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PM Modi faces lawsuit in Houston over Kashmir

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Modi in Russia

Houston/Washington, Sep 21 With separatist Sikh groups and Pakistanis planning to hold protests in Houston, and two US-based Kashmiri activists having filed a federal lawsuit accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of rights violations in Kashmir, New Delhi is known to be in touch with Washington over the Prime Minister’s security.

The Indian mission is also working to find out the implications of the federal lawsuit.

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the 73-page lawsuit filed jointly by two US-based Kashmiri activists and the Khalistan Referendum Front, alleges that Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah; and Commander of Indian Army’s Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt. Gen Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon carried out extrajudicial killings and inflicted “cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment” upon Kashmiris following the revocation Article 370 — that granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir — on August 5.

The civil complaint has been filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, a federal statute that allows civil suits on the US soil against foreign officials suspected of committing torture or extrajudicial killing.

The New York-based attorney of the Khalistan Referendum Front said he planned to submit the case as a class action.

Human rights protesters are expected to converge in large numbers outside the Houston’s NRG Stadium to hold a counter event to the ‘Howdy Modi’ gathering that will see 50,000 members of the Indian diaspora in attendance on Sunday. US President Donald Trump is also participating in the event, underlining the importance of India-US relations.

The Pakistani elements have made elaborate arrangements to pick up people from outside mosques in Houston for the anti-Modi protest.

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Middle East

Killing of Soleimani disgrace for US: Khamenei

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Ali Khamenei

Tehran, Jan 17 : While leading the Friday prayers for the first time since 2012, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the January 3 killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani in an American drone attack, was a “disgrace for the US”.

“They stealthily and cowardly assassinated Gen. Soleimani in a terrorist fashion. This resulted in a disgrace for America,” Khamenei said as he led the prayers in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Grand Mosque, where huge crowds of worshipers had already gathered from early Friday morning.

Regarding the January 8 Iranian missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that houses US troops which was in retaliation of Soleimani’s death, Khamenei said that Tehran’s response “dealt a blow to the American prestige”, reports Press TV.

The attack was a “military blow, but more important it was a blow to the American grandeur”, he added.

Khamenei also lashed out at British, German and French leaders who admitted this week to have launched a process that could lead to European sanctions being reimposed on Iran.

“You are too small to bring the Iranian nation to its knees,” he said.

Meanwhile, massive anti-US protest rallies were expected to be held after the prayers.

The last time Khamenei led Friday prayers in Tehran was in 2012 on the 33rd anniversary of the country’s Islamic Revolution.

Friday’s prayer service also came in the wake of widespread protests over the January 8 downing of the Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 by an Iranian missile shortly after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

The protests erupted across Iran after the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on January 12 admitted that the plane had been mistaken for a “cruise missile” during heightened tensions with the US.

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US-Taliban discuss peace deal in new talks

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Afghanistan peace deal

Doha, Jan 17 : The Taliban and the US have resumed their talks that are expected to continue for “several days” in the Qatari capital of Doha for finalizing an arrangement to sign a possible Afghanistan peace deal, the militant group said on Friday.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Efe news that its negotiating team led by Mullah Baradar Akhund held a meeting with US negotiators led by envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha.

“They held talks about the signing of the agreement and its related ceremony,” Mujahid said, adding that the fresh round of talks has been “productive” and would continue for “several days”.

Another Taliban spokesperson, Emran Khalil, wrote on his Twitter page that the two sides discussed the issues related to the “signing of the agreement and withdrawal mechanism of foreign troops” from Afghanistan.

Khalil said there were no changes in the draft peace deal that was “completed” last September.

“Hopefully, the date for the signing of the deal (will) be revealed soon.”

However, the spokesmen didn’t mention about a ceasefire or a possibility of Taliban scaling down its violent activities, which have been among the main demands of the Afghans, particularly of the government in Kabul before a peace deal is signed between the US and the insurgents.

On Thursday, Pakistan said the Taliban were ready to reduce violence for a breakthrough in the Afghan peace process.

On December 30, 2019, Mujahid denied any possibility of a ceasefire, but said they were discussing the reduction in violent activities after the US asked for it.

The new talks began earlier this week after a month-long break since the two sides paused the negotiations for internal consultations on December 12, 2019.

The Taliban and the US resumed the negotiations on December 7 following a three-month stalemate after President Donald Trump abruptly called off the talks in September over a deadly attack in Kabul that also killed an American soldier.

A possible US-Taliban agreement is expected to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks between the Taliban and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

The Taliban have for long rejected to hold any official and direct talks with the Afghan government before it reaches an agreement with the US on its troop withdrawal from the country.

The US and Taliban negotiators during a yearlong nine rounds of talks were said to have completed a peace draft agreement last September.

The draft agreement ensures that over 5,000 US troops will withdraw from five American bases in the first 135 days after the signing of the deal.

Since the end of the NATO combat mission in January 2015, the US maintains one contingent within the framework of the new allied mission of advising Afghan troops and another for “anti-terrorist” operations.

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Ukrainian prime minister offers resignation: statement

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Oleksiy Honcharuk

Kiev, Jan 17 : Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk on Friday tendered his resignation after a leaked audio recording apparently revealed him criticising President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A voice sounding like Honcharuk’s, but not officially confirmed as his, says President Zelensky, a TV comedian and businessman who was elected last April, only has a “primitive” understanding of economics, reports the BBC.

“To remove any doubts in our respect for and trust in the President, I have written a resignation letter and submitted it to the president with the right to hand it to the Parliament,” Honcharuk, 35, made the announcement on his official Facebook page.

“He is a man in whom Ukrainians have expressed unprecedented confidence. And he has every right to evaluate the effectiveness of every member of his team.”

The presidential office said Zelensky had received the resignation and would consider it, reports Xinhua news agency.

The controversial audiotape was uploaded to an anonymous YouTube channel on Wednesday evening.

Honcharuk was apparently discussing the national budget with some other government ministers and finance chiefs.

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