Israeli tanks reach central Rafah as strikes continue

Rushdi Abu Alouf,David GrittenShare

Reuters A man and a young boy walk among ruins in Rafah

Israeli forces have reportedly reached the centre of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt.

Witnesses and local journalists said tanks were stationed at al-Awda roundabout, which is considered a key landmark.

They also said tanks were on Zoroub Hill, effectively giving Israel control of the Philadelphi Corridor – a narrow strip of land running along the border to the sea.

The Israeli military said its troops were continuing activities against “terror targets” in Rafah, three weeks after it launched the ground operation there.

Western areas of the city also came under intense bombardment overnight, residents said, despite international condemnation of an Israeli air strike and a resulting fire on Sunday that killed dozens of Palestinians at a tented camp for displaced people.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons stored by Hamas in the vicinity.

It also denied reports from local health and emergency services officials on Tuesday afternoon that tank shells had hit another camp in al-Mawasi, on the coast west of Rafah, killing at least 21 people.

Reuters news agency cited local health officials as saying the blast occurred after Israeli tank shells hit a cluster of tents in al-Mawasi on Tuesday. An official in the Hamas-run civil defence force also told AFP there had been a deadly Israeli strike on tents.

Videos posted to social media and analysed by BBC Verify showed multiple people with serious injuries, some lying motionless on the ground, near tents and other temporary structures.

There was no clear sign of a blast zone or crater, making it impossible to ascertain the cause of the incident. The location – verified through reference to surrounding buildings – is between Rafah and al-Mawasi, and lies south of the IDF’s designated humanitarian zone.

The IDF said in a statement: “Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF did not strike in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi.”

Israel has insisted that victory in its seven-month war with Hamas in Gaza is impossible without taking Rafah and rejected warnings that it could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The UN says around a million people have now fled the fighting in Rafah, but several hundred thousand more could still be sheltering there.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began what they called “targeted” ground operations against Hamas fighters and infrastructure in the east of Rafah on 6 May.

Since then, tanks and troops have gradually pushed into built-up eastern and central areas while also moving northwards along the 13km (8-mile) border with Egypt.

On Tuesday, they reportedly reached the city centre for the first time.

The al-Awda roundabout, which is only 800m (2,600 ft) from the border, is the location of major banks, government institutions, businesses, and shops.

One witness said they saw soldiers position themselves at the top of a building overlooking the roundabout and then begin to shoot at anyone who was moving.

Video posted online meanwhile showed tank track marks on a road about 3km west of al-Awda roundabout and 300m from the Indonesian field hospital, which was damaged overnight.

Reuters A Palestinian girl sits on top of possessions being transported by a cart in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
The UN says around a million people have fled Rafah since the start of the Israeli ground operation in the city

Earlier, residents told the BBC that tanks seized Zoroub Hill, about 2.5km north-west of al-Awda roundabout, after gun battles with Hamas-led fighters.

The hill is highest point along the Egyptian border and its seizure means the entire Gazan side of the border is now effectively under Israeli control.

Zoroub Hill also overlooks western Rafah, where residents said there had been the heaviest air and artillery strikes overnight since the start of the Israeli operation.

A local journalist said the bombardment forced hundreds of families to seek temporary shelter in the courtyard of a hospital, while ambulances struggled to reach casualties in the affected areas.

At dawn, thousands of people were seen heading north, crammed into cars and lorries and onto carts pulled by donkeys and horses.

“The explosions are rattling our tent, my children are frightened, and my sick father makes it impossible for us to escape the darkness,” resident Khaled Mahmoud told the BBC.

“We are supposed to be in a safe zone according to the Israeli army, yet we have not received evacuation orders like those in the eastern [Rafah] region,” he added. “We fear for our lives if no-one steps in to protect us.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not comment on the various reports but put out a statement saying that “overnight troops operated on the Philadelphi Corridor while conducting precise operational activity based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets in the area”.

“The activity is being conducted as efforts are continuing to be made in order to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians in the area,” it added.

“The troops are engaging with terrorists in close-quarters combat and locating terror tunnel shafts, weapons, and additional terrorist infrastructure in the area.”

The IDF has told civilians in eastern Rafah to evacuate for their own safety to an “expanded humanitarian area” stretching from al-Mawasi, a coastal area just north of Rafah, to the central town of Deir al-Balah.

EPA A Palestinian woman reacts next to tents destroyed by a fire triggered by an Israeli air strike in western Rafah on Sunday, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
Israel’s prime minister said the killing of civilians in an air strike and resulting fire in Rafah on Sunday was a “tragedy”

On Sunday night, at least 45 people – more than half of them children, women and the elderly – were killed when an Israeli air strike triggered a huge fire in a camp for displaced people near a UN logistics base in the Tal al-Sultan area, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

The IDF said it was targeting two senior Hamas officials in the attack, which happened hours after Hamas fighters in south-eastern Rafah launched rockets towards the Israeli city of Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “tragic incident” had occurred “despite our immense efforts to avoid harming non-combatants” and promised a thorough investigation.

IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that the strike had targeted a structure used by the Hamas commanders which was away from any tents, using “two munitions with small warheads”.

“Following this strike, a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being investigated. Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” he said.

Rear Adm Hagari added that investigators were looking into the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons or ammunition stored in a nearby structure, and played what he said was an intercepted telephone conversation between two Gazans suggesting that. The audio recording could not immediately be verified.

Sam Rose of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, told the BBC from western Rafah that the killing of so many civilians could not be dismissed as an accident.

“Gaza was already one of the most overcrowded places on the planet. It is absolutely impossible to prosecute a military campaign involving large-scale munitions, strikes from the sky, the sea, the tanks, without exacting large-scale civilian casualties,” he said.

“It seems like we are plumbing new depths of horror, bloodshed and brutality with every single day. And if this isn’t a wake-up call, then it’s hard to see what will be.”

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

At least 36,090 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

China bubble tea chain plunges in Hong Kong debut

Getty Images Woman drinking bubble tea.Getty ImagesChabaidao means 100 varieties of tea

Shares in Chinese bubble tea chain Sichuan Baicha Baidao, which is also known as Chabaidao, have fallen by more than 26% in their first day of trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Chabaidao’s market debut was the Asian financial hub’s largest initial public offering (IPO) so far this year.

The poor performance underscores the difficulties the city is facing in attracting investment.

Chabaidao, which means 100 varieties of tea, is China’s third-biggest fresh tea drinks chain by retail sales.

The Chengdu-based company raised about $330m (£267m) in the IPO even as the offering was met with tepid interest from investors.

The firm said it plans to use about half the money to upgrade its operations and strengthen its supply chain.

Rival bubble tea firms Mixue, Guming and Auntea Jenny have also said they are planning to sell shares in Hong Kong.

However, Chabaidao’s weak debut highlights the challenges faced by authorities as they attempt to revive confidence in the city’s stock market.

Investors are concerned about Hong Kong’s recovery from the pandemic and its national security legislation as well as slowing economic growth in China.

Last year, the amount of money raised by IPOs in Hong Kong slumped to the lowest level in two decades.

The city’s benchmark Hang Seng share index has lost over 16% of its value in the last year.

Last week, China’s securities regulator said it will support share offerings in Hong Kong.

The watchdog also plans to relax regulations rules on stock trading links between the city and the mainland as it tries to boost Hong Kong’s position as an international financial hub.

Di balik aksi demo di depan kantor ICW, Kontras, dan LBH – Rasisme atau intimidasi terkait tuduhan kecurangan pemilu?

