Belarus leader Lukashenko sworn in at secret ceremony

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2020

Belarus leader Lukashenko sworn in at secret ceremony

  • Lukashenko has faced massive demonstrations against his rule in Minsk and other cities since claiming victory in disputed elections on August 9
  • Lukashenko’s official website did not make any announcement and the ceremony was not shown live on state television

MINSK: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in for a sixth term at a secret ceremony held with no prior announcement, the Belta state news agency reported Wednesday.
Lukashenko has faced massive demonstrations against his rule in Minsk and other cities since claiming victory in disputed elections on August 9, and has made only rare appearances in public view.
“Alexander Lukashenko has taken office as President of Belarus. The inauguration ceremony is taking place in these minutes in the Palace of Independence,” the news agency reported.
Earlier independent news agencies reported that streets were closed as Lukashenko’s motorcade raced through the capital Minsk, prompting speculation that the inauguration was due to take place, while there was no official confirmation.
Lukashenko’s official website did not make any announcement and the ceremony was not shown live on state television, apparently to avoid protesters gathering.
The 66-year-old leader, in power since 1994, viewed one protest rally from his helicopter, describing the demonstrators as “rats,” and later disembarked in a bullet-proof vest, carrying a Kalashnikov.
He has sought backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has promised him law enforcement backup if needed, as well as a $1.5 billion loan.
His main opposition rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, claimed she won the election but has taken shelter in Lithuania, while Lukashenko has jailed or driven out other key opposition figures.
European Union foreign ministers on Monday failed to agree sanctions over the political crisis, despite a plea for support from Tikhanovskaya.
Cyprus, which has good relations with Russia, has vetoed proposed EU sanctions.


Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

Updated 24 October 2020

Suicide bomber kills 18 in Afghan capital

  • There has been an upsurge in violence between Taliban and Afghan forces in the country
  • The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, opening up a path toward withdrawing American troops from the conflict

KABUL: A suicide bomber struck near an education centre in the Afghan capital on Saturday, killing at least 18 people in the latest attack to rock the conflict-wracked country.
Violence on the ground has spiked in recent weeks despite the Taliban and the Afghan government holding peace talks in Qatar to end the country's grinding war.
The suicide attack, which also wounded 57, happened late afternoon at the centre, which offers training and courses for students in higher education in a western district of Kabul.
"A suicide bomber wanted to enter the education centre," Tareq Arian, spokesman for the interior ministry, said in a statement.
"But he was identified by the centre's guards after which he detonated his explosives in an alley."
He said the attack had left at least 18 people dead and 57 wounded.
"I was standing about 100 metres from the centre when a big blast knocked me down," said local resident Ali Reza, who had gone to hospital with his cousin who was wounded in the blast.
"Dust and smoke was all around me. All those killed and wounded were students who wanted to enter the centre."
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.
Residents in several districts of western Kabul belong to the minority Shiite Hazara community, often targeted by Daesh militants. 
In the past, extremists have targeted several education centres and other facilities in the area.
In May, a group of gunmen launched a brazen daylight attack on a hospital in west Kabul that left several mothers dead. The gunmen were shot dead after hours of fighting with security forces.