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Man ‘plotted to have hitman, hired on dark web, attack ex-girlfriend with acid’ | World News

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A man has been arrested after allegedly plotting to get a hitman to disfigure his former girlfriend with acid and assault her so she would be left wheelchair-bound.

The 40-year-old suspect, who is an IT expert and worked for a large company, has reportedly been charged with attempted grievous bodily harm and stalking.

Italian police said the man, from Lombardy, had already made a down payment in Bitcoin and the “nightmare” plot was in the final stages before it was thwarted after being “intercepted” on the dark web.

According to news agency AGI, quoting a court document, the hitman was supposed to receive a total of nearly 10,000 euros (£8,600).

Police said they started investigating in February, after being alerted via Interpol by colleagues from another European nation who had first spotted suspicious conversations on the dark web.

Officers in Rome called the plan something out of “a contemporary thriller movie” and said it was the first time they had stopped a gender violence crime plotted on the internet.

An Italian police statement said: “From the investigations it emerged the man had planned the attack in detail.

“Masking his identity, the principal had asked an ‘intermediary’ to hire a hitman, so that a woman, in Italy, would be scarred with acid and confined to a wheelchair.

“For this service the man had already made the first of some payments in Bitcoin.

“So the intermediary had put him in contact with the hitman who undertook to complete the assignment in a short time.”

The identities of the suspect and his former girlfriend, who was unharmed, have not been confirmed by authorities.

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Egypt: At least 20 killed after bus crashes and catches fire while overtaking truck | World News

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At least 20 people have been killed after a bus overturned in Egypt while trying to pass a truck.

It was travelling from Cairo when the accident happened in the province of Assiut, 199 miles (320km) south of the capital, said Assiut governor Essam Saad.

Both vehicles caught fire and photos show rescuers searching the burned-out bus for survivors.

Three others were injured and taken to hospital and 25 ambulances were sent to the scene on the Red Sea road, said a statement on the Assiut governate Facebook page.

Thousands are killed on the roads each year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. Speeding, bad roads and poor enforcement of traffic laws cause most of the fatalities.

In 2019, more than 3,400 people died in around 10,000 accidents, according to the country’s statistics agency.

The year before, there were over 3,080 deaths and 8,480 car accidents.

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Parliament’s email system less secure than Gmail, says MP ‘hit by Chinese psy-op emails’ | World News

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A senior MP says parliament’s email system is less secure than Google’s Gmail as he claimed to have been the victim of Chinese “psy-ops”.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, called on the government to do more to defend democracy and freedom of speech.

The MP is one of seven British parliamentarians sanctioned by China in retaliation for British measures imposed over human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. They have all spoken out about the treatment of Uighurs and Hongkongers.

Mr Tugendhat claims to have been targeted by Chinese “psy-ops” – psychological operations – including fake emails tendering his resignation to fellow MPs.

He said: “I was told by friends at GCHQ – not formally, I admit – that I was better off sticking to Gmail rather than using the parliamentary system because it was more secure.

“Frankly, that tells you the level of security and the priority we are giving to democracy in the United Kingdom.”

Parliamentary officials said Westminster’s email system offered significantly greater protection than external providers.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), whose experts work with the Parliamentary Digital Service, said MPs should continue to rely on it.

An urgent question on China was granted in the Commons on Tuesday after Mr Tugendhat, plus four other MPs, two peers, a barrister and an academic, were sanctioned in March, including being banned from China and Hong Kong.

Conservative former minister Tim Loughton is one of the MPs and said the sanctions by China are “laughable”.

“To be sanctioned by a totalitarian regime is not only deeply ironic and laughable, but it is an abuse of parliamentary privilege of this House by a foreign regime,” he said.

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‘Genocide’ taking place in China

Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams, who wasn’t sanctioned, said the government “stands in complete solidarity with those sanctioned by China”.

He added that the government will not allow the sanctions to “distract attention from the gross human rights violations” taking place in China.

However, shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock accused the government of “rank hypocrisy” and asked why Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “says one thing in public and something else together in private”.

“It is clear that the government has no strategy on China at home and no strategy on China abroad,” he added as he called for an audit of “every aspect of the UK-China relationships”.

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Chinese ambassador ‘summoned’ over sanctions

Mr Adams said the “reality” is the UK has always wanted a “mature, positive relationship with China” based on “mutual respect and trust”.

“There’s still considerable scope for constructive engagement and co-operation but we will not sacrifice our values or our security,” he added.

Conservative MPs Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Tugendhat, Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani were all sanctioned, as well as Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy, barrister Geoffrey Nice and academic Jo Smith Finley.



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Iran set to enrich uranium to highest level ever – after ‘attack’ at nuclear facility blamed on Israel | World News

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Iran says it will increase its enrichment of uranium to 60% purity – its highest figure ever – bringing it closer to the levels needed for a nuclear weapon.

It comes after an “attack” at the Natanz nuclear facility in the country which Iran has blamed on Israel as an act of sabotage.

France says it is co-ordinating a response to Iran’s latest move with world powers, adding that it was a “serious” development.

Sunday’s incident at Natanz was initially described by Iran as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls, but later officials called it an attack.

Israel is suspected of carrying out the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it.

The Natanz plant pictured in 2005
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The Natanz plant pictured in 2005

News of Tehran’s intent to increase the purity of nuclear material comes as the Biden administration looks to revive the 2015 deal which limited Iran’s ability to create enriched uranium.

The US president’s predecessor Donald Trump abandoned the deal three years ago.

Iran expects to produce uranium enriched to 60% purity next week, said Kazem Gharibabadi, its ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Also, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said his nation would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz, which suffered the explosion on Sunday.

The 2015 Iran deal limited the purity level to which Iran can enrich uranium hexafluoride to at 3.67%.

A level of about 90% is needed for nuclear weapons.

Talks are due to continue in Vienna, Austria, to try and revive the 2015 agreement.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has called the enrichment plan from Iran “provocative”, and said it called into question how seriously Tehran was taking the talks.

Discussions between Iran and global powers to revive the deal last week were “constructive”.

Iran has said it never sought to obtain or develop nuclear weapons, and that it only wants nuclear technology for civilian purposes like medicine or energy.

Western intelligence services believe Iran had a secret nuclear weapons programme until 2003, although Israel suspects that this it is continuing in some form.

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