Massa Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI membakar ban dan membawa poster saat aksi unjuk rasa di Kantor Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Jakarta, Senin (26/2).
Keterangan gambar,Massa Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI membakar ban dan membawa poster saat aksi unjuk rasa di Kantor Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Jakarta, Senin (26/2).

Beberapa unjuk rasa yang digelar sejumlah orang yang menyebut diri mereka ‘Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI’ di depan kantor lembaga swadaya masyarakat Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Kontras, dan LBH Jakarta, diduga terkait dugaan kecurangan Pemilu 2024. Kubu Prabowo Subianto membantah pihaknya berada di balik unjuk rasa tersebut.

Mereka juga sempat berencana melakukan demo di depan kantor Lokataru, namun batal setelah dibubarkan aparat kepolisian.

Dalam aksi-aksinya, massa yang menyebut diri mereka sebagai ‘Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI’ itu menuduh LSM-LSM itu melakukan apa yang mereka sebut sebagai “rasisme”.

Dilaporkan pula bahwa mereka mengutuk apa yang mereka klaim sebagai “gerakan pemakzulan Jokowi” dan meminta warga Indonesia untuk menerima hasil Pemilu 14 Februari 2024.

Soal tuduhan adanya rasisme, aktivis ICW mengaku tidak pernah melakukannya. Mereka juga menganggap para pendemo tidak dapat membuktikan tudingan itu.

Adapun pimpinan Lokataru Foundation menduga aksi tersebut berhubungan dengan sikap Lokataru yang selama ini sering menyuarakan dugaan kecurangan pemilu.

Siapa di balik unjuk rasa di depan kantor LSM?

Delpedro Marhaen, Direktur Eksekutif dari Lokataru Foundation, mengatakan tujuan utama dari aksi tandingan berhubungan dengan apa yang telah dilakukan oleh LSM seperti Lokataru, ICW, dan Kontras.

Alasannya, mereka sering menyuarakan isu kecurangan pemilu dan mengkritik situasi politik saat ini.

Wana Alamsyah, Koordinator Divisi Pengelolaan ICW, mengatakan bahwa pihaknya menduga ada pihak yang dengan sengaja ‘mengorkestrasi’ gerakan mahasiswa tersebut dengan dalih rasisme.

“Kami menduga bahwa memang ada upaya untuk membenturkan antar-kelompok warga. Karena kalau sebelumnya intimidasi dan teror itu selalu dilakukan oleh aparat keamanan. Yang mana sangat mudah untuk dideteksi dan sangat mudah untuk dikritisi.

“Tapi ketika ada kelompok warga yang berseberangan, substansi yang disampaikan serta maksud dan tujuannya belum terlalu jelas,” ungkap Wana kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Hal ini ia katakan karena ketika forum mahasiswa mendatangi kantor ICW pada Senin (26/02) siang dengan membawa spanduk-spanduk, menyampaikan orasi dan membakar ban, mereka tidak mampu memberikan bukti pernyataan rasisme tersebut dan menutup diri dari ajakan berdialog.

“Karena menurut mereka ICW enggak perlu klarifikasi. Padahal, tuntutan utamanya mereka adalah ICW harus klarifikasi, jadi kami pun juga mempertanyakan maksud dan tujuan mereka kemari,” ungkapnya.

Apa reaksi kubu Prabowo Subianto?

Tak hanya ICW, kelompok mahasiswa tersebut juga sempat mendatangi sejumlah LSM, seperti LBH Jakarta dan Kontras. Bahkan mereka berencana melakukan demo di depan kantor Lokataru, namun batal setelah massa dibubarkan aparat.

Dalam salinan pernyataan sikap tertulis Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Indonesia Timur Cinta NKRI disebutkan salah satu tuntutan mereka adalah meminta pihak LBH, Kontras, dan Lokataru agar segera mengklarifikasi pernyataan rasisme.

Kelompok itu juga mengutuk gerakan pemakzulan dan meminta warga Indonesia untuk menerima hasil Pemilu 14 Februari 2024.

Sementara, TKN Prabowo-Gibran mengaku demo mahasiswa tersebut tidak ada hubungannya dengan mereka serta menyatakan bahwa perkara pemilu sebaiknya diserahkan pada lembaga-lembaga berwenang, seperti Bawaslu dan Mahkamah Konstitusi.

“Jadi produk perundang-undangan itu sebagai sebuah lembaga negara ditaati saja. Dialihkan ke sana [lembaga berwenang]. Kalau kemudian beberapa mahasiswa melakukan demo, apa maksudnya karena saya juga tidak mengerti,” kata Direktur juru bicara Tim Kampanye Nasional (TKN) Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Viva Yoga Mauladi

Menurut catatan Amnesty International Indonesia, sejak masa kampanye hingga sehari sebelum pemilu pada 14 Februari, terdapat sekitar 16 kasus serangan yang menyasar setidaknya 34 pembela HAM yang kritis terhadap pemerintah, baik berupa laporan ke polisi, intimidasi maupun serangan fisik.

Ketua Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum (Bawaslu), Rahmat Bagja, mengatakan bahwa segala tindakan yang “mengancam kebebasan berbicara, berekspresi dan menyatakan pendapat di Indonesia” merupakan tindakan pidana dan tidak boleh dibiarkan.

‘Pesannya sama, agar kami tidak kritis’

Delpedro Marhaen, Direktur Eksekutif dari Lokataru Foundation, salah satu LSM yang disebut oleh kelompok mahasiswa Timur, membantah tuduhan bahwa pihaknya mengeluarkan pernyataan rasisme.

“Tidak ada satupun aktivitas atau kegiatan baik pernyataan publikasi atau apapun yang disampaikan Lokataru yang mengarah pada kata-kata atau tindakan rasis kepada kelompok mereka ataupun kepada masyarakat Indonesia Timur secara luas,” katanya.

Ia mengatakan Lokataru menduga ada upaya pergeseran yang dilakukan kelompok yang mengaku Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI.

Sebab, mereka mengidentifikasi tiga anggota yang pernah melakukan pembubaran diskusi Tolak Pemilu Curang di Universitas Trilogi awal Februari lalu.

“Kemudian setelah peristiwa tersebut, kelompok ini juga yang melakukan unjuk rasa di LBH dua kali dan juga di Kontras dua kali. Jadi total kalau di Kontras tiga kali, di LBH sudah empat kali. Kemudian di ICW sekali,” ujar Delpedro.

Sejumlah orang yang mengatasnamakan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI hadir di depan kantor ICW yang dijaga oleh polisi.
Keterangan gambar,Sejumlah orang yang mengatasnamakan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI hadir di depan kantor ICW yang dijaga oleh polisi.

Menurut Delpedro, tujuan utama dari aksi tandingan berhubungan dengan apa yang telah dilakukan oleh LSM seperti Lokataru, ICW dan Kontras. Karena mereka sering menyuarakan isu kecurangan pemilu dan mengkritik situasi politik saat ini.

“Setelah kami identifikasi, ternyata ada tiga orang simpatisan atau pendukung dari Prabowo Subianto dan Gibran Rakabuming Raka. Kami menemukan video dan juga dokumentasi-dokumentasi soal dukungan mereka,” jelas Delpedro.

