Arab American on FBI’s Most Wanted list captured in Texas
Yaser Abdel Said, who has been on the run for more than 12 years, is accused of murdering his two teenage daughters
Updated 28 August 2020
CHICAGO: An Arab American man accused of murdering his two teenage daughters more than 12 years ago in Texas has been captured, the FBI announced on Thursday.
Yaser Abdel Said, was taken into custody without incident on Wednesday in Justin, a small town 36 miles northwest of Dallas, by agents from the bureau’s Dallas Field Office. He had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list since Dec. 4, 2014.
“The FBI-led Dallas Violent Crimes Task Force has worked tirelessly to find Yaser Abdel Said,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno. “These experienced investigators never gave up on their quest to find him and pledged to never forget the young victims in this case.
“Said was placed on the 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List nearly six years ago for the heinous act he committed against his daughters. His capture and arrest bring us one step closer to justice for Amina and Sarah. We want to thank our partners at the Irving Police Department for working with us to apprehend this dangerous individual.”
According to police, Dallas-area taxicab driver Said, an Egyptian American immigrant from the Sinai Peninsula, told Amina, 18, and Sarah, 17, that he was taking them out for something to eat on Jan. 1, 2008. He drove them to Irving, Texas, where their bodies were discovered in a taxicab outside a motel. Both had been shot several times.
The Irving Police Department issued a warrant for Said’s arrest on Jan. 2, 2008, and a federal unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrant was issued on Aug. 21 that year.
“Even after 12 years of frustration and dead ends, the pursuit for their killer never ceased,” said Irving Chief of Police Jeff Spivey, “Today’s arrest of their father … brings us closer to ensuring justice is served on their behalf.”
Said was the 504th person added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list since it was established in March 1950. The FBI had offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest. It was not immediately known whether an informant had claimed the reward.
The Violent Crimes Task Force includes FBI special agents, officers from a number of local police departments, and representatives of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Australia swelters through ‘scorching’ heat lifting bushfire risk
Australia faces a high-risk bushfire season following the onset of an El Nino weather event
Australia’s last two fire seasons have been quiet compared with the catastrophic 2019-2020 ‘Black Summer’ of bushfires
Updated 01 October 2023
SYDNEY: Australia’s southeast on Sunday sweltered in a heat wave that raised the risk of bushfires and led authorities to issue fire bans for large swathes of New South Wales state.
The nation’s weather forecaster said temperatures would be up to 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in some areas, with Sydney, the capital of Australia’s most populous state New South Wales, set to hit 36 C (96.8 F).
At Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, the temperature was 34.6 C (94.3 F) at 2 p.m. (0300 GMT), more than 11 degrees above the October mean maximum temperature, according to forecaster data.
Australia faces a high-risk bushfire season following the onset of an El Nino weather event, recently announced, which is typically associated with extreme events such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.
State Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib announced the start of an official bushfire danger period, with the “scorching” heat lifting the risk for the week ahead.
“Not only is it hot, it’s dry and it’s windy and those conditions combined are the perfect storm,” Dib said.
Fire authorities on Sunday issued nine total fire bans for parts of the state to reduce the chance of bushfires.
Further south in Victoria state, authorities issued an emergency evacuation order for a rural area in the Gippsland region, about 320 kilometers (198 miles) east of the state capital Melbourne, due to an out-of-control bushfire.
Australia’s last two fire seasons have been quiet compared with the catastrophic 2019-2020 “Black Summer” of bushfires that destroyed an area the size of Turkiye and killed 33 people. In Sydney, local resident Sandy Chapman said she was worried about the mix of extreme heat and wind.
“It doesn’t take long to start a fire and have it burning and it’s very scary,” Chapman said.
Sydneysider Katie Kell hoped there would be no repeat of bushfires on the same scale as 2019-20.
“I don’t know, with how hot it’s been since the start of spring, I’m not too confident,” Kell said.
Embassy says was difficult to continue operations due to cut in staff, resources
India will take control of the embassy in a caretaker capacity, Afghan embassy says
Updated 01 October 2023
NEW DELHI: Afghanistan’s embassy in India on Sunday suspended operations, more than two years after the ouster of the former Western-backed government.
While New Delhi does not recognize the Taliban government that returned to power in 2021, it had allowed the Afghan embassy to continue operations under the ambassador and mission staff appointed by former president Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as US troops pulled out.
