Somali kills three in ‘brutal’ Germany knife attack

Police secures the city center in Wuerzburg, southern Germany on Friday when a 24-year-old Somalian man killed three people in a knife attack and injured several others. (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2021

Somali kills three in ‘brutal’ Germany knife attack

  • The 24-year-old suspect staged the attack at city centre at 5 pm, striking at a household goods store, before hitting a bank
  • A witness had reportedly said the suspect "shouted Allah Akbar"

BERLIN: A Somali man killed three people and left five others seriously injured in an “incredibly brutal” knife rampage in the southern German city of Wuerzburg.
The 24-year-old suspect staged the attack in the city center at around 5 p.m. (1500 GMT), striking at a household goods store, before hitting a bank.
The man, who has lived in Wuerzburg since 2015, was overpowered after police shot him in the thigh, said Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann.
The rampage left “three dead, five seriously injured and others injured,” said Herrmann, adding, “it is not certain if the most seriously injured will survive.”
Investigators have found documentation showing the man “was treated in a psychiatric institution,” said Herrmann, but added that he could not detail the length of the stay.
“The police investigation will determine if this was an Islamist act or if it was due to the psychiatric state” of the man, he said.
A witness had reportedly said the suspect “shouted Allah Akbar” (God is greatest) during what rescuers described as a “really incredibly brutal” attack, said Herrmann.
“That must all be clarified in further interrogations but we have no further indications on the motivations,” he added.
Police said however that the suspect was not a known Islamist.
The mass-circulation daily Bild published a photo of the suspect, showing a dark-skinned man wearing a beige, long-sleeved t-shirt with grey trousers and holding a long knife.
Video footage circulating online also showed passers-by trying to stop the suspect using folded chairs.
A crowd of people gave chase before a police car arrived on the scene, one video showed.
Another photo published by Bild showed a police officer handcuffing the suspect.
A huge police deployment was underway in the city of around 130,000 inhabitants located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of Frankfurt.
While the perpetrator’s motive has not yet been established, Germany has been on high alert after several deadly Islamist extremist attacks.
Wuerzburg was itself hit five years ago by an axe-wielding man who seriously wounded four people on a train.
The suspect, an Afghan, sought to attack a passerby as he fled before being shot dead by police.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
The deadliest Islamist attack in Germany happened in December 2016 when a jihadist rammed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market killing 12 people.
The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum-seeker, was an IS supporter.
More recently, one man was killed and another seriously injured in a knife attack in the city of Dresden in October.
A 20-year-old Syrian jihadist in May received a life sentence for the homophobic attack.
Last August, six people were injured in a series of motorway accidents in Berlin in what prosecutors described as a suspected Islamist attack.
Since 2009, German authorities have foiled 17 suspected jihadist attacks — the majority in 2016, according to the interior ministry.
The number of Islamists considered dangerous in Germany rose sharply between 2015 and 2018, according to security services.
But the numbers have declined since then, with 615 considered dangerous by the latest count compared with 730 in January 2018.
There are also 521 people “who have attracted the attention of the security services but have not yet reached the stage of being considered dangerous.”
In 2020, 320 new investigations with a link to the Islamist threat were launched in Germany.
Germany remains a target for jihadist groups, in particular because of its involvement in the coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria, and its deployment in Afghanistan since 2001.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has meanwhile charged that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow in more than one million asylum-seekers — many fleeing Iraq and Syria — since 2015 has contributed to the heightened security risk.
But beyond Islamist attacks, there have been other knife assaults.
In October 2017, a man randomly attacked passers-by with a knife in central Munich, lightly injuring eight people. Police excluded terrorism as a motive after detaining a suspect.


US funnels another $4.5 bn to Ukraine through World Bank

Updated 5 sec ago

US funnels another $4.5 bn to Ukraine through World Bank

WASHINGTON: The World Bank on Monday announced it was mobilizing another $4.5 billion in US-provided financial support for war-torn Ukraine.
The funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing economic impacts of the Russian invasion, the bank said in a statement.
“This economic assistance is critical in supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The latest tranche of aid, most of which will be disbursed this month, is part of $8.5 billion in total US support “which is helping Ukraine’s government keep hospitals, schools, and other critical government services for the people of Ukraine.”
The World Bank said the funding goes to the Public Expenditures for Administrative Capacity Endurance in Ukraine (PEACE) project, part of the multi-billion-dollar package to help the country.
“Ukraine needs continued government services, including health, education, and social protection to prevent further deterioration in living conditions and poverty,” World Bank President David Malpass said.
The country is currently running a budget deficit that is growing by $5 billion every month, exacerbated by its inability to raise funds or to access financing on external markets.
Allies have rushed to pump Ukraine with aid, with the G7 and the European Union also announcing commitments of $29.6 billion in further money for Kyiv.

