Military took action against personnel responsible for ex-Taliban spokesperson's escape — Pakistan army

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) director general Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar speaks during a press conference at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo courtesy: ISPR/File)
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Updated 25 February 2021

Military took action against personnel responsible for ex-Taliban spokesperson's escape — Pakistan army

  • Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar says military took actions against army officials found responsible for allowing Ehsanullah Ehsan to escape
  • Says his country enjoys strong military ties with Saudi Arabia and trains local troops in the kingdom 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army said on Wednesday it had taken action against officials found responsible for the escape of former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson, Ehsan Ullah Ehsan, from an undisclosed detention facility last year. 

A high-profile local Taliban figure, Ehsan announced and justified a 2012 attack on Malala Yousafzai for campaigning for women’s education and also announced the TTP’s claim of responsibility for a horrific attack on a school in Peshawar in 2014. He escaped detention in January last year and announced his breakout on social media. 

“Ehsan Ullah Ehsan got away from our custody and there were some military personnel who facilitated his escape,” the head of the military media wing, Major General Babar Iftikhar, said while in a briefing to foreign journalists in Islamabad. 

Ehsanullah is accused in several terror attacks in Pakistan. After his surrender in 2017, local Geo News TV aired an interview he gave in custody in which he asserted that the intelligence services of Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, had been funding and arming Pakistani Taliban fighters.

The Pakistan army pledged to put Ehsan on trial but had not done so until the time he escaped custody in 2020. His whereabouts are uncertain.

Describing Ehsan’s escape as a “very serious matter,” Iftikhar explained for the first time how the TTP leader managed to find his way out of a high security environment, saying action was taken against those who facilitated him. He said it was not clear where Ehsan was currently hiding, though the country’s security forces were doing their best to capture him again. 

Asked about the fresh wave of militant violence in Pakistan, Iftikhar said several small militant organizations had unified recently and were being trained by hostile intelligence agencies in neighboring nations. 

Discussing the challenge of religious militancy, Iftikhar said that many small groups were trying to associate themselves with Daesh, but the group did not have an organized presence in Pakistan. 

He also said Pakistani law enforcement agencies had captured several militants belonging to the Iran-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade but Pakistan did not consider the militant outfit a major threat.

“We carried out very successful operations against all militant organizations and dismantled them,” he said. 

The military spokesperson said his country had extended a hand of peace to its eastern neighbor after Prime Minister Imran Khan formed his government in 2018 but did not receive an encouraging response from New Delhi. 

Replying to a question about the Saudi-Pakistan relationship, Iftikhar said his country enjoyed strong military-to-military terms with the kingdom and its teams in Saudi Arabia regularly trained local troops.

He also expressed satisfaction with the security dimension of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. 

“A lot of concentrated effort has been made by hostile elements to sabotage the corridor project,” the military spokesperson said. “We have beefed up its security and deployed an army division in Gwadar. Besides, Frontier Corps [paramilitary] provides security to Chinese projects as well.” 


Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally

Updated 42 min 33 sec ago

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed for 12 months over huge democracy rally

  • Jimmy Lai currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing’s sweeping national security law

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was jailed for 12 months on Friday over one of the city’s biggest ever protests in 2019.
It is the first time the 73-year-old – who is currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing’s sweeping national security law – has received a sentence for his activism.


Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified

Updated 16 April 2021

Ever Given insurance company says $900m compensation claim is unjustified

  • Insurer says it made a generous offer on April 12
  • Crew of Ever Given remains on board ship

RIYADH: The insurance company for the Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week in March, said it was disappointed by the court order to detain the vessel until $900 million compensation is paid after it had already made a generous offer to settle the claim.

The offer to the Suez Canal Authority was made in cooperation with the Japanese company that owns the ship on April 12th, Al Arabiya reported. However, the ship, its cargo and crew are being held until an agreement is reached, said the insurance company, UK Protection and Indemnity Club.

The Economic Court in Ismailia, Egypt, approved a request submitted by the Suez Canal Authority on Monday, to seize on the ship until $900 million is paid to cover the cost of freeing the ship and the disruption to traffic on the canal.

