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U.S. Officials Eye Links Between Weekend Bombings

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U.S. investigators on Sunday were studying possible links between a pair of bombs detonated in New York City and New Jersey over the weekend, although no evidence had yet emerged tying the devices to known extremist groups.

The country was shaken by a trio of attacks over the weekend including a Saturday night bombing that injured 29 in Manhattan and a stabbing attack at a Minnesota shopping mall that wounded nine.

While officials described all three as deliberate, criminal acts and were investigating them as potential “acts of terrorism,” they stopped short of characterizing the motivation behind any of them until more evidence is uncovered.

A deafening roar and powerful shock rocked Manhattan’s popular Chelsea neighborhood late on Saturday after a pressure-cooker bomb packed with shrapnel exploded. A similar, unexploded device, was found a few blocks away later that night.

No international militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the New York blast or a pipe bomb that went off earlier along the route of a Saturday road race in suburban New Jersey. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the act of blowing up a bomb in a crowded area of Manhattan “is obviously an act of terrorism.”

No suspects were immediately identified in the New York and New Jersey attacks.

But CNN reported on Sunday night that police had reviewed surveillance video showing a man, who was not identified, leaving both devices on Saturday.

The Islamic State militant group quickly claimed responsibility for the Minnesota attack by a man who made references to Allah and asked at least one person if he or she was Muslim before he assaulted the individual. An off-duty police officer fatally shot the assailant.

Police did not immediately identify the Minnesota attacker, citing an ongoing investigation, although some local media reports gave his name and said he was an African-born junior college student. Reuters could not immediately confirm his identity.

There were no immediate connections established between the Minnesota attack and the bombings in New York and New Jersey, which came days before the United Nations General Assembly opens on Tuesday. Some 135 heads of state or government are expected to attend the event, and city officials said they had bolstered an already heavy security force with 1,000 more uniformed police officers and National Guard members.

‘CRUDE’ DEVICES

Federal Bureau of Investigation experts were examining remnants of the two devices that went off in Chelsea and Seaside Park, New Jersey, some 80 miles (130 km) south of New York City, as well as the undetonated pressure-cooker bomb, the same sort of improvised explosive device that killed three people and wounded more than 260 in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

“The crudity of the devices in all three cases certainly doesn’t point to any group that’s been developing (improvised explosive devices) for years,” said a U.S. official involved in the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss the inquiry.

The official added that the crude nature of the devices and the apparent low level of planning had some investigators concerned that the blasts were just a test of New York’s security.

“That’s what worries us: Was this some kind of test run, not just of the devices, but also of the surveillance in New York and the response?” the official said.

The United States has experienced a series of deadly attacks over the past year by gunmen inspired by Islamic State, which has been fighting a long civil war in Syria. A man who claimed allegiance to the group fatally shot 50 people at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in June, six months after a married couple massacred 14 in San Bernardino, California.

Investigators at the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Virginia, were set to look to see if the three devices in the New York area had a common design, although a U.S. official familiar with the inquiry said that would not be proof in itself the attacks were linked.

“Almost anybody could have fabricated these bombs and used cellphones as timed detonators,” said the official. “There are instructions all over the internet, and the crudity, positioning, and relative ineffectiveness of these does not suggest that a more sophisticated group played any role in this.”

The bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombing were built using instructions that the pair of brothers behind the attack found in al Qaeda’s “Inspire” online magazine.

The FBI considers the Minnesota episode a “potential act of terrorism,” Richard Thornton, FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Minneapolis division, told a news conference on Sunday.

Amaq, the news agency affiliated with Islamic State, issued a statement on Sunday calling the attacker “a soldier of the Islamic State.”

Reporters was not immediately able to verify the Amaq assertion.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and John Walcott in Washington, Robert MacMillan in New York and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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NIMC Announces Launch of Three National ID Cards to Boost Identity Management

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The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has unveiled plans to launch three new national identity cards.

These cards are aimed at providing improved access to government services and bolstering identification systems across Nigeria.

The three new national identity cards, as disclosed by Ayodele Babalola, the Technical Adviser, Media, and Communications to the Director-General of NIMC, will include a bank-enabled National ID card, a social intervention card, and an optional ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card.

Babalola explained that these cards are tailored to meet the diverse needs of Nigerian citizens while fostering greater participation in nation-building initiatives.

In an interview, Babalola outlined the timeline for the rollout of these cards, indicating that Nigerians can expect to start receiving them within one or two months of the launch, pending approval from the Presidency.

The bank-enabled National ID card, designed to cater to the middle and upper segments of the population, will offer seamless access to banking services within the specified timeframe.

Also, the National Safety Net Card will serve as a crucial tool for authentication and secure platform provision for government services such as palliatives, with a focus on the 25 million vulnerable Nigerians supported by current government intervention programs.

