New UAE law outlaws all forms of discrimination – Legislation seeks to promote tolerance, acceptance

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates has outlawed religious or racial discrimination, the state news agency WAM said yesterday, citing a royal decree by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. The law is aimed in part at countering Islamist militancy, particularly the practice known as takfir, whereby hardline Muslims label followers of other schools of Islam unbelievers, but it also outlaws insults against religions.

The legislation bars discrimination based on “religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, color or ethnic origin,” according to WAM. “The new law No. 02 of 2015 criminalizes any acts that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media,” WAM reported. “The law is intended to provide a sound foundation for the environment of tolerance, broadmindedness and acceptance in the UAE,” the report said. Penalties include six months to more than 10 years in prison and fines up to two million dirhams ($545,000). Authorities held out the possibility of amnesty for those who proactively turn themselves in.

The UAE, an oil-exporting confederation of seven Muslim emirates ruled by hereditary dynasties and bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman, is worried about political Islam, which appeals to religious conservatives while challenging its lack of democratic rule. It has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization – the Brotherhood denies any involvement in militant violence – and taken part in US-led air strikes on the ultra-radical Islamic State insurgent group in Syria. The UAE is also concerned about efforts by Sunni Muslim jihadists to stoke sectarian tensions in the Gulf with recent blasts at Shiite Muslim mosques in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Militant violence is rare in the UAE, but Islamic State has urged Muslims in Gulf countries to target Western expatriates in retaliation for attacks against it. While all UAE citizens are Muslims, most of them are Sunni. The country is also home to hundreds of thousands of non-Muslim expatriates and is a popular destination for foreign tourists. Human rights organizations criticize the country for clamping down on free speech and accuse it of using laws against terrorism to jail peaceful critics of the government. — Agencies

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Queen’s childhood ‘Nazi salute’ stirs British mania for monarchy

britishLONDON: A grainy 82-year-old image of a seven-year-old Elizabeth offering what appears to be a brief Nazi salute has touched some of Britain’s deepest obsessions: a mania for monarchy and a fascination with World War Two. Rupert Murdoch’s top-selling Sun tabloid devoted seven pages to what it billed as a “world exclusive” but stressed the 17-second black-and-white film from the year Adolf Hitler came to power did not reflect badly on the 89-yearold monarch. Under the headline “Their Royal Heilnesses”, The Sun said the film showed the future Edward VIII instructing his nieces, the present Queen Elizabeth, and her three-year-old sister, Princess Margaret, how to perform the Nazi salute.

True to her reputation for avoiding blatant displays of emotion or opinion during her more than six decades on the throne, Elizabeth has not deigned to comment publicly though Buckingham Palace scolded The Sun. Such is Elizabeth’s popularity and influence that the story led the BBC’s flagship radio news programme on Saturday and has elicited anger from supporters in a swathe of comment across the domestic media. “It makes my blood boil to think that anyone should use this image in any way to impugn the extraordinary record of service of Her Majesty to this country,” London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. “I hope that the Queen and her family will be fortified by the huge outpouring of love and support from the commonsensical mass of the British people, who can see this for exactly what it is: the innocent actions of a seven- year-old child.” Johnson, who last year published a biography of Winston Churchill, gave a brief outline of delusions some in British elite had in the 1930s about Hitler’s true intentions ahead of a war that would sap British power, wealth and blood. “Some 82 years on from the shooting of that film, journalists are exploring the attitudes of the royal family towards Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany,” wrote media commentator Roy Greenslade in the Guardian.

British royals
Though it would emerge from the war as an almost bankrupt former imperial power trapped in a Cold War between Soviet Russia and the United States, Britain’s role in defeating the Nazis remains a great source of pride for many Britons. Royal bravery in the face of German bombing raids became a theme of British domestic propaganda during the war: Elizabeth’s parents, George VI and the Queen mother, became symbols of British defiance. “When Buckingham Palace was bombed on 13 September 1940, the Queen Mother famously said: ‘At least we can now look the East End in the face,’” Robert Jobson, royal editor of the Evening Standard wrote. “It would go down in history as the day the Luftwaffe came closest to claiming the ultimate trophy – the life of George VI,” Jobson said. The Sun said it had published the images to provide an insight into “the warped prejudices” of Edward, who renounced the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite.