Blinken says US is “equal partner” with African countries

Updated 34 min 12 sec ago

Blinken says US is “equal partner” with African countries

  • US top diplomat is in South Africa as part of a three-nation tour of Africa including Congo and Rwanda.

JOHANNESBURG: The United States sees Africa’s 54 nations as “equal partners” in tackling global problems, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in South Africa Monday.
“Our strategy is rooted in the recognition that sub-Saharan Africa is a major geopolitical force — one that has shaped our past, is shaping our present, and will shape our future,” Blinken said at the University of Pretoria in a speech detailing the Biden administration’s policies for Africa.
“It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity, its diversity, its agency; and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” he said.
Blinken said that the United States and African nations “can’t achieve any of our shared priorities — whether that’s recovering from the pandemic; creating broad-based economic opportunities; addressing the climate crisis; expanding energy access; revitalizing democracies; or strengthening the free and open international order — if we don’t work together, as equal partners.”
South African academics and students responded warmly to Blinken’s speech, which was a broad declaration of US intentions toward sub-Saharan Africa. The United States is often faulted for overlooking the continent in recent decades, opening space for Russian and Chinese interests to make significant inroads.
The United States’ top diplomat is in South Africa as part of a three-nation tour of Africa including Congo and Rwanda in what is seen as a contest between Western nations and Russia to win support from African countries over the war in Ukraine.
Blinken’s tour follows recent trips to African countries by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron.
South Africa is among many African countries that have taken a neutral stance on the Ukraine war.
Before his speech, Blinken met in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, with Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor. Pandor appears to have maintained her country’s refusal to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Instead, in a press briefing following the meeting, Pandor criticized the US and other Western powers for focusing on the Ukraine conflict to the detriment of other international issues.
“We should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine, as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine,” she said.
Before the closed-door meeting with Pandor, Blinken had said that the United States’ good relations with South Africa would allow them to be frank in discussing their differences.
Many African countries have declined to follow the US lead in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some were among more than a dozen African governments that have signed security deals with the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian mercenary group that the US and other countries say is backed by the Kremlin.
Sub-Saharan nations also have been major recipients of Chinese investment through its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which supports infrastructure developments.


Flush with cash, Pfizer buys Global Blood Therapeutics in $5.4 bln deal

Updated 45 min 45 sec ago

Flush with cash, Pfizer buys Global Blood Therapeutics in $5.4 bln deal

  • Pfizer’s 2021 revenue of $81.3 billion was nearly double the mark from the previous year, due to COVID-19 vaccine sales.

LONDON: Pfizer Inc. on Monday agreed to pay $5.4 billion in cash for sickle cell disease drugmaker Global Blood Therapeutics, as it looks to capitalize on a surge in revenue from its COVID-19 vaccine and treatment.
Pfizer will pay $68.50 per GBT share, which represents a 7.3 percent premium to its Friday closing price. The deal is at a more than 40 percent premium where GBT was trading before the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer was in advanced talks to buy it on Thursday.
Pfizer’s 2021 revenue of $81.3 billion was nearly double the mark from the previous year, due to COVID-19 vaccine sales. With the addition of its COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid, Pfizer is expected to generate around $100 billion in revenue this year, but sales from both products are expected to decline going forward.
Pfizer has been on the lookout for acquisitions that could bring in billions in annual sales by the end of the decade.
“We have very deliberately taken a strategy of diversification in our M&A deals,” Aamir Malik, Pfizer’s top dealmaker, said in an interview. He said the company was focused on improving growth for the second half of the decade, rather than large deals that generate value through cost cuts.
“We think that there are opportunities across all therapeutic areas that we’re active in,” Malik said, noting that the company was also agnostic about size for future deals.
In May, Pfizer struck an $11.6 billion deal for migraine drug maker Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding and recently also completed a $6.7 billion deal to buy Arena Pharmaceuticals.
With the acquisition of Global Blood Therapeutics, Pfizer adds sickle cell disease treatment Oxbryta, which was approved in 2019 and is expected to top $260 million in sales this year. It will also pick up two pipeline assets — GBT601 and inclacumab — targeting the same disease.
Pfizer said if they are all approved, it believes GBT’s drugs could generate more than $3 billion in sales annually at their peak.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people in the United States.
GBT Chief Executive Officer Ted Love said that Pfizer’s resources and multinational infrastructure will allow the company to launch Oxbryta in additional markets and boost its uptake.
“We really have no infrastructure outside of that (US and western Europe) and it takes time and money to build out those infrastructures and Pfizer already has all of it,” Love said.
Shares of Global Blood rose 4.5 percent following the deal announcement.


