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Why is Irom Sharmila ending her 16-year fast? Family, friends clueless

IMPHAL: The sudden decision of civil rights activist Irom Sharmila to end her 16-year-old hunger strike versus AFSPA next month has actually taken everyone by surprise including her associates and family members.

Irom’s elder brother Singhajit, who has actually been with her throughout her struggle said he never knew she was going to terminate her fast.

“I haven’t spoken to her in the last few days due to my bad health . I heard it from others about her decision,” he said.

Sharmila’s long-time associate Babloo Loitongbam, Director of NGO Human Rights Alert Manipur, said he too was taken by surprise but can understand the reason behind her decision.

“If AFSPA has actually not been repealed in 15 years of her fast then it won’t happen in another 30 years also,” he said while admitting that he too was not kept informed about her decision.

In 2000, when the activist embarked on her hunger strike, she also had taken a vow to neither enter her estate nor meet her mother till the government repealed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Since then, she has actually met her mother Sakhi Devi only once when she was also accepted to the same hospital in 2009.

Her brother recalled that during the early years of her fast he regularly tried to convince her to end it.

“But she never listened to me. Finally I gave up and promised that I will be with her throughout her struggle. She used to say that she will break her fast only when they remove AFSPA. That was her promise,” Singhajit said.

Nobody is sure what prompted her to take the decision. Her associates say her British boyfriend may have actually played a essential role in ensuring that she breaks her fast.

“But it is also her frustration at the government for not listening to the demands of the people. So she is changing her path from activism to politics. Her goal remains the same – revocation of AFSPA,” another associate said.

A team of her associates is planning to go and meet her at the government-run hospital, where she is forcibly nose-fed to keep her alive to discuss the future course of action.

Sharmila’s struggle has actually been at the heart of all protests versus repel of AFSPA in the Manipur and the neighbouring North-eastern states.

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CM Jayalalithaa can’t be called by her name, rules TN speaker

CHENNAI: “What’s in a name?” you may wonder. But it matters a lot in the Tamil Nadu assembly. It can even lead to a walkout, as it happened in the Residence on Monday over the issue of calling chief minister J Jayalalithaa by her name.

It all started along with AIADMK Tiruttani MLA P M Narasiman calling DMK chief M Karunanidhi by his name during the budget debate. Immediately, DMK MLAs were on their feet protesting versus calling the DMK chief by his name.

They wanted to know from Speaker P Dhanapal whether it was okay to call a former chief minister by his name. Speaker replied that there was no problem in calling a former chief minister by his name.

However, DMK MLAs wanted to know whether they could likewise call chief minister J Jayalalithaa by her name.

Dhanapal said the chief minister could not be called by her name. “This is my order,” he said.

The speaker’s reply provoked DMK MLAs who walked from the assembly in protest.

Later, speaking to reporters outside the assembly, DMK treasurer and leader of the opposition M K Stalin said, “Nowhere in assembly code sections it says that MLAs must not be called by name. When that it is the law, why cannot we call Jayalalithaa by her name?”

“Speaker’s order is versus the law. We walked from the assembly to condemn this,” he added.

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Pak’s dream of making Kashmir its own will never be fulfilled: India

ISLAMABAD:

Pakistan is waiting for the day Kashmir becomes its part,

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Friday after his party PML-N swept PoK’s legislative assembly elections.

Addressing a public gathering in Muzaffarabad, Sharif said, “We are waiting for the day Kashmir becomes (part of) Pakistan.”

In his first public address following his return from London after an open-heart surgery in May, Sharif urged Kashmiris “not to forget those in Kashmir who are sacrificing their lives for their movement for freedom”.

“Their movement for freedom cannot be stopped and it will be successful. You are aware of how they are being beaten and killed. All our prayers are along with them and we are waiting for the day Kashmir becomes (part of) Pakistan,” Sharif was quoted as saying by Dawn News.

PML-N is set to form the next government in PoK as the unofficial results of the election for 41 direct seats of the legislative assembly on Thursday suggested a landslide success for the party.

