Iraqi-born terrorist was planning Liverpool bomb attack for at least 7 months

Iraq-born Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, rented a property in the city in April. (AFP)
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Updated 17 November 2021
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Iraqi-born terrorist was planning Liverpool bomb attack for at least 7 months

  • 32-year-old Iraqi-born Emad Al Swealmeen was killed in the blast
  • The failed asylum seeker suffered from bouts of mental illness

LONDON: The man who died in a botched bomb attack in the northern English city of Liverpool on Sunday had planned the blast for at least seven months, police said Wednesday.
Iraq-born Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, rented a property in the city in April and had made “relevant purchases” for his bomb since “at least” that time, said Russ Jackson, who heads counter-terrorism policing in northwest England.
Al Swealmeen’s improvised device went off in the back of a taxi outside a Liverpool hospital moments before Britain marked Remembrance Sunday last weekend.
He was killed in the fireball, while the quick-thinking taxi driver escaped with minor injuries after reportedly locking Al Swealmeen inside his cab.
“A complex picture is emerging over the purchases of the component parts of the device, we know that Al Swealmeen rented the property from April this year and we believe relevant purchases have been made at least since that time,” said Jackson.
“We have now traced a next of kin for Al Swealmeen who has informed us that he was born in Iraq.”
The failed asylum seeker suffered from bouts of mental illness that will “form part of the investigation and will take some time to fully understand” said Jackson.
Al Swealmeen was taken in by Elizabeth and Malcolm Hitchcott, a Christian volunteer couple in Liverpool, for eight months from 2017 as his appeal for refugee status played out.
Elizabeth Hitchcott told the BBC she felt “just so sad” and “very shocked” by Sunday’s incident, adding: “We just loved him, he was a lovely guy.”
Malcolm Hitchcott told ITV News that Al Swealmeen spent time in a mental institution after being arrested with a knife in an incident in central Liverpool.
The Times newspaper reported that the improvised device contained TATP — the same explosive favored by the Daesh group that was used in the 2015 Paris attacks and the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.
The blast was the second terror-inspired attack in Britain in the last month, after a British MP was stabbed to death as he met constituents in southeast England in October.
The two incidents prompted the government on Monday to raise the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe” — the second-highest — meaning an attack was “highly likely.”
It has also brought Britain’s asylum policy under scrutiny, at a time when London is seeking to tighten its borders, particularly against migrants crossing from France over the Channel.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Al Swealmeen had been able to exploit Britain’s “dysfunctional” immigration system and stay in the country, despite having been rejected for asylum, British media reported.
His conversion to Christianity has also prompted discussion about whether some asylum seekers were using the process to bolster their case to stay in Britain.
Liverpool Cathedral, where Al Swealmeen was baptised in 2015 and confirmed in 2017, said it had “robust processes” in place to determine a person’s “genuine commitment.”
Malcolm Hitchcott told BBC local radio he was convinced about Al Swealmeen’s religious conviction.
“I was in no doubt by the time that he left us at the end of eight months that he was a Christian,” he said.


Singapore searches for new solutions to keep taps flowing

Updated 26 February 2024
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Singapore searches for new solutions to keep taps flowing

SINGAPORE: A crack of thunder booms as dozens of screens in a locked office flash between live video of cars splashing through wet roads, drains sapping the streets dry, and reservoirs collecting the precious rainwater across the tropical island of Singapore. A team of government employees intently monitors the water, which will be collected and purified for use by the country’s 6 million residents.

“We make use of real-time data to manage the storm water,” Harry Seah, deputy chief executive of operations at PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, says with a smile while standing in front of the screens. “All of this water will go to the marina and reservoirs.”

The room is part of Singapore’s cutting-edge water management system that combines technology, diplomacy and community involvement to help one of the most water-stressed nations in the world secure its water future. The country’s innovations have attracted the attention of other water-scarce nations seeking solutions.

A small city-state island located in Southeast Asia, Singapore is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. In recent decades the island has also transformed into a modern international business hub, with a rapidly developing economy. The boom has caused the country’s water consumption to increase by over twelve times since the nation’s independence from Malaysia in 1965, and the economy is only expected to keep growing.

With no natural water resources, the country has relied on importing water from neighboring Malaysia via a series of deals allowing inexpensive purchase of water drawn from the country’s Johor River. But the deal is set to expire in 2061, with uncertainty over its renewal.

For years Malaysian politicians have targeted the water deal, sparking political tensions with Singapore. The Malaysian government has claimed the price at which Singapore purchases water — set decades ago — is too low and should be renegotiated, while the Singaporean government argues its treatment and resale of of the water to Malaysia is done at a generous price.

