News In Brief International

Eight people from same family killed in Afghanistan mosque shooting

(23 Apr 2021)  Initial information shows a land dispute caused a shooting in which five brothers and three of their male cousins were killed in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, the governor said. Eight members of the same family have been gunned down in an attack on a mosque in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

The shooting happened night in the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, and was believed to be over a land dispute, the province’s governor Zaiulhaq Amarkhil said.

Five brothers and three of their male cousins were killed.( Source: AFP)

 

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Deadly blast hits Afghanistan’s Logar, killing at least 30 …

(30-4-2021) Initial reports put the death toll at 30 people after a car bomb blast targeted Afghan city of Pul-e Alam, the provincial capital of Logar province. The car detonated in Logar’s capital of Pul-e Alam near the home of the former head of the provincial council and not far from a hospital, Didar Lawang, the spokesperson for Logar’s governor, said.

Around 60 people were wounded, according to the head of Logar’s provincial council, Hasibullah Stanekzai.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said that the death toll from the blast could rise.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast.

Increasing violence

Violence in Afghanistan has escalated in recent weeks after US President Joe Biden announced the US would withdraw troops by September 11 to end two decades of foreign military presence. That decision angered the Taliban who had signed a deal with previous US President Donald Trump that specified troops would be gone from the country by May 1 subject to certain security guarantees.  (Source: TRTWorld and agencies)

 

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Iran says Natanz atomic site blackout is act of ‘nuclear terrorism’

(12-4-2021) Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, stopped short of directly blaming anyone for the incident. Details remained few about what happened morning at the facility, which initially was described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding the site. An accident at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was the result of a “terrorist” act, the country’s nuclear chief Salehi said, according to state TV.

He said the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) needed to deal with what he called nuclear terrorism. He added that Iran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators, TV reported.

Reports of Israeli involvement

Many Israeli media outlets offered the same assessment that a cyberattack darkened Natanz and damaged a facility that is home to sensitive centrifuges. While the reports offered no sourcing for the evaluation, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.

Israeli public radio quoted unidentified intelligence sources as saying that Israel’s Mossad spy agency carried out a cyber attack against Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. The report on Kan Radio did not disclose the nationality of the intelligence sources.

If Israel caused the blackout, it further heightens tensions between the two nations, already engaged in a shadow conflict across the wider Middle East.

It also complicates efforts by the US, Israel’s main security partner, to re-enter the atomic accord aimed at limiting Tehran’s program so it can’t pursue a nuclear weapon. As news of the blackout emerged, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Iran’s Zarif blames Israel for Natanz incident, vows revenge

By Maziar Motamedi | 12 Apr 2021

Tehran, Iran  Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has vowed revenge against Israel for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear facilities at Natanz but said it will not stop high-level talks to restore the country’s nuclear deal with world powers.

In a private meeting with lawmakers, Zarif pointed out that top Israeli officials explicitly said they would try to prevent multilateral efforts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which would lead to lifting United States sanctions on Iran.

“Now they think they will achieve their goal. But the Zionists will get their answer in more nuclear advancements,” the diplomat was quoted as saying by state-run IRNA.

He vowed “revenge” against Israel and said Iran would not fall into its trap by refusing to engage in talks that could see unilateral US sanctions lifted.

He also promised Natanz will be built stronger than before, using more advanced centrifuges.

“If they think our hand in the negotiations has been weakened, actually this cowardly act will strengthen our position in the talks,” he said.SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

 

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Israel refuses to cooperate with ICC war crimes probe

(11-4-2021) ICC is expected to look at possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East

Israel has formally decided not to cooperate with an International Criminal Court war crimes investigation into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor announced on March 3 that she had opened a full investigation into the situation in the Israeli-occupied territories, infuriating Israel, which is not a member of The Hague-based court.

The ICC sent a deferral notice on March 9, giving Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) a month to inform judges whether they are investigating crimes similar to those being probed by the ICC.

Had Israel informed the court that it was in fact carrying out its own probe into alleged war crimes perpetrators, it could have asked for a deferral.

Ahead of the deadline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying the government had agreed “to not cooperate” with the ICC.

The court is expected to look at possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem that now house over 700,000 settlers. International law prohibits the transfer of civilians into occupied territory.

The Palestinians have hailed the probe as a rare opportunity to hold Israel to account for what they say are serious, longstanding violations of international law. The Palestinians were granted nonmember observer status in the UN General Assembly in 2012, allowing them to join international organisations like the ICC.

