Indian COVID-19 hotspot state announces curfew

Health workers wait to conduct COVID-19 tests on passengers at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai, India, Thursday, March 25, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 26 March 2021

Indian COVID-19 hotspot state announces curfew

  • The federal government has already announced everyone older than 45 will be eligible for vaccination from April 1

MUMBAI: India's worst-hit state Maharashtra, including its capital Mumbai, will be under a nightly curfew from Sunday following a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, officials said.
India as a whole has a seen a renewed surge in new infections in recent weeks, dashing hopes at the start of the year that the country of 1.3 billion people had beaten the pandemic.
Maharashtra in western India, home to around 110 million people, has seen the biggest rise, recording on Thursday more than 35,000 new infections in 24 hours, the highest yet.
Mumbai recorded over 5,500 cases on Friday, almost doubling its highest daily count of last year.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray warned Friday of even stricter restrictions if people do not follow guidelines on social distancing and mask-wearing, local media quoted him as saying.
"I have no intention of imposing a lockdown, but given the growing number of patients, there is a possibility that the health facilities that we have set up on a large scale across the state will also be reduced," Thackeray said.
India has recorded almost 12 million infections, the third highest behind the United States and Brazil, although per capita rates and the number of fatalities are considerably lower.
The renewed jump in cases has prompted India, which many other poorer countries were relying on for supplies including through the Covax initiative, to put the brakes on exports of vaccines.


Canada police shoot man in Toronto seen with rifle near school

Police in Canada’s largest city Toronto on Thursday fatally shot a man armed with a rifle. (Reuters)
Updated 57 min 36 sec ago

Canada police shoot man in Toronto seen with rifle near school

  • Bystanders alerted police to the man’s presence in an eastern neighborhood of Toronto

MONTREAL: Police in Canada’s largest city Toronto on Thursday fatally shot a man armed with a rifle, local media reported, in an incident that forced several schools into lockdown just two days after a deadly assault on a US primary school.
Bystanders alerted police to the man’s presence in an eastern neighborhood of Toronto, and the circumstances of what transpired next were not immediately clear.
But city police chief James Ramer told reporters that the suspect, described as a man in his late teens or early 20s, was dead after he had “confronted” responding officers, without elaborating.
The police force’s Twitter account said that after officers located the man, a “police firearm” was “discharged.”
A spokeswoman for the Special Investigations Unit told the CBC that preliminary evidence showed that two police officers had fired their weapons, and the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was not clear if the man was holding the weapon when police shot him.
Ramer said he was unable to offer more details, as the incident was under investigation.
“There’s no threat to public safety,” he said.
“Due to the proximity to a school, I certainly understand the trauma and how traumatic this must have been for staff, students and parents, given recent events that have happened in the United States,” the chief added.
On Tuesday, a shooting at a Texas elementary school left 21 dead — 19 children and two teachers.


UN rights envoy says Taliban must reverse restrictions on Afghan women

Updated 26 May 2022

UN rights envoy says Taliban must reverse restrictions on Afghan women

  • Bennett expressed concerns over access to education after the Taliban made a U-turn on allowing girls to go to high school in March
  • Taliban deputy spokesman Inamullah Samangani denied human rights concerns

KABUL: The United Nations rights envoy in Afghanistan said on Thursday the country faces “severe” human rights challenges and called on Taliban authorities to reverse growing restrictions on women and investigate attacks against religious minorities.
Richard Bennett, UN special rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan spoke to reporters at the end of an 11-day visit to the country, his first since his position was created.
“I urge the authorities to acknowledge human rights challenges that they are facing and to close the gap between their words and the deeds,” he said.
Bennett expressed concerns over access to education after the Taliban made a U-turn on allowing girls to go to high school in March and this month announced that women must cover their faces, to be enforced by punishing their closest male relatives.
“Directives on maharams (male guardians), enforcing a strict form of hijab and strong advice to stay at home feed the pattern of absolute gender segregation and making women invisible in society,” he said.
Taliban deputy spokesman Inamullah Samangani denied human rights concerns, saying authorities had paid attention to the issues mentioned and were working on the issue of girls’ secondary education.
Bennett also called for investigation of attacks targeting Afghanistan’s Shia and Sufi religious minorities, a trend he said bore “hallmarks of crimes against humanity.” Recent months have seen more attacks on mosques and other civilian targets, some of which have been claimed by Daesh.
The militant group said it was behind three explosions in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Wednesday that killed at least 15 in predominantly Shia areas.
Another, unclaimed, blast the same day tore through a Sunni mosque in the capital Kabul, killing at least five people.


Four bombings, some claimed by Daesh, kill at least 16 in Afghanistan

Updated 26 May 2022

Four bombings, some claimed by Daesh, kill at least 16 in Afghanistan

  • Regional branch of Daesh has repeatedly targeted Shiites and other minorities
  • Daesh wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond

KABUL: The death toll from four bombs that ripped through minibuses and a mosque in Afghanistan has risen to at least 16, officials said Thursday, with some of the attacks claimed by the Daesh group.

