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Belgian police arrest six in bombing probe, French foil Paris plot

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Belgian police arrest six in bombing probe, French foil Paris plot | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Belgian police arrest six in bombing probe, French foil Paris plot
Phuket Gazette / Reuters


BRUSSELS: Belgian police arrested six people in their probe of Tuesday’s Islamic State suicide bombings in Brussels, while authorities in France said they thwarted a militant plot there “that was at an advanced stage.”

The federal prosecutor’s office in Belgium said on Thursday that the arrests came during police searches in the Brussels neighborhoods of Schaerbeek in the north and Jette in the west, as well as in the center of the Belgian capital.

The arrests came days after suicide bombers hit the Brussels airport and a metro train, killing at least 31 people and wounding some 270 in the worst such attack in Belgian history.

The attack in Brussels, which is home to the European Union and NATO, has heightened security concerns around the world and raised questions about European countries’ response to the threat from Islamist extremists.

The Islamic State militant group, which claimed responsibility for the Brussels bombings, also took credit for coordinated attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people at cafes, a sports stadium and concert hall.

In Paris yesterday, authorities arrested a French national suspected of belonging to a militant network planning an attack in France.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a televised address that the arrest helped “foil a plot in France that was at an advanced stage.”

Cazeneuve added that the man arrested “is suspected of high-level involvement in this plan. He was part of a terrorist network that planned to strike France.”

After the arrest by the French counter-terrorism service, DGSI, the agency raided an apartment building last night in the northern Paris suburb of Argenteuil. French TV station ITele reported that explosives had been found in the man’s house.

“At this stage, there is no tangible evidence that links this plot to the attacks in Paris and Brussels,” added Cazeneuve, who was in the Belgian capital earlier on Thursday.

RESIGNATION OFFERS

Earlier on Thursday, Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign over a failure to track an Islamic State militant expelled by Turkey as a suspected fighter and who blew himself up at Brussels Airport.

Brahim El Bakraoui was one of three identified suspects in the suicide bombings at the airport and on a metro train. At least one other man seen with them on airport security cameras is on the run and a fifth suspected bomber filmed in the metro attack may be dead or alive.

Bakraoui’s brother Khalid, 26, killed about 20 people at Maelbeek metro station in the city center. De Morgen newspaper said he had violated the terms of his parole in May by maintaining contacts with past criminal associates, but a Belgian magistrate had released him.

Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens tendered their resignations to Prime Minister Charles Michel, who asked them to stay on. “In time of war, you cannot leave the field,” said Jambon, a right-wing Flemish nationalist.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Bakraoui, 29, had been expelled in July after being arrested near the Syrian border, and two officials said he had been deported a second time. Belgian and Dutch authorities had been notified of Turkish suspicions that he was a foreign fighter trying to reach Syria.

At the time, Belgian authorities replied that Bakraoui, who had skipped parole after serving less than half of a nine-year sentence for armed robbery, was a criminal but not a militant.

“You can ask how it came about that someone was let out so early and that we missed the chance to seize him when he was in Turkey. I understand the questions,” Jambon said. “In the circumstances, it was right to take political responsibility and I offered my resignation to the prime minister.”

Geens said systems should be reviewed but noted that other countries had been attacked, citing the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States in which he noted that “there were 3,000 dead.”

JIHADIST NETWORK

Investigators are convinced the same jihadist network was involved in the November Paris attacks.

Belgian public broadcaster VRT said investigators believed that Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, arrested last Friday, probably planned a similar shooting and suicide bomb attack in Brussels.

One man was killed in a shootout with police on March 15 that led to the discovery of assault weapons and explosives and the arrest of Abdeslam, 26, and another suspect on March 18.

Belgium lowered its security alert level one notch to three from the highest level, four, but officials did not say what that would mean in terms of security measures that have included a heavy police and military presence in Brussels.

Islamic State posted a video on social media calling the Brussels blasts a victory and featuring the training of Belgian militants suspected in the Paris attacks.

The lawyer for Abdeslam said the French national wanted to “explain himself” and would no longer resist extradition to France. His lawyer, Sven Mary, said Abdeslam had not been aware of the plan for the Brussels airport and metro attack that was carried out by men who had shared hideouts with him.

Two sources familiar with the matter said the Bakraoui brothers had been on U.S. government counter-terrorism watch lists before the attacks. But it was not clear how long they had been known to the authorities.

‘A NICE BOY’

Security sources told Belgian media the other suicide bomber at the airport was Najim Laachraoui, a veteran Belgian Islamist fighter in Syria suspected of making explosive belts for November’s Paris attacks.

Laachraoui’s younger brother Mourad issued a statement condemning his actions, in the first public reaction from a family member of one of the Brussels attackers.

Laachraoui, 25, gave no warning sign of being radicalised before leaving for Syria in 2013 and breaking all contact with his family, Mourad told a news conference.

