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Nanny in hijab carrying severed head of a child arrested in Moscow

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The nanny, with the severed head of a 4 year old Natsya, was seen shouting "Allah hu akbar" and was later held captive at the Oktyabrskoye Polye metro station, Moscow. Image source: pamelageller.com

Moscow: A nanny has been arrested after she was seen on the street carrying the severed head of the 4 year old girl who is reported to be under her care in Russia’s capital city of Moscow.

The nanny has been identified as Gyulchekhra Bobokulova, 38, from Uzbekistan. The child was a 4 year old girl named Nastya.

“The child’s nanny, a citizen of one of the Central Asian states born in 1977, waited for the parents and elder child to leave the flat and then, for reasons not established, murdered the infant, set fire to the flat and left the scene,” the Moscow Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding that Bobokulova was placed in psychiatric care as officials investigate if she suffers from mental illness or was under the influence of drugs.

Graphic videos of the incident show the woman, dressed in a hijab, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” “I am a terrorist” and “I am your death.” The child’s decapitated body was found in the apartment in Moscow where a fire was reported.

Bobokulova was arrested after a police officer asked her for identification outside the Oktyabrskoye Polye metro station in northwest Moscow. She pulled the head out of a bag and began screaming that she would detonate herself.

(The article was first published in upi.com)

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Majlis Podcast: Who will Help Defend Central Asia from Insecurity in Afghanistan?

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Military officers take part in a command-staff exercise by a joint Russian-Tajik force at Kharbmaidon, next to the border with Afghanistan, in March. (REF/RL)

Afghanistan, May 29, 2017: These are certainly tense times for security officials in Central Asia.

Barely halfway through this spring, the violence in northern Afghanistan, in provinces just across the border from Central Asia, has already reached levels not seen since the late 1990s.

The April 21 attack on a military base in Balkh Province, just across the border from Uzbekistan, left more than 130 Afghan soldiers dead, and the Taliban has besieged Kunduz city, the capital of Kunduz Province, which borders Tajikistan, for the third time in less than two years.
There are also the battles in the Zebak district of Badakhshan Province, which also borders Tajikistan. The Ghormach district in Faryab Province, adjacent to Turkmenistan, has been solidly under militant control for weeks and in other areas of Faryab, and Jowzjan Province to the east, control of villages passes back-and-forth between government forces and militants.

Officials in the Central Asian capitals north of the Afghan border are surely weighing their options at the moment, including who they might call upon for aid if some element of instability currently present inside Afghanistan makes its way over the northern border.

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That was the topic of the latest Majlis, or panel discussion, RFE/RL arranged that looked at parties the Central Asians could be expected to call upon should some problem from Afghanistan destabilize their own governments.

Moderating the discussion was RFE/RL Media Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir. From the RFE/RL studio, Dr. Stephan Blank, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, joined the discussion. From Britain, our old friend Dr. David Lewis, senior lecturer in politics at Exeter University, took part.

Blank noted, “Everybody in Central Asian establishments is always concerned that whatever happens in Afghanistan will not be confined to Afghanistan.”

That has generally been the view of Central Asian governments for the last 25 years.

The most immediate fear in Central Asia, as the panel made clear, is not the Taliban. The Taliban has never been able to exert control over all of Afghanistan, even in the late 1990s, so the group has never been in a position to consider expansion beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

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Even now, when the Taliban is resurgent, the militants are a very long way off from conquering Afghanistan.

Lewis said, “Even if the Taliban itself has not been particularly interested in spreading into Central Asia, it’s acted as an umbrella, sort of like a protector for groups, which may well have security designs on Central Asia.”

Lewis said for Central Asian governments “the bigger problem [in Afghanistan] is…this array of other groups that may be in conflict with the Taliban or at least have different goals from the Taliban, particularly various offshoots of groups that somehow are linked to forms of Islamic State [militant group].”

Citizens of Central Asia are present in many of the militant groups currently active in northern Afghanistan.

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Fighting along or near the Tajik border has been in the news a lot recently. Tajikistan is unique among the three Central Asian states that border Afghanistan (Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan being the other two). Tajikistan has clear agreements for receiving outside military help to defend the country.

Tajikistan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), along with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.

As the security situation in northern Afghanistan has deteriorated over the last three years, the CSTO has offered numerous pledges of rapid military support to the Tajik government if problems from Afghanistan spill across the border.

But Blank said, “There are real question marks about the actual readiness of the CSTO as a military alliance.”

He pointed out, “Formally speaking there’s the Collective Security Treaty Organization, in practice that really means the Russian Army.”

And Blank added that Russia is “already involved in three wars, in the North Caucasus, Ukraine, and Syria, the economy is very constrained, military spending has had to be cut, and the last thing they need is a fourth protracted war.”

Blank suggested that was one of the reasons Moscow had entered into talks with the Taliban because “Russia has decided that ISIS is the greater threat,” and the most likely to destabilize the situation in Central Asia.

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Russia has the 201st Division stationed in Tajikistan. Russia commands the CSTO base at Kant, Kyrgyzstan, also.

But Lewis explained, “Tajikistan’s been very cautious about its military relationship with Russia,” and “there’s a lot of sensitivity in the region about Russian involvement in Central Asia, and that’s certainly the case for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.”

Uzbekistan is no longer a CSTO member. The first time Uzbekistan withdrew from the CSTO was in 1999, shortly after Tashkent invoked the CSTO mutual-defense treaty when the Taliban arrived at the Uzbek border (Uzbekistan rejoined the CSTO in 2006 but pulled out in 2012). At that time Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said he would not send even one soldier to defend Central Asia.

