Fri, 03 January 2020
BJP govt turned Kashmir into graveyard: Tarigami
23:48 BJP govt turned Kashmir into graveyard: Tarigami
Senior CPI-M leader Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami on Friday accused the BJP government at the Centre of turning Kashmir into a virtual prison by locking up leaders of different political parties after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and by suppressing dissent.
Speaking at the foundation-day programme of party daily Ganashakti in Kolkata, Tarigami, a four-time MLA of JK Legislative Assembly, called on intellectuals and members of the civil society to "rise in protest against the oppression of people of Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution".
In a dig at the government's claim that not a single bullet was fired in Kashmir after the scrapping up of JK's special status on August 5, the 72-year-old, who was allowed to move out of Kashmir following a Supreme Court order in September, said there was no need to fire bullets when the entire valley "has been turned into a graveyard".
"How much freedom we got after Amit Shah repealed Article 370. He says everyday there has been no firing and the situation is peaceful. You have made Kashmir a graveyard. What is the point of firing then?" he said.
"Before the revocation, the governor used to say there will be no move to repeal special provisions... He told political parties there is no such plan and then the government made the sudden announcement in Parliament," he said.
Tarigami said while they feel proud to be citizens of the country and believe in the supremacy of the Constitution, the central government was "violating the spirit of Constitution, sometimes discreetly, sometimes openly".
"Some people feel surprised how CAA and NRC can come all off a sudden. It is not, it was all in their mind, part of their agenda," he said. -- PTI
23:25 Army Chief Naravane to pay first visit to Siachen
After taking over as the Army Chief, Gen M M Naravane will undertake his first visit to areas under the crucial Northern Command, including the Siachen Glacier, from January 9-10, sources said on Friday.
During his two-day visit to the areas under Northern Command, Naravane will also visit the Kashmir Valley, they said.
The Siachen Glacier is the world's highest-altitude battleground.
The Northern Command of the Indian Army is entrusted with manning the country's borders with Pakistan and China.
Naravane took charge as the Army Chief from Gen Bipin Rawat on December 31. -- PTI
22:40 World can't afford another war in Gulf: UN chief
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday cautioned that the world cannot afford another war in the Gulf, following the killing of Iran's top military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.
Voicing deep concern over escalation of tensions in the Gulf, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq said, "The Secretary-General has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf. He is deeply concerned with the recent escalation."
The UN chief said this is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. "The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf," Guterres said.
Tensions are escalating in the region after Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed in an American drone strike in Baghdad on Friday. The strike was authorised by President Donald Trump.
Trump tweeted, "General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself."
"While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!" he said in the tweet. -- PTI
Image: Kashmiri Shia Muslims carry out a protest at Magam chowk on the Srinagar Gulmarg highway against the killing of a Top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani by US forces on Friday. Photograph: ANI Photo
21:55 Don't impose divisive agenda on country: Cong to Shah
The Congress on Friday accused home minister Amit Shah of imposing a "conspiratorial and divisive agenda" on India and bringing the country to a 1947-like situation.
The Congress also told Shah that he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi continue to "abuse" opposition leaders even as NDA constituents and chief ministers of the ruling BJP are not accepting the amended Citizenship Act.
"Amit Shah ji. Modi ji and you have been made Prime Minister and Home Minister to work for the public welfare and generate livelihoods for them and not abuse opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
"You have put the entire country in a situation like that in 1947 with your divisive and conspiratorial agenda...You should desist from slapping your conspiratorial and divisive agenda on the country," Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a video posted on Twitter.
He alleged that NDA partners and BJP chief ministers are themselves not accepting the "divisive" CAA but Modi and Shah were "venting out their grouse" on the opposition by abusing them.
"Now your own partners and allies as also your chief minister of Assam Sabananda Sonowal have refused to accept and implement the divisive CAA. Why are you venting out your grouse on the opposition. You should first set your own house in order and then talk to the country and take on the opposition," the Congress leader said.
Tagging a news report in English about Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal not being ready to accept the CAA in his state, Surjewala tweeted in Hindi, "Your allies are not accepting the divisive CAA, your own chief ministers are not accepting the CAA. Should we send you a Hindi translation".
Surjewala earlier dared Modi to dismiss the Assam chief minister from his own party for openly opposing the amended Citizenship Act and declare him an "anti-national" for doing so. -- PTI
21:31 Oz PM calls off India visit due to bush fires back home
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called off his four-day visit to India from January 13 due to devastating bush fires in several parts of his country, diplomatic sources said on Friday.
Morrison was scheduled to hold extensive bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the visit.
Earlier, Modi had a telephone conversation with Morrison during which he conveyed his heartfelt condolences on behalf of all Indians on the damage to life and property in Australia due to the severe and prolonged bushfires.
He also offered India's unstinted support to Australia and the Australian people, who are bravely facing this unprecedented natural calamity, an External Affairs Ministry statement said.
The Australian prime minister was also scheduled to deliver the inaugural address at the Raisina Dialogue, the flagship annual lecture series organised by the Ministry of External Affairs.
Besides Delhi, Morrison also planned to visit Mumbai and Bengaluru.
"Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called off his visit to India due to the serious situation arising out of bush fires in several parts of Australia," a diplomatic source said.
Bush fires have ripped through the states of New South Wales and Victoria, killing at least 20 people and destroying nearly 500 homes.
About 4,000 people, including nearly 3,000 tourists, were stranded in Victoria's Mallacoota region since they were forced to take shelter on the foreshore as the fire approached on New Year's eve.
During their conversation, Modi also expressed satisfaction at the progress in bilateral relations in recent years and reiterated India's commitment to strengthen its strategic partnership with Australia.
He also said that he looks forward to welcoming the Australian prime minister in India on a state visit at a mutually convenient time later in the year.
Modi conveyed his best wishes to Morrison and the people of Australia for the rest of the year 2020. -- PTI
21:31 India condemns vandalism at gurdwara in Pak
India strongly condemned vandalism at the revered Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan and called upon the neighbouring country to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the Sikh community there.
The external affairs ministry said members of the minority Sikh community in Pakistan have been subjected to acts of violence at the holy city of Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji.
"India strongly condemns these wanton acts of destruction and desecration of the holy place," the MEA said in a statement.
"We call upon the Government of Pakistan to take immediate steps to ensure safety, security, and welfare of the members of the Sikh community," the MEA added.
"Strong action must be taken against the miscreants who indulged in desecration of the holy Gurdwara and attacked members of the minority Sikh community," it said. -- PTI
20:47 Soleimani should've been killed many years ago: Trump
General Qasem Soleimani should have been eliminated many years ago as the powerful commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards killed and wounded thousands of Americans and was plotting to kill many more, United States president Donald Trump said on Friday.
Gen Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed when a drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday.
The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force and some local Iran-backed militias.
Soleimani, 62, was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in Iran behind the Ayatollah Khamenei. His Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, reported directly to the Ayatollah and he was hailed as a heroic national figure.
"General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more...but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number....
"Of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!," Trump tweeted, breaking his silence after he tweeted a picture of the US flag.
Following Soleimani's killing, Trump, on a vacation in Florida, initially tweeted an image of the US flag.
Hours later, he tweeted again: "Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!", in an apparent slight against the nuclear deal his predecessor Barack Obama negotiated with Tehran. -- PTI
20:09 India has 'isolated' itself through CAA: Ex-NSA
Former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on Friday said the amendment of the Citizenship Act by the government was a "self-inflicted goal" which has "isolated" India and the list of critical voices both at home and abroad is "pretty long".
Speaking at a press conference where a number of academicians discussed the adverse implications of the contentious law, which has led to nationwide protests, Menon said the move has resulted in India being "hyphenated" with Pakistan as an "intolerant" state.
"What we have achieved in the recent past is to hyphenate our (India's) image with Pakistan in a fundamental way, which is an intolerant state," said the former National Security Adviser.
He said the perception of India has changed after the law was passed.
"India has isolated itself through the move and the list of critical voices in the international community is also pretty long now. Perception of India has changed in the last few months. Even our friends have been taken aback," Menon said.
Referring to Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan's remarks where he said "let them fight among themselves" when asked about CAA and NRC, Menon said, "If this is how our friends feel, think of how happy this will make our adversary.
"What we have achieved in the recent past is to hyphenate our image with Pakistan in a fundamental way, which is intolerant state."
He said,"What the world thinks matters more to us now than ever before.
"But we seem determined with actions like these (CAA) to cut off and isolate ourselves. That is no good to anybody," he said.
"We seem to be in violation of international covenants. Those who think that international laws cannot be enforced, they must consider political and other consequences of being perceived as violators of international conventions," he added.
"Rather than attending the meeting and putting forth India's views, we chose to duck," he said, in an apparent reference to external affairs minister S Jaishankar cancellation of a scheduled meeting with a US congressional delegation over the presence of Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has been critical of the Indian government.
Terming CAA a "self-inflicted goal", Menon said India has "gifted" its adversaries "platforms from which to attack us".
19:51 Budget session of Parliament may start from Jan 31
The government is contemplating convening the Budget session of Parliament from January 31 and the Union budget is likely to be presented on February 1, sources said.
The final dates will be notified by the government after the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs recommends the dates for the session.
A meeting of the CCPA, which is headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, is likely to be held soon and the recommendations will be made thereafter.
The budget session will start with President Ram Nath Kovind's address to the joint sitting of Parliament and the Economic Survey is likely to be presented on the same day, the sources added.
The session is likely to continue till April, they said.
The budget session generally has a break of about a month during which the department related standing committees discusses the demand for grants. -- PTI
19:11 Waugh calls for scrapping of leg byes
Former Australian batsman Mark Waugh has called for the scrapping of leg byes from all forms of cricket, saying the batting side shouldn't be awarded runs for missing the ball.
"You know what, I've got a rule change in all cricket: No leg-byes, especially in T20s," Waugh said while commentating for Fox Cricket during a Big Bash League encounter between Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder on Thursday.
"That should not be two runs. Why do you get runs? You missed the ball," Waugh added.
To which, fellow commentator and former England skipper Michael Vaughan responded, "It's just a part of the game."
"And I'm changing it. I know it is. It doesn't mean it's right though," the Australian retorted.
"So you reckon every time it hits the pad? Why should you get a run? I know it's a part of the game. But can we change it for the better? All cricket," Waugh added.
The 54-year-old World Cup winner said the drafter of the rule "was a pretty ordinary batsman."
"The idea of batting is to hit the ball. Whoever made this rule up was a pretty ordinary batsman I'd say back in the heyday, back in the early 1900s," Waugh said.
It was at that point that Vaughan said Waugh's suggestion was a revelation.
"If you go across the last few years there's been so many changes in the game: T20 arrived, 100 balls is going to start in the UK, talk of five day Tests going to four, but I think the most revealing is Mark Waugh's." -- PTI
19:09 ED questions P Chidambaram in UPA-era aviation scam case
Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram was on Friday questioned by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with its money laundering probe into alleged aviation-related financial irregularities said to have occurred during the UPA dispensation, officials said.
Chidambaram's statement was recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said.
The case pertains to alleged losses suffered by Air India due to the alleged multi-crore aviation scam and irregularities in fixing air slots for international airlines.
The Enforcement Directorate probe in this case also relates to the purchase of 111 aircraft, costing about Rs 70,000 crore, for the national airline. -- PTI
19:08 India calls for restraint after Iran general killed in US strike
Reacting to the killing of a top Iranian commander by the United States, India on Friday said the increase in tension has alarmed the world and asserted that peace, stability and security in the region is of utmost importance to it.
In a statement, the external affairs ministry said India has consistently advocated restraint and continues to do so and it is vital that the situation does not escalate further.
General Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday, the Pentagon announced.
The head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus was killed when the drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday.
The deputy chief of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force and some local Iran-backed militias were also killed in the strike.
In its statement, the external affairs ministry said, "The increase in tension has alarmed the world. Peace, stability and security in this region is of utmost importance to India."
The ministry also said that it is "vital that the situation does not escalate further. India has consistently advocated restraint and continues to do so". -- PTI
19:00 Kota children deaths: NHRC sends notice to Raj govt
The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Rajasthan government over the death of more than 100 infants at a state-run hospital in Kota in December, officials said on Friday.