Direktur juru bicara TKN Prabowo-Gibran, Viva Yoga Mauladi, menegaskan bahwa demo mahasiswa tidak ada hubungannya dengan TKN. Ia juga menyatakan LSM tidak boleh dibungkam karena mereka berperan dalam proses peningkatan kualitas demokrasi

“Makanya saya tidak mengerti juga demo-demo begitu. Biarlah nanti kalau itu memang menganggu ketertiban biar polisi. Tapi kemudian jangan membuat framing bahwa itu dikaitkan dengan TKN Prabowo-Gibran, tidak benar itu,” ujarnya kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Wakil Koordinator Kontras, Andi Rezaldy, mengatakan bahwa tekanan-tekanan yang mengarah pada pihak-pihak kritis dapat dimaknai sebagai upaya melemahkan LSM dengan cara membuat “narasi antagonistik” terhadap organisasi masyarakat sipil.

“Rentetan peristiwa dalam beberapa waktu belakangan, menunjukan sepertinya secara psikologis ada kekhawatiran dari penguasa sebab ditemukannya berbagai masalah dalam penyelenggaraan pemilu,“ kata Andi kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Ia mengatakan bahwa ini bukan pertama kalinya Kontras menghadapi perlawanan akibat upaya mereka dalam mengangkat isu. Pada 2013, Kontras pernah didemo terkait advokasi HAM di Papua.

Pada 2003, kantor Kontras pernah diserang oleh sejumlah massa terkait penolakan kebijakan pemerinah soal darurat militer di Aceh.

“Saya menduga pesannya sama, agar kami tidak kritis atas berbagai sejumlah persoalan, namun demikian hal tersebut tidak akan menghentikan kami untuk terus berusara kritis dan mengungkap berbagai ketidakadilan yang terjadi,“ tuturnya.

Saat unjuk rasa di depan kantor ICW, Koordinator Lapangan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI, Abdul Aziz Fadirubun, menuding bahwa lembaga nirlaba seperti ICW, YLBHI, dan Lokataru melontarkan kata-kata bernada rasisme.

Hal tersebut, kata Aziz, berakar dari respons para aktivis LSM terhadap video dirinya yang viral karena tidak setuju dengan permakzulan.

“Kalau ditanya namanya siapa, saya enggak tahu namanya. Karena ICW masuk dalam hal pernyataan-pernyataan yang rasis dalam hal mendiskreditkan kami orang Timur, makanya harus minta maaf dalam 1×24 jam,” katanya, seperti dikutip oleh Tempo.

Intimidasi terhadap pihak kritis menimbulkan ‘kemunduran demokrasi’

Pengamat politik dari Badan Riset Inovasi Nasional (BRIN), Devi Darmawan, mengatakan dalam sejarah pemilu diselenggarakan sejak 2014, belum pernah ada aliansi mahasiswa yang justru memprotes organisasi masyarakat sipil.

Sebab, menurut Devi tindakan seperti itu “salah sasaran”, karena LSM bertugas untuk menyuarakan aspirasi masyarakat.

“Jika memang tidak terbukti [rasisme], motivasinya memang hanya untuk melemahkan ICW sebagai bagian dari masyarakat sipil yang kritis terhadap dugaan-dugaan pelanggaran. Ini sudah jadi alarm bahaya bagi demokrasi kita,” ujar Devi.

Lebih lanjut, ia mengatakan bahwa serangan itu membuat gerakan organisasi masyarakat sipil dipersempit dan kebebasan berekspresi terancam.

“Organisasi masyarakat sipil ini menjadi terancam, semakin tereduksi hari demi hari. Padahal sebenarnya, organisasi masyarakat sipil itu membuat akuntabilitas bekerja, membuat demokrasi semakin bekerja,” kata Devi.

Dandhy Dwi Laksono, jurnalis pendiri rumah produksi Watchdoc Documentary, 19 September 2017.
Keterangan gambar,Dandhy Dwi Laksono, jurnalis pendiri rumah produksi Watchdoc Documentary, 19 September 2017.

Oleh karena itu, ia memperkirakan jika insiden serupa terulang lagi, maka masyarakat akan semakin takut untuk menyuarakan aspirasi dan mengkritisi berjalannya proses demokrasi di Indonesia.

Ia mengambil contoh ketika film Dirty Vote dilaporkan ke polisi menjelang Pemilu 2024.

“Ketika ada intimidasi atau bentuk mematahkan upaya -upaya yang dilakukan oleh organisasi masyarakat sipil ini, di situ sudah terjadi kemunduran demokrasi yang sangat besar,” jelasnya.

Sutradara Dirty Vote, Dandhy Laksono, mengatakan bahwa kru dalam film tersebut sempat mengalami beberapa tindakan intimidasi, salah satunya upaya untuk meretas akun media sosial.

Bahkan, ia sebut ada yang menerima pesan-pesan yang mengancam dan merujuk ke ranah personal.

“Beberapa bintang film kami itu di-hack telegramnya dan macam-macam itu,” kata Dandhy.

Selain dilaporkan ke pihak kepolisian dan Bawaslu, Dandhy mengatakan bahwa acara penayangan film Dirty Vote di UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung sempat terkendala karena lampu dipadamkan saat diskusi.

Pihak Dewan Eksekutif kampus itu juga mengatakan bahwa menjelang acara diskusi mereka telah menerima “pesan mencurigakan dari oknum-oknum” serta kehadiran orang-orang yang mereka duga ingin mengintervensi dan mengintimidasi mereka.

“Kualitas demokrasi dan kebebasan berpendapat kita semakin terancam. Jadi alat legitimasi baru untuk lebih represif dan semakin jauh dari demokrasi,” kata Dandhy.

Feri Amsari, salah satu ahli hukum dan tata negara yang hadir dalam film Dirty Vote mengatakan bahwa apa yang dialami mereka ‘tidak ada apa-apanya’ dibandingkan apa yang dirasakan para aktivis LSM.

“Jadi ini hanya upaya untuk menyebarkan rasa takut. Mudah-mudahan sebagaimana kita ketahui, ICW dan Lokataru sudah teruji dalam upaya mereka melindungi kepentingan publik,” ujar Feri.

Apa kata Bawaslu soal demo mahasiswa di kantor LSM?

Ketua Bawaslu, Rahmat Bagja, menyampaikan temuan Bawaslu terkait pelanggaran pemilu pada Selasa (27/02).
Keterangan gambar,Ketua Bawaslu, Rahmat Bagja, menyampaikan temuan Bawaslu terkait pelanggaran pemilu pada Selasa (27/02).

Pada konferensi pers terkait temuan pelanggaran pemilu, Ketua Bawaslu, Rahmat Bagja, mengatakan bahwa ia baru mengetahui tentang aksi yang dilakukan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI.

Namun, ia mengatakan tindakan seperti itu melanggar hukum pidana dan tidak diperbolehkan.

“Tidak boleh orang mengancam kebebasan berbicara, berekspresi dan menyatakan pendapat di Indonesia ini. Bisa dilaporkan ke Pak Bareskrim di samping saya. Karena termasuk tindak pidana umum itu,” kata Bagja pada Selasa (27/02).

Lebih lanjut, ia mengungkatpkan bahwa sampai dengan 26 Februari 2024, Bawaslu telah menerima 1.271 laporan pelanggaran pemilu, baik yang bersifat administratif, pidana maupun pelanggaran hukum lainnya.

Meski begitu, Bagja menyatakan Bawaslu belum menemukan dugaan pelanggaran pemilu yang bersifat Terstruktur, Sistematis dan Masif (TSM).

Ia juga menyebut ada hal-hal yang harus dibuktikan mengenai dugaan pelanggaran yang bersifat TSM.

“Kita akan lihat misalnya apa yang dilakukan, ada command responsibility, ada perintah tertulis, ada kemudian terbukti pidananya, itu yang harus dibuktikan dalam pelanggaran terstruktur, sistematis, dan masif,” sebut Bagja.

