Security forces have brought an end to the standoff with gunmen at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul with all the attackers killed, Afghan officials have said. Four Afghans and 14 foreigners were killed in the attack, according to Afghanistan’s interior ministry. Najib Danish, a spokesman for the ministry, said that 11 of the 14 foreigners killed were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline.
He said that 10 others were wounded, including six security officers and four civilians. Ukraine’s foreign ministry confirmed that one of its citizens was among those killed. KamAir put out an announcement saying some of their flights were disrupted because of the attack.
The Taliban claimed its forces were behind the attack, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying the group had initially planned to attack the hotel on Thursday night but postponed the assault because there was a wedding underway and they wanted to avoid civilian casualties. The attack, which lasted more than 12 hours, began round 9pm local time on Saturday evening. As the attack came to an end, security forces went room-by-room to ensure all the gunmen had been neutralised, Mr Danish said.
Located on a hilltop in the Bagh-e Bala area of the capital, Intercontinental Hotel is heavily guarded because it hosts both Afghan and foreign guests as well as official conferences. Security at the hotel had been contracted to a private firm about three weeks ago, the interior ministry said. The hotel has become a symbol of Afghanistan and it has been attacked several times.
Twenty one people were killed in 2011 after members of the Taliban stormed the building.
The announcement comes a full seven days after journalist Rachna Khaira first identified the alleged breach in an article in the Tribune newspaper1, in which it was claimed reporters were able to buy access to citizens’ personal details, such as names, addresses, phone numbers and even photos, via an anonymous WhatsApp account for as little as $8.
The database, known officially as Aadhaar, was launched in 2009 as a voluntary program intended to help prevent benefit fraud, it has since grown, and is now home to the collected data — including fingerprints and iris scans — of more than a billion Indians, or upwards of 90% of the entire population. Users are issued with a personal 12-digit identity number which they can then use to access welfare payments, and other government controlled services. Authorities have been widely criticized for their handling of the allegations, which if proven correct, could expose users to identity fraud and privacy invasions. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for maintaining the database, initially denied the claims, dismissing the Tribune story as “clearly a case of misreporting being incorrect and misleading.”
A day after Khaira’s report, the UIDAI filed a police complaint against her, the Tribune newspaper, and the anonymous individuals who allegedly provided them with access to the database, a move that served only to inflame the crisis further, and stoke wider concerns over diminishing press freedoms. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Paris-based NGO which publishes an annual index of press freedom, last year ranked India at 136 out of 180 countries, down 3 places from the previous year, and lagging behind the likes of Myanmar, Colombia and even Zimbabwe. The controversy led Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor and high profile whistle blower, to weigh in with a tweet offering his support to Khaira, Tuesday.
“The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation . If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians . Want to arrest those responsible ? They are called @UIDAI,” said Snowden. The agency quickly backtracked, and by late Tuesday afternoon had tweeted its support for press freedoms and its apparent willingness to work with the Tribune to investigate the problem. It remains unclear, however, whether the UIDAI has in fact dropped its police complaint against Khaira.
The newest government security measures, announced late Wednesday, will allow users to generate a randomly-generated virtual ID or token to avoid sharing their direct Aadhaar number for authentication, according to the government notice . A second security measure prevents secondary agencies from storing an individual’s Aadhaar number.
Experts say the move will go some way in addressing issues raised in the Tribune report, as well as broader safety concerns. Amber Sinha, a senior program manager at the Centre for Internet and Society, a research institute based in Delhi and Bangalore described the government’s announcement as a welcome measure. “There have been various kinds of security incidents, but tokenization can definitely address some of them,” said Sinha. According to Sinha, the database’s biometric data, which contains the most sensitive information, such as retinal scans, has not been breached and reports in the press are related to demographic data, which can also exist in separate databases, owned by different government agencies or state governments. Though implemented under the previous administration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has championed the database, and pushed to make Aadhaar cards mandatory. The new security measures come a day after a report from a research institute affiliated with the Reserve Bank of India labeled the database “a prime target.”
“Thanks to Aadhaar, for the first time in the history of India, there is now a readily available single target for cyber criminals as well as India’s external enemies .. . The loss to the economy and citizens in case of such an attack is bound to be incalculable,” said the report by the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology3.
While the authorities did not cite a specific reason for the new security measures, they did say there were “heightened privacy concerns,” according to the statement from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
Houses evacuated in Derry as police deal with security alert
A number of homes in Londonderry have been evacuated as police deal with a security alert. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/houses-evacuated-in-derry-as-police-deal-with-security-alert-36465008.html
A number of homes in Londonderry have been evacuated as police deal with a security alert. The alert has happened near to the Lecky Road flyover in the Bogside area of the city.
Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said: A cordon has been put in place and a number of houses in the area have had to be evacuated while the security operation continues.
We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact to the community but are grateful for the patience of the local residents and wider community .
Police will be working as quickly as possible to ensure everyone s safety.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital