J Dey murder: Police question oil mafia kingpin

 The police, probing the killing of senior crime reporter J Dey, today questioned an alleged oil mafia kingpin after interrogating and letting off three suspects apparently finding no evidence against them.
Police questioned alleged oil kingpin Mohammed Ali in connection with the murder case at a hospital where he was taken from Arthur Road jail. Ali was interrogated by police after the MCOCA court's permission.
Ali and his four aides had been arrested from here while two sharp-shooters from Mughalsarai railway station in Uttar Pradesh in connection with the murder of Sayyed Chand Madar (56), owner of a private firm in south Mumbai, in September last year.
Ali and Madar were rivals as both were allegedly involved in smuggling diesel from the high seas.
Earlier, the police let off three persons, believed to be associated with Chhota Shakeel, a key aide of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who were detained yesterday in connection with the killing of the scribe.
"The suspects, whom we questioned, appeared to have played no role in the crime, as of now," Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy said.
Three suspects Anwar, Mateen Iqbal Hatela and Shaikh were picked up for questioning yesterday to ascertain their possible role in Dey's killing. However, they were let off late last night after no evidence was found against them , police said.
The police said that during interrogation Mateen had said that Dey might have been killed as he could be working on a story which would have caused trouble to some people. They also told us several other things but that is not matching with the fact after verification.
"We questioned Anwar and Mateen to ascertain as to why they were telling us those stories and whether they were trying to mislead us in the probe and if so, why they were doing this," a police officer said adding that they did not appear to have played any role in the murder and were allowed to go.
Jyotirmoy Dey, 56, editor (special investigation), with Mid-day, who extensively covered the underworld and crime for over two decades, was shot dead by four assailants last Saturday.
Meanwhile, police have found three more witnesses in the case and are trying to figure out the sequence of events that led to the killing.


Gadhafi's son floats possibility of elections

 Elections watched by international observers could take place in Libya within three months, one of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons says in a published interview.
The European Union, the African Union, the United Nations or NATO could be present to ensure transparency, Saif Gadhafi told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
"The important thing is that the election is clean, there is no suspicion of fraud," he said in the interview published Wednesday and updated online Thursday.
The 38-year-old, who has stood by his father in the regime's violent crackdown on a rebellion that spiraled into a civil war, also said the vote would be carried out "at the most at the end of the year."
Libya's foreign minister, meanwhile, called for a ceasefire and said talks could begin afterward, according to a Russian envoy who arrived in Libya on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi "called for an immediate ceasefire and the launch of a broad dialogue about the future of the country," Mikhail Margelov said.
The talks could take place on neutral territory, such as in Malta, Cairo or Tunisia, with the African Union playing the "parimary role in settlement efforts," Margelov said Libyan leadership told him.
Margelov also said he was told Gadhafi is not ready to step down from power.
Before leaving on his trip, Margelov said there was "a possible option where Gadhafi continues living in Libya as a private individual with his people and his tribe but relinquishes power and his family stays away from taking economic decisions," according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.
Margelov said last week that the rebel Transitional National Council did not need "Gadhafi's head, and no one is going to scalp him and nail it to the wall in his office," the agency reported.
Margelov has talked to the opposition in Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital, and consulted with Ahmed Gaddafi al-Dam, a cousin of Gadhafi's, in Cairo, he said.
The comments came amid continued fighting in parts of Libya.
Several explosions rattled Tripoli on Thursday morning as Libyan state television reported bombardments in Sirte, east of Tripoli, and other areas.
Rebel forces said they have made progress in recent days in the fight against Gadhafi's forces. They've taken control of the mountainous Jebel Nafusa region southwest of Tripoli, said Ahmed Bani, an officer with the rebel forces.
Rebels have also made gains in the western city of Zlitan, Bani said.
As the fighting continues, critics in the United States have raised more questions about U.S. involvement in the civil war.
A bipartisan group of 10 House members filed a lawsuit Wednesday, challenging U.S. participation in the Libya mission.
The lawmakers have accused President Barack Obama of taking illegal action by committing the country to military action in Libya without proper consultation with Congress, as required by the War Powers Resolution.
"We are intending through our presence and through this lawsuit to correct an imbalance which exists today, to correct a deficiency in the separation of powers ... and to firmly establish that Congress is a co-equal branch of government and that the founders made it unmistakably clear they did not intend for the war power to be placed in the hands of an executive," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.
The White House released a report defending the legality and costs of U.S. military action in Libya, saying the president has constitutional authority "to address such limited military operations abroad."
The U.S. military began action in Libya in March following a U.N. Security Council vote to impose a no-fly zone and take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. Several days later, NATO agreed to take command of the mission.
NATO said Thursday that it has carried out 11,241 sorties since March 31.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Thursday that she believes Obama had the authority to engage U.S. forces in the Libya mission.
Pelosi said the War Powers Resolution is a "controversial initiative in the first place," adding: "Usually, Congress puts more stock in it than the White House."
Pelosi said polls show that more Americans support the mission than oppose it.
Congress members feel the White House has failed to adequately communicate with them about the mission, Pelosi said. She likened it to a marriage, saying "you can always do more."
"You might think you're doing enough, but if the other party doesn't think so, you're not doing enough."


