News Flash – 7 April 2018

National News



4 arrested for skimming ATM cards of execs at Kamala Mills



MUMBAI: Four men were arrested on Wednesday for allegedly cloning debit/ credit cards by installing a skimmer at ATMs in Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel. The police said that while many employees from corporate offices had become victims, a senior official of a multinational bank had lodged a complaint that led to the gang being busted. The arrested accused-Bhupesh Pawar (20), Mohammed Gazarwale (30), Amir Qureshi (31) and Nisar Shaikh (28)-have been booked for cheating, said an official from NM Joshi Marg police station. “We suspect the involvement of some foreigners,” said the official. The police said that the gang members used to to stick skimmers on ATMs which would retrieve the magnetic data of the card and the password. Using that data, they would then make duplicate cards with which they would siphon off money. The police said that four other people had been cheated of Rs1, 24,000. “As the number of people who were cheated grew, we realised that almost all clients were from corporate offices at Kamala Mills campus. We got images from CCTV footage which helped us nab one of the gang members. This one led us to the others,” said the officer. Another police officer said, “It appears the four were guided well on how to skim and clone cards. We suspect some well-informed people were backing up. these men.” – S Ahmed Ali.



Fire breaks out in Kalbadevi building



MUMBAI: A major fire broke out in a ground-plus-three-storey structure in the congested Kalbadevi area in south Mumbai early on Friday. There were no casualties, said a fire official. Around 2am, the fire brigade got an alert of the fire in building number 91, a residential-cum-commercial structure, on Nagdevi Street. All residents rushed out to safety before it spread. The fire gutted the second and third floors and the middle portion of the building caved in during firefighting operations. The flames were doused after five hours. Officials said they faced difficulty during firefighting operations as the building is in a congested lane. Electric cables hanging dangerously between two buildings were another hurdle, they added. In 2015, a major fire broke out in Gokul Niwas building in Kalbadevi. Four fire officers, including then fire brigade chief Sunil Nesarikar, died after a portion of the building collapsed on them during firefighting operations.



Cops get CAG rap as CCTV project delayed



NEW DELHI: Delhi Police had launched a Rs 73 crore project in 2013 to put the entire national capital under close circuit television (CCTV) surveillance after the home ministry asked the police to use 1,888 surplus CCTVs from the Commonwealth Games (CWC) 2010. Five years later, and after spending Rs 43 crore, the police have failed to set up their own surveillance network even in the central district which houses the high security Parliament House, Central Vista and government offices. Just in the central district, the police spent close to Rs 7 crore in the past few years in hiring 145 CCTV cameras, outsourcing the work to a private agency. “Had the installation of CCTV cameras been completed timely, the monthly recurring expenditure of Rs 21 lakh on hiring these cameras could have been avoided. The total payment against this ongoing hiring arrangement up to September 2017 alone was Rs 6.75 crore,” the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) observed in a report tabled in Parliament on Thursday. The CAG, in its audit report on the home ministry, said Delhi Police had awarded a contract to Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) in 2013 for Rs 73.29 crore for “supply, installation, and commissioning of CCTV system in the high security areas under the jurisdiction of six police stations of New Delhi and Central district”.


The first phase involved use of 1,211 CWG cameras and equipment valued at Rs 14.81 crore. A deadline was fixed to complete the work within 150 days of “receipt of road cutting permission from civic agencies” for the respective sites. The project, however, remained incomplete as of October 2017 despite an expenditure of Rs 42.94 crore, the CAG noted. The audit pointed out lapses on part of the MHA as it observed that the ECIL had completed civil and related work and the sites were ready for installation of security equipment by October 15, 2013. The MHA on its part kept revising the scheduled completion date and Delhi Police blamed the delay to non-receipt of CCTV cameras and other items for three years between July 2012 and June 2015. “The CWG items were in the possession of the Sports Authority of India, Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia University and were to be book transferred from the ministry of youth affairs and sports to Delhi Police,” the auditor said on the reasons for delay in executing the project. The MHA, in its response to the CAG, argued that “installation of the CCTV surveillance system had been delayed due to non-receipt of CWG items and award of work based on a revised techno-commercial offer”.



Hyderabad: Heavy rains and hailstorm cause traffic jams, power outage

A large number of areas in the city were plunged into darkness as the power supply was interrupted.



HYDERABAD: Heavy rainfall accompanied with hail and thunderstorm lashed several parts of the city, including Begumpet, Banjara Hills, Srinagar Colony, Ameerpet among others, on Friday sending the city into a cool down mode with temperatures. Tree branches fell blocking the traffic movement at various areas. At some places, knee-deep water was accumulated. The sudden downpour also brought down the traffic to a grinding halt with many commuters parking their vehicles under flyovers and shades to protect themselves from hailstorm and gusty winds. People who were awaiting to go home to enjoy their weekend plans were stuck up in traffic. “Due to hailstorm and strong winds, I could not drive any further. Therefore, I had to stop and wait until the situation was any better,” said Pratik Jammula, a techie who was stuck at a bus stop in Banjara Hills. Hailstorms accompanied with strong winds lashed areas such as Krishna Nagar, Ameerpet, Borabanda, Kukatpally, Erragadda, Begumpet, Banjara Hills, Secunderabad, Abids, Nampally and other adjoining areas.


A large number of areas in the city were plunged into darkness as the power supply was interrupted. Areas like Bowenpally, Jaya Nagar, Hyderguda, Moosarambagh, Mothi Mahal, Yakuthpura, Petlaburz, Teegalaguda, Falaknuma etc. were affected by the power outage due to heavy rainfall. The residents fumed over the officials stating that they take power shutdowns almost every fortnight in the name of maintenance, tree trimming and other repairs and yet the power goes off every time there is a downpour. Others expressed joy over the downpour as they hoped and prayed that the downpour will led to rise in ground water tables ahead of summer. Several people took to Twitter to express their happiness at the unseasonal rain, which had cooled down the temperature. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, the rainfall was primarily due to formation of cumulonimbus clouds formed over the city. Weathermen attributed the change in weather conditions to thunderstorm activity. The IMD, Hyderabad also issued a weather warning that thunderstorms accompanied with gusty winds were very likely to occur on Saturday as well.



Four die in blasts at two fireworks manufacturing units in TN



MADURAI: Four workers, including a woman, died and six others suffered grievous injuries in blasts at two different fireworks manufacturing units in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu on Friday. Four workers were loading finished fireworks on to a truck at Ramuthevanpatti around 11am when the first blast occurred. Two of them, Ravi and Sekar, died on the spot while two others, Senthilkumar and Palanisamy, suffered severe injuries. They were admitted to Centre of Excellence to Treat Burn Injuries at Sivakasi. Fire tenders from Sivakasi rushed to the spot and doused the blaze. The truck was damaged in the fire. Half an hour later, there was another blast in a fireworks unit at Kakkiwadanpatti in the same area. The workers were involved in making fancy type fireworks when the blast occurred. Two workers, Subramanian and Deivanai, were killed on the spot while four others, Palaniselvan, Muthuraja, Vijayalakshmi and Ganapathi, suffered severe injuries. They were rushed to Centre of Excellence to treat Burn Injuries at Sivakasi where their condition is said to be critical. The Vembakottai and the Maraneri police registered cases against the owners and foremen of the two fireworks units.



International News



Syrian Observatory: Air strikes on Douma kill 27 people

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence search in the rubble following air strikes



BEIRUT: Syrian Republican Guard forces pushed into the last rebel-held area of the eastern Ghouta near Damascus on Friday, state TV reported, where a war monitor said heavy air strikes killed at least 27 people including five children. State TV footage showed clouds of dark smoke rising from the targeted area, the town of Douma, where the Jaish al-Islam rebel group is holding out after insurgents in other parts of eastern Ghouta accepted safe passage to other rebel areas. The military spokesman for Jaish al-Islam posted a photo on his Telegram messaging account showing him leaning over a map with the group’s commander “inspecting fortification and reinforcement plans for the frontlines in Douma”. The conquest of Douma would seal President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory over the rebellion since 2016, and underline his unassailable position in the conflict that mushroomed out of protests against his rule seven years ago. Rebel groups in other parts of eastern Ghouta have left for areas on the Turkish border in convoys of buses that have gone through government-held territory. While several thousand people, including wounded Jaish al-Islam fighters, have left Douma for the north in recent days, the group has sought to remain in Douma as a local security force, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


A commander in the regional military alliance that backs Assad said Jaish al-Islam’s only option was to leave for areas northeast of Aleppo. “The negotiations have ended with failure. As far as Douma is concerned, resolving it militarily is the solution,” the commander told Reuters. Correspondents with state TV stations indicated the assault may stop if the group released abductees as per an agreement. The rebels must “submit to the condition of the Syrian state: the abductees in exchange for a halt of the military operation”, a reporter with al-Ikhbariya said. Tens of thousands of people are estimated to be sheltering in Douma, the Observatory says. It said the air strikes were likely to have been carried out by Russian war planes. State media said a child was killed and 15 civilians wounded in Jaish al-Islam shelling of residential areas of Damascus. State TV, in an on-screen news flash, said Jaish al-Islam was obstructing a deal and had refused to released abductees it has been holding. The group has consistently rejected the idea of leaving Douma for areas near the Turkish border, saying this amounts to a policy of forced population transfer by Assad. Russian-backed Syrian government forces launched their offensive against eastern Ghouta in February. It has been one of the most ferocious attacks of the war, killing more than 1,600 civilians in rebel-held areas, the Observatory says.



Four Palestinians killed as new clashes erupt along Gaza border

A Palestinian protects himself from inhaling tear gas at the Israel-Gaza border during a protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, in the southern Gaza Strip.