Alia Bhatt: The young Bollywood star taking on Hollywood

Alia Bhatt

By Noor Nanji

Culture reporter

Alia Bhatt’s superstar appeal cannot be overstated.

At the age of 30, she has become a megastar in Bollywood. For certain people (your writer includes herself among them), she’s one of the hottest names out there.

If you’re not into Indian films, you might not have come across her – until recently, that is.

Last year, Bhatt made her Hollywood debut. All of a sudden, she was introduced to a global audience.

Now, she’s backing a new drama series about wildlife crime.


“People have the power to make a difference, whether it’s in this industry or any other,” she tells BBC News.

Alia Bhatt With Her Mother Soni Razdan
Image caption,Bhatt’s mother is also an actress

Bhatt was born into a Bollywood family, to a film-maker father, Mahesh Bhatt, and an actress mother, Soni Razdan.

Razdan was born in Birmingham, England, and Bhatt, though born in India, describes herself as British.

In an interview with Wired last year, she answered the most googled questions about her, one of which was: “Is she British?” Bhatt responded with a resounding yes.

Bhatt had her first leading role at the age of 18, and has starred in dozens of Hindi films since then.

She lives in Mumbai with her actor husband, Ranbir Kapoor, and their one-year-old daughter.

The pair are one of Bollywood’s power couples. It’s an industry that has always been ruled by family dynasties.

Alia Bhatt, Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan
Image caption,Bhatt starred alongside Gal Gadot and Jamie Dornan last year

Bhatt starred in 2023 romantic comedy Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, which was a smash hit at the box office.

Weeks later, she appeared alongside Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot and 50 Shades actor Jamie Dornan in Netflix’s Heart of Stone, which got mixed reviews.

She’s not the first Bollywood star to break through to Hollywood – others such as Priyanka Chopra have as well.

But not all of them have. Shah Rukh Khan, also known as the “King of Bollywood”, has never ventured into Hollywood despite having fans around the world. At an event in Dubai last week, he said he had to “learn to deliver to the audience that likes me, instead of spreading myself too thin”.

Alia Bhatt
Image caption,Bhatt turned heads at a London screening last week

When we meet, in central London, Bhatt is wearing a black velvet Sabyasachi saree. (Again, if you know, you know. Sabyasachi is one of the most sought-after fashion designers in India.)

Bhatt is in London to attend a preview of Poacher, the new crime drama series she is executive producing. Based on true events, the series tells the story of the largest ivory poaching ring in India.

A worldwide ban on ivory sales came into effect in 1989. But elephant poaching is still a major problem globally, fuelled by demand for ivory in parts of the world where it is seen as a luxury status symbol.

More than 40 elephants a day are killed for their tusks, according to a 2020 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Bhatt, who is an animal lover, was asked to get involved in the series by its director Richie Mehta.

“He showed me a couple of episodes, and I wanted more,” she says. “I’m just a lover of cinema or content in general that has the power to influence and really move you emotionally and physically.”

Bollywood actors Ranbir Kapoor (R) and Alia Bhatt pose for pictures during their wedding ceremony in Mumbai on April 14, 2022.
Image caption,Bhatt famously reused her wedding saree

This is not the first time Bhatt has lent her voice to the cause of sustainability and conservation.

She has launched her own sustainable clothing brand, and last year she earned praise for re-wearing her wedding saree. She has also championed animal welfare before.

“We have to somehow as a society create our own conscience, things we want to passionately speak about, passionately support,” she says.

“I’ve always said I don’t have the answers but I have the questions,” she adds. “I’m not saying I do everything right, but there’s something within me that wants to know more.”

Alia Bhatt at the Met Gala
Image caption,Bhatt was among the stars at the 2023 Met Gala in New York

In Poacher’s opening scene, an elephant is shot dead, killed for its tusks.

It’s “upsetting” to watch, admits Bhatt. “But it should be upsetting, that’s when the stakes become really high.”

Mehta, an Emmy Award-winning director, adds that this is very much an international problem, affecting the UK too.

“If you pass through Heathrow Airport, when you’re waiting at customs, you see signs of what they’ve seized, the contraband they’ve seized. And it’s immense. It’s happening all the time,” he says.

Bollywood, India’s hugely popular Hindi film industry, produces hundreds of movies every year and has a massive following among Indians globally. The sway the films and the stars have on their fans’ imaginations cannot be overstated.

But it is often described as a man’s world.

It’s something that’s been talked about for a long time, with a study last year showing just how little gender equality there is – both on and off screen.

Over the years, many Bollywood films have been criticised for being regressive, promoting misogyny and gender biases.

Bhatt, who has made a career out of playing various troubled women – from a sex worker to a kidnapping victim – is keen to stress things are changing when it comes to representation in Bollywood.

She points to Poacher, which has a female protagonist, a forest officer called Mala Jogi, at the heart of its story.

Mala – played by Nimisha Sajayan – didn’t actually exist in real life, but Mehta added her in when writing the series.

“So here we have Nimisha at the heart of the show playing Mala Jogi, being absolutely outstanding, heroic, and doing all those things you’d see a man do, which you’re seeing a woman doing the same thing,” says Bhatt.

As for Bhatt herself, she has often been described as a trailblazer for up-and-coming young women in Bollywood and beyond.

“I would like to lead by example,” she says, “and be led by example, like we have been in this case.”

Pentingnya Penguatan Semangat Kebangsaan & Persaudaraan Pasca Pemilu 2024

Guru Besar Pascasarjana Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN) Palangkaraya, Prof Khairil Anwar (Foto: Istimewa)  Rakyat Merdeka – Pemilu 2024 telah usai, dan masyarakat Indonesia kini memasuki fase menunggu hasil penghitungan resmi dari KPU. Terlepas siapa pun dan partai apa pun yang memenangkan kontestasi Pemilu 2024, eksekutif dan legislatif yang dilantik adalah mereka yang telah mendapatkan mandat dari rakyat Indonesia secara konstitusional. Maka dari itu, menjadi tidak relevan jika saat ini masih ada yang membahas perbedaan kubu saat kampanye sebelum Pemilu.

Menyikapi perbedaan pandangan yang muncul selama kampanye, Guru Besar Pascasarjana Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN) Palangkaraya, Prof Khairil Anwar, berbicara tentang pentingnya rekonsiliasi dan membangun kebangsaan pasca-Pemilu. Ia mengungkapkan gagasannya tentang langkah-langkah rekonsiliasi dan upaya menjaga harmoni di tengah perbedaan.

“Seluruh pihak yang telah selesai berkompetisi perlu melakukan rekonsiliasi secara arif dan bijaksana, terutama di tengah dinamika politik pasca-Pemilu 2024. Menurut saya, langkah pertama rekonsiliasi dapat dimulai dari simpul-simpul antar partai politik yang sempat berbeda dalam menentukan dukungan dan pandangannya,” terang Prof Khairil.

Seringkali perbedaan sikap dalam Pemilu yang mulanya terjadi di tingkatan pejabat dan partai politik, ikut turun dan meresap di tingkatan akar rumput. Bahkan, ketika Pemilu telah benar-benar usai, segregasi dan konflik horizontal menjadi residu yang tidak langsung dapat dihilangkan.

Ketua Umum Majelis Ulama Indonesia Kalimantan Tengah ini juga mengusulkan adanya pertemuan antara perwakilan partai politik, termasuk tokoh-tokoh nasionalis dan agamis yang dianggap dapat mendekati berbagai pihak. Dia lalu menyebut Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, KH Ahmad Mustofa Bisri (Gus Mus) dari Nahdlatul Ulama, dan Prof Haedar Nashir dari Muhammadiyah, yang dapat berperan sebagai jembatan rekonsiliasi.

