US names Indonesian extremist network a terror group

Indonesian policemen stand guard as accused supporters of Daesh arrive for their trial at the West Jakarta court in Jakarta, in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2017

US names Indonesian extremist network a terror group

JAKARTA: The US has designated the Daesh-linked Indonesian extremist network that carried out a deadly attack in Jakarta last year as a terrorist organization.
The State Department said on Tuesday that Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) is “a terrorist group based in Indonesia that was formed in 2015 and is composed of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups” who are followers of Daesh.
The US also announced sanctions against four militants as part of efforts to cut off Daesh’s access to the international financial system.
US officials said militants from JAD carried out a gun and suicide attack in the Indonesian capital in January last year that left four civilians and four attackers dead in the first Daesh attack in Southeast Asia.
The attack was financially supported by an Daesh militant in Syria, they said.
The State Department said the consequences of being designated a terrorist group included a ban on US citizens engaging in business with JAD, and the freezing of any property linked to the group in America.
JAD has been connected to a series of other plots in Indonesia, including a firebomb attack on a church that killed a toddler and a plan to launch a Christmas-time suicide bombing which was foiled when the militants planning the attack were killed.
Among the four militants to be sanctioned are two Indonesians.
Bahrumsyah is an Indonesian fighting with Daesh in Syria who is believed to lead a Southeast Asian unit of radicals, and who has sought to order attacks back home and transferred funds to militants.
The other Indonesian militant is Aman Abdurrahman, a jailed radical who authorized the Jakarta attack and is considered the de facto leader of all Daesh supporters in Indonesia, according to US officials.
Despite being in prison since 2010, he has recruited militants to join Daesh, is thought to have been in communication with leaders of the militant group, and is the main translator for Daesh propaganda in Indonesia.
The Treasury also slapped sanctions on two Australians — Neil Christopher Prakash, Daesh’s most senior Australian recruiter, and Khaled Sharrouf, who has appeared in photographs holding the severed heads of people executed by the militants.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has long struggled with militancy and has been hit by a series of attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombing that left 202 people dead.
A crackdown had weakened the most dangerous networks, but fears have been growing of a resurgence in militancy after hundreds of Indonesians flocked to the Middle East in recent years to join Daesh.

UK scientists to update COVID-19 vaccine to resist new variants

Updated 21 January 2021

UK scientists to update COVID-19 vaccine to resist new variants

LONDON: The team behind the UK’s main COVID-19 vaccine, developed at Oxford University, is preparing to update the inoculation to be resistant to new strains of the virus.

British newspaper The Independent reported that the team is mobilizing this new effort in response to the variants seen in the UK, South Africa and elsewhere.

The efficacy of the current vaccine against the most common strains of COVID-19 is being assessed by scientists from the university, with preliminary results expected toward mid-February. 

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the team’s lead, said the researchers would not wait to discover the test’s results before acting, and instead are already synthesizing the new variants into the jab that is currently being rolled out nationwide.

Scientists at Oxford University are understood to be confident that their vaccine will not need to be adapted in response to the British variant, which was discovered last month after an especially rapid outbreak in Kent. 

Data published by Pfizer and BioNTech, the producers of the other vaccine being provided in Britain, has indicated that their inoculation is resistant to the new COVID-19 strain.

More analysis is being conducted to assess whether it will be able to neutralize the newer South African and Brazilian variants.

A spokesperson from Oxford University said any necessary modifications would take “one day’s worth of work” before being grown in cell culture within a laboratory.