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North Korea Appeared to Use China Truck in its First Claimed ICBM Test

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(Last Updated On: July 5, 2017)

North Korea appeared to use a Chinese truck originally sold for hauling timber to transport and erect a ballistic missile that was successfully launched on Tuesday, highlighting the challenge of enforcing sanctions to curb its weapons program.

North Korea state television showed a large truck painted in military camouflage carrying the missile. It was identical to one a U.N. sanctions panel has said was “most likely” converted from a Chinese timber truck.

Since 2006, U.N. sanctions have banned the shipment of military hardware to North Korea. But control of equipment and vehicles that have “dual-use” military and civilian applications has been far less stringent.

The vehicle was imported from China and declared for civilian use by the North Korean foreign ministry, according to a 2013 report by the U.N. panel. Tuesday’s launch was the first time the truck had been seen in a military field operation in pictures published in state media.

China, North Korea’s largest trading partner and its sole major ally, is under increasing pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said Chinese efforts to rein in North Korea’s weapons programs have failed.

The truck had been previously on display at military parades in 2012 and in 2013 carrying what experts said appeared to be developmental models or mock-ups of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Images on the North Korea’s state television showed soldiers working on the vehicle mounted with a missile, which was then erected and off-loaded ahead of the launch at a hillside location. Leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test.

The transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) is a vehicle designed to move a ballistic missile and stand it upright, allowing for a mobile system that makes surveillance difficult for spy satellites.

In its 2013 report, the U.N. panel of experts said the features of the vehicle in the 2012 parade exactly matched those of a vehicle sold by China’s Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Company.

The company is a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a state-owned company that makes the Shenzhou rocket as well as missiles.

A company manager reached by telephone declined to comment citing the sensitivity of the issue.

China submitted to the U.N. panel a copy of the end user certificate provided by the North stating that six of the vehicles were being imported for the purpose of transporting timber.

The panel said it “considers it most likely that the (North) deliberately breached” the certificate and converted the trucks into transporter-erector-launchers.

This year, North Korea used another Chinese-made truck model to tow submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) at a military parade on the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

Last year, state media published photos showing Chinese-made trucks being used in a new North Korean mobile rocket artillery system.

Both vehicles showed the logo or had markings specific to the Chinese company Sinotruk.

A Sinotruk sales official said in April he was not aware the company’s trucks were used in the military parade.

North Korean state media has in the past released images of Sinotruk chassis and cabins related to construction or mining.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, after the launch, it was opposed to North Korea contravening rules laid out in U.N. Security council resolutions. China was working hard to resolve the issue and urged all sides to meet each other half way, it added.

Written by: Reuters

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Rescue workers still digging for missing people after devastating Beirut blast

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

As foreign countries prepared to send in search teams and medical supplies, Lebanese rescue teams pulled out bodies and continued to dig for missing people through the night and into Thursday after Tuesday’s massive explosion sent a devastating blast wave across Beirut, killing at least 135.

On Wednesday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared three days of mourning from Thursday as early investigations blamed negligence for the explosion at Beirut port, which has left a large number of people missing and more than 5,000 injured. 

Officials have also said that up to a quarter of a million people were without homes fit to live in, after shockwaves smashed building facades, sucked furniture out into streets and shattered windows miles inland.

In addition, hospitals were inundated and health officials were on Thursday appealing to the public to donate blood. 

Tuesday’s explosion was the most powerful ever in Beirut, a city still scarred by civil war that ended three decades ago and reeling from an economic meltdown and a surge in coronavirus infections. 

But countries around the world have rushed to help and so far Lebanon has received four field hospitals from Qatar, Iraq and Jordan, in addition to urgent medical assistance to help deal with the aftermath of the explosion. 

Anadolu Agency reported Qatar sent two field hospitals with a capacity of 500 beds for each, as well as Iraq and Jordan sending one field hospital each.

An Amiri Air Force aircraft carrying two field hospitals and other medical supplies reached the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut arriving from Qatar on Wednesday. 

Lebanese media reported that the country had received oil supplies to continue until the country recovers from the tragedy.

The Iraqi oil minister informed Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab that Baghdad will provide fuel assistance to Beirut and shipments of wheat will arrive on Friday – also from Iraq.