Prof Khairil menegaskan, pemilihan tokoh-tokoh ini tidak semata-mata berdasarkan afiliasi politik, melainkan berfokus pada karakter inklusif dan wawasan kebangsaan yang dimiliki oleh mereka. Dirinya menyatakan, langkah-langkah ini diharapkan dapat memperkuat nilai-nilai kebangsaan dan mempersatukan Indonesia pasca-Pemilu.

Selain menyoroti pentingnya rekonsiliasi, Ketua Forum Koordinasi Pencegahan Terorisme (FKPT) Kalteng ini juga menjelaskan konteks politik identitas, termasuk yang memiliki label agama. Ia menyatakan, politik identitas sebenarnya dapat menjadi instrumen positif, tergantung pada cara penggunaannya.

“Sebagai contoh, kita bisa melihat pada Nabi Muhammad SAW. Rasulullah pernah juga melakukan politik identitas yang inklusif dan dapat menyatukan umat, serta mempersatukan nilai-nilai kebangsaan. Namun, terhadap politik identitas yang eksklusif, yang mendorong ujaran kebencian dan ketidakadilan, harus kita tinggalkan,” ungkapnya.

Prof Khairil juga membahas dampak politik identitas, terutama dalam konteks Pemilu. Ia mencermati bahwa politik identitas yang bersifat eksklusif masih ada di Pemilu kali ini, namun tidak separah Pemilu di tahun sebelumnya. Meskipun demikian, ia menekankan peningkatan ujaran kebencian sebagai isu yang patut diwaspadai.

Terkait seberapa bijaksananya masyarakat Indonesia dalam menyikapi proses yang terjadi pada Pemilu 2024, Rektor IAIN Palangkaraya periode 2019-2023 ini menyayangkan kurangnya kepedulian sebagian orang. Padahal, segala keputusan yang dihasilkan melalui Pemilu menjadi krusial bagi hajat hidup rakyat Indonesia.

“Saya kira pendewasaan masyarakat bangsa ini dalam berpolitik masih belum matang. Kesadaran akan pentingnya peran aktif sebagai warga negara, khususnya melalui hak pilih, perlu ditingkatkan. Saya berharap masyarakat dapat memiliki kesadaran yang lebih tinggi terhadap arti kebangsaan dan tanggung jawabnya dalam memilih pemimpin,” jelas Imam Besar Masjid Darussalam (Islamic Center) Palangkaraya ini.

Bengal famine: Tracking down the last survivors of WW2’s forgotten tragedy

Niratan Bedwa

By Kavita Puri

BBC News

The Bengal famine of 1943 killed more than three million people in eastern India. It was one of the worst losses of civilian life on the Allied side in World War Two.

There is no memorial, museum, or even a plaque, anywhere in the world to the people who died. However, a few survivors remain, and one man is determined to gather their stories before it is too late.

‘Hunger stalked us’

“Many people sold their boys and girls for a little rice. Many wives and young women ran off, hand-in-hand with men they knew or didn’t know.”

Bijoykrishna Tripathi is describing the desperate measures people took to find food during the Bengal famine.

He is not sure of his exact age, but his voter card says he is 112. Bijoykrishna is one of the last people to remember the disaster.


He talks faintly and slowly about growing up in Midnapore, a district in Bengal. Rice was the staple food, and he remembers its price rising “by leaps and bounds” in the summer of 1942.

Child begging during Bengal famine
Image caption,Millions died during the Bengal famine of 1943

Then came the cyclone of October that year, which blew the roof of his house off and destroyed that year’s rice crop. Rice soon became unaffordable for his family.

“Hunger stalked us. Hunger and epidemics. People of all ages began to die.”

Bijoykrishna remembers some food relief, but says it was inadequate.

“Everyone had to live with half-empty stomachs,” he says. “Since there was nothing to eat, many people in the village died. People started looting, searching for food.”

Listening to him on his veranda are four generations of his family. Also with them is Sailen Sarkar who, for the past few years, has been travelling around the Bengali countryside, gathering first-hand accounts from survivors of the devastating famine.

Bijoykrishna Tripathi and Sailen Sarkar
Image caption,Bijoykrishna Tripathi and Sailen Sarkar

The 72-year-old is warm, has a youthful air, and smiles easily. You can see why people like Bijoykrishna open up to him. He travels around the countryside in his open-toed sandals, whatever the weather, with his backpack and a supply of roll-up cigarettes. He is old-school, taking down the testimonies with pen and paper.

Sailen says he first became “obsessed” by the Bengal famine because of a family photograph album. He would flick through it as a little boy in Calcutta (now Kolkata), staring at the photographs of emaciated people.

The pictures had been taken by his father, who had been involved with a local Indian charity, giving out relief during the famine. Sailen says his father was a poor man. “In my childhood I saw the terror of starvation in his eyes,” he says.

However, it was not until 2013 when Sailen – now a retired teacher – started his quest. While walking in Midnapore, he fell into conversation about the famine with an 86-year-old man.

Sripaticharan Samanta
Image caption,The famine forced Sripaticharan Samanta to leave his home village and take his chances in the city

Sripaticharan Samanta, like Bijoykrishna, also remembered the devastating cyclone. Life was already getting harder by that point, and the price of rice had been increasing steadily.

By October 1942 he was eating one small meal of rice a day. Then the storm hit.

Sripaticharan remembered how the price of rice skyrocketed after the cyclone, and how traders bought up whatever was left at any price.

“Soon there was no rice in our village,” he told Sailen. “People lived off saved stocks for a while but started to sell off their lands just to have rice to eat.”

After the storm, his family’s household rice reserves lasted for only a few days, then ran out.

Like tens of thousands of others, Sripaticharan left the countryside for the city – in his case, Calcutta – in the hope of relief. He was lucky – he had a family member to stay with – and he survived. But many were not so fortunate, collapsing on roadsides, around dustbins, and dying on the pavements – strangers in a city they thought would help them.

BBC Sounds

Three Million

The devastating story of the Bengal Famine of 1943 in British India, where at least three million people died, told for the first time by the eyewitnesses to it.

Listen now on BBC Sounds

BBC Sounds

A forgotten fate

The causes of the famine are many and complex, and continue to be widely debated.

In 1942, rice supplies in Bengal were under intense pressure.

Burma – which bordered Bengal – was invaded by Japan early in the year, and rice imports from that country stopped abruptly.

Bengal now found itself near the front line and Calcutta became host to hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers and workers in wartime industries, increasing the demand for rice. Wartime inflation was rife, putting the price of rice out of reach for millions who were already struggling.

Meanwhile, British fears that the Japanese would attempt to invade east India prompted a “denial” policy – this involved confiscating surplus rice and boats from towns and villages in the Bengal Delta. The aim was to deny food supplies and transport to any advancing force, but it disrupted the already fragile local economy, and caused prices to rise further. Rice was hoarded for food security, but often for profit.

To cap it all, the devastating cyclone of October 1942 destroyed many rice crops, with crop disease ruining much of the rest.

There is a long-running and often heated debate over culpability for this humanitarian catastrophe and in particular whether British Prime Minister Winston Churchill did enough – in the middle of a war on many fronts – to alleviate the crisis and help Indians, once he knew about its severity.

Relief efforts started to be put into place by the end of 1943 with the arrival of a new viceroy, Field Marshall Lord Wavell. But many had already died by then.