Asked if Prime Minister David Cameron shared Buckingham Palace’s disappointment at the publication, Cameron’s spokeswoman said: “I don’t think the prime minister has anything really to add to the debate there has already been on this.” In the film, a copy of which The Sun said it had received from a source, Elizabeth and her sister show little apparent understanding of the salute’s significance as a sign of obedience to Hitler. Buckingham Palace is investigating the possible source of the film, which came from the queen’s personal family archive. The Sun quoted historians urging an opening up of the Royal Archives, which it said could stay secret for ever. Edward, whose pro-German sympathies would fuel decades of speculation about his true loyalties, raises his arm, as does his sister-in-law, the Queen Mother. Edward was succeeded by his younger brother, George VI, Elizabeth’s father. An opponent of Russia’s Bolshevik rulers who killed Tsar Nicholas II in 1918, Edward visited Germany in 1937 and met Hitler just months after the Luftwaffe bombed the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and Jews had been banned from many professions in Germany. — Reuters

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Death toll from Yemen rebel shelling doubles to 100 – Saudi-led coalition target Houthi positions

Vendors salvage goods from under the rubble of their shops following an air-strike by the Saudi-led coalition on the Yemeni capital Sanaa yesterday. — AFP

Vendors salvage goods from under the rubble of their shops following an air-strike by the Saudi-led coalition on the Yemeni capital Sanaa yesterday. — AFP

SANAA: The death toll in Yemen from the Shiite rebel shelling of a town near the southern port city of Aden rose yesterday to nearly 100, the head of an international aid group said, describing it as “the worst day” for the city and its surroundings in over three months of fighting. The rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies started shelled the town of Dar Saad on Sunday after earlier losing control of some of Aden’s neighborhoods. The violence highlighted the bloody chaos of the civil war gripping the Arab world’s poorest country, which also has been the target of Saudi-led, US-backed airstrikes since late March.

Hassan Boucenine of the Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders said that by yesterday, his organization reported nearly 100 people dead, twice the casualty toll from the previous day. The shelling also wounded about 200 people, said Boucenine, the head of the organization in Yemen. Of the victims, 80 percent are civilians, including many pregnant women, elderly and children, he added. “Yesterday was the worst day in Aden since (the Saudi-led coalition campaign) started in March,” Boucenine told The Associated Press, adding that he fears “attacks on civilians will continue.” Sunday’s shelling in Dar Saad began after the Houthi rebels lost control of much of the Aden district of Tawahi, according to officials and witnesses. Tawahi is now under a security lockdown, the officials said, as anti-Houthi forces search buildings looking for rebels, some of whom had fled to the nearby mountains. Overnight, the Saudi-led coalition targeted Houthi positions north of Aden and in Dar Saad, killing at least 55 rebels, officials and witnesses said.

Shelling continues
The coalition also struck the home of Mehdi Meqlawa, a prominent supporter of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in a Sanaa suburb. In the Yemeni capital, it also hit Houthi headquarters near the Souq Aziz market, killing one person. Rebel shelling continued yesterday in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, killing eight residents, while ground fighting raged on in Marib, with six anti-Houthi tribesmen and 10 Houthi fighters killed in clashes. All officials and eyewitnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters or feared reprisals. Houthi officials declined to comment on the fighting. The spokesman of the Yemeni government in exile, Rageh Badie, said they appointed the head of the Resistance Council, Nayef al- Bakri, as governor of Aden. Al-Bakri served as deputy to the former governor, Abdulaziz bin Habtoor, who fled the embattled city earlier this year. Al-Bakri is joined by the exiled deputy minister of health and the transportation and interior ministers, who have flown into Aden two days ago from Saudi Arabia. Other exiled ministers will follow suit over the next few weeks, Badie said. Yemen’s conflict pits the Iran-allied Houthis and troops loyal to the former president, Saleh, against an array of forces, including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants as well as loyalists of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is backed internationally. — AP