The NHRC, in a statement, said it has issued a notice to the chief secretary, seeking a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.
The commission said the notice was issued to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future.
18:25 CAA will impact both Hindus and Muslims: Kejriwal
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act will impact both Hindus and Muslims, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Friday, appealing to the people to reject the "unnecessary" legislation.
Responding to a question during a town hall meeting in New Delhi, Kejriwal said he appeals to the Centre with "folded hands" to roll back the "controversial legislation".
"We don't need this law it is completely unnecessary. Where will we accommodate two crore Hindus from Pakistan," the chief minister said.
The Centre should first take care of its citizens and then, people from other countries, he said.
"I do not understand this legislation.The need of the hour is to provide employment to our children rather than bringing this legislation which is not needed in India," Kejriwal said.
Members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 and face religious persecution there will not be treated as illegal immigrants but given Indian citizenship, according to the Act.
The issue over the amended citizenship law is not about Hindus and Muslims. The act will affect people from both religions, Kejriwal said. -- PTI
17:57 Ban booklet maligning Savarkar: Fadnavis
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Friday demanded that Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray ban a booklet distributed by the Seva Dal which questions Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's credentials as a patriot.
The Hindi booklet, titled "Veer Savarkar, Kitne 'Veer'?", was distributed at a camp of the Congress-affiliated organisation in Madhya Pradesh.
The book alleged that Savarkar, after his release from Andaman's Cellular Jail, received pension from the British, and he and Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse were in a physical relationship.
Fadnavis, a former Maharashtra chief minister, said the Congress had exhibited its "wicked" psyche by circulating such a booklet, which underscored its "intellectual bankruptcy".
"The BJP strongly condemns the booklet. Venerable Hinduhriday-samrat Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray would have been the first to react in his archetypal style (to the booklet) had he been around," he said, using the popular epithet of `king of Hindu hearts' for the Sena founder.
"Today, cannot have such an expectation, but expect that the chief minister announces immediate ban on the book," Fadnavis said in a series of tweets.
He also sought to know from the Shiv Sena "which entered into unnatural alliance with such a bankrupt party" (the Congress) if it will repeatedly entertain insults to its "deity" Savarkar for the sake of power.
The Sena formed alliance with the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra after severing its ties with the BJP. -- PTI
17:31 Kerala CM writes to his 11 counterparts on CAA
Days after the Kerala assembly passed a resolution on repealing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday wrote to his counterparts in 11 states on the need to save secularism and democracy.
In a letter to the chief ministers, including Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal, Vijayan said, "Apprehensions have arisen among large sections of our society consequent to the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019."
"The need of the hour is unity among all Indians who wish to protect and preserve our cherished values of democracy and secularism," he said.
The Kerala assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution demanding scrapping of CAA, amid raging countrywide protests against the legislation.
The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist led-Left Democratic Front and the Opposition, Congress-led United Democratic Front supported the resolution while Bharatiya Janata Party's lone MLA and former Union
minister O Rajagopal's was the only dissenting voice in the one-day special session. -- PTI
17:13 Delhi CM meets family of firefighter who died in Peeragarhi factory blaze
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday met the family of the Delhi Fire Services personnel Amit Baliyan who lost his life during fire fighting operations at a factory in Peeragarhi area.
Amit Baliyan, succumbed to injuries after he was trapped in the fire which broke out at a battery factory on Thursday.
"Amit Baliyan fought bravely to save the lives of many people. I salute his bravery. I met the entire family of his and of course they are going through a lot and are very sad over his loss. We cannot bring him back but the Delhi government will give an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the family," said Kejriwal.
"Along with this, we will also give a job to a member of the family in the Delhi government. We will try to give the money as soon as possible," he added.
The Chief Minister had announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the family of the deceased on Thursday.
As many as 17 people have been injured including three workers and 14 Delhi Fire Service personnel in the fire.According to data of the last five years, two firemen lost their lives while firefighting in 2016, whereas three died in 2017 and one in this year. -- ANI
17:08 US warns airlines of airspace closure over Pak due to 'clashes' in Kashmir:
The US aviation regulator has warned America's airlines that there may be airspace closures and flight disruptions in Pakistan, with little or no warning, due to "clashes" in the "Kashmir region", according to an official document.
The warning is a part of a US Federal Aviation Administration's notice to airmen on December 30, in which it has also flagged risks involved in operating flights in Pakistan airspace due to "extremist or militant activity".
The December 30 NOTAM -- which is applicable to all US-based airlines and pilots -- was issued with a background note that mentioned the February 14, 2019 terrorist attack on Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Pulwama of Jammu and Kashmir.
In response to the Pulwama attack, that had left 40 CRPF personnel dead, the Indian Air Force conducted air strikes against Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camps in Balakot on February 26, 2019. -- PTI
16:40 Sena, BJP attack Congress on key affiliate Seva Dal's insinuation against Savarkar
The Congress on Friday came under attack from both its new ally Shiv Sena and rival BJP over an insinuation by its key frontal organisation Seva Dal about Veer Savarkar's relationship with Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse.
The Sena said the Congress had "dirt" in their mind by questioning Savarkar's credentials as a patriot and his reputation for valour while the BJP described as abhorrent and perverted the comments by the Seva Dal against the Hindutva ideologue in a Hindi booklet.
The BJP also demanded an apology from the Congress. BJP general secretary Anil Jain took a swipe at the Congress, saying "world knows various relationships of Congress leaders" but he does not want to throw such muck.
The Hindi booklet, distributed at a camp of Congress-affiliated Seva Dal in Madhya Pradesh, had claimed that Veer Savarkar and Nathuram Godse were in a physical relationship. "Veer Savarkar was a great man and will remain a great man. A section keeps talking against him. This shows the dirt in their mind," Raut said, responding to the insinuations in the booklet, titled "Veer Savarkar, Kitne 'Veer'?" The book also alleged that Savarkar received money from the British after he was released from Andaman's Cellular Jail. Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said Congress should apologise for the "perverted" content in the booklet.
"The booklet contains lies and perverted content. The Congress should tender an apology for the same," Patil said. "Savarkar was acquitted by the court in the Gandhi assassination case. Despite this, the Congress-affiliated organisation is trying to link him and the accused in the case," he said.
