Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 12th of April 2017 :-
1. Borussia Dortmund bus attack: One person detained, German police probing ‘Islamist link’ :-
German police have detained one person, an “Islamist” suspect over three explosions that struck Borussia Dortmund’s team bus, prosecutors said on Wednesday, confirming that the investigation was examining a possible “terrorist link”.
“Two suspects from the Islamist spectrum have become the focus of our investigation. Both of their apartments were searched, and one of the two has been detained,” said lead prosecutor Frauke Koehle. Separately, national news agency DPA said a second claim of responsibility emerged online, this time possibly linked to “anti-fascist” far-left groups.
German police had earlier said they were investigating a possible Islamist link to three explosions that rocked the Borussia Dortmund football team bus as the club vowed not to give in to “terror”.
Dortmund’s Spanish international Marc Bartra and a policeman were injured in the roadside blasts set off as the bus took the team to their Champions League game against Monaco on Tuesday night. The match was put back to Wednesday amid a ratcheting of security around Dortmund and in Munich where Bayern Munich take on Real Madrid.
UEFA said that security will be tightened around Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final games following a bomb attack on the Borussia Dortmund team bus. There were extra forces around team hotels and their buses will take special safe routes to the stadiums.
A letter found at the scene of Tuesday’s attack “claims responsibility for what happened,” prosecutor Sandra Luecke said late Tuesday. The “authenticity is being verified,” she added. Luecke did not give details of the letter, but media citing unnamed sources said it referred to the Berlin Christmas market attack in December that killed 12 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
It also mentioned Germany’s deployment of Tornado reconnaissance missions as part of an anti-IS international coalition, they reported. The assault was described by Dortmund city’s police chief as a “targeted attack” against the team.
But Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watze vowed that his side “will not give in to terror”, as the club announced that the players have returned to training a day after the blasts. “We will play not only for ourselves today. We will play for everyone… we want to show that terror and hate can never determine our actions,” he said in a statement.
German authorities have held off from describing it as an organised ‘terror attack’. But the probe has been taken over by federal prosecutors, whose remit includes terror investigations. Separately, national news agency DPA said the second claim of responsibility emerged online, this time possibly linked to “anti-fascist” far-left groups.
Investigators were also looking at the letter, which says the team was attacked because it did not speak out enough against racists and Nazis, added DPA. Germany has been on high alert since a series of jihadist attacks last year, including Berlin market assault.
The explosives detonated minutes after the Dortmund team bus pulled away from the squad’s hotel and headed for their quarter-final, first-leg tie against Monaco. Bartra underwent surgery on a broken wrist after he was hit by flying glass, Dortmund president Reinhard Rauball told NTV news channel.
The injured policeman, who was on a motorcycle escorting the team bus, suffered trauma from the noise of the blasts. “We are assuming that they were a targeted attack against the Dortmund team,” said the western German city’s police chief Gregor Lange.
The explosives shattered the bus windows and the vehicle was burned on the right-hand side. “The bus turned onto the main road when there was a huge noise – a big explosion,” Dortmund’s Swiss goalkeeper Roman Burki told Swiss media.
“After the bang, we all crouched down in the bus. We did not know if more would come.”
2. Moscow says US position on Syria remains a ‘mystery’, rhetoric tends to be ‘primitive’, ‘loutish’ :-
The US position on Syria remains a mystery to Moscow and Washington’s rhetoric tends to be primitive and loutish, Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Wednesday.
Ryabkov’s remarks were released minutes before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the highest level representative of the Trump administration to visit Russia, was due to start talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Reuters reports.
Ryabkov said that at the talks Russia expected to discuss no-fly zones in Syria, and that North Korea and Ukraine would also be on the agenda.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Lavrov on Wednesday that he wanted to use talks in Moscow to understand why Russia and Washington had sharp differences and find a way to bridge those differences.
Moscow said Wednesday, prior to the meeting, that it was useless to give Russia an ultimatum, in response to the United States’ top diplomat urging it to stop supporting the Syrian government regime.
