News Flash – 4 January 2020

National News



5 Die in Naihati illegal Cracker Unit Blast

The factory building in Naihati was blown to smithereens on Friday.



Naihati: Five persons were burned to death after three back-to-back explosions ignited a massive fire at an illegal firecracker factory at Naihati, nearly 42km north of Kolkata, on Friday afternoon. Three deafening blasts in quick succession sent bodies flying and shattered the windowpanes of several neighbouring houses and shops. At least a dozen people were seriously injured in the resultant fire, as the entire structure was blown to smithereens. The first explosion occurred around 12.30pm when some labourers were working at the factory at Masjidpara. As villagers rushed towards the unit, two more blasts quickly followed, as firecrackers piled up inside caught fire. Within seconds, the building that housed the factory was in flames, thwarting desperate attempts by villagers to go in. According to eyewitnesses, the factory was razed to the ground and the impact of the explosion sent bodies flying. “Two bodies and mangled body parts were lodged on trees near the factory. The walls and roof of the entire house were blown off on impact,” said Amit Nandi, a resident. The blasts shook the windowpanes of several houses at Naihati’s Debak village. “At least three explosions, one after the other, in Masjidpara were heard from areas nearly 8km away under Mamudpur gram panchayat. Several houses and shops were affected within a 4-km radius of the explosion,” said Aamir Ali, a local trader. Five fire engines were pressed into the service, but by the time the fire was put out, the five workers identified as Brinda Sanpui



(40), a resident of Naihati’s Harishpur, Kalpana Halder (42) from Subhaspally, Ram Besra (45) from Majherpara, Mansur Piyada (17) from Mamudpur and Abhoy Mandi (42) from Debak had sustained severe burns and were charred to death. Several others who suffered serious burn injuries were admitted to Kalyani JNM Hospital, Barrackpore BN Bose Hospital and Barasat District Hospital. Locals alleged that crude bombs were also being made at the firecracker unit, which was being run illegally in a crowded locality for over two decades. They have demanded a proper probe and immediate arrest of the factory owner. State food minister and Trinamool Congress district president Jyotipriyo Mullick, who went to the spot, said: “The local panchayat had no information that such a big illegal unit was operating here. We always sensitise the local administration that such illegal units, which pose danger to human life, have to be closed down. The Barrackpore commissionerates is probing the case”. Barrackpore BJP MP Arjun Singh rushed to the spot and drew parallels with the Khagragarh blast, demanding an NIA probe. “I suspect that huge amount of explosives were stockpiled inside the factory like Khagragarh that triggered such a major blast. Here, nearly 100 cracker units housed in an illegal firecracker hub, was being run under the influence of the local administration controlled by the ruling party. The blast should be investigated by NIA immediately,” Singh said. Mullick dismissed the allegations as “political posturing”. “He sniffs politics in everything,” Mullick said.



29.6mm Rain Makes Friday the Wettest January Day Since 2013


Kolkata: Lashed by multiple spells of rain since early morning, the city on Friday recorded its wettest January day since 2013. Triggered by a cyclonic circulation over central India that moved into Gangetic Bengal, the rain, however, lost intensity by afternoon even though the Met office predicted clouds to hover above Kolkata till Saturday morning. Once the clouds recede by Monday, the minimum temperature could tumble 2°C-3°C and settle at 12°C-13°C. Kolkata received 29.6mm rain between 8.30pm on Thursday and 8.30pm on Friday and the minimum temperature stood at 15.8°C. While some parts of the city had received sporadic showers on Thursday evening, the rain got intense early on Friday. Kolkata woke up to a cloudy morning and frequent drizzles interspersed with heavier spells of shower. As the day progressed, the rain got heavier with southern, central and eastern parts of the city receiving intense spells during the afternoon. The showers, though, lost intensity by 2.30pm. “Chances of further heavy spells are slim. Even though the circulation persists in south Bengal, it will get progressively weaker and cease to have an impact on the weather. Kolkata and the surroundings may remain cloudy till Saturday but we expect very little rain,” said Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) director GK Das.



The city received 9.3mm rain between 8.30pm on Thursday and 8.30am on Friday. Over the next six hours, the showers gained considerable intensity as Kolkata received another 16mm rain till 2.30 in the afternoon. Due to the cloud cover, the minimum temperature — at 15.8°C — remained two degrees higher than normal. It is expected to hover between 14°C and 15°C till Sunday. “Once the clouds recede, temperature will slide down considerably. It will lead to a sharp chill, similar to the cold spell that we had in the last week of December. But the chill may not last long and the mercury may start rising again from January 8,” said deputy director-general of meteorology Sanjib Bandyopadhyay. Kolkata has recorded a lowest minimum temperature of 11.1°C this season. Friday was the wettest January day in Kolkata in seven years. In 2012, the city had received 71.2 mm rain on a January day. “January is a dry period in Kolkata unless there is a western disturbance. This season, we have had two such disturbances so far with this one having a considerable impact on the city,” said Das. The western disturbance impacted the weather in north Bengal as well and once the clouds recede the mercury may plunge there as well, said weathermen. While Sandakphu received snowfall on Friday, more snow has been predicted in the upper reaches of Darjeeling.