Last month, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's jibe that his name was not "Rahul Savarkar" and hence he would not seek apology (about his remark on rape) had riled the Shiv Sena, his party's new-found ally in Maharashtra. -- PTI
16:25 Centre is afraid of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and education: Sisodia
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Friday said that the Central government is afraid of both Faiz Ahmad Faiz and education."Faiz Ahmad Faiz gave voice to a lot of people from the backward classes in the country. Education has done the same. They [Central government] is afraid of both Faiz and education, what kind of people are they?" Sisodia told ANI.
The statements came a day after a faculty members of Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur complained that students who took out a peaceful march on the campus on December 17 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act sang Faiz's 'Hum Dekhengay' as a mark of protest.
The complainant asserted that the poem hurt the sentiments of other communities. After the complaint was made, a panel was constituted to dwell into the matter. IIT Kanpur will reportedly take strict action on the basis of findings and suggestion of the panel. -- ANI
16:15 Sensex drops over 162 points on US-Iran flare-up
Market benchmark Sensex tumbled 162 points on Friday as global investors turned risk-averse after the killing of a top Iranian general by the US fuelled fears of a geopolitical conflict. Brent crude futures surged 4.4 per cent to USD 69.16 per barrel as investors turned jittery on supply concerns. The 30-share BSE index ended 162.03 points, or 0.39 per cent, lower at 41,464.61. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty closed 55.55 points, or 0.45 per cent, down at 12,226.65. Asian Paints was the top loser in the Sensex pack, dropping 2.16 per cent, followed by Axis Bank, Bajaj Auto, SBI, NTPC and Bajaj Finance. On the other hand, Sun Pharma, TCS, HCL Tech, Infosys, Tech Mahindra and Bharti Airtel rose up to 2.08 per cent.
According to traders, investors moved away from risky assets after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US strike in Iraq. World leaders reacted to the assassination with alarm, flagging concerns over a rise in regional tensions. Bourses in Shanghai and Hong Kong ended in the red, while Seoul settled a tad higher. Stock exchanges in Europe opened significantly lower. On the currency front, the rupee depreciated 37 paise against the US dollar to 71.75 (intra-day). -- PTI
16:04 Smriti seeks suggestions from Delhi citizens for party manifesto
Ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in Delhi, Union Minister Smriti Irani on Friday sought suggestions for the party's manifesto from the people of the national capital.
The BJP leader sought suggestions from citizens on various developmental issues such as health and infrastructure in the national capital.
"All the BJP workers, MPs appeal to the people of Delhi to write a chapter of development, infrastructure, health, the security of women. We appeal to the voters of Delhi to give us missed calls on 6357171717 through 'Meri Delhi Mera Sujhaav'. We will form a manifesto based on that. This programme will go on for two weeks and 49 'raths' will be carried out. Every Assembly seat would have 20 suggestion boxes. We need constructive dialogue with the people of Delhi." -- ANI
15:49 Govt won't budge on CAA: Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said the government will not budge an inch on its decision to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act despite the opposition criticism of the law.
Launching an "awareness programme' in support of the amended citizenship law, Shah accused the Congress and other opposition parties of running a misinformation campaign.
He said the amended law does not take away Indian citizenship from anyone but grants citizenship. Opposition parties have criticised the amendment which allows non-Muslims an easier path to citizenship if they have come to India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 after facing religious persecution. Shah accused the Congress of playing vote-bank politics by spreading "misinformation'. -- PTI
15:35 Hurriyat leader Geelani's family dispels rumours about his deteriorating health
Hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani's family on Friday dispelled rumours about his deteriorating health, saying the separatist leader was having chest infection due to the prevailing cold conditions, but was recovering well.
"We are also troubled by the rumours circulating about Geelani sahab's health, but he is fine," the separatist leader's son, Naseem Geelani told PTI. He said his father developed acute chest infection because of the prevailing cold conditions in the valley and was taken to a hospital for some scans.
"Some tests were done and we took him to Bone and Joint hospital for a CT scan. He is recovering now and is at home," he said. Naseem Geelani said the Hurriyat chairman already has bronchitis which gets aggravated due to the cold. "He is on antibiotics and a team of doctors is regularly monitoring him," Naseem Geelani added.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who is suffering from multiple ailments, has mostly been under house arrest at his residence in Hyderpora since 2010. -- PTI
15:12 China, Russia, Syria condemns US airstrike in Iraq
China, Russia and Syria on Friday condemned the US strike in Iraq that killed Iran's elite Quds Force chief, General Qasem Soleimani.The US carried out a strike near Baghdad's international airport killing Soleimani, a US-designated terrorist, along with six others on the direction of President Donald Trump.
China: Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a briefing on Friday that Beijing has "consistently opposed the use of military force in international relations".
Russia: has called the missile strike by the US as an "irresponsible step that will lead to increased tensions throughout the Middle East region". Moscow also offered condolences to the Iranian people over the death of Soleimani. "We consider the killing of Soleimani as a result of US missile strike in the outskirts of Baghdad as an adventurous step that will lead to increased tensions throughout the region. Soleimani devotedly served the cause of protecting Iran's national interests," a Foreign Ministry official told Sputnik.
Syria: also condemned the "U.S. criminal aggression" which led to the killed of Soleimani. It also slammed Washington for the killing of the Deputy Chairman of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Commission Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and a number of the Mobilization's cadres.
15:09 US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement on the attack
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement after the Trump Administration conducted the airstrike targeting Iranians and Iraqis at the Baghdad International Airport:
"American leaders' highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American service members, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions.
"Tonight's airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America -- and the world -- cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.
"The Administration has conducted tonight's strikes in Iraq targeting high-level Iranian military officials and killing Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran.
"Further, this action was taken without the consultation of the Congress.
"The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region."
Read this for a backgrounder: Trump ordered killing of Iran Guards commander in Baghdad
15:05 US asks citizens to leave Iraq immediately
The US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, has asked its citizens to leave the country immediately. The advisory says: "Due to heightened tensions in Iraq, US Embassy urges American citizens to heed the January 2020 travel advisory and depart Iraq immediately. US citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land."
General Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, was killed in a precision US air strike in Iraq ordered by President Donald Trump, the Pentagon announced on Friday, dramatically escalating tensions in the strategic Gulf region.
General Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed following a US airstrike at Baghdad's international airport on Friday.
The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force. The Pentagon confirmed the death of Soleimani, 62, in Iraq, saying the strike was carried out at the direction of Trump.
"At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation,' the Pentagon said.
Following Soleimani's death, President Trump, now on vacation in Florida, did not comment immediately, except for tweeting an image of the US flag. The strike comes days after Trump threatened Tehran after Iraqi supporters of pro-Iranian regime factions laid siege to the US embassy in Baghdad, following deadly American air strikes on a hardline Hashed faction.
14:57 India has 'isolated' itself through CAA: Former FS
Former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on Friday slammed the government for amending the Citizenship Act, saying India has "isolated" itself through the move and the list of critical voices both at home and abroad is "pretty long."
Speaking at an event where a number of academicians discussed the adverse implications of the contentious law, which has led to nationwide protests, Menon said the perception of India has changed after the law was passed.
"India has isolated itself through the move and the list of critical voices in the international community is also pretty long now. Perception of India has changed in the last few months. Even our friends have been taken aback," Menon said.
"What we have achieved in the recent past is to hyphenate our (India's) image with Pakistan in a fundamental way, which is an intolerant state," said the former National Security Adviser. What the world thinks matters more to us now than ever before, he said and asserted that disengagement or going alone is not an option.
"But we seem determined with actions like these (CAA) to cut off and isolate ourselves. That is no good to anybody," he said. "We seem to be in violation of international covenants. Those who think that international laws cannot be enforced, they must consider political and other consequences of being perceived as violators of international conventions," he added. Others who spoke at the event at Press Club were academicians included Zoya Hasan, Niraja Jayal and Faizan Mustafa among others. PTI
14:55 Amit Shah may come home, talk to you about CAA
Top BJP leaders led by party president Amit Shah will visit households across the country on Sunday as part of their exercise to contact three crore families in 10 days to mobilise support for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and take on opposition parties over their campaign against the law.
While Shah will be in the national capital, party working president J P Nadda will visit a household in Ghaziabad, Rajnath Singh in Lucknow, Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur and Nirmala Sitharaman in Jaipur, on the first day of the campaign, BJP general secretary Anil Jain told reporters.
At the press conference, Jain said Indian Muslims have no reason to worry over any citizenship exercise, be it the NPR (National Population Register) or the NRC, and asserted that India's only religion is its Constitution. He said a nation-wide consultation will be held whenever a decision on rolling out the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is a part of the party's manifesto, is taken, but noted that there is no such proposal now.
Asked about concerns among Muslims over a raft of citizenship measures, he said, "As BJP's national general secretary, I can say with full responsibility that no Indian Muslim can have any danger from whatever measures come into place, be it NPR or NRC."
14:09 It wasnt all gloom in this difficult turn of the decade
'Hindutva growth rate' pitted against 'achhe din', fresh challenges ahead for aviation, IT, telecom and entertainment. Read the column here
13:52 Is Modi India's PM or Pak's ambassador: Mamata
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking why he frequently compares India with Pakistan. Banerjee, while addressing an anti-citizenship law rally in Siliguri, said it is a shame that even after 70 years of Independence, people have to prove their nationality.
"India is a big country with a rich culture and heritage. Why does the PM regularly compare our nation with Pakistan? "Are you the prime minister of India or the ambassador of Pakistan. Why do you refer to Pakistan in every issue?" the chief minister asked.
She accused the BJP of "deliberately" creating confusion over the implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC), saying its leaders have been making contradictory statements on the issue. "On one hand the prime minister is saying there will be no NRC but on the other, the union home minister and other ministers are claiming that the exercise will be conducted across the country," she added. PTI
13:38 Saudi Arabia hands over to Pakistan Qandeel's absconding brother and suspect in her murder
Saudi Arabia has handed over social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch's brother, an absconding suspect in her gruesome murder, to Pakistan, days after he was arrested in the Gulf kingdom, according to a media report.
Fouzia Azeem, better known as Qandeel, was strangled to death by her brother Waseem Khan at her home in Multan in the Punjab province on July 15, 2016, in a chilling murder that sent shock waves across Pakistan, triggering an outpouring of grief on social media and igniting fierce debate over the prevalence of "honour killings" of women.
Waseem had confessed to the murder of his 26-year-old sister and said she had brought "disrepute" to the "family's honour" with her risque videos and statements posted on social media.
The International Criminal Police Organization's (Interpol) cell in Saudi Arabia arrested Muzaffar Iqbal, brother and suspect in Qandeel's murder, on Wednesday as part of their job to tackle international crime, Geo News reported.
The arrest was made on the Pakistani government's 2016 request to Saudi Arabia as Iqbal was residing in the country at the time. Iqbal has been accused of aiding and abetting in Qandeel's murder, the report said.
Following Qandeel's murder, her father Muhammad Azeem Baloch had lodged a murder case against his son, accomplice Haq Nawaz and others. An affidavit submitted by the parents in 2016 had also named two of their other sons, Aslam Shaheen and Arif. In October last year, Arif, another absconding suspect and brother, was arrested with the help of Interpol from Saudi Arabia and transferred to Multan.
In September, a model court had sentenced Waseem to life in prison for murdering his sister after he admitted to drugging and killing his sister. Six others, including Mufti Abdul Qavi and Qandeel's two brothers Shaheen and Arif -- were acquitted in the case.
On August 22, the court had rejected the August 21 appeal of late model's parents to acquit their sons as they had forgiven them. Prior to that, however, her parents had refused to pardon their sons and had called for capital punishment in the case. Qandeel had become famous for her bold social media pictures, videos and comments. But those posts in which she spoke of trying to change "the typical orthodox mindset" of people in Pakistan were considered outrageous by the largely conservative Pakistani community. -- PTI
13:18 Will educate 3 crore people on CAA: Piyush Goyal
Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said that the percentage of minorities in Pakistan has reduced to mere three per cent from earlier 23 per cent, which is a testimony of hardships being faced by them in the neighboring country.