“I saw the election results at night and believed that if our success is evident, I will travel to Muzaffarabad to congratulate my brothers and sisters. I was told to go tomorrow or day after tomorrow, but said I can’t wait, I want to go tonight,” he said.

Sharif thanked the people of PoK for their support, conveying his gratitude to the crowd for their prayers for his recovery.

He slammed those engaging in “negative politics” versus the PML-N and congratulated the people for voting for the party.

Prime Minister Sharif’s party emerged victorious in the assembly elections held on Thursday in which a total of 26 political parties and 423 candidates took part.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which won the last polls, could only manage to win two seats while cricketer-turned- politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also got as lots of along with the Muslim Conference bagging three.

It was expected that there would certainly be a stiff competition between the three mainstream parties — Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), PPP and Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf but the PML-N routed them, stunning political pundits.

A total of 2.674 million Pakistan’s Kashmiris exercised their right to franchise on Thursday to elect members for the PoK legislative assembly, which will be the ninth since the parliamentary form of government was introduced there in 1975.

While the region is spread over 14,245 square kilometres, the polling process is not restricted to this area and instead stretches to entire Pakistan because members for 12 out of the 41 directly elected seats are elected by 438,884 voters living in various parts of the country.

Some 12 are reserved for refugees from Kashmir in Pakistan.

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India link emerges in $3.5 billion forex trading fraud at HSBC

Brand-new YORK/LONDON: An India link has actually emerged in the alleged $3.5-billion forex trading fraud case at British banking giant HSBC, where two senior executives have been accused of doing ‘front-running’ by cheating a client that was selling part-stake in an Indian subsidiary.

The duo has actually been charged in the US of “conspiracy to commit wire fraud” while the client in question has actually been identified in media reports as Cairn Energy, which had sold an ownership stake in its Indian subsidiary Cairn India for $3.5 billion in 2010 and wanted to convert it into sterling to distribute cash to shareholders.

Cairn had selected HSBC to conduct the forex conversion transaction from amongst ten banks it had asked to bid for the right while asking them to sign a ‘confidentiality agreement’ regarding the information about the transaction.

One of the two persons, HSBC Bank’s head of forex cash trading Mark Johnson, was arrested on Tuesday night at Brand-new York airport but was released on a $1 million bail amount on Wednesday.

Johnson has actually been charged for trading ahead of his client to make millions of dollars, while similar charges have been levelled on Stuart Scott, who formerly served as HSBC’s head of forex cash trading for Europe, Middle East and Africa but left the bank in December 2014.

The US Department of Justice said in a statement that the two have been charged with conspiring to defraud a client of HSBC through a scheme commonly referred to as ‘front running’ — a practice in which traders fraudulently conduct trades with advance information about an impending deal.

While the Department did not disclose the name of the client, the British media reports identified it as Cairn Energy, which had indeed sold a majority stake in its Indian subsidiary to Vedanta Resources and was to distribute $3.5 billion worth sale proceeds among its shareholders.

As per the court documents made public by the Department, “In approximately 2010, the victim company entered into an agreement with another company to sell part of its ownership interest in an Indian subsidiary for approximately $3.5 billion.

“Execution of the sale was dependent upon regulatory approval in India. If the sale was approved, the victim company planned to convert approximately $3.5 billion in sale proceeds into Sterling, which it intended to distribute to its shareholders.”

HSBC was later mandated by Cairn for carrying out the foreign exchange transaction and also signed a confidentiality pact, but the duo conspired to buy sterling “in advance of the transaction, knowing that the transaction would cause the price of sterling to increase, thereby generating substantial trading profits for HSBC and the defendants”.

In the market parlance, this practice is called ‘front running’ and is versus the market regulations.

The two have also been charged of executing the purchase transactions in such a manner as to “cause the price of sterling to spike” at the expense of the ‘victim company’, which was later sold sterling at the higher price.