While the number of bombings has dropped across the country since the Taliban seized power last August, several deadly attacks rocked the country last month during Ramadan.

On Wednesday, at least 10 people were killed when three bombs placed on separate minibuses exploded in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a health official and police said.

"The bombs were placed on three minibuses in different districts of the city," Balkh provincial police spokesman Asif Waziri told AFP, adding that 15 other people were wounded.

Najibullah Tawana, head of the Balkh health department, said three women were among the 10 killed in the blasts.

Hours after the explosions, the Daesh group claimed responsibility for the minibus attacks on social media.

It said on Telegram its "soldiers" were behind the three bombings.

Another bomb exploded inside a mosque in the capital Kabul late Wednesday.

Early on Thursday, Kabul police spokesman Khalid Zadran tweeted that six people had been killed in that blast and another 18 wounded.

In the immediate aftermath of the mosque attack, the interior ministry had said two people were killed and 10 wounded.

The ministry also said the bomb was placed inside a fan in the mosque.

It was still unclear whether Wednesday's bombings targeted any specific community.

Dozens of civilians were killed in Kabul and other cities in primarily sectarian attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended on April 30 in Afghanistan, with some claimed by IS.

On April 29, at least 10 people were killed in a Sunni mosque in Kabul in an attack that appeared to have targeted members of the minority Sufi community who were performing rituals.

On April 21, a bomb at a Shiite mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif killed at least 12 worshippers and wounded scores more.

The deadliest attack during Ramadan came in the northern city of Kunduz, where another bomb targeting Sufi worshippers tore through a mosque on April 22.

At least 33 people were killed in that blast and scores more were wounded.

The regional branch of Daesh in Sunni-majority Afghanistan has repeatedly targeted Shiites and minorities such as Sufis, who follow a mystical branch of Islam.

Daesh and the Taliban are both Sunni groups but bitter rivals.

The biggest ideological difference is that the Taliban pursued an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas Daesh wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.

Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated Daesh, but analysts say the group remains a key security challenge.


Putin won’t be allowed to dictate Ukraine peace terms: German chancellor

Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said. (AP)
Updated 27 May 2022

Putin won’t be allowed to dictate Ukraine peace terms: German chancellor

  • Vladimir Putin will not be allowed to dictate peace in Ukraine, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said

DAVOS, Switzerland: Russia will not win its war in Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin must not dictate the terms of any peace agreement, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday.
After failing to seize Ukraine’s capital Kyiv or its second city Kharkiv in its three-month-old war, Russian forces are trying to wrest full control of the eastern Donbas region and have also advanced in the south despite stiff Ukrainian resistance and tough Western sanctions on Moscow.
“Putin must not win his war, and I am convinced he will not win,” Scholz said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. “A capture of the whole of Ukraine seems further away now than at the beginning of the war.”
Although some have suggested that Ukraine should negotiate with Putin and consider ceding territory, Scholz rejected the idea of letting Putin dictate the terms of an agreement.
“There will be no dictated peace,” Scholz added. “Ukraine will not accept this, and neither will we.”
Putin is only likely to seriously negotiate once he accepts that the war cannot be won, making continued Western support for Ukraine essential, he said.
Scholz, however, did not address Ukrainian demands for the delivery of more heavy weapons to Kyiv, despite concrete requests by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Davos on Wednesday.
Kyiv has been seeking to acquire German Marder infantry fighting vehicles and ideally also Leopard main battle tanks but has not made significant headway with the government in Berlin, Kuleba said.
Hoping to weaken Russia’s economy and thus its ability to wage war, Scholz said Germany would end imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022 and also reduce its reliance on Russian gas.


Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port

Updated 26 May 2022

Firefighters contain blaze at Sudan Red Sea port

  • The fire, which raged for hours, broke out in the cargo drop off area of the port

Khartoum: Firefighters have contained a large blaze that erupted in a cargo area of the Sudanese Red Sea port of Suakin, the port’s director said Thursday.
The fire, which raged for hours, broke out in the cargo drop off area of the port on Wednesday sending plumes of acrid smoke into the sky.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.
“The fire has been brought under control following the intervention of civil defense forces and port workers,” port director Taha Ahmed Mokhtar said.
He said an investigation had been launched to determine the cause of the fire, and a commission set up to assess the scale of the losses.
A port official, who spoke on condition of annonymity, had earlier described the damage as “catastrophic.”
The blaze at the port came as Sudan is gripped by a chronic economic crisis which deepened after last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The military takeover triggered punitive measures, including aid cuts by Western governments, who demanded the restoration of the transitional administration installed after the 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar Al-Bashir.
The historic port town of Suakin is no longer Sudan’s main foreign trade hub, a role which has been taken by Port Sudan, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) away along the Red Sea coast.
But there have been moves to redevelop the port.
Bashir’s government signed a deal with Turkey in 2017 to restore the historic buildings of Suakin island and expand its docks, but the agreement has been suspended since his overthrow.

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