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Several cables in the Red Sea, cut!

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Several undersea communications cables in the Red Sea have been cut, affecting 25% of data traffic flowing between Asia and Europe, a telecoms company and a US official say.
Hong Kong-based HGC Global Communications said it had taken measures to reroute traffic after four of the 15 cables were recently severed.

The cause is not yet clear.

The US official said it was trying to find out whether the cables were cut deliberately or snagged by an anchor.

Last month, Yemen’s internationally-recognised government warned that the Iran-backed Houthi movement might sabotage the undersea cables in addition to attacking ships in the sea.

The Houthis – who control much of western Yemen’s Red Sea coast – denied last week that they had targeted cables and blamed US and British military strikes for any damage to them.

US and British forces have targeted Houthi weapons and infrastructure in response to the drone and missile attacks on merchant vessels passing through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The Houthis say their attacks are a show of support for the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

(BBC News)

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Sydney church stabbing treated as ‘terrorist act’

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Australian police have declared Monday’s stabbing at a church in Sydney a “terrorist act”.

A 15-year-old boy was arrested after a bishop and several churchgoers were stabbed during the sermon.

The incident happened in the evening at the Christ The Good Shepherd Church in the suburb of Wakeley.

At least four people were stabbed but police say none of their injuries were life-threatening. The incident triggered unrest.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the church, clashing with police – two of whom were injured.

Twenty police vehicles were damaged – with 10 left unusable.

Chief commissioner Karen Webb said those involved in the riots would be hunted by police, describing the actions as “unacceptable”.

New South Wales Premier Chris Minns said: “I convened a meeting of faith leaders representing major religious organisations across Western Sydney.

“And their message to their communities was universal and identical, and that is that they deplore violence in all forms that they have faith in the New South Wales police to undertake their investigation.

“They call for peace amongst all communities in Sydney, and most importantly, that people remain calm during this obviously distressing period.”

Paramedics had to retreat for cover in the church and were “holed up” there for more than three hours.’

(BBC News)

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Vietnamese billionaire sentenced to death for $44bn fraud

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It was the most spectacular trial ever held in Vietnam, befitting one of the greatest bank frauds the world has ever seen.

Behind the stately yellow portico of the colonial-era courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City, a 67-year-old Vietnamese property developer was sentenced to death on Thursday for looting one of the country’s largest banks over a period of 11 years.

It’s a rare verdict – she is one of very few women in Vietnam to be sentenced to death for a white collar crime.

The decision is a reflection of the dizzying scale of the fraud. Truong My Lan was convicted of taking out $44bn (£35bn) in loans from the Saigon Commercial Bank. The verdict requires her to return $27bn, a sum prosecutors said may never be recovered. Some believe the death penalty is the court’s way of trying to encourage her to return some of the missing billions.

The habitually secretive communist authorities were uncharacteristically forthright about this case, going into minute detail for the media. They said 2,700 people were summoned to testify, while 10 state prosecutors and around 200 lawyers were involved.

The evidence was in 104 boxes weighing a total of six tonnes. Eighty-five others were tried with Truong My Lan, who denied the charges and can appeal.

All of the defendants were found guilty. Four received life in jail. The rest were given prison terms ranging from 20 years to three years suspended. Truong My Lan’s husband and niece received jail terms of nine and 17 years respectively.

“There has never been a show trial like this, I think, in the communist era,” says David Brown, a retired US state department official with long experience in Vietnam. “There has certainly been nothing on this scale.”

The trial was the most dramatic chapter so far in the “Blazing Furnaces” anti-corruption campaign led by the Communist Party Secretary-General, Nguyen Phu Trong.

A conservative ideologue steeped in Marxist theory, Nguyen Phu Trong believes that popular anger over untamed corruption poses an existential threat to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. He began the campaign in earnest in 2016 after out-manoeuvring the then pro-business prime minister to retain the top job in the party.

(BBC News)

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Hamas leader says 3 sons killed in airstrike

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Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh has confirmed that three of his sons and four of his grandchildren were killed in an air strike in Gaza.

Hamas-linked media said the car his sons were travelling in was hit in Al-Shati camp near Gaza City.

Haniyeh said that the incident would not change Hamas’s demands in talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire deal.

Israel’s military said the sons were members of Hamas’s military wing.

The group was reportedly on its way to a family celebration to mark the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Haniyeh told the broadcaster Al Jazeera that three sons – Hazem, Amir, and Muhammad – had remained in Gaza during the war.

A statement from Hamas later said four of Haniyeh’s grandchildren – Mona, Amal, Khaled and Razan – were among those killed in what they called the “treacherous and cowardly” strike.

Haniyeh said he heard the news as he was visiting wounded Palestinians who had been taken for treatment to the Qatari capital, Doha, which is where the Hamas leader lives.

“The enemy will be delusional if it thinks that targeting my sons, at the climax of the [ceasefire] negotiations and before the movement sends its response, will push Hamas to change its position,” he told Al Jazeera.

In comments reported on Hamas’s Telegram channel, he thanked God for the “honour” bestowed on him by what he called the “martyrdom of his children and grandchildren”.

Israel’s military said it had “eliminated three Hamas military wing operatives in the central Gaza Strip”, adding that they were the sons of Ismail Haniyeh. The statement did not mention the reported deaths of Haniyeh’s grandchildren.

(BBC News)

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