And climate change, which brings increased intense weather, rising seas and a rise in average temperatures, is expected to exacerbate water insecurity, according to research done by the Singaporean government.


Overworked and underpaid, Nepal’s nurses quit jobs to head abroad

Updated 26 February 2024
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Overworked and underpaid, Nepal’s nurses quit jobs to head abroad

  • UK migration program highlights nursing shortages

KATHMANDU: For Nepali nurse Anshu, being picked for a job program in Britain was long overdue recognition of her years of study and work — and a chance to boost her earnings.

“I finally feel my work has been valued,” said the 28-year-old, who asked to be identified only by her first name. She hopes her current monthly salary of 26,000 rupees ($196) at a private hospital in Nepal will rise to more than 10-times that in Britain.

But as she and several dozen other nurses prepare to leave, the bilateral government pilot under which they were recruited has fueled concerns about an acute shortage of nurses and other medical professionals in the South Asian country.

Though only 43 nurses were accepted for the pilot phase, an official at the country’s Department of Foreign Employment told Context a second phase was planned and that Britain eventually wanted to recruit 10,000 Nepali nurses.

While that would help Britain plug labor gaps in the National Health Service, it could exacerbate Nepal’s shortages, nursing officials said.

“The situation is already worrying,” said Hira Kumari Niraula, director of Nepal’s Nursing and Social Security Division, a government body involved in the provision of public health services.

“Recently we started community health nursing and school nurse programs to make nursing service available in needy communities. But the challenge is in many places, we are not able to find nurses who are willing to work,” Niraula added.

Nepal currently has less than half of the 45,000 nurses that it needs working in the country’s hospital, rural clinics and other healthcare facilities, according to the NSSD.

It is among 55 countries included in a World Health Organization red list of nations facing a severe shortage of healthcare workers.

From Zimbabwe to the Philippines, concern is growing about the loss of qualified medical staff attracted by better salaries to take up health and care jobs in countries such as Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States.

In Nepal, more than one-third of the 115,900 nurses registered with the Nepal Nursing Council have sought documents to practice overseas.

About half of Nepal’s migrant nurses went to the United States, followed by Australia and Dubai. Just over 500 have already migrated to Britain.

But the causes of the country’s medical staffing shortfall go beyond migration, said Roshan Pokharel, secretary of the Ministry of Health and Population.

“We are very much aware that a large number of health workers are migrating. But that’s not their problem. It’s our problem that we are not able to provide permanent, long-term, and stable jobs to our health workers,” Pokharel said.

Tired of demanding working conditions and low pay, Grishma Basnet, 25, who works in the intensive care unit at a private hospital in the capital, Kathmandu, has applied to work in the United States and is awaiting news on where she will go.

“I have to look after three patients in the ICU, whereas the global standard is one nurse should only look after one patient in the ICU. Isn’t this exploitation?” said Basnet, who said she earned 15,000 rupees per month at present.

“Why should I stay in this country? There is no future here,” she said.


Survivors and families of 94 migrants who died in a shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

Updated 26 February 2024
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Survivors and families of 94 migrants who died in a shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

  • On Feb. 26 last year, a wooden boat carrying about 200 migrants sank a few meters off the coast of southern Calabria

CROTONE, Italy: Survivors and family members of victims of a tragic shipwreck a year ago that killed 94 migrants, including 35 minors, just a few meters off Italy’s southern coast, returned for three days of commemorations ending Monday, calling for truth and justice.

A torchlight vigil on the beach where the ship was wrecked, a photo exhibition and a protest march were among events organized by a group of activists named Network Feb. 26 — after the date of the tragedy — around the town of Crotone. Most of the dead came from countries in the Middle East or South Asia.

“One year after the carnage, their right to the truth, to justice and to be reunited with their families has not been guaranteed yet,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

On Feb. 26 last year, a wooden boat departed from Turkiye carrying about 200 migrants and sank just a few meters (yards) off the coast of southern Calabria while trying to land on the seaside resort beach of Steccato di Cutro.

Network Feb. 26 includes over 400 associations that have repeatedly asked the Italian government to seek the truth about one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

The group has denounced repeated policy failures and alleged violations of human rights by Italian and EU authorities, seen as the main cause behind the long string of deaths of migrants who face risky trips to reach European coasts in their search for a better life.

Activists have also complained that some of the relatives and survivors were denied the right to return to Crotone for the anniversary of the shipwreck, due to difficulties in obtaining proper documents.

“When we met (Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni ) in Rome after the tragedy, (she) promised that her staff would (work) to reunite us and our families, but that has never happened,” said Haroon Mohammadi, 24, a survivor from Herat, Afghanistan, who lost some of his friends in the shipwreck.

Mohammadi now lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he has obtained a one-year residence permit, and hopes to continue to study economics at a university there.

