Shock, shame among some Muslims as Afghan accused of New Mexico murders

Police said Syed may have acted on personal grudges. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Shock, shame among some Muslims as Afghan accused of New Mexico murders

  • 51-year-old Muhammad Syed denied being involved with any of the four killings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.: Muslims in New Mexico interviewed on Wednesday said they felt shock and shame at the arrest of a Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan in connection with the murders of four Muslim men.
Police on Tuesday said they detained 51-year-old Muhammad Syed. A motive for the killings remains unclear, but police said he may have acted on personal grudges, possibly with intra-Muslim sectarian overtones.
Syed denied being involved with any of the four killings when questioned by police, according to the New York Times.
“We’re in complete total disbelief. Speechless. You know, kind of embarrassed to say he was one of our own,” said Mula Akbar, an Afghan-American businessman who said he had helped Syed settle in the city.
“His hatred of Shiites might have had something to do with it,” Akbar said.
Syed was from the Sunni branch of Islam and prayed together at Albuquerque’s Islamic Center of New Mexico mosque with most of the victims, three of whom were from the Shiite branch of Islam. All four victims were of Afghan or Pakistani descent. One was killed in November, the other three in the last two weeks.
Syed, who made his first appearance in court Wednesday, was formally charged with killing Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26 and Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, on Aug. 1.
Police said on Tuesday they were working with prosecutors on potential charges for the murders of Naeem Hussain, 25, a truck driver killed on Friday, and Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, shot dead on Nov. 7, 2021, outside the grocery store he ran with his brother in southeast Albuquerque.
It was not immediately clear if Syed had retained a lawyer. His family did not immediately respond to a request for comment but local television station KRQE News 13 quoted them as saying they believed he was innocent.
Palestinian-American Samia Assed said the Muslim community of around 4,000 in the city of over half a million people had work to do to prevent violence they left behind in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“This took me back to 9/11 when I just wanted to hide under a rock,” said the human rights activist after she hosted an interfaith memorial at the Islamic Center of New Mexico (ICNM) in Albuquerque, Albuquerque’s oldest and largest mosque.
“For this to happen it’s like setting us back 100 years,” she said.
The mosque is nonsectarian, serves mainly Sunnis from over 30 countries and has never before experienced violence of this kind, according to congregants interviewed by Reuters.
Police on Tuesday declined to comment on rumors Syed was angry one of his daughters had eloped and married a Shiite man.
Syed is a truck driver, has six children, is from Pashtun ethnicity and arrived in the United States as a refugee about six years ago from Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, said Akbar, a former US diplomat who worked on Afghan issues and helped found the Afghan Society of New Mexico.
Syed developed a record of criminal misdemeanors over the last three or four years, including a case of domestic violence, police said.
Video from February 2020 showed him slashing the tires of a vehicle at the ICNM believed to be owned by the family of the first known victim, Ahmadi, according to the mosque’s president, attorney Ahmad Assed.
“We’re in a surreal time trying to make sense of these senseless killings we’ve suffered,” he said.


US Congress averts historic default, approves debt-limit suspension

Updated 26 sec ago

US Congress averts historic default, approves debt-limit suspension

  • The Treasury Department had warned it would be unable to pay all its bills on June 5 if Congress failed to act by then
  • Biden was directly involved in negotiations on the bill with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy
WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation backed by President Joe Biden that lifts the government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, averting what would have been a first-ever default.
The Senate voted 63-36 to approve the bill that had been passed on Wednesday by the House of Representatives, as lawmakers raced against the clock following months of partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans.
The Treasury Department had warned it would be unable to pay all its bills on June 5 if Congress failed to act by then.
“We are avoiding default tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday as he steered the legislation through his 100-member chamber.
Biden praised Congress’ timely action. “This bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people,” the Democratic president said in a statement, adding that he will sign it into law as soon as possible. He said he would make an additional statement on Friday at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT).
Biden was directly involved in negotiations on the bill with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
While this bitter battle has ended, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time flagging the next budget fight.
“In the coming months, Senate Republicans will continue working to provide for the common defense and control Washington Democrats’ reckless spending,” he said in a statement.
McConnell was referring to 12 bills Congress will work on over the summer to fund government programs in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, which will also carry out the broad instructions of the debt limit bill.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, meanwhile, issued some pointed advice saying, “I continue to strongly believe that the full faith and credit of the United States must never be used as a bargaining chip,” as Republicans did over the past several months.
Before the final vote, senators tore through nearly a dozen amendments — rejecting all of them during a late-night session in anticipation of Monday’s deadline.
With this legislation, the statutory limit on federal borrowing will be suspended until Jan. 1, 2025. Unlike most other developed countries, the United States limits the amount of debt the government can borrow, regardless of any spending allocated by the legislature.
“America can breathe a sigh of relief,” Schumer said in remarks to the Senate.