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Uzbekistan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and China, but Blank said, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization cannot be relied on, it has never…developed the capability to function as a hard security organization.”

Lewis suggested there was another option that would probably be particularly unpalatable to the Kremlin. “I think from a Russian perspective, the kind of nightmare scenario is that if Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan come under pressure they turn not to Russia for help but to other countries, maybe even to the West,” Lewis said.

There is another issue here and that is the definition of an internal versus external security threat.

It was noted in the Majlis that when inter-ethnic violence erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, the CSTO did not intervene, deeming that an internal problem.

But Lewis said, “It seems to me the real problem is if you get some internal dissention or state collapse in Central Asia.” And Blank noted that in Tajikistan’s case, “I’m not altogether certain the Tajik government is strong enough to fight off an internal challenge.”

Should Central Asian militants currently located in northern Afghanistan be able cross into Central Asia and wage a terrorist campaign how would the CSTO, SCO, or others view that situation? (REF/RL)

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Fresh Lease of Life: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose ‘Great Escape’ car to be restored

The restoration of the 1937-make sedan is being carried out in consultation with vintage car expert Pallab Ray and is scheduled for completion by December

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Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Kolkata, Sept 07, 2016: Seventy-five years after it ferried Indian revolutionary Netaji Subash Chandra Bose during the first leg of his ‘Great Escape’ from British India, wheels have been set in motion for restoration of the iconic four-door German Wanderer sedan parked at his ancestral home here.

Housed in a glass enclosure on the ground floor of the Netaji Bhawan, which is owned and managed by the Netaji Research Bureau (NRB), the sedan will receive a fresh lease of life, courtesy a collaboration between the Bureau and German auto maker Audi.

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“Work is going on. All its components will be repaired and restored to what it was in its original form,” NRB chairperson Krishna Bose told IANS.

The restoration of the 1937-make sedan is being carried out in consultation with vintage car expert Pallab Ray and is scheduled for completion by December.

Under house arrest, Bose escaped from the house in Elgin Road in south Kolkata (then Calcutta) on the night of January 16, 1941, in the Wanderer W24, in the first leg of his escape to then Nazi Germany.

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His nephew Sisir Bose drove him in the car (bearing the registration number BLA 7169) through the streets of Kolkata to Gomoh (now in Jharkhand) hoodwinking British intelligence. Netaji subsequently crossed over into Afghanistan and reached Germany via Kabul and Moscow. (IANS)

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Church in India for a Temple in Moscow?

ISKCON expecting Modi to help build a temple in Moscow

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Radha and Krishna in an ISKCON temple

Moscow, May 1 : Somewhat like the story of Lord Krishna, whose address at birth was said to be a gloomy dungeon in ancient Mathura, the address to Moscow’s only Krishna temple is in a basement in a rented building.

And quite like the story of persecution of Lord Krishna’s parents Devaki and Vasudev, the temple run by ISKCON’s Moscow chapter dedicated to the Hindu god, has had to be shifted to the makeshift subterranean abode, due to what is being perceived as sustained non-cooperation by the authorities as well as conservative religious groups, which have in the past, thwarted attempts to construct a temple on land officially allotted to the New York-founded society.

But for Sadhu Priya Das, who has been pursuing the issue for ISKCON in Moscow, the arrival of Narendra Modi as the Indian prime minister, who has already visited Russia twice since assuming office in 2014, could well be a catalyst in ensuring that a temple for Krishna comes alive in the land of the Kremlin.

“We are very hopeful that in the current tenure of Mr. Modi our temple will be built,” Das told this visiting IANS correspondent.

The history of the Hare Krishna movement’s efforts to build the temple appears as chequered as it seems mystifying.

The Hare Krishna movement was first legalized in the then Soviet Union 1988, after an initial spell of suspicion in the government establishment about the cult on account of its American lineage as well as unique methods of worship.

The real trouble however began in 2004, when its first and only temple located on the Begovaya avenue was demolished by the civic authorities on account of an urban development project. The Society was then awarded an alternative plot of land on the tony Leningradsky Prospekt, a move which saw strong protests from the conservative Russian Orthodox Church and was eventually stalled.An offer of another patch of land in the suburbs of Moscow was also withdrawn by the government just as construction of the temple was about to get under way.

“We have gone through a very long procedure for constructing the temple and finally the land was taken back by the government. Almost five years ago, we were promised another piece of land for the temple construction, but so far nothing has happened. The temple is currently located in a rented building in a basement,” Das said.

The Krishna temple, according to ISKCON, would not just facilitate the religious needs of the 15,000-strong population of Indians and more than 25,000 ISKCON followers living in the Russian capital but also serve as a social and cultural centre for South Asians in general.

Apart from the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government being at the helm in India, what has given a fresh lease of hope for ISKCON Moscow followers is the permission granted by the authorities in India to build the country’s first Russian Orthodox Church in the national capital New Delhi last year, following requests by the Russian embassy.

Related: Sushma off to Moscow to co-chair intergovernmental panel

Many like Das are perhaps hoping that the Indian government is able to calibrate a diplomatic swap between a church for Christ in Delhi and a temple for Krishna in Moscow.

“If the government of India has approved the construction of the (Russian) Orthodox Church in India that is very good sign of our friendship and a good gesture. I am sure that a Hindu temple in Russia by ISKCON will soon be a reality,” Das said.(IANS)