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Bombings in India, Georgia, Thailand closely linked: Israel

BANGKOK: Iranian suspects behind a failed bomb plot in Thailand were "part of the same network" as assailants who targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia, Israel's ambassador said on Wednesday.

Itzhak Shoham said there appeared to be a close link between bombings in three world capitals in less than 24 hours, suggesting that the perpetrators in Thailand had been trying to assassinate Israeli diplomats.

"This is what we were concerned about... that the targets were the Israelis -- same system, same explosive, and part of the same network," he said.

One of the Iranian suspects triggered a blast that tore off his legs as he hurled an explosive device at Thai police while fleeing an earlier explosion at a house in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Reacting to information from a senior Thai intelligence official that he and other Israeli diplomats were the target of a bomb plot, Shoham said he was happy that the attempt failed.

But he added: "It doesn't mean that everything is finished, but we hope we are on the right path."

He repeated the Israeli government accusation that Iran was behind the bombings. A female diplomat was seriously wounded in the New Delhi blast on Monday.

The ambassador said authorities had been alert to a threat since police last month charged a Lebanese man suspected of planning a strike following a US warning that tourist areas might be targeted.

Thai authorities alleged the Lebanese man had links to Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Muslim Shiite group that is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington.

"There were kinds of warnings, but if they are related or not is up to the police and authorities here to establish," Shoham said. AFP




Iran denies role in Thai blasts

TEHRAN: Iran denied any role in bomb blasts in Thailand and accused Israel of being behind the explosions, state TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying on Wednesday.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that elements of the Zionist regime are responsible for these terrorist acts," Mehmanparast said, referring to Israel.

A man with an Iranian passport lost a leg when a bomb he was carrying went off in Bangkok on Tuesday.

A day earlier, bomb attacks targeted Israeli embassy staff in India and Georgia. Israel accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of being behind those attacks. Iran denied involvement. Reuters



26/11 Mumbai attack case
Kasab given fair trial, Maharashtra to SC

NEW DELHI: The Maharashtra government today refuted the allegation of the sole convict in 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, that he was not given fair trial and said death sentence awarded to him was a permissible means of punishment.

Former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the state government, contended that Kasab was never tortured or maltreated and there had been no violation of his constitutional rights.

"At no point of time he was tortured or maltreated by the authorities and there has been no failure of constitutional rights given to him," he submitted before a Bench comprising justices Aftam Alam and C. K. Prasad.

Subramaniam also submitted that death sentence, which has been awarded to Kasab, was a permissible means of punishment.

Referring to the entire sequence of events leading to the 26/11 attack, which was planned by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in Pakistan, he submitted that had Kasab not been caught alive, then it would not have been possible to know that outsiders were involved in the mayhem.

24-year-old Kasab had yesterday pleaded with the Supreme Court to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who has been appointed amicus curiae by the apex court to defend Kasab, had told the bench that he was not a part of the larger conspiracy for waging war against the nation.

Stressing on Kasab's age as an important factor to commute his sentence, he had pleaded for a lenient approach as he was drawn into it as a result of exploitation of religious faith and false ideology.

Maintaining that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against Kasab beyond doubts, he had said that his right against self-incrimination as well as his right to get himself adequately represented by a counsel to defend himself in the case had been violated during the trial.

The apex court had on October 10 last year stayed the death sentence of Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the November 2008 Mumbai attack.

In the special leave petition (SLP) filed by Kasab challenging the Bombay High Court judgement, he had claimed he was brainwashed like a "robot" into committing the heinous crime in the name of "God" and that he did not deserve capital punishment owing to his young age.

Kasab, who is lodged in Arthur Road prison in Mumbai, had moved the SLP through the jail authorities. He had challenged his conviction and death sentence in the terror attack case. PTI




Musharraf knew Osama was in Abbottabad: Former ISI chief

ISLAMABAD: Former President Pervez Musharraf knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the garrison town of Abbottabad and the Pakistani intelligence itself had made the safe house that sheltered him, a former ISI chief has alleged, according to a media report.

Former CIA official Bruce Riedel quoted ex-ISI chief Gen (retired) Ziauddin Khwaja, alias Ziauddin Butt, as saying that Musharraf "knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad".

In an article for The Daily Beast website, Riedel further quoted Butt as saying that bin Laden's safe house in Abbottabad "was made to order" by Brig Ijaz Shah, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau.

"Ziauddin says Ijaz Shah was responsible for setting up bin Laden in Abbottabad, ensuring his safety and keeping him hidden from the outside. And Ziauddin says Musharraf knew all about it," Riedel wrote in the article.

However, Butt told the Geo News channel today that he had been misquoted in the article.

He did not give details.

US Special Forces killed the al-Qaeda chief in a pre-dawn raid on a compound in Abbottabad, located a short distance from the elite Pakistan Military Academy, in May last year.

Since then, American officials have questioned whether elements in Pakistan's security establishment were aware of bin Laden's presence in the country.

Bin Laden reportedly lived in the walled compound in Abbottabad for five years.

Riedel referred to US suspicions in his article, writing: "Ever since the Navy SEALs found Osama bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan, less than a mile from the country's national military academy, the question haunting American relations with Pakistan has been: who knew he was there?" Butt was made head of the ISI by former premier Nawaz Sharif and served in the post during 1997-99.

He was the first head of the army's Strategic Plans Division, which controls the nuclear arsenal.

Sharif promoted Butt to the post of Army Chief in October 1999, when he tried to fire Musharraf.

Musharraf then launched a coup that deposed Sharif's government.

Butt spent two years in solitary confinement, was discharged from the army and had his property confiscated.

Riedel noted that he thus had "a motive to speak harshly about Musharraf".

Brig (retired) Ijaz Shah, a former ISI bureau head in Lahore, served as chief of the Intelligence Bureau when former premier Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan from self-exile in 2007. PTIBack



Dhoni, the finisher, draws praise from rivals

BRISBANE: He may be under pressure as a captain, but as a finisher lower down the batting order, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is considered one of the best in ODI cricket even by his rivals.

There is compelling evidence by way of figures and comparison that Dhoni is a class finisher. Add to this the mix 189 catches, 63 stumpings, countless run-outs and captaincy to boot.

Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene was left shaking his head in disbelief last night when Dhoni snatched a tie.

"One inch here and there and a guy like Dhoni could take you apart. He is a great finisher; he is cool and calm and backs himself. He is a strong character." Figures present the strongest claim in its support. Dhoni has been unbeaten in 30 of India's 49 successful chases and scored runs at an average of 104.89 in them. The best in the business Michael Bevan, Lance Klusener, Abdul Razzaq and Jonty Rhodes are nowhere close.

In his 200 matches, Dhoni has been unbeaten 50 times or in every fourth innings of his career. With 44 fifties and seven century, Dhoni is scoring at least a half century in every four innings.

He averages 51.41 for his 6632 runs with a strike rate of 88.32. Bevan betters him in average 53.58 but his strike rate of 74.16 lets him down. Yuvraj Singh has a similar strike rate 87.60 but then his average of 37.62 is nowhere near.

Australian captain Michael Clarke was left ruing his team's fate after Dhoni chased down the 13 runs required in the final over on Sunday.

"Dhoni is a class player. His statistics show it. He is a very good striker of the ball and you saw that in the last over with that six he hit off McKay," said Clarke.

Dhoni, however, is awestruck by the vitality of Yuvraj as a finisher.

"The only one consistent lower down the order was Yuvraj Singh at number six. It's a very difficult position to bat," Dhoni has said.

Indeed, no job in one-day cricket is as difficult as that of a finisher. The player ought to be able to hit big yet be capable of manoeuvring the field with deft placements. He needs to be an excellent judge of a run and must have the speed to convert a single into a brace.

Most of the time, the run-rate is climbing, the best bowlers are back in operation and the field is strategically placed.

There is frustration when the lower half isn't able to rotate the strike. Risk is ever present.

Dhoni, over the years, has worked out a method. First and foremost, he's cool at all times. He isn't premeditated. He directed his partner Ravi Ashwin to square up to the threat of a yorker from Lasith Malinga yesterday.

"Malinga has a yorker and a very good slower one which he disguises very well. It's difficult for the lower order to pick him up consistently. All I said (to Ashwin) was to wait for the ball but don't plan for a yorker. If you see it, then react to it."

"Basically you keep the mind blank. For example, Malinga can bowl yorkers at will. It's important to be blank and back yourself to hit those for runs. You see the ball and look to hit it," Dhoni said.

Barely 10 months old in international cricket, Dhoni once smashed 183 off 145 balls with 15 fours and 10 sixes against Sri Lanka in Jaipur in 2005.

His early flamboyance has given way to nudges and pushes and big hits are rare he has only hit two sixes in the present series yet his strike-rate doesn't suffer by way of comparison.

Men like Adam Gilchrist (96.95), Viv Richards (90.20) and Kapil Dev (95.07) have better strike-rates than Dhoni. A few like Sachin Tendulkar (18,176), Sanath Jayasuriya (13,430) and Ricky Ponting (13,695) would always remain out of his reach by way of runs.

But it's difficult to think if these legends could have donned as many hats as Dhoni does a batsman, keeper, captain and a finisher andBack





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