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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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South Asia

Pakistan Supreme Court orders ex-PM Nawaz Sharif removed as head of his political party – judge

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ISLAMABAD: In another blow to the ruling PML-N, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday ruled that a disqualified individual cannot head a political party.

The apex court elaborated that a person disqualified under Article 62, 63 of the Constitution can not head the party. As a result of this verdict, all decisions taken by Nawaz as PML-N’s president stand null and void.

As a consequence, Senate tickets issued by Nawaz are also declared void, throwing the fate of March 3 Senate elections in doubt.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar concluded on Thursday the hearings of several petitions against the recently-passed Elections Act 2017.

A three-member bench had been hearing several petitions challenging specific clauses of the act that led to Nawaz Sharif’s appointment as party president following his dismissal as prime minister last year.

During today’s hearing, the chief justice remarked that the country’s leadership is respectable, adding that the media misreported the court’s remarks.

Chief Justice Nisar also observed that there is no reason for the apex court to use words like thief, adding that the fallout of the issue is unacceptable.

Addressing the Pakistan Peoples Party counsel Latif Khosa during the hearing, the chief justice remarked that there would be a difference in rallies held by you or [slain party leader and former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto.

Another petitioner’s counsel, Farogh Naseem, argued that there is a precedent of a court order against a political party’s head.

The chief justice remarked that in other countries intra-party elections are held but the situation is different in Pakistan.

“The party head is an important position,” the chief justice observed, adding that in Pakistan people are willing to sacrifice their lives for their leaders.

Disqualification to party president
Following Nawaz’s disqualification as prime minister in July 2017 in the Panama Papers case, the ruling party managed to amend the Constitution to allow the former premier to retain his chairmanship of the PML-N.

As a result, the Elections Act 2017 was passed by Parliament bringing Nawaz back as the party president despite his disqualification from the National Assembly.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, MNA Jamshaid Dasti, National Party and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), among others, challenged the law for allowing a disqualified parliamentarian to become a party head.

The petitions, challenging specific clauses of the Elections Act 2017, state that Nawaz’s appointment as party president is in violation of Clause 5 of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Article 17 of the Constitution.

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South Asia

Imran Khan gets married for a third time, marries faith healer Bushra Maneka.

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Imran Khan is no more single, and it’s official. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has confirmed that their chairman has tied the knot for a third time.

Photographs of Imran Khan’s Nikah with Bushra Wattoo have been unveiled. The photographs show Imran and a veiled Bushra along with several others, including PTI leaders Awn Chaudhry and Zulfi Bukhari.

On January 3, media was abuzz with reports of the PTI chief having contracted a third Nikah with the lady he used to visit for spiritual guidance.

But the party said that the Nikah ceremony was solemnised in Lahore on Sunday by Mufti Saeed.

Party spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry has wished the couple a happy married life.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

After much drama, Imran had broken his silence about his third marriage last month, clarifying that he had only sent a wedding proposal to Bushra and was awaiting her response.

According to a statement issued by the spokesperson for the PTI chief, Imran had sent a marriage proposal and the lady had sought time to consult her family, especially her children, before making any decision.

The statement insisted that the PTI chief would announce it publicly if Bushra accepted the marriage proposal.

PHOTO: EXPRESS

Last month, a local newspaper had claimed that Imran had already married for a third time and the woman in question was someone he used to visit for spiritual guidance.

The report also claimed that the wedding was held in Lahore on January 1 and was attended by Imran’s close aides.

In response, the PTI said an extremely private and sensitive matter was made the subject of an erroneous story leading to all manner of public conjecture.

“This has put an unacceptable burden, especially on the children of Bushra and Khan, who have had to learn of such a private and intimate issue from the media,” the statement said.

Stressing the need for restraint, Imran had urged the media to “give the two families, especially the children, their privacy”.

Imran Khan was previously married twice, but neither of his marriages lasted. He married Jemima Goldsmith, a British socialite, in 1995. The relationship ended in divorce in 2004. He then married journalist Reham Khan in 2015, but the marriage ended after just 10 months.

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Lavrov, Tillerson discuss need for urgent North Korea negotiations: Moscow

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stressing the need to start a negotiations process.

“The sides were united in the opinion that nuclear missile projects in North Korea violate the demands of the UN Security Council,” the Russian foreign ministry said after the two men spoke by telephone.

Lavrov “once again highlighted that it is unacceptable to exacerbate tensions around the Korean peninsula with Washington’s aggressive rhetoric toward Pyongyang and increasing military preparations in the region,” it said.

“It was underlined that it is necessary to move from the language of sanctions to the negotiating process as soon as possible,” the statement said, adding that it was Tillerson who initiated the call.

The UN Security Council on Friday slapped new sanctions on North Korea that will restrict oil supplies vital for its missile and nuclear programmes, the latest response to Pyongyang’s ICBM test last month.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the United States, while North Korea insists the world must now accept that it is a nuclear power.

Pyongyang has slammed the UN sanctions as an “act of war”.

Moscow has called for talks between North Korea and the United States, warning of a “risk of uncontrolled escalation”. Russia has also criticised Washington’s military drills with South Korea saying it provokes Pyongyang.

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