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Ukraine does not rule out attack as cause of plane crash in Iran

Ukrainian authorities are not ruling out that its plane, which crashed early on Wednesday in Iran killing all 176 passengers and crew on board, was downed by a missile or an attack amid a sharp escalation of tension between Tehran and Washington. The Ukrainian International airliner bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, plunged from the…

Ukraine does not rule out attack as cause of plane crash in Iran

Ukrainian authorities are not ruling out that its plane, which crashed early on Wednesday in Iran killing all 176 passengers and crew on board, was downed by a missile or an attack amid a sharp escalation of tension between Tehran and Washington.
The Ukrainian International airliner bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, plunged from the sky minutes after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.
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The Boeing 737-800 was last seen on radar at 2,400 metres, according to the FlightRadar 24 monitoring website, hours after Tehran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at US facilities in neighbouring Iraq.
“We must investigate all possible causes,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Facebook, shortly after Iranian officials said the crash was caused by a fire that struck one of the plane’s engines, causing the pilots to lose control.
Zelenskyy has ordered Ukrainian prosecutors to open an investigation into the crash.
Shortly before Zelenskyy’s announcement, Ukraine’s embassy in Iran removed a statement that ruled out the attacks from its website, Ukrainian media reported.
The Ukrainian UNIAN news agency quoted the Jordanian Al Hadath news outlet as claiming that the plane had been shot down by Iranian air force by mistake. 
“Until the official investigation is over, naming any version would be manipulation,” Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk told a news conference in response to a question about the possibility of a missile or attack on the plane.
He said a group of experts were heading to Iran to investigate the crash, collect victims’ remains and return them to Ukraine.
“We’re getting the group ready for departure,” he said.
According to international agreements, Ukraine can participate in the investigation as the state of registry and operator.
Iranian officials said the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, known as “black boxes,” have been found. Their examination will be crucial in establishing the cause of the crash.
Meanwhile, Ukraine International airline said the three-year-old plane underwent a maintenance check on Monday and no technical problems were identified.
“It was one of our best airplanes with a great, reliable crew,” the company’s CEO Yevhen Dykhne told a news conference in Kyiv through tears.
His colleague claimed that flight conditions at the Tehran airport were complicated.
“Knowing that the Tehran airport is not an easy one, our flight training for all crews on [Boeing] 737s were held exclusively at the Tehran airport,” Ihor Sosnovsky, the airline’s vice president, told reporters.
Considering that the plane was 2,400 metres above ground before it disappeared off radar, crew error “was unlikely”, Dykhne said.
He refused to comment on whether the plane was shot down by a missile.
Chief pilot Volodymir Haponenko had flown more than 10,000 hours during hundreds of flights, he said.
“Aviation was his life, he was a great pilot,” his widow Yekaterina Haponenko, a mother of two, said in televised remarks.
Eleven Ukrainian nationals, including nine crew, were among the victims, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said.
He said that 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians were on board along with 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons.
Meanwhile, officials in Tehran said 147 of the victims were Iranian, which suggests 65 of the passengers had dual citizenship.
Boeing’s 737-800 planes will face international scrutiny after the crash.
In December, Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg was removed after one of the company’s most disastrous years. Two 737 Max planes crashed in 2018, and all Max planes worldwide have been grounded.
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US helicopters attack Syrian army checkpoint: State media |NationalTribune.com

State media reported the incident happened shortly after a US patrol was prevented from passing by an army checkpoint [AP Photo] Two US helicopters attacked a Syrian army checkpoint, killing one soldier and injuring two others, state media reported. The incident in northeastern Syria, near the largely Kurdish city of Qamishli, happened shortly after a…

US helicopters attack Syrian army checkpoint: State media |NationalTribune.com

State media reported the incident happened shortly after a US patrol was prevented from passing by an army checkpoint [AP Photo]
Two US helicopters attacked a Syrian army checkpoint, killing one soldier and injuring two others, state media reported.
The incident in northeastern Syria, near the largely Kurdish city of Qamishli, happened shortly after a US patrol was prevented from passing by an army checkpoint in the area on Monday, the agency SANA added.
It quoted a military source say saying that army personnel at the checkpoint prevented a US patrol from entering “the area where one of our military formations is deployed”.
“The members of the US patrol opened several rounds of fire,” it said before adding that “after about 30 minutes, two US warplanes attacked the army personnel at the checkpoint”.
The injured were rushed to Qamishli National Hospital.
Northeastern Syria is mainly under the control of US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces who are spearheaded by Kurdish fighters, but Syrian army forces are deployed in certain locations under agreements with Kurdish groups.
More to follow

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Gunmen attack Pakistan stock exchange building in Karachi |NationalTribune.com

