Ukraine sets domestic record for daily COVID-19 vaccinations

Anna Ilina, a member of the Ukrainian Olympic shooting team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, flanked by the country’s health minister Maksym Stepanov, receives a dose of China’s CoronaVac vaccine in Kiev, Ukraine. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 June 2021

Ukraine sets domestic record for daily COVID-19 vaccinations

  • The country is set to receive around 40 million doses of vaccines from various makers

KYIV: Ukraine, which has maintained lockdown restrictions though the number of new COVID-19 (coronavirus) infections has fallen, has set a record for the daily number of coronavirus inoculations, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said 76,538 Ukrainians were vaccinated on Wednesday. That compared with the previous record of 73,376 shots on April 29.

The government has said the country is set to receive around 40 million doses of vaccines from various makers, and that 1,594,083 people have had their first shot as of June 16.

On Wednesday, the government extended COVID-19 lockdown measures until Aug. 31, but eased some restrictions.

Ukraine, which has a population of 41 million, has been among the most-affected European countries, with around 2.23 million COVID-19 cases and 51,902 deaths as of June 17.


Manchester Arena bomber ‘should have been questioned’ on return from Libya

Updated 14 sec ago

Manchester Arena bomber ‘should have been questioned’ on return from Libya

  • Salman Abedi in contact with three other ‘subjects of interest’ in lead-up to deadly 2017 attack, inquiry told

LONDON: The Manchester Arena bomber should have been questioned by police when he returned to the UK from Libya four days before the attack, a senior British intelligence officer has said.

Salman Abedi had been assessed by MI5 in the months leading up to the attack and was found to have been in touch with three other “subjects of interest,” the officer, referred to as Witness J, told the inquiry into the bombing.

But the officer said there was no intelligence suggesting a threat to national security, the BBC reported.

However, he said that it was a mistake not to ask police to question Abedi when he returned to the UK from Libya on May 18, 2017.

Abedi detonated a suicide bomb in the foyer of the arena as people left a concert by US singer Ariana Grande on May 22.

The blast killed 22 people and injured hundreds, many of them children who had gone to watch the performer.

The inquiry heard that between 2013 and 2017 Abedi had been in direct contact with one person suspected of planning to travel to Syria, another with links to Al-Qaeda and a third linked to extremists in Libya.

Between 2016 and 2017 he was also identified as a second-level contact with three more “subjects of interest” linked to Daesh.

Witness J said that it did not “necessarily follow” that having contact with “subjects of interest” was a cumulative risk.

But stopping him “would have been the better course of action,” he said, referring to the decision not to question Abedi on his return.

Abedi was a “subject of interest” for five months before his file was closed in July 2014.

The UK-born son of Libyan parents is believed to have joined an extremist militia when he traveled to Libya during the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

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German Daesh bride sentenced to 10 years over Yazidi girl murder

Updated 26 October 2021

German Daesh bride sentenced to 10 years over Yazidi girl murder

  • The tribunal handed down the verdict to Jennifer Wenisch, 30, in one of the first convictions anywhere in the world related to the militant group’s persecution of the Yazidi community

MUNICH: A Munich court on Monday sentenced a German woman who joined the Daesh group to 10 years in prison over the war crime of letting a five-year-old Yazidi “slave” girl die of thirst in the sun.

The tribunal handed down the verdict to Jennifer Wenisch, 30, in one of the first convictions anywhere in the world related to the militant group’s persecution of the Yazidi community.

Wenisch was found guilty of “two crimes against humanity in the form of enslavement,” said presiding judge Reinhold Baier of the superior regional court in Munich.

She was also guilty of aiding and abetting the girl’s killing by failing to offer help as well as membership of a terrorist organization.

She and her Daesh husband “purchased” a Yazidi woman and child as household “slaves,” whom they held captive while living in then Daesh-occupied Mosul, Iraq, in 2015, the court found.

“After the girl fell ill and wet her mattress, the husband of the accused chained her up outside as punishment and let the child die an agonizing death of thirst in the scorching heat,” prosecutors told the court.

“The accused allowed her husband to do so and did nothing to save the girl.” Baier said the defendant had often complained about the girl and accepted the deadly consequences of her “punishment.”

“You must have known from the start that a child shackled in the blazing sun would be in mortal danger,” he told Wenisch.

The proceedings lasted two and a half years due to delays linked to the pandemic and other factors.

Wenisch’s husband, Taha Al-Jumailly, is also facing trial in separate proceedings in Frankfurt, where a verdict is due in late November.

According to media reports, Wenisch converted to Islam in 2013 and traveled the following year via Turkey and Syria to Iraq where she joined the militant group.

Recruited in mid-2015 to the group’s self-styled hisbah morality police, she patrolled city parks in Daesh-occupied Fallujah and Mosul.

Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol and an explosives vest, her task was to ensure strict Daesh rules on dress code, public behavior and bans on alcohol and tobacco.

In January 2016, she visited the German embassy in Ankara to apply for new identity papers. When she left the mission, she was arrested and extradited days later to Germany.

Federal prosecutors had called for a life sentence for Wenisch.

Identified only by her first name Nora, the child’s mother has repeatedly testified in both Munich and Frankfurt about the torment visited on her child.

The defense had claimed the mother’s testimony was untrustworthy and said there was no proof that the girl, who was taken to hospital after the incident, actually died.

Wenisch’s lawyers had called for her to receive a two-year suspended sentence for supporting a terrorist organization.

When asked during the trial about her failure to save the girl, Wenisch said she was “afraid” that her husband would “push her or lock her up.”

