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Paris stabbings that killed one investigated as terror attack; suspect dead

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A motive in the stabbing is unclear, but French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that “France once again pays the price of blood, but does not give an inch to the enemies of freedom,” and “I salute on behalf of all the French people the courage of the policemen who neutralized the terrorist.”

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said on French radio that the investigation into the knife attack is in the hands of the counter-terrorism unit, and that several witnesses heard the attacker shout “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.” But Molins did not discuss a motive.

The U.S. official briefed on the situation said witnesses stated that the suspect looked emotionally disturbed and was pacing and muttering before the incident. Paris and U.S. officials said the stabbing is being investigated as a terror attack.

Image: FRANCE-ATTACK-PARIS
Forensic officers and French police stand in Monsigny street in Paris after one person was killed and several injured by a man armed with a knife, who was shot dead by police in Paris on May 12, 2018.Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / AFP – Getty Images

The Islamic State terror group claimed in a statement from its Amaq media arm claiming that the attacker was a “soldier” of the group, according to security consulting firm and NBC News partner Flashpoint Intelligence.

The statement contains no evidence to back up the group’s claim, and it was not clear whether the suspect was inspired by or even a follower of the terror group.

The stabbing happened at around 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET), the U.S. official said.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in an interview broadcast by BFMTV that the identity of the attacker had not been established. He said that the attacker was killed nine minutes after police were called to the scene.

BFM television interviewed an unnamed witness in a restaurant who said a young woman was at the entrance when “a man arrived and attacked her with a knife.” A friend came to her aid and the attacker left, “hitting on all the doors, all the shops,” the witness told BFM. He turned onto another street, and everyone scattered, the witness said.

“I was having a drink with friends and we heard a boom,” a witness named Gloria, who had been in a nearby bar, recounted on Saturday night. She said she went outside to see what happened and “I saw a guy lying on the ground.”

France has been on edge after a series of terror attacks in the country.

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COVID-19: India reports new ‘Delta plus’ coronavirus variant of concern | World News

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India has reported a new “Delta plus” coronavirus variant of concern, officials have said.

Sixteen cases of the variant, a mutation of B.1.617.2, were found in the state of Maharashtra on Tuesday, federal health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference.

Delta plus is thought to be more transmissible than the original Delta variant, according to state officials who are increasing testing and local vaccination drives.

Public Health England has said the Delta variant is up to 60% more contagious than the Alpha (Kent) one that emerged in December last year.

Currently in the UK, Delta makes up more than 99% of reported COVID-19 cases.

A Nepalese mutation of the Delta variant was reported to be behind Portugal being moved from the green to amber travel lists last month.

Experts have repeatedly said that the virus will mutate constantly over time, with some variants posing a risk, as they could escape the immune system.

PHE has said two doses of both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are effective against the Delta variant – but more data would be needed on a further mutation.

On Monday, India vaccinated 8.6 million of its 950 million adults as it began offering free doses to all over-18s.

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Since May, India has vaccinated fewer than three million people a day – far below the 10 million officials say are needed to prevent future surges.

Only 5.5% of the adult population is vaccinated so far, despite India being the world’s biggest vaccine producer.

Case numbers are the lowest they have been in more than three months – but experts say vaccinations need to be stepped up to mitigate against new variants.

A huge spike in infections of the Delta variant crippled India in April and May, with hospitals running out of oxygen and mass graves unable to contain the numbers of dead.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy paper Apple Daily announces closure after police freeze assets | World News

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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily has announced its closure after police froze £1.65m in assets linked to the newspaper.

Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy to impose foreign sanctions on Hong Kong and China and arrested five editors and executives.

In a statement, the paper’s publisher, Next Digital, said its print and online editions will cease no later than Saturday due to “the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong”.

But it was the freezing of assets that prompted the 26-year-old tabloid’s abrupt closure, which has escalated alarm over media freedom and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city.

The paper, which employs around 600 people, could publish its last edition as soon as Thursday, Cable TV and Now TV are reporting.

It comes as more than 100 people have been arrested under Hong Kong’s new national security law, including prominent pro-democracy activists and Apple Daily’s publisher Jimmy Lai.

The police operation against Apple Daily has been criticised by the UK, US and EU, which argue that Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the city’s promised freedoms since the former British colony was returned to the control of Beijing in 1997.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials say that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for illegal activities and that the media must abide by the law.

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US seizes 36 websites with links to Iran, accusing them of spreading disinformation | World News

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Dozens of Iranian-linked websites have been seized by the US Justice Department.

Many of the 36 websites are violent organisations or associated with spreading disinformation, the department said.

They were all taken offline for violating US sanctions, although several were back online within hours with new domain addresses.

The DOJ said 33 of the websites were used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and the other three websites were operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH).

The IRTVU was named by US authorities in October as a source of disinformation ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Among those affected were Press TV, the Iranian government’s main English-language satellite television channel, and Al Alam, its Arabic-language equivalent.

Press TV news presenter Marzieh Hashemi told The Associated Press that the channel was struggling to “figure out the reasons” for the seizure.

The channel looks mainly at international affairs, but criticism of US and UK foreign policy is common and the Anti-Defamation League has called the channel “one of the world’s leading dispensers of conspiratorial antisemitism in English”.

Kata’ib Hizballah, also written as Kataib Hezbollah, is an Iraqi militia group with links to Iran.

The US designated it as a foreign terrorist organisation more than a decade ago.

Despite sanctions, IRTVU and KH failed to get the required licences from the US government before using the domain names, the Justice Department said.

Relations between the US and Iran have been tense for years and worsened after Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Tehran 2015 nuclear deal while he was president.

In response, Iran gradually abandoned every previous limit on uranium enrichment, and is currently enriching uranium to 60% – its highest level ever, although it is still short of weapons-grade.

Just days ago Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s former judiciary chief, was elected president.

Known for being anti-West, he has ruled out meeting US President Joe Biden for talks on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and support for regional militias, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

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