Israel denounces probe

Israel says the court is biased against it and has no right to investigate, citing its own judicial processes and the fact that the Palestinians have neither a state nor defined borders.

“In addition to totally rejecting the claim that Israel commits war crimes, Israel reiterates its unequivocal position that the Hague Tribunal has no authority to open an investigation against it,” the government said in a statement, detailing a letter it plans to send to the ICC.

“Israel is committed to the rule of law and will continue to investigate any charges against it regardless of the source, and it expects the tribunal to refrain from violating its authority and sovereignty,” the statement said.

The letter is in response to an official notice sent to all parties by the ICC last month. Israel could have argued that it was capable of investigating and prosecuting violations on its own, potentially deferring or even cancelling the ICC’s investigation.Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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Dozens killed in stampede at Israel pilgrimage site

29-4-2021

A stampede that broke out at a Jewish religious gathering attended by tens of thousands of people in northern Israel, has reportedly killed at least 44 people and left 150 others.

Media reports initially said a section of stadium seating had collapsed at the Lag B’Omer event in Mount Meron in the Galilee early on Friday. But officials later said it appeared that the casualties had been asphyxiated or trampled in a stampede.

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had gathered at the tomb of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Friday for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance.

The gathering had been held in defiance of health officials who had worries that crowding could pose a Covid-19 risk.

Private bonfires at Mount Meron were banned last year due to coronavirus restrictions, but lockdown measures were eased this year amid Israel’s rapid Covid-19 vaccination programme that has seen more than 50 percent of the population fully vaccinated.(Source: TRTWorld and agencies)

 

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‘Syrian missile’ strikes near Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor

(20-4-2021) Air-raid sirens sounded in the southern district of Abu Qrenat, with local media reporting “loud explosions” that “shook the houses” after what Israeli army said was a Syrian missile that hit near top-secret nuclear facility. A missile launched from Syria has struck Israel’s Negev desert region, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said.

In response to Thursday’s incident, it said it struck the missile launcher and other targets in neighbouring Syria.

The Israeli army said the missile landed in the Negev region and the air raid sirens were sounded in a village near Dimona, where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located. There was no word on whether anything had been struck, but explosions were reported across Israel.

The incident near the Dimona nuclear reactor, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to  likely Iranian involvement.  Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including a recent fire at its Natanz nuclear facility, and vowed revenge.

Explosion ‘shook the houses’

Siren alerts are generally activated by rocket attacks, especially those from besieged Gaza.

A Reuters news agency reporter about 90 km away from Abu Qrenat heard the sound of an explosion early minutes before the military’s text message.

According to the Jerusalem Post, residents from across the country, including central Israel and Jerusalem, reported hearing “loud explosions” that “shook the houses.”

The explosion was reportedly the result of a patriot battery responding to a missile launched toward Israel, The Post said.

Missile ‘came from Syria’

Israeli military radio said the blast near Dimona nuclear reactor was caused by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that overflew its target.

Syrian regime said its air defence intercepted the Israeli attack.

Syrian air defences intercepted an Israeli attack in the direction of the Golan heights, local media reported.

The attack took place at around 01:38 local time and targeted areas in the Damascus suburbs, it said.

“Air defences intercepted the rockets and downed most of them,” it said. (Source: TRTWorld and agencies)

 

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Modi regime behind China-India military confrontation

Former Chinese military attache, Cheng Xizhong, states that the military confrontation between the two countries was caused by the Modi regime’s amendment of Article 370 of the constitution in August 2019.

(By News Desk : 12 April 2021)

Commenting on China-India latest military talks, former Chinese military attache, Cheng Xizhong said the serious military confrontation and conflicts between the two countries was completely caused by the Narendra Modi regime’s amendment of Article 370 of the constitution in August 2019 and its announcement of the establishment of Union Territory of Ladakh on Chinese Territory.

Actually, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) of the western section between China and India was not controversial.

The serious military confrontation and conflicts in recent years were completely caused by the Narendra Modi regime’s amendment of Article 370 of the constitution in August 2019 and its announcement of the establishment of the “the Union Territory of Ladakh” on Chinese territory, Cheng Xizhong, Visiting Professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, a former military diplomat in South Asian countries said in a statement issued here.

On September 22, 2020, after the 6th round of Corps Commander talks, the two sides jointly issued a statement and this way of releasing the information was adopted until the 10th round of talks.