The insurer described the figure as “huge” and unjustified and said it is working with all concerned parties to ensure the release of the ship, its cargo and 25-person crew.

The Ever Given, currently in the Great Bitter Lake region, will move to Port Said for further examination, the insurance company said.


Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis

Updated 16 April 2021

Police: 8 dead in shooting at FedEx facility in Indianapolis

  • The shooter wasn’t immediately identified
  • At least four were hospitalized, including one person with critical injures
INDIANAPOLIS: Eight people were shot and killed in a late-night shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, and the shooter has killed himself, police said.
Multiple other people were injured Thursday night when gunfire erupted at the facility near the Indianapolis International Airport, police spokesperson Genae Cook said.
At least four were hospitalized, including one person with critical injures. Another two people were treated and released at the scene, Cook said.
The shooter wasn’t immediately identified, and Cook said investigators were still in the process of conducting interviews and gathering information.
Police were called to reports of gunfire just after 11 p.m. and officers observed an active shooting scene, Cook said. The gunman later killed himself.
FedEx released a statement saying it is cooperating with authorities and working to get more information.
“We are aware of the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility near the Indianapolis airport. Safety is our top priority, and our thoughts are with all those who are affected,” the statement said.
Family members gathered at a local hotel to await word on loved ones. Some said employees aren’t allowed to have their phones with them while working shifts at the facility, making it difficult to contact them, WTHR-TV reported.
Live video from news outlets at the scene showed crime scene tape in the parking lot outside the facility.
A witness who said he works at the facility told WISH-TV that he saw a man with a gun after hearing several gunshots.
“I saw a man with a submachine gun of some sort, an automatic rifle, and he was firing in the open,” Jeremiah Miller said.
Another man told WTTV that his niece was sitting in her car in the driver’s seat when the gunfire erupted, and she was wounded.
“She got shot on her left arm,” said Parminder Singh. “She’s fine, she’s in the hospital now.”
He said his niece did not know the shooter.

Saudi NESCO to replace 74,000 streetlamps with LEDs in Riyadh

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi NESCO to replace 74,000 streetlamps with LEDs in Riyadh

  • Replacing lights will cut power consumption by 70%

RIYADH: The National Energy Efficiency Services Company (NESCO) will replace 74,000 traditional “sodium” lamps with other smart systems (LED) lights, in 8 municipalities of the Riyadh region.

Agreements between NESCO, also known as Tarshid, and municipalities were signed on Wednesday, SPA reported.

The LEDs will reduce power consumption by more than 70 percent, avoiding more than 48,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to planting 810,000 trees.

The agreements aim to set unified standards for street lighting at the international level, in accordance with the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO).

Tarshid has completed 12 previous agreements with the region’s municipalities, and will soon sign 27 agreements to include the remaining 47 municipalities, CEO Walid bin Abdullah Al-Ghariri said.


Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

Updated 16 April 2021

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

  • Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced the procedures for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom to follow to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims need to go to a care center in Makkah six hours before performing Umrah to check the inoculation status according to the type of approved vaccines.
They will be handed their bracelet, which they must put on at the center. They will then be directed to the Al-Shubaikha gathering center. There, the pilgrims must present their bracelet to verify their data and their permit.
The ministry noted the need for the pilgrims to abide by the Umrah date and time period allocated to them.
The Kingdom began receiving pilgrims from abroad in mid-March, in accordance with requirements and controls set by the Ministry of Health as part of the precautionary measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously confirmed the launch of the two updated versions of the apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakkalna,” in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Through these apps, Saudis and expats can reserve Umrah and visit and prayer permits inside the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, with permits being displayed only on the Tawakkalna app.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the need to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures, and to reserve permits through the approved official platforms.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 6,791.
The Ministry of Health reported 985 new cases, meaning that 402,142 people have now contracted the disease, of which 9,249 remain active.
It said 463 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the Eastern Province and 30 in Madinah. In addition, 661 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total to 386,102 recoveries.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more than 16 million PCR tests, with 45,843 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those testing hubs are Taakad (make sure) centers and Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while the Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste and smell and breathing difficulties.
Appointments to either services can also be made through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive their jabs of the coronavirus vaccine, with 6,607,384 people having been inoculated so far.