Goyal attended an event in Mumbai on Friday which was organised in favor of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
"Pakistan is an Islamic country. Congress is responsible for the division of India. Thousands of people came to India and we know in what condition they came here. The trains had only dead bodies. Earlier, Pakistan had 23 percent minorities and now it has reduced to just three percent," said Goyal.
The Union Minister further added that in India, the percentage of minorities has increased and not decreased like in Pakistan, because India has protected them and it is a secular country.
"The opposition is confused or maybe they are doing all this with proper planning. In the next 10 days, we will reach to three crore people and spread awareness about CAA," said Goyal.
BJP is planning a countrywide outreach program to clarify facts about the Citizenship Act and make its provisions clear among the masses. -- ANI
13:16 Four airmen killed in Sri Lanka military plane crash
A Sri Lankan Air Force plane crashed in a mountainous area of Haputhale on Friday, killing four airmen, military officials said. The Chinese-built Air Force fixed-wing Y-12 aircraft was flying to the east coast when it crashed in the mountainous area at Haputale, 200 kilometres east of Colombo at 9.15 am (local time).
All four officers on the plane were killed in the crash, officials said, adding several teams had been sent to the location to investigate the incident. The chopper had departed on a reconnaissance mission from the southern military airport at Weerawila when it crashed. -- PTI
13:13 Six Rajasthan BSP MLAs formally join Congress, meet Sonia
The six Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs from Rajasthan, who had joined Congress in September 2019, met Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi here on Friday and formally took membership of the party.
The six BSP MLAs namely, Rajendra Gudd (Udaipurwati), Jogendra Singh Awana (Nadbai), Wajib Ali, Lakhan Singh Meena (Karoli), Sandeep Yadav (Tijara) and Deepchand Kheria (Kishangarhbas) took Congress membership in September, last year.
Citing the reason behind switching the party, MLAs had said they wanted to fight against communal forces in the state and would want to work with the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
"We took a decision in order to fight against communal forces and to work for the development of the state and stability of the government. Ashok ji is the best Chief Minister and no one can be better than him for Rajasthan. I was impressed with his style of working and polity," Udaipurwati lawmaker Rajendra Gudd told ANI.
Nadbai MLA Jogendra Singh Awana said that it was difficult for them to support Congress from outside. -- ANI
The Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has stolen a march over arch-rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu's long-delayed local bodies elections held on December 27 and 30, 2019.
In the elections to 515 district panchayat ward members, the DMK has won 268 posts while the ruling AIADMK has won 239 posts.
In the elections to the 5067 panchayat union ward councillors, the DMK has won 2303 posts, while the AIADMK has won 2143 posts.
Counting of votes is still underway, and the final results are expected to be out by today evening.
On December 6, the Supreme Court had put on hold elections for the local bodies in nine new districts, carved out of four existing ones, in Tamil Nadu for complying with legal formalities such as delimitation and reservation in four months, while allowing the elections in the other districts.
The local bodies elections is the first time the two Dravidian majors have gone head to head across the state since the deaths of their stalwarts, J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK and M Karunanidhi of the DMK.
Image: MK Stalin, the president of the DMK
12:31 Flip flops to shoes: Kohli shares 'decade' pics
In the new decade netizens have been sharing before and after pictures. As did India skipper Virat Kohl today.
In the first picture, Kohli can be seen posing with flip flops in his hands. In the end of the decade photo, Kohli holds up a pair of shoes.
"Started from them flip flops, now we here!@pumacricket," Kohli wrote.
The 31-year-old batsman has ended the decade with 5,775 more international runs and 22 more international hundreds than anyone else.
He is the only active batsman to average above fifty in all the three formats.
He is the most successful Test captain for India and also the first to win seven successive Test matches.India recently won the ODI series against West Indies 2-1 and Kohli will next feature in the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka.The first match of the series will be played at Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati on January 5. -- ANI
12:18 Surgical strike failed to demoralise Pak terrorists: Sena
The Shiv Sena on Friday targeted the Centre by questioning the "efficacy" of the 2016 surgical strike and said the perception that it would demoralise Pakistani terrorists remained an "illusion" as Indian soldiers continue to get killed in terror attacks in Kashmir.
Accusing the Modi government of boasting about how Pakistan was straightened out after the surgical strike, the Sena sought to know whether it has really happened. It also observed that troubled borders were not good for the country's well-being.
The Sena's remarks come in the wake of the death of an Army soldier from Maharashtra, Naik Sandip Raghunath Sawant, who was killed during a counter-insurgency operation in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday.
"The New Year did not begin on a positive note in Kashmir. Our jawan from Satara, Sandip Sawant, attained martyrdom in Kashmir along with two other soldiers. In the last one month, seven to eight jawans from Maharashtra were killed in the line of duty. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra is not responsible for this," the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana'. The party also questioned whether the situation in Kashmir has improved after the surgical strike and abrogation of Article 370 provisions. The party, however, maintained that scrapping Article 370 was a good move. India had conducted the surgical strike on September 29, 2016, across the Line of Control (LoC) as a response to a terrorist attack on an Indian Army base in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir earlier that month.
Without naming the Centre, the Sena alleged, "Circulating news that only the Pakistanis were getting killed in Kashmir will not change the reality as tricolour-draped bodies of Indian soldiers, like Sawant, are reaching their respective villages."
"There is a bloodshed along the Kashmir border and mounting anger among the families of martyred jawans. The perception that surgical strike will demoralise Pakistani terrorists has turned out to be an illusion. In fact, the (terror) attacks have increased," it added. -- PTI
12:15 NPR helps to implement govt schemes: Piyush Goyal
Update on the government's continued initiative to 'educate' people on CAA and NPR.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said that National Population Register helps to implement government schemes and policies and opposition is trying to mislead the people regarding NPR. Goyal participated in an event held in Mumbai in favor of the Citizenship Amendment Act on Friday.
"NPR helps to implement the government schemes and policies and it is very important. NPR was brought during Congress rule. It can be carried out along with the Census. The opposition is trying to mislead people regarding this," said Goyal.