“As alleged, the defendants placed personal and company profits ahead of their duties of trust and confidentiality owed to their client, and in doing so, defrauded their client of millions of dollars,” US Attorney Robert Capers said in a statement.

“When questioned by their client about the higher price paid for their substantial transaction, the defendants wove a web of lies designed to conceal the truth and divert attention away from their fraudulent trades,” he added.

Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said the two “allegedly betrayed their client’s confidence, and corruptly manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank”.

The two have been accused of defrauding their client by “misusing confidential information to manipulate currency prices for the benefit of the bank and themselves”.

According to the complaint, in November and December 2011, Johnson and Scott misused information provided to them by a client that hired HSBC to execute a foreign exchange transaction related to a planned sale of one of the client’s foreign subsidiaries.

HSBC was selected to execute the foreign exchange transaction — which was going to require converting approximately $3.5 billion in sales proceeds into British Pound Sterling — in October 2011.

HSBC’s agreement with the client required the bank to keep the details of the client’s planned transaction confidential. Instead, Johnson and Scott allegedly misused confidential information they received about the client’s transaction.

On multiple occasions, Johnson and Scott allegedly purchased Pound Sterling for HSBC’s ‘proprietary’ accounts, which they held until the client’s planned transaction was executed.

The complaint further alleges that, as part of the scheme, both Johnson and Scott made misrepresentations to the client about the planned foreign exchange transaction that concealed the self-serving nature of their actions.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Johnson and Scott caused the $3.5 billion foreign exchange transaction to be executed in a manner that was designed to spike the price of the Pound Sterling, to the benefit of HSBC and at the expense of their client.

In total, HSBC allegedly generated profits of roughly $8,000,000 from its execution of the forex transaction for the ‘victim company’, including profits generated from the front running conduct by Johnson, Scott, and other traders whom they directed.

The investigation is being conducted by the FDIC’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

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Mallya asks authorities to interview him in London, alleges ‘witch hunt’

Brand-new DELHI: The British government on Wednesday said it can’t deport loans defaulter Vijay Mallya and asked India to consider requesting extradition, instead.

Britain also acknowledged “the seriousness of allegations” versus Mallya and said it is “keen to assist” the Indian government.

“They have actually asked GoI (Government of India) to consider requesting mutual legal assistance or extradition,” said Vikas Swarup, spokesman, ministry of external affairs.

“The UK Government has actually informed us that under 1971 Immigration Act, the UK does not require an individual to hold a valid passport in order to remain in the UK if they have actually extant leave to remain as long as their passport was valid when leave to remain or enter UK was conferred. At same time, UK acknowledges the seriousness of allegations & is keen to assist GoI,” Swarup further said.

That means, Mallya can legally stay in Britain if his passport was valid when he entered the country. He left India on March 2 and the Indian government revoked his passport only after that, which means his passport was valid when he entered the UK.

Mallya owes more than Rs 9,000 crores to Indian banks. After he left, he has actually ignored three summonses by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in relation to a money laundering case. Since then, court has actually also issued a non-bailable arrest warrant versus the iquor baron.

“What I have actually learned so far is that deportation can’t be allowed if someone entered the UK with a valid passport even if it is cancelled later”, said finance minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha.

“An alternative process is that when a chargesheet is filed after an investigation, extradition has actually to be demanded,” he added.

India wrote to the British High Commission in Delhi last month requesting that Mallya be deported to India.

The liquor baron’s advocate had expressed apprehensions in court that if Mallya returned, he might be taken straight to Tihar Jail from Delhi airport.

In April, the external affairs ministry emphasized that India will vigorously pursue Mallya’s deportation.

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Cong: Rahul won’t apologize for RSS remarks, will prove his point in court

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Tuesday said that Rahul Gandhi will not tender an apology over his

BACKGROUND

‘RSS killed Gandhi’: Express regret or face trial, Supreme Court tells Rahul Gandhi


Highlights

  • SC has asked Rahul Gandhi to apologize or face trial for his ‘RSS killed Gandhi’ remarks.
  • The SC has post the matter for hearing on July 27.
  • Rahul had blamed RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s killing at a rally in Thane in 2014.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to express regret for his comments holding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination or be ready to face a defamation trial.

