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FBI’s Investigation of Suspicious Packages:Pipe Bomb Suspect Arrested in Florida

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Washington, Oct 26:The FBI on Friday arrested a man suspected of sending packages containing suspected explosives in recent days to major Democratic Party figures and critics of President Donald Trump, the Justice Department said.

A law enforcement official identified the suspect as Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Fla., just north of Miami.

The arrest came even as the crude pipe bombs continued to appear across the country. Federal law enforcement officials said Friday that they had discovered three more of the explosive devices in three states.

“We can confirm one person is in custody,” Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, wrote on Twitter.

The arrest comes after 12 people received suspicious packages containing suspected explosives in the last few days, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The last two suspicious packages, intercepted on Friday in Florida and New York, were addressed to Democratic Senator Cory Booker and to the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

None of the packages exploded though they have elevated the level of alert of US authorities as they fear more packages will be found in the coming days.

The FBI said Friday on Twitter that a similar package was found in Florida addressed to Senator Booker, who is considered a possible contender in the 2020 presidential election.

The New York Police Department (NYPD), for its part, intercepted a suspicious package on Friday addressed to Clapper at a post office in Manhattan.

The discovery of suspicious packages containing suspected explosives began on Monday when billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a known Democratic donor, received one at his home in the state of New York.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, two packages were sent to Hillary Clinton and Obama, while other similar packages were sent to former Attorney General Eric Holder, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former CIA Director John Brenan and CNN’s New York offices.

The fact that all of the packages were addressed to members of the Democratic Party or to Trump critics suggests a possible political motivation.

This comes less than two weeks ahead of the November 6 mid-term elections taking place in the US.

Trump acknowledged on Friday that the discovery of the suspicious packages could affect Republican candidates’ momentum for the mid-term elections, in which a third of the seats in the House of Representatives and all of the seats in the Senate are up for grabs.

Business

Pakistan’s economy shows positive indicators: PM’s Office

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, Feb 28 : Pakistan’s economic indicators are seeing a constant improvement due to efforts made by the current government to overcome the serious economic challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing a meeting of his economic team, expressed satisfaction over the improvement in all sectors, adding that his government is making efforts to bring a trickle-down effect of the improving economy on general public and in this regard steps are being taken to provide relief to low income and salaried class of the country, Xinhua reported.

He also directed the economic team to keep the public updated about the positive indicators of the economy in a bid to win the confidence of the local businessman to invest in the country.

Earlier this month, the prime minister approved subsidy of Pakistani Rs 10 billion ($65 million) on five essential food items for controlling rampant inflation in the country.

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Iranian vice president tests positive for coronavirus

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Tehran, Feb 28 Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday.

Ebtekar’s adviser Fariba Ibtihaj said the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency  reported.

“Everyone in the vice president’s team was also tested and the results will be available on Saturday,” she said.

Ebtekar is not the first high-ranking Iranian official to contract the virus.

Ebtekar, joins the deputy health minister, the head of the national security commission and a reformist MP who have been infected with the virus, reports Efe news.

She tested positive on Thursday after showing symptoms the previous day during a cabinet meeting, according to state TV.

The politician is one of the most recognizable in the Islamic Republic and previously held the position of environment minister.

Iran has reported 26 deaths from the deadly disease and 245 cases total with a dramatic surge of 106 new infections registered on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

Tehran authorities have decided to close down schools and universities in the country to curb the spread of the disease.

Friday prayers in the capital have also been cancelled.

Amid the spread of the virus, neighbouring countries have closed their land borders with Iran and most airlines have suspended their flights or imposed restrictions on air travel to the country.

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COVID-19 cases in South Korea reach 2,022, 13 deaths

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Seoul, Feb 28 The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea increased to 2,022 on Friday, with a total of 13 fatalities as the nation aggressively counters the fast-spreading virus with massive testing, particularly for 210,000 followers of a religious sect at the centre of the epidemic.

The 256 new cases brought the nation’s total infections to 2,022, the Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

Only two days ago, the number of infections exceeded 1,000.

More than half of newly confirmed cases were linked to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the southeastern city of Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul.

Of the 256 new cases, 182 are in Daegu, and 49 are in the neighbouring North Gyeongsang Province.

Since raising the virus alert level to “red”, the highest level, on Sunday, health authorities have focused on halting the spread of the virus in Daegu, the epicentre of the virus outbreak in South Korea, and North Gyeongsang.

Experts said the number of confirmed cases is expected to jump in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

The government also ordered another 1,638 Shincheonji followers to self-isolate as they have shown symptoms, Yonhap News Agency said in its report.

Since the first coronavirus case — a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak — on January 20, the pace of infections had not been alarming until February 18, when a 61-year-old woman who is tied to the Daegu religious sect tested positive for the virus.

Since then, the nation has seen an explosion in infections as it accelerated virus tests on potential cases.

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