Second, China’s statement was not released by the Ministry of National Defense, but by the Western Theater Command.

The Chinese side expressed the hope that India can treasure the current positive situation of de-escalation in China-India border areas, abide by related agreements reached by the two countries and the two militaries in previous meetings, meet China halfway and safeguard peace and stability in border areas together.

China’s dissatisfaction?

Between the lines, it shows China’s dissatisfaction and worry about the slow progress of the current talks, and shows that it is difficult to jointly solve the remaining issues.

India has always been fond of playing smart. If some people in India fantasize that the recent U.S.-India relations, especially the military cooperation, could bring them more bargaining chips on the border issue, and do not cherish the efforts made by the two militaries so far, it will undoubtedly destroy the mutual trust between the two militaries which is still recovering.

He opined that judging from the current situation, the Narendra Modi regime will not change its position.

With the rise of temperature in the high-altitude areas along the border, it cannot be ruled out that the Indian troops take new actions, which may lead to a reversal of the momentum of the border stabilization.

China is determined to safeguard its territorial sovereignty. We have always held that the territorial dispute over the border between China and India is only a part of the comprehensive relations between the two countries, and we do not hope that the border issue will affect the overall friendly cooperation between the two countries.

However, if the Narendra Modi regime misjudges the situation and the Indian troops invade Chinese territory again, the powerful Chinese People’s Liberation Army will resolutely fight back.

Cheng said the 1962 Sino-Indian Armed Conflict and the 2020 physical clash all show that the Indian military is not a match for the Chinese military. Once the fight really starts, the Indian military will lose out in the end. We don’t want to see the Indian soldiers from poor families shed more blood.(Courtesy: APP)

 

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US orders big drawdown at Kabul embassy as troops leave Afghanistan

New advisory directs American citizens not to travel to Afghanistan and asks those already in the war-torn country to “leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.”

US has ordered a significant number of its remaining staff at its embassy in Kabul to leave Afghanistan as the military steps up the pullout of American troops from the country.

The US State Department department said on Tuesday it had instructed all personnel to depart unless their jobs require them to be physically located in Afghanistan.

The order was not specific as to the number of people affected, but it went well beyond the usual curtailment of staffers for security and safety reasons. Such orders normally apply only to non-essential personnel.

In an updated travel advisory for Afghanistan, the department said it had ordered the departure of all US government employees “whose functions can be performed elsewhere.”

It also said American citizens should not travel to Afghanistan and those there who want to depart “should leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.”

The State Department order came just two days after America’s top general in Afghanistan said the US military had begun closing down operations in the country and that Afghanistan’s security forces had to be ready to take over.

US closing operations

The State Department order came just two days after America’s top general in Afghanistan said the US military had begun closing down operations in the country and that Afghanistan’s security forces had to be ready to take over.

President Joe Biden this month set a deadline for withdrawing all 2,500 US troops remaining in Afghanistan of September 11, the 20th anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States that triggered the war.

While the official start to the withdrawal of Washington’s 2,500 to 3,500 troops and NATO’s 7,000 allied forces is May 1, General Austin Miller said the pullout had already begun.

The US military and NATO will be shipping some military equipment out of Afghanistan while deciding what would remain behind with the Afghan Defence and Security Force, he said.

In February last year, the US military began closing its smaller bases.

In mid-April, the Biden administration announced that the final phase of the withdrawal would begin May 1 and be completed before September 11.            Source: TRTWorld and agencies

 

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US adds 116 countries to its ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory list

The US State Department has added at least 116 countries this week to its “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory list, putting the UK, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Germany, and others on the list, citing a “very high level of Covid-19.”

The State Department listed 34 out of about 200 countries as “Do Not Travel.” The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four. It declined to say when it would complete the updates.

The State Department said the move did not imply a reassessment of current health situations in some countries, but rather “reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on CDC’s existing epidemiological assessments.”

The recommendations are not mandatory and do not bar Americans from travel.

Other countries in the “Do Not Travel” list include Finland, Egypt, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Spain. Some countries like China and Japan remain at Level 3: Reconsider Travel.”

US economy on a solid footing, coronavirus still top threat

The US economy will grow at its fastest annual pace in decades this year and outperform most of its major peers, with the outlook upgraded sharply, but another Covid-19 surge was the biggest risk over the next three months, a Reuters news agency poll has shown. Source: TRTWorld and agencies

 

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Japan to release contaminated Fukushima water into sea

(13-4-2021) The country plans to release into the sea more than one million tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station, the government says.

Japan’s government has decided to start releasing into the sea massive amounts of radioactive water stored in tanks at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in two years after treatment. The decision, long speculated but delayed for years due to safety concerns and protests, came at a meeting of related ministers who endorsed the release as the best option. The water has been accumulated and stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since its 2011 meltdown after a massive earthquake and tsunami, causing cooling water to leak from the damaged reactors.

Its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said its storage capacity will be full in the fall of 2022.

Impact on marine life:  Some scientists say the long-term impact on marine life from low-dose exposure to such large volumes of water is unknown. Under a report of the basic plan adopted by the ministers, TEPCO will start releasing the water in about two years after building a facility under the regulatory authority’s safety requirements.

‘We can’t back this move’

But local fishing communities fear releasing the water will undermine years of work to restore confidence in seafood from the region.

“They told us that they wouldn’t release the water into the sea without the support of fishermen,” Kanji Tachiya, who heads a local fisheries cooperative in Fukushima, told NHK ahead of the announcement.

“We can’t back this move to break that promise and release the water into the sea unilaterally.”

Japan’s Fukushima wastewater release plan attracts sharp criticism

South Korea reacted by strongly protesting the decision and summoning Tokyo’s ambassador in Seoul, Koichi Aiboshi, and convening an intra-agency emergency meeting. South Korean President Moon Jae-in called authorities to look into ways to refer Japan’s move to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, his spokesman Kang Min-seok said in a briefing.

“I cannot but say that there are many concerns here about the decision as a country that is geologically closest and shares the sea with Japan,” Moon said.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said it shared “strong regret and serious concerns” about the release of the water.

China summoned Japan’s ambassador in protest over the plan, and said it would assess possible safety threats to food and agricultural products.

“We will closely follow the development of the situation and assess possible threats posed to the safety of related food and agricultural products and their trade, to ensure the safety of Chinese consumers,” Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng, said at a press conference. The Chinese foreign ministry expressed its firm opposition, saying the Japanese plan disregarded the marine environment and the safety of people in neighbouring countries.

“The ocean is not Japan’s rubbish bin, the Pacific Ocean is not Japan’s sewers,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry. Furthermore Zhao asked Japanese officials, “why don’t they drink, cook & wash clothes with the water first?”

A group of human rights experts from the United Nations expressed their own concerns.

Experts said the revelation of the contested plan “is particularly disappointing” as they believe alternative solutions to the problem are available.(Source: TRT World)

 

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‘More than 100,000′ Russian troops amassed near Ukraine

(20-1-2021) Moscow has stationed thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border and in annexed Crimea, EU says, with its top diplomat Josep Borrell warning “the risk of further escalation is evident.”

Russia has stationed “more than 100,000″ troops on Ukraine’s border and in annexed Crimea, according to the European Union statement, while the Pentagon said that Moscow’s military buildup is larger than that in 2014.

The European Union slashed its estimate of the numbers of Russia troops along the Ukraine border from 150,000 to more than 100,000, correcting a statement earlier in the day.

But in the revised statement online, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell still warned that the Russian troop build-up was “very concerning”, adding: “The risk of further escalation is evident.”

Earlier, Borrell had said Russia had massed over 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and in the annexed Crimea peninsula, in comments to journalists following talks involving Ukraine’s foreign minister.

But he refused to disclose the source of the figure.

In a statement put online evening, the figure quoted by Borrell had been revised down to “more than 100,000″. A footnote explained that the figure had been corrected, but with no further explanation.

Largest-ever military buildup

Later, Pentagon said, “It is certainly bigger than the one in 2014.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declined to provide a specific number.

It was not clear if the movement of troops was for training purposes.

He said no new economic sanctions or expulsions of Russian diplomats were planned for the time being, despite saying that the military buildup on Ukraine’s borders was the largest ever.

Ukraine wants sanctions on Russia

A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Russian build-up numbered in the tens of thousands but was not aware of intelligence that pointed to more than 150,000 Russian troops.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, after addressing EU foreign ministers, called on the EU to impose new sanctions on Russia.

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have been rising amid the military build-up and clashes in eastern Ukraine between the army and pro-Russian separatists.    (Source: Reuters)

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India records its highest number of coronavirus cases with more than 400,000

 

(Updated by Saturday 1 May 2021)

India has recorded a dramatic jump to more than 400,000 Covid-19 cases – its biggest ever daily case count, as the second coronavirus wave hits India. According to the Ministry of Health, India recorded 401,993 new daily infections, as well as 3,523 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Eighteen people, including 12 patients, died in the state of Gujarat when an oxygen cylinder on an intensive care unit caught fire. The latest grim figures come as all adults in India are now eligible to be vaccinated.

However several states, including Maharashtra, are reporting shortages of coronavirus vaccine vials which has stopped them from vaccinating more people.

India had previously focused on vaccinating frontline workers and adults over the age of 45.

So far, government vaccines have been free, and private hospitals have been permitted to sell shots at a price capped at 250 rupees, or around £2.50.

However this will now change as prices for state governments and private hospitals will be determined by vaccine companies.

Some states might not be able to provide vaccines for free as they are paying twice as much as the federal government for the same vial, and prices at private hospitals could rise dramatically.

India’s debilitating second Covid-19 wave and a shortage of medical oxygen has produced a black market where cylinders are being sold at up to 15 times their original cost.

The extortionate goods are being snapped up by people forced to care for their loved ones while hospitals overflow with patients.

“I think, on this earth, you would never have seen this situation where people are dying and we are forced to give oxygen, or a miracle assistance, to people sitting in their cars,” Manjinder Singh Sirsa told ITV News.

In an attempt to prevent coronavirus sufferers being priced out, Mr Singh and other Sikh volunteers in Delhi have been offering free oxygen to people in cars.

The team has also been building a temporary hospital. It is hoped to hold up to 200 beds and will open on Sunday.

“I’ve had anxiety attacks for the last two days, because when I answer my phone… people are crying saying, ‘we’ve lost three family members, the fourth is dying in front of me – please help me with a bed’,” the president of the Delhi Gurdwara Management committee said.

Britain’s Heathrow Airport turns down airline requests for extra flights from India. The move by Britain comes after it detected more than 100 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in India, Health Minister Matt Hancock said. (Source: Independent Television News )

 

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Oxygen leak in India hospital kills 22 patients amid crippling Covid surge

(21-4-2021) Fire officer Sanjay Bairagi said a leakage was detected and plugged by the fire service within 15 minutes, but was caused by a supply disruption at the Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik. Television images showed white fumes spreading in the hospital area, causing panic. More than 170 patients were on oxygen in the hospital, according to local media.  The disruption occurred as health ministry data showed a record 2,023 fatalities and over 295,000 new cases in 24 hours, among the world’s biggest daily case totals and on a par with numbers seen in the US during a deadly surge in January.

 

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Hospital fire kills 18 in India

(1-5-2021) Police said the fire broke out in a Covid-19 ward on the ground floor of the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state and was extinguished within an hour. A fire in a Covid-19 hospital ward in western India has killed 18 patients, as the country grappling with the worst outbreak yet steps up a vaccination drive for all its adults even though some states say don’t have enough jabs. Thirty-one other patients at the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state, were rescued by hospital workers and firefighters and their condition was stable, said police officer B.M Parmar.

The blaze and smoke killed 18 patients before they could be taken out by rescuers, Parmar said.

The fire broke out in a Covid-19 ward on the ground floor and was extinguished within an hour, Parmar said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Series of incidents

On April 23, a fire in an intensive care unit killed 13 Covid-19 patients in the Virar area on the outskirts of Mumbai, a few days after another blaze left 22 people dead at another clinic, also in Maharashtra state. Last month 22 other coronavirus patients died at a hospital in the same state when the oxygen supply to their ventilators was disrupted by a leak.

Faced with an unprecedented surge in cases that has filled hospitals and crematoriums, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government described the pandemic as a “once-in-a-century crisis.”

Modi held a Cabinet meeting Friday that discussed steps to save the country’s crumbling health system by adding hospital beds, resolving issues in production, storage and transport of oxygen and tackling the shortage of essential medicines.                (Source: AP)

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What went wrong in India’s battle against Covid-19?

The southeastern country set a new global record with 352, 991 daily coronavirus infections, while virus-related fatalities also jumped by 2,812, an all-time high, in the last 24 hours. This marked the fifth consecutive day that the country reported the highest daily data on Covid-19 since the pandemic began in December 2019.

In the country of 1.3 billion, the tally of infections has reached 17 million and overcrowded hospitals have begun to turn away patients after running out of oxygen supplies and beds nationwide.

