US drone strikes kill Pakistani Taliban commander

A US drone strike killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Khan Said, alias Sajna, and three more people, when missiles struck his pick-up truck in Margha village in the Birmal district of Paktika province in Afghanistan. (US Air Force)
Updated 09 February 2018
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US drone strikes kill Pakistani Taliban commander

PESHAWAR: A pair of suspected US missile strikes killed a senior Pakistani Taliban deputy and other militants in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said on Friday.
Four Pakistani intelligence officials and three Taliban commanders told Reuters on Friday that two separate US missile strikes on Wednesday killed the fighters.
One of the strikes, they said, killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Khan Said, alias Sajna, and three more people, when missiles struck his pick-up truck in Margha village of Birmal district in Paktika province of Afghanistan.
The NATO-led Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan said it had no information about the strike.
The officials sought anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose the information. They are based in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and have informants on the ground on both sides of the border.
They said on Friday they have also been picking up militants’ chatter through phone intercepts in which they were talking about Sajna’s killing. Three Pakistani Taliban commanders confirmed their account.
Sajna has been an important militant commander of the Pakistani Taliban and had close links with the Afghan Taliban, the officials said.
Two of the officials said they were trying to confirm reports of another suspected US drone strike in North Waziristan on Pakistani side of the border.
The second strike hit a compound in Gurwek town of North Waziristan, killing seven militants, the three Taliban commanders said.
North Waziristan and Paktika province in Afghanistan are adjacent to the border, and the officials and the militant commanders may have been reporting the same strike as two separate ones.
The border region has long been home to local and Al-Qaeda linked foreign militants. It is off limits to journalists and verifying any information independently is difficult.
US drone strikes in the border regions of Pakistan have picked up since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, though they are a long way off their peak in 2010.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have frayed in recent months after Trump’s angry tweet on Jan. 1 about Pakistan’s “lies and deceit” over its alleged support for the Afghan Taliban and their allies. Last month, the United States suspended about $2 billion assistance to Islamabad.
Pakistan denies sheltering militants and accuses Washington of not respecting Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on militancy.
“There’re still several drones flying here,” one of the three Taliban commanders said on Friday speaking by phone from the Paktika province.


Ebola cases in DR Congo rise to 78, 44 dead

Updated 17 August 2018
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Ebola cases in DR Congo rise to 78, 44 dead

BENI, DR Congo: Seventy-eight cases of Ebola have been recorded in an outbreak in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, claiming 44 lives, DRC officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
The latest outbreak of the viral disease, which is highly contagious and frequently fatal if untreated, has prompted a visit by the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health ministry said in a statement.
“In all, 78 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region, of which 51 are confirmed and 27 probable” while “24 suspect cases are under investigation,” according to reports from Congolese authorities and the WHO.
Confirmed cases are verified by way of laboratory tests on samples taken from patients. The cases treated as “probable” often concern diseased people who had a close epidemiological link with confirmed cases, but have not been tested.
Congolese authorities reported “two deaths of confirmed cases at Beni” — a trading town with a population approaching a quarter of a million people in North Kivu province.
There were also “five new confirmed cases at Mabalako, including a health worker at the Health Reference Center in Mangina,” the epicenter of the outbreak in the Beni region.
“We are expecting to see more cases,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.
The outbreak is the tenth to strike the DRC since 1976, when Ebola was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country.
It affects a part of the country wracked by violence for more than 20 years, from all-out war to insurgency and sustained ethnic clashes.
Forty-one deaths were reported in North Kivu and three in neighboring Ituri region to the north, according to the health ministry.
Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga had talks with the director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, regarding CDC training programs for epidemiologists in the field, an official statement said.
The ministry’s directorate for disease control announced on Tuesday that doctors in Beni had started to use a novel treatment called mAb114 to treat patients with Ebola.
The treatment is “the first therapeutic drug against the virus to be used in an active Ebola epidemic in the DRC,” it said.
mAb114 is an antibody initially isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in the western DRC city of Kikwit in 1995, it added.
Ebola has long been considered incurable, though swift isolation and the rapid treatment of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration has helped some of the patients to survive.
The quest for a vaccine grew increasingly urgent during an Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in West African neighboring states Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-15.