Long queue for a soup kitchen winds round a street in Kolkata
Image caption,Queuing for soup in Calcutta (Kolkata) in late 1943

‘A living archive’

Discussions over the causes and who was to blame have often overshadowed the stories of the survivors.

Sailen has now gathered more than 60 eyewitness accounts. In most cases, the people he says he talked to were uneducated, and had rarely spoken about the famine or been asked, even by their own family.

There is no archive dedicated to collecting survivor testimonies. Sailen believes their stories were overlooked because they were the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

“It is as if they were all waiting. If only someone would listen to their words,” he says.

Map of Bengal as it was in 1943

Niratan Bedwa was 100 when Sailen met her. She described the agony of mothers trying to look after their children.

“Mothers didn’t have any breast milk. Their bodies had become all bones, no flesh,” she said. “Many children died at birth, their mothers too. Even those that were born healthy died young from hunger. Lots of women killed themselves at that time.”

She also told Sailen that some wives ran off with other men if their husbands could not feed them. “At that time people weren’t so scandalised by these things,” she said. “When you have no rice in your belly, and no-one who can feed you, who is going to judge you anyway?” 

Sailen also talked to people who had profited from the famine. One man admitted that he bought up a lot of land “in exchange for rice and dal or a little money”. He also told Sailen that another household died without an heir, so he took the land as his own.

Kushanava Choudhury, a Bengali-American writer, accompanied Sailen on one of his visits to meet some of the survivors.

Sailen Sarkar with Kushanava Choudhury
Image caption,Sailen Sarkar with Kushanava Choudhury

“We didn’t have to search for them – they weren’t hiding, they were all in plain sight, in villages all across West Bengal and Bangladesh, who were just sitting there as the largest archive in the world,” he says.

“Nobody had bothered to talk to them. I felt tremendous shame about that.”

The famine is remembered in iconic Indian films, and photographs and sketches from the time, but Kushanava says it has rarely been recalled in the voice of the victims or survivors: “The story is written by the people who it didn’t affect. It’s a curious phenomena via who tells stories and who constructs reality.”

Prof Shruti Kapila of Cambridge University says the fate of the famine victims has perhaps been overshadowed because the 1940s were, for India, a “decade of death”.

In 1946, Calcutta was the scene of massive communal riots in which thousands died.

A year later, the British left, dividing the country into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. There was joy at independence, but the partition was bloody and traumatic – more than a million people died as people turned on those of the other religion. Up to 12 million people crossed the new border.

Bengal itself was divided between India and East Pakistan, which would later become Bangladesh.

Prof Kapila says of this period, “There’s very little punctuation to a series of mass death events that take place. And that’s why I would think that the Bengal famine in a way struggles to find its own place in that narrative.”

But while the victims – in their own words – have not been widely heard, she says famine and hunger is seen by many Indians as one of the enduring legacies of Empire.

Anangamohan Das
Image caption,Anangamohan Das

Eighty years on, there are only a handful of survivors. Sailen remembers going to talk to one man, Anangamohan Das, who was then 91. On hearing why he was there, the man was quiet for some time. Tears then streamed down his sunken cheeks as he said, “Why did you come so late?” 

But the dozens of accounts Sailen has collected are a small testament to an event that left millions dead, and millions more lives changed.

“When you want to forget your history,” he says, “you want to forget everything.” Sailen is determined this should not happen.

Peringati Hari Perempuan Internasional, AIA Gelar Vitality Women’s 10K di Solo  Rakyat Merdeka – Memperingati Hari Perempuan InternasionalAIA Vitality Women’s 10K kembali hadir dengan mengusung tema #RiseUpYourPlayground yang membawa inspirasi bahwa rute lari tidak sekadar jalur latihan fisik tetapi juga sebagai playground bagi perempuan Indonesia untuk olahraga bersama-sama. AIA Vitality Women’s 10K mengajak perempuan Indonesia untuk bergerak bersama, memberikan akses berolahraga yang aman dan nyaman bagi perempuan di Indonesia.

“Di AIA, kami memiliki komitmen untuk membantu jutaan keluarga di Indonesia hidup lebih sehat, lebih lama, lebih baik. AIA Vitality Women’s 10K adalah wujud nyata dari komitmen tersebut,” ucap Chief Marketing Officer AIA, Kathryn Parapak, dalam keterangan yang diterima redaksi, Jumat (23/2).

Kathryn melanjutkan, pemberdayaan perempuan juga menjadi salah satu fokus AIA dalam prinsip keberlanjutan. Tidak hanya untuk di ruang kerja, namun secara umum bagi masyarakat, AIA memberikan wadah dan inspirasi untuk membantu perempuan menjalankan pola hidup sehat.

“Kami berharap, AIA Vitality Women’s 10K yang akan diselenggarakan menjelang International Women’s Day ini dapat menjadi ajang yang aman dan nyaman bagi perempuan Indonesia untuk berolahraga,” ucapnya.

Tahun ini AIA Vitality Women’s 10K akan menjelajahi rute lari baru yang berbeda dengan tahun-tahun sebelumnya, yaitu di Kota Solo, Jawa Tengah, pada 3 Maret 2024. Acara akan dimulai dari titik lari awal di Pura Mangkunegaran, yang merupakan pusat budaya dan seni di Kota Solo.

Tidak sekadar lari, AIA Vitality Women’s 10K akan memberikan pengalaman olaraga dengan semangat baru. “Peserta bisa lari sambil menikmati keindahan Kota Solo yang disuguhi dengan keindahan beberapa bangunan sejarah juga bangunan terkenal,” sambung Kathryn.

Pada kilometer pertama, lanjut Kathryn, peserta akan melewati bangunan peninggalan Belanda yang digunakan sebagai kepentingan pertahanan dan keamanan yaitu Benteng Vastenburg. Lanjut pada kilometer kedua, peserta akan melewati pasar tradisional yang terkenal di Kota Solo yaitu Pasar Gede Hardjonagoro.

Sampai di kilometer keempat, peserta akan melewati salah satu Monumen sejarah Kota solo yaitu Monumen 45 Banjarsari. Di berbagai titik peserta juga akan melewati beberapa area pemukiman warga. Di sini peserta berkesempatan untuk berinteraksi dengan warga sekitar dan merasakan langsung kehangatan ramah tamah khas warga Solo.

Setelah selesai lari, peserta bisa menikmati waktu untuk berwisata sejenak di Kota Solo. “Kuliner tentu menjadi agenda penting. Jika ingin mencoba kuliner khas Kota Solo, bisa mengunjungi Pasar Gede Hardjonagoro, mereka menjual berbagai macam makanan daerah khas Kota Solo seperti Selat Solo, Nasi Liwet, Timlo, Es Dawet Selasih, dan lain lain,” ucapnya.

Kemudian, peserta bisa berkunjung ke Museum Batik Danar Hadi yang menghadirkan pengalaman untuk melihat langsung proses pembuatan batik dan bahkan pengunjung bisa mengikuti workshop pembuatan batik secara langsung. “Jangan lupa juga untuk berkunjung ke Pura Mangkunegaran yang terdapat spot-spot menarik yang memiliki nilai-nilai historis tersendiri juga budaya yang berada di sekitar kawasan Pura Mangkunegaran,” ucap Kathryn.

Registrasi AIA Vitality Women’s 10K masih dibuka dengan akses langsung di Pendaftaran dibuka hingga 25 Februari 2024.

“Untuk dapat memperoleh experience yang komprehensif, di tahun ini AIA juga memberikan akses membership gratis AIA Vitality untuk 300 peserta AIA Vitality Women’s 10K. Dengan itu, para peserta ini nantinya dapat menikmati perjalanan hidup sehat mereka melalui tahapan AIA Vitality yaitu know your healthimprove your health dan enjoy the rewards,” tutup Kathryn.

