News Flash – 24 January 2018

National News



Mumbai businessman faces life term for hijack threat



NEW DELHI: The NIA filed on Tuesday its first charge sheet under the Anti-Hijacking Act against 37-year-old Mumbai businessman Birju Kishor Salla, who was arrested for threatening to hijack a Mumbai-Delhi bound Jet Airways flight on October 30 last year. According to the Act, amended in 2016 to include even making threats of “hijacking” a serious offence, Salla could face life imprisonment along with fine. NIA spokesman Alok Mittal said Salla alias Amar Soni has been charged under section 3 (1), 3(2) and 4(b) of the Anti-Hijacking Act, 2016, which deals with intentionally seizing or exercising control of an aircraft in service by force or threatening to hijack the plane. “After investigation, it has been established that accused Birju Salla, who travelled in the business class of the Jet Airways flight 9W339 on October 30, 2017 from Mumbai prepared a ‘threat note’ in ‘English’ and ‘Urdu’ language and he intentionally placed it in the tissue paper box of the toilet near the business class thereby jeopardized the safety of the passengers and crew members on board,” said Mittal.


According to sources, NIA has claimed in its charge sheet that Salla wanted to defame the private airline and have its operation discontinued so as to teach a lesson to a woman friend working for the airline. Salla had disclosed during his interrogation that he first compiled the material for the threat letter on his laptop and used some software to translate it into Arabic. He later took a printout and carried it with him in the flight before placing it in the toilet, said an NIA official. “He claimed he wanted his female friend to know the consequences of not agreeing to live with him. He thought she could lose her job this way as Jet’s operations would be closed and the airline would be defamed,” said the officer.



Banks sealed, customers have no access to lockers



NEW DELHI: Customers of many banks in the Hauz Khas market were a harried lot on Tuesday. The south corporation, as part of the sealing drive ordered by the SC-appointed monitoring committee, shut down the treasuries, strong rooms and lockers of many public and private banks being run from some of the 38 properties sealed on Tuesday. Shikha Garg, a housewife who has locker in State Bank of India, said that she wasn’t allowed access. “We have to attend a relative’s marriage and all our valuables are in the locker. What is our fault? We have a locker in a legitimate bank?” she said. “This is for the first time that we’ve heard that banks can also be sealed,” said her visibly upset husband, Pramod Garg. The couple was not the only one facing such a problem. The deputy manager of the SBI branch, PK Mandal, had been dealing with upset customers since morning. “The corporation hasn’t told us when the lockers will be opened. It’s fortunate that we don’t store essential documents in the basement that has been sealed,” he added. The Bank of Baroda branch, however, faced a complete shutdown in services as their treasury, lockers and vaults were on the floor that was sealed. “We can’t store cash, cross-verify documents, access fixed deposit files, vouchers or even disburse cash.


All the banks in the market are planning to approach the deputy commissioner for a solution. People should not suffer,” said Manoj Kumar, the BOB branch manager. “The branch has been operating from this location since 1993 and caters to over 1,000 people daily. No objection had been raised about the illegality of the building earlier,” Kumar added. Neelam, a customer of UCO Bank, said that critical services should be either left alone or given prior notice of sealing. “There is no logic behind such action,” she added. The bank later hung a notice saying the management was trying to get the premises de-sealed. The strong room of the branch, which caters to 10,000 accounts, had been sealed on Monday. UCO senior manager Atul Khanna said that six other banks have been sealed. “Our branch is 44 years old. I met the monitoring committee members and they asked us to meet the deputy commissioner. Why didn’t anyone raise the issue in the past?” he asked. While operations of a few private banks were also affected, they declined to comment on the issue.



Soon, cops to record traffic violations in smart driving licences



BENGALURU: Motorists breaking traffic rules will no longer be able to get away with meagre fines as the transport department has decided to record traffic offences in chip-based smart driving licences. The proposal to link traffic violations with smart cards will help authorities keep an eye on repeat offenders, transport commissioner B Dayananda said on Tuesday, adding their licences may be suspended for up to four months. “We will soon provide traffic police access to our driving licence database,” he said. At present, traffic police primarily book cases against the registered owners of vehicles. “There are several cases in which the violator is not the vehicle owner,” said Dayananda, “However, DL data will be of no use in cases where the offence is captured by CCTV cameras, and will help only during spot checks”. Additional commissioner of police (traffic) R Hithendra said at present they only have access to registration certificate (RC) data. “We welcome the transport department’s move, which will bring in more efficiency and transparency in booking cases,” he said.