At least seven people have been killed after gunmen stormed the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in the southern city of Karachi, firing indiscriminately as they entered the building complex, rescue officials say. Four attackers stormed the building at 10am (05:00 GMT) Monday morning as trading began, carrying hand grenades and firing automatic rifles. All four attackers…

Gunmen attack Pakistan stock exchange building in Karachi |NationalTribune.com

At least seven people have been killed after gunmen stormed the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in the southern city of Karachi, firing indiscriminately as they entered the building complex, rescue officials say.
Four attackers stormed the building at 10am (05:00 GMT) Monday morning as trading began, carrying hand grenades and firing automatic rifles.
All four attackers had been killed by police and security forces responding to the attack, said Faisal Edhi, head of the Edhi charity and ambulance service which serves the city.
“The attackers had hand grenades with them. Two of them were killed at the gate, and two were killed further inside the building complex,” said Edhi, whose office is located opposite the PSX in Karachi’s main commercial district.
“We were hearing explosions going off [from our building],” he said.
The dead include the four attackers, a policeman and two civilians, said Edhi. Seven others had also been wounded in the attack, he said.
Senior police official Sharjeel Kharal told reporters outside the PSX building that the security operation to clear the building was complete.
“Right now the information is of four [attackers], all four killed. One sub inspector was killed and three policemen were wounded, and two of the stock exchange’s guards were wounded as well,” he said.
The Baloch Liberation Army armed group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released while the security operation to clear the building was ongoing.
“Majeed brigade of Baloch Liberation Army today has carried out a self-sacrificing attack on Karachi stock exchange,” read the statement, emailed to Al Jazeera.
The southwest province of Balochistan – Pakistan’s largest – has seen a decades-long rebellion by the Baloch ethnic minority for independence.

Members of the Crime Scene Unit of Karachi Police prepare to survey the site of the attack at the Pakistan Stock Exchange entrance in Karachi [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

‘We are all terrified’
Witnesses who were working inside the building at the time of the attack described hearing heavy gunfire and explosions as the attackers entered the complex.
“We are all terrified,” said Abid Habib, director of the Pakistan Stock Exchange. “There was gunfire and everything, and suddenly everyone was rushing to the windows to see what is happening.
“Because the firing was close by, everyone was very worried, and we closed our outside doors.”
Security forces responded to the attack, and paramilitary Rangers were clearing the building, Habib said.
Video footage of the attack – shot by an office worker in a building opposite the PSX complex and obtained by Al Jazeera – showed four attackers dismount from a car and take up positions at a security barrier to the building, firing at security guards.
Trails of blood were splattered across the stairs and an adjoining corridor of the building, two other videos and images sent by workers inside the building showed.
The PSX is Pakistan’s main stock exchange, with more than 2,000 employees normally working in the building for the Exchange and associated trading companies.
Employee turnout was lower on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many companies opting to allow their workers to work from home, said Habib.
Trading on the PSX continued uninterrupted throughout the attack on Monday, traders and equity analysts told Al Jazeera, as the stock exchange operates through an online system.

Policemen secure an area around a body outside the Pakistan Stock Exchange building [Asif Hassan/AFP]

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim
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Feds charge four men with attack on Andrew Jackson statue

Four men have been charged with damaging and trying to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue near the White House, federal prosecutors announced Saturday night. One, Connor Matthew Judd, has already been arrested and appeared in court Saturday. The other three were at large as of the announcement, prosecutors said. They are identified as Lee…

Feds charge four men with attack on Andrew Jackson statue

Four men have been charged with damaging and trying to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue near the White House, federal prosecutors announced Saturday night.

One, Connor Matthew Judd, has already been arrested and appeared in court Saturday.

The other three were at large as of the announcement, prosecutors said. They are identified as Lee Michael Cantrell, Ryan Lane and Graham Lloyd.

Prosecutors said all four were caught on video using straps to try to pull down the statue, which stands on federal land in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. The statue was targeted earlier this week as an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter protests that have roiled cities across the country over the last month.

The four men also give a flavor of the protest” Mr. Judd, 20, is a resident of Washington,D.C.; Mr. Cantrell, 47, is from Virginia; Mr. Lane, 37, is from Maryland; and Mr. Lloyd, 37, is from Maine.

“This office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated,” said Michael R. Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Judd appeared Saturday in Superior Court but the case will be transferred to U.S. District Court, the Justice Department said.

Attorney General William P. Barr had said on Thursday that charges would be coming. He said agents were scouring video of the park to see who could be identified among the protesters.

President Trump has insisted those who tried to bring down the statue face charges in order to send a signal. Over the last couple of days he has been posting federal law enforcement “Wanted” posters to Twitter with photos of some of those the U.S. Park Police is attempting to apprehend for the statue attack.

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