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On possible terror attack in Mumbai, intel says key threat from sleeper cells

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An attack by Pakistan-backed terror groups in coastal cities such as Mumbai could be carried out by sleeper cells already inside the country rather than fresh batches sent by the sea route, a senior intelligence official said on Friday.

The official said the sea route, quite like the one taken by the ten 26/11 Mumbai attackers, appeared impractical for the next few weeks due to the sea conditions.

“It is unlikely that the terrorists would venture to take the Arabian Sea route at a time when the sea is choppy due to the southwest monsoon,” the official quoted above said against the backdrop of the Navy sounding an alert along with country’s coastline.

The Indian Navy advice to naval bases to step up security takes this assessment into account, a naval officer said. The Navy’s Mumbai base is the headquarters of its western command. Karwar in northern Karnataka is the country’s largest naval base.

Intelligence agencies have picked up strands of information that indicate sleeper cells linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammed have already been activated.

The information coincides with inputs about the activity in terror camps across the Line of Control and the Jaish, which had been targeted in the Balakot air strikes, sending Rauf Azghar, the younger brother of its chief Maulana Masood Azahar, to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to oversee operations.

Already, public statements by Pakistan’s civil and military leadership, riled by New Delhi’s scrapping Article 370 and turning the state into centrally-administered territories, have spoken about going all out to back the people of Kashmir in their struggle.

Islamabad has downgraded diplomatic ties and suspended the already negligible bilateral trade between the two countries besides stopping the two goodwill trains, Samjhauta and Thar Express.

The Indian security establishment, however, believes that this may only be the starting point. A terror attack with some amount of built-in deniability for Islamabad’s agencies could be next, a security official said.

Sleeper cells – people who may have been radicalised and motivated enough to carry out attacks but not assigned a task – fit this criteria too.

At one point in the back and forth over Article 370, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan did say that India’s decision could lead to “Pulwama-like incidents”, even trigger a conventional war between India and Pakistan. It was a remark that was read by intelligence officials to indicate efforts to ramp up its support to terror groups, even push terror groups to throw all that they had.

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Brazil sends Army to fight Amazon fires; Donald Trump tweets support

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.

Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires — many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.

“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.

Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron — who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit — accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.

“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”

Macron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.

Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman told Bloomberg News that she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro faces outrage abroad and at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities.

After a week in which the public outcry only grew louder — and as images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke continued to appear on screens around the world — he decided to deploy the Brazilian army to the Amazon. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.

“I had today an excellent conversation with President @realDonaldTrump,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday night. “Relations between Brazil and the U.S. are better than ever. We have a mutual desire to launch a big trade negotiation soon, aimed at promoting our peoples’ prosperity.”

Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.

“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”

The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.

“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”

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Photos: Robot waiters serving food at Bengaluru’s first Robot Restaurant

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Service robots line up in a corridor on the opening day of the “Robot” restaurant. These robots were earlier introduced in Chennai and Coimbatore. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
A menu and the order tablet are seen on the table of the “Robot” restaurant. Every table has a digital tablet, and one has to jut pick and choose, order and await their turn. Once the food was ready, the kitchen assigns a robot. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
A service robot delivers food to customers. On a digitally marked out path the robot heads out with the food neatly arranged on a tray. At the assigned table, she turns to greet and guide the customer to pick up the dish. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
Customers take pictures with a service robot. The robots are interactive and are programmed to sing birthday wishes and wishes for special occasions. So, for the Saturday launch, every robot wore a scarf and a name. The names are both dynamic and customizable. (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)
The robots are programmed to work efficiently and the staff has also undergone training from the manufacturers to attend to any issues that may arise over the course of operations. While the restaurant holds a unique appeal with its robot servers, it also lends a glimpse into one possible future for hospitality businesses and the mechanization of workforces.  (Manjunath Kiran / AFP)

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First moon image captured by Chandrayaan-2 released by ISRO

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Chandrayaan-2 on Thursday beamed the first image captured by the Vikram Lander after it entered the lunar orbit earlier this week. The image was taken at a height of about 2650 km from lumar surface.

Mare Orientale basin and Apollo craters are identified in the picture.

The crucial process of taking up soft landing of the lander ‘Vikram’ onboard the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft will be taken up in the early hours of September 7, ISRO Chairman K Sivan said today.

Chandrayaan-2, launched on July 22 by India’s most powerful rocket GSLV MkIII-M1, had entered the Lunar Transfer Trajectory on August 14, leaving the Earth orbit.

It comprises an Orbiter, Lander (Vikram), named after the father of Indian space research programme Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, and Rover (Pragyan).

The rover is set to make the soft landing on the Moon on September 7 and if successful the mission would make India the fourth country after Russia, the US and China to achieve the feat.

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