In a city home to 71.84 lakh vehicles, traffic police booked a whopping 1.01 cases last year, implying that vehicles had been involved in multiple violations. For instance, a car registered in the city had a staggering 195 cases for flouting traffic regulations. Officials said they could suspend licences for violations like over speeding, jumping traffic signals, drunk driving, using mobile phones while driving and carrying loads above the prescribed limit in goods carriages. Dayananda said the move will help them check the history of traffic violations committed by the licence holder. “We will cancel licences of such offenders for up to four months based on the recommendation of traffic police,” he added. In Hyderabad, traffic police have introduced a penalty point system for traffic offenders which entails licence suspension for anyone who records 12 points within 24 months. Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had recently said: “If anyone violates road rules more than thrice, his driving licence will be suspended for six months, and if he continues to do so, the licence will be cancelled”.


Key in licence no. to view fine amount: At present, owners have to enter their vehicle registration number to check the pending fine amount on the traffic police website. With the transport department providing access of DL data to traffic police, motorists can view the fines/violations by keying in the licence number.


Aim is to reduce accidents by 15% in 2018: Dayananda said they have set a target to bring down the number of road accidents, fatalities and injuries in the state by 15% this year. “We will provide a road-user guide to all motorists for free while issuing licences and RCs,” he said. A one-day first-aid training will be provided to police personnel, auto and taxi drivers and home guards. “They are the first responders in case of an accident,” said Dayananda, adding that they have allocated funds to road safety committees in all districts for effective implementation of measures. The department will also provide specialized capacity-building training on road safety to schoolteachers in collaboration with the Institute of Road Traffic Education, New Delhi, to educate students.


Soft copies to be allowed: Motorists will be soon allowed to drive without hard copies of DLs, RCs and pollution under control certificates. Dayananda said the government will soon issue a notification on the same. “Enforcement agencies, including traffic police and transport department, will accept soft copies of the documents on DigiLocker”. The platform was launched two years ago by the Centre under the Digital India initiative, and seeks to allow citizens to carry soft copies.



International News



Teen arrested in Kentucky school shooting that leaves 2 dead, 12 wounded


BENTON: A 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun just before classes started at his high school in rural western Kentucky on Tuesday, killing two fellow students and wounding a dozen other youths before he was arrested, the state’s governor and police said. The shooter, who has not been identified, entered a common area at Marshall County High School in Benton shortly before 8 a.m. (1400 GMT), pulled out a pistol and began firing at students, witnesses told local media. The suspect will be charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder, the Kentucky State Police said. Police have not released a motive for the shooting but said they believed the gunman acted alone. The students killed were Bailey Hope, a 15-year-old girl, and Preston Cope, a 15-year-old boy, state police said. Five of the victims were in critical condition, police said, but hospital officials said they expected all those injured in the incident to survive. “I see this guy draw from his side and he pulls out a pistol. I didn’t even know what was going on. And then it registered. About the time it registered, this guy was sitting here pulling the trigger into all of us,” student Bryson Conkwright told TV station WKRN. “I can hear the gunshots. He was shooting in our group,” said Conkwright, showing where a bullet grazed his hand. At least one hospitalized student suffered a broken jaw from falling and being trampled while trying to escape, Marshall County prosecutor Jeff Edwards said in a phone interview. Fourteen students were hit by gunfire, including the two who were killed, and five others suffered injuries in the ensuing chaos. Edwards toured the school where he, his wife and their children all graduated from, describing signs of the scramble to flee from the gunfire. Backpacks, cellphones and clothes were strewn in the main area where the shooting occurred, he said.


“When it happened, apparently everyone left everything laying,” Edwards said. “It made it real, seeing the disarray.” The bloodshed at the school of nearly 1,150 students in a small farming town was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years. The school serves Marshall County, which has a population of about 31,000, and the shooting hit the community hard. Local churches are planning vigils on Tuesday night and Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s voice choked with emotion and he paused to collect himself at a news conference. “This is a wound that is going to take a long time to heal. And for some in this community, it will never fully heal,” he said. “There’s no good answer for it,” Bevin said. “There’s 1,000 hypotheses we’re not going to go into”. Bevin said the suspect was apprehended at the school “in a nonviolent” manner, but did not elaborate. Students followed training they had recently received from state police in how to respond to such incidents, authorities said, crediting police for quickly arriving on the scene and apprehending the suspect. Helicopters took five victims, including the boy who later died, to the nearest Level 1 Trauma Center, about 120 miles (190 km) away at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have joined the investigation. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had been briefed on the shooting. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families there,” she said.



Twin car bombs kill at least 22 in Libya’s Benghazi



BENGHAZI: The death toll following a double car bomb attack in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday night has risen to at least 22, a hospital spokeswoman said. A further 20 people were injured and the number of fatalities could rise, Fadia al-Barghathi, spokeswoman for the city’s al-Jala hospital, told AFP. An explosives-rigged vehicle blew up in front of a mosque in the central neighbourhood of Al-Sleimani, a security source said. A second car exploded 30 minutes later in the same area, causing more casualties among security services and civilians. Libya has been rocked by chaos since a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival authorities and multiple militias vying for control of the oil-rich country. Military strongman Khalifa Haftar in July announced the “total liberation” of Benghazi, three years after his forces launched a military operation to seize the city from jihadists who had made it a stronghold following the revolution. But clashes and attacks in the city have continued, including against diplomatic facilities and security forces. Haftar supports a parliament based in the far east of Libya, while a rival United Nations-backed unity government in the western capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority nationwide.



