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Pakistan tests nuclear-capable ballistic missile

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Pakistan successfully test fired a nuclear-capable intermediate range ballistic missile on Wednesday, the military said, less than a week after India test launched a long range missile.

The exact range of the missile was not revealed, but retired General Talat Masood, a defence analyst, told AFP intermediate range ballistic missiles could reach targets up to 2,500 to 3,000 kilometres (1,550 to 1,850 miles) away — which would put almost all of arch-rival India within reach.

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On Thursday India test fired its long range Agni V missile, which can deliver a one-tonne nuclear warhead anywhere in China.

“Pakistan today successfully conducted the launch of the intermediate range ballistic missile Hatf IV Shaheen-1A weapon system,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement.

India and Pakistan — which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 — have routinely carried out missile tests since both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability in 1998.

Pakistan’s most recent missile test came last month with the launch of the short-range nuclear-capable Abdali, while in April 2008 it tested the Shaheen II, or Hatf VI, missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres.

Wednesday’s missile, which landed in the sea, was a version of the Shaheen-1 with improvements in range and technical parameters, the military said, and can carry nuclear and conventional warheads.

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“This is part of Pakistan’s programme to develop nuclear and missile deterrence. It has a series of missiles in its inventory. This is perhaps the longest range missile in its programme,” retired general Masood told AFP.

“The whole object is essentially India-centric while India’s own programme is directed towards China. Pakistan is engaged in improving its missile system as India continues to increase its capability.”

Director General Strategic Plans Division Lieutenant General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai congratulated scientists and engineers on the successful launch, and the accuracy of the missile in reaching the target.

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He said the improved version of Shaheen 1A would further consolidate and strengthen Pakistan’s deterrence abilities.

Pakistan’s arsenal includes short, medium and long range missiles named after Muslim conquerors.

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India’s missile test last week brought a muted international response, with China downplaying its significance, insisting the countries were partners not rivals, and Washington calling for “restraint” among nuclear powers.

This was in sharp contrast to the widespread fury and condemnation that greeted North Korea’s unsuccessful test launch of a long-range rocket on April 13.

India and Pakistan were on the brink of war in 2002 over the disputed territory of Kashmir, but a slow-moving peace dialogue resumed last March after a three-year suspension following the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

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India and the United States blamed the attacks on Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and Islamabad later admitted that the assault was at least partly planned in Pakistan.

A study published on Tuesday claimed that more than a billion people worldwide could starve if India and Pakistan unleash nuclear weapons as even a limited nuclear war would cause major climate disruptions.


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Melania Trump statue torched near her Slovenian hometown: report

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On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that a wooden statue of First Lady Melania Trump carved from a tree outside her hometown in Slovenia last year has been burned to the ground.

"The artist who had commissioned the sculpture, Brad Downey, had the statue removed on July 5," reported Madeline Charbonneau. "Downey, who is American but works out of Berlin, had hoped his statue of the first lady would create dialogue about American politics, given that Melania Trump is an immigrant married to a president who seeks to stem immigration. Though the investigation is still pending, Downey said he hopes to interview the perpetrators for an upcoming exhibition."

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FBI investigating Chinese businessman who bankrolled media company linked to Steve Bannon

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A Wall Street Journal expose revealed that a Chinese businessman is under investigation by the FBI after he used funds to bankroll a media company with ties to a former aide to President Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

"Federal Bureau of Investigation national security agents in recent months have asked people who know both men for information on Mr. Guo’s activities, including the source of funds of a media company linked to him that hired Mr. Bannon in 2018 as a consultant, the people said," according to the Journal. "As recently as last week, the FBI met with one person familiar with the companies tied to Mr. Guo, the people said. The probe has been underway for more than six months, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have been involved.

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Mike Pompeo asks Egypt to stop harassing US citizens

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed Egypt's release of a US citizen but urged the ally to stop harassment of others.

Mohamed Amashah, 24, was freed Monday, nearly 16 months after he was arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square for holding up a sign seeking the release of prisoners, according to human rights campaigners.

A dual US-Egyptian citizen who lives in New Jersey, he had gone on a hunger strike this year to protest his conditions.

"We thank Egypt for securing his release and his repatriation," Pompeo told a news conference.

"But at the same time, we urge Egyptian officials to stop unwarranted harassment of US citizens and their families who remain there," he said.

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