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Isil claims Sri Lanka attack as prime minister says there are militants with explosives on the run

Isil claims Sri Lanka attack as prime minister says there are militants with explosives on the runSri Lanka's prime minister has warned there are more explosives and militants "out there" after the Easter suicide bombings that killed 321 people. Ranil Wickremesinghe made the comment Tuesday at a news conference, and said some officials will likely lose their jobs over intelligence lapses surrounding the attack. His warning came as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the terror attack on its official Amaq news agency. The group posted an image of seven masked attackers and the unmasked ringleader, Zahran Hashim, in front of its black flag. In a statement the men were named as Abu Ubaida – thought to refer to Hashim - Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu al-Baraa, Abu Muhammad, Abu Abdulla and Abu al-Mukhtar. Isis's official news agency, Amaq, posted this image of eight attackers, including the previously identified Zahran Hashim (centre) Sri Lanka's defence minister on Tuesday declared the attacks were retaliation for a recent attack on mosques in New Zealand, adding that two domestic Islamist groups were believed to be responsible. Ruwan Wijewardene’s comments were made as the South Asian island held its first mass funeral for about 30 of the victims of Sunday’s serial suicide bombings in three high profile churches and three luxury hotels. Sri Lankan intelligence has named the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks as Moulvi Zahran Hashim, an extremist local cleric who incited his followers to violence with fiery sermons on his social media channels. CCTV video shows suspected suicide bomber entering St Sebastian's Church in Negombo Isil's brief statement said they targeted “nationals of the Crusader alliance and Christians”, but made no specific reference to the New Zealand mosque attacks. At the same time, AFP agency reported that two Muslim brothers carried out two of the hotel suicide blasts. The brothers, sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader, blew themselves up as guests queued for breakfast at the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the capital Colombo. The brothers, whose names have not been revealed, were in their late twenties and operated their own "family cell", an investigation officer said. A suspected suicide bomber carries a backpack on a street in Negombo, Sri Lanka The Sri Lankan government revealed in 2016 that 32 Sri Lanka Muslims had travelled to Syria to join Isil. “All these (Muslims) are not from ordinary families. These people are from the families which are considered as well-educated and elite,” Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, the country’s Justice Minister told parliament. said, adding that the government was aware of some foreigners coming to Sri Lanka to spread what he called Islamic extremism. A Syrian national was also arrested on Tuesday. It was not yet clear if he played a role in the attacks. Read more | Sri Lanka attacks Mr Wijewardene told the Sri Lankan parliament the massacre was carried out by the obscure local National Thawheed Jamaath group along with another group called the JMI, an apparent reference to a little-known radical Islamist group in India called the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. Some experts have pointed out that the sophisticated nature of the attacks suggest that they would have required preparation that began before the Christchurch atrocity. Little is known about JMI, other than reports it was established last year and is affiliated to a similarly named group in Bangladesh. "The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch," said Mr Wijewardene. A suspected suicide bomber carries a backpack on a street in Negombo, Sri Lanka Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15, and horrific footage of the bloodbath was livestreamed on social media channels. The Sri Lankan authorities are still investigating how local militants gained the training and equipment to carry out an assault that is now considered to be one of the worst global terrorist atrocities since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. One theory is that Sri Lankan extremists could have been assisted by returning fighters from Iraq and Syria. It also emerged on Tuesday that Sri Lankan police are holding a Syrian national in custody for questioning over the Easter Sunday attacks. "The terrorist investigation division of the police arrested a Syrian national following the attacks for interrogation," a source told Reuters. Two other officials with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the detention. "He was arrested after interrogation of local suspects," a second source said. Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack. Sri Lanka attacks – Locator map The first mass funeral took place at St Sebastian church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted in Sunday's blasts. A moment of silence was observed at 08:30, to mark the timing of the first bomb on Sunday morning. Flags were lowered to half-mast and people, many of them in tears, bowed their heads in respect.



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Pakistan's Prime Minister Khan in Iran to talk security, ties

Pakistan's Prime Minister Khan in Iran to talk security, tiesPakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Iran on Sunday to discuss security and regional issues, Iranian state TV reported, a day after Islamabad urged Tehran to act against militants behind killings in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. A new umbrella group representing various insurgent groups operating in Baluchistan claimed responsibility for an attack on Thursday when 14 passengers were killed after being kidnapped from buses in the province, which borders Iran. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Saturday the training and logistical camps of the new alliance that carried out the attack were inside Iran and called for Iran to take action against the insurgents.



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Pakistan's Prime Minister Khan in Iran to talk security, ties

Pakistan's Prime Minister Khan in Iran to talk security, tiesPakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Iran on Sunday to discuss security and regional issues, Iranian state TV reported, a day after Islamabad urged Tehran to act against militants behind killings in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. A new umbrella group representing various insurgent groups operating in Baluchistan claimed responsibility for an attack on Thursday when 14 passengers were killed after being kidnapped from buses in the province, which borders Iran. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Saturday the training and logistical camps of the new alliance that carried out the attack were inside Iran and called for Iran to take action against the insurgents.



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Speaking to Jewish Republicans, Trump calls Netanyahu 'your prime minister'

Speaking to Jewish Republicans, Trump calls Netanyahu 'your prime minister'Addressing a group of Jewish Americans in Las Vegas over the weekend, President Trump referred to Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister.”



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Benjamin Netanyahu on course to remain prime minister after tight Israeli election

Benjamin Netanyahu on course to remain prime minister after tight Israeli electionBenjamin Netanyahu looked on the brink of securing a fifth-term as Israel’s prime minister on Wednesday, after fending off a centrist challenge despite facing criminal corruption charges.  With nearly all votes counted, Mr Netanyahu’s Likud had won the same number of seats as Blue & White, a centrist coalition run by led by former general Benny Gantz, but the prime minister had a much clearer path to forming a coalition.  “This is a night of tremendous victory,” Mr Netanyahu told his cheering supporters in Tel Aviv. “I am very moved that the people of Israel again put its faith in me, for the fifth time”. If the final tallies are confirmed, it will cement Mr Netanyahu’s reputation as the most successful election-winner in Israeli history and prove that his brand of divisive Right-wing politics is the country’s dominant political force. Mr Netanyahu, 69, has been in power for 13 years and is now on course to overtake David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, as the country’s longest-serving prime minister.  He is positioned to form a new Right-wing government and promised during the campaign that he would annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, a step he has previously shied away from.  Mr Netanyahu (centre) and Mr Gantz (left) once worked closely together Credit: Photo by Jim Hollander – Pool/Getty Images His re-election would also clear the way for the White House to release its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, known as “the Deal of the Century”.   A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority said regardless of the final result it appeared that Israelis had “voted no to peace and yes to the occupation”. Mr Netanyahu could also potentially try to reach out to Mr Gantz and try to form a broad Centre-Right national unity government.   Mr Netanyahu’s Likud and Mr Gantz’s Blue & White each appeared to have won 35 seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament. However, Likud and other Right-wing parties held a majority of seats, giving Mr Netanyahu a clear route to forming a coalition government.  Mr Gantz would have a far more difficult path to cobbling together a coalition as he would only be able to rely on the guaranteed support of two small Left-wing parties.     At Blue & White’s campaign rally early on Tuesday night, Mr Gantz claimed victory but that was before vote counting showed the Likud catching up on the centrists. Mr Gantz did not concede on Wednesday. In a message to supporters he admitted that "the odds may not seem in our favour" but urged them not to lose hope. The next stage of the election process is for Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, to summon all the party leaders for consultations in the coming days before deciding who to task with forming the government.   Letters from Jerusalem RHS If enough Right-wing parties pledge their support for Mr Netanyahu it is likely he will be returned to the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. By Wednesday morning, the prime minister appeared close to securing the support he needed for a new term. Despite his election victory, Mr Netanyahu’s hold on power is still threatened by the criminal charges against him, which will be finalised after a hearing this summer.  Israeli prosecutors allege that Mr Netanyahu changed telecomms regulations in return for more favourable media coverage and accepted bribes worth 1 million shekels (£200,000) in the form of lavish gifts from businessmen.  Mr Netanyahu, known in Israel as “Bibi”, denies all wrongdoing and claims the prosecutions are part of a politically-motivated witch hunt against him and his family.   “I know some of the things Bibi did are wrong but I’m not looking for a rabbi. I’m looking for a leader,” said Yaakov Lemash, a 76-year-old retired business owner, after casting his vote for Mr Netanyahu. “I want to tell Bibi thank you for all that he did for us.” Mr Netanyahu’s main campaign message was that he was an indispensable prime minister, whose personal relationships with world leaders like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had lifted Israel to a stature far beyond its small its small size.  He pointed to the US embassy moving to Jerusalem, the success of the country’s booming high-tech sector, and Israel’s ability to strike Iranian forces in Syria without getting dragged into full-scale war as proof of his effective leadership.   He also tacked hard to the Right, promising to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and antagonising Arab voters by saying Israel is “not a state of all its citizens” but only a nation state of the Jewish people. His allies meanwhile launched blistering attacks on Mr Gantz, portraying him as a paranoid delusional and suggesting that Iranian intelligence agencies may have gathered compromising material on the ex-general by hacking his phone.  In the final days and hours of the election, Mr Netanyahu issued feverish warnings that he was in danger of losing and called on all Right-wing voters to rally around his Likud party. “There are only a few more hours. Go out and vote for the Likud or else we will get a Leftist government,” he said Tuesday.  The tactic was a repeat of his 2015 election victory, when he scared voters planning to support small Right-wing parties into switching to Likud at the last moment. At least one small Right-wing party, the New Right, looked like it would fail reach the threshold for winning seats after bleeding support to Likud.   The White House remained officially neutral in the Israeli election but many observers concluded that Donald Trump was trying to tip the scales in Mr Netanyahu’s favour.  Two weeks before the election, Mr Trump announced he was recognising Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and lavished praise on Mr Netanyahu in a ceremony at the White House.  The two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, both of whom support Mr Netanyahu, appeared to have grown their support and together will control 16 seats in the 120-member parliament.    Polls showed that turnout among Arab citizens of Israel, who make up 20 per cent of the Israeli population, had fallen sharply since the 2015 election. The number of Arab MPs looked likely to fall from 13 to 10.  Many Arab voters grew despondent and frustrated after the Joint List, a coalition of all the Arab parties, broke apart in acrimony at the beginning of the election.  “All of the Arab parties are hopeless and nobody deserves my vote,” said Hamzeh Sahleh, a 47-year-old resident of Tamra, an Arab city in northern Israel.