Super Bowl parade shooting: The real story behind fake criminal ‘Sahil Omar’

Denton Loudermill had nothing to do with the shooting - but he received death threats when he was briefly detained and falsely identified online as 'Sahil Omar'
Image caption,Denton Loudermill had nothing to do with the shooting – but he received death threats when he was briefly detained and falsely identified online as ‘Sahil Omar’

By Mike Wendling

BBC News

In the hours after the Kansas City Super Bowl parade shooting, highly influential right-wing accounts and Republican lawmakers falsely identified one of the shooters as “Sahil Omar”.

The attacker was reported to be an illegal immigrant in his 40s.

It was the latest fake rumour mentioning the “Sahil Omar” name, which has been linked to a number of other recent events: an explosion at a border crossing in Niagara Falls, shootings in Las Vegas and Prague, a sexual assault on the London Underground, a gas explosion in Texas and others.

But not only was nobody named “Sahil Omar” involved in any of these incidents – there’s no evidence he exists at all.

Although the motive of the person who started the rumours is unclear, online discussions have been fuelled by activists and politicians who take a hard line against immigration.


And the origin of the fake has become apparent in the week since the shooting in Kansas City killed one and injured more than 20 others.

How it started

The “Sahil Omar” rumour was started by an account on X which was set up in 2022, using a photo of LeBron James as its profile picture. It currently has fewer than 1,000 followers.

For a while, the person behind the account mostly tweeted about basketball – particularly the Los Angeles Lakers – and fast food.

But in October 2023 – soon after the Lewistown, Maine, mass shooting that killed 18 people – this account was the first to mention that a migrant named “Sahil Omar” was behind the attack.

Tweet: "BREAKING: The Gunman behind the Lewiston, Maine Mass shooting has been identified as 42 Year-old migrant Sahil Omar".

The account’s allegation was complete fiction. Law enforcement later identified the attacker as local resident Robert Card, who was found dead.

But that did not dissuade the person behind the account from attempting to connect “Sahil Omar” and his made-up biographical details with several other news events over the coming months.

Few of those efforts got much traction. But then came the Kansas City parade – and suddenly “Sahil Omar” went viral.

As details were slow to come out in the chaos following the shooting, the claims that an illegal immigrant was behind the violence took off. Buoyed by right-wing accounts with large followings, X’s metrics show that millions saw the “Sahil Omar” allegation.

Some of the posts included a photo of a man wearing a red hoodie being led away by police. But those posts were misleading as well.

While the man was the subject of intense speculation in the days after the shooting, he was later identified as Denton Loudermill from the nearby town of Olathe, Kansas.

Mr Loudermill was intoxicated at the parade and briefly detained but released without being charged. He had nothing to do with the shooting, and yet has faced death threats since his picture circulated widely.

LaRonna Lassiter Saunders, Mr Loudermill’s attorney, said he was “exploring his legal options” and considering action against those who spread the false rumours.

Immigration debate

Many of the viral posts about “Sahil Omar” took on a political nature – calling for tougher action at the US southern border and deportation of immigrants.

Those included posts by two Missouri state senators, Denny Hoskins and Rick Brattin, and a US congressman from Tennessee, Tim Burchett.

Mr Burchett later deleted his tweet and said it was “based on multiple, incorrect news reports” – a message that Mr Hoskins retweeted. Mr Brattin’s tweet, which repeated the rumour and called on President Biden to “CLOSE THE BORDER”, was still live as of Wednesday.

The BBC contacted the lawmakers for comment.

Tim Burchett
Image caption,Tim Burchett later deleted his post repeating the false claim

Who’s behind it all?

The person behind the account which began the “Sahil Omar” rumours said they live in Southern California.

But in a series of direct messages on X between the account holder and BBC, they refused to share any information about the ruse or why they frequently made the false claim. Instead, the individual continued to insist that “Sahil Omar” was involved in all sorts of crimes.

The prank is similar to an internet “joke” that routinely went viral following mass shootings and terrorist attacks – blaming killings on a fringe comedian named Sam Hyde.

But whereas Mr Hyde is an actual person – one who is at least aware of the joke, if not in on it himself – there’s no evidence that “Sahil Omar” is real.

Instead, it is a false claim made by an anonymous person that has misled the American public and chummed the waters in the fractious US immigration debate.

KPTIK Siap Fasilitasi Program Hilirisasi Digital yang Digaungkan Gibran  Rakyat Merdeka – Wacana hilirisasi digital yang digaungkan Cawapres 02, Gibran Rakabuming Raka menjadi pembicaraan hangat di masyarakat. Respons positif pun terus mengalir dari berbagai kalangan penggiat teknologi digital. Komite Penyelarasan Teknologi Informasi dan Komunikasi (KPTIK) salah satunya.

KPTIK serius mendukung penuh agar program ini segera ditindaklanjuti. “Hilirisasi digital adalah ide yang sangat brilian untuk menjamin teknologi digital Indonesia akan cemerlang di masa depan,” ucap Wakil Ketua Hubungan Pemerintahan KPTIK Soegiharto Santoso, dalam keterangannya, Kamis (22/2).

Menurut Soegiharto, saatnya Indonesia menerapkan konsep ini untuk memaksimalkan teknologi di semua sektor, terutama sektor pendidikan, pertanian, pertambangan, layanan soal, termasuk sektor UMKM.

“Hilirisasi digital akan membuka peluang semua pihak untuk berpartisipasi dalam mengembangkan keterampilan dan kemampuan bekerja dengan teknologi yang lebih canggih. Indonesia sudah berhasil membangun ekonomi digital melalui pengembangan aplikasi di bidang transportasi, pendidikan, dan retail. Sektor lain pun harus dikembangkan,” ujar pria yang akrab disapa Hoky ini.

Ketua Umum Asosiasi Pengusaha TIK Nasional (APTIKNAS) menambahkan, hilirisasi digital perlu mempersiapkan infrastruktur jaringan atau konektivitas internet serta membangun industri perangkat digital.

“Pemerintah harus mampu memastikan layanan akses internet dan literasi digital tersedia bagi masyarakat Indonesia, terutama untuk daerah yang belum tersentuh jaringan internet,” imbuhnya.

Ia melanjutkan, dengan pengalaman dan portofolio yang cukup lengkap, KPTIK siap memfasilitasi pemerintah terkait hilirisasi digital mulai dari sekarang. Dengan hilirisasi digital, akan membuat akselerasi digitalisasi usaha dan penambahan sumber daya manusia di sektor digital dapat diarahkan ke pengembangan blockchainAImachine learning, dan big data analyticsDigitalisasi akan meningkatkan produktivitas dan efisiensi dalam proses industri di semua sektor.

“Saya ingat pendapat seorang pebisnis dan ahli matematika asal Inggris, Clive Humby, yang menyatakan data sebagai new oil. Sebab data dapat digunakan sebagai landasan penting untuk pengambilan keputusan dan perumusan strategi, sehingga ini potensi yang luar biasa bagi bangsa ini,” tutur pendiri Lembaga Sertifikasi Profesi Sumber Daya Mandiri Teknologi Informasi dan Kreatif (LSP SDM TIK) ini.

Hoky juga meyakini, hilirisasi digital akan menciptakan partisipasi generasi muda makin besar. “Dengan hilirisasi, akan muncul kesempatan produksi dan meningkatnya kebutuhan tenaga kerja digital atau digital talent yang menjadi target utama pemerintah menciptakan 9 juta tenaga digital hingga 2030,” pungkasnya.

