Anti-nuclear group receives Nobel Prize as North Korea crisis escalates

Berit Reiss-Andersen, left, chairperson of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, hands over the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to Beatrice Fihn, right, leader of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), and Hirsoshima nuclear bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow during the award ceremony of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize at the city hall in Oslo on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2017
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Anti-nuclear group receives Nobel Prize as North Korea crisis escalates

OSLO: The winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), on Sunday voiced alarm about an “extremely dangerous situation” in North Korea, shortly before receiving the award in Oslo.
“We are seeing right now an extremely dangerous situation that makes a lot of people very uncomfortable,” ICAN head Beatrice Fihn told AFP hours before the Nobel ceremony.
“But if you are worried about Donald Trump having nuclear weapons or Kim Jong-un, you’re probably worried about nuclear weapons because you are recognizing that deterrents are not always going to work,” she added.
The US and North Korean leaders “are just humans who have the control to end the world, nobody should have that.”
Pyongyang has in recent months increased its number of missiles and nuclear tests, while exchanging warlike threats with Trump, who has ordered a military show of force.
ICAN, a coalition of hundreds of NGOs around the world, has worked for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, adopted in July by 122 countries.
Although historic, the text was weakened by the absence of the nine nuclear powers among the signatories.
Only three countries, the Holy See, Guyana and Thailand, have so far ratified the treaty, which requires 50 ratifications to come into force.
In an apparent snub of the ICAN-backed treaty, the three western nuclear powers — the US, France and Britain — will be represented by second-ranking diplomats rather than by their ambassadors at the ceremony, in a break with tradition.
But several survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings, which killed more than 220,000 people 72 years ago, were to attend the event in the Oslo City Hall.
One of them, Setsuko Thurlow, will receive the Nobel on behalf of ICAN jointly with Fihn.
Speaking to AFP, Thurlow recalled the horrific aftermath of the first atomic bomb striking Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 when she was 13 years old.
Thurlow described corpses lying on the ground, the injured and dying calling for help and the survivors looking like “a procession of ghosts.”
“I couldn’t call them human beings. They simply looked like ghosts. The hair was standing up and they were all burned on the skin and their flesh was hanging from their bones,” Thurlow said.
“Some were carrying their eyeballs. It just was like hell on earth,” added the 85-year-old who now lives in Canada and uses a wheelchair.
Although the number of nuclear weapons has dropped since the end of the Cold War, there are still around 15,000 atomic bombs on earth with more nations getting hold of them.
“I think people must take responsibility. Don’t just leave it to the politicians. For that we have to study, each and every one of us has to study what the nuclear weapons are, how they destroy our lives,” Thurlow said.
“We deserve a much better life than this.”
The Nobel prizes in literature, physics, chemistry, medicine and economics, will be awarded later on Sunday at a separate ceremony in Stockholm.
Each prize consists of a diploma, a gold medal and a check for 9 million Swedish kroner (€900,000).


Bomb kills Afghan election candidate, wounds seven: officials

Updated 49 min 32 sec ago
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Bomb kills Afghan election candidate, wounds seven: officials

  • Another seven were wounded in the blast
  • The latest attack takes the number of election candidates killed to at least 10, the majority of them murdered in targeted killings

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: A bomb placed under a sofa killed an Afghan election candidate on Wednesday, officials said, as deadly violence escalates ahead of the October 20 parliamentary ballot.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, which takes the number of candidates killed so far during the campaign season to at least 10.
Jabar Qahraman had been meeting with supporters in his campaign office in the southern province of Helmand -- a Taliban stronghold -- when the attack happened, provincial governor spokesman Omar Zhwak told AFP.
Another seven people were wounded in the blast in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.
The bomb had been hidden under Qahraman’s sofa, Zhwak said.
“We have arrested several people in connection with the blast,” he added.
Provincial police spokesman Salam Afghan confirmed the explosion had killed one person and wounded at least two.
Most of the 10 candidates who have died in the lead-up to the election were murdered in targeted killings.
Qahraman was the second candidate killed in Lashkar Gah this month, after Saleh Mohammad Asikzai was among eight people killed in a suicide attack last week.
That incident came a day after the Taliban warned candidates to withdraw from the parliamentary election, which the group has vowed to attack.
Poll-related violence has increased ahead of the long-delayed vote, with hundreds of people killed or wounded in attacks across the country.
Qahraman, a former army general under the Communist regime in the 1980s, had long been in the Taliban’s crosshairs.
President Ashraf Ghani sent Qahraman, a sitting MP, to Helmand as his special envoy in 2016 to help defeat the militant group. Qahraman later resigned.
Preparations for the ballot have been a shambles and with days to go, organizers are still struggling to distribute voting materials to more than 5,000 polling centers.
The election for parliament’s lower house is seen as a dry run for the presidential vote scheduled for April and organizers have said it would not be delayed any further.
It also is seen as a key milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva in November, where Afghanistan will be under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes”.
Almost nine million people have registered to vote, but observers expect far fewer to turn out due to the threat of militant attacks and expectations of widespread fraud.
More than 50,000 members of Afghanistan’s already overstretched security forces are being deployed to protect polling centers on election day.