“Why did you make a sweeping statement against the RSS branding everyone associated with the organization in the same brush,” the Supreme Court asked Rahul Gandhi while hearing a defamation case filed against him.

” You can’t make wholesale denunciation of an organization,” the SC bench observed.

Rahul Gandhi ‘s counsel tried to justify his remarks saying these are historical facts and even part of the government records.

The apex court said that Rahul needed to prove what was the public good in his statement against the

RSS and hence it was a matter of trial.

The SC said that if Rahul Gandhi wanted to defend himself and was not ready to express his regret, than it will be better that he faced trial.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R F Nariman refused Rahul’s request for two-week adjournment and posted the matter for hearing on July 27.

Rahul wanted two-week’s time saying his counsel Kapil Sibal is not free before that.

The SC said this is no ground for adjournment and posted the matter for July 27, saying no further postponement of hearing would be allowed.

Rahul Gandhi had moved the Supreme Court in May 2015 for quashing the criminal case lodged against him for his comments against the RSS during a Thane rally in March 2014.

“RSS people killed Gandhiji and today their people (BJP) talk of him…They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji,” Rahul had said while addressing a public rally in Thane district in March 2014.

(With inputs from agencies)

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remarks against the RSS+
and will instead substantiate them with historical facts and evidence before the court to support his claim.

The Supreme Court had earlier on Tuesday asked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to express regret for his comments holding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination or be ready to face a defamation trial.

“On a suggestion of Shri Rahul Gandhi expressing regret or apology, the question does not arise. Such a suggestion has been made in the past and not accepted by Rahul Gandhi.

“Rahul Gandhi is a mature politician with intimate knowledge of historical facts. Congress party and Mr Gandhi will defend these remarks at appropriate forum,” Congress’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.

He said since the matter is pending adjudication, “we will not like to comment further on the issue”.

The Congress leader said that Rahul Gandhi had challenged constitutionality of defamation proceeding besides the order of Maharashtra High Court wherein the summoning order was challenged.

He said while the bunch of petitions challenging defamation provisions have been rejected, challenge to Maharashtra High Court order is pending adjudication before Supreme Court in a special leave petition.

“The matter was listed today. Supreme Court nearly adjourned the order to July 23 without passing any order. Any remark exchanged at the bar between counsel for the parties and court cannot be commented upon as the matter is subjudice,” he said.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Gaurav Gogoi said that “Rahul Gandhi has said that he will not seek an apology over what he has said and will fight the case as he wants to present his facts along with historical proof and evidence to prove his point and help bring out the truth before everyone that we all know.”

He added, “At this point, Congress party stands with Rahul Gandhi and we are confident that we will be able to present a strong case, present all the facts and historical evidence that we are supposed to make.”

Asked about today’s order of the Supreme Court, he said there is a case which is undergoing in the Supreme Court and the final judgement is yet to be heard and the case is also yet to be heard on its full merits, for which they are waiting.

“Today, the Supreme Court has made some observations. We would not like to comment on the observations. Nonetheless, we are confident that when the case would be heard on its merits, we will present historical evidence and documents that support Rahul Gandhi’s claim. We respect the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that Rahul Gandhi, who blamed RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, should not have resorted to “collective denunciation” of an organisation and will have to face trial in the defamation case against him if he does not express regret.

“We have held it may be historically correct but the fact or the statement has to meet the test of public good. You can’t make collective denunciation,” the court said.

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Won’t storm in like Mallya, and get caught: AirAsia CEO on India plans

Brand-new DELHI: AirAsia group chief Tony Fernandes has actually said it is hard to do business in India due to protectionist policies and “vested interests”, but his joint venture carrier AirAsia India was here for a long haul.

Defending the slow-paced growth of AirAsia India, he said the aviation sector here was a “double marathon” and not a “sprint”.