"In the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and NPR...protesters don't know anything. You ask them about it, they don't know anything," he added.
Earlier today Goyal added that in Pakistan the percentage of minorities has reduced to just three per cent whereas earlier it docked at 23 per cent, therefore our people are getting 'murdered'.
"Earlier, in Pakistan which had 23 per cent minorities, now it has reduced to just three per cent. Our people are getting murdered and wrong things are being done to our sisters and mothers," said Goyal.
The Union Minister further added that in India, the percentage of minorities has increased and not decreased like in Pakistan, because India has protected them and it is a secular country.
"The opposition is confused or they are doing all this with proper planning. In the next 10 days, we will reach to three crore people and spread awareness about CAA," said Goyal. -- PTI
12:04 New vehicle registrations declined 15% in Maha in 2019
In a sign of the slowdown in the auto-industry, registrations of new vehicles dipped by 15 per cent in Maharashtra in 2019 and led to low revenue collection, data provided by the state Road Transport Department showed. Maharashtra is one of the largest auto markets in the country.
The department had set itself a low revenue target for financial year 2019-20, but as of November, even that target appears to be difficult to achieve. It can be noted that since FY15, the department, one of the top revenue-mopping agencies for the state, has delivered revenues higher than the target. -- PTI
11:58 Naqvi slams Opposition for supporting anti-CAA protests
Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday slammed the Opposition parties for supporting the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests and said they should in fact be proud that the country is supporting the persecuted people from neighbouring nations.
"It is unfortunate that they are protesting against the Act which has been passed by the Parliament. They should be proud that we are helping the minorities who were persecuted in their countries. They are trying to obstruct a big mission. India is a sea of humanity and everyone must respect and welcome the decision," he said while speaking to ANI.
Naqvi's statement comes just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the Congress for opposing the newly-enacted law and for not speaking against Pakistan during the anti-CAA protests.The CAA grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh and who came to India on or before December 31, 2014.
11:34 Deep sea exploration India's next new frontier: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is in on a two-day visit to Karnataka is speaking at the inauguration of the 107th Indian Science Congress in Bengaluru. This is second day in the BJP-rule state. Excerpts from his speech.
"I am very happy that one of my first programmes at the start of the new year and new decade is linked to science, technology and innovation.This programme is happening in Bengaluru, a city linked with science and innovation.
"When we start the year 2020 with positivity and optimism of science and technology driven development, then we take another step towards fulfilling our dream.
"I am also happy to learn that Indias ranking has improved in innovation Index to 52. Our schemes have created more technology business incubators in the last 5 years than in the previous 50 years. I congratulate our scientists for these accomplishments.
"Our successes in space exploration should now be mirrored in the new frontier of the deep sea. We need to explore, map and responsibly harness the vast oceanic resources of water, energy, food and minerals."
11:12 Yes to CAA? Call toll-free number, asks BJP
The BJP announces a toll-free number -- 8866288662 -- where citizens can give missed calls to register their endorsement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
This ties in with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's outreach to educate citizens on CAA. In the last few days of 2019 launched an outreach programme to gather support for the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which has triggered protests across the country.
CAA "is about giving citizenship to persecuted refugees and not about taking anyones citizenship away", PM Modi's official website tweeted.
Modi also posted a video of the spiritual leader, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on the subject urging people to listen to the "lucid explanation of aspects relating to CAA".
10:52 Trump ordered killing of Soleimani to protect US personnel abroad: Pentagon
President Donald Trump ordered for the US airstrike in Iraq that killed General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, in a "decisive defensive action" to protect US personnel abroad and deter future attacks being planned by Iran, the Pentagon said Friday.
General Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed following a US airstrike at Baghdad's international airport on Friday.
The strike also killed the deputy chief of Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force.
The Pentagon confirmed the death of Soleimani in Iraq, saying the strike was carried out at the direction of Trump. "At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation,' the Pentagon said.
Following Soleimani's death, Trump did not say anything immediately, except for tweeting an image of the US flag.
10:44 US Congress was not told of Soleimani killing
Reports coming say that US lawmakers were not told of the attack ordered by President Donald Trump on top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani.
The US strike conducted against Soleimani "went forward with no notification or consultation with Congress," House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement.
While Democrats conceded that Soleimani was "the mastermind of immense violence" who has "the blood of Americans on his hands," "to push ahead with an action of this gravity without involving Congress raises serious legal problems and is an affront to Congress's powers as a coequal branch of government," the statement by a Democrat said.
Image: Iran's president Hassan Rouhani
10:36 Iran terms US act of killing of Soleimani an 'extremely dangerous, foolish escalation'
Iran on Thursday (local time) termed the US' act of killing the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, an "extremely dangerous and a foolish" escalation.
Iran Foreign Minister Javed Zarif took to Twitter soon after Pentagon confirmed the killing of Soleimani. He said that Washington bears responsibility for all consequences of its "rogue adventurism".
"The US' act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani--THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al--is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism," Zarif tweeted.
The US on Thursday carried out a strike near Baghdad's international airport killing Soleimani, a US-designated terrorist, along with six others on the direction of President Donald Trump.Washington had accused Soleimani of orchestrating several attacks on coalition bases in Iraq including the December 27 attack in which American and Iraqi personnel were killed.
The strike has escalated the tensions between the United States and Iran. The attack has come days after an Iran-backed militia and other protestors attacked the United States Embassy in Baghdad.
The attack on the embassy came as a retaliation to a deadly US airstrike that killed at least 25 people of the Popular Mobilization Forces.The US has vowed to take action against the breach by protesters. Earlier in the day, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said it's time for Iran to start "acting like a normal country". -- ANI
Image: General Qassem Soleimani. Pic: Reuters
09:59 Iran Guards ex-head vows revenge on US
The former head of the Iran Guards vows 'revenge' on the US over the assassination of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.
Pentagon on Thursday (local time) said it has carried out a "defensive action" at the "direction" of President Donald Trump to protect US personnel abroad by killing the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani.
Pentagon has released a statement hours after media around the world reported that Soleimani alongside six others was killed following a US airstrike at Baghdad's international airport.
Pentagon said that the strikes were aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.Besides Soleimani, Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in the US airstrike at Baghdad's international airport, reported Iraqi officials and state television.