This initiative aims to streamline the distribution process and ensure efficient delivery of social services to those in need.

Furthermore, the ECOWAS National Biometric Identity Card will provide an optional identity verification solution, facilitating cross-border interactions and promoting regional integration within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The announcement comes on the heels of NIMC’s collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to develop a multipurpose national identity card equipped with payment capabilities for various social and financial services.

This collaborative effort underscores the commitment of key stakeholders to foster innovation, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness in service delivery.

Babalola stated that the new identity cards aim to address the need for physical identification, empower citizens, and promote financial inclusion for marginalized populations. With a target of providing these cards to approximately 104 million eligible applicants on the national identification number database by the end of December 2023, NIMC is poised to revolutionize the identity management landscape in Nigeria.

The implementation of these programs aligns with broader efforts to drive digital transformation and improve access to essential services for all Nigerians.

Babalola highlighted the multifaceted benefits of the new identity cards, including their potential to uplift millions out of poverty by facilitating access to government social programs and financial services.

While the launch date is set tentatively for May pending presidential approval, NIMC remains committed to finalizing the necessary details to ensure a smooth rollout of the new identity cards.

The introduction of these cards represents a significant step forward in NIMC’s mission to provide secure and reliable identity solutions that empower individuals and contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

Efforts to reach Kayode Adegoke, the Head of Corporate Communications at NIMC, for further insights on the initiative were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.

As Nigeria gears up for the launch of these innovative identity cards, stakeholders express optimism about the potential positive impact on identity management, financial inclusion, and socio-economic development across the country.

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Nigeria Launches New National ID Card to Enhance Access to Social and Financial Services

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National-eID-card

The Federal Government of Nigeria has announced the launch of a National Identity Card with integrated payment and social service functionalities.

This initiative, spearheaded by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS), aims to provide Nigerians with a single, multifunctional card that combines identification, payment, and access to various government and private sector services.

The new National ID card backed by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007 is poised to become the country’s default identity card, serving as a tangible proof of identity for citizens and legal residents alike.

With features aligned with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, including a Machine-readable Zone (MRZ) and biometric authentication capabilities, the card offers robust security and verification mechanisms.

One of the most significant aspects of the new ID card is its payment functionality. Cardholders will have the ability to link their cards to bank accounts, enabling them to conduct debit and prepaid transactions seamlessly.

This feature is expected to enhance financial inclusion efforts, particularly for the unbanked and underbanked populations in Nigeria.

Also, the card will grant holders access to a wide range of government interventions programs, including travel, health insurance, microloans, agriculture initiatives, food subsidies, transport benefits, and energy subsidies.

By consolidating these services onto a single platform, the government aims to streamline administrative processes and improve service delivery efficiency.

To ensure widespread accessibility, the NIMC has outlined various channels for obtaining the new ID card, including online applications, commercial banks, participating agencies, and NIMC offices nationwide.

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New York City Hit by 4.8 Magnitude Earthquake

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christian dior

New York City, famously known as the “city that never sleeps” was hit by a 4.8 magnitude earthquake.

The tremors reverberated through the towering skyscrapers and bustling suburbs as it sent shockwaves across the densely populated metropolitan area and left residents feeling shaken.

The earthquake, with its epicenter approximately 45 miles west of New York City and 50 miles north of Philadelphia, caught many off guard.

Reports indicate that over 42 million people across the Northeast region may have felt the midmorning quake with reports coming in from as far as Baltimore to Boston and beyond.

The impact of the earthquake was not confined to mere tremors; it resulted in significant damage to several multifamily homes in Newark, New Jersey, displacing nearly 30 residents.

Officials immediately sprang into action, conducting checks on bridges and other major infrastructure to assess any potential structural damage.

Flights were diverted or delayed, Amtrak slowed trains throughout the busy Northeast Corridor, and a Philadelphia-area commuter rail line suspended service as a precautionary measure.

The experience was unsettling for many New Yorkers, with some likening it to the sensation of an explosion or construction accident.

Shawn Clark, an attorney working on the 26th floor of a midtown Manhattan office, described it as “pretty weird and scary,” echoing the sentiments of many who felt the earth move beneath them.

Aftershocks were reported hours later in a central New Jersey township, causing additional concern and producing reports of damage and items falling off shelves, according to Hunterdon County Public Safety Director Brayden Fahey.

The disruption caused by the earthquake extended beyond immediate safety concerns. Cellphone circuits were overloaded as people tried to reach loved ones, and phones blared with earthquake-related notifications during the New York Philharmonic’s morning performance, adding an unexpected twist to the day’s events.

Even as the seismic event rattled New York City, residents and officials alike drew comparisons to past earthquakes, particularly the memorable tremor of August 23, 2011. Registering a magnitude of 5.8, it was the strongest quake to hit the East Coast since World War II, leaving lasting impressions on those who experienced it.

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