UAE drone conference warns of rising threat from terrorist groups

In addition to launching 400 missiles against targets in Saudi Arab since 2016, Yemen's Houthi terrorist group has unleashed over 850 drones against the Kingdom. 
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Updated 21 February 2022

UAE drone conference warns of rising threat from terrorist groups

  • The UAE has been on heightened alert since a Houthi drone and missile attack killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi on January 17

ABU DHABI: The UAE and its allies warned Sunday of the rising threat of drone attacks, as Middle East militants rapidly acquire a taste for the cheap and easily accessible unmanned systems.
But while the countries called for a collective effort to protect airspaces against the small and often hard to detect targets, one question remained: how to easily stop a drone attack?
“We have to unite to prevent the use of drones from threatening civilian safety and destroying economic institutions,” Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Bowardi, United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Defense Affairs, said at a defense conference in Abu Dhabi.
The Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX), running until Wednesday, began in the UAE capital with regional and Western military and industry representatives, including from the United States, Britain and France.
Speakers addressed the importance of developing such systems for civil and military uses but also acknowledged their dangers when used by groups deemed a threat to the region.
While the event will showcase the latest in high-tech drone technology, the host country warned that such weapons are becoming cheaper and more widespread.
They are now part of the arsenals of “terrorist groups that use the systems to terrorize civilians or to impact the global system in a negative way,” said the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama.
“That is a challenge that requires us to... work together to ensure that we can create a shield against the use of these systems.”
The UAE is part of a military coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
While the Emirates announced it withdrew its troops from the country in 2019, it remains an influential player, backing fighters there.
The UAE has been on heightened alert since a Houthi drone and missile attack killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi on January 17. Authorities have since thwarted three similar attacks, including one claimed by a little-known militant group believed to have ties with pro-Iran armed factions in Iraq.
The UAE’s staunch ally the United States has deployed a warship and fighter planes to help protect the Middle East financial and leisure hub, usually a safe haven in the volatile region.
France also said it would bolster its defense cooperation with the UAE, mostly in securing its air space.
In December, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said the Houthis had fired more than 850 attack drones and 400 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia in the past seven years, killing a total of 59 civilians.
That figure compares with the 401 coalition air raids carried out in January alone over Yemen, according to the Yemen Data Project, an independent tracker which reported around 9,000 civilian fatalities from the strikes in that country since 2015.
Last year the United States and Israel said an Iranian drone attacked a ship managed by an Israeli billionaire as it sailed off Oman. Two crew members were killed.
More recently, Israel’s military said its air defenses fired at a drone that had crossed into its airspace from Lebanon on Friday, the second such intrusion in as many days.

Such incidents have again raised concerns about the dangers of bomb-laden drones. Some are difficult for radars to detect and require a complex process to shoot down without causing casualties from falling shrapnel.
These are concerns and challenges that “our adversaries” do not have, said Major General Sean A. Gainey, US Army director of the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office.
“They’re rapidly purchasing this stuff off the shelf, redesign it, taking the great technology that’s being developed for good, and then employing it” for other purposes, he said.
One way of countering a drone attack is to integrate artificial intelligence in air defense systems.
“They can detect a target through some form of AI, track that target and ultimately defeat that target,” Gainey said, adding: “AI is going to be a key component to the counter-UAS fight.”


Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

Updated 13 August 2022

Barcelona sells more assets to clear Lewandowski for opener

  • The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday
  • They sold 24.5% of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth $103 million

BARCELONA, Spain: Working against the clock, Barcelona sold off even more of their club assets on Friday so they could meet the Spanish league’s financial rules and clear Robert Lewandowski and other summer signings to play in their season opener.
The troubled Spanish club were only able to ensure that their star signing will be available against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday after they sold 24.5 percent of their Barça Studios production hub to Orpheus Media in a deal worth 100 million euros ($103 million).
That improved their financial balance enough to satisfy the Spanish league, which added Lewandowski and fellow newcomers Raphinha, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen as well as the recently renewed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto to their list of eligible players.
But, by late Friday, the league had yet to declare eligible France defender Jules Koundé, who arrived to Barcelona from Sevilla last month. The club will still need to reduce their current salary load by selling one or more current players to register Koundé.
Last month Barcelona sold an initial 25 percent stake in their production hub to Socios.com, a blockchain provider, for another 100 million euros as well as 25 percent of their Spanish league television rights for the next 25 years for nearly 670 million euros ($689 million).
All told, the heavily indebted Catalan club has mortgaged their future for 870 million euros ($895 million) to sign Lewandowski, Raphinha and Koundé for a combined 160 million euros ($165 million). Kessié and Christensen arrived as free agents.
But the Spanish league has strict financial requirements that limit the amount clubs can spend on players’ salaries and transfers based on the clubs’ financial health. Despite efforts to reduce costs and pay down their debt, Barcelona still hold 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in debt and has seen their salary cap slashed by the league in recent seasons.
Earlier on Friday, coach Xavi Hernández said he was “optimistic” that he can have his new players available for the first game of the season.
“Everyone at the club is very optimistic,” Xavi said. “We have until two hours before the match.”
The club are also pushing to sell players with big salaries like Frenkie de Jong or players unwanted by Xavi such as Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite.
Orpheus Media is run by Catalan businessman Jaume Roures, the owner of Mediapro, a major television company involved in Spanish soccer but whose 2020 broadcast rights deal for the French league collapsed. Roures was a major financial backer of Barcelona club president Joan Laporta when he returned to run the financially troubled club in 2021.
Roures said on Friday that he was not sure if the money he paid Barcelona would be sufficient.
“The league won’t have any problems with this operation,” Roures told Cadena SER radio. “If the 100 million euros are enough, I don’t know. If it isn’t, the (necessary) amount must be close to that.”
Xavi also said that Barcelona may not be done signing new players, but that any arrivals would have to come after current players were sold. Barcelona are linked to interest in Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, who would provide competition for Jordi Alba at left back.
Laporta at least was able to avoid the embarrassment of having Lewandowski watching from the Camp Nou stands on Saturday.