“I am not going to storm in like a bull in China shop like Vijay Mallya did, and get caught. Now we have actually a (civil aviation) policy and the policy is very clear on what we have actually to do. So talk to us in a few years time,” he said when asked about the growth plans for his airlines.

Observing that the BJP-led government has actually “at least delivered 80 per cent of what it talked about” in the draft aviation policy, the AirAsia chief said “it is hard (to do business) in India (as) there are so numerous vested interest who were trying to keep some of the incumbents happy.”

“So at least they changed it (norm for global flying by domestic carriers) and we are clear what we need to do. And I would certainly not be dead by the time 5 years come along along with 20 aircraft we had before,” the AirAsia (Berhad) Group Chief Executive Officer said on the sidelines of the Farnborough global Airshow in the UK last week.

Fernandes, who is also among the pioneers of the low-cost airline model in Asia, minced no words in criticising the Indian Government for “protectionism in the skies” while at the same time heaping praise on the Brand-new civil aviation policy, particularly the doing away of the 5/20 norm.

“Don’t protect airlines. Get more air traffic rights, get more tourism into India and create more jobs. I think the Modi Government has actually to be brave in going all the way and getting rid of vested interests and protectionism,” he said.

To questions on AirAsia India’s slow progress as compared to its peer group, he said earlier there was no clarity on what the policy was going to be. “This is not a sprint this a marathon. India is a double marathon. So I think we have actually been smart, we are cautious, we built it slowly,” Fernandes said.

“Look at how quickly we grew. I started along with two planes in Malaysia. But I did not have actually a 5/20 rule. I was not sued every day. I did not have actually Naresh Goyal on my back. How long I have actually been in India? Two years. How long has actually the government of India been around? You have actually been a country of a long time, right? Wait, patience. Must not rush,” Fernandes said.

He said he needed to know what the government’s aviation policy was going to be before expanding AirAsia India’s fleet and network.

AirAsia India, which started operations in June 2014, is co-owned by Tata Sons (49 per cent) and AirAsia Berhad (49 per cent). The rest of two per cent is held by airline’s board members S Ramadorai and R Venkataramanan. The airline flies to 10 domestic destinations along with a fleet of six Airbus A320 aircraft.

“I have actually to congratulate (the government) … It (doing away along with 5/20 rule) is a good step forward for Indian aviation and hopefully most of the measures (proposed in the policy) will be going to be enforced,” Fernandes said.

The Brand-new aviation policy, announced last month, did away along with the 5/20 rule which allowed global operations by an Indian carrier having 20 aircraft and five years of domestic operations. The policy now allows overseas operations by any Indian airline along with 20 aircraft which keeps aside 20 per cent of its fleet exclusively for domestic operations.

The proposed regional connectivity scheme was also a good step just like the Government’s decision to come up along with regional airports which would certainly bring down airport charges, which at present along along with taxes on jet fuel are “too high,” he said.
Terming the policy as “quite impressive,” the AirAsia group chief said India also needed to open up in terms of global traffic rights.
Fernandes also said he wanted to expand Malaysian carrier AirAsia’s operations into India.
“We (AirAsia) would certainly love to go to numerous more Indian cities but Indian government is not giving us any more route rights at the moment. So, I think that is something the government has actually to look at.
“They (government) are very worried about Middle East and all it, they are trying to protect Air India, and I think that comes at a cost, at the cost tourism and jobs. So we will wait and see whether India (government) give us more rights. Right now, we have actually fully exploited all traffic rights and we cannot do any more,” he added.

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What pushed the coup against Turkey’s Erdogan, and what next?

ISTANBUL: He weathered anti-government protests that lasted for months in 2013.

He escaped the flames that engulfed some of his ministers in a corruption investigation nearly three years ago.

And now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has actually survived a military coup — a boast numerous of his predecessors ousted in previous army takeovers cannot share.

No one in Turkey predicted what happened on Friday night when soldiers took control of Istanbul’s two main bridges across the Bosphorus and flew F-16 fighter jets low in Ankara.