Al-Zawahiri: Al-Qaeda chief overshadowed by Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden, left, with Ayman al-Zawahiri (file image)Ayman al-Zawahiri, right, has vowed to avenge the death of Osama Bin Laden
Ayman al-Zawahiri was the long-time second-in-command to Osama Bin Laden.
A doctor from a prominent Egyptian family, he has been known for his organisational skills rather than for his inspirational qualities.
In jihadist circles he has neither the charisma nor the dynamic "back-story" of his predecessor, but nonetheless he remains a respected figure.
In one sense then he represents the face of continuity within al-Qaeda. However, it is unlikely to be business as usual for the organisation under his leadership.
For one thing he is not Osama Bin Laden.
He takes charge of "the brand" at a time when it has suffered some serious reverses in addition to the killing of its long-time leader.
The death of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed - a key al-Qaeda player in East Africa - is just one example. He was the mastermind of the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and was shot at a road-block in Somalia less than a week ago.
Many analysts wonder if al-Zawahiri has the personal qualities to lead an organisation that now resembles more a collection of franchises - a conglomerate of regional affiliates - than a single centralised body.
The internal workings of al-Qaeda still remain hard to penetrate.
Analysis of material at Bin Laden's hide-out in Pakistan suggests to some experts that he was much more than just a figurehead - that he actually had far more to do with operational matters than many had previously imagined.
The delay in the announcement of al-Zawahiri's appointment has also prompted comment.
Time has passed since the death of Osama Bin Laden. Analysts have been speculating about the reasons for this apparent delay.
Is this a sign of internal problems and differences, or is it simply an indication of the complexity of decision-making in an organisation distributed over a wide area, whose senior figures are under constant threat of attack?
But perhaps the most significant problem facing al-Zawahiri is that the wider context in which al-Qaeda operates has changed dramatically.
Rulers toppled
What has been dubbed the "Arab Spring" has sent shockwaves around the Middle East as rulers have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia.
It has been the popular desire for democracy that has been the agent of change, not the Islamist violence advocated by al-Qaeda.
Ayman al-Zawahiri has sought to link al-Qaeda with this process of change with little apparent success.
Indeed, attitudes in much of the Arab world towards al-Qaeda had been shifting long before the Arab Spring, prompted not least by the terrible violence against fellow Muslims perpetrated by jihadist elements in Iraq.
The Arab Spring, at least for now, suggests that al-Qaeda's message is in large part redundant and irrelevant to the masses of ordinary people who desire change.
Al-Zawahiri's call for Egypt to become an Islamic caliphate seems out of tune with the actual sentiments on the ground.
There is, though, another aspect to the Arab Spring. For all the continuing aspirations for change, the track record so far has been mixed - repression in Bahrain, even more so in Syria, some progress in Tunisia and Egypt. But even there the march to democracy seems to have faltered.
Some experts fear that if hopes for peaceful change in the region are dashed, then al-Qaeda's message may again gain traction.
Indeed, Yemen could well be the critical country in al-Qaeda's immediate future.
Upheavals there have brought the near collapse of the ruling order. The economy is on its last legs.
Yemen is home to one of the organisation's most important regional off-shoots - al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Its operational centre of gravity seems to have moved there. In Yemen there is a new generation of younger, radical leaders like Anwar al-Awlaki - the target of a recent failed US drone strike - who are playing an increasingly prominent role in al-Qaeda's decision-making.
How Ayman al-Zawahiri copes with all these challenges, along with the continuing efforts of the US and its allies to disrupt his organisation, will determine whether al-Qaeda has a future.
But what is not in doubt is al-Zawahiri's implacable hostility to the United States and the West, and his desire to exact revenge for Osama Bin Laden's death.