Heart-rending images coming from the capital New Delhi showed people forming long queues outside hospitals, desperately searching for oxygen tanks. The city’s crematoriums also filled up.

Premature relaxation of measures

As cases declined through mid-February 2021, the Indian government, led by Modi, placed the possibility of a second wave aside and announced reopening.

In the middle of March, a few weeks before the skyrocketing numbers were recorded, India’s largest Hindu festival, the Kumbh Mela, kicked off despite worrying reports about surging infections.

Nearly 3.5 million Indian devotees gathered in Uttarakhand to take an annual holy dip in the Ganges to mark the colourful event, ignoring any coronavirus threat.

The festival that lasted almost a month unsurprisingly turned into a super-spreader event; the aftermath has become more visible in recent following weeks.

Millions of Indians also gathered to vote in the legislative assembly elections in four states West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Between March and April, parties held extensive rallies and crowded political campaigns.

 

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Two Myanmar air bases hit by unidentified attackers

Unidentified attackers have launched assaults on two Myanmar air bases, with blasts reported at one base and rocket fire seen at another.

The attacks reported by media and a witness on Thursday come after three months of turmoil in Myanmar triggered by a February 1 military coup. There was no claim of responsibility or any confirmation of any casualties in the attacks.

A military spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.

In the first attack on Thursday 27 April, three blasts went off at an airbase near the central town of Magway in the early hours, the Delta News Agency reported in a post on Facebook.

Security checks were stepped up on roads outside the base after the blasts, the news portal said.

Later, five rockets were fired at one of the country’s main airbases, at Meiktila, to the northeast of Magway, reporter Than Win Hlaing, who was near the base at the time, said in a post.

He also posted a video clip that included the sound of what appeared to be a rocket flying overhead followed by a blast. Reuters could not verify the clip.Source: TRTWorld and agencies

 

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Ethiopia to go on filling Nile dam after three-way talks collapse

Addis Ababa says dam’s massive reservoir will continue to be filled in the upcoming rainy season, a day after talks between diplomats of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on GERD operations failed.

Ethiopia has said it will not be deterred from impounding water at its Nile mega-dam, despite a persistent impasse with downstream countries worried about their water supply.

Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele told a press conference that Ethiopia will continue filling the dam’s massive reservoir during the upcoming rainy season, which normally begins in June or July.

“As construction progresses, filling takes place,” Seleshi said.

“We don’t deviate from that at all.”

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam or GERD has been a source of tension in the Nile River basin ever since Ethiopia broke ground on it in 2011. Downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters, while Ethiopia considers it essential for its electrification and development.

The latest round of talks concluded in Kinshasa with no resolution to long-running disputes over how the dam will be operated. The reservoir has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres. Filling began last year, with Ethiopia announcing in July 2020 it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres  enough to test the dam’s first two turbines, an important milestone on the way towards actually producing energy.

The goal is to impound an additional 13.5 billion cubic metres this year.

Fears of ‘instability’

Egypt and Sudan wanted a trilateral agreement on the dam’s operations to be reached before reservoir filling began. But Ethiopia says filling is a natural part of the dam’s construction, and is thus impossible to postpone.Source: AFP)

 

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More than 1,800 prisoners escape after attack on Nigeria jail

(8-4-2021) More than 1,800 inmates have escaped after heavily armed men attacked a prison in southwest Nigeria using explosives, according to prison authorities. The attackers blasted their way into the Owerri prison in Imo state, engaging guards in a gun battle, the national corrections authority said in a statement.

The gunmen also destroyed the State Police Command headquarters in Owerri, the capital city of the state, and burnt down almost 50 vehicles parked at the main office, a witness told Anadolu Agency.

“I can confirm that the Imo State command of the Nigerian Correctional Service was attacked by unknown gunmen in Owerri,” Imo state corrections service spokesman James Madugba told AFP, adding that the number of escaped inmates was yet to be confirmed.

“The situation is under control,” he said.(Source: TRTWorld and agencies)

 

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Chad president killed fighting against rebels day after winning election

Shock announcement of Idriss Deby’s death on the frontline of a fight against northern rebels comes day after the 68-year-old was proclaimed the winner of a presidential election that had given him a sixth term in office.

Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno has died on the battlefield after three decades in power, the army announced on state television.

The army said Deby had been commanding his army at the weekend as it battled against rebels who had launched a major incursion into the north of the country on Election Day.