“It is with profound sadness, regret, and disappointment that the Embassy of Afghanistan in New Delhi announces this decision to cease its operations,” the statement read, posted on X.
The suspension comes into immediate effect.
The statement said it had been “increasingly challenging” to continue operations due to cuts in staff and resources, including a “lack of timely and sufficient support from visa renewal for diplomats.”
The closure follows reports that the ambassador and other senior diplomats left India in recent months, with infighting among those remaining in New Delhi.
But the statement said it “categorically refutes any baseless claims regarding internal strife” among embassy staff, and denied any diplomats were “using the crisis to seek asylum in a third country.”
India will take control of the embassy in a caretaker capacity, it added.
A populist, pro-Russia ex-premier looks headed for victory in Slovakia’s parliamentary elections
Former PM Robert Fico and his leftist Smer party led with 23.7 percent of the vote
Pro-EU Progressive Slovakia party was a distant second with 15.6 percent
Updated 01 October 2023
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia: A populist former prime minister who campaigned on a pro-Russian and anti-American message looked to be heading for victory in early parliamentary elections in Slovakia, according to preliminary results early Sunday.
With results from almost 88 percent of about 6,000 polling stations counted by the Slovak Statistics Office, former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party led with 23.7 percent of the vote.
A liberal, pro-West newcomer, the Progressive Slovakia party, was a distant second with 15.6 percent of the votes cast Saturday.
With no party likely to win a majority of seats, a coalition government would need to be formed.
The left-wing Hlas (Voice) party, led by Fico’s former deputy in Smer, Peter Pellegrini, was in third with 15.4 percent. Pellegrini parted ways with Fico after Smer lost the previous election in 2020, but their possible reunion would boost Fico’s chances to form a government.
“It’s important for me that the new coalition would be formed by such parties that can agree on the priorities for Slovakia and ensure stability and calm,” Pellegrini said after voting in Bratislava.
The populist Ordinary People group was in fourth and the conservative Christian Democrats in fifth.
Two parties close to the 5 percent threshold needed for representation in the 150-seat National Council could be potential coalition partners for Fico — the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, an openly pro-Russian group, and the Republic movement, a far-right group led by former members of the openly neo-Nazi People’s Party Our Slovakia.
The pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party also could get seats.
Final results were expected to be announced later Sunday.
The election was a test for the small eastern European country’s support for neighboring Ukraine in its war with Russia, and a win by Fico could strain a fragile unity in the European Union and NATO.
Fico, 59, vowed to withdraw Slovakia’s military support for Ukraine in Russia’s war if his attempt to return to power succeeded.
Michal Simecka, a 39-year-old member of the European Parliament who leads the liberal Progressive Slovakia, campaigned promising to continue Slovakia’s support for Ukraine.
Fico, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018, opposes EU sanctions on Russia, questions whether Ukraine can force out the invading Russian troops and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO.
He proposes that instead of sending arms to Kyiv, the EU and the US should use their influence to force Russia and Ukraine to strike a compromise peace deal. He has repeated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unsupported claim that the Ukrainian government runs a Nazi state.
Fico also campaigned against immigration and LGBTQ+ rights and threatened to dismiss investigators from the National Criminal Agency and the special prosecutor who deal with corruption and other serious crimes.
Progressive Slovakia, which was formed in 2017, sees the country’s future as firmly tied to its existing membership in the EU and NATO.
The party also favors LGBTQ+ rights, a rarity among the major parties in a country that is a stronghold of conservative Roman Catholicism.
“Every single vote matters,” Simecka had said Saturday.
Popular among young people, the party won the 2019 European Parliament election in Slovakia in coalition with the Together party, gaining more than 20 percent of the vote. But it narrowly failed to win seats in the national parliament in 2020.
Biden says Ukraine aid must be passed after shutdown deal
US lawmakers must now wrangle on a separate bill on $24 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, with a vote possible early next week
Updated 01 October 2023
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden welcomed a deal to avert a government shutdown on Saturday but called for Congress to swiftly approve aid to Ukraine after it was left out of the agreement.
“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said in a statement.
“I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment,” he added, referring to Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy.
Lawmakers must now wrangle on a separate bill on $24 billion in military assistance to Ukraine that Biden wanted in the budget, with a vote possible early next week, US media reported.