Hazare to go on fast; govt says don't threaten

Anna Hazare on Thursday threatened to go on hunger strike from August 16 alleging backtracking on Lokpal bill but the government refused to yield, saying it cannot allow creation of a parallel structure. 

Amidst hardening of positions by both sides, government made it clear that it would come out with a strong and sound draft of Lokpal Bill by June 30 irrespective of whether civil society activists cooperate. 

A day after talks in the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill got deadlocked, Hazare accused the government of having no intention to enact a strong anti-corruption law and that it had backtracked on the promises that it will agree to all the suggestions forwarded by the civil society members. 

Hazare, whose hunger strike in April had evoked nationwide response which rattled the government, said he will undertake an indefinite fast from August 16 if a diluted legislation is brought. 

Shortly after press conference by Hazare and his team, ministers in the drafting committee P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid hit back at the civil society, making it clear that the government will not succumb to threats. 

"You cannot threaten and negotiate at the same time...This is not the way forward...The government is not going to get diverted by abuses and slander," HRD minister Sibal said at a press conference. 

Home minister Chidambaram said, "I don't think anywhere in the world, fasting is the way to draft a bill." 

He asserted that many of the demands of the Hazare team cannot be accepted because a structure parallel to the government cannot be allowed. 

"We cannot create a parallel government outside the government that controls every action of the government. We have serious differences on the issue," Sibal said. 

Chidambaram maintained that the basic features of the Constitution cannot be altered and political processes have to be respected. 

"Laws are made by Parliament. Congress is not the only elected party. There are other parties. One has to respect the political processes... There is a gap between what is desirable and what is possible," he said. 

Affirming the government's commitment to bring an effective Lokpal Bill, he said "once Parliament passes it, the vast majority of countrymen would say good job has been done." 

On demands for conferring upon 11-member Lokpal powers to initiate departmental proceedings against bureaucrats, Sibal said "how can a government wantonly pass over that power." 

He said if these powers were transferred to the Lokpal, government servants would be loyal to it and not government. 

"We said we oppose this change to the basic structure," Sibal said adding that these were the elements of discussion at the meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee which cannot be construed as "decisions" as alleged by Hazare's team. 

Chidambaram also dismissed the demand for a referendum on Lokpal Bill saying that the Constitution does not provide for such a measure and wondered whether a legislation can be put to such a vote clause by clause. 

The ministers cautioned against making the Lokpal an all powerful body wondering what controls can be applied if the Lokpal or its officials go corrupt. 

On the contentious issue of bringing the Prime Minister under the purview of the Lokpal, Chidambaram said there could be many possibilities including doing so with "clearly carved out exceptions" or after the person demits office. 

"There is no decision. It is a matter of discussion," he said. 

Noting that the Prime Minister was the lynchpin in a Parliamentary democracy, Sibal said if allegations were levelled against the PM that would make him defunct till the investigation. 

"In the meanwhile, you have destroyed the credibility of the institution. They may think of Prime Minister as an individual. We think of Prime Minister as an institution and we want to protect that institution." 

Hazare said he was "surprised" that the government wanted civil society members to give a separate draft of the bill which will be brought before the cabinet along with that of the government. 

"If there have to be two drafts, then why was this joint committee formed. They could have told us earlier. Our draft was known to them. Why waste so much of time? It is clear that the government has no intention to bring an effective bill," Hazare said. 

Alleging that the government had gone back on assurances given to him to persuade him to withdraw his hunger strike in April, he said, "I will resume my fast on August 16....if the government tries to suppress us like in the case of Ramdev, we are prepared for that," he said. 

However, the Hazare camp made it clear that they will attend the meetings of June 20 and 21 to see what the government has to say on the issue.


Orissa to resume land acquisition for Posco after 5-day break

The Orissa government will resume acquiring land for Posco's mega steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district from tomorrow after a five day break, even as agitators plan to oppose it. 

"We will resume land acquisition and survey from tomorrow. Everything, however, depends on the weather. As there is a depression over the sea, it may create a problem," Jagatsinghpur district special land acquisition officer Surjit Das said. 

Steel and mines minister Raghunath Mohanty said "There is absolutely no use of force for land acquisition. We believe in peaceful industrialisation in the state." 

The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), meanwhile, decided at a meeting to agitate at the entry point to the Dhinkia gram panchayat. 

"Our people protested against Posco in the scorching sun. We are prepared to continue the agitation in the rain, PPSS secretary Sisir Mohapatra said. 

To prevent a repeat of government officials entering Gobindpur village through the forest while the protests were on at the entry point, Mohapatra said, "This time we will prevent entry to the village from the forest." 