Strong quake of magnitude 6.0 rocks Jakarta: USGS

Office workers leave a building following an earthquake in Jakarta.



JAKARTA: Indonesia‘s capital Jakarta was rocked on Tuesday by a strong earthquake which forced some buildings to be evacuated, but there was no immediate tsunami threat or reported injuries, a government agency said. The United States Geological Survey said the 6.0 magnitude quake struck at a depth of 43 kilometres (27 miles). That contrasted with an initial report from the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics agency, which said the quake had a 6.4 magnitude at a shallower 10 kilometer depth. The epicentre was off the coast, about 130 kilometres southwest of the sprawling city. Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. At least three people were killed following a 6.5-magnitude earthquake just outside the coastal town of Cipatujah on Java island in mid-December. The tremor was felt across the densely populated island, causing damage to hundreds of houses and other buildings. An earthquake struck Indonesia’s western province of Aceh in December 2016, killing more than 100 people, injuring many more and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Aceh was one of the areas worst hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. The wall of waves killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.



Hotel evacuated, stations closed after London gas leak


LONDON: Almost 1,500 people were evacuated from a hotel and night club in central London overnight and two train stations were closed following a gas leak, authorities said Tuesday. “A ruptured gas main was discovered using detection equipment and high levels of natural gas were detected in the atmosphere,” a London Fire Brigade spokesman said. “As a precaution, approximately 1,450 people have been evacuated. They are from a hotel and a night club”. Charing Cross and Waterloo East train stations, which brings commuters into the capital, were also closed, while Tube trains were not stopping at Charing Cross. The Strand, a major road running from Trafalgar Square to Waterloo Bridge, was also closed and people were asked to avoid the area. The Fire Brigade said they did not yet know the cause of the gas leak, but engineers were attending. A spokesman for the Cadent Gas company said: “We are working with the emergency services and as a safety precaution an exclusion zone has been put in place. “The Amba Hotel, nearby flats, offices and Charing Cross stations were evacuated”.



Avalanche prompts Italy hotel evacuation, snow blankets Alps

A road near the German-Austrian border is closed because of the danger of avalanches near Mittenwald-Scharnitz, Germany on Jan. 23, 2018.



MILAN: Four helicopters were evacuating some 100 tourists and hotel workers from a four-star mountainside hotel and a nearby guesthouse in northern Italy after an avalanche overnight, civil protection authorities said Tuesday as heavy snow caused disruption across the Alps. The Langtauferer Hotel, located near the Austrian border at 1,870 meters (6,135 feet) above sea level and some 100 kilometers (about 60 kilometers) northwest of Bolzano, was not directly hit, but was in an area of extremely high risk for further avalanches, said Katia Squeo of the civil protection agency in Bolzano. “The electricity was restored and the guests didn’t want to go, so the mayor ordered the evacuation,” Squeo said. `’The avalanche risk is still present”. The evacuation was taking place under clear conditions, with each helicopter ferrying seven people at a time to a school gymnasium in nearby San Valentino, where they were being fed and looked after. A nearby guesthouse was also evacuated, and the whole village was cut off from the nearest major road, some 20 kilometers away, by the heavy snowfall and avalanche risk. The whole northern crest of the Alps bordering Austria was under the highest avalanche risk following an extraordinary snowfall of up to two meters (6.6 feet,) beating record levels dating to the early 1980s in some places, officials said. The Langtauferer hotel boasts views of a 3,700-meter summit and advertises itself as being ideal for skiers, who can start their runs right outside the hotel door.


Martina Doene, the hotel’s manager, said the evacuees remained calm. The civil protection agency said teams also were working to open roads to Val Senales, where thousands of tourists and residents had been isolated since Monday above Merano. The town itself was protected by avalanche barriers and they were at no immediate risk, Squeo said. Heavy snow has created dangerous conditions and disrupted transport across the Alps. In France, the Chamonix ski area at the foot of Mont Blanc was closed due to what officials said was the highest avalanche risk. Several major roads and tunnels in the area were shut down. In Switzerland, a highway leading to the Gotthard tunnel toward Italy was shut. Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that the A2 highway near Gurtnellen was hit by an avalanche and was temporarily closed in both directions. The Swiss ski resorts of Zermatt, Andermatt and Saas-Fee are cut off from the outside world due to the risk of avalanches. Heavy snowfall has also hampered the arrival of participants at the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss town of Davos. Schools in some cut-off villages in Austria’s western state of Tyrol remained closed Tuesday, according to Austrian broadcaster ORF.

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