Hard-right Republicans had strongly opposed the inclusion of Ukraine aid in the deal, despite support for it from moderate Republicans, including McCarthy.
Biden added that the deal to avert a shutdown was “good news for the American people” but added that “we should never have been in this position in the first place.”
US government shutdown averted with little time to spare as Biden signs funding before midnight
The rushed 45-day package drops aid to Ukraine, but increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request
The package was approved by the House 335-91, while Senate passage came by an 88-9 vote
Updated 01 October 2023
WASHINGTON: The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.
The package drops aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request. The bill funds government until Nov. 17.
After chaotic days of turmoil in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly abandoned demands for steep spending cuts from his right flank and instead relied on Democrats to pass the bill, at risk to his own job. The Senate followed with final passage closing a whirlwind day at the Capitol.
“This is good news for the American people,” Biden said in a statement.
He also said the United States “cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted” and expected McCarthy “will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”
It’s been a sudden head-spinning turn of events in Congress after grueling days in the House pushed the government to the brink of a disruptive federal shutdown.
The outcome ends, for now, the threat of a shutdown, but the reprieve may be short-lived. Congress will again need to fund the government in coming weeks risking a crisis as views are hardening, particularly among the right-flank lawmakers whose demands were ultimately swept aside this time in favor of a more bipartisan approach.
“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said before the House vote. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”
If no deal was in place before Sunday, federal workers would have faced furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops would have had to work without pay and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast would have begun to face shutdown disruptions.
“It has been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief: There will be no government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
The package funds government at current 2023 levels until mid-November, and also extends other provisions, including for the Federal Aviation Administration. The package was approved by the House 335-91, with most Republicans and almost all Democrats supporting. Senate passage came by an 88-9 vote.
But the loss of Ukraine aid was devastating for lawmakers of both parties vowing to support President Volodymyr Zelensky after his recent Washington visit. The Senate bill included $6 billion for Ukraine, and both chambers came to a standstill Saturday as lawmakers assessed their options.
“The American people deserve better,” said House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, warning in a lengthy floor speech that “extreme” Republicans were risking a shutdown.
For the House package to be approved, McCarthy was forced to rely on Democrats because the speaker’s hard-right flank has said it will oppose any short-term funding measure, denying him the votes needed from his slim majority. It’s a move that is sure to intensify calls for his ouster.
After leaving the conservative holdouts behind, McCarthy is almost certain to be facing a motion to try to remove him from office, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple the speaker. Most Republicans voted for the package Saturday while 90 opposed.
“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”
The White House was tracking the developments on Capitol Hill and aides were briefing the president, who was spending the weekend in Washington.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has championed Ukraine aid despite resistance from his own ranks, is expected to keep pursuing US support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia.
“I have agreed to keep fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, said before the vote.
Late at night, the Senate stalled when Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, held up the vote, seeking assurances Ukraine funds would be reconsidered.
“I know important moments are like this, for the United States, to lead the rest of the world,” Bennet said, noting his mother was born in Poland in 1938 and survived the Holocaust. “We can’t fail.”
The House’s quick pivot comes after the collapse Friday of McCarthy’s earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30 percent to most government agencies and strict border provisions that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme. A faction of 21 hard-right Republican holdouts opposed it.
“Our options are slipping away every minute,” said one senior Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.
The federal government had been heading straight into a shutdown that posed grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them — from troops to border control agents to office workers, scientists and others.
Families that rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small were confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers had been expected to work without pay, but travelers could have faced delays in updating their US passports or other travel documents.
The White House has brushed aside McCarthy’s overtures to meet with Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.
Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had made multiple concessions including returning to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker.
But it was not enough as the conservatives insisted the House follow regular rules, and debate and approve each of the 12 separate spending bills needed to fund the government agencies, typically a months-long process. In the Senate, all the no votes against the package came from Republicans.
McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has warned he will file a motion calling a vote to oust the speaker.
Some of the Republican holdouts, including Gaetz, are allies of former President Donald Trump, who is Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race. Trump has been encouraging the Republicans to fight hard for their priorities and even to “shut it down.”
At an early closed-door meeting at the Capitol, several House Republicans, particularly those facing tough reelections next year, urged their colleagues to find a way to prevent a shutdown.
“All of us have a responsibility to lead and to govern,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York.
The lone House Democrat to vote against the package, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, said, “Protecting Ukraine is in our national interest.