Sources, however, said that the land acquisition in Dhinkia area could be delayed due to absence of some senior district officers.


After all this bloodshed, there is no going back for Syria

Most Syrians did not want regime change until the state opened fire. Now they will not settle for less than democracy

Syrian children carry pictures of Hamza al-Khatib
Syrian children hold a vigil for 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, who activists say was tortured and killed by Syrian security forces. Photograph: Jamal Saidi/Reuters
Last January Syria seemed to belong with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states as the least likely candidates for revolution. If President Bashar al-Assad had run in a real election, he may well have won. It's difficult to remember today that most Syrians did credit, if grudgingly, the regime with ensuring security and prosecuting a vaguely nationalist foreign policy. It's that desire for security, the overwhelming fear of Iraq-style chaos, that keeps a section of Syrian society loyal to the regime even now.
To start with, although they were inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, most protesters didn't aim for regime change. The first demonstration, in the commercial heart of Damascus, was a response to police brutality. That ended peacefully, but when Deraa protested over the arrest of schoolchildren the regime spilt blood. Outraged, communities all over the country took to the streets and met greater violence, swelling the crowds further. A vicious circle began. All the intelligence and nationalist pretensions peeled away from the government to reveal a dark and thuggish core.
Worse still, the president spoke of reforms, of ending the state of emergency and abolishing the hated state security courts. Even as he spoke the slaughter intensified. There was no surer way of destroying his credibility. The torrent of horror stories – children tortured to death, women shot, residential areas shelled – destroyed the regime's legitimacy.
The state's extraordinary stupidity suggests either panic or dissension in the inner circle, of which Bashar may only be the figurehead. Syrians debate which arrangement of Assads and Makhloufs (Bashar's mother's family) composes the actual power structure. In any case, Syria's leaders can count on support from the Republican Guard and the army's upper echelons. Yet lower- and middle-ranking defections will increase as the regime seeks to crush the provinces.
So what next? There is a roadmap to a happy ending. The grassrootslocal co-ordination committees call for the president's immediate resignation, and a joint civilian and military council to oversee a six-month transition to a pluralist democracy. "The new Syria will be a republic and a civil state that belongs to all Syrians," reads the LCC statement, "and not to an individual, family or party. It will not be inherited from fathers to sons. All Syrians will be equal in rights and duties without discrimination."
If the transition began today it could work, but the chances of the regime bowing out gracefully are close to zero. This means the chaos will expand.
So far, despite Syria's often difficult history and the regime's divide-and-rule tactics, sectarian war appears unlikely. When 100,000 people marched in Hama last Friday they chanted: "From Qardaha to Sanamein, the Syrians are one people." Qardaha is the home town of the Assads, in Alawi country. Sanamein is a poor Sunni village near Deraa where many have been killed. And the chant was raised in Hama, the city taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1982, and the site of a massacre when the regime took the city back. Such slogans of national unity show a new level of maturity and intelligence among Syrians, but these qualities will be challenged as the slaughter continues.
Western intervention is improbable – Nato is overstretched and a Syrian adventure requires a commitment to potential regional war – and wouldn't be welcomed by Syrians anyway. In Iraq intervention triggered civil war.
Turkish intervention is another matter. Celebrating the third-term re-election of his AK party on Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, greeted "those who are focused on Turkey with great excitement … all capitals of neighbouring countries". In light of the Arab awakening, Turkey's "zero problems with neighbours" policy is about to be overturned. On Tuesday Erdogan again told Assad to stop the repression and implement reforms. The day before he'd expressed willingness to work with Britain towards a UN resolution condemning Syria. But it's facts on the ground that will count. If many more refugees join the 8,500 who have fled to Turkey, Erdogan may order a limited occupation of Syrian territory to establish a "safe haven". That – the regime's inability to hold a section of the homeland – may prove a tipping point. It could also offer Syria its Benghazi, a base for organised resistance.
If the first enemy of Syrian democrats is the Syrian regime, and the second the spectre of sectarian violence, the third is represented by external forces seeking to take advantage of events. The Syrian economy may not be far from collapse. Any future government may be particularly easy to bribe in future years.
Saudi Arabia is funnelling cash to Egypt's ruling military council. It remains to be seen what the catch is. Saudi money could play an important role in the new Syria too, and so could a motley crew of exiles – the president's uncle Rifaat al-Assad, organiser of the 1982 Hama massacre, and ex-regime figure Abdul-Halim Khaddam, as well as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has an unpleasant sectarian history and agenda. There's also a contingent of US-based liberals, some of whom play into neoconservative hands.
It's easy to envisage a Saudi deal with Syrian Sunni officers and the Muslim Brotherhood, and a partially democratic, "moderate Islamist" regime presiding over tame social programmes, untrammelled economic liberalisation, and passivity over the occupied Golan Heights. Israel and the west may tacitly support such an outcome, because a properly democratic Syria alongside a properly democratic Egypt would constitute the greatest imaginable challenge to Israel's subjugation of the Palestinians.
It's unlikely that Syrians, after sacrificing so much blood, would want to settle for such a deal.


