Coronavirus-hit Afghanistan gets $200 million World Bank grant

Firefighters spray disinfectant on a street as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus in Kabul on June 18, 2020. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 10 July 2020

Coronavirus-hit Afghanistan gets $200 million World Bank grant

  • Country’s war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown
  • Virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran

KABUL: The World Bank has approved $200 million in aid to help Afghanistan tackle economic losses from the coronavirus pandemic, as confirmed cases top more than 34,000 in the conflict zone.
The country’s war-ravaged economy has been severely impacted due to a months-long lockdown, with thousands of people losing their jobs in the economic fallout.
Afghanistan has also grappled with increased militant violence in recent months that has diverted vital attention and resources away from the fight against the disease.
“The program will provide vital fiscal resources to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the context of rapidly slowing economic growth and declining government revenues,” Henry Kerali, the World Bank head for Afghanistan said in a statement on Thursday.
Afghanistan has so far declared just over 34,000 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 1,000 deaths.
“In the cities, the cases are steady but we are worried the cases may spread in rural areas,” Abdul Qadir, a senior official at the health ministry told AFP on Friday.
Qadir said the World Bank funds will be used to help mitigate the impact on health care, social and business sectors.
The virus first spread to Afghanistan as infected migrants returned from neighboring Iran, the region’s worst-hit country.


UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 23 September 2020

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.