At the close of the trial, according to the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, she claimed she was being “made an example of for everything that has happened under Daesh.”

A Kurdish-speaking group hailing from northern Iraq, the Yazidis were specifically targeted and oppressed by the IS beginning in 2015.

London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who has been involved in a campaign for Daesh crimes against the group to be recognized as a “genocide,” was part of the team representing the Yazidi girl’s mother.

Germany has charged several German and foreign nationals with war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out abroad, using the legal principle of universal jurisdiction which allows crimes to be prosecuted even if they were committed in a foreign country.

A handful of female suspects are among those who have appeared in the dock.

In November 2020, a German woman identified as as Nurten J. was charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed while she was living in Syria as a member of Islamic State.

In October 2020, another German court sentenced the German-Tunisian wife of a rapper-turned-jihadist to three-and-a-half years in prison for having taken part in the enslavement of a Yazidi girl in Syria.


Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Updated 26 October 2021

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

  • So far unclear if military set up would win support from international community

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government on Monday announced it is to form new armed forces for the country including soldiers from the previous regime’s military.

The former Afghan military and Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15 when President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took control in a lightning offensive while the US and its allies were withdrawing troops after 20 years on the ground.

In September, the Taliban appointed an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an Islamic emirate.

Defense Minister Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, announced the formation of new armed forces on Sunday, in an audio message released by the defense ministry.

He said the ministry intended
to create a national and independent army, with ground and airspace capabilities to “defend the country with high values,” and would try to equip it with modern weapons.

Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News: “Army is a priority and urgent need of the country. The Islamic emirate would work on forming an empowered army that would be responsible for protecting Afghans and would have the ability to defend the peace of Afghanistan at any cost.”

He said that the new army would be comprised of Taliban fighters and soldiers of the former regime.

“This army would be formed from new forces and also those forces who served the Afghanistan National Army. We would work together to form a powerful army from both forces that are serving and have served Afghanistan,” Mujahid added.

However, there was no comment on whether the formation of the new armed forces would be supported by other countries.

Kabul-based economist, Hamayoon Frotan, said: “Forming a new army needs money and human resources, as billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s central bank assets held abroad have been frozen following the Taliban takeover.

“I believe that the Taliban have human resources, also part of the equipment that the army needs the Taliban have got from the Americans.”

He pointed out that support might come from China and Russia, as Russia’s state-owned news agency TASS last week quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying the removal of the Taliban movement — outlawed in Russia — from the list of terrorist organizations was possible.

But during a plenary meeting of the international Valdai Discussion Club on Thursday, Putin said such a move would have to take place at the UN level.


After delta surge, Philippines reports low-risk for COVID-19

Updated 26 October 2021

After delta surge, Philippines reports low-risk for COVID-19

  • New daily cases decreased by 48% in the last two weeks, with healthcare capacity at ‘moderate risk’

MANILA: The Philippines is now “low-risk” for COVID-19, the Department of Health announced on Monday, over a month after the country experienced its peak infection rates fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The country’s daily case count has decreased by 48 percent over the last two weeks, while its healthcare capacity was at “moderate risk,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

In mid-September, the Philippines was recording over 26,000 new infections daily, as the Delta variant swept the country. On Monday, authorities reported 4,405 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 2.76 million, with nearly 42,000 deaths.

“Nationally we are at low-risk case classification with a negative two-week growth rate at negative 48 percent and a moderate-risk average daily attack rate of 5.89 cases for every 100,000 individuals,” Vergeire said.

“Along with the decline of our cases, we see that the weekly deaths are also in a downtrend since the start of October.”

As increased mobility will be expected in the coming months ahead of Christmas, Vergeire urged the 110 million-strong public to remain vigilant and continue to observe health protocols. In accordance with tradition, Filipinos flock cemeteries to honor their departed on All Saints’ Day, with authorities on Monday announcing the closure of graveyards and memorial parks from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.

“We are not saying that we are out of the woods,” Vergeire said. “The fight is not over yet. We cannot be complacent at this time. We can go out but we have to be careful.”


Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee

Updated 25 October 2021

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee

  • Stella Moris said, Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long while and ‘I was quite taken aback how thin he was’
  • Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns

LONDON: The fiancee of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday he was looking thin and unwell as the US appeals against a UK ruling blocking his extradition.
Stella Moris, who has two children with Assange, told a news conference that she last saw Assange on Saturday in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison.
She said Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long while and “I was quite taken aback how thin he was.”
“He was looking very unwell.”
The 50-year-old Australian was arrested in Britain in 2019 for jumping bail, after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to evade extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, which were later dropped.
The US government is seeking his extradition to face trial for publishing military secrets.
A UK judge in January blocked the US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was a suicide risk.
The US is seeking to overturn the British judge’s ruling, arguing that other expert evidence indicated that Assange was not at risk of taking his own life.
Instead, it claimed the judge was “misled” by relying on evidence presented by Assange’s psychiatric expert Michael Kopelman.
“We hope that this will be the end of it,” Moris said of the two-day hearing starting Wednesday.
“The point was that Julian would not survive extradition, that was the conclusion of the judge.”
Moris said that being in prison was “an ongoing struggle” for Assange and “a person can only take so much.”
Rebecca Vincent, director of international programs at Reporters Without Borders, said that US President Joe Biden had missed an opportunity “to distance himself from his predecessors” on the case, urging the US to drop it.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said “it is unthinkable that the High Court will come to any conclusion other than to uphold” the original UK ruling.
Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If convicted in the United States, he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail.