World Newsletter

FRONT PAGE NEWS
3 January 2020

TOP IRANIAN MILITARY COMMANDER QASSEM SOLEIMANI KILLED BY US AIR STRIKE IN 
BAGHDAD 

A US strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and the deputy head 
of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi military force at Baghdad's airport early Friday, 
the Hashed announced. 
"The deputy head of the Hashed, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and head of the Quds 
Force, Qasem Soleimani, were killed in a US strike that targeted their car 
on the Baghdad International Airport road," the group said in a statement. 
The international airport was hit in a volley of missiles just after 
midnight, Iraq's military said. 
Security sources said the rockets targeted a Hashed convoy and left eight 
people dead, including "important figures." 
The Hashed is a network of mostly-Shiite armed units, many of whom have very 
close ties to Tehran, who have been officially incorporated into Iraq's 
state security forces. 
Muhandis is the Hashed's deputy chief but is widely recognised as the real 
shot-caller within the group. 
He has been blacklisted by the US. 
Soleimani heads the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force and also 
serves as Iran's pointman on Iraq. 
On Tuesday, a mob of Hashed supporters surrounded the US embassy in outrage 
over American air strikes that killed 25 fighters from the network's 
hardline Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which is backed by Iran. 
The US had acted in response to a rocket attack days earlier that had killed 
an American contractor working in Iraq. 


AVOID PAKISTAN ROUTE: US CAUTIONS AIR CARRIERS OVER RISK OF EXTREMIST 
ACTIVITY 

The US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration has issued an 
advisory to all air carriers and commercial operators against flying into or 
crossing the Pakistan airspace citing "extremist/militant activity". 
"There continues to be a risk to US civil aviation from attacks against 
airports and aircraft, particularly for aircraft on the ground and aircraft 
operating at low altitudes, including during the arrival and departure 
phases of the flight," reads the advisory. 
The US regulator said in its NOTAM that there continues to be a risk to US 
civil aviation sector from attacks against airports and aircraft in 
Pakistan, particularly for aircraft on the ground and aircraft operating at 
low altitudes, including during the arrival and departure phases of flights. 
"The ongoing presence of extremist/militant elements operating in Pakistan 
poses a continued risk to US civil aviation from small-arms fire, complex 
attacks against airports, indirect weapons fire, and anti-aircraft fire, any 
of which could occur with little or no warning," it said. 


TAIWAN'S MILITARY CHIEF KILLED IN CHOPPER CRASH 

Taiwan's top military officer was killed in a helicopter crash today, the 
defence ministry said, just days before the island goes to polls to elect a 
new president. 
The chief of the general staff, Shen Yi-ming, was among eight senior 
officers, including three major-generals, who died when their Black Hawk 
helicopter smashed into mountains near Taipei. The 62-year-old general and 
his entourage were on a routine mission to visit soldiers in northeast Yilan 
county when the incident happened. 
Flags at all military units will fly at half-mast for three days as Shen was 
the highest-ranking military official to die while on official duty, the 
government said. Lieutenant-general Tsao Ching-ping, one of five survivors, 
told rescuers in footage broadcast on local TV: "Two others are injured and 
only I can walk." 
President Tsai Ing-wen's office said that she will cancel all campaign 
activities for three days after the tragedy. The ruling Democratic 
Progressive Party will also suspend campaigning for three days. Tsai is 
seeking a second term against Kaohsiung city mayor Han Kuo-yu of the 
Kuomintang (KMT) party in the January 11 elections when Taiwan will also 
elect a new parliament. Han and the KMT also expressed condolences to the 
victims and announced that they will stop campaigning for two days. 


STAY ORDER ON ARMY CHIEF'S EXTENSION, PAK GOVT URGES SC 

The Pakistan government on Thursday sought a stay order from the Supreme 
Court against its landmark verdict in the extension of service case 
involving Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. 
Prime Minister Imran Khan had extended 59-year-old Gen Bajwa's tenure 
through a notification on August 19. However, the Supreme Court suspended 
the government order, citing irregularities in the manner the army chief, a 
close confidant of Khan, was granted an extension. 
The government in its plea requested the apex court "to accept the 
application and suspend/stay the operation of the impugned judgment dated 
November 28, 2019, in the interest of justice". 
This is the second petition filed by the government in this high-profile 
case. 
On December 26, the law ministry had approached the top court against its 
detailed judgment, issued on December 16, in which the government was 
ordered to legislate on Bajwa's extension within six months. The government 
urged the apex court to form a larger bench to hear the case and set aside 
the earlier judgment. 
On November 28, Bajwa got a six-month conditional extension from the apex 
court, ending an unprecedented legal wrangle that shook the Pakistan 
Tehreek-e-Insaf government and pitted the powerful military against the 
judiciary. 
The petition filed on Thursday prayed to the court that the "petitioners 
have a strong prima facie case to succeed; hence the operation of the 
impugned judgment may be suspended/stayed till the final decision of this 
civil review petition". 