’TIME IS A LUXURY’
Republicans had blocked passage of any debt limit increase until they locked in some wide-ranging spending cuts in a move they said would begin addressing a rapidly escalating national debt.
Biden instead pushed for tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to help address the growing debt. Republicans refused to consider any sort of tax hikes.
Both parties walled off the sprawling Social Security and Medicare retirement and health care programs from cuts, and McCarthy refused to consider reducing spending on the military or veterans.
That left a somewhat narrow band of domestic “discretionary” programs to bear the brunt of spending cuts. In the end, Republicans won about $1.5 trillion in reductions over 10 years, which may or may not be fully realized. Their opening bid was for $4.8 trillion in savings over a decade.
Treasury technically hit its limit on borrowing in January. Since then it has been using “extraordinary measures” to patch together the money needed to pay the government’s bills.
Biden, Yellen and congressional leaders all acknowledged that triggering a default for lack of funds would have serious ramifications. Those included sending shock waves through global financial markets, possibly triggering job losses and a recession in the United States and raising families’ interest rates on everything from home mortgages to credit card debt.
The Republican-controlled House passed the bill on Wednesday evening in a 314-117 vote. Most of those who voted against the bill were Republicans.
“Time is a luxury the Senate does not have,” Schumer said on Thursday. “Any needless delay or any last-minute holdups would be an unnecessary and even dangerous risk.”
Among the amendments debated were ones to force deeper spending cuts than those contained in the House-passed bill and stopping the speedy final approval of a West Virginia energy pipeline.

COBBLED OVER WEEKS
Republican Senator Roger Marshall offered an amendment to impose new border controls as high numbers of immigrants arrive at the US-Mexico border. His measure, he said, would “put an end to the culture of lawlessness at our southern border.”
The Senate defeated the amendment, however. Democrats said it would strip away protections for child migrants and rob American farmers of needed workers.
Some Republicans also wanted to beef up defense spending beyond the increased levels contained in the House-passed bill.
In response, Schumer said the spending caps in this legislation would not constrain Congress in approving additional money for emergencies, including helping Ukraine in its battle against Russia.
“This debt ceiling deal does nothing to limit the Senate’s ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia and our other adversaries, and respond to ongoing and growing national security threats, including Russia’s evil ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine,” Schumer said.
The bill was cobbled together over weeks of intensive negotiations between senior aides for Biden and McCarthy.
The main argument was over spending for the next couple of years on discretionary programs such as housing, environmental protections, education and medical research that Republicans wanted to cut deeply.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would save $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That is below the $3 trillion in deficit reduction, mainly through new taxes, that Biden proposed.
The last time the United States came this close to default was in 2011. That standoff hammered financial markets, led to the first-ever downgrade of the government’s credit rating and pushed up the nation’s borrowing costs.
There was less drama this time as it became clear last week that Biden and McCarthy would find a deal with enough bipartisan support to get through Congress.

Girl unable to enter Kyiv shelter killed in Russia attack, Zelensky demands change

Updated 01 June 2023

Girl unable to enter Kyiv shelter killed in Russia attack, Zelensky demands change

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed frustration at the miscue and said if local officials were unable to provide protection, they could be prosecuted
  • Police opened a criminal investigation into the three deaths near a medical clinic in the Desnyanskyi district of Kyiv

KYIV: A nine-year-old Ukrainian girl, her mother and another woman were killed in a Russian missile strike on Kyiv on Thursday after the air raid shelter they rushed to failed to open, witnesses said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed frustration at the miscue and said if local officials were unable to provide protection, they could be prosecuted.
His comments appeared aimed at Kyiv city authorities and Mayor Vitali Klitschko, with whom he has periodically clashed during the war.
Police opened a criminal investigation into the three deaths near a medical clinic in the Desnyanskyi district of Kyiv after the 18th attack on the capital since the start of May.
“Three people, one of them a child, died near the clinic last night,” Klitschko said. “A rocket fragment fell near the entrance to the clinic four minutes after the air alert was announced. And people headed for the shelter.”
Residents said people were unable to enter the shelter because it was closed. It was not clear why.
“The air alert sounded. My wife took our daughter and they ran to the entrance here,” local resident Yaroslav Ryabchuk told Reuters in the Desnyanskyi district.
“The entrance was closed, there were already maybe five to 10 women with children. No one opened up for them.”
The case prompted calls for residents to check shelters and report safety violations. Local media said prosecutors searched city administration offices as part of the investigation.

PRESIDENT CALLS OUT LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Zelensky, in his nightly video message, said shelters “must be kept accessible. Never again should we see a repeat of the situation that occurred last night in Kyiv...”
This was “very clearly” the duty of local authorities “and if this duty is not fulfilled at the local level, it is the direct duty of law enforcement bodies to prosecute.”
In earlier comments to reporters in Moldova, Zelensky said that as well as facing the Russian enemy, “we also have internal ones.” He said the response could be a “knockout” blow, a veiled dig at Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion.
At a makeshift memorial for the girl, another parent woken by the attacks spoke of her terror.
“I grabbed my child and ran into the corridor because I didn’t have any other options. We sat there the whole time, there were a few more explosions,” said Oleksandra, 25, visiting the memorial with her five-year-old son Hryhoriy.
“My child got really scared, he sat in the corner of our corridor. He cried, saying that we’re all gonna die. I was terrified to hear this from him. It was terrible.”
Russia has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes though its air strikes have caused devastation in cities across Ukraine since the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Ukraine reported no major damage from Thursday’s attack, saying it had shot down all 10 missiles. But, in a statement on International Children’s Day, UN human rights monitors in Ukraine said 525 children had been killed since the invasion.


