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‘Operation Thunderbolt’ ended Dhaka café siege: All ISIS terrorists were Bangladeshi citizens

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All the attackers in the deadly assault on a cafe in Dhaka were Bangladeshi citizens, and five of them were militants that police had tried to arrest previously.’Operation Thunderbolt’ unfolded to end Dhaka café siege

There were around 20-22 guests, including foreigners, at the popular Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in Gulshan area when a group of gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” raided the cafe at 8.45 p.m.

Police moved in soon. But they pulled back after two officers – Assistant Commissioner Rabiul Islam of the Detective Branch, and Banani police Officer-in-Charge Salahuddin – were killed in the first exchange of fire.

After that, the law enforcement agencies sealed off the area.

After waiting through the night, following directives from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, armed forces joined the Rapid Action Battalion and police in the morning to launch the assault, codenamed ‘Operation Thunderbolt’, along with the other security agencies.

Around 7.40 a.m., security forces stormed the café in the Gulshan diplomatic zone and several hostages were freed minutes after the offensive began, a witness told bdnews24.com.

Heavy firing and explosions continued for at least an hour after the operation had begun to free the hostages.

A witness who saw the assault from an adjacent building said armymen in two armoured personnel carriers (APCs) tore down the wall of the café and the commandos entered the cafe through the breach.

More than 1,000 rounds were fired and nearly 1,000 explosions were reported in the 30 minutes of the raid.

A resident at a building, just 50 yards from the scene, reported spotting snipers on the roof of another building, firing from their guns.

At a media call later in the afternoon, Bangladesh Army’s Brig Gen Nayeem Ashfaq Chowdhury said that ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ ended around 8.30 a.m.

He said they had found 20 bodies of foreign nationals, but did not disclose their identities. He said all of them were killed late Friday night with sharp weapons.

Brigadier Chowdhury, director of military operations in the Bangladesh Army, said that 13 people, including a Japanese and two Sri Lankans, were rescued from the restaurant.

The commandos took less than 15 minutes to complete the operation. Within 12 to 13 minutes our men were able to take out the terrorists and took total control, he said.

Chowdhury said that there were seven attackers, one of whom was captured alive, and the rest killed during the assault.

Fire-fighters also rushed to the spot with extinguishers and hosepipes, though no fire could be spotted.

A medical team was also seen rushing to the scene with stretchers.

After a while, a loud bang rocked the area, but the security personnel in the café were indifferent to it, suggesting these were controlled explosions of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) recovered from the scene.

Around the same time, members of different forces who had taken position in various buildings in the area before and during the raid came out and were seen embracing each other.

Blood was seen in front of the gate of the café’s main building when security officials were leaving it. A police official was shot at that spot Friday night.

Around 9.40 a.m., another loud bang was heard as the bomb disposal unit continued to explode the seized bombs in a controlled environment.

After the operation ended, several youths, who appeared to be handcuffed, were seen lying in the garage of a high-rise building beside the café. But they could not be identified.

Since 8.15 a.m., hostages, including women and children, were seen rushing out of the eatery one after another. They were taken to hospitals in ambulances.

After the operation, IGP A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said that 18 people were rescued alive. But he left without answering how many died.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said later in the morning that 13 hostages had been rescued alive.

She added that one of the seven gunmen was captured alive and the rest were killed during the operation.

Calling the incident a ‘militant attack’, Hasina said, “We have rescued 13 people alive, but some have been killed. Some of the injured have been admitted to CMH (Combined Military Hospital).

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US pullout from INF Treaty may ruin arms control system: Putin

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Moscow, Dec 18 Russia will have to take additional measures to boost its security if the US withdraws from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

US withdrawal from the INF Treaty may ruin the entire arms control system, said the Russian President.

“Such a step will have the most negative consequences, and will noticeably weaken regional and global security,” Putin said while speaking at an extended meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry board, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In fact, in the long term, the talk is about the degradation and even collapse of the entire arms control architecture and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

For a long time, the US has been using unsubstantiated accusations that Russia had violated its obligations under the treaty as a pretext to withdraw from it unilaterally, thus violating the treaty itself, Putin said.

He agreed that the INF Treaty did not involve other countries which have medium and shorter range missiles.