Suspected militants kill 4 Mali soldiers, 2 civilians in north

Updated 08 August 2022

Suspected militants kill 4 Mali soldiers, 2 civilians in north

  • Army blames the attack on ‘terrorists’, using the term it typically uses for militants

BAMAKO: At least four soldiers, two civilians and five assailants were killed on Sunday in an attack in a strategic border zone between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Mali’s army said.
The army blamed the attack on “terrorists” in an announcement late Sunday, using the term it typically uses for militants.
Earlier, it had said its troops had been repelling an attack by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, affiliated with the Daesh organization.
The army’s death toll could be “much higher,” an elected official said, asking not to be named for security reasons.
The two civilians killed were local elected officials, their relatives said.
Tessit is located on the Malian side of the so-called three-border area in a vast gold-rich region beyond state control.
Armed groups under the umbrella of Al-Qaeda aligned militants Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM, are fighting ISGS there.
The Malian army, which has a military camp next to the town of Tessit, has frequently been attacked in the area.
UN peacekeepers and, until a few months ago, French soldiers from Operation Barkhane, have also been deployed there.
Thousands of residents have fled the area, many heading to the town of Gao, some 150 kilometers away.
The Tessit area, like the whole of the so-called three-border zone, is even more isolated during the rainy season when heavy rainfall prevents passage.
In a separate attack Sunday morning, five police officers were killed in Sona, in the Koutiala area of southern Mali near the border with Burkina Faso.
On Friday, suspected militants killed about 12 civilians in central Mali with explosives planted in the bodies of slain civilians that relatives had come to collect.
Mali is struggling with a long militant insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Violence that began in the north has spread to the center and south of the country, as well as to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.


Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze

Updated 08 August 2022

Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze

  • 27-year-old arraigned for causing death by negligence and operating an entertainment venue without permission

BANGKOK: The owner of a music pub in eastern Thailand where a fire last week killed 15 people and injured more than three dozen others was released on bail when he was brought to court Monday to hear criminal charges against him.
Pongsiri Panprasong, owner of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 160 kilometers southeast of Bangkok, turned himself in late Saturday. Police charged the 27-year-old with causing death by negligence and operating an entertainment venue without permission. He could face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($5,580).
At his Monday court appearance, he was granted release on bail of 300,000 baht ($8,390) on condition he wear a tracking device.
Live bands regularly played on a stage at the pub, including as the fire started early Friday morning on the ceiling above them. Police have said the venue was licensed only for operation as a restaurant.
The site of the fire, which took place early Friday morning, remained sealed off Monday as forensic police and building inspectors worked to determine the cause of the blaze and whether the pub had met building standards.
“I am sorry. I want to say sorry to the victims’ families,” said Pongsiri to reporters through a window at the back of a police prison van at the court in Pattaya. Pongsiri, whose face was concealed by a mask, a hat and a towel, said he will compensate the victims.
Many of the injured from the fire suffered severe burns that left them in critical condition. Thirteen died at the scene, one more in a hospital on Friday and the 15th victim, Thanakrit Neenoi, died on Saturday. His sister told local media that Thanakrit went to the pub with his wife and friends to celebrate his birthday. His wife remains in the hospital for treatment.
The governor of Bangkok, Thailand’s biggest city, said Saturday that the city had inspected more than 400 entertainment venues in the city before the fire and found 83 places failing to comply with safety standards. Chadchart Sittipunt told reporters the venues would be ordered closed if they did not act to fix their problems.
Sixty-six people were killed and more than 200 injured in a fire during a Jan. 1, 2009, New Year’s Eve celebration at the Santika nightclub in Bangkok. That blaze was apparently sparked by an indoor fireworks display. Toxic smoke flooded the venue and contributed to the death toll as the entire club caught fire.