VIENNA: Investigators have begun to carefully probe the background of Austria’s latest radicalized teenage jihadist, whose pre-detention was extended on Wednesday afternoon after a court hearing in St. Pölten in Lower Austria.
The 14-year-old boy of Turkish origin had admitted to planning a bombing of Westbahnhof, one of Austria’s busiest and largest railway stations, and had begun making enquiries into obtaining necessary parts for a bomb when police arrested him on Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday evening, there were media reports that as part of the radicalization process, young people had been lured into jihadism through promises that they could receive up to $25,000 (€19,800) for an assassination.
Now police and prosecutors are examining the computer, phone and other aspects of the suspect’s life, including acquaintances and possible backers of the young would-be jihadist. The data analysis is expected to take days, or even weeks, according to the police.
The Regional Court in St. Pölten agreed with prosecutors that there was a flight risk with the boy, and decided to impose pre-trial detention. The teenager was “strongly suspected to have been involved in a terrorist group,” it said in a press release.
Police have been investigating the young man since the beginning of October, when it was learned that he had been making increasingly radical statements that supported the Isis terrorist network, and had begun the process to acquire bomb parts.
According to one report, the boy has admitted that he had been considering locations where crowds gathered to maximize the impact of a bomb, which is why Westbahnhof was one of his targets.__The Local
NEW DELHI: India’s government has banned first class air travel for bureaucrats, meetings in five-star hotels and purchases of cars in a series of tough austerity measures.
The moves are aimed at achieving a fiscal deficit target of 4.1% of the gross domestic product for this year.
India’s economy has slowed in recent years, growing by 4.7% in 2013-14.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP swept to power in the recent election on the promise of reviving the economy.
The previous Congress-led government had initiated similar measures in 2012 and 2013 to trim the deficit.
The latest austerity measures “are intended at promoting fiscal discipline, without restricting the operational efficiency of the government”, a finance ministry statement quoted by the Press Trust of India news agency said.
“In the context of the current fiscal situation, there is a need to continue to rationalise expenditure and optimise available resources,” it added.
New jobs have been frozen and purchases of cars have been mostly banned, reports said. Officials have been asked to use video conferencing for meetings wherever possible.
“While officers are entitled to various classes of air travel depending on seniority, utmost economy would need to be observed while exercising the choice keeping the limitations of budget in mind. However, there would be no bookings in the first class,” the finance ministry said.
The government aims to further cut fiscal deficit to 3.6% in 2015-16 and 3% in 2016-17.
Mr Modi won a landslide in the May general election with a pledge to boost growth and create jobs for one million people who enter India’s workforce every month.__BBC
KIEV: Russia has agreed to resume gas supplies to Ukraine over the winter in a deal brokered by the European Union.
The deal will also ensure gas supplies to EU countries via Ukraine are secure.
“There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter,” said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
European Union energy chief Guenther Oettinger said he was confident that Ukraine would be able to afford to pay for the gas it needed.
He added that the agreement might be the “first glimmer” of hope in easing tensions between Russian and Ukraine.
“This is an important step for our shared energy security in the European continent,” Mr Barroso said.
The deal follows months of talks between EU officials and the Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers.
The terms include the EU acting as guarantor for Ukraine’s gas purchases from Russia and helping to meet outstanding debts.
The total package is worth $4.6bn (£2.87bn), with money coming from the International Monetary Fund as well as the EU. The total includes funds from existing accords with the EU and IMF.
“Unprecedented levels of EU aid will be disbursed in a timely manner, and the International Monetary Fund has reassured Ukraine that it can use all financial means at its disposal to pay for gas,” the EC said in a statement.
“Further work with the international financial institutions on financial assistance to Ukraine, also in relation to gas supplies, will still continue. But all three sides are reassured that Ukraine will have the necessary financial means.”
Gas supplies were halted over late payments when Russia scrapped subsidies given to Ukraine for importing gas, meaning the price paid by Ukraine rose sharply.
However, the backdrop to the row is Russia’s conflict with Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow.
Although the impact of the gas ban has been relatively small, the onset of winter made the need for a deal more urgent.
Alexander Motyl, professor at Rutgers University-Newark, said the deal was “good news for Ukraine because there was a distinct possibility that the population wouldn’t have enough heat for the winter.”
The agreement was also good news for European consumers, he told the BBC. However, he said it was too early to tell whether the deal might herald a breakthrough in Russian-Ukraine relations.