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In an IS camp, Children told: Behead the doll

In this photo released on Jan 11, 2015, by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, an Islamic State militant, center, holds plastic bags full of stationery and other gifts as he distributes them to Iraqi young students, at a school classroom, in Mosul, northern Iraq. — AP

In this photo released on Jan 11, 2015, by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, an Islamic State militant, center, holds plastic bags full of stationery and other gifts as he distributes them to Iraqi young students, at a school classroom, in Mosul, northern Iraq. — AP

SANLIURFA: The children had all been shown videos of beheadings and told by their trainers with the Islamic State group that they would perform one someday. First, they had to practice technique. The more than 120 boys were each given a doll and a sword and told, cut off its head.

A 14-year-old who was among the boys, all abducted from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, said he couldn’t cut it right. He chopped once, twice, three times. “Then they taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels,” the boy, renamed Yahya by his IS captors, told The Associated Press last week in northern Iraq, where he fled after escaping the IS training camp. When Islamic State extremists overran Yazidi towns in northern Iraq last year, they butchered older men and enslaved many of the women and girls. Dozens of young Yazidi boys like Yahya had a different fate: The IS sought to re-educate them.

They forced them to convert to Islam from their ancient faith and tried to turn them into jihadi fighters. It is part of a concerted effort by the extremists to build a new generation of militants, according to AP interviews with residents who fled or still live under IS in Syria and Iraq.

The group is recruiting teens and children using gifts, threats and brainwashing. Boys have been turned into killers and suicide bombers. An IS video issued last week showed a boy beheading a Syrian soldier under an adult militant’s supervision. Last month, a video showed 25 children unflinchingly shooting 25 captured Syrian soldiers in the head. In schools and mosques, militants infuse children with extremist doctrine, often turning them against their own parents. Fighters in the street befriend children with toys. IS training camps churn out the Ashbal, Arabic for “lion cubs,” child fighters for the “caliphate” that IS declared across its territory.

The caliphate is a historic form of Islamic rule that the group claims to be reviving with its own radical interpretation, though the vast majority of Muslims reject its claims. “I am terribly worried about future generations,” said Abu Hafs Naqshabandi, a Syrian sheikh who runs religion classes for refugees in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa to counter IS ideology. The indoctrination mainly targets Sunni Muslim children. In ISheld towns, militants show young people videos at street booths. They hold outdoor events for children, distributing soft drinks and candy – and propaganda.

They tell adults, “We have given up on you, we care about the new generation,” said an anti-IS activist who fled the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ de facto capital. He spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve the safety of relatives under IS rule. With the Yazidis, whom IS considers heretics ripe for slaughter, the group sought to take another community’s youth, erase their past and replace it with radicalism. Yahya, his little brother, their mother and hundreds of Yazidis were captured when IS seized the Iraqi town of Sulagh in August. They were taken to Raqqa, where the brothers and other Yazidi boys aged 8 to 15 were put in the Farouq training camp. They were given Muslim Arabic names to replace their Kurdish names. Yahya asked that AP not use his real name for his and his family’s safety. He spent nearly five months there, training eight to 10 hours a day, including exercises, weapons drills and Quranic studies. They told him Yazidis are “dirty” and should be killed, he said. They showed him how to shoot someone from close range. —AP

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Greece starts repaying ECB, IMF loans – Banks reopen, first repayments start

greeksATHENS: Greece reopened its banks and started the process of paying off billions of euros owed to international creditors yesterday in the first signs of a return to normal after a deal to agree a new package of bailout reforms. Customers were queued up outside bank branches open for the first time in three weeks on Monday after they were closed to save the system from collapsing under a flood of withdrawals. Increases in value added tax agreed under the bailout terms also took effect, with VAT on food and public transport jumping to 23 percent from 13 percent. The stock market remained closed until further notice. The bank closures were the most visible sign of the crisis that took Greece to the brink of leaving the euro earlier this month, potentially undermining the foundations of the single European currency.

