Leader of Ethiopia’s Oromo rebels sees victory ‘very soon’

The government has rejected suggestions the rebels are within striking distance of Addis Ababa. (AFP)
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Updated 09 November 2021
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Leader of Ethiopia’s Oromo rebels sees victory ‘very soon’

NAIROBI: A rebel leader fighting Ethiopia’s government says his troops are near the capital and preparing another attack, predicting the war would end “very soon” as diplomats rush to negotiate a ceasefire.
Jaal Marroo, commander of the Oromo Liberation Army, warned Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that pro-government fighters were defecting and the rebels were very close to victory.
“What I am sure (of) is that it is going to end very soon,” Jaal, whose real name is Kumsa Diriba, told AFP in an interview Sunday.
“We are preparing to push for another launch, and for another attack. The government is just trying to buy time, and they are trying to instigate civil war.”
The OLA and its allies, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, have claimed several victories in recent weeks, taking towns some 400 kilometers from the capital, and have not ruled out marching on Addis Ababa.
Jaal said his fighters were even closer — some 40 kilometers from the capital — and had “never moved (back) an inch” from territory they controlled.
AFP could not independently confirm this claim. Much of the conflict-affected zone is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield positions difficult to verify.
The government has rejected suggestions the rebels are within striking distance of Addis Ababa, but has ordered the capital to prepare to defend itself, while foreign embassies have withdrawn staff.
“While we are being tested on many fronts, our collective will to realize the path we have embarked upon has strengthened us,” Abiy tweeted Monday, a day after tens of thousands marched in Addis Ababa in support of the government.
The threat of fresh rebel advances has spurred efforts by foreign envoys to broker a settlement to a conflict that has killed thousands and inflicted atrocities and starvation on civilians.
On Sunday, the African Union’s high representative for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, sat down with TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael in Tigray’s capital Mekele.
The same day, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, also visited Mekele where he met the “de-facto authorities” there, said a spokesperson.
Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into Tigray in November last year to topple the TPLF, accusing them of attacking military bases.
In August, the OLA and TPLF — both designated terrorist groups by the government — announced they had brokered an alliance to fight against a common enemy, despite the two groups holding historic grievances.


Beijing half marathon top three stripped of medals: organizers

Updated 4 min 51 sec ago
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Beijing half marathon top three stripped of medals: organizers

  • Race’s bizarre finish saw China’s He Jie cross the line first after two runners from Kenya and one from Ethiopia seemed to deliberately allow him to win

BEIJING: The top three in Sunday’s Beijing half marathon have been stripped of their medals, organizers said, following an investigation into the finish that saw China’s He Jie controversially win.
“Today the 2024 Beijing Half Marathon Organizing Committee issued a decision on the investigation and handling of the men’s race results,” a state media report said Friday.
It added: “The trophies, medals and bonuses will be recovered.”
The race’s bizarre finish saw He cross the line first after two runners from Kenya and one from Ethiopia seemed to deliberately allow him to win.
He, the 2023 Asian Games marathon gold medallist, won by one second after his supposed rivals appeared to slow down toward the finish and waved him out in front.
All four were “punished” and their results canceled, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The Chinese Athletics Association said earlier this week they had met, issuing a statement vowing to make improvements to the sport in the country.


Rohit says India-Pakistan Test cricket would be ‘awesome’

Updated 59 min 41 sec ago
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Rohit says India-Pakistan Test cricket would be ‘awesome’

  • South Asian neighbors are bitter political adversaries, have not faced off in Test since 2007
  • They play only occasionally in shorter versions of game usually on neutral territory 

NEW DELHI: India captain Rohit Sharma has thrown his support behind any resumption of Test cricket against arch-rivals Pakistan, saying it would be “awesome.”
The South Asian neighbors are bitter political adversaries and have fought three wars against each other since they were partitioned at the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Their cricket teams have not faced off in a Test since 2007. Instead they play only occasionally in the shorter versions of the game and usually on neutral territory in international tournaments.
Rohit appeared Thursday on a YouTube chat show hosted by former captains Adam Gilchrist of Australia and Michael Vaughan of England.
Asked by Vaughan if playing Pakistan in a Test series would be beneficial for the five-day game, Rohit said: “I totally believe that.”
“They are a good team, superb bowling line-up, good contest. Especially if you play in overseas conditions, that will be awesome,” added the 36-year-old.
“I would love to. It would be a great contest between two sides... so why not?“
Australia has said it would be prepared to host a series between the rivals.
India and Pakistan have not faced each other on either side’s soil in a bilateral series since 2012.
India last year refused to travel to Pakistan for the white-ball Asia Cup, prompting part of the tournament to be staged in Sri Lanka.
They last met at the 50-over World Cup in India in October.


