Pakistan mosque blast that killed 100 was ‘revenge against police’

Police officers examine the site of Monday’s suicide bombing after authorities finished the rescue operation, in Peshawar on Jan. 31, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 31 January 2023
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Pakistan mosque blast that killed 100 was ‘revenge against police’

  • Authorities are investigating how a major security breach could happen in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city
  • Sanaullah told Pakistan’s national assembly the dead included 97 police officers and three civilians

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: A suicide blast at a mosque inside a Pakistan police headquarters was a targeted revenge attack, a police chief said Tuesday, as rescue efforts ended with the death toll standing at 100.
Between 300 and 400 policemen had gathered for afternoon prayers at the compound’s mosque on Monday in the provincial capital Peshawar when an entire wall and most of the roof were blown out, showering rubble on officers.
“We are on the frontline taking action against militants and that is why we were targeted,” city police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP.
“The purpose was to demoralize us as a force.”
On Tuesday evening rescuers finally ended a marathon operation which saw them pry survivors and corpses out of the wreck of the mosque, rushing those who could be saved to hospitals.
Low-level militancy, often targeting security checkpoints, has been steadily rising in the areas near Peshawar that border Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control of Kabul in August 2021.
The assaults are claimed mostly by the Pakistani Taliban, as well as the local chapter of the Islamic State, but mass casualty attacks remain rare.
The head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province police force, Moazzam Jah Ansari, told reporters that a suicide bomber had entered the mosque as a guest, carrying 10-12 kilogrammes (about 22-26 pounds) of “explosive material in bits and pieces.”
He added that a militant group that was on-and-off affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban could be behind the attack.
Authorities are investigating how a major security breach could happen in one of the most tightly controlled areas of the city, housing intelligence and counter-terrorism bureaus, and next door to the regional secretariat.
The nation is already being hobbled by a massive economic downturn and political chaos, ahead of elections due by October.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told Pakistan’s national assembly the dead included 97 police officers and three civilians, with 27 patients still in critical condition.
“I remained trapped under the rubble with a dead body over me for seven hours. I had lost all hope of survival,” Wajahat Ali, a 23-year-old police constable whose feet were broken, told AFP from hospital on Tuesday.
Survivor Shahid Ali said the explosion took place seconds after the imam started prayers.
“I saw black smoke rising to the sky. I ran out to save my life,” the 47-year-old police officer told AFP.
Dozens of slain police officers have already been buried in several mass prayer ceremonies, with coffins lined up in rows and draped in the Pakistani flag while a guard of honor was performed.
“Terrorists want to create fear by targeting those who perform the duty of defending Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a statement.

In a statement, the Pakistani Taliban — separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar Islamist ideology — denied it was responsible for the latest blast.
Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, it carried out a years-long wave of horrific violence after emerging in 2007 but recently has attempted to rebrand itself as a less brutal outfit, claiming not to target places of worship.
But a security official in Peshawar, who asked not to be named, said Tuesday that authorities were considering all possibilities including the involvement of a TTP splinter faction, Daesh or a coordinated attack by several groups.
“Often in the past militant groups, including the TTP, that carry out attacks in mosques do not claim them” because a mosque is considered a sacred place, the official told AFP.
Pakistan was once plagued by almost daily bombings, but a major military clearance operation which started in 2014 largely restored order.
Analysts say militants in the former tribal areas adjacent to Peshawar and bordering Afghanistan have become emboldened since the return of the Afghan Taliban, with Islamabad accusing the new rulers of failing to secure their mountainous frontier.
“Terrorism has become a national security crisis for Pakistan again — as it was a decade ago — and it will worsen unless concerted action is taken to address it,” Brookings Institution analyst Madiha Afzal told AFP.
Mass casualty attacks remain relatively rare, with Daesh claiming the most recent blast on a Shiite mosque in Peshawar last March that killed 64.
Provinces around the country announced they were on high alert after the blast, with checkpoints ramped up and extra security forces deployed, while in the capital Islamabad snipers were posted on buildings and at city entrance points.
The drastic security breach came on the day United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan had been due to visit Islamabad, although the trip was canceled at the last minute due to bad weather.
Pakistan is also hosting an International Monetary Fund delegation from Tuesday as it works toward unlocking a vital bailout loan to prevent a looming default.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned the blast as “abhorrent,” and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken extended his condolences for the “horrific attack.”


Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel

Updated 10 sec ago
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Google employees arrested after protesting against $1bn contract with Israel

  • 'Google workers do not want their labor to power Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,' No Tech For Apartheid group said

LONDON: Several Google employees were arrested on Tuesday for taking part in a 10-hour sit-in at the company’s offices in New York and California.

The protest, organized by members of the No Tech For Apartheid movement, was meant as a challenge to the tech giant’s involvement with the Israeli government. It centered on a $1 billion cloud computing contract between Google, Amazon and the Israeli government and military, known as Project Nimbus.

The project involves creating a secure Google cloud setup in Israel to facilitate data analysis, AI training and other computing services, Time magazine reported.

According to leaked documents reported by American news organization Intercept in 2022, the project includes advanced features like AI-enabled facial detection and automated image categorization.

During the sit-in, a livestreamed video captured a security worker telling protesters at Google’s California office that they were on administrative leave and cautioned them about trespassing.

Social media videos showed police removing nine protesters from the premises. Similar actions were recorded at the company’s New York office.

A statement from the No Tech For Apartheid group said: “Google workers do not want their labor to power Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. The time is now to rise up against Project Nimbus, in support of Palestinian liberation and join calls to end the Israeli occupation.”

Last month, a Google employee from the group interrupted a talk by the company’s Israel chief, accusing the company of “powering genocide.” He was later fired.

A Google spokesman told the Telegraph: “These protests were part of a longstanding campaign by a group of organizations and people who largely don’t work at Google. A small number of employee protesters entered and disrupted a couple of our locations.

“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies and we will investigate and take action.

“These employees were put on administrative leave and their access to our systems was cut. After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety.”


Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

Updated 13 min 1 sec ago
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Man guilty of attacks near UK mosques given hospital order

  • Abbkr has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits

LONDON: A man convicted of attempted murder after deliberately setting fire to two elderly men shortly after they left mosques in the UK was on Wednesday handed an indefinite hospital order.
Mohammed Abbkr, from Edgbaston in Birmingham, central England, deliberately set fire to Hashi Odowa, 82, and Mohammed Rayaz, 70, in February and March last year.
Abbkr, originally from Sudan, was convicted of two counts of attempted murder last year at Birmingham Crown Court in central England.
Judge Melbourne Inman told Abbkr, who has paranoid schizophrenia and believed he was controlled by people possessed by evil spirits: “You threw petrol over your victims and then set them alight — the attacks were horrific.”
“The two victims in this case were, on any rational view, chosen at random,” the judge told Abbkr, who watched the proceedings by video-link from Ashworth high security hospital in northwest England.
“You, however, genuinely believed each of them was one of those trying to take control of you.
“I am wholly satisfied that you committed both of these offenses at a time when you were suffering a severe mental illness.”
Abbkr sprayed petrol on the two men outside or near mosques they had attended and then set them alight. The attacks took place in west London on February 27 and Birmingham on March 20.
Odowa, who was attacked in London, was treated for severe burns to his face and arms. The Birmingham attack left Rayaz hospitalized with severe injuries.


70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

Updated 38 min 15 sec ago
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70 killed as Afghanistan hit by heavy rains

  • Rains between Saturday and Wednesday triggered flash floods in most Afghanistan provinces
  • Fifty-six people injured, over 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed, says Afghan official 

KABUL: Around 70 people have been killed by heavy rains lashing Afghanistan over the past five days, the government’s disaster management department said Wednesday.
Afghanistan was parched by an unusually dry winter which desiccated the earth, exacerbating flash-flooding caused by spring downpours in most provinces.
Disaster management spokesman Janan Sayeq said “approximately 70 people lost their lives” as a result of rains between Saturday and Wednesday.
Fifty-six others have been injured, he said, while more than 2,600 houses have been damaged or destroyed and 95,000 acres of farmland wiped away.
Giving a smaller death toll last week, Sayeq said most fatalities at that point had been caused by roof collapses resulting from the deluges. 
Neighbouring Pakistan has also been hammered by spring downpours, with 65 people killed in storm-related incidents as rain falls at nearly twice the historical average rate.
The United Nations last year warned that “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”
After four decades of war the country ranks among the nations least prepared to face extreme weather events, which scientists say are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.
At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, while around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.