Pakistan 'blocking supplies to US base'

Pakistan is blocking food and water from reaching a remote base used by the US for its secret drones programme, severely hampering counter terrorism strategy, according to a senior American official.

Pakistan 'blocking supplies to US base'
The drones programme, although never publicly acknowledged by the US and repeatedly condemned by Pakistan, is credited with killing a series of high-profile targets Photo: REX
Both sides are now briefing against the other as hostility between the two countries grows more intense – and more open – day by day.
Pakistan's military has not recovered from the humiliation of failing to detect an American raid last month that killed Osama bin Laden and has reduced or halted co-operation with the US in protest.
A senior American official told The New York Times that supplies had been choked off to the airbase and that they were gradually "strangling the alliance" by making things difficult for the Americans in Pakistan.
The drones programme, although never publicly acknowledged by the US and repeatedly condemned by Pakistan, is credited with killing a series of high-profile targets.
In 2009, Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistan Taliban was killed by a missile strike in South Waziristan. And two weeks ago, Ilyas Kashmiri, a key al-Qaeda commander was reported dead after a drone attack.
However, Pakistani military and civilian leaders have long criticised the raids, despite privately giving consent.
Last week, the country's senior Army officers released a statement riddled with anti-American rhetoric and threatening action against the drones.
"As far as drone attacks are concerned, Army has repeatedly conveyed to all concerned that these are not acceptable under any circumstances. There is no room for ambiguity in this regard. Government is making necessary efforts in this direction."
The generals have already ordered more than 100 American military trainers to leave the country.
Cyril Almeida, a commentator with The Dawn newspaper, said Pakistan's "battered" military was reacting in time-honoured fashion by shifting the focus to external threats and imagined enemies in Washington.
"These leaks are really putting pressure on the military," he said. "What we are seeing is the Army high command move even further to the right and further into the embrace of anti-American elements."
At the same time, American officials and politicians have upped the pressure, complaining that Pakistani co-operation remains unreliable despite a huge US aid package worth more than $20 billion since 2001.
They have denounced Pakistan's arrest of several Pakistani informants who provided intelligence to the CIA about bin Laden's compound, and accused the country's intelligence services of protecting militant groups.


Govt steers clear of Swami's funeral row

Even as Prabhas Chandra Jha, father ofSwami Nigamanand of Hardwar who died after over two months of fast, wants to claim his son's body for his last rites, Nitish government has washed its hands off the issue. 

The Swami, who was born at Ladari village under Kewati block in Darbhanga district, died recently while on fast for saving Ganga from pollution. 

Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said on Thursday that the state government had nothing to do with the body of Swami Nigamanand. "He had become a Swami. Now it is a matter between the ashram to which he belonged, the Uttarakhand governmentand his family," Modi said. 

He added the state government was not in a position to "force" the Uttarakhand government to take a particular decision with regard to the claim on the body of the departed Swami. 

He also said it would be wrong to say that BJP did not show any interest in Swami Nigamanand, when he was under treatment in the same hospital as yoga guru Baba Ramdev. According to him, former Madhya Pradesh CM and BJP leader Uma Bharti had called on Swami a day before he died. "She was with him for two hours on the day," Modi said. 

However, the Bihar connection of Swami Nigamanand has attracted the attention of a senior BJP leader, Vinod Narayan Jha, MLA from Benipatti in Madhubani district. He, on Thursday, submitted a memorandum to Modi containing his demands, when the latter was hearing grievances of the state BJP workers at the party's state headquarters. 

Jha has demanded that the body of Swami be brought to Bihar from Hardwar for his last rites. Stating that the cause that Swami pursued was a national cause, he also demanded that Swami be honoured, since Bihar was in the year of its centenary celebration. The best honour for him would be installation of his statue at the bank of Ganga in Bihar, since it would be an inspiration for all those interested in the cleaning of the river.


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