GAZA CITY, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Israeli forces killed four Palestinians as thousands protested and clashes erupted along the Gaza border on Friday, a week after a mass demonstration led to violence and the bloodiest day since a 2014 war. Gaza’s health ministry also reported that some 408 Palestinians had been taken to hospitals and medical centres for treatment. The dead included a 16-year-old, it said. Palestinians burned mounds of tyres and threw stones at Israeli soldiers over the border fence, who responded with tear gas and live fire. Israel said there were also attempts to break through the barrier. Thousands of protesters – Israel estimated 20,000 – gathered in locations near the border east of Khan Yunis, in the south of the blockaded Palestinian enclave, and east of Gaza City, among other spots. The number of protesters was however lower than last week, when a demonstration by tens of thousands led to clashes in which Israeli forces killed 19 Palestinians. The tyre fires were meant to be a smokescreen from Israeli snipers, and thick black smoke covered the border area in some places. Israeli forces took up positions on the other side of the border and set up large fans in a bid to push away smoke. They also used water cannon to try to douse flames. Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, hailed the protests and condemned Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “They said Gaza would give up its principles, its project of liberation and (dream) of return if they starve it, but Gaza is coming out today,” he said to protesters east of Khan Yunis. He referred to the protest’s call for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to land they fled or were expelled from in what is now Israel.


Sinwar said Gazans would “break the border and return to our land and pray in Jerusalem”. Israel’s military said some 20,000 Palestinians were “rioting” and “attempts were made to infiltrate into Israel under the cover of a smoke screen”. It also said explosive devices and firebombs were thrown, adding that soldiers opened fire “in accordance with the rules of engagement”. Mona al-Shaar, 43, who was distributing bottles of vinegar to protesters east of Khan Yunis to dab onto tissues to help them cope with tear gas, said that “we came here for the land and for a better future”. “The Israelis are cowards”. Israel had warned that its open-fire rules would remain unchanged for Friday’s protests, pledging to stop damage to the fence and prevent infiltrations or alleged attacks. It had faced mounting criticism over its use of live fire, and UN chief Antonio Guterres called for restraint ahead of Friday’s protest. “I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties,” he said. In the March 30 demonstration, a number of protesters strayed from the main demonstration and approached the heavily fortified fence on the border with Israel. Israel says troops opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling burning tyres at soldiers. It said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was also an attempted gun attack against soldiers along the border. Israel accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.


But the toll of those killed and wounded on March 30 – more than 750 people were injured by gunfire, according to Gaza’s health ministry – led to criticism of Israel. There were no Israeli casualties. Palestinians say protesters were shot while posing no threat to soldiers, and unverified videos that have spread online have fueled their accusations. The videos include one appearing to show a man with a tyre shot while running away from the fence. Human Rights Watch has called the actions by the Israeli soldiers “calculated” and illegal. Guterres and the European Union have called for an independent investigation, which Israel has outright rejected. Israel says more than half of the dead from the previous Friday were members of militant groups, including the armed wing of Hamas. Hamas’s armed wing has claimed only five of them, saying they were participating “in popular events side-by-side with their people”. Militant group Islamic Jihad has claimed at least one of the dead as a member, but it said he was not carrying a weapon when he was shot. Hamas has meanwhile offered compensation of $3,000 to the families of protesters killed and $500 for those seriously injured, drawing outrage from Israel. The protests, designed to last six weeks, are in support of refugees. More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their lands during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948. Israelis say allowing the so-called “right of return” would mean their country would cease to exist. Protests will run until the expected opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in mid-May. The US move has led to deep anger among Palestinians, who see the annexed eastern sector of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The White House on Thursday refrained from criticism of Israel and called on protesters to remain peaceful.



Air France warns of cancelled flights ahead of strike



PARIS: Air France warned on Friday that about 30 percent of flights across France would be cancelled on Saturday as pilots, cabin crews and ground staff pursued a fifth day of strikes aimed at securing higher pay. Unions say workers deserve to benefit from years of belt-tightening that have brought the carrier back to operating profitability, after seeing their wages effectively frozen since 2011. They have called daylong work stoppages since February in pursuit of a six percent pay raise, and have already warned of more strikes to come, often coinciding with school holidays. The Air France industrial action coincides with rolling strikes by workers at the state rail operator SNCF, as well as protests by students, public servants, energy workers and rubbish collectors. Although the various protests have different aims, they have created a general atmosphere of social discontent as President Emmanuel Macron pursues his ambitious reform drive. Saturday’s cancellation rates are expected to be the highest of any Air France strike so far, though the company declined to specify how many flights would be grounded. One-quarter of long-haul flights into and out of Paris will be cancelled, while 35 percent of medium-distance flights will be dropped at the capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport.


And 30 percent of regional flights at Orly and other French cities will be cancelled, Air France said. But management so far appears unwilling to budge. “This increase is not possible”, the chief executive of parent company Air France-KLM, Jean-Marc Janaillac, told RTL radio Friday, adding that it would jeopardise the restructuring efforts made in recent years, He warned that the strikes had already cost Air France 25 million euros ($30 million) each day, money the airline should be investing in buying planes and creating jobs. Janaillac also claimed that with an operating profit of 600 million euros last year, its profit margin was four percent, “the lowest of all European airlines”. But unions have rejected those arguments, along with management’s offer of a one percent raise this year. “We’ve been doing our part for years,” said Gregoire Aplin court of the Spaf union, the second-largest among Air France pilots. “What we’re saying now is, ‘Invest in your employees’. Unions have called further strikes for April 10-11, April 17-18, and April 23-24.

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