Their reopening followed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ reluctant acceptance of a tough package of bailout demands from European partners, but a revolt in the ruling Syriza party now threatens the stability of his government and officials say new elections may be held as early as September or October. “Things are better than the last few weeks. Thank God we didn’t end up with the drachma!” said 62-year-old pensioner Maria Papadopoulou. “I came to pay bills and my taxes today. Last week I couldn’t and all of this is very tiring for the older people like me.” Limits on withdrawals will remain, however-at 420 euros per week instead of 60 euros per day previously-and payments and wire transfers abroad will still not be possible, a situation German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday was “not a normal life” and warranted swift negotiations on a new bailout, expected to be worth up to 86 billion euros. “Capital controls and restrictions on withdrawals will remain in place but we are entering a new stage which we all hope will be one of normality,” said Louka Katseli, head of the Greek bank association.

Greeks will be able to deposit cheques but not cash, pay bills as well as have access to safety deposit boxes and withdraw money without an ATM card. Bankers said there may be minor disruptions after the extended interruption to services but said they expected services to resume largely as normal. “I don’t expect major problems, our network and the network of our competitors are ready to serve our clients,” said a senior official at Piraeus Bank, one of the big four lenders. “There might be lines because many people will want to withdraw money from their deposit boxes,” the official said. Athens initiated procedures to pay 4.2 billion euros in principal and interest to the European Central Bank due yesterday after European authorities agreed last week to provide emergency funding assistance, It is also paying 2.05 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund in arrears since June 30, when Greece became the first advanced economy to default on a loan to the IMF, along with 500 million euros owed to the Bank of Greece.

Vote tomorrow
Tsipras is eyeing a fresh start and swift talks on the bailout aimed at keeping Greece afloat but faces hurdles with factions in his party. Although the Greek parliament approved the bailout package on Thursday, the 40-year-old prime minister was forced to rely on votes from the opposition after 39 rebels from Syriza refused to back the government by voting against or abstaining. A second vote will be held tomorrow on measures including justice and banking reforms and a similar outcome is expected. The voting arithmetic is finely poised, however.

Together with his coalition partners from the right-wing Independent Greeks party Tsipras has 162 seats in the 300-seat parliament. But Thursday’s rebellion cut his support to just 123 votes, meaning he is likely to need opposition votes again. Some officials in the government have suggested that if support from lawmakers from within the coalition dropped below 120 votes, early snap elections would have to be called while the bailout was still being negotiated.

Their argument is that under Greek law, the lowest number of votes a government can have to win a confidence motion is 120 out of 240, the minimum quorum in parliament for a vote to be valid. Dropping below 120 would be a symbolic blow but whether it would actually push Tsipras to step down is unclear given that he would have the support of the pro-European opposition parties if a confidence vote were called. “What worries me is that some people still think that there would be no austerity if we were out of the euro. This argument is absolutely false,” State Minister Nikos Pappas, one of Tsipras’ closest aides told the leftist Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper. Acceptance of the bailout terms and reopening of the banks have marked a new stage for Tsipras after months of difficult talks. The bailout terms, which are tougher than those rejected in a referendum earlier in July, include tax hikes, pension cuts, strict curbs on public spending, an overhaul of collective bargaining rules and a transfer of 50 billion euros of state assets into a special privatization fund. — Reuters

