Iranian terrorists in possible ‘dry run’ in Heathrow uranium scare: Expert

Iranian terrorists may have staged a “dry run” to test the capabilities of UK customs authorities after a uranium shipment was discovered at Heathrow Airport on Dec. 29, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 January 2023
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Iranian terrorists in possible ‘dry run’ in Heathrow uranium scare: Expert

  • ‘This could have been some form of reconnaissance to test how security was operating during industrial action’
  • Customs at London airport discovered radioactive shipment on Dec. 29 amid Border Force strike

LONDON: Iranian terrorists may have staged a “dry run” to test the capabilities of UK customs authorities after a uranium shipment was discovered at Heathrow Airport, the Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.

The consignment was discovered on Dec. 29 — amid an eight-day strike by Border Force staff — at the London airport, where authorities traced its origins to an Oman Air flight from Pakistan.

The deadly shipment was intended to be sent to an Iran-registered business in the UK, but may have been used as part of a “dry run” to test the efficiency of the British customs system, said Philip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer.

The recipient of the shipment has been contacted by police but no arrests have been made in the case. The UK’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 is also involved in the investigation.

Ingram told the Telegraph: “If you were to use depleted uranium in a ‘dirty bomb,’ like any isotope it would cause a contamination issue — but there are a lot more radioactive isotopes out there that would be easier to get hold of and would have a much greater effect.

“It’s definitely a possibility that this could have been some form of reconnaissance or dry run to test how the security was operating during the industrial action.”

Ingram praised Heathrow authorities for detecting the radioactive package, which contained small amounts of uranium hidden in metal bars.

A security source said: “We get quite a lot of hits, but a lot are false positives and you have to respond to every single one. It is unusual for it to be real.”

Richard Smith, chief of the Metropolitan Police counterterror command, said: “I want to reassure the public that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and has been assessed by experts as posing no threat to the public.

“Although our investigation remains ongoing, from our inquiries so far, it does not appear to be linked to any direct threat.

“As the public would expect, however, we will continue to follow up on all available lines of enquiry to ensure this is definitely the case.”


Putin says Ukraine’s Zelensky lacks legitimacy after term expired

Updated 9 sec ago
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Putin says Ukraine’s Zelensky lacks legitimacy after term expired

  • With Ukraine under martial law in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zelensky has not faced elections
  • Putin won a new six-year term in March in a closely managed election that Russia’s opposition called a sham

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had no legitimacy following the expiry of his five-year term and this would raise a legal obstacle if Russia and Ukraine were to hold peace talks.

With Ukraine under martial law in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zelensky has not faced elections despite the expiry of his five-year term this week — something he and Ukraine’s allies deem the right decision in wartime.
Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines, Reuters reported on Friday, citing four Russian sources, but is ready to fight on if Kyiv and the West do not respond.
At a televised press conference during a visit to Belarus, Putin said Zelensky’s status was problematic.
“But who to negotiate with? That’s not an idle question... Of course we realize the legitimacy of the incumbent head of state is over,” he said.
Ukrainian officials dismiss any notion of Zelensky lacking legitimacy in a time of war.
Ruslan Stefanchuk, speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, said this week that anyone questioning the president’s legitimacy was an “enemy of Ukraine” spreading false information.
Putin said the West would use a Swiss-hosted conference on the war, due to take place next month, to endorse Zelensky’s legitimacy but these would be “PR steps” with no legal meaning.
He said peace should be worked out through common sense, not ultimatums. It should be based on draft documents that were worked out between the two sides in the early weeks of the war, and on “today’s realities on the ground” — a reference to the fact that Russia controls nearly 20 percent of Ukraine.
“If it gets to that point, we will need of course to understand who we should and can deal with, to arrive at signing legally binding documents. And then we must be fully sure we are dealing with legitimate (Ukrainian) authorities,” Putin said.
Putin won a new six-year term in March in a closely managed election that Russia’s opposition called a sham.
Two anti-war candidates were barred from running on technical grounds, and all Russia’s leading opposition figures are in jail or abroad. The best known, Alexei Navalny, died in February in an Arctic penal colony.
Putin’s comments are likely to be taken by Ukraine and its Western allies as further evidence that he has no real intention of entering peace talks, despite frequently stating his willingness to negotiate.

