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South Korea spy agency sees signs of planned new missile test by North Korea

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North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a cosmetics factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on October 28, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

North Korea may be planning a new missile test, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers on Thursday, after brisk activity was spotted at its research facilities, just days before U.S. President Donald Trump visits Seoul.

Reclusive North Korea has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, but has not launched any missiles since firing one over Japan on Sept. 15, the longest such lull this year.

However a flurry of activity including the movement of vehicles has been detected at the North’s missile research facilities in Pyongyang, where the most recent missile test was conducted, pointing to another possible launch, South Korea’s Intelligence Service said in a briefing to lawmakers.

It did not say how the activity was detected.

North Korea has made no secret of its plans to perfect a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. It regularly threatens to destroy the United States and its “puppet”, South Korea.

“There is a possibility of a new missile launch given the active movement of vehicles around the missile research institute in Pyongyang. The North will constantly push for further nuclear tests going forward, and the miniaturization and diversification of warheads,” the intelligence agency said at the briefing.

The North’s nuclear testing site in the northwestern town of Punggye-ri could have been damaged by its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3, according to Kim Byung-kee, Yi Wan-young and Lee Tae-gyu, members of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee.

The explosion triggered an aftershock within eight minutes and three additional shocks.

Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi, citing unnamed sources, said on Tuesday a tunnel at the test site collapsed after that explosion, possibly killing more than 200 people. Reuters has not been able to verify the report which North Korea on Thursday denounced as false and defamatory.

Pyongyang will likely detonate more devices as it tries to master the miniaturization of nuclear warheads to put atop missiles, the lawmakers said.

The third tunnel at the Punggye-ri complex remained ready for another test “at any time”, while construction had resumed at a fourth tunnel, making it unable to be used “for a considerable amount of time”, they added.

Trump is to visit five Asian nations in coming days for talks in which North Korea will be a major focus. The visit includes the North’s lone major ally, China, and U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, which have watched with increasing worry as Trump and North Korea have exchanged bellicose rhetoric.

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Indian-origin man in FBI ’10 Most Wanted’ list carries $100k reward

The FBI’s notice says that the accused “should be considered armed and extremely dangerous”.

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Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel,

New York, Nov 28 : The US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is reminding the public of a $100,000-reward offer for information leading to the capture of Indian-origin Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, who has been listed by the agency as one of the “10 Most Wanted” since 2017.

Patel has been on the run since 2015 when he allegedly killed his wife, Palak, with a knife inside a Dunkin Donuts coffee shop in Hanover, Maryland state.

He has been charged with murder.

Although he was put on the list in 2017 with the $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture he has not been caught and on Friday the FBI tweeted information about him and the reward to draw attention to the case and the reward offer.

The FBI is asking anyone who knows where he is to contact the agency or the nearest US consulate or embassy.

Patel, who was 24 at that time, allegedly hit his 21-year-old wife in the face with a kitchen knife and stabbed her several times in the backroom of the shop where they both worked while customers were still there, according to officials quoted by WTOP radio.

He was last known to have taken a taxi from a hotel in New Jersey to a train station in Newark in the state.

Tim Altomare, who was the police chief of Anne Arundel County at that time, told the radio: “The violence in this case was stark. It was heart-wrenching and it was a shock to our collective conscience on the police department.”

WTOP reported that investigators think that Patel was still in the US in 2017 when he was put on the FBI list and according to Altomare investigators believe that someone was knowingly helping Patel or was interacting with him without knowing about his alleged crime.

The radio reported that according to Gordon Johnson, who was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office in 2017, Patel was put on the list because of the brutality of the crime and the likelihood that someone outside the US knows where he was.

The couple’s visas expired about a month before the killing and investigators believe that Palak Patel wanted to return to India, but her husband opposed it, WTOP reported.

The FBI’s notice says that the accused “should be considered armed and extremely dangerous”.

According to the FBI he was born in Kantrodi Ta Viramgam in Gujarat.

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Middle East

Iran’s top nuclear scientist assassinated near Tehran

“If Iran ever chose to weaponise (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” one Western diplomat told media in 2014.