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Iran’s conservatives take aim at nuclear deal

iran-nuclearDUBAI: Iran’s security hawks have begun sniping at their country’s historic nuclear deal, emboldened a day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described some of the world powers that signed it as “untrustworthy”. Khamenei’s remark will be understood by Iranians to refer largely to the United States and Britain, the “Great and Little Satans” long reviled by Iran’s revolutionary theocracy for their support of the Shah, overthrown in 1979. The comment carries weight, because the conservative cleric is the ultimate arbiter of high state policy under Iran’s unwieldy dual system of clerical and republican rule. Khamenei did voice guarded appreciation of the deal, saying it was significant, and urged calm, perhaps alluding to surging popular hopes for an end to Iran’s isolation, or to strains between the supporters of the deal and its critics. But his downbeat, measured tone was in contrast to lavish praise for the agreement from pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani and his Western-educated foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Figures close to Khamenei lost little time in taking aim at the accord, which lifts sanctions on Tehran in return for Iran accepting longterm curbs on a nuclear programme that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.

One saw worrying discrepancies between the US and Iranian interpretations of what had been agreed. “The Iranian fact-sheet of the conclusion of the deal issued by the foreign ministry had significant differences with what America’s president mentioned in his remarks,” Mohammad Kazem Anbarlui wrote in an editorial for the conservative newspaper Resalat. “The fact-sheet of the rival shows that Iranian red lines, particularly about the lifting of sanctions, have not been observed. The phrases and words used in the text contain parentheses and it is loaded with interpretable, ambiguous or multi-meaning expressions,” he added. Some conservatives believe reaching a deal with Washington is tantamount to a pact with the devil. While Khamenei will have the last word on the deal, hardliners want the text subjected to rigorous scrutiny when it is submitted for consideration to parliament and the National Security Council.

These critics had a mild but visible presence in the streets on Tuesday when the deal was announced. An eyewitness told Reuters that, in the Karaj suburb of Tehran, a man who was handing out sweets to people for “nuclear victory” was shoved and roughed up by long bearded men who looked like members of the hardline Basij militia. Another eyewitness told Reuters that Basij on motorbikes made their presence felt in the affluent Vanak Square in north Tehran to show dissatisfaction with street jubilations. They were outnumbered by young people dancing. No clash was reported. Security hardliners such as the Basij and the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards Corps carry real clout. Conservative leaders of the Guards opposed many policies of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005, and helped to scuttle his boldest initiatives.

The Guards and the Basij also helped suppress huge street protests that followed the disputed re-election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. The two organisations are part of Iran’s unwieldy system of competing power structures, some of which, like the Guards, have their own business empires. Critics of Rouhani’s outreach to the West started their political campaign last year, announcing their concerns about Tehran’s possible concessions in nuclear negotiations. After a lavish conference titled “We are worried about a bad deal”, they have simply become known as “The Worried”. While not a political party, “The Worried” is an umbrella term describing those with a deep affiliation with hardline conservatives and those who criticise Rouhani’s government.—Reuters

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Noose tightens around thousands caught in Iraq’s Anbar offensive – Residents say Islamic State trapping them in cities

BAGHDAD: As Iraqi forces prepare to try to recapture the city of Falluja, tens of thousands of civilians find themselves trapped between Islamic State militants ready to use them as human shields and a government suspicious of their loyalties. With the jihadists coercing them to stay, and a government blockade and shelling closing exit routes and cutting off supplies, there is “a vice, a noose around the neck of the population”, Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said. Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-led government on Monday announced the start of operations to “liberate Anbar”, the province west of Baghdad whose Sunni Muslim cities and towns along the Euphrates have since last year become strongholds of Islamic State. “Since military operations began, it has become impossible to leave,” said one 42- year-old teacher. “They (Islamic State) have planted bombs at the entrance and exits to the city and on the main roads to prevent security forces entering or citizens leaving.” Communication with those still inside Falluja is increasingly difficult. The teacher was afraid to let his name be used, and his comments were relayed to Reuters by a friend. Baghdad’s last military push against Islamic State, to retake Tikrit in April, came after most citizens had fled.

Leaders of the Shiite militias fighting alongside Iraq’s army say Falluja’s civilians will be evacuated before the final push, but, in a climate of fear, residents are not confident. This week, hundreds of fighters who said they had come from Syria and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul paraded through Falluja, said the teacher, whose account of Islamic State’s tight control was echoed by other sources. Preachers in mosques were warning people not to cooperate with security forces and, after prayers, Islamists were delivering “jihadist lectures”.

