Dhaka, Jan 20 (UNB) - The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has attached properties worth Rs 16.4 crore (US 23 million) in two Indian cities belonging to Islamic preacher and televangelist Zakir Naik who has been accused of inciting youth to take up terror activities.
In a statement, the ED said the attached properties were based in Maharashtra's Mumbai and Pune cities and that the action was taken under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), reports the Hindustan Times.
The department had already made two provisional attachments worth Rs 34.09 crore in connection with the case which the agency took over on the basis of National Investigation Agency (NIA)'s October 26, 2017, charge-sheet filed before a Special Judge in Mumbai.
“Zakir Naik used Rs 17.65 crore for purchase of properties from builders – Salim Kodia partner in M/s MK Enterprises, Munaf Vadgama, partner in M/s Aafiyah Realtors, Sameer Khan, partner in M/s Pacific Orient Genesis Associates, Musa Lakdawala partner of M/s Lakdawala and Yash Associates in their projects Fatima Heights, Aafiyah Heights, Engracia and in a project at Bhandup, Mumbai,” said the agency.
The scholar came on the security agencies' radar after some terrorists, allegedly involved in the attack on a cafe in Dhaka in July 2016, reportedly claimed they were inspired by his speeches.
On November 17, 2016, India declared Naik's Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
La Paz, Jan 20 (Xinhua/UNB) - A head-on crash between two buses on the Oruro-Potosi highway in southwest Bolivia on Saturday left at least 22 dead and more than 30 others injured, said local police.
The accident occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday when two buses from the companies of Trans Azul and Trans Imperial crashed on the highway some 40 km from the city of Challapata, Romulo Delgado, commander general of the police, told reporters.
The injured have been taken to hospitals in Challapata and the city of Oruro. The incident was under investigation," the head of police said.
According to preliminary police report, the accident could have been caused due to excessive speed and one of the buses may have crossed into the oncoming lane, in addition that rain and fog could have obstructed the drivers' vision.
Washington, Jan 20 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said Saturday that "things are going very well with North Korea" and he plans a second summit with leader Kim Jong Un to try to broker a deal that would entice the North to give up its nuclear weapons.
"We've agreed to meet sometime probably the end of February. We've picked a country, but we'll be announcing it in the future. Kim Jong Un is looking very forward to it and so am I," the president told reporters Saturday at the White House.
The initial news of a second meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader came after Trump's 90-minute session Friday in the Oval Office with a North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, who traveled to Washington to discuss denuclearization talks.
"We have made a lot of progress as far as denuclearization is concerned and we're talking about a lot of different things," Trump said, adding it's "not been reported, unfortunately, but it will be. Things are going very with North Korea."
In May, North Korea released three American detainees and sent them home with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his meeting with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.
The second summit signals stepped-up efforts by both countries to continue talks. Trump has exchanged letters with the North Korean leader amid little tangible progress on the vague denuclearization agreement reached at their first meeting last June in Singapore.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said "it's high time" for serious negotiations between the United States and North Korea to outline a road map for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The U.N. chief said New York on Friday that would allow both sides "to know exactly what the next steps will be, and to have predictability in the way negotiations take place."
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit early this year. Vietnam has been considered as a possible summit venue, along with Thailand, Hawaii and Singapore.
Since the Singapore talks, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology. A planned meeting between Pompeo and the envoy, who is North Korea's former spy chief, in New York last November was abruptly canceled. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had called off the session.
The special U.S. envoy for North Korea negotiations, Steve Biegun, planned to travel to Sweden for further talks over the weekend.
The talks have stalled over North Korea's refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them. The North also has demanded that the U.S. end harsh economic penalties and provide security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for National Interest, said any talks between the two nations are a positive development, but the hard work of negotiating an agreement has only begun.
As a possible first step, Kazianis said, North Korea could agree to close its nuclear centrifuge facility at Yongbyon in exchange for some relief from U.S. sanctions or a peace declaration ending the Korean War. The three-year war between North and South Korea ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
South Korea said it expects the second summit between Trump and Kim to be "a turning point in firmly establishing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Kim expressed frustration in an annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit "to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community," according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Kim's latest trip to China, his fourth since last year, came as the North's strongest ally has encouraged negotiations with the U.S. while at the same time arguing in favor of an immediate easing of sanctions.
The U.S. and North Korea seemed close to war at points during 2017. The North staged a series of weapons tests that brought it closer to its nuclear goal of one day being able to target anywhere on the U.S. mainland. The two sides then turned to insulting each other: Trump called Kim "Little Rocket Man" and North Korea said Trump was a "dotard."
Johannesburg, Jan 20 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. military on Saturday said it had carried out its deadliest airstrike in Somalia in months, killing 52 al-Shabab extremists after a "large group" mounted an attack on Somali forces.
The U.S. Africa Command said the airstrike occurred near Jilib in Middle Juba region. There were no reports of Americans killed or wounded.
The U.S. statement did not say whether any Somali forces were killed or wounded by the al-Qaida-linked extremists. Al-Shabab via its Shahada news agency asserted that its attack on two Somali army bases killed at least 41 soldiers. It described the location as the Bar Sanjuni area near the port city of Kismayo.
There was no immediate comment from Somalia's government.
In neighboring Ethiopia, state television cited the defense ministry as saying more than 60 al-Shabab fighters had been killed and that four vehicles loaded with explosives had been "destroyed." Ethiopia contributes troops to a multinational African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and has troops there independently under Ethiopian army command.
A Somali intelligence officer said al-Shabab had been amassing fighters for more than a week to launch a major attack against Somali and Kenyan forces in order to disrupt a planned offensive against the extremists. The officer said some 400 extremists, including foreign ones, had been prepared, including two suicide car bombers. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
Al-Shabab controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to carry out high-profile suicide bombings and other attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.
The Islamic extremist group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in the capital of neighboring Kenya on Tuesday, the latest high-toll assault inside that county in retaliation for Kenya sending troops to Somalia to fight al-Shabab.
The extremist group finds itself under pressure at home on a number of fronts, including from a small presence of rival fighters linked to the Islamic State organization, which has begun challenging al-Shabab in recent months.
The United States has dramatically stepped up airstrikes against al-Shabab in Somalia since President Donald Trump took office, carrying out at least 47 such strikes last year. Some have targeted top al-Shabab leaders or key financial officials; the extremist group funds its attacks with an extensive network of "taxation" and extortion.
In October, the U.S. said an airstrike killed about 60 fighters near the al-Shabab-controlled community of Harardere in Mudug province in the central part of the country.
The airstrikes hamper the extremist group but have not "seriously degraded al-Shabab's capability to mount strikes either inside or outside Somalia," Matt Bryden of Sahan Research, an expert on the extremists, told The Associated Press after the Nairobi hotel attack.
Airstrikes alone cannot defeat the extremists, Bryden said, and must be combined with more ground-based attacks as well as a non-military campaign to win over residents of extremist-held areas.
The U.S. on Saturday said it is committed to "preventing al-Shabab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia."
Mexico, Jan 20 (AP/UNB) — Gerardo Perez returned Saturday to the scorched field in central Mexico where he'd seen an illegal pipeline tap burst into flames to see if he could recognize missing friends. He couldn't. Only a handful of the remains still had skin. Dozens were burned to the bone or to ash when the gusher of gasoline exploded, killing at least 73 people.
Perez said he and his son bypassed soldiers and ignored warnings to stay clear of the geyser Friday evening in the town of Tlahuelilpan in Hidalgo state, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Mexico City.
"We're stubborn," he said. But as Perez neared the spurting fuel, he was overcome with foreboding. He recalls telling his son: "Let's go ... this thing is going to explode."
And it did, with the fireball engulfing locals collecting the spilling gasoline in buckets, jugs and garbage cans. Video footage showed flames shooting high into the night sky, and screaming people running from the explosion, some themselves burning and waving their arms. Perez and his son made it out.
By Saturday evening the death toll had risen to 73, according to Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad. Officials said at least another 74 were injured and dozens more were missing. Fifty-four bodies have yet to be identified.
Forensic experts were separating and counting charred heaps of corpses while anguished relatives of those presumed dead gathered around the scene of carnage.
Just a few feet from where the pipeline passed through an alfalfa field, the dead seem to have fallen in heaps, perhaps as they stumbled over each other or tried to help one another as the geyser of gasoline turned to flames.
Several of the deceased lay on their backs, their arms stretched out in agony. Some seemed to have covered their chests in a last attempt to protect themselves from the blast. A few corpses seemed to embrace each other in death. Lost shoes were scattered around a space the size of a soccer field, as were half-melted plastic jugs the victims carried to gather spilling fuel. Closer to the explosion, forensic workers marked mounds of ash with numbers.
