Author: GETAWAYTHEBERKSHIRES

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Indian intelligence agencies have reportedly raised the alarm level in Jammu and Kashmir warning that suicide bombers could use motorcycles to stage attacks in the Indian state during the ongoing general election.

“The fidayeen [suicide] attackers could be riding a motorcycle with explosive-filled bags fitted on both sides,” intelligence agencies reportedly warned regional authorities, according to local media. “The two-wheeler could prove to be more maneuverable and easier to reach any target.”

The terrorists could seek to strike campaign events and polling stations as millions take part in India’s complicated election process, which started last week and will end on May 19.

Security forces in India’s troubled border state with Pakistan are instructed to “keep extra vigil and alertness” for possible strikes by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), members of which, intelligence agencies believe, are holed up in North Kashmir in large numbers.

Earlier, Indian forces reportedly discovered a stockpile of weapons and ammunition with Chinese markings in Kashmir, which has remained extraordinarily tense ever since the February 14 Pulwama suicide bombing in which 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed.

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Photos and videos circulating on social media depict gruesome scenes as disoriented worshipers try to help the wounded after a bomb went off in a packed Catholic church during Easter Sunday Mass in Sri Lanka.

Photos posted by St. Sebastian Church in the Catholic-majority town of Negombo, outside Colombo, show bloodied worshipers struggling to help the wounded after a blast hit the building. Several bodies can be seen lying on the floor alongside rubble. Windows have been shattered and the walls are riddled with what appears to be shrapnel from the bomb. The roof is heavily damaged as well.

© Facebook / St. Sebastian’s Church
© Facebook / St. Sebastian’s Church

When the bomb went off, the church was packed with worshipers who had gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday Mass. A video from the scene shows that children were present during the tragedy.

Two other churches were hit by blasts on Sunday, and three luxury hotels were also targeted. More than 150 people were killed in the attacks, and hundreds were injured, police say. Of those, more than 50 are believed to have been killed at St. Sebastian’s Church.

Photos from one of the hotels show several bodies covered by blood-stained white cloths.

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Just 10 days before explosions at six churches and hotels in Sri Lanka claimed some 160 lives, the national police chief reportedly sent an alert about a radical Islamist group planning bomb attacks on prominent churches.

The alert was sent by Pujuth Jayasundara on April 11, AFP reported. It said that Sri Lankan authorities had received a tip from a foreign intelligence service, warning of bomb threat posed by a radical group.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo,” the alert said, as quoted by the news agency.

The bombings at three Christian churches and three luxury hotels happened on Easter Sunday, just as churchgoers were converging to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apparently coordinated attacks claimed at least 160 lives and injured hundreds, according to the latest reports, with the death toll expected to rise. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the Easter bombings.

The NTJ is a radical Islamist group based in Sri Lanka, which came to prominence last year after vandalizing Buddhist statues.

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation, with some 70 percent of its population of 22 million following the faith. Muslims are the third-largest denomination after the Hindu, with less than 10 percent of Sri Lankans subscribing to Islam. Christianity is the fourth-largest religion, adherents of which compose some 7.6 percent of the population, according to the 2012 national census.

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Some of Russia’s best opera singers banded together to record a heartwarming musical message of support to the people of France grieving the disastrous fire at Notre Dame de Paris.

Singers from the Bolshoi Theatre, the Mariinsky, the Novaya Opera and other leading theaters in Russia recorded their rendering of Schubert’s Ave Maria in wake of the disaster at France’s Gothic jewel. The country nearly lost its most-visited national treasure this week, after the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral’s roof and spire were devastated by a massive blaze.

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The leader of Pakistan joined international condemnation of the series of bombing attacks, which targeted Sri Lanka’s churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said his nation was standing “in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in their hour of grief.”

‏Earlier, the spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry extended condolences to Sri Lanka following the bombings, which claimed scores of lives and left hundreds injured.

Three prominent Christian churches and three luxury hotels were bombed on Sunday in a series of apparently coordinated attacks. No group immediately claimed responsibility for it. The bloodshed was condemned by Sri Lankan officials and international dignitaries.

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Steering a vessel in the open sea may sound like an impossible task for a blind person, but 52-year-old Mitsuhiro Iwamoto has proven otherwise by completing an impressive non-stop journey across the Pacific.

The Japanese-born sailor who now resides in San Diego reached the port of Fukushima in his 40-foot (12-meter) cutter on Saturday morning – almost two months after he left California. Iwamoto was joined by his friend, a sighted US native Doug Smith, as both men shared the ship’s steering, rigging and navigating duties.

Screenshot ©  www.furunotracking.com

The sailor could not conceal his delight as the ‘Dream Weaver’ boat was greeted in Fukushima after the 14,000 km journey. “I didn’t give up and I made a dream come true. I’m the happiest person on Earth,” Iwamoto said, according to local media.

Iwamoto had every reason to enjoy the moment as his previous attempt back in 2013 failed when a whale hit the vessel off the Japanese coast. The brave traveler may well make his way into the record books as he is apparently the first-ever blind person to cross the Pacific, local media report.

He faced total blindness at the age of 16 but managed to battle his subsequent depression and began to engage in competitive sailing and running. The athlete’s website lists him as participant in the 2012 US Disabled Sailing Championship and the 2012 San Diego Half Marathon.

With his Transpacific journey dubbed the “Voyage of Inspiration,” Iwamoto intends to raise money for those suffering from vision impairment and to “send a message that anything is possible when people come together.”

Israel has the full arsenal needed to take on Hezbollah in Lebanon and eliminate the Iranian threat in Syria, the outgoing IDF Northern Command chief boasted, warning Damascus against using S-300s to protect its sovereignty.

“If our freedom of movement is threatened, we will remove the threat. We know how to do that,” General Yoel Strick told Ynet News, adding that Israel will soon introduce “advanced weapons systems” to ensure it can continue to violate neighboring states’ airspace and to strike targets in Syria with impunity.

While acknowledging that such a drastic move might damage Tel Aviv’s relations with Moscow, Strick expressed hope that it wouldn’t come to that. Moscow had supplied the Arab Republic with S-300 air defense systems following the downing of a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance plane with 15 airmen on board in mid-September, during an Israeli raid.

Moscow also warned Israel that it will suppress all satellite navigation, radars and communications systems of combat planes over the Mediterranean Sea if their maneuvers threaten Russian forces. Since then, Israel has been staging its intrusions via Lebanon, where the Jewish State is trying to keep Hezbollah in check.

Hezbollah is inseparable from Lebanon as a country, due to the militant group’s strong political presence, the general argued. Thus, he claimed, “if it were up to me, I would recommend declaring war on Lebanon and Hezbollah” – not out of bloodlust but only to thwart the group’s alleged plot to “invade” Israel.

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A top North Korean diplomat has slammed US National Security Advisor John Bolton for his “nonsense” and “dim-sighted” call for denuclearization amid stalled talks between the two nations following the fruitless summit in Hanoi.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday, Bolton said that Washington could only proceed with further negotiations once there is “a real indication” that Pyongyang is ready to give up its nuclear program.

Bolton’s words caused outrage in North Korea as the country’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui dubbed his remarks as “nonsense,” adding that they were “devoid of discretion and reason,” according to country’s state-run KCNA agency.

Bolton’s stunt also made the Pyongyang diplomat wonder whether the claims stemmed from the “incomprehension of the intentions of the top leaders” or if the national security adviser was trying to add his own vision to the debate.

John Bolton is not the first US official to recently come under fire from the North Korean authorities. Another top Foreign Ministry official earlier asked for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be removed from the nuclear talks.

This plea from Pyongyang was in vain, however, as Pompeo later indicated that he was “still in charge of the team,” adding that the US “will continue to press North Korea to abandon all of its weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles related programs and facilities.”

Meanwhile, in recent weeks both Kim and Trump came up with fairly positive statements about a possible third bilateral summit. While US President Trump hailed his personal relationship with Kim and made it clear that the door to the next meeting is open, the North Korean leader said he welcomes the talks but urged the US to come to the table with “correct posture.”

The Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi essentially failed last February, despite bearing huge symbolical meaning, as both sides walked away without a deal. Pyongyang later bemoaned senior figures in the Trump team overriding the president’s efforts and complicating the talks with a “gangster-like”approach.

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While most were happy that wealthy donors gave $1 billion to rebuild Notre Dame, actress Pamela Anderson had a different take, claiming the “one percent” had their own interests at heart and that the Church is rich enough already.

The model and former Baywatch actress made her latest hard-hitting political contribution in a tweet. This time, Anderson decided to take on the Catholic Church and its wealthy patrons for allegedly over-prioritizing the reconstruction of the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral, which partially burned down earlier in the week.

She criticized those donating to the cause, saying that their (presumably) untaxed donations are motivated more by a desire for public praise than a love of architecture. She also critically highlighted the fact that such a large sum had been quickly drummed up to rebuild the famous cathedral, but similar amounts were hard to find when it comes to helping the less fortunate.

Her controversial comments incited a variety of reactions, some praising her for calling out the public’s reliance on the whims of the wealthy. Others agreed that the Catholic Church is not exactly hurting for cash to do the repair work.

At the same time, Anderson got her fair share of criticism. Some accused her of not understand French history, culture and law, with many hitting on the fact that the French state, and not the Church, is the cathedral’s proprietor.

Others considered her comments to hypocritical, given what they see as her own less than socially conscious financial decisions.

Anderson has been quite active in commenting on a variety of hot-button political issues. Last week, she attacked the UK, calling it “America’s bitch” over the arrest of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.

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Japan has asked the Pentagon for permission to use its own military airstrip, currently shared with US forces, during the 2020 Olympic Games. An Air Force spokesman said the US is “excited” to consider the proposal.

Tokyo is seeking to increase its passenger capacity during the competition in July and August 2020 by making use of the Yokota Airbase, which currently houses the US Air Force and Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Transforming the base into a dual-use airstrip would alleviate congestion at Narita and Haneda airports, the two main hubs servicing the capital, the Japanese government believes.

The US, which has never left Japan since World War II, had agreed back in January to allow some civilian aircraft to cross airspace typically reserved for American forces. However, it fears that granting civilian jets permission to land might interfere with American military power projection and has approached the request with caution.

Any future commitments of specific US military support to the Olympics and Paralympics will be balanced against operational readiness concerns and Alliance obligations,” USFJ spokesman Air Force Col. John Hutcheson told Stars and Stripes on Friday, adding that the US are waiting for detailed Japanese proposals.

Japan has other issues with the American military presence apart from being required to ask them for permission to use an airstrip. A controversial proposal to locate a US military base on Okinawa was overwhelmingly rejected by locals, but the government confirmed yesterday that it is still moving ahead with the plan.

Meanwhile, tensions between US personnel and the civilian population have been on the rise over numerous criminal incidents, including an American marine murdering his Japanese girlfriend earlier this week. Japan’s defense minister has even had to step in to ask US military leaders to enforce discipline in their ranks.

The possible permanent use of Yokota Airbase by civilian aircraft has been a source of protracted discussions between Washington and Tokyo. The US military, however, has resisted arguing that the extra use would limit its operational readiness.

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