Papers confiscated
Hisham Al-Hashemi, an Iraqi security analyst, said Islamic State had this week confiscated the identity papers of up to 50,000 people to stop them leaving, and that it was extremely difficult to escape either Falluja, seized by Islamic State early last year, or nearby Ramadi. The teacher said the Islamists, who have declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, were in effect holding the population hostage to “attract the sympathy of jihadists worldwide” when the government assault came. A 49-year-old taxi driver inside the city said fruit, meat and vegetables were becoming harder to find since roads into the city were blocked. Umm Asma, a housewife, said she was rationing food to her family in case there was a long siege. Some people are still managing to make perilous escapes from Falluja, however; Reuters spoke to four families who said they had left this week.

Ahmed Abdul-Rahman, a 48-year-old taxi driver, said he had run the gauntlet of heavy bombardment when he found an exit north of the city to bring out his wife and two children three days earlier. “We still can’t believe that we have left Falluja,” he said. “We have left everything behind: the car, the house and the furniture.” The outskirts of Falluja are at least spared air strikes by a US-led coalition, because the government forces advancing on the city are mostly Iranian-backed Shiite “Hashid Shaabi” militias, which Washington is reluctant to support. There is, however, air support for the Iraqi army forces advancing on the provincial capital Ramadi, halfway between Falluja and Baghdad, from where thousands fled in April and May as Islamic State seized the city. There are no precise figures for the remaining populations in either city. Hashemi said Falluja still had around half its pre-crisis population of 370,000. Other estimates suggest far fewer remain.

But even those who safely make it out of Iraq’s Sunni heartland, where Islamic State has in part been able to tap into long-standing resentment of the Shiiteled authorities in Baghdad, complain that they are met with suspicion in the capital. “All roads were closed off, as if we are enemies of the government,” said Saad Jaber, a 41-year-old who said he had been forced to stay with his brother in a town south of Falluja because he could not get to Baghdad. “The government was supposed to reward us and help us because we managed to escape from Daesh (Islamic State),” he said. “It’s not our fault that the government is weak and unable to defend us.” Authorities in Baghdad, which has suffered repeated waves of car bombings claimed by Islamic State, are wary of admitting a flood of displaced Sunni civilians, fearing that militants could slip in with them. That led to many thousands of people being blocked at a bridge across the Euphrates in intense heat earlier this summer. While much of the focus has been on the two main Anbar cities closest to the capital, towns farther up the Euphrates valley nearer to Syria are ever more isolated and finding it harder to get food, Grande said. Haditha, one of the few government- held towns in Anbar, is increasingly cut off by Islamic State fighters. “We have reports that food prices are increasing to the point where families can’t afford basic commodities,” UN coordinator Grande said. But just as the United Nations prepares for “what is likely to be a very difficult summer” of humanitarian crisis across Anbar, she said it was running desperately short of money. “Seventy-seven front-line health clinics are closing or dramatically scaling back,” she said. Even if security forces are successful in Ramadi and Falluja, they will face further battles – and run into millions more civilians – on the way to recapturing their ultimate northern target, Mosul, Iraq’s second city. “Many towns will be impacted,” Grande said. Already the situation is desperate, and it is getting much, much, much worse.”—Reuters

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France foils ‘terror’ attack on military

francePARIS: France has foiled a “terrorist” plot to capture and decapitate a member of its armed forces at a military base, officials said. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said security forces staged dawn raids on Monday and arrested four people, aged between 16 and 23, who were “planning to commit a terrorist act” at a French military installation. The youngest was quickly released but the other three are suspected of planning to kidnap and behead a member of the military, possibly on December 31 when the facility was thinly staffed. The oldest of the group served as a navy signalman at the base around the southern town of Collioure, which is also used for training by elite commando forces.