Security Council to vote Thursday on Palestinian state UN membership

Updated 17 April 2024
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Security Council to vote Thursday on Palestinian state UN membership

  • According to the Palestinian side, 137 of the 193 UN member states already recognize a Palestinian state
  • Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan has strongly opposed the Palestinian membership bid

United Nations, United States: The United Nations Security Council will vote Thursday on the Palestinians’ application to become a full UN member state, several diplomatic sources have told AFP.
Amid Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, the Palestinians in early April revived a membership application first made to the world body in 2011, though the veto-wielding United States has repeatedly expressed opposition to the proposal.
The General Assembly can admit a new member state with a two-thirds majority vote, but only after the Security Council gives its recommendation.
Regional bloc the Arab Group issued a statement Tuesday affirming its “unwavering support” for the Palestinians’ application.
“Membership in the United Nations is a crucial step in the right direction toward a just and lasting resolution of the Palestinian question in line with international law and relevant UN resolutions,” the statement said.
Algeria, a non-permanent Security Council member, has drafted the resolution that “recommends” to the General Assembly “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.”
The vote on Thursday will coincide with a Security Council meeting scheduled several weeks ago to discuss the situation in Gaza, which ministers from several Arab countries are expected to attend.
The Palestinians — who have had observer status at the United Nations since 2012 — have lobbied for years to gain full membership.
“We are seeking admission. That is our natural and legal right,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, said in April.
According to the Palestinian side, 137 of the 193 UN member states already recognize a Palestinian state, raising hope that their request would be supported in the General Assembly.
But the Palestinian push for UN membership faces a major hurdle, as the United States — Israel’s closest ally — could use its veto power to block the Security Council recommendation.
“We call on all members of the Security Council to vote in favor of the draft resolution... At the very least, we implore Council members not to obstruct this critical initiative,” the Arab Group said Tuesday.
The United States has voiced its opposition to full Palestinian membership, saying it backed statehood but only after negotiations with Israel, while pointing to US laws that would require cuts to UN funding if such a move took place without a bilateral agreement.
“That is something that should be done through direct negotiations through the parties, something we are pursuing at this time, and not at the United Nations,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in April.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan has strongly opposed the Palestinian membership bid, saying in mid-April the considerations were “already a victory for genocidal terror.”
“The Security Council is deliberating granting the perpetrators and supporters of October 7 full membership status in the UN,” Erdan said.
Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed over 33,000 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

Updated 17 April 2024
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President Widodo urges Apple CEO to open manufacturing facility in Indonesia

  • Country has ‘endless’ investment ability, Tim Cook says on visit to Jakarta
  • Tech giant announces opening of new Apple Developer Academy in Bali

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday met the head of tech giant Apple and urged him to open a manufacturing facility in the country.

CEO Tim Cook was in Jakarta following a trip to Hanoi, where the company announced plans to increase spending on suppliers in Vietnam, its most important manufacturing hub outside China.

Before the meeting between Widodo and Cook, Apple announced plans to boost its investment in Indonesia and said it would open a new Apple Developer Academy — facilities designed to nurture local talent in the tech sector — in Bali, its fourth in the country.

“The meeting with Tim Cook focused on exploring strategic plans, including the opportunity of Apple expanding to Indonesia and further integration into the global supply chain,” Widodo said in a statement.

“I invited Apple to establish an innovation hub with potential universities in Indonesia for human resources development. I also urged Apple to develop a manufacturing facility in the country.”

Apple currently does not have a manufacturing facility in Indonesia but opened its first developer academy there in 2018.

The new facility takes the company’s total investment in Indonesia to 1.6 trillion rupiah ($98.4 million), according to Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita.

“After this, the Ministry of Industry will conduct a business-matching program. We already have a list of the components (that Apple needs) and mobile components that are already produced in Indonesia, so perhaps there can be a partnership,” he said.

Apple has based much of its key manufacturing of iPads, Airpods and Apple Watches in Vietnam, and more recently India, as it explores ways to diversify its supply chains away from China.

Home to more than 270 million people, Indonesia has a young, tech-savvy population with more than 100 million people aged under 30.

According to figures from Statista, as of January, Apple had an 11.5 percent share of Indonesia’s mobile phone market, behind Oppo (18 percent) and Samsung (17 percent).

“We talked about the president’s desire to see manufacturing in the country and it’s something that we will look at,” Cook told reporters after meeting Widodo.

“I thought we had a great conversation and I really appreciated the time with him. It was a dialogue about how much potential there is in the country and our commitment to the country.”

Cook later met president-elect, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who will take over from Widodo in October.

“I think the investment ability in Indonesia is endless, I think that there’s a lot of great places to invest and we’re investing,” Cook said. “We believe in the country.”