Deby “has just breathed his last breath defending the sovereign nation on the battlefield,” army spokesman General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said in a statement read out on state television.

A four-star general who is Deby’s son will replace him at the head of a military council, the army said.

“A military council has been set up headed by his son, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno,” Agouna said.

Promise of peace

The army had claimed a “great victory” in its battle against the rebels from neighbouring Libya, saying it had killed 300 fighters, with the loss of five soldiers in its own ranks during eight days of combat. Deby would have been one of the longest-serving leaders in the world, after provisional results showed him winning the April 11 election. He was a herder’s son from the Zaghawa ethnic group who took the classic path to power through the army, and relished the military culture.

His latest election victory  with almost 80 percent of the vote  had never been in doubt, with a divided opposition, boycott calls, and a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed. Deby had campaigned on a promise of bringing peace and security to the region, but his pledges were undermined by the rebel incursion.         (Source: TRTWorld and agencies)

 

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Dreaming of Ramadan in the motherland

Amid all their tribulations the Rohingya still dream to return to Myanmar, with their rights and dignity intact, to celebrate Ramadan.

Dolu Bibi, 65, said she buried her husband in Bangladesh and plans to take her final resting place next to her husband’s grave. Like many others, Bibi also took shelter in Bangladesh during the 2017 exodus, but her elderly husband died days after their arrival, unable to cope with the hardships at home and the hazardous journey to the neighbouring country.

Bibi has six children and believes that they will return to their homeland and lead a better life there. “InshaAllah [God willing] in near future my children will celebrate Ramadan in Myanmar as independent citizens of the country.”

Since the 1982 citizenship law was passed, Myanmar’s authorities have treated Rohingya Muslims as illegal habitants or foreign Bengalis – despite hundreds years of ancestry and continuous presence in Arakan [currently Rakhine] state. Myanmar’s military has launched several operations over the years, the latest being the crackdown in August 2017.

According to a study titled ‘Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience’ conducted by a consortium of researchers from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Norway and the Philippines, during the 2017 crackdown the Myanmar army and extremist Buddhists; killed over 24,000 Rohingyas; 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped; 41,192 suffered bullet wounds; 34,436 were burned and 114,872 beaten by military forces. An estimated 115,026 houses were burned and a further 113,282 were vandalised.

Despite all that trauma, many displaced Rohingyas still dream of returning one day.

With a smile on her face, Bibi gossiped with her grandchildren in front of her tent and told them about their beautiful past.

“We get the real taste of Ramadan and Eid when we return to the motherland,” Solim Ullah said while holding his kid on his lap.

Mehmet Ismail, 25, from one of the camps, asked: “How can I compare those lovely days of Ramadan in my own country with those in Bangladesh’s cramped camps as an outsider without refugee status?”(Source: TRT World)

 

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Over 100 migrants feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck

(23-4-2021)  Some 130 migrants bound for Europe are missing off the Libyan coast after a rubber boat reported it was in distress, independent rescue groups say. When Alarm Phone, a telephone hotline offering support to refugees in distress in the Mediterranean Sea, received alerts that two boats off Libya were in distress on Wednesday morning, a crew immediately started searching for two rubber boats.

The vessels were at least ten hours from the Ocean Viking rescue ship that went to look for them. Racing against time under unruly sea conditions with waves up to six metres, the crew didn’t stop for 48 hours.

“The crew of the Ocean Viking had to witness the devastating aftermath of the shipwreck,” said SOS Mediterranee, a European Organisation for the Rescue of Lives at Sea in a statement. “Our worst fear has come true.”    (Source: TRT World News)

 

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Indonesian submarine sunk after cracking open  Indonesian navy

KRI Nanggala 402 had lost contact after its last reported dive Wednesday off the resort island, and the navy chief has said it was expected to run out of oxygen early Saturday 24 April, morning. Indonesia’s navy has said items were found from a missing submarine, indicating the vessel with 53 crew members had sunk and cracked open, and that there was no hope of finding survivors.

Military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said  the presence of an oil slick as well as the discovery of debris near the location of KRI Nanggala 402’s last dive on Wednesday 21 April,  off the island of Bali were clear proof the vessel had sunk. Indonesia earlier considered the vessel to be only missing.

Navy Chief Yudo Margono told a press conference in Bali, “If it’s an explosion, it will be in pieces. The cracks happened gradually in some parts when it went down from 300 meters to 400 meters to 500 meters … If there was an explosion, it would be heard by the sonar.”

 

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