He was identified as Djebril and was recently kicked out of the navy, said a source close to the investigation who did not wish to be named. The other key plotter was just 17, and was already being closely watched by authorities due to his activities on social media and connections to French jihadists in prison. All three of those still under arrest had been planning to travel to jihadist-controlled areas of Syria, the security source said, but the 17-yearold’s mother contacted authorities and he was interviewed by counter-terrorism officials.

No weapons were found during the arrests, the source said, although officials discovered documents on preparing explosives. The news of the arrests followed a statement from President Francois Hollande, who said attacks had been thwarted in recent days. “This week, we stopped terrorist attacks which could have taken place,” Hollande said on a visit to the southern city of Marseille. France remains on high alert more than six months after jihadist attacks in January that claimed 17 lives and started with shootings at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

At traditional July 14 celebrations, Hollande said: “Every week, we are arresting, preventing … terrorist acts.” The suspected plotters are now in the custody of France’s intelligence services, the DGSI, and anti-terrorist prosecutors in Paris have opened a probe, Cazeneuve said. “I want to congratulate our security services for this new blow to the terrorists and for again foiling an attack,” said the minister.

Jihadist ‘hotline’
News of the foiled attack came just hours after two blasts on Tuesday at a petrochemical plant near Marseille, described by Cazeneuve as a “criminal act”. Investigators had yet to pin down a motive for the explosions and there was currently “no link” with the foiled attack on the military base, he added. The government says there are 1,850 French citizens or people living in France who are “implicated” in jihadist networks, with around 500 in Syria or Iraq. France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, has beefed up security, posting 30,000 police officers and soldiers outside 5,000 sites deemed “sensitive” such as schools and places of worship. Authorities have also set up a hotline for friends or family concerned that someone could be tempted to wage jihad-an effort that has yielded 2,500 leads.

Following controversial “anti-terror” laws passed last year, France is also preventing suspected jihadists from leaving the countrysome 118 travel bans have been enforced since the legislation was passed in November. Cazeneuve said 29 people had been prevented from entering the country in that time. A further 40 “preachers of hate, including pseudo-, self-proclaimed imams” had been kicked out of France. Paris has also tightened security around sensitive sites such as factories, calling for “maximum vigilance”. Last month, a man with a suspected link to the Islamic State group spiked his boss’s severed head onto the fence of a US-owned gas factory in eastern France. But experts have warned it is extremely difficult to defend against attacks on such sensitive sites. “There is no such thing as zero risk,” said Philippe Prudhon, a technical expert at the UIC union of chemical industries. “If someone really wants to cause harm, it will be difficult to stop him or her. We have to realise that we have been in a fundamentally different environment for the past three years,” Prudhon said. — AFP

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Hillary Clinton spends $18m, hires hundreds

WASHINGTON: Hillary Rodham Clinton spent more than $18 million hiring hundreds of employees in the first three months of her presidential campaign, creating a national operation that vastly outpaces her rivals in both parties. She has the money for it, having raised more than $46 million for the Democratic primary contest. Since announcing her White House bid in April, the former secretary of state has positioned staff in all fifty states – with the majority working out of a pricey 80,000-squarefoot (7,432-million square meter) Brooklyn headquarters.

Beyond paying salaries for 343 employees, her campaign purchased lists of voters in four early primary states, paid six figures to a super political action committee devoted to defending her record and spent heavily on building a digital team, according to campaign finance documents filed Wednesday with federal regulators. It’s a strategy aimed at a contest that’s nearly a year away. The overwhelming favorite for her party’s nomination, Clinton’s team has set its sights on building the massive infrastructure they’ll need for the general election. The outlay is nearly four times what Clinton spent in the first three months of her last presidential campaign, when she faced a far more competitive primary race against then-Sen.

Barack Obama. During that 2008 campaign, Clinton and her team faced charges from donors that they were wasting money on ineffective strategic choices – like spending nearly $100,000 for party platters and groceries before the Iowa caucus, a contest she lost. This time, her staff has emphasized its “cheapskate” mentality – particularly to contributors. At her first national finance meeting in May, top donors were instructed to purchase their own lunches and fund their own transportation to various gatherings in Brooklyn.

