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Gunmen kidnap dozens attending prayers at Nigeria mosque

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(Last Updated On: September 3, 2022)

Gunmen kidnapped dozens of worshippers attending Friday afternoon prayers at a mosque in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Zamfara, Reuters reported.

Mohammed Shehu, Zamfara police spokesman said an unknown number of worshippers had been abducted from Jumu’at central mosque in Zugu town, Bukkuyum local government area.

Zugu is 170 km west of Zamfara state capital Gusau.

“The Zamfara state police command in collaboration with military and vigilantes have dispatched personnel for the search and rescue operation,” he said.

Ibrahim Aminu, who was at the mosque, told Reuters that the gunmen hid guns under their garments and pretended to be worshippers.

On entering the mosque compound, they pulled out their weapons and fired in the air, forcing people to run for cover, he said. The gunmen took dozens of worshippers and force-marched them to an unknown place.

Mohammed Bukar Zugu said his 22-year-old brother was among those kidnapped. The gunmen later used his phone to call him and asked that he prepare a ransom. They did not say how much they wanted, he said.

Armed gangs are rife across Nigeria’s northwest where they rob or kidnap for ransom, and violence has been increasing, where thinly stretched security forces often fail to stop the attacks.

Nigeria’s military last month started launching air strikes against the armed gangs, known locally as bandits and says it has so far killed dozens of them, Reuters reported.

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US whistleblower Edward Snowden gets a Russian passport

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2022)

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the scale of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), has sworn an oath of allegiance to Russia and received a Russian passport, TASS reported on Friday.

“Yes, he got [a passport], he took the oath,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, told the state news agency TASS.

“This is still a criminal investigative matter,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, referring any questions about the report on Snowden to the US Department of Justice, which declined to comment.

US authorities have for years wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges, Reuters reported.

President Vladimir Putin in September granted Russian citizenship to Snowden, who fled the United States after leaking secret files that revealed the extensive eavesdropping activities of the United States and its allies, read the report.

“I’m in Russia because the White House intentionally canceled my passport to trap me here. They downed the President of Bolivia’s diplomatic aircraft to prevent me from leaving, and continue to interfere with my freedom of movement to this day,” Snowden, 39, said on Twitter on Friday, referring to events from 2013.

Snowden was referring an incident in July 2013, when Bolivia complained that its presidential jet carrying Evo Morales from Russia to Bolivia had been rerouted and forced to land in Austria over suspicion that Snowden was on board.

According to Reuters defenders of Snowden hail him as a modern-day dissident for exposing the extent of US spying and alleged violation of privacy. Opponents say he is a traitor who endangered lives by exposing the secret methods that Western spies use to listen in on hostile states and militants.

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Estonia to buy US rocket artillery system in $200 million deal

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2022)

NATO member and Russia’s neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced US rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest arms procurement project ever, defense officials said Saturday.

A deal signed Friday for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is worth more than $200 million and includes equipment such as ammunition and rockets as well as training, Associated Press reported.

The package includes HIMARS rockets with ranges of 70-300 kilometers, the Estonian Center Defense Investment said in a statement. Lockheed Martin Corp. is expected to make the first deliveries in 2024.

“The HIMARS multiple rocket launchers are a new important step in the development of Estonia’s defense capabilities,” Lt. Col. Kaarel Mäesalu, head of the capability development department at the Estonian Defense Forces. “This makes it possible to decisively influence the enemy even before coming into contact with our infantry units.”

Estonia’s Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania either have or are currently in the process of acquiring their own HIMARS.

Washington has provided Ukraine with the rocket launchers during Russia’s invasion of the country. The Estonian Defense Ministry said the HIMARS systems “have helped to destroy Russian military ammunition warehouses, transport nodes, and command and control centers with pinpoint accuracy beyond the range of the howitzers Ukraine has been using.”

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Ukraine, Russia swap 50 prisoners in PoW exchange

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)

Russia’s Defence Ministry and the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration said the two countries had swapped 50 service personnel on Thursday in the latest prisoner exchange between the two sides, Reuters reported.

Earlier on Thursday, the top Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s partly-occupied Donetsk region said Moscow and Kyiv would each hand over 50 prisoners of war.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, reported the release of 50 “protectors of Ukraine” and said that the exchanges of prisoners of war would continue “until the liberation of the last Ukrainian”.

“The defenders of Mariupol and Azovstal have returned, also those captured … in the battles in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia directions,” Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia said it would fly its released prisoners to Moscow for medical checks and rehabilitation, read the report.

Yermak also said an unspecified number of Ukrainian prisoners of war who were released on Thursday had been kept in the Olenivka detention centre.

According to Reuters dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists in the eastern frontline town of Olenivka, near Donetsk, were killed in an attack in July.

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