Uzbekistan sends 150 Afghan refugees back home

An image taken for staff talking near Airbus A400 transport aircraft of German Air Force Luftwaffe in Tashkent on Wednesday. Uzbekistan sent 150 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan, after agreeing with Taliban based on refugees’ requests. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 August 2021

Uzbekistan sends 150 Afghan refugees back home

  • Refugees had been given security guarantees and all have reported they were able to return safely

TASHKENT: Uzbekistan has sent 150 Afghan refugees back to Afghanistan as per an agreement with the Taliban and after requests from the refugees themselves, the Uzbek foreign ministry said on Friday.
The refugees had been given security guarantees and all have reported they were able to return safely to their homes after the “necessary formalities,” the ministry said in a statement.
It is unclear how many Afghans have crossed into the former Soviet republic as Taliban insurgents overran Afghanistan. The Tashkent government has denied that senior Afghan figures such as ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dustum were among them.
The Uzbek foreign ministry said in a separate statement that minister Abdulaziz Kamilov discussed the situation in Afghanistan with United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Friday.


King Charles III in first engagement since queen’s death

Updated 58 min 7 sec ago

King Charles III in first engagement since queen’s death

  • Large crowds turned out on the streets of Dunfermline in Fife, north of Edinburgh, hoping to get a glimpse of the new monarch
  • Charles wore a kilt for the visit and greeted Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other leaders

LONDON: King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, visited Scotland Monday in their first joint public engagement since the royal mourning period to remember Queen Elizabeth II ended.
Large crowds turned out on the streets of Dunfermline in Fife, north of Edinburgh, hoping to get a glimpse of the new monarch. Charles, who wore a kilt for the visit, spent some time shaking hands with well-wishers after he greeted Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and other leaders.
The royal couple were visiting to formally give city status to Dunfermline, the birthplace of another King Charles: Charles I, who reigned in the 17th century before his execution, was the last British monarch born in Scotland.
Dunfermline was among towns that won city status as part of Platinum Jubilee celebrations to mark Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.
Later Monday, Charles and Camilla will host a reception for around 300 guests at Edinburgh to celebrate the British South Asian community. The royals will meet British Indians, Pakistanis, and many others and pay tribute to the contributions they made to the UK
Charles became sovereign immediately upon the death of his mother Elizabeth in Balmoral Castle, Scotland, on Sept. 8. Britain held 10 days of national mourning, while the royal family extended the mourning period for a week after the queen’s funeral on Sept. 19.

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Top Al-Shabab leader killed in joint operation: Somalia govt

Updated 03 October 2022

Top Al-Shabab leader killed in joint operation: Somalia govt

  • Abdullahi Yare was one of seven leaders named by the United States on its most-wanted list in 2012

MOGADISHU: The Somali government announced on Monday a top Al-Shabab militant, who had a $3.0-million US bounty on his head, had been killed in a joint air strike in southern Somalia.
The drone strike on October 1, launched by the Somali army and international security partners, killed Abdullahi Yare near the coastal town of Haramka, the ministry of information said in a statement dated Sunday but posted online on Monday.
“This leader... was the head preacher of the group and one of the most notorious members of the Shabab group,” it said.
“He was former head of the Shoura council and the group’s director for finances,” the ministry said, referring to a powerful consultation body within Al-Shabab.
A co-founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked group, Yare was believed to be next in line to take over the leadership of the movement from its ailing chief Ahmed Diriye, according to the ministry.
“His elimination is like a thorn removed from Somalia as a nation,” the ministry said.
Yare was one of seven leaders named by the United States on its most-wanted list in 2012. Washington offered three million dollars for his capture.
The announcement of the strike comes weeks after Somalia’s recently elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud vowed to stage all-out war on the jihadists, following a string of deadly attacks. They include a 30-hour hotel siege in the capital, Mogadishu, that killed 21 people.
Mohamud last month urged citizens to stay away from areas controlled by Al-Shabab as he vowed to ratchet up offensives against the militants.
US forces have in the past partnered with African Union soldiers and Somali troops in counterterrorism operations, and have conducted frequent raids and drone strikes on Al-Shabab training camps throughout Somalia.
Last month, the US military said it had killed 27 jihadist fighters in an air strike near Bulobarde, the main town on the road linking Mogadishu to Beledweyne, a key city on the border with Ethiopia.
It said the air strike was carried out “at the request” of the Somali government.
Al-Shabab, which espouses a strict version of sharia or Islamic law, has waged a bloody insurrection against the Mogadishu government for 15 years and remains a potent force despite an African Union operation against the group.
Its fighters were ousted from the capital in 2011 but continue to stage attacks on military, government and civilian targets.
The group last week claimed responsibility for a bomb blast that killed a top Somali police officer near the Al-Shabab-controlled village of Bursa, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Mogadishu.


India scrambles fighter jets after report of bomb scare on flight from Iran

Updated 03 October 2022

India scrambles fighter jets after report of bomb scare on flight from Iran

  • The air force said it later received information from Iran’s capital Tehran to disregard the bomb scare

NEW DELHI: India’s air force (IAF) said on Monday it had scrambled fighter jets after receiving information of a bomb scare on an airline bearing Iranian registration transiting through Indian airspace.
The air force said it later received information from Iran’s capital Tehran to disregard the bomb scare and the flight continued its journey.
The jets followed the aircraft at a safe distance and the aircraft was offered the option to land at two airports in north-western India.
“However, the pilot declared his unwillingness to divert to either of the two airports,” the IAF said in a statement.
Data from FlightRadar24 showed Mahan Air flight W581, which originated from Tehran and was destined for China’s Guangzhou, fly in circles a handful of times above northern India, west of New Delhi, before continuing to fly across the country and into Myanmar.
An Indian Air Force spokesman did not confirm the flight number for which fighter jets were scrambled.