“It seems to me that everyone has already understood that it is useless to travel to us with ultimatums, it is simply counterproductive,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
It was uncertain whether Tillerson would be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin as it was not part of the agenda but the Kremlin had not ruled out the possibility.
Tillerson’s Moscow visit made him the first senior American official to visit Russia since US President Donald Trump came to power.
In a statement published on the Department of State’s website, Tillerson suggested Russia choose between supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and an alliance with the West.
“Is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia’s interest, or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States, with other Western countries and Middle East countries who are seeking to resolve the Syrian crisis?” Tillerson said ahead of his trip to Moscow.
Since a suspected chemical attack on April 4 in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, the US has accused Russia of being morally responsible for the deaths of almost 100 Syrian civilians.
The US last week launched air strikes on a regime airbase in response to the alleged chemical attack.
3. United CEO apologises for treatment of passenger dragged off plane :-
The chief executive of embattled United Airlines unequivocally apologised on Tuesday for an incident in which a passenger was dragged off a plane, and promised a “thorough review” of the airline’s practices.
The apology came after mounting criticism of the carrier’s actions stemming from a Sunday flight, when a passenger was dragged off a plane and bloodied in the process.
The US Department of Transportation promised to investigate the incident.
“I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard,” Munoz said Tuesday.
“I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.”
The comments were in contrast to Munoz’s earlier statements. US media published a company email the CEO sent to employees, in which he appeared to put partial blame for the incident on the 69-year-old passenger, saying he “defied” authorities and “compounded” the incident.
“Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this,” Munoz wrote.
But the CEO said Tuesday that the company will conduct a “thorough review” of its procedures, including “how we handle oversold situations” and how the airline partners with airport authorities and law enforcement.
Munoz promised to produce the results of the review by April 30.
The passenger was one of four involuntarily bumped off the overbooked Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky flight, and was the only one who refused to leave.
Passengers recorded video of three Chicago airport security officers confronting the man, one officer grabbing him as he screamed and dragging him by his arms down the plane’s aisle.
That officer was placed on leave by Chicago’s Department of Aviation.
The online videos of the incident caused an international social media firestorm.
4. Dalai Lama’s Arunachal Pradesh visit asserts India’s territorial claim, a provocation: China :-
China Wednesday warned India that Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh will have a “negative impact” on the settlement of the border dispute with the northeastern state, parts of which China claims as southern Tibet.
It also said the provocative statements made by India during the course of the exiled Tibetan leader’s visit to India violated its commitment on the issue of Tibet.
Pema Khandu, chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, told Reuters on April 5 that he regarded the land on the other side of the border as Tibet, not China.
“As far as the boundary issue is concerned, I have also maintained that we don’t share our boundary with China, but we share our boundary with Tibet,” the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister had said.
Without naming Khandu, China’s foreign ministry said “some specific Indian official” had indulged in provocative political statement and that they “exceeded the scope of religious activities”.
“What India has done is violated the solemn commitment on Tibet-related issues and it also has a negative impact on proper settlement of the territorial disputes between the two sides through negotiations,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
Lu Kang said the Dalai Lama supported that stand.
“The Dalai clique already fully stands with the position of foreigners. His display cannot in the slightest impact China’s position on the border and Tibet,” Lu Kang said.
He also said despite China’s objection, India insisted on arranging the Dalai Lama’s visit “in the disputed areas of the eastern section of the China-India boundary”.
Lu also termed the Dalai Lama’s visit a “disgraceful performance”, which will by no means change China’s position on the border and Tibet-related issues nor the fact that the Tibetan government is “exercising effective administration”.
“The Dalai Lama has disgraceful performance on the boundary question. This time he called himself the son of India and also backed up unfounded statement by the official of the so-called Arunachal Pradesh of India,” Lu said.
“The Dalai Lama attacked the Chinese government on Tibet-related issues and advertised his political views on splitting China. It showed the Dalai clique has already viewed itself as foreign,” he said.
The Dalai Lama’s week-long trip to Arunachal Pradesh has infuriated China who considers the exiled Tibetan leader to be a dangerous separatist.