Racket Busted but ATM Data Still at Risk: Cops


Kolkata: Have you been a victim of ATM skimming or had merely visited an ATM recently after which your bank had asked you to replace your old debit card? There is a reason why they are doing so as a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), said cops. There is always a danger that even after the arrest of the main conspirators, your data is still at risk of being circulated for a price, officers said. The police said the two Romanians arrested in the Jadavpur and Tollygunge Phanri skimming cases have revealed they had been regularly buying and selling data of bank customers back home. “The Romanian fraudsters usually adopt two methods to carry out their crimes. The simple way is to buy the data obtained through skimming in India from the dark web and then they come down to Kolkata to withdraw money from the Indian ATMs. Similarly, they might just collect card data by installing skimming devices and carry the data back. They can then just withdraw the money from Indian ATMs using their own third-party contacts or sell the same to other gangs,” explained a senior officer. However, cops said they were yet to come across any fresh complaints in Kolkata. “All banks have proactively ensured all steps were taken so that the data collected from Kolkata — but not used in the fraud — couldn’t be used for criminal purposes on the dark web.



The fact that we recovered crypto currency from main accused Siliviu Florin Spiridon, 28, led us to unearth their modus operandi. So far, data of 250 people has been recovered. He has claimed he has sold some of it. But since only 81 victims were duped so far, we couldn’t take any chance. A second laptop belonging to the other accused, Tousif Mouraru, which allegedly contains data of another 300-odd people, is yet to be recovered,” explained an officer. The police said Spiridon had learnt his trade from his friends who were involved in such skimming in India and the US earlier. “He is a master at retrieving the data from the machine after detaching it from the ATM. He handled all the data collection on behalf of the gang and was instrumental in converting the money that the gang defrauded into Euros and bitcoins, which he then sent back to Romania,” said an officer. “We broke up his modus operandi into different segments. We found at least two to three steps which can be detected externally with a bit of technical assistance and hence, stopped before the crime is executed. We will discuss his modus operandi — which we have videographed for easy comprehension 1 — extensively with the bank authorities,” said a source from the anti-bank fraud section.



International News



World Alarmed Over Iran Top Gen Killing


Paris: Global powers warned on Friday that the world became a more dangerous place after the US assassinated Iran’s top general, urging restraint on all sides. Britain and Germany also suggested that Iran shared some blame for provoking the targeted killing that dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the Mideast. China, Russia and France, all permanent members of the UN security council, took a dim view of the US airstrike near Baghdad’s airport early on Friday that killed General Qassim Suleimani and several of his associates. The 62-year-old led Iran’s elite Quds Force, responsible for the country’s foreign campaigns. Social media flooded with alarm, with Twitter users morbidly turning “WWIII” into the top trending term worldwide. “We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told RTL radio. Russia likewise characterised the deadly US strike as “fraught with serious consequences”. A foreign ministry statement warned that “such actions don’t help resolve complicated problems in the Middle East, but instead lead to a new round of escalating tensions”. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested that in ordering the killing, US President Donald Trump had one eye on his re-election campaign. “The US military were acting on orders of US politicians. Everyone should remember and understand that US politicians have their interests, considering that this year is an election year”. Trump’s election opponents characterised the killing as reckless, with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden saying the US president “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox”. China described itself as “highly concerned”. “Peace in the Middle East and the Gulf region should be preserved,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.



But while echoing the concerns of other UNSC members about spiraling tensions, Britain and Germany broke ranks, voicing qualified understanding for the US position. German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer described the US strike as “a reaction to a whole series of military provocations for which Iran bears responsibility”, pointing to attacks on tankers and a Saudi oil facility, among other events. Germany currently sits on the UNSC but is not a permanent member. The British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said “we have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qassim Suleimani”. He, however, added, “Further conflict is in none of our interests.” Trump also won the support of Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu “for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively”. United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres cautioned that the world cannot afford another war in the Gulf. Pakistan expressed deep concern, saying the recent developments seriously threatens peace and stability in the region. There were also warnings that the killing could set back efforts to stamp out remnants of the Islamic State group. A top European Union official, Charles Michel, said “the risk is a generalised flare up of violence in the whole region and the rise of obscure forces of terrorism that thrive at times of religious and nationalist tensions”. In the Mideast, the strike provoked waves of shock, fury and fears of worse to come. Iraq’s most powerful religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said the country must brace for “very difficult times”.

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