Campaign aides like to brag about taking the bus from New York to Washington, rather than the more expensive Acela train. Even so, her campaign spent at least $8,700 on train tickets and just a few hundred dollars on bus fare, the Federal Election Commission report shows. All told, Clinton has spent a far greater portion of her early funds during this campaign than she did eight years ago. During the first three months of her 2008 bid, Clinton spent 14 percent of the $36 million she raised, according to FEC documents. In the launch of this campaign, she’s burned though nearly 40 percent of what she has taken in. Her campaign also reported that Clinton received more than 250,000 contributions, with an average donation of $144.89. About 17 percent of her contributions were $200 or less. By comparison Vermont Sen.

Bernie Sanders has fueled an insurgent challenge to Clinton with small donations. He pulled in more than $15.2 million through the end of June, and three-quarters of his donations were $200 or less. Though they’ve highlighted their lowerdollar contributions, Clinton’s team also released a list of campaign bundlers who each raised more than $100,000 for her primary bid. Some of the donors included Clinton’s most ardent financial backers, including Hollywood media mogul Haim Saban; Susie Tompkins Buell, a wealthy California investor who was a major donor to the Ready for Hillary super PAC; Las Vegas publisher Brian Greenspun, a longtime friend and college classmate of Bill Clinton; billionaire J.B. Pritzker of Chicago; and Alan Patricof, a New York-based financier who served as Clinton’s finance chair when she first ran for Senate in New York. — AP

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Pakistan summons Indian envoy after ‘spy drone’ shot down – Five killed in cross-border shelling

droneISLAMABAD: Pakistan summoned the Indian ambassador yesterday after a “spy drone” was shot down in disputed Kashmir, as officials said five people were killed in cross-border shelling between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The flare-up between the two countries, who have fought three wars since 1947, comes days after their prime ministers met in Russia in an apparent sign of a thaw in relations. The Pakistani military said Wednesday that troops had shot down “an Indian spy drone used for aerial photography” close to the de facto border in Kashmir. A picture in Pakistani media purportedly of the downed drone showed a small lightweight model of a type widely available for commercial purchase.

The Indian Army and Air Force both denied any of their drones had been shot down or had crashed, according to a Press Trust of India report. Following the incident, Pakistan’s foreign ministry hauled in the Indian high commissioner, or ambassador, to hear a “strong protest over airspace violation”, a statement said.

The ministry said the intrusion of the drone, which came down in the Pakistanadministered part of Kashmir, was a violation of international law and territorial integrity. Pakistan also protested to the envoy over what it called “unprovoked ceasefire violations” along the disputed border. The two countries both control part of Kashmir, but claim the territory in full and have fought two wars over the Himalayan region.

They agreed on a border ceasefire in 2003, which has largely held, though violations are regularly reported from both sides. Pakistani officials said Indian fire on Wednesday and Thursday had killed at least four civilians, including one in Kashmir and three near the town of Sialkot, which lies close to the border. For its part, India protested to Pakistan over the firing, a government source said. The complaint was registered after India claimed one of its civilians was killed in fire near the undisputed part of the de facto border in Jammu’s Akhnoor sector on Wednesday, the source told AFP. “Our high commission in Pakistan has lodged a protest. This matter was also taken up with Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi,” the source said. India said the latest flare up had killed a 42-year-old woman and injured six others, including three border police.

Television footage showed Indian villagers holding empty mortar shells and cartridges, which they alleged had been fired by Pakistani rangers. Last Friday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted an invitation from his counterpart Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan next year, raising hopes of an improvement in perennially difficult relations. After months of stalemate and recriminations, Modi and Sharif spoke for about an hour while visiting Russia for a regional summit. It will be the first time that Modi-who has a reputation as a hardline nationalisthas travelled to Pakistan since coming to power. —AFP

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