however, the US is also seeking to limit the influence of its arch-enemy Iran with its continued military presence in the region.

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According to a defence official in Washington, around 700 US soldiers are still in Syria. Their deployment has become more dangerous with the outbreak of the Gaza war.

Pro-Iranian militias have repeatedly carried out attacks on the often small US military bases in the desert.

–IANS/DPA

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Another Indian-American on strong track to be elected to US Congress

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New York, June 20 (IANS) “Samosa Caucus” — the group of Indian-Americans in US Congress — has a strong chance of getting another member next year with the victory of Suhas Subramanyam in the Virginia Democratic primaries.

He won the intra-party election on Tuesday to pick the Democratic candidate to contest the November general election for the House of Representatives from a constituency held by it.

The constituency includes some suburbs of Washington.

Meanwhile, in primaries in New Jersey last week, Indian-American Rajesh Mohan won the Republican ticket for a House seat but faces an uphill battle because it is in a strongly Democratic constituency.

There are now five Indian-Americans in the House of Representatives, all Democrats who call themselves the “Samosa Caucus”: Ami Bera and Ro Khanna from California; Pramila Jayapal from Washington State; Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, and Shri Thanedar from Michigan.

A State Senator, Subramanyam bested 11 other candidates in an ugly contest where his main adversary faced allegations of sexual harassment.

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He was backed by the retiring House member Jennifer Wexton, who flipped the seat to the Democratic side in 2018 and was re-elected twice, winning 53 per cent of the votes in 2022 making it a safe seat for the party.

Subramanyam’s family is from Bengaluru.

A 37-year-old lawyer, he was President Barack Obama’s technology advisor working on cybersecurity and modernising government agencies.

In 2019, he was elected to the Virginia General Assembly, and the State Senate last year.

He is also a volunteer medic and firefighter.

Mohan, who defeated his three Republican rivals, will be contesting from a constituency held by a Democrat.

Andrew Kim, who is giving up the seat to run for the US Senate, flipped it from the Republican Party in 2018 and won his second re-election in 2022 by 55 per cent.

Three ratings of the race surveyed by Ballotopedia declared it a solid or safe Democratic seat.

A cardiologist, Mohan received his medical degree from the Delhi University College of Medical Sciences.

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In New Jersey, Ravinder Singh Bhalla, the Mayor of Hoboken, lost the Democratic Party primary for the House seat to Rob Menendez who currently holds the seat.

The sitting representative’s father, Senator Bob Menendez, is on trial on corruption charges but undeterred, he waged an ugly campaign against Bhalla, a turban-wearing Sikh, alleging that he made quid-pro-quo deals with the Mayor of a neighbouring city and used images marring his appearance in TV ads.

Susheela Jayapal, the sister of influential Representative Pramila Jayapal, lost the primary for a Democratic seat in Oregon.

Pramila Jayapal heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of leftist Democratic Party legislators.

She represents a constituency in Washington State, a neighbour of Oregon where her sister Susheela Jayapal was a county commissioner and was among several leftist candidates who faced an ideological backlash in the Democratic primaries.

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

–IANS

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New Zealand PM's Japan trip witnesses significant business deals

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Wellington, June 20 (IANS) New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s visit to Japan this week has witnessed the signing of significant business deals in the areas of space, renewable energy and investment.

Aerospace company Rocket Lab signed on Tuesday the biggest single launch deal in its history, with Japanese company Synspective, which will see 10 dedicated launches for Synspective from Rocket Lab’s site in Mahia, Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand.

This cements Rocket Lab and New Zealand’s reputation as a global force in space innovation, Luxon said on Wednesday as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

Japanese company Toda Corporation will invest in Queenstown’s luxury hotel industry, via Auckland-based Coherent Hotel Limited.

Regarding investment deals in renewable energy, Christchurch-based Fabrum, a leading player in the green hydrogen industry, will supply its proprietary liquid hydrogen storage system to Japanese company Toyota.

–IANS

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Sri Lankan president reveals plans to promote competitive, digitalised green economy

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Colombo, June 20 (IANS) Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has revealed plans to create a new commercial bank, an economic commission and an institute called “Enterprise Sri Lanka” to promote a competitive and digitalised green economy, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of an international industry exhibition that Sri Lankan industrialists need to secure loans at low interest rates and the new commercial bank will help address the need, Xinhua news agency reported.

The President added that the industries must be powered through green energy sources and the country is working on significantly increasing the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix.

He also announced forthcoming negotiations with creditor countries on debt restructuring, saying that the government is expected to reach an agreement with the creditor nations within the next few weeks.

–IANS

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India calls for universal condemnation of countries providing arms to terrorists

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United Nations, June 20 (IANS) Warning about the increased sophistication of small arms and the use of drones to get them to terrorists, India has called for universal condemnation of countries providing weapons to terrorists.

“The increase in volume and the quality of the arsenal acquired by these terrorist organisations reminds us time and again that they cannot exist without the sponsorship or support of States,” R. Ravindra, the Charge d’Affaires of India’s UN Mission, said.

“This aspect needs to be unequivocally condemned,” he said on Tuesday at the UN Conference reviewing the progress of the programme against illicit small arms. He did not name any country arming terrorists, but Pakistan is principally behind the flow of weapons to terrorists operating against India.

“For several decades, my country has suffered immensely due to cross-border terrorism and violence carried out by terrorist groups using these illicit weapons smuggled across our borders, including now through the use of drones,” Ravindra said.

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“India views illicit possession and misuse of small arms and light weapons by non-state groups and terrorists as a violation of state sovereignty,” he said.

Under-Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitsu, speaking earlier, mentioned the dangers of terrorists getting small arms.

“There is nothing ‘small’ or ‘light’ about the damage these weapons cause,” she said. “They aggravate crime, displacement and terrorism.”

She warned: “The situation is growing worse, as new developments in the manufacturing, technology and design of small arms — such as 3D printing — make their illegal production and trafficking easier than ever before.”

Nakamitsu noted that the New Agenda for Peace proposed last year by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “calls for regional efforts across borders to stem the flow and trafficking of small arms and light weapons”.

Ravindra proposed a novel programme, Regional 911, bringing together countries in a region to dismantle arms trafficking, and improve tracking and security of small and light weapons to keep them out of the reach of “wrong hands”. He spoke of the scourge of the illicit trade and the transfer of small and light arms in vulnerable areas.

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“In post-conflict situations, we often witness that non-State actors continue to possess these weapons illegally, which hinders disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration efforts,” he said.

“India maintains strict export controls over all munitions and related items, including small arms and light weapons,” he said.

He offered to share the nation’s expertise with countries New Delhi, he noted, is a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international pact against the illegal transfer of arms and dual-use items. (Pakistan and China are not participants in it).

India has also signed all the thirteen counter-terrorism conventions and has ratified the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol on Firearms, he added.

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

–IANS

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