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UK's May should quit as prime minister soon: Telegraph

UK's May should quit as prime minister soon: TelegraphBritish Prime Minister Theresa May should step down immediately after negotiating a temporary extension to Britain’s European Union membership, the Daily Telegraph newspaper said in its Saturday edition. Lawmakers rejected May’s Brexit plans for a third time on Friday, leaving Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in turmoil on the very day it had been supposed to quit the bloc. “She must now see – or must be told – that while she can meet with the EU to negotiate an extension for Brexit, that is the natural end of the road.



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4 things to know about Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime minister

4 things to know about Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's prime ministerPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the youngest New Zealand leader in more than a century.



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New Zealand Prime Minister announces immediate ban on all assault weapons

New Zealand Prime Minister announces immediate ban on all assault weaponsNew Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in the country's worst mass shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday. In the immediate aftermath of Friday's shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, Ms Ardern labelled the attack as terrorism and said New Zealand's gun laws would change. "On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place," Ms Ardern told a new conference. “All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned." Ms Ardern said she expects the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons. The buyback would cost up to NZ$ 200 million ($ 138 million), she said. All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines. Under existing New Zealand gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Live-streamed video of a gunman in one of the mosques showed a semi-automatic weapon with a large magazine. Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were gunned down. Ms Ardern said that similar to Australia, the new gun laws will allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers to conduct pest control and animal welfare. "I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride." Floral tributes to those who were gunned down at the two mosques are seen against a wall bordering the Botanical Garden in Christchurch Credit:  MARTY MELVILLE/AFP New Zealand, a country of less than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, around 13,500 of them MSSA type weapons. Most farmers in the Pacific country own guns, which they use for killing pests such as possums and rabbits, and for putting down injured stock. Recreational hunting of deer, pigs and goats is popular for sport and food, while gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country. That has created a powerful lobby which has thwarted previously attempts to tighten gun laws after other mass shootings in New Zealand and overseas. Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the change. "This will not be popular among some of our members but…we believe this is the only practicable solution," Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson said in a statement. The changes exclude two general classes of firearms which are commonly used for hunting, pest control, stock management on farms, and duck shooting. "I have a military style weapon. But to be fair, I don't really use it, I don't really need it," said Noel Womersley, who slaughters cattle for small farmers around Christchurch. "So I'm quite happy to hand mine over, to be fair." Ms Ardern said the next tranche of reforms will cover the firearm registry and licencing. Also on Thursday, police said they'd inadvertently charged Tarrant with the murder of a person who is still alive. Police said in a statement they had apologized to the person incorrectly named on the document and would change the charge sheet. They said the charge remains valid, so there was no chance the suspect would be released as a result of the error. Police did not offer further details of what went wrong or make anybody available for an interview. The name of the person on the charging sheet has been suppressed by court order. Officials said more charges against Tarrant would follow. Tarrant, 28, is next scheduled to appear in court on April 5, and Bush said investigations into him were continuing. Police have said they are certain Tarrant was the only gunman but are still investigating whether he had support.



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US' Pompeo boosts Israel prime minister ahead of election

US' Pompeo boosts Israel prime minister ahead of electionJERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday lauded the White House's warm ties with Israel during a visit to the country and promised to step up pressure on Iran, giving a public boost to Israel's prime minister at the height of a tight re-election campaign.



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New Zealand bans all assault weapons after mosque shootings, prime minister says

New Zealand bans all assault weapons after mosque shootings, prime minister saysPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and "military style semi-automatic rifles" like the weapons used in last Friday's attacks on two Christchurch mosques.



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