“It’s very difficult for me to be back here, but I came to honor friends and relatives we’ve lost. We became like a family following that day,” he said.

Many of the dead and survivors had fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, hoping to join family members in Italy and other Western European countries.

After the shipwreck, the right-wing government of Meloni approved a decree establishing a new crime — people smuggling that causes the death of migrants — punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and pledged to further toughen its battle against illegal immigration.

On Sunday, hundreds of people, including a group of about 50 survivors and relatives of the victims, marched in Crotone despite heavy rain with a banner asking to “stop deaths at sea.” Demonstrators also stopped to pay homage in front of PalaMilone, a sports complex that hosted the victims’ caskets.

On Saturday, Crotone’s Pitagora Museum inaugurated a photo exhibit titled “Dreams Cross the Sea,” featuring 94 photographs, one for each of the victims.

In the early hours of Feb. 26, the boat named Summer Love sank just a few meters (yards) from the coast of the southern Calabria region, while trying to land on the nearby beach. Authorities say the shipwreck resulted in the deaths of at least 94 of the 200 on board. Eighty passengers survived and about 10 were considered missing. Dozens of young children were onboard and almost none survived.

The shocking accident raised several questions over how EU border agency Frontex and the Italian coast guard responded to it.

Six days after the tragedy, Meloni told journalists that “no emergency communication from Frontex reached Italian authorities,” who she said were not warned that the vessel was in danger of sinking.

However, a Frontex incident report later indicated that Italian authorities told the EU agency at the time of the sighting that the case was not considered an emergency.


Uzbekistan sentences 21 over Indian-made cough syrup deaths

Updated 26 February 2024
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Uzbekistan sentences 21 over Indian-made cough syrup deaths

  • At least 86 children were poisoned in the Central Asian country between 2022 and 2023, of whom 68 died
  • India subsequently canceled the production license for Marion Biotech, which manufactured the cough syrups

TASHKENT: Uzbekistan on Monday handed out sentences to 21 people linked to the deaths of 68 children who consumed a contaminated cough syrup produced in India.

At least 86 children were poisoned in the Central Asian country between 2022 and 2023, of whom 68 died.

Indian citizen Singh Raghvendra Pratap, the director of a company that imported the Doc-1 Max syrup into Uzbekistan, was given the harshest sentence of 20 years.

He was found guilty of corruption, tax fraud and forgery, according to the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan.

Samples of the syrup revealed it was contaminated with either diethylene glycol or ethylene glycol, which are toxic substances used as industrial solvents that can be fatal if ingested even in small amounts, the World Health Organization said in January 2023.

India subsequently canceled the production license for Marion Biotech, which manufactured the cough syrups.

During the same period, at least 70 children died in Gambia from acute kidney failure after consuming another syrup imported from India.

In Indonesia, another syrup in similar containers caused the deaths of more than 200 children between 2022 and 2023.


Japanese company training Saudi IT engineers with future cities in mind

Updated 26 February 2024
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Japanese company training Saudi IT engineers with future cities in mind

  • Uhuru and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) entered a comprehensive business partnership in 2022

TOKYO: Japanese company Uhuru, which applies smart technology to cities and everyday living, has started training IT engineers from the Saudi National Research Institute in Japan.

Uhuru and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) entered a comprehensive business partnership in 2022 aimed at technology and business development in smart cities and environmental technologies towards realizing a sustainable society.

The program is being implemented as part of that partnership. Both parties plan to conduct further programs, promoting comprehensive technology and business development from the edge to the cloud.

Saudi Arabia has unveiled “Saudi Vision 2030,” aiming to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil and at the heart of this vision is the construction of the mega smart city “NEOM,” a mega-project supported by sustainable technologies and highly automated systems.

MUTO Sachio of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism explained that his department is involved with international cooperation and digitalization, including smart cities.

“Since last year, we have been trying to extend our knowledge to our international community and we have made presentations and seminars in international meetings,” he said.

“People are beginning to be aware of these kinds of models in Japan. I have never been to Saudi Arabia and I’m really looking forward to this kind of communication and the partnership between the two countries.

“I am here to provide my feedback on the smart city program organized by Uhuru for us, the KACST employees. We are currently on the third day of this program, and I am incredibly excited about the experiences we have had so far,” Elham Matub Alkabawi told Arab News Japan.

“During the program, we have visited various companies that are at the forefront of smart city technologies. We have been exposed to advancements in virtual reality, digital twin, and AI applications, which are shaping the cities of the future,” she said.

This week, the program includes visiting the actual fields of Japan’s smart cities in Shirahama Town, Susami Town, and Hidakagawa Town in Wakayama prefecture.