Relatives mourn those crushed at Indonesia soccer match

Updated 03 October 2022

Relatives mourn those crushed at Indonesia soccer match

  • The crush in East Java’s Malang city is among world’s deadliest disasters ever at a sporting event
  • President Joko Widodo orders probe, while FIFA chief calls it ‘a dark day for all involved in football’

JEMBER: Families and friends of some of the 125 people who died in a deadly crush after an Indonesia soccer match wailed in grief as the bodies of the victims were returned home Monday. Seventeen children were among the dead.

The distraught family members were struggling to comprehend the sudden loss of loved ones at a soccer match in East Java’s Malang city that was watched only by hometown Arema FC fans because the organizer had banned visiting Persebaya Surabaya’s supporters due to Indonesia’s history of violent soccer rivalries.

The crush was among the world’s deadliest disasters ever at a sporting event. President Joko Widodo ordered an investigation of security procedures, and the president of FIFA called the deaths “a dark day for all involved in football and a tragedy beyond comprehension.”

Faiqotul Hikmah, 22, was an Aremania — the moniker for Arema fans — who died while fleeing to exit 12 at Kanjuruhan Stadium.

A dozen friends traveled to see the match but Hikmah was one of only four who entered the stadium because tickets were sold out, her friend, Abdul Mukid, said Monday in an Associated Press interview. He later bought a ticket separately from a broker then learned of the chaos that had erupted inside the stadium.

“I have to find her, save her... that’s kept me from thinking anything else,” Mukid recalled, “The situation is really... really terrible!”

Two of his friends died and two were injured. Mukid found Hikmah’s body laid at a building in the stadium compound, her face full of bluish bruises and broken ribs.

At Hikmah’s parents’ home in Jember, East Java province, relatives wailed when an ambulance arrived with her body wrapped in white cloth and a black blanket.

“I can’t put into words how much my sorrow is to lose my sister,” said Nur Laila, Hikmah’s older sister. “She was just a big Arema fan who wanted to watch her favorite team play. She shouldn’t die just for that,” she said, wiping tears.

Mukid learned a second friend had died from friends who called him while he was on the ambulance carrying Hikmah’s body to a hospital. Noval Putra Aulia, 19, was an orphan who had been cared for by his brother since their parents died five years ago, Mukid said.

At least 17 children were among the dead and seven children were injured and treated hospitals, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection said. Police say 323 people overall were injured in the crush, some of them still in critical condition.

Witnesses said fans flooded the pitch and demanded that Arema management explain why, after 23 years of undefeated home matches against Persebaya, Saturday night’s ended in a 3-2 defeat. Some of the 42,000 Arema fans threw bottles and other objects at players and soccer officials. At least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze outside the stadium.

Riot police trying to stop the violence fired tear gas, including toward the spectator stands, and triggered the disastrous crush of fans making a panicked, chaotic run for the exits. Most of the 125 people who died were trampled upon or suffocated. Children were reported to be among the casualties, and two others were said to be police officers.

“I ensure that investigation on this case will be conducted thoroughly and seriously,” National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said in a news conference late Sunday.

Widodo ordered the premier soccer league suspended until safety is reevaluated and security is tightened. Indonesia’s soccer association has also banned Arema from hosting soccer matches for the rest of the season.

Rights group Amnesty International urged Indonesia to investigate the use of tear gas at the stadium and ensure that those found in violations are tried in open court. While FIFA has no control over domestic games, it has advised against the use of tear gas at soccer stadiums.

Despite Indonesia’s lack of international accolades in the sport, hooliganism is rife in the soccer-obsessed country where fanaticism often ends in violence. Data from Indonesia’s soccer watchdog, Save Our Soccer, showed 78 people have died in game-related incidents over the past 28 years.

Saturday’s game was among the world’s worst crowd disasters in sports, including the 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City where over 80 died and over 100 more were injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people are crushed to death during a soccer match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.


46 girls and women among 53 killed in Friday’s Afghan suicide bombing: UN

Updated 28 sec ago

46 girls and women among 53 killed in Friday’s Afghan suicide bombing: UN

  • The bomber detonated as hundreds of students were sitting a practice test ahead of an entrance exam for university admissions

KABUL: At least 46 girls and young women were among 53 people killed in a suicide attack on an education center in the Afghan capital last week, the United Nations said Monday.
“Fifty three killed, at least 46 girls & young women,” the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said on Twitter, adding that another 110 people were injured in the bombing on Friday.
The death toll previously stood at 43.
The bomber detonated as hundreds of students were sitting a practice test ahead of an entrance exam for university admissions.
No group has so far claimed responsibility, but the Daesh group which considers Shiites as heretics has carried out several deadly attacks in the area targeting girls, schools and mosques.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end to a two-decade war against the Western-backed government, and led to a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months.
The extremist hard-liners, accused of failing to protect minorities, have often tried to downplay attacks challenging their regime.
Friday’s attack triggered sporadic women-led protests in Kabul and some other cities.
Around 50 women chanted, “Stop Hazara genocide, it’s not a crime to be a Shiite,” as they marched on Saturday in Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood where the attack happened.
The rallies have been dispersed by Taliban forces often firing shots into the air and beating protesters.
Afghanistan’s Hazaras have regularly faced attacks in the majority Sunni Muslim country.
They have faced persecution for decades, targeted by the Taliban during their insurgency against the former US-backed government and by Daesh — both of which consider Shiites heretics.
In May last year, before the Taliban’s return to power, at least 85 people — mainly girls — were killed and about 300 were wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
Again, no group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24.