Soldiers stormed into private and state-run broadcasters taking control with relative ease.

However, in a country which has actually seen three military coups — and one where direct force was not used — there has actually always been signs of fault lines that could prompt such a move.

In recent years, critics, foreign governments and Turkish citizens have expressed concerns about a steady decline into authoritarianism under Erdogan.

Although he won much praise in the first few years after becoming prime minister in 2003, since becoming Turkey’s first directly-elected president in August 2014 Erdogan has actually been accused of dictatorial ambitions.

Erdogan wants to change Turkey’s constitution, which was installed in 1980 following the last successful military coup, to adopt an American-style presidential system which would certainly give him greater power.

According to Aykan Erdemir, senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, the coup was a result of numerous factors including the military’s fear of the brand-new system.

He explained that the reasons for the coup included “one of the latest developments (that) has actually been the bill redesigning the high courts as well as Erdogan’s refusal to be impartial”.

For Sinan Ulgen, director of the Edam think tank and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, this was not a coup by the full army as in previous cases, but undertaken by a clique who themselves held the top general hostage.

“This was beyond the chain of command — a relatively small group in the army, who even hijacked the military top brass.

“It was not an operation designed by the army and it showed. Without the full support of the army, they lacked the assets and capabilities.”

Erdemir said the era of successful coups — as in 1960, 1971 and 1980 — is over with the public largely hostile to the prospect.

This time the country put on more of a show of solidarity, with even the three opposition parties in parliament swiftly condemning the attempted putsch.

Political parties do not have “fond memories” of the previous coup d’etats given their bitter experiences under military rulers, said Erdemir.

Ulgen added: “When people realised it did not have backing of the army, it was easier to be versus the coup.”

Indeed the sheer odds stacked versus the coup spawned conspiracy theories with the hashtag #Darbedegiltiyatro (It’s not a coup it’s theatre) trending on Twitter.

Natalie Martin, politics and international relations lecturer at Nottingham Trent University in Britain, said it appeared “almost meant to fail”, something which created suspicions.

“It is entirely possible it’s a false flag coup,” she said.

Erdogan, a consumate political tactician, will sense the failed coup has actually created opportunities to tighten his control over Turkey but faces a critical choice.
“He can build on the fact that all parties got behind him and build an era of consensus or he can use this as an opportunity to consolidate his one-man rule,” said Erdemir.
“It’s almost fully up to Erdogan — the path he chooses will have enormous consequences. The optimist in me goes for the democratic way but the realist and pessimist says Erdogan would certainly never skip such an opportunity and that would certainly be a shame.”
Erdogan will come out of this stronger, Ulgen said, but “the question is whether he is willing to use that to drive towards a more consensual politics”.
“This is a unique opportunity to advance a more ambitious democracy agenda. But the more likely scenario is Erdogan using it to drive his personal ambitions and create a presidential system.”

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Truck terror attack in Nice reflects ‘new normal’ for Europe

NICE: A gunman at the wheel of a heavy truck

ploughed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice on Thursday, killing at least 84 people and injuring scores more in what President Francois Hollande called a terrorist act.

The attacker, identified by a police source as a 31-year-old Tunisian-born Frenchman, also opened fire before police shot him dead. He had been known to the police for common crimes but not to the intelligence services, the source said.

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 18 of the injured were in a critical condition after the 25-tonne truck zigzagged along the seafront Promenade des Anglais as a fireworks display marking the French national day ended just after 10:30pm.

The attack, which came eight months and a day after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers struck Paris on a festive Friday evening, seemed so far to be the work of a lone assailant.

Hollande said in a pre-dawn address that he was calling up military and police reservists to relieve forces worn out by a state of emergency begun after the militant group killed 130 people in the French capital in November.

Only hours earlier Hollande had announced the state of emergency would certainly be lifted by the end of July, but the president said that following the attack, in which several children were killed, it would certainly now be extended by a further three months.

“France is filled with sadness by this brand-new tragedy,” he said. “There’s no denying the terrorist nature of this attack of yet again the most extreme form of violence.”

Officials said hundreds were hurt as the driver wove along the seafront, knocking them down “like skittles”. A local government official said weapons and grenades were found inside the unmarked articulated truck.

Pools of blood at daybreak

Dawn broke on Friday with the pavements smeared by dried blood, while smashed children’s strollers, an uneaten baguette and other debris were strewn about the Mediterranean seaside promenade. Small areas were screened off at regular intervals. What appeared to be bodies covered in blankets were visible through the gaps.

The scene appeared to confirm what one city official said during the night – that the truck drove a full 2km (1.5 miles)along the promenade after mounting the kerb.

The truck, a rental vehicle according to local officials, was still where it came to rest, its windscreen riddled with bullets.

Hollande called the tragedy on the day that France marks the 1789 revolutionary storming of the Bastille prison in Paris an attack on liberty by fanatics who despised human rights.

France would, nonetheless, continue its air operations versus Islamic States in Syria and Iraq.

Police were trying to establish whether the driver might have had any accomplices in a city with a reputation for Islamist activism. There had been no claim of responsibility on Friday morning.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned what she called an act of mass murder. “Germany stands at France’s edge in the fight versus terrorism, united with many, lots of others. I am convinced that, despite all the difficulties, we shall win this fight,” she said at a summit meeting in Mongolia.

“A scene of horror”

The truck careered into families and friends listening to an orchestra or strolling above the beach towards the grand, century-old Hotel Negresco.

“It’s a scene of horror,” member of parliament Eric Ciotti told France Info radio, saying the truck “mowed down several hundred people”. Jacques, who runs Le Queenie restaurant on the seafront, told the station: “People went down like ninepins.”

Bystander Franck Sidoli, who was visibly shocked, said: “I saw people go down.”

“Then the truck stopped, we were just five metres away. A woman was there, she lost her son. Her son was on the ground, bleeding,” he told Reuters at the scene.

Major events in France have been guarded by troops and armed police since the Islamic State attacks last year, but it appeared to have taken lots of minutes to halt the progress of the truck as it tore along pavements and a pedestrian zone.

Police told residents of the city, 30 km (20 miles) from the Italian border, to stay indoors as they conducted further operations, even though there was no sign of any other attack.

Hollande also called up former troops and gendarmes after racing back to Paris from the south of France in the wake of the attack.

The Paris attack on Nov. 13 was the bloodiest among a number in France and Belgium in the past two years. On Sunday, a weary nation had breathed a collective sigh of relief as the month-long Euro 2016 soccer tournament across France ended without a feared attack.

Four months ago, Belgian Islamists linked to the Paris attackers killed 32 people in Brussels.

Vehicle attacks have been used by isolated members of militant groups in recent years, notably in Israel, as well as in Europe, though never to such devastating effect.

US President Barack Obama said in a statement: “On behalf of the American people, I condemn in the strongest terms what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, which killed and wounded dozens of innocent civilians.”

The United Nations Security Council said it “condemned in the strongest terms the barbaric and cowardly terrorist attack”.

On social media, Islamic State supporters celebrated the high death toll.

Numbers identify victims

Nurses had told some of those waiting that the medical team didn’t have time to take records of the identities of the wounded because the priority was treatment.

Patients were being classified by numbers.

At the scene of the attack on the Promenade des Anglais, bodies lay covered in white sheets and witnesses could barely believe what they had seen.

“I saw bodies flying like skittles as it drove along,” said local journalist Damien Allemand on the Nice-Matin newspaper’s web site. “I just froze … The beach attendants were the first on the scene. They brought water for the wounded and towels that they placed over those for whom there was no hope.”

Back in the hospital, Marco de Feo, 29 from Milan, said he and his four friends had only learned of the celebration from their hosts, a Romanian couple living in Nice, and decided to go along at the last minute.

“I saw a truck turning into the road and driving fast in our direction,” he said.

