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Network behind Beirut bombings arrested in 48 hours

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Beirut: It took Lebanon 48 hours to arrest the entire network behind the suicide bombings carried out in Bourj al- Barajneh, a suburb in southern Beirut, said the interior minister.

In one of the deadliest attacks in Lebanon in recent years, Bourj al- Barajneh, a stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah militant group, was struck with twin suicide bombings on Thursday evening. The blasts, which occurred minutes apart, killed at least 43 and wounded around 250 others.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility of the attack though they don’t have a recognized affiliate in Lebanon. The ISIS fighting in neighbouring Syria and Iraq has had repercussions in the tiny Mediterranean country. Sectarian tensions were inflamed in the country’s Sunnis and Shiites, who have taken opposite sides in the Syrian war.

Five Syrians and one Palestinian were arrested on suspected involvement in the attack, said reports. The network behind the attack was also identified.

“The network includes seven people in addition to the suicide bombers. Obviously, there was a major plan to bomb Lebanese targets,” said the minister, adding they arrested the entire network behind the bombings within 48 hours.

The attack on Thursday was the worst in the country since two car bombs exploded outside two Sunni mosques packed with worshippers in Tripoli on 23 August, 2013.

Hezbollah official Bilal Farhat called it a “satanic, terrorist attack”. “They targeted civilians, worshippers, unarmed people, women, and elderly, they only targeted innocent people,” he told The Associated Press.

The minister informed that the attackers had initially targeted the al-Rasoul al-Aazam hospital with five suicide bombers, but altered their plans due to security measures.

He stressed that the current political disputes in Lebanon, due to which the country has been without a president since May 2014, needed to be sorted out, as political stability was one of the only means to secure the country.

Lebanon also currently hosts 1.1 million Syrian refugees, a number which is equivalent to a fourth of the country’s population.

(Inputs from IANS, AP)

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Facebook, Twitter Urged to Do More to Police Hate on Sites

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Twitter to soon release Snapchat like feature. VOA
Fake accounts on Twitter are many. VOA

Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are taking steps to police terrorists and hate groups on their sites, but more work needs to be done, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Tuesday.

The organization released its annual digital terrorism and hate report card and gave a B-plus to Facebook, a B-minus to Twitter and a C-plus to Google.

Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen said the company had no comment on the report. Representatives for Google and Twitter did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

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Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay
Facebook one of the most popular apps in US. Pixabay

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said Facebook in particular built “a recognition that bad folks might try to use their platform” as its business model. “There is plenty of material they haven’t dealt with to our satisfaction, but overall, especially in terms of hate, there’s zero tolerance,” Cooper said at a New York City news conference.

Rick Eaton, a senior researcher at the Wiesenthal Center, said hateful and violent posts on Instagram, which is part of Facebook, are quickly removed, but not before they can be widely shared.

He pointed to Instagram posts threatening terror attacks at the upcoming World Cup in Moscow. Another post promoted suicide attacks with the message, “You only die once. Why not make it martyrdom.”

Cooper said Twitter used to merit an F rating before it started cracking down on Islamic State tweets in 2016. He said the move came after testimony before a congressional committee revealed that “ISIS was delivering 200,000 tweets a day.”

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facebook
This photo shows Facebook launched on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. VOA

Cooper and Eaton said that as the big tech companies have gotten more aggressive in shutting down accounts that promote terrorism, racism and anti-Semitism, promoters of terrorism and hate have migrated to other sites such as VK.com, a Facebook lookalike that’s based in Russia.

There also are “alt-tech” sites like GoyFundMe, an alternative to GoFundMe, and BitChute, an alternative to Google-owned YouTube, Cooper said.

“If there’s an existing company that will give them a platform without looking too much at the content, they’ll use it,” he said. “But if not, they are attracted to those platforms that have basically no rules.”

The Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hate, and terrorism. (VOA)