“But what prevents us from starting negotiations on their accession to the current agreement, or starting to discuss the parameters of a new treaty?” Putin said.

The treaty, in modern conditions, plays the role of a stabilising factor, which allows maintaining a certain level of predictability and restraint in the military sphere, he said.

He recalled that the INF Treaty signed in 1987 involved the elimination of medium-range and shorter-range (500-5,000 km) ground-based missiles. At the time, the USSR had no other missiles, while the US had sea-based and air-launched missiles.

Russia, since the signing of the treaty, has developed sea-based and air-launched missiles, which was the cause for Washington’s concern, Putin said.

According to Putin, it will not be difficult for Russia, if necessary, to create appropriate land-based systems as a response to the US withdrawal from the INF.

However, Russia is always open to any proposals and initiatives that lead to the strengthening of universal security including the prevention of a new arms race in the interests not only of Russia, but of the US and the whole world, Putin said.

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Saturn rings may vanish in 100 million years: NASA

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Washington, Dec 18: Saturn is losing its iconic rings at the maximum rate estimated from Voyager 1 and 2 observations made decades ago, confirms new NASA research that estimates that the rings have less than 100 million years to live.

Saturn’s rings are mostly chunks of water ice ranging in size from microscopic dust grains to boulders several yards (metres) across.

The rings are being pulled into Saturn by gravity as a dusty rain of ice particles under the influence of Saturn’s magnetic field.

“We estimate that this ‘ring rain’ drains an amount of water products that could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool from Saturn’s rings in half an hour,” said lead author of the study James O’Donoghue of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“From this alone, the entire ring system will be gone in 300 million years, but add to this the Cassini-spacecraft measured ring-material detected falling into Saturn’s equator, and the rings have less than 100 million years to live. This is relatively short, compared to Saturn’s age of over four billion years,” O’Donoghue said.

Scientists have long wondered if Saturn was formed with the rings or if the planet acquired them later in life.

The new research favours the latter scenario, indicating that they are unlikely to be older than 100 million years.

“We are lucky to be around to see Saturn’s ring system, which appears to be in the middle of its lifetime. However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today,” O’Donoghue added.

Various theories have been proposed for the ring’s origin. If the planet got them later in life, the rings could have formed when small, icy moons in orbit around Saturn collided, perhaps because their orbits were perturbed by a gravitational tug from a passing asteroid or comet.

The first hints that ring rain existed came from Voyager observations of seemingly unrelated phenomena: peculiar variations in Saturn’s electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere), density variations in Saturn’s rings, and a trio of narrow dark bands encircling the planet at northern mid-latitudes.

These dark bands appeared in images of Saturn’s hazy upper atmosphere (stratosphere) made by NASA’s Voyager 2 mission in 1981.

The new study revealed glowing bands in Saturn’s northern and southern hemispheres where the magnetic field lines that intersect the ring plane enter the planet.

They analysed the light to determine the amount of rain from the ring and its effects on Saturn’s ionosphere.

They found that the amount of rain matches remarkably well with the astonishingly high values derived more than three decades earlier.

IANS

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France to slap Apple, Google, Facebook with new digital tax in 2019

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France President Macron

San Francisco, Dec 18: In a bid to reform a European Union tax law not bringing the desired results, France is going to introduce from January 1, 2019, a digital tax on technology majors including Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, the media reported.

The French government’s “GAFA” tax” is being introduced to combat attempts by the firms to avoid paying what is considered a “fair share” of taxes in the country, by taking advantage of European tax laws, Appleinsider reported on Monday.

The new tax regime is expected to bring in an estimated 500 million euro ($570 million) to the country’s cofferes for 2019, according to French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, The Local Fr said in a report.

Major technology companies have come under the scrutiny of lawmakers in countries like France and Britain for allegedly routing profits through operations in countries with extremely low tax rates or other arrangements.

Earlier this year, the European Commission published proposals for a three per cent tax on the revenues of major tech companies with global revenues above 750 million euro a year and taxable EU revenue above 50 million euro, the BBC reported.

But to become law, EU tax reforms need the support of all member states. And some countries, including Ireland, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland are yet to come on board to bring the reforms.

IANS

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