Briefing :- 31/1/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 31st of January, 2017 :-

1. Canadian mosque shooting suspect charged with murdering six people :-

Alexandre Bissonnette is charged with killing six people in a mosque in Canada.
Alexandre Bissonnette is charged with killing six people in a mosque in Canada

A French-Canadian university student was the sole suspect in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque and was charged with the premeditated murder of six people, Canadian authorities said on Monday, in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “a terrorist attack”.

Court documents identified the gunman in the attack on Sunday evening prayers as Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, and charged him with six murder counts and five counts of attempted murder with a restricted weapon. The slightly-built Bissonnette made a brief appearance in court under tight security wearing a white prison garment and looking downcast.

Prosecutors said all of the evidence was not yet ready and Bissonnette, a student at Université Laval, was set to appear again on February 21. No charge was read in court and Bissonnette did not enter a plea.

“The charges laid correspond to the evidence available,” said Thomas Jacques, a representative of the prosecutor’s office, when asked why Bissonnette was not charged with terrorism-related offences.

Among the six men killed were a butcher, a university professor, a pharmacist and an accountant, according to police and Canadian media. The government of Guinea said in a statement that two of its citizens were among those killed in the mosque attack.   Police declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. “They consider this a lone wolf situation,” a Canadian source familiar with the situation said.

In Washington, US government security experts were leaning to the view that the gunman most likely was motivated by hatred for Muslims, a US government source familiar with official reporting said.

This contrasts with White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who on Monday told reporters that the Quebec shooting was “a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant, and why the president is taking steps to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to our nation’s safety and security”.

Spicer never explained the supposed link between the safety risk posed by the suspect of this mass shooting, a white 27-year-old who is not a refugee or immigrant, and a travel ban on Muslims.

Trudeau, who has made a point of welcoming refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, told parliament in Ottawa: “Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack.”

“Last night this community experienced something that no community should ever have to know: Unspeakable cruelty and violence perpetrated on those who came together in friendship and in faith,” Trudeau said later at a vigil attended by hundreds who braved frigid temperatures in Quebec City.

He added a personal message to Canada’s one million Muslims: “We stand with you. We love you and we support you and we will always defend and protect your right to gather together and pray today and every day,” Trudeau added.

The attack was out of character for Quebec City, a city of just over 500,000 which reported just two murders in all of 2015. Mass shootings are rare in Canada, where gun control laws are stricter than in the United States.

2. President Trump fires acting Attorney General who defied immigration order :-

Acting U.S. Attorney-General, Sally Yates

U.S. President Donald Trump fired top federal government lawyer Sally Yates on Monday after she took the extraordinarily rare step of defying the White House and refused to defend new travel restrictions targeting seven Muslim-majority nations.

It was another dramatic twist in the unusually raucous roll-out of Trump’s directive that put a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The Friday night ban prompted protests and chaos at airports on the weekend as customs officials struggled to put the order into practise, and the fallout spread to U.S. markets on Monday, where stocks suffered their biggest drop of 2017 and companies affected by the change spoke out against it.

Yates said late on Monday that the Justice Department would not defend the order against court challenges, saying that she did not believe it would be “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

Hours later, she was fired. The White House said Yates “has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States” and portrayed her actions as political.

Trump has argued tougher vetting of immigrants is needed to protect America from terror attacks but critics complain that his order unfairly singles out Muslims and defiles America’s historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants.

Yates, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, was days away from being replaced by Trump’s pick for the top spot at the Justice Department, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who is awaiting Senate confirmation.

“Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the White House said in a statement. The White House said that Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in at 9 p.m. ET and would be acting U.S. attorney general until Sessions is approved. Boente said in an interview with the Washington Post that he would enforce the immigration order. There have been only a handful of instances in U.S. history of top Justice Department officials publicly breaking with the White House.

3. Nearly 95,000 civil servants sacked in post-coup crackdown : Turkey :-

Nearly 95,000 public servants sacked in post-coup purge: Turkey
Rights groups and some of Turkey’s Western allies fear that President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to stifle dissent.

Turkish authorities have dismissed more than 90,000 public servants for alleged connections to a coup attempt in July as part of a purge critics say has broadened to target any political opposition to President Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking to reporters at a roundtable interview broadcast on television, Labour Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said 125,485 people from the public service had been put through legal proceedings after the coup attempt, and that 94,867 of those had been dismissed so far.

Turkey has been rooting out followers of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of having infiltrated state institutions and plotted to overthrow the government. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the charge and condemned the coup.

Some 40,000 people from the police, the military, the judiciary, the civil service or the education system, have been remanded in custody pending trial for alleged connections with the coup attempt, during which at least 240 people were killed.

Emergency rule declared after the failed coup attempt enables the government to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms when deemed necessary.

Rights groups and some of Turkey’s Western allies fear that President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to stifle dissent, from state institutions to political parties.

NATO member Turkey has been hit by a spate bombings and shootings in the past year, claimed by Kurdish and Islamic State militants, on top of July’s failed coup, in which soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in a bid to seize power.

4.  Alleged Mumbai Terror Attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed placed under house-arrest :-

Pakistani Police placed Hafiz Saeed, alleged mastermind of coordinated attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people, under house arrest.

Pakistani police have placed Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the alleged mastermind of coordinated attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people, under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore.

Saeed was taken into custody at the headquarters for Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the religious charity he heads, late on Monday, a spokesman said.”He has been arrested, and he is being taken in police custody to his home,” Nadeem Awan told reporters. Awan added that dozens of JuD supporters were accompanying the police convoy to Saeed’s home.

“We have received the detention orders from the government of Pakistan, and I believe that this is not aimed at me, but is an international conspiracy aimed at sabotaging the Kashmir struggle,” Saeed told reporters, referring to the disputed Indian-controlled territory of Kashmir, before he was escorted by police to his residence. “This is the wish of [Indian PM Narendra] Modi, at the prompting of [US President Donald] Trump, and the government’s helplessness.” The two countries have fought three wars over Kashmir, which both claim in full but control in parts.

In 2012, the United States placed a $10m bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed, who is also the founder of the armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Saeed has long since distanced himself from LeT, which has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Indian security forces and civilians, saying he now only runs JuD as a charity.

The United Nations and the United States, however, list JuD as a front for LeT. Both organisations, as well as  Saeed as an individual, remain under international sanctions.

Saeed has been accused by both the US and India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people in attacks across India’s largest city.  LeT has been banned as a “terrorist” organisation by Pakistan since 2002. In 2008, JuD was listed by Pakistan under a list of organisations subject to UN sanctions, including an assets freeze, arms embargo and international travel ban.

The group continues to work openly across Pakistan, however, running a network of seminaries, releasing several publications and carrying out widespread humanitarian aid work.

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