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Efforts underway to rescue abducted Indians in Afghanistan

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Security officials in Afghanistan are working with local tribal elders to trace the seven Indian engineers abducted by the Taliban gunmen in the restive northern Baghlan province, media reports said on Monday.

Provincial police spokesman Zabiullah Shuja confirmed that the seven Indian engineers were abducted from the vicinity of Cheshma-e-Sher earlier today. He said the Indian engineers were working on a project for the construction of a substation and were kidnapped by the militants as they were travelling in the area to inspect the work progress.

Provincial governor Abdul Nemati said the security forces and the local officials are busy tracking the missing engineers and their driver. He said apart from the security forces and the government officials, the local tribal elders have also stepped up their efforts for the release of the Indian nationals.

The external affairs ministry from New Delhi has assured that they are constantly in touch with their Afghan counterparts.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban militants have not yet commented regarding the report so far.

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Chinese welcome Huawei executive’s release in Canada

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Beijing | China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied knowledge of the detention of a former Canadian diplomat, as Chinese citizens rejoiced over a Canadian court’s decision to release a top Huawei Technologies executive on bail.

The release of Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, prompted an outpouring of support on social media for her and her company, which is based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Zeng Yuan, a university student in Beijing, was among many who believe the detention of former diplomat Michael Kovrig was related to Meng’s case. “It is a kind of declaration to the Canadian government,” the finance student told The Associated Press. “This makes sense. China cannot sit and await its fate, and let them make ambiguous accusations against Chinese citizens.”

Meng was detained Dec 1 at the request of the US, which accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions.

After three days of hearings, a British Columbia justice granted bail Tuesday of 10 million Canadian dollars (USD 7.5 million) to Meng, but required her to wear an ankle bracelet, surrender her passports, stay in Vancouver and its suburbs and confine herself to one of her two Vancouver homes from 11 pm to 6 am.

While declining to confirm Kovrig’s detention, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the International Crisis Group, where Kovrig is a Hong-Kong-based analyst, was not registered in China and its activities in the country were illegal.

“I do not have information to provide you here,” he said. “If there is such a thing, please do not worry, it is assured that China’s relevant departments will definitely handle it according to law.” Because Kovrig’s organization is not registered as a non-governmental organization in China, “Once its staff becomes engaged in activities in China, it has already violated the law,” Lu said.

He repeated China’s demand for the immediate release of Meng, whose father founded Huawei, a leading telecommunications equipment maker that has strong connections to the Chinese government and military. Meng’s case has set off a diplomatic furor among the three countries and complicated high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed Kovrig’s detention.

The International Crisis Group said he was taken into custody Monday night by the Beijing Bureau of Chinese State Security, which handles intelligence and counterintelligence matters in the Chinese capital, Rob Malley, president of the Brussels-based group, said he thinks Kovrig was in Beijing on personal matters at the time of his arrest and was definitely not there for any illegal purpose or for any reason that would undermine Chinese national security.

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‘I can’t breathe’ were Jamal Khashoggi’s final words: Reports

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Washington | Jamal Khashoggi‘s final words were “I can’t breathe”, CNN has said, citing a source who has read the transcript of an audio tape of the final moments before the journalist’s murder. The source told the US network the transcript made clear the killing was premeditated, and suggests several phone calls were made to give briefings on the progress.

CNN said on Sunday Turkish officials believe those calls were made to top officials in Riyadh. Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, was killed shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The transcript of the gruesome recording includes descriptions of Khashoggi struggling against his murderers, CNN said, and references sounds of the dissident journalist’s body “being dismembered by a saw.”

The original transcript was prepared by Turkish intelligence services, and CNN said its source read a translation version and was briefed on the probe into the journalist’s death. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Sunday meanwhile rejected demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of Khashoggi as sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to hand over suspects in the killing. According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia, however, holds that it was a “rogue” operation gone wrong — a claim undercut by the reported transcript.

For his part US President Donald Trump has refrained from blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, even though the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered the assassination. The murder has damaged Riyadh’s international reputation and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

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Macron to address nation on ‘yellow vest’ crisis Monday: French presidency

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Macron, also set to meet trade unionists and business leaders Monday, is expected to announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to the crisis.

 

Paris| French President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Monday, the Elysee said, following the four weeks of “yellow vest” anti-government protests, which have turned violent.

The president’s office said he would address the nation at 19.00 GMT, but did not provide other details. Macron, also set to meet trade unionists and business leaders Monday, is expected to announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to the crisis, according to Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud.

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