Biden trips, tumbles on Air Force stage

Updated 01 June 2023

Biden trips, tumbles on Air Force stage

  • Biden, 80, had just shaken hands with a cadet and begun walking back to his seat when he fell
  • Air Force personnel helped him back up and he did not appear to require further help

COLORADO SPRINGS, United States: President Joe Biden took a face-first tumble on Thursday after tripping over an obstacle on stage at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, but he appeared unhurt.
Biden, 80, who had delivered the commencement address to graduates of the military academy, had just shaken hands with a cadet and begun walking back to his seat when he fell.
Air Force personnel helped him back up and he did not appear to require further help.
As he rose, Biden pointed to the object that had apparently caught his foot. It resembled a small black sandbag on the stage.
Biden is the oldest person ever in the presidency and is seeking a second term in the 2024 election. His official doctor’s report this year declared him physically fit and he exercises regularly.
In November 2020, shortly after winning his election against the incumbent Donald Trump, Biden broke his foot while playing with a pet dog.


Russia says it seeking third suspect over war blogger killing

Updated 01 June 2023

Russia says it seeking third suspect over war blogger killing

  • Tatarsky, a native of eastern Ukraine's Donbas whose real name was Maxim Fomin, had been addressing an event in the cafe when the blast occurred
  • Roman Popkov, a Ukraine-based Russian journalist who was previously a leader of Russia's banned ultranationalist National Bolshevik Party, was wanted on terrorism charges

MOSCOW: Russian investigators said on Thursday they were seeking a third suspect over the April 2 killing of popular pro-war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg.
In a statement posted on the Telegram messenger app, the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said that Roman Popkov, a Ukraine-based Russian journalist who was previously a leader of Russia’s banned ultranationalist National Bolshevik Party, was wanted on terrorism and explosives charges.
Tatarsky, a native of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas whose real name was Maxim Fomin, had been addressing an event in the cafe when the blast occurred. Russian officials later said a bomb had been hidden inside a statuette given to him as a gift during the event.
Russian officials have previously named Russian citizen Darya Trepova and Ukrainian national Yury Denisov as suspects in the killing.
Trepova, an anti-war and feminist activist, was arrested on April 3, while Denisov is believed to be still in Ukraine. Trepova is accused of giving Tatarsky the explosive statuete and has been charged with terrorist offenses.
Trepova’s husband told independent Russian media outlets he believed she had been framed and had not known the statuette she had been told to deliver contained explosives.
In its statement, the Investigative Committee said Popkov had exchanged messages with Trepova over social media and had given her “instructions regarding the preparation of the terrorist act.”


US set to allow GE to make engines in India for New Delhi’s military jets

Updated 01 June 2023

US set to allow GE to make engines in India for New Delhi’s military jets

  • Final deal on joint production of the engines expected to be announced when Biden hosts Modi on June 22
  • Washington sees deeper military-to-military ties with India as a key counterweight to China’s dominance in the region

WASHINGTON/NEW DELHI: The Biden administration is poised to sign off on a deal that would allow General Electric Co. to produce jet engines powering Indian military aircraft in that country, according to three people briefed on the decision.

A deal finalizing the joint production of the engines is expected to be inked and announced by the time President Joe Biden hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an official state visit on June 22, the people said on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made public.

The White House, which said in January that it had received the application to jointly produce the engines in India, declined to comment. GE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Washington is working to deepen ties with the world’s largest democracy and sees deeper military-to-military and technology ties with the South Asian country as a key counterweight to China’s dominance in the region.

India, the world’s largest arm importer, depends on Russia for nearly half its military supplies, and has bought fighter jets, tanks, nuclear submarines and an aircraft carrier over the decades.

New Delhi has frustrated Washington by participating in military exercises with Russia and increasing purchases of the country’s crude oil, a key source of funding for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. had previously said it planned to use the GE-manufactured 414 engine on a second generation of light-combat aircraft and that it was in talks over domestic production of those engines.

The deal is not finalized and also requires notification to the US Congress, according to two of the people briefed on the arrangement.

Washington maintains strict controls over what domestic military technology can be shared or sold to other countries.

A broader joint partnership between the United States and India announced earlier this year is designed to encourage companies from both countries to collaborate, especially on military equipment and cutting-edge technology.

While GE has offered some transfer of technology to HAL, which will produce the engines as a licensed manufacturer, India is pushing for more technology to be shared, according to one of the people with knowledge of the conversations.

India is keen to get the know-how to make aircraft engines. Though it can manufacture fighter jets domestically, it lacks the ability to produce engines to power them.

HAL is using a lighter GE engine for the 83 light combat aircraft it is manufacturing for the Indian air force. However, India intends to produce more than 350 fighter jets for its air force and navy over the next two decades, which could be powered by the GE 414.