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US following up reports Pakistan used F-16s against India

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General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon (401) - Pakistan - Air Force. (Free Photo)

New York, March 6: Washington is taking a close look at reports that Pakistan used US-supplied F-16 fighter jets in the recent confrontation with India, according to State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino.

“We’ve seen those reports and we’re following that issue very closely” Palladino told reporters at a Department briefing on Tuesday in Washington. “We’re taking a look and we’re going to continue to take a look”.

However, he added that he could not confirm anything because “as a matter of policy, we don’t publicly comment on the contents of bilateral agreements that we have in this regard involving US defence technologies nor the communications that we have with other countries about that”.

“We reiterate our call for Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists sanctuary and to block their access to funds”, Palladino said.

He said that a “lot of” private diplomacy was taking place between US and India and Pakistan in addition to ongoing high-level contacts through the embassies in Washington and in New Delhi and Islamabad to ease the tensions.

On Thursday, Air Vice Marshal R.G.K. Kapoor said in New Delhi that Pakistan sent F-16s, JF-17 Thunders and Mirages last Wednesday to the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and an F-16 was shot down by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The IAF showed a piece of an AMRAAM missile which landed in an Indian military compound when Pakistan launched an attack along the LoC. Of the jets in Pakistan’s arsenal, the AMRAAM can be used only with F-16. The IAF also said it identified F-16s operating there through their electronic signatures.

pak-f16-amraam-missile

An IAF MiG-21 was lost in the encounter and the parachute of the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman drifted into Pakistani-held territory, Kapoor added.

Varthaman was captured by Pakistan, but returned to India on Friday under intense international pressure.

A Pakistani spokesperson denied last week that it had used F-16 in the sorties against India, but did not identify the planes used.

On Monday, Pakistan’s Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan said at a Washington think tank, “I am not aware of request from the US side about the F-16s.

At his briefing, Palladino said that the US continues “to urge both sides to continue to take steps to de-escalate the situation, and that includes through direct communication”.

He said that in Hanoi last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides”.

“He spoke with leaders in both countries, and that included the Indian Minister of External Affairs (Sushma) Swaraj, National Security Advisor (Ajit) Doval, and Pakistani Foreign Minister (Shah Mehmood) Qureshi”, Palladino added.

After Pompeo’s round of talks with Indian and Pakistani leaders on Wednesday night, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Thursday that he was returning Varthaman to India.

Short for Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, AMRAAM missiles were obtained by Pakistan from the US in 2010.

Its manufacturer Raytheon says that it has an “advanced active guidance” system and its design “allows it to quickly find targets in the most combat challenging environments”.

Pakistan has bought several batches of F-16 planes since 1982, and 85 of the jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp are estimated to be in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fleet.

In 2016, US Congress ended subsidies for F-16 sales to Pakistan.

US-Pakistan military ties are faltering because of Islamabad’s continued support for terrorists. President Donald Trump cut $300 million in military aid to Pakistan in September 2018, saying it was not doing enough to rein in terrorists attacking Afghanistan, as well as US troops there.

Earlier, Congress had removed $500 million in funds given to Pakistan for supporting the operations of the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

IANS

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Cybercriminals can hack e-bikes to eavesdrop on riders

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New York: As governments including in India plan more e-bikes on roads to help tackle traffic congestion, like any Internet-connected device, hackers can cause a series of attacks in e-scooters, including eavesdropping on users and even spoof GPS systems to direct riders to unintended locations, warn researchers including some of Indian-origin.

Vendors of Micromobility vehicles can also suffer denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and data leaks, said researchers from University of Texas at San Antonio.

“We have identified and outlined a variety of weak points or attack surfaces in the current ride-sharing, or micromobility, ecosystem that could potentially be exploited by malicious adversaries right from inferring the riders’ private data to causing economic losses to service providers and remotely controlling the vehicles’ behaviour and operation,” said Jadliwala.

The micromobility e-scooter analysis was conducted by Jadliwala alongside graduate students Nisha Vinayaga-Sureshkanth, Raveen Wijewickrama and post-doctoral fellow Anindya Maiti.

The global e-Bike market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.01 per cent to reach $38.6 billion by 2025 from an estimated $21.1 billion in 2018, according to marketsandmarkets research firm.

Computer science experts at the university have published the first review of the security and privacy risks posed by e-scooters and their related software services and applications.

According to the review, to appear in the proceedings of the 2nd ACM Workshop on Automotive and Aerial Vehicle Security (AutoSec 2020), hackers can cause a series of attacks.

Some e-scooter models communicate with the rider’s smartphone over a Bluetooth Low Energy channel.

Someone with malicious intent could eavesdrop on these wireless channels and listen to data exchanges between the scooter and riders’ smartphone app by means of easily and cheaply accessible hardware and software tools such as Ubertooth and WireShark.

Those who sign up to use e-scooters also offer up a great deal of personal and sensitive data beyond just billing information.

According to the study, providers automatically collect other analytics, such as location and individual vehicle information.

This data can be pieced together to generate an individual profile that can even include a rider’s preferred route, personal interests, and home and work locations.

“Cities are experiencing explosive population growth. Micromobility promises to transport people in a more sustainable, faster and economical fashion,” said Jadliwala.

To ensure that this industry stays viable, companies should think not only about rider and pedestrian safety but also how to protect consumers and themselves from significant cybersecurity and privacy threats enabled by this new technology,” the authors noted.

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Plane carrying 83 crashes in Taliban-held Afghanistan area

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Kabul: A Boeing jet belonging to state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines caught fire and crashed in central Ghazni province in Afghanistan on Monday, a media report quoted officials.

The passenger plane had 83 people on board when it crashed due to technical reasons, Mail Online report quoted officials on the incident. There was no information as yet on the casualties.

Arif Noori, a spokesman for provincial governor’s office in Ghazni city, said: “A Boeing plane belonging to the Ariana Afghan Airline crashed in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province around 1.10pm (local time).”

The crash site was around around 130km south west of Kabul and reported to be under Taliban control.

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Middle East

Iraqi PM condemns rocket attack on US embassy in Baghdad

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Adel Abdul-Mahdi

Baghdad, Jan 27: The Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Sunday condemned the rocket attack on the US embassy in the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

An attack occurred once again against a foreign diplomatic mission when Katyusha rockets landed inside the campus of the US embassy, said a statement by Abdul Mahdi on his official Twitter Page, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“We denounce the continuation of these condemned and outlaw acts that weaken the state and undermine its sovereignty,” the statement said.

Abdul Mahdi, commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, said that he has ordered the Iraqi forces to deploy and look for the attackers, as well as launching an investigation into the incident, in order to arrest those who fired these rockets, according to the statement.

“The continuation of such irresponsible act, which makes the entire country to bear its consequences and serious repercussions, would lead to damage the country’s higher interests and its relations with its friends, which may turn Iraq to a battlefield,” the statement added.

Abdul Mahdi also confirmed that his government is “committed to protecting all diplomatic missions and take all necessary measures in accordance with the law.”

Abdul Mahdi statement came after an Interior Ministry official said that four Katyusha rockets landed in the evening near the US embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Later on, a statement by the media office affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said that five rockets hit the Green Zone, without giving further details.

The heavily fortified Green Zone has been frequently targeted by insurgents’ mortar and rocket attacks. The roughly 10 square km zone is located on the west bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the Iraqi capital.

On Friday, the Iraqi prominent Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for a scheduled withdrawal of US troops from Iraq through peaceful means.

The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq on January 5, two days after a US drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

Over 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against the Islamic State militants, mainly providing training and advising to the Iraqi forces.

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