"At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force," the statement said.Pentagon has accused Soleimani of orchestrating several attacks on coalition bases in Iraq including the December 27 attack in which American and Iraqi personnel were killed.
"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more," the statement said.
"He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months - including the attack on December 27th - culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week," it added.
The attack has come days after an Iran-backed militia and other protestors attacked the United States Embassy in Baghdad. The attack on the embassy came as a retaliation to a deadly US airstrike that killed at least 25 people of the PMF.
Image: At the direction of President Trump, the US military took 'decisive action' and killed the head of Iran's elite Quds Force in an airstrike
09:44 Kerala's tableau proposal for R-Day struck off
After the rejection of West Bengals tableau shortlisted for the participation in this years Republic Day parade by the Centre, the float of Kerala was also stricken off in the third round.
Keralas float was rejected for the second consecutive year after the expert committee comprising eminent persons from the fields of art, culture, painting, sculpture, music, architecture, choreography and others was reconstituted in 2018.
The committees decision had invited sharp criticism from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who accused that her states tableau was rejected by the National Democratic Alliance government for protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
It is not known why our concept was rejected. In the fourth round, we were to present 3D presentation of the concept and the officials were preparing for that. The idea first presented was that of Thrissur Pooram and Pulikkali (tiger belly dance). But in the second round, we made some changes and presented a replica of Koothambalam of Kerala Kalamandalam which features different art forms of Kerala including Mohiniyattam, Pulikkali, Kummatti, Kalaripayattu, Theyyam, Ottanthullal, elephant and its accoutrements, said a Kerala public relations department official.
09:17 Army chief says ready to target PoK if asked
The Indian Army is ready to conduct larger-scale operations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir "should that be the mandate," Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane said in a recent interview.
General Naravane, India's 28th army chief, has in recent days spoken of India's right to "pre-emptively" strike sources of terror across the Line of Control -- comments that drew an immediate and sharp response from Islamabad.
Asked about the feasibility of military operations in PoK, General MM Naravane told NDTV: "We have our forces deployed all across the border, including Jammu-Kashmir, and we have various plans, and if required, those plans can be put into action. We will carry out -- and carry out successfully -- any task that we were tasked to do."
Pressed on whether that also meant larger-scale ops in PoK, he said: "Should that be the mandate."
Gen Naravane, who took charge as the Chief of Army Staff on December 31, 2019, has stressed on the need to pay more attention to, and enhance capabilities on the China front, too. He has also said addressing human rights issues is a key priority.
08:47 Trump ordered killing of Iran Guards commander
US President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, who died in Baghdad "in a decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad," the Pentagon said Thursday.
"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more," the Department of Defense said.
Following Soleimani's death, Trump tweeted an image of the US flag without any further explanation.
08:35 Oil prices soar more than 4% after Iranian general killed
Oil prices soared more than four per cent on Friday following claims that the US had killed a top Iranian general, ratcheting up tensions between the foes and fuelling fears of a conflict in the crude-rich region.
The head of Iran's Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, was hit in an attack on Baghdad international airport early Friday, according to Hased, a powerful Iraqi paramilitary force linked to Tehran.
07:45 Kota infant toll soars, CM says lowest in 5 yrs
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Friday that the Kota infants' death toll has been the lowest as compared to the last five-six years.
At least four more infants have died in the first two days of January at the JK Lon hospital in Kota, taking the death toll to 104, officials said on Wednesday.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot spoke with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and informed him about the situation in the Kota hospital where 104 infants have died. The Congress-led government has been facing backlash over the infants' deaths over the alleged unhygienic conditions at the district hospital.
Ashok Gehlot alleged that some persons have been indulging in mischief regarding the situation at the Kota hospital.
Ashok Gehlot said, "Some people are, intentionally or unknowingly, indulging in mischief regarding the situation in Kota. I spoke with the union health minister today and informed him that in 5 to 6 years, the lowest figures are coming now, that is how wonderful the arrangements have been."
"But why even one kid should die, why even one mother dies?" Ashok Gehlot said.
Rejecting the allegations that the Rajasthan government is insensitive towards the deaths of the infants in Kota, Ashok Gehlot said his government is sensitive towards the deaths and has appealed to the opposition parties to not do politics over the matter.
00:09 '445 B'deshis returned from India in last 2 mths'
Bangladesh's paramilitary force chief said on Thursday that a total of 445 Bangladeshi nationals returned from India in last two months following the publication of the National Register of Citizens by the Indian government.
Border Guard Bangladesh director General Maj Gen Md Shafeenul Islam disclosed the figure during a press briefing in Dhaka.
"About 1,000 people were arrested in 2019 for illegal border crossings from India to Bangladesh, with 445 of them returning home in November and December," he said.
After verifying their identities through local representatives, the BGB came to know that all the intruders are Bangladeshis, Islam said, adding that 253 cases were lodged against them for illegal trespass, while initial investigations found that at least three of them were human traffickers.
The BGB director said the trespassing did not create any tension between the border forces of Bangladesh and India.
Last week, Islam visited India where he said that the creation of the NRC is completely an "internal affair" of India and the cooperation between the border guarding forces of the two countries is very good.
He said the BGB will continue to do its work of preventing illegal border crossings as per its mandate.
A BGB delegation, led by Islam, was on a bilateral visit to India to hold DG-level border talks with its counterparts, the Border Security Force.
The talks took place from December 26-29, during which a host of issues related to cross-border smuggling and activities of criminals and others along the 4,096-km-long front were discussed.
Responding to a question, Islam said, "No discussion was held at the conference over the (NRC) issue".
He said during the five-day talks held in New Delhi, the BGB demanded that the BSF should take effective steps to prevent killings of Bangladeshis on frontiers as casualty figures sharply rose in 2019.
"The number of border killings in 2019 was highest in the last four years. As per our calculation, the number of such unexpected deaths was 35," the BGB chief said.
However, the BSF estimate of the casualty figure is much lower than our calculation, he said.
Islam said the BSF is following the policy of maintaining maximum restraint and minimal use of force even after being attacked by "armed border offenders". -- PTI
Image used for representational purposes only