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Majid Shahriari

Tehran, Nov 28 : Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has been assassinated near the capital Tehran, the country’s defence ministry has confirmed.

Fakhrizadeh died in hospital after an attack in Absard, in Damavand county, the BBC reported.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has condemned the killing “as an act of state terror”.

Western intelligence agencies believe Fakhrizadeh was behind a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

“If Iran ever chose to weaponise (enrichment), Fakhrizadeh would be known as the father of the Iranian bomb,” one Western diplomat told media in 2014.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes.

But news of the killing comes amid fresh concern about the increased amount of enriched uranium that the country is producing. Enriched uranium is a vital component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons.

A 2015 deal with six world powers had placed limits on its production, but since President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, Iran has been deliberately reneging on its agreements.

Joe Biden has pledged to reengage with Iran when he takes over the US presidency in January, despite longstanding opposition from Israel .

Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated and Iran has accused Israel of complicity in the killings.

Fakhrizadeh’s name was specifically mentioned in Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation about Iran’s nuclear programme in May 2018.

There has been no comment from Israel on the news of the assassination. The Pentagon has also declined to comment, according to media.

In a statement on Friday, Iran’s defence ministry said: “Armed terrorists targeted a vehicle carrying Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of the ministry’s research and innovation organisation.

“After a clash between the terrorists and his bodyguards, Mr Fakhrizadeh was severely injured and rushed to hospital.

“Unfortunately, the medical team’s efforts to save him were unsuccessful and minutes ago he passed away.”

Iranian media reports said the attackers opened fire on the scientist in his car.

Earlier media reports had said that there was a car explosion in Absard town, with witnesses reporting that “three to four individuals, who are said to have been terrorists, were killed”.

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World

Trump campaign loses appeal over poll disputes in Pennsylvania

The judge appointed by former President Barack Obama said he could not find any case in which a plaintiff “has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election”.

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Donald Trump

Washington, Nov 28 : A federal appeals court in the US state of Pennsylvania upheld a previous ruling by a lower court against the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump, dealing another blow to his effort to overturn the results of the November 3 election.

On Friday, the three-judge panel of the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia determined that the Trump campaign’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the state “have no merit”, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” Judge Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee, wrote in the 21-page opinion.

“Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here,” he added.

The three Republican-appointed judges determined that US District Judge Matthew Brann’s ruling last week to reject the campaign’s lawsuit seeking to prevent the Pennsylvania’s certification of its election results for Democratic President-elect Joe Biden was justified.

The campaign’s lawsuit alleged that some counties in the ‘Keystone State’ allowed mail-in voters to fix problems by casting provisional ballots.

Brann said in a scathing opinion that the lawsuit provided “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence”.

The judge appointed by former President Barack Obama said he could not find any case in which a plaintiff “has sought such a drastic remedy in the contest of an election”.

In reaction to Friday’s development, Trump said on Twitter that the ruling was “all a continuation of the never ending Witch Hunt”, adding that Brann “would not even allow us to present our case or evidence” .

Brann didn’t allow the campaign to file an amended complaint, which led to the campaign’s appeal.

“The Campaign never alleges that any ballot was fraudulent or cast by an illegal voter,” wrote Bibas, the Third Circuit’s judge.

“It never alleges that any defendant treated the Trump campaign or its votes worse than it treated the Biden campaign or its votes. Calling something discrimination does not make it so.

“The Second Amended Complaint still suffers from these core defects, so granting leave to amend would have been futile,” he added.

The Trump campaign is reportedly going to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania certified its election results on Tuesday for Biden, formally awarding its 20 electoral votes to the former Vice President.

So far, Biden has won 80,218,808 popular votes to date, compared to Trump’s 73,947,962, according to The Cook Political Report, an influential analytical site focused on US presidential, congressional and gubernatorial elections.

US media have projected that Biden has won 306 electoral votes, surpassing the 270-vote threshold for clinching the presidency.

Biden has declared victory and announced the first tranche of his Cabinet nominees, including national security and foreign policy officials.

The General Services Administration has initiated Biden’s formal transition into the White House, but Trump, despite having directed his administration to facilitate the process, has vowed to continue the legal fight to challenge the election results.

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