Pakistan to expand COVID-19 vaccination to children next month as cases rise

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan to expand COVID-19 vaccination to children next month as cases rise

  • Government expects to receive vaccines and special syringes by next week
  • Pakistan Medical Association says vaccine for children is safe and effective

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government said on Saturday it will start vaccinating children aged five to eleven against COVID-19 from mid-September as infection figures are again on the rise.

After reporting a significant decline in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, Pakistan did away with almost all coronavirus restrictions. It has been witnessing a spike in infections since June, although health authorities say the situation largely remains under control and has fully vaccinated against COVID-19 over 88 percent of the population aged above 12 years.

“We will be starting COVID-19 vaccination of children aged between five to eleven years by mid-September,” Muazzam Abbas Ranjha, a vaccination lead at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad told Arab News.

“The process for procurement of the vaccine and special syringes for the purpose is underway, and we’ll be receiving them next week.”

Ranjha said that Pakistan has done “extremely well” in immunizing its population against the pandemic and that’s why the numbers of deaths and infections have remained low compared to the neighboring countries.

“Now it’s time to immunize our children against the disease to curb the virus spread,” he said. “It is vital to administer the vaccine to our children as well to immunize the whole population against the virus.”

The country has conducted 20,272 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours, out of which 728 turned out to be positive or 3.59 percent with three deaths. A total of 161 patients are in critical condition, the official data says.

Ranjha said the number of daily infections in the country was under control as the government was constantly monitoring the situation.

“There is nothing alarming so far, but the people should still keep following health guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing at public places to evade the infection,” he said.

Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News the vaccination of children would help boost general immunity.

“The scientific data available shows the vaccine for children is safe and effective,” he said, adding that the government should roll out an awareness before starting the drive.

“Developed countries have already started vaccination of the children to curb the virus, and it is highly recommended that we should also start it as quickly as possible.”


Summer home where Pakistani founder spent final days lives on as monument to his memory

Updated 20 min 13 sec ago

Summer home where Pakistani founder spent final days lives on as monument to his memory

  • Two-story wooden building called Quaid-e-Azam Residency was built by British in Ziarat Valley in 1892
  • It was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, today one of Pakistan’s most widely visited heritage sites

QUETTA: A single bed, modest wooden furniture, and black and white photographs on the walls of a small bedroom in a 19th-century residence in southwest Pakistan present an unassuming setting. 

But this is no ordinary room: it has special significance for Pakistanis as the place where the country's founding father spent some of the last days of his life.  

The Ziarat, or Quaid-e-Azam, Residency, has a two-story wooden structure amidst a juniper forest and was built during British rule in 1892. Located in Ziarat Valley, a picturesque hill station in Balochistan province, the house was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader). It was also where Jinnah stayed for two months as he tried to recover from a lung disease a year after the success of his movement to separate Pakistan from India on Aug. 14, 1947 after the end of British colonial rule. 

Decades later, people from across the country visit Ziarat to pay tribute to Jinnah's memory.

Chairs and a table used by Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah for political meetings on display at his summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“We have read about the Quaid Residency in books and heard stories from our elders … but when I stepped inside the residency, my feelings changed,” Chanda Ashraf, a 21-year-old student from Gujranwala, told Arab News.  

“Inside this residency, I have experienced how the Quaid lived here and his existence was tangible,” she said. “I request all Pakistanis to visit this place once in their lifetime.”

The house has eight rooms, fitted with cedar wood. Jinnah’s bedroom is on the second floor, in front of his sister’s, Fatimah Jinnah, who took care of him in Ziarat.