JAKARTA FLOODS KILL 30 

Residents of Indonesia's capital, who had been forced into shelters by 
widespread flooding, began returning to their homes today as the waters 
started to recede, though the death toll from the disaster jumped to 30. 
Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 182 neighbourhoods in 
greater Jakarta starting Wednesday and caused landslides in the Bogor and 
Depok districts on the city's outskirts. 
Officials had earlier said 35,000 people were in shelters. Electricity was 
restored to tens of thousands of residences and businesses. At their peak, 
the floods had inundated thousands of homes and buildings. 


SRI LANKA TO EXTEND FREE VISAS TILL APRIL 

Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga has confirmed that the 
government is drafting a Cabinet proposal to extend the free-visa regime 
till April 30. "We have just begun to draft the proposal and within the next 
two weeks I hope to submit it to the Cabinet for approval," the minister 
told the Daily Financial Times on Wednesday. 
To recover the country's tourism industry which suffered a major setback 
following the Easter Sunday attacks on April 21, 2019, Sri Lanka granted 
free visas to travellers from 49 countries, including India, for a period of 
six months from August 1. 
With the period ending this month, the Immigration and Emigration Department 
lobbied for suspension of the visa scheme, noting that there will be a loss 
of revenue. 


400 HELD IN HK FOR 'VANDALISM' 

The Hong Kong police arrested about 400 people for illegal assembly and 
possession of arms during a New Year anti-government march which, organisers 
said, was attended by more than a million people. Hong Kongers came out en 
masse yesterday for the march organisers had to eventually cancel following 
police orders, leading to clashes between officers and the radical 
protesters, reports Efe news. 
Although permission for the demonstration had been granted, police urged 
organisers - the Civil Human Rights Front - to end the procession three 
hours after it started, arguing some protesters had begun throwing stones 
and Molotov cocktails and burning shops and banks. Trouble started when 
activists vandalised a branch of banking giant HSBC, which led to police 
cracking down on them with teargas, local media outlets reported. 
Other protesters in the front columns of the march formed human chains, 
seemingly unwilling to go away, leading to further clashes with police that 
ended in arrests. Away from the clashes, thousands marched peacefully to 
urge citizens of the former British colony to keep protests alive in 2020 
and remind the government of the pro-democracy movement's demands through 
placards and slogans. 
Demands include direct universal suffrage to elect a chief executive and 
other representatives, freeing of almost 6,000 detainees and an independent 
investigation into alleged police brutality. Demonstrations in Hong Kong 
began in June 2019 following a now-shelved extradition Bill. 


TOP ISRAELI COURT 'UNABLE TO RULE' ON PM'S ELIGIBILITY TO FORM GOVT. 

Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday refused to rule on a request by lawyers 
seeking to prevent indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a 
government after looming elections. 
The lawyers took their case to Israel's highest court on Tuesday, arguing 
that Mr. Netanyahu's indictment in November on charges of bribery, fraud and 
breach of trust should prevent him from being mandated by the president to 
form a government. 
But the court on Thursday said it was unable to rule on the sensitive case, 
saying the lawyers' request was "premature". 
Israel faces a third general election in less than a year on March 2, after 
national polls in April and September failed to yield a governing coalition. 


999 BANGLADESHIS WERE IN INDIA ILLEGALLY, SAYS BORDER GUARDS BANGLADESH HEAD 

Nearly 1,000 Bangladesh nationals were detained in Bangladesh in 2019 for 
living in India "illegally", and the Bangladesh government has initiated 
legal proceedings against them, Major-General Shafeenul Islam, 
Director-General of Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), said in Dhaka on 
Thursday. 
This is the first time in recent decades that Bangladesh has made public the 
number of its citizens who had lived "illegally" in India. 
The announcement came following the talks between the Directors-General of 
the Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh in New Delhi 
from December 25 to 30, 2019. 
Nine hundred and ninety-nine Bangladesh nationals - 135 children, 258 women 
and 606 men - were detained, Major-General Islam said at a press conference. 
And 312 of them were arrested in November and 133 in December. Officials 
said they were arrested on the border, while going to India or returning 
home. Their identities were ascertained and legal proceedings initiated "as 
per law for illegally entering and staying" in another country. Those 
arrested were either kept in custody or freed on bail. 

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