Elina Svitolina: The star and the kids who play on through horror

Sports Insight Banner

By Sophie Williams

BBC News

Elina Svitolina walks out ahead of Marketa Vondrousova before their Wimbledon semi-final
Image caption,Svitolina, who was given a wild card into the main draw, comes onto court for her Wimbledon semi-final in July, followed by Czech opponent and eventual champion Marketa Vondrousova

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As the crowd cheered Elina Svitolina on to Centre Court for her Wimbledon semi-final, millions of people back in her native Ukraine tuned in to support.

They have been a constant. Sheltering from Russian shells in bomb shelters and underground stations, they have still found a screen to watch.

And as Ukraine supports Svitolina, so Svitolina supports Ukraine.

Just months before her run to the last four at the All England Club in July 2023, Svitolina had been in her home country, seeing the damage of the invasion first hand. She was back again in November. Each time, she is struck by “the horror and the consequences” of the Russian invasion., external

“It was a mixture of feelings for sure,” she tells BBC Sport of her trips home.

“It is amazing to be back, but also a bit scary because the big cities are under air raid alert all the time.

“But what surprised me was the spirit of the people. The unbreakable spirit that they built over the two years of the war is amazing.”

Some of that spirit, born of conflict, travelled with Svitolina into the rarefied surroundings of the All England Club.

As her Wimbledon semi-final against Marketa Vondrousova went on, as she faced big points, Svitolina thought back to the people she had met at home.

“Those brave soldiers that are defending our country,” she says. “I think about those people, how they feel when they are there facing really dangerous moments. And there’s me in the perfect conditions in Centre Court at Wimbledon, just playing tennis.

“So why should I be so nervous?”

Elina Svitolina stands in front of a damaged block of flats on trip to Ukraine
Image caption,Svitolina has returned regularly to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February 2022

Earlier in the tournament, Svitolina had beaten Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka.

Belarus has hosted Russian troops, allowing their allies to launch the invasion across another front, close to Kyiv. Svitolina, like all Ukrainian players, has vowed not to shake hands with either Russian or Belarusian opponents until peace is restored and Ukrainian territory is returned.

At Wimbledon, Azarenka, who has condemned the violence against Ukraine,, external was booed by a Court One crowd, who assumed she was being unsporting. A month before Svitolina herself had been jeered by fans at the French Open after she refused to shake the hand of another Belarusian – Aryna Sabalenka – following a defeat.

It has been a controversial and, for some, confusing stance, but Svitolina stands by it.

“Everyone should fight on their own front,” she says.

“Of course the main front is our soldiers, and we try to support them with everything that we’ve got… with money…trying to help them to fight the enemy.

“Also it is important to help them not lose their spirit. They still follow the sport, they read the news. For us, it’s our united decision to fight this war.”

Svitolina is from the southern port of Odesa. And in recent months, the city has been heavily targeted.

“Yeah it’s terrible. Really terrible. My uncle and his family are there. My grandmother is still there. I’m really close with her,” Svitolina says.

“It’s really tough to see the news on a daily basis. I try to speak with her and keep up her spirits. She loves to speak with us, just to be in a moment where your life is so normal. On a daily basis there are alarms, there are rockets, all of those noises surround her, so she wants to see my family and see a normal life.

“I can’t even imagine how tough mentally it can be for her.”

Victoria Azarenka (left) and Elina Svitolina (right) sit on either side of the net during a changeover
Image caption,Victoria Azarenka (left) and Elina Svitolina (right) have found their respective nations on opposite sides of international conflict

When she’s not catching up with friends and family at home, or playing in matches, Svitolina dedicates her time to her foundation. The Elina Svitolina foundation was set up in 2019 and supports young tennis players in her home country.

When the invasion started, the former world number three had to think about what to do for those already part of her foundation’s programme.

“After 24 February 2022, everything changed – our goals, our views. We needed to react quickly for the kids,” Svitolina says.

She helped relocate children and their families. Only the mothers and grandmothers could come with the children, with the men, who may be required on the frontline, staying behind.

“For the families, it was not easy,” she says.

“Tennis is not the first thing you think of. You think about your safety but later on, it’s also important to continue what you love, continue dreaming and doing sport.

“It changes your mindset a little bit. To not just focus on the war and seeing your parents worried and scared.”

The foundation held a tennis camp in September in Poland, visited by Svitolina.

Makar, 12, was one of the attendees. He said that he worked hard to climb the national junior rankings and secure a place at the camp.

“All tennis players my age know that only the best get there,” he says. “The opportunity to work with the best coaches, with a large team of professionals is everyone’s dream.”

Makar, the youngest participant, said the camp was the best 10 days he’d experienced in a long time.

“Elina’s arrival was a surprise for us. I dreamed of meeting her. She was present at training and even praised me and gave me a gift on the court. She is not only a great tennis player, but also a person with a big heart,” he adds.

Elina Svitolina answers questions from participants in her tennis camp in Poland
Image caption,Svitolina is one of five Ukrainian players ranked in the top 50 of the women’s game. Great Britain has one.

“I am grateful to her for never forgetting her country. She inspires me. I also want to become a professional tennis player, glorify my country and be able to help those who need it.”

Makar lives and trains in Ukraine, amid air raid alarms and Russian attacks.

“When the war started, it was tennis that kept us in shape,” he says. “We couldn’t focus on anything, we didn’t know what would happen tomorrow, but I picked up my racket and played. It was in the game that I could forget about everything that was happening around me.”

In November, the foundation wrapped up a series of tournaments for young tennis players in Ukraine. The winners received a grant from the foundation to support their tennis career.

But planning such an event comes with extra stress. The tournaments took place in locations with bomb shelters for the children to go to during air alerts.

Svitolina handed out prizes for the girls’ event in a shelter as sirens blared outside. The group remained in the shelter for four hours until they were given the all clear to leave and start the boys’ final.

But the main focus, as always with Svitolina, is bringing the children joy.

“The parents are happy that the kids are having fun and competing,” Svitolina says.

The children also have access to a mental health specialist. And Elina also has an open-door policy when it comes to advice and questions.

“I talk with the kids at the beginning and they can ask me any question,” she says. “There are some good questions. They always ask the toughest ones!

“It’s a good opportunity for the kids to develop their talent but also get this opportunity to see the world as well.”

Daria was one of the tournament winners, receiving a financial grant which she will spend on trips, competitions and new racquets.

“I and the other children had a lot of emotions from the training process but also from the fact that each of our lives had changed,” she says.

“The war started and everyone was forced to leave their homes, adapt to new conditions. We haven’t seen each other and competed against each other in such a long time.”

Daria says she first met Svitolina when she was six or seven years old, travelling with her mother to get the tennis star’s autograph at a Kyiv shopping centre.

“She is a real leader who defends Ukraine on all possible platforms and helps children who stayed and did not leave,” Daria says.

The tournament also is an opportunity to develop tennis in the country. Ukraine’s sporting locations have been heavily hit by shelling. More than 300 facilities have been destroyed, according to Vadym Gutzeit, Ukraine’s Minister of Youth and Sports.

“The national centre for tennis has been destroyed and there are not many places where people can play tennis,” says Svitolina.

“I feel like I have a mission for years to come to continue supporting tennis and to bring something new to Ukraine with tennis and with sport, because it is so important. Sport brings people together.

“I’m really thankful for the sport that I chose and for the opportunities that I’ve had in my career so I can pass this knowledge and this dream to the kids of Ukraine.”