“Luckily I saw it in time to avoid it, but our friend got hit and fell on the ground. We fled to the beach and then found shelter in a hotel. One of our friends went back on the scene to carry our injured friend who couldn’t move nor speak but was still breathing. She was then taken to hospital in an ambulance.”

Hiding in terror

One woman told France Info that she and others had fled in terror: “The lorry came zig-zagging along the street. We ran into a hotel and hid in the toilets with numerous people.”

Nice-Matin journalist Damien Allemand had been watching the traditional seaside firework display when the truck tore by just as it ended. After taking cover in a cafe, he wrote on his paper’s website of what he saw when he came back out on the promenade: “Bodies every five metres, limbs … Blood. Groans.”

“The beach attendants were first on the scene. They brought water for the injured and towels, which they placed on those for whom there was no more hope.”

Officials have warned in the past of the risk of Islamist attacks in the region following the Paris and Brussels attacks. Reverses for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have raised fears it might strike again in Europe, possibly again using alienated young men from the continent’s Arab immigrant communities whom it has actually inspired to take up arms versus their native countries.

Nice, a city of 350,000, has actually a history as a flamboyant, aristocratic resort but is also a gritty metropolis. It has actually seen dozens of its Muslim residents travel to Syria to fight, a path taken by previous Islamic State attackers in Europe.

“Neither the place nor the date are coincidental,” a former French intelligence agent and security consultant, Claude Moniquet, told France-Info, noting the jihadist presence in Nice and the fact that July 14 marks France’s revolution.

“Tragic paradox that the subject of Nice attack was the people celebrating liberty, equality and fraternity,” European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter.

At Nice’s Pasteur hospital, medical staff were treating large numbers of injuries. Waiting for friends who were being operated on, 20-year-old Fanny told Reuters she had been lucky.

“We were all very happy, ready to celebrate all night long,” she said. “I saw a truck driving into the pedestrian area, going very fast and zig-zagging.

“The truck pushed me to the side. When I opened my eyes I saw faces I didn’t know and started asking for help … Some of my friends were not so lucky. They are having operations as we speak. It’s very hard, it’s all very traumatic.”

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Australian sporting gear company Spartan ‘dupes’ Dhoni of Rs 20 crore

NEW DELHI: India’s limited overs leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who remains a sought after personality in the endorsement world despite his retirement from Tests, has been allegedly duped by one of the many brands he endorses — Spartan Sports — of over Rs 20 crore.

It has been reliably learnt that a three-year bat and sponsorship deal worth Rs 13 crore has gone sour with Australia-based Spartan Sports, a sporting gear and equipment company, regularly defaulting on payments. With the royalty clause on Dhoni‘s bat deal included, the owed amount reportedly goes well over Rs 20 crore.

Sources in legal firm advising Rhiti Sports, Dhoni’s management company, told PTI that Kunal Sharma-owned Spartan has paid only four installments since the deal was struck in December 2013, the latest payment being made in March 2016.

When asked why the deal has gone awry, Rhiti Sports boss Arun Pandey did not elaborate before saying that, “everything is not smooth and hopefully the matter will be resolved soon”.

Spartan boss Sharma did not respond to calls and messages despite repeated attempts.

Besides Dhoni, the Australian company interestingly has big names of the cricketing world as its ambassadors — former Australian leader Michael Clarke, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle, England cricketer Eoin Morgan, former Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson and Sir Viv Richards to name a few.

Some other Australian cricketers associated with the brand are Joe Burns and Gurinder Sandhu.

While the deal with Spartan is technically still on, Rhiti Sports are planning to take legal action against the company which has its flagship store not just in Sydney but also in New Delhi.

Though Test leader Virat Kohli is the most sought after cricketer in the endorsement market, Dhoni remains in demand with his brand value worth over Rs 100 crore.

Dhoni currently endorses 15 brands besides co-ownership in ISL football franchise Chennaiyin FC and Hockey India League team Ranchi Rays.

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