Ukraine has relied on Russia for around 50% of its gas. Despite storage facilities Ukraine has a winter shortfall of around 3 billion to 4 billion cubic metres of gas, analysts say.
Russia provides around a third of the European Union’s gas, about half of which is pumped via Ukraine.
Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak told a news conference that the deal secures supplies for Ukraine and Europe.
“I want to reassure you that Russia has always been a reliable supplier of energy resources to Europe and other consumers. It has been, is and will be a reliable supplier.
“The autumn and winter period is safe (for Ukraine) and the supply to European consumers is also stable. We are convinced that our future relations will be constructive and that our agreements will be fulfilled,” he said.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said that the EU had agreed to serve as guarantor for the gas price Kiev would pay to Russia.
Ukraine will pay $378 per 1,000 cubic metres to the end of 2014, and $365 in the first quarter of 2015.
Mr Yatseniuk said Kiev was ready to pay off debts for gas immediately after any deal was signed.
A total of $1.45bn would be paid immediately, and another $1.65bn by the end of the year, he said.
Mr Novak insisted that Ukraine would still have to pay in advance for new deliveries.
Mr Oettinger, who steps down as European energy commissioner on Friday, said: “We can say to the citizens of Europe that we can guarantee security of supply over the winter.”
Meanwhile, the French and German presidents said that they spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko on Thursday evening.
All four “have welcomed the conclusion of negotiations” the European heads said in a joint statement.__BBC
PARIS: An investigation has been launched after France’s state-owned EDF power company said unidentified drones had flown over seven of its nuclear plants.
The first unmanned aircraft was spotted on 5 October and there had been further sightings up to 20 October, EDF said.
Who is behind the drones is unclear but pressure group Greenpeace has denied any involvement.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says measures are being taken to “neutralise” the drones.
Under French law, no aircraft is allowed within 5km or 1,000m of a nuclear plant and the air force is responsible for the protection of all such sites.
France is 75% reliant on nuclear power for its electricity and has 58 reactors operated by EDF at 19 sites.
According to the company, the first drone flew over its Creys-Malville plant at Isere in south-east France, 50km (31 miles) east of Lyon.
EDF says other incidents took place at
Bugey in the southeast
Blayais in the south-west
Cattenom and Chooz in the north-east
Gravelines in the north
Nogent-sur-Seine, the closest plant to Paris
Most of the flights took place between 13 and 20 October and either at night or early in the morning, the company says.
Greenpeace said a drone had also flown over the CEA nuclear research institute in Paris and accused EDF of minimising the significance of the incidents. Le Figaro website reported that drones had flown over several other CEA sites as well.
Air force spokesman Col Jean-Pascal Breton said all the drones involved were small-sized and commercially available and because of their size they were not considered a threat.
Mr Cazeneuve said a judicial inquiry was under way and measures were being taken to “know what these drones are and neutralise them”.
Suspicion had initially fallen on Greenpeace as a paraglider from the activist group flew over the Bugey plant in 2012. Last month, 55 Greenpeace activists were given suspended sentences for breaking into the nuclear power station at Fessenheim near the German border.
But the group was adamant that it was always very open with its activities and had nothing to do with the drones.
“The overflights in question took place sometimes on the same day at four sites which are far apart from each other,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “For example at Bugey, Gravelines, Chooz and Nogent-sur-Seine on 19 October – which proves it’s a large-scale operation.”
EDF said there had been no implications for the “security or the functioning” of the plants and the company had “no fear” of the drones as they were unlikely to cause any damage.
President Francois Hollande has pledged to reduce the number of French reactors by 2025, bringing France’s reliance on nuclear energy down from 75% to 50%.__BBC
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NEW DELHI/BERNE: Amid a debate on disclosure of names of suspected black money holders, Switzerland on Thursday said information exchanged under Swiss-India tax treaty cannot be disclosed “in principle” to a court or any other body outside the proceedings of a ‘specific and relevant’ case.
The comments come at a time when a Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team is probing alleged stashing of black money by Indians aboard, including Swiss banks.
Switzerland, long accused of being a safe haven for illicit funds, has promised to extend assistance to India and reply to requests for information in a “time-bound” manner on cases of alleged tax evasion and financial crimes, or provide a reason if no information can be shared.
Explaining the treaty provisions about disclosure of such ‘secret’ information, a Swiss finance ministry spokesperson told PTI from Berne that authorities from the two countries are having “regular contacts on bilateral tax matters” but refused to comment on particular cases.__Times of India