Tourists take photos in front of Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)

Jinnah had had tuberculosis since the 1930s, but hid his condition because he believed it would hurt him politically, historians say. In July 1948, Jinnah arrived in Quetta and journeyed to the higher retreat at Ziarat, where the Pakistani government sent the best doctors it could find to treat him. It was here that a diagnosis of tuberculosis and advanced lung cancer was confirmed. 

On August 13, on the eve of the first anniversary of the independence for which he had fought so hard, the founding father was moved to the lower altitude of Quetta and finally back to Karachi on September 11, 1948. 

Jinnah died later that night at 10:20 pm at his home in Karachi. He was 71 years old and Pakistan was a little over one. 

Today, the Quaid’s clothes and the tableware he and his sister had used at the Ziarat summer home are on display at the residency - now a museum and one of Pakistan’s most widely visited national heritage sites. 
The Quaid-e-Azam Residency has also appeared on the 100-rupee note since 2006.

A dining table used by Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah is on display at his summer residence in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

Muhammad Rahim, who for the past 19 years has been working as an official tour guide at the residency, said he was proud to be working at the house belonging to the man who had “struggled for an independent country for our future generations.”

“My late uncle Toti Khan had performed duties in the residency when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had come to live here back in the summer of 1948,” he told Arab News.  

Muhammad Rahim, a guide at the Quaid-e-Azam Residency, poses at the museum’s gallery with photos of Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Ziarat, Balochistan, on Aug. 2, 2022. (AN Photo)  

“Despite two janitors hired for cleaning Quaid’s residence, I clean the entire residency with my hands, because I consider it as my service for the Quaid.”

The building was damaged in 2013, when a blaze tore through its wooden structure after a grenade attack by a Baloch separatist group. It was restored within four months.

Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency, and a few attacks have been reported in Ziarat district in recent years, but the province’s tourism minister, Abdul Khaliq Hazara says, told Arab News the security situation was normal and thousands of people visited Jinnah’s residence every year.

“The government has been developing the infrastructure in Ziarat to facilitate tourists,” he said. “The Quaid Residency is a national heritage.”

A visitor Mohamad Alam Qasim said: "Not just for Balochistan, this is Pakistan’s heritage. Quaid-e-Azam was our national hero. He was everyone's leader."


Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

Updated 13 August 2022

Ancelotti ‘surprised’ by Kroos absence from Ballon d’Or nominees

  • New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos
  • "It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season," quipped Ancelotti in a press conference

MADRID: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Saturday said he was surprised that German midfielder Toni Kroos did not feature on the list of 30 finalists for the Ballon d’Or.
Five members of the Champions League winning side were nominated on Friday in the shape of Thibault Cortois, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and favorite Karim Benzema.
New signing Antonio Rudiger is also on the list but there was no room for the German midfielder Kroos.
“It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season... But it’s true that it could be a problem if we named all the Real Madrid players, I can understand that,” quipped Ancelotti in a press conference ahead of Madrid’s Liga opener at Almeria on Sunday.
“But (Federico) Valverde, (Eder) Militao, (David) Alaba... all deserve to be there.
“All of them had a fantastic season. I’m not talking about winning the Ballon d’Or, but they deserve to be on the list.”
Ancelotti was particularly pleased with the inclusion of Brazilian forward Vinicius on the 30-strong list of nominees.
“He scored the winning goal in our 14th Champions League, he had an incredible season,” said the Italian.
“He doesn’t care if he finishes fourth or second. For the players, only victory matters. He will do better in the future. But unfortunately for Vini, this season, we already have the winner with us.”
Ancelotti was in little doubt, it seems, that French striker Benzema, who is hotly tipped to succeed would walk away with the award.
The Ballon d’Or will be awarded on October 17.
Real Madrid will kick off the defense of their La Liga title at newly-promoted Almería.
“We are feeling good, we have all the hope in the world as we start this season,” said Ancelotti, adding that “each game will be very difficult, starting tomorrow.”


Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

  • Security forces were targeted while trying to arrest a suspect in a deadly 2015 mosque attack
  • Explosion injured three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemned on Saturday a suicide blast that targeted Saudi security forces during an attempt to arrest a man linked to a deadly 2015 bombing in the Kingdom.

Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah earlier this week, the Presidency of State Security said on Friday.

When the militant blew himself up, he died at the scene, with the explosion injuring three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the recent terrorist incident in Jeddah, resulting in injuries, including to a Pakistani national,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement.

“The Government and people of Pakistan reiterate their full support for and deep solidarity with the leadership, government and brotherly people of Saudi Arabia against any threats to the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Al-Shehri was suspected of being a member of a militant cell that coordinated the 2015 suicide bombing of a mosque in Abha frequented by security force members.

Eleven members of the security forces and four Bangladeshi nationals were killed in the 2015 attack.