“China has lodged representations with the Indian side and we will take further action to safeguard the territorial sovereignty and national security,” Lu said, without elaborating.
He said the boundary and Tibet-related questions “bear the political foundation of China-India relationship” and the two countries have reached “important consensus” of resolving the dispute through talks and consultations.
“We hope that the Indian side bear in mind the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples and safeguard the political foundation of the bilateral relationship and do not take any provocative actions,” he said.
Asked to elaborate what “negative impact” he was referring to on the border dispute, Lu said, “I would like to correct one mistake in your remark, I said the Dalai Lama was visiting the disputed eastern section of the China-India boundary. It’s not the Indian territory. The Indian government has made solemn commitment on Tibet-related issues and the boundary question,” he said.
“We have lessons to learn from history. When the Indian side violated commitments on the relevant issues, the Indian side insisted on arranging the visit of the Dalai Lama in the disputed section of the China-Indian boundary and indulged in provocative political statements. We have already expressed our solemn representations and it will of course have negative impact on bilateral relations,” he said.
India and China have been negotiating on the border dispute for more than 20 years but an agreement is yet to be reached. The dispute covers the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control that separates India’s Arunachal Pradesh from China.
While China claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet, India asserts the dispute also covers the Aksai Chin area, which China occupied during the 1962 Sino-India war.
China is opposed to the Nobel laureate’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, particularly to Tawang, which happens to be the birth place of the sixth Dalai Lama in 1683. It is also at the centre of Tibetan Buddhism.
China’s media and foreign ministry have repeatedly aired their opposition to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the region. An article in the state-run China Daily today said the people of Arunachal Pradesh live “difficult lives” under India’s “illegal” rule and they look forward to returning to China.
Building on the argument in the leading daily, Lu claimed Tibet is achieving faster growth. “It will make people see clear that the Dalai Lama is “attempting to split China and damaging interests of all ethnic groups in China.”
5. White House spokesman Sean Spicer draws backlash by comparing Hitler and Assad :-
White House spokesman Sean Spicer triggered an uproar on Tuesday by saying Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons.
He apologised after his comments drew immediate criticism on social media and elsewhere for overlooking the fact that millions of Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers.
Spicer made the assertion at a daily news briefing, during a discussion about the April 4 chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed 87 people. Washington has blamed the attack on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said when asked about Russia’s alliance with the Syrian government.
The Nazis murdered six million Jews during World War Two. Many Jews, as well as others, were killed in gas chambers in European concentration camps.
When a reporter asked Spicer if he wanted to clarify his comments, he said: “I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”
Later on Tuesday, Spicer apologised and said he should not have made that comparison.
“It was a mistake. I shouldn’t have done it and I won’t do it again,” Spicer told CNN in an interview. “It was inappropriate and insensitive.”
Spicer’s assertion, made during the Jewish holiday of Passover, sparked instant outrage on social media and from some Holocaust memorial groups who accused him of minimising Hitler’s crimes.
“Sean Spicer now lacks the integrity to serve as White House press secretary, and President Trump must fire him at once,” said Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
Shortly after the White House briefing, Spicer emailed a statement to reporters in response to their queries, but had stopped short of offering an explicit apology.
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centres. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable,” Spicer said in the statement.
The US Holocaust Museum did not mention Spicer’s comments directly, but sent out a tweet shortly after the briefing that showed graphic footage of dead bodies U.S. forces found while liberating the Buchenwald concentration camp.
The video was retweeted more than a thousand times, with many Twitter users referencing Spicer’s comments.
US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on Republican President Donald Trump to reject Spicer’s assertion.
“Sean Spicer must be fired, and the President must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements,” Pelosi said in a statement.
The White House did not immediately respond when asked to comment on Pelosi’s statement.
It was not the first time the White House has had to answer questions about the Holocaust. Critics in January noted the administration’s statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which omitted any mention of Jewish victims.
At the time, Spicer defended that statement by saying it had been written in part by a Jewish staff member whose family members had survived the Holocaust.