Local Lebanese media indicated that France had also sent assistance to Lebanon, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that his country would dispatch urgent assistance to Lebanon.

A Turkish military plane carrying aid and a search and rescue team arrived in Beirut early Thursday carrying medical aid and search and rescue teams. 

The aircraft was sent on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s orders.

The aircraft was carrying 21 National Medical Rescue personnel, two emergency units, three tents, medicine and medical equipment, 10 Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD) personnel, equipment, a search and rescue vehicle, three Kizilay personnel, a search and rescue team and medical and humanitarian aid. 

Speaking to the press right before the aircraft took off, AFAD President Mehmet Gulluoglu told Anadolu Agency that Turkey is preparing to send the required support for Beirut following the blast.

He said 20 more National Medical Rescue personnel including trauma experts, surgeons, orthopedics experts and emergency medical doctors will be on their way to Beirut.

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UN Security Council condemns Daesh attack on Jalalabad prison attack

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

The UN Security Council has condemned Sunday’s attack on Jalalabad prison and said terrorism in all its forms constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. 

This comes after Daesh militants attacked the prison on Sunday evening. The siege lasted at least 18 hours and 30 people were killed. 

Daesh immediately claimed responsibility for the incident and later issued information and photographs of the 11 attackers who had been involved. Only three were reportedly Afghan. The rest were Tajiks, Indians and one Pakistani. 

In a statement issued late Wednesday by the council’s president, Dian Triansyah Djani,  the Security Council said: “The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.

“The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities in this regard.”

The Security Council reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed. 

They reaffirmed the need for all countries to combat, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

The council also expressed its sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the Afghan government. 

 

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Toll expected to rise in blast that shook Beirut, killing 78 and injuring thousands

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(Last Updated On: August 5, 2020)

Lebanese rescue workers dug through the rubble looking for survivors of a powerful warehouse explosion that shook the capital Beirut, killing 78 people and injuring nearly 4,000 in a toll that officials expected to rise, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Tuesday’s blast at port warehouses storing highly explosive material was the most powerful in years in Beirut, already reeling from an economic crisis and a surge in coronavirus infections.

President Michel Aoun said that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures, and he said that was “unacceptable”.

He called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Officials did not say what caused the blaze that set off the blast. A security source and local media said it was started by welding work being carried out on a hole in the warehouse.

“What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,” the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. “There are victims and casualties everywhere.”

Hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 pm, a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

The blast revived memories of a 1975-90 civil war and its aftermath, when Lebanese endured heavy shelling, car bombings and Israeli air raids. Some residents thought an earthquake had struck.

Dazed, weeping and injured people walked through streets searching for relatives.

“The blast blew me off meters away. I was in a daze and was all covered in blood. It brought back the vision of another explosion I witnessed against the US embassy in 1983,” said Huda Baroudi, a Beirut designer.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised there would be accountability for the deadly blast at the “dangerous warehouse”, adding “those responsible will pay the price.”

The US embassy in Beirut warned residents about reports of toxic gases released by the blast, urging people to stay indoors and wear masks if available.

Many Missing

“There are many people missing. People are asking the emergency department about their loved ones and it is difficult to search at night because there is no electricity,” Health Minister Hamad Hasan told Reuters.

Hasan said 78 people were killed and nearly 4,000 injured.

Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port, followed by an enormous blast, sending a white cloud and a fireball into the sky. 

Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.

Bleeding people were seen running and shouting for help in clouds of smoke and dust in streets littered with damaged buildings, flying debris, and wrecked cars and furniture.

The explosion occurred three days before a U.N.-backed court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of four suspects from the Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah over a 2005 bombing which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 others.

Hariri was killed by a huge truck bomb on the same waterfront, about 2 km (about one mile) from the port.

Israeli officials said Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, had nothing to do with Tuesday’s blast and said their country was ready to give humanitarian and medical assistance. 

Shi’ite Iran, the main backer of Hezbollah, also offered support, as did Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, a leading Sunni power.

At a White House briefing, US President Donald Trump indicated that the explosion was a possible attack, but two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial information contradicted Trump’s view.

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