“He was a nice boy, and above all he was clever; that’s what I remember of him,” Mourad said of his brother, who graduated in electro-mechanics. He said the last time he saw him, he looked “normal.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors



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Elderly mother of murdered Thai woman is seeking help to bring her daughter’s body home

The Thaiger

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Elderly mother of murdered Thai woman is seeking help to bring her daughter’s body home | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Matichononline

The family of a Thai woman murdered in northern Portugal in March is now calling for assistance with the cost of repatriating the body back to Thailand.

According to Portuguese media the woman, Natchaya Saranyaphat, was murdered on March 7 by another Thai woman. Natchaya’s head was found on the Leca da Palmeira beach, 300 kilometres north of Lisbon on the Atlantic coast.

The dead woman’s 76 year old mother from the north-eastern Surin province says that Natchaya was the youngest of her five children. She says her daughter had been working in Portugal and been sending back up to 6,000 per month. Another Thai woman, Sangam Sawaiprkhon, has since been arrested in Portugal as a suspect in the murder of Natchaya, allegedly over a disagreement about 358,000 baht. They had jointly invested in a massage shop in Portugal.

The woman’s elderly mother says she needs help from the provincial or Thai government as her family is very poor and unable to pay for the retune of her daughter’s body for burial.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson says they had received a report from the Royal Thai embassy in Lisbon and local police about the murder and the arrest of the Thai suspect in Portugal.

Elderly mother of murdered Thai woman is seeking help to bring her daughter's body home | News by The Thaiger

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Southeast Asia

LATEST: Sri Lanka bombings

The Thaiger

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LATEST: Sri Lanka bombings | The Thaiger

A wave of explosions rocked Sri Lanka up-scale hotels and churches on Easter Sunday around the capital Colombo. This is what we know…

• At least 215 people have been confirmed dead with up to 450 more injured in a series of bombings targeting churches holding Easter services and hotels in Sri Lanka. The toll is likely to rise during today or at least become more precise as officials tally information from emergency responders.

• Most of the dead are said to be Sri Lankans, but officials say up to 40 foreigners have lost their lives.

• Three UK nationals and two US-UK dual nationals were among the dead. One Dutch, one Chinese, one Portuguese and two Turkish nationals have been killed, their respective foreign ministries have confirmed.

• There were six initial blasts, at three hotels and three churches, before two more explosions some time later, at a guest house and housing scheme, with two people reported to have been killed at the former. A government minister says the last two blasts appeared to have been carried out by the culprits as they fled from police.

• No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but Sri Lanka’s defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene claims the culprits have been identified and were religious extremists. He said suicide bombers were responsible for the majority of the morning’s bombings and that the wave of attacks was the work of a single group.

• Eight people are reported to have been arrested so far.

• The Sri Lankan government has issued a curfew and shut down social media and messaging services to prevent the spread of disinformation.

• Sri Lanka’s PM, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has condemned the “cowardly” attacks and urged people to remain “united and strong”.

• The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called it “a very sad day” and is urging the government to identify the attackers and “punish them mercilessly because only animals can behave like that”.

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Southeast Asia

Mitsubishi testing their new regional jet

The Thaiger

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Mitsubishi testing their new regional jet | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Japan Times

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ new 88-passenger Mitsubishi Regional Jet is testing the skies just as rivals Embraer and Bombardier are moving to sell off their manufacturing operations for jets with up to 160 seats to Boeing and Airbus.

At stake, particularly in the market for jets with fewer seats, is US$135 billion in sales in the two decades through 2037, according to industry group Japan Aircraft Development.

More cities in Asia and Europe are seeking to link up with each other and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, the first airliner built in Japan since the 1960s, began certification flights last month in Moses Lake, Washington.

With fewer seats and smaller fuselages, regional jets are a different class of aircraft from larger narrow-body planes such as Boeing’s 737 or Airbus’s A320. The MRJ has a range of about 3,220 kilometres. The seating is 2+2 instead of 3+3 in a small Airbus or Boeing single-aisle jet.

After spending at least US$2 billion over more than a decade, the manufacturer is looking to get its jet certified and start deliveries to launch partner ANA Holdings.

Mitsubishi initially planned test flights in 2012 but blew past that deadline because of production difficulties. Now, the company, which makes ships, nuclear power plants and aerospace components, expects to have the plane ready for customers next year, a timetable that will test the company, said Mitsubishi Aircraft president Hisakazu Mizutani.

Mitsubishi Heavy is not the only Asian manufacturer betting that it can build aircraft cheaper and more efficiently. Commercial Aircraft of China (Comac) has a new regional jet in service, while Korea Aerospace Industries is studying whether to develop a 100-passenger aircraft.

“The aviation market in Asia is expected to grow further in the coming years and there will be demand for these aircraft,” said analyst Lee Dong-heon at Daishin Securities in Seoul.

“The shift in the regional aviation segment we have seen over the last year or so has opened opportunities.”

“The MRJ is fully capable of competing in the market.”

Mitsubishi testing their new regional jet | News by The Thaiger

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