Pakistan aims to agree outline of new IMF loan in May — finance minister

Updated 19 April 2024
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Pakistan aims to agree outline of new IMF loan in May — finance minister

  • Current $3 billion arrangement with IMF runs out in late April 
  • Pakistan is seeking longer and bigger loan of at least $6 billion

WASHINGTON: Pakistan hopes to agree the contours of a new International Monetary Fund loan in May, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb told Reuters, and has kicked off talks with ratings agencies to lay the groundwork for a return to international debt markets.
The country’s current $3 billion arrangement with the fund runs out in late April and the government is seeking a longer and bigger loan to help bring permanence to macroeconomic stability as well as an umbrella under which the country can execute much needed structural reforms, the minister said.
“We expect the IMF mission to be in Islamabad around the middle of May — and that is when some of these contours will start developing,” said Aurangzeb, who met with the Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings.
He declined to outline what size program the government hoped to secure, though Pakistan is expected to seek at least $6 billion. Aurangzeb added that once the IMF loan was agreed, Pakistan would also request additional financing from the Fund under the Resilience and Sustainability Trust.
The struggling South Asian nation had managed to accumulate foreign exchange reserves in recent months and was on track for its war chest to hit $10 billion — or roughly two months import cover — by end-June.
The debt situation also looked more benign, Aurangzeb said.
“The bulk of our bilateral debt — including our China debt — is being rolled over, so in that sense I think we are in good shape and I don’t see a big issue during this fiscal year nor next fiscal year, cause we need to repay roughly $25 billion dollars every fiscal year.”
Pakistan also hopes to come back to international capital markets, possibly with a green bond. However, there was some more work to be done before that happens, said Aurangzeb.
“We have to come back into a certain ratings environment,” he said, having kicked off talks with ratings agencies, adding the government was hoping to get an improvement in its sovereign rating in the next fiscal year.
“In all likelihood, any international capital markets issuance will likely be in the 2025/2026 fiscal year.”


Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

Updated 19 April 2024
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Qatar beat Jordan to reach last eight of 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup

  • A last-gasp 2-1 win leaves the hosts on six points from two matches in Group A of the tournament

DOHA: A stoppage time winner saw hosts Qatar defeat Jordan 2-1 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup.

Qatar took the lead through Abdulla Al-Yazidi on 40 minutes, but Jordan equalized seven minutes into the second half thanks to Aref Al-Haj’s spot kick.

The match looked to be heading for a draw when Mohamed Al-Manai scored 14 minutes into stoppage time to break Jordanian hearts. The win Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan made Qatar the first team to secure a spot in the last eight.

Qatar now sit top of Group A with a maximum six points from two matches. Earlier in the day, Indonesia beat Australia 1-0 at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha and are currently second in the table with three points. Jordan and Australia are third and fourth respectively with one point apiece.

Saudi Arabia return to action against Thailand on Friday before facing Iraq in their final Group C match on Monday (April 22).

The U23 Asian Cup, which runs until May 3, is also a route to this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

The competition sees 16 nations split into four groups of four teams, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of both semifinals automatically qualify for the Olympics, regardless who wins the final.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a spot in Paris. The fourth-place finishers have one final chance with a play-off against an African qualifier.


Five Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing in Karachi 

Updated 19 April 2024
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Five Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing in Karachi 

  • Van attacked while heading to industrial area where five Japanese nationals worked at Pakistan Suzuki Motors
  • Insurgents have recently targeted Chinese working on projects relating to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

KARACHI: Five Japanese workers narrowly escaped on Friday after a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near the van carrying them to their workplace, police said.
The Hiace van was on its way to an industrial area where the five Japanese nationals worked at Pakistan Suzuki Motors, according to local police chief Arshad Awan.
Police escorting the vehicle returned fire after coming under attack, killing an accomplice of the suicide bomber whose remains were found from the scene of the attack, he added. Three bystanders were wounded. 
“All the Japanese who were the target of the attack are safe,” Awan told media. 
Television footage on local news channels widely showed a damaged van, as police officers arrived at the scene of the attack. Awan said the three passersby who were wounded in the attack were in stable condition at a hospital.
Police were escorting the van after receiving reports about possible attacks on foreigners who are working in Pakistan on various Chinese-funded and other projects, said Tariq Mastoi, a senior police officer. He said a timely and quick response from the guards and police foiled the attack and both attackers were killed.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the incident, according to a statement posted on X.
“Timely action by the police saved us from any major loss of life,” he said. “We will not rest until terrorism has been completely eradicated. We will thwart every nefarious act of disturbing the law and order situation.”
Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh, of which Karachi is the provincial capital, directed the inspector general to submit a report after investigating the attack, including details on who the attackers were, where they came from, any information on their facilitators and details of explosives used in the blast.
He directed that immediate arrangements be made for the security of all foreigners in the province. 
“Anti-national elements want to disrupt law and order, which will not be allowed at any cost,” the CM said, praising what he called timely action of the police in thwarting the attack.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on a small separatist group or the Pakistani Taliban who have stepped up attacks on security forces.
In recent weeks, insurgents have also targeted Chinese who are working in Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which includes a multitude of megaprojects such as road construction, power plants and agriculture.
In March, five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed when a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan rammed his explosive-laden car into a vehicle when they were heading to the Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked.
However, Japanese working in Pakistan have not been the target of any such attacks.
With inputs from AP