On Friday, hundreds of people had gathered in an almost festive atmosphere in a field where a duct had been perforated by fuel thieves and gasoline spewed 20 feet into the air.
State oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said the pipeline, which supplies much of central Mexico with fuel, had just reopened after being shut since Dec. 23 and that it had been breached 10 times over three months.
The tragedy came just three weeks after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched an offensive against fuel theft gangs that have drilled dangerous, illegal taps into pipelines an astounding 12,581 times in the first 10 months of 2018, an average of about 42 per day. The crackdown has led to widespread fuel shortages at gas stations throughout the country as Pemex deviates distribution, both licit and illicit.
Lopez Obrador vowed on Saturday to continue the fight against a practice that steals about $3 billion per year in fuel.
"We are going to eradicate that which not only causes material damages, it is not only what the nation loses by this illegal trade, this black market of fuel, but the risk, the danger, the loss of human lives," he said.
He said the attorney general's office will investigate whether the explosion was intentional — caused by an individual or group — or whether the fireball occurred due to the inherent risk of clandestine fuel extraction. He called on townspeople to give testimony not only about Friday's events in Hidalgo, but about the entire black-market chain of fuel theft.
"I believe in the people, I trust in the people, and I know that with these painful, regrettable lessons, the people will also distance themselves from these practices," he said.
Lopez Obrador faces an uphill fight against a practice that locals say is deeply rooted in the poor rural areas where pipelines pass, covered by only a foot or two of dirt. Specialized fuel thieves who tap the lines usually cart their bounty off in trucks. But in recent days, as the government cracks down on fuel theft rings, the gangs have punctured pipelines and invited locals to help themselves.
Tlahuelilpan, population 20,000, is just 8 miles (13 kilometers) from Pemex's Tula refinery. Pemex Chief Executive Octavio Romero said an estimated 10,000 barrels of premium gasoline were rushing through the pipeline with 20 kilograms of pressure when it was ruptured.
Locals on Saturday expressed both sympathy and consternation toward the president's war on fuel gangs.
Arely Calva Martinez said the recent shortages at gas stations raised the temptation to salvage fuel from the gusher.
Her brother Marco Alfredo, a teacher, was desperate for gas to drive 90 minutes back and forth to work when word spread via Facebook that fuel spewing into the field. Marco Alfredo and another brother, Yonathan, were in the field when the fire erupted. They haven't been seen since.
"I think if there had been gas in the gas stations, many of these people wouldn't have been here," Calva Martinez said while holding a picture of her brothers.
Tears streamed down Erica Bautista's cheeks as she held up her cellphone with pictures of her brother, Valentin Hernandez Cornejo, 24, a taxi driver, and his wife, Yesica, both of whom are also missing. Valentin faced "enormous lines" for a limited ration of gas, she said. Then he received a phone call alerting him to the fuel spill.
"We want to at least find a cadaver," she said while weeping.
Health officials were taking DNA samples from direct relatives at the local community center in Tlahuelilpan to aid in identification. Outside, a long, chilling list of the missing was taped to a window.
Wrapped in a blanket, Hugo Olvera Estrada said he had gone to six nearby hospitals looking for his 13-year-old son, who had joined the crowd at the fuel spill. He hasn't been seen since.
"Ay, no, where is my son?" he wailed.
Lopez Obrador launched the offensive against illegal taps soon after taking office Dec. 1, deploying 3,200 marines to guard pipelines and refineries. His administration also shut down pipelines to detect and deter illegal taps, relying more on delivering fuel by tanker truck. There aren't enough trucks, however.
Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio said Saturday there are 50 soldiers stationed every 12 miles along the pipelines, and that they patrol 24 hours a day. But the soldiers have been ordered not to engage with fuel thieves out of fear that an escalation could result in more shootings of unarmed civilians or more soldiers being beaten by a mob.
"We don't want this sort of confrontation," Cresencio said.
Officials say 25 military personnel arrived on the scene soon after the pipeline started spewing fuel on Friday. Over the course of two hours, hundreds of civilians came to fill containers with gasoline from a gusher shooting 20 feet (six meters) into the air.
A second pipeline burst into flames Friday in the neighboring state of Queretaro as a result of another illegal tap. But in this fire there were no reported casualties.
In December 2010, authorities also blamed oil thieves for a pipeline explosion in a central Mexico near the capital that killed 28 people, including 13 children. That blast burned people and scorched homes, affecting 5,000 residents in an area six miles (10 kilometers) wide in San Martin Texmelucan.