Peace summit
Zelensky, in his nightly video address, made no reference to the Russian president’s remarks, but said Putin was determined to scuttle next month’s peace summit.
“He is afraid of what the summit may produce. The world is capable of forcing Russia into peace and compliance with international security norms,” Zelensky said.
“Russia has nothing to counter the world majority. The peace summit is a formula that will allow Putin to lie no longer.”
Russia is not invited to the summit in Switzerland and has dismissed the event as meaningless without its participation.
Zelensky has repeatedly said peace on Putin’s terms is a non-starter. He has vowed to retake lost territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. He signed a decree in 2022 that formally declared any talks with Putin “impossible.”
The head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, Kyrylo Budanov, warned in February that Russia would pursue a campaign aimed at undermining the legitimacy of both Zelensky and Ukraine’s political system.


Israeli private eye accused of hacking was questioned about DC public affairs firm, sources say

Updated 20 min 22 sec ago
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Israeli private eye accused of hacking was questioned about DC public affairs firm, sources say

  • Private investigator Amit Forlit was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on April 30 over American cybercrime and wire fraud charges

WASHINGTON: An Israeli private investigator sought by the United States over hack-for-hire allegations previously told colleagues that he had been questioned by FBI agents over his work for the Washington public affairs firm DCI Group, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Federal law enforcement’s interest in DCI, which has not been previously reported, shows a years-long US probe into cybermercenary activity is wider than publicly known.

The FBI declined to comment. DCI, a public relations firm that has worked on behalf of hedge funds and multinationals, said in a written statement that “we direct all our employees and consultants to comply with the law.”

Private investigator Amit Forlit was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on April 30 over American cybercrime and wire fraud charges.

Prosecutors in London said only that Forlit engaged in a “hack for hire scheme” on behalf of several clients, including an unidentified Washington-based PR and lobbying firm. He was released two days after his arrest following a procedural error by British authorities.
He was rearrested on Thursday on the same charges and has since been released on bail, according to Britain’s National Crime Agency and a London court register published Friday.

The register said Forlit surrendered his passport and was ordered not to leave the country. The 56-year-old’s lawyers did not return repeated messages.

In a deposition made public in 2022, Forlit said, “I’ve never commissioned hacking and never paid for hacking.” Reuters revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into the cybermercenary industry in 2020.

The only person known to have been convicted in connection with the inquiry, Israeli private investigator Aviram Azari, was given a 6 2/3 year sentence last year.

Forlit acknowledged in his deposition that Azari had done work on his behalf. Privately, he expressed concern that he was being sought by American law enforcement following Azari’s arrest, according to three associates. The associates said Forlit told them he arranged a meeting with FBI officials in the US embassy in London in late 2021 to gauge whether he would be arrested if he visited the United States.

It was at that meeting that the FBI quizzed him about his work for DCI, they said. The associates spoke on condition of anonymity to relay the content of private conversations.

Forlit is separately being sued in New York federal court by aviation executive Farhad Azima, who accuses the Israeli of being party to the theft of his emails in 2016. He denies the allegations.

A review of court records tied to Azima’s litigation shows that Forlit had business with DCI.

A Citibank document made public in August 2022 as part of Azima’s discovery effort in Florida shows Forlit’s company, then known as SDC-Gadot, listed DCI Group as one of its three “major customers.” Citibank declined to comment on the document.


NYC college suspends officer who told pro-Palestinian protester ‘I support killing all you guys’

Updated 36 min 32 sec ago
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NYC college suspends officer who told pro-Palestinian protester ‘I support killing all you guys’

  • An unidentified protester filmed the officer at Thursday’s graduation for the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York system that was rocked by a recent police crackdown on campus protests

NEW YORK: A campus safety officer at a public college in New York City has been suspended after footage circulated online showing him cursing at pro-Palestinian protesters during a graduation ceremony and saying he supported killing them all, the school confirmed Friday.

An unidentified protester filmed the officer at Thursday’s graduation for the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York system that was rocked by a recent police crackdown on campus protests.
In a highly edited video shared by Instagram accounts affiliated with student protest organizers, a demonstrator can be heard yelling at the officer, “You support genocide!”
“Yes I do, I support genocide,” says the officer. “I support killing all you guys, how about that?”
In another clip posted in the video, the officer can be heard hurling an expletive at another protester, followed by “your mother.”
Phone calls and emails seeking comment from the officer on Friday were unsuccessful. A person who answered a number listed under his name hung up when a reporter identified themself, and emails were not immediately returned.
CUNY confirmed the suspension Friday but declined to provide details, such as whether the officer was on paid leave.
“We condemn the offensive language used by a CUNY officer,” College of Staten Island spokesperson David Pizzuto said in a statement. “His words don’t reflect the values of the College of Staten Island or the 50 officers on our Public Safety staff. The officer has been suspended pending a full review of the incident, and we will take further action as appropriate.”
Protest camps sprang up across the US and in Europe as students demand their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts. Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which they describe as a genocide against the Palestinians.
The United Nations’ top court ordered Israel on Friday to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire for entire Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice has said there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.


French city postpones Israeli film festival amid Gaza tensions

Updated 24 May 2024
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French city postpones Israeli film festival amid Gaza tensions

  • The city council did not give a reason for the postponement
  • The Shalom Europa festival said on its Facebook page that “events” had forced the decision to hold the event at a “calmer” time

STRASBOURG, France: An Israeli film festival in the eastern French city of Strasbourg has been indefinitely postponed as the Gaza war rages, authorities said Friday.
The Shalom Europa festival has been hosted in the city for 15 years and was scheduled to be held from June 16 to June 20. But France has reported an increased number of anti-Semitic attacks since the Gaza war erupted on October 7.
The city council did not give a reason for the postponement but said Strasbourg “has always supported the Shalom Europa festival and will continue to do so. It promises to help hold the festival on a date that is opportune for the organizers.”
The Israeli community group that organizes the event did not reply to AFP requests for comment.
The Shalom Europa festival said on its Facebook page that “events” had forced the decision to hold the event at a “calmer” time, adding that “The safety and well-being of our participants is our absolute priority.”
The French Jewish community, the third largest in the world, has for months been on edge in the face of a growing number of attacks and desecrations of memorials.
On May 17, French police shot dead a man who set fire to a synagogue in the northern city of Rouen.


UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

Updated 24 May 2024
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UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

  • Save the Children official questions UK’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law
  • Young people in Gaza enduring ‘the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world’

LONDON: Palestinians in Gaza, and particularly young people, are being “unequivocally failed” by the British government, a charity adviser said on Friday.

Liz Bradshaw, Save the Children’s senior adviser on the Israel-Hamas conflict, told The Independent newspaper that a “shameful failure by the UK government” was having a huge impact on youngsters living through “the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world.”

Health officials in Gaza say more than 35,000 Palestinians, over half of them women and children, have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7 and the outbreak of an Israeli retaliation for a Hamas attack in southern Israel, which claimed around 1,200 lives.

Bradshaw said UK arms sales to Israel were having a “high impact” on the lives of Palestinian civilians. David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, recently admitted that he was “not really interested” in stopping weapon sales to Israel.

Children in Gaza faced immediate physical risk “from horrific blast injuries caused by the use of explosive weapons in intensely dense populated areas, like Rafah, or from amputations, leaving them in agonizing pain,” Bradshaw said.

She added that, in places like Rafah where the Israeli military is engaged in an offensive, people were facing repeated displacement “in some cases, four or five, six times condensed into ever smaller areas, where frankly, there just simply aren’t the conditions for that number of people to survive.”

According to Bradshaw, children in Gaza are in acute need of mental health support to deal with the “lifelong” psychological scars they will have gained from what they have witnessed.

She also called into question the UK government’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law and to protecting civilians suffering in Gaza.

“The UK speaks in very powerful terms about protection of civilians in other parts of the world like Ukraine, so why are we not seeing the same level of commitment and concern in relation to Palestinian children in Gaza?” she asked.

“It’s pretty abject stuff. We hear a lot about the deep concern that they have, but frankly, their deep concern is meaningless to children in Gaza. And it’s meaningless to our staff who are desperately battling against the odds to help children. We need action, not words from this government, and it’s long, long overdue.”