Top Philippine militant Hapilon killed, defense chief says

This file image taken from undated video shown to The Associated Press by the Philippine military shows the purported leader of the ISIS group Southeast Asia branch, Isnilon Hapilon, right, at a meeting of militants at an undisclosed location. (AP)
Updated 16 October 2017

Top Philippine militant Hapilon killed, defense chief says

MANILA: Leading militant Isnilon Hapilon, who is on the US’ list of “most wanted terrorists,” has been killed in the battle to reclaim a rebel-held Philippines city, the defense minister said on Monday.
Security analysts describe Hapilon as the leader of the Daesh group in Southeast Asia, where the outfit wants to establish a caliphate as they suffer battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria.
“(Our troops) were able to get Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute. They were both killed,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters, referring to another fighter who led the attack with Hapilon on the southern Philippines city of Marawi city in May.
The US government had offered an $5 million bounty for information leading to Hapilon’s arrest, describing the 51-year-old as a senior leader of the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group, which the US considers a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Lorenzana said Philippine ground forces mounting a final assault on the militants in Marawi killed Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, one of two brothers who lead a militant group allied to Hapilon, early Monday.
The bodies of the two men will be subjected to DNA tests because of the reward offer from the US and Philippine governments, he added.
“The implication of this development is that the Marawi incident is almost over and we may announce the termination of hostilities in a couple of days,” Lorenzana said.
The Philippine military says Hapilon joined forces with the Maute group on May 23 on a rampage across Marawi following a foiled attempt to arrest him.
Pro-Daesh gunmen occupied parts of Marawi, the Islamic capital of the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
Since then more than 1,000 people had been killed and 400,000 residents displaced.
Hapilon is also accused of involvement in the 2001 kidnappings including of three Americans, two of whom were later killed.
Troops were still pursuing Malaysian militant leader Mahmud Ahmad in the Marawi battle zone, Lorenzana said. Ahmad had helped plan the Marawi attack, authorities had said.
The insurgents have withstood a relentless US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with troops that have left large parts of Marawi resembling devastated cities in war-torn Syria and Iraq.

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

Updated 19 min 49 sec ago

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

  • Human trials of the vaccine will expand to hundreds more people in the “coming weeks.”

LONDON: A leading British scientist has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out across the country as early as the first half of next year.

Professor Robin Shattock leads the team working on Imperial College London’s vaccine, one of the UK’s two most promising research programs. He told Sky News: “We anticipate if everything goes really well, that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

“Assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.”

Shattock also warned that there was “no certainty” that any of the vaccines currently being developed would work, but said the risk of that is “very, very low.”

Imperial College London is now conducting human trials of their vaccine, with 15 volunteers having received it so far. Shattock said this will be ramped up in the “coming weeks” to include another 200 to 300 patients.

“I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we’re pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work,” he said.

Oxford University is also developing a vaccination for Covid-19, in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

While Shattock said he hopes Imperial College London’s vaccine will be available for the whole of the UK in the first half of next year, it is unclear how long it would take for it to be available outside of the country.

The UK, European Union and the US have all invested huge sums into vaccine development, and struck deals with pharmaceutical companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars each to ensure first-in-line access to successful vaccinations.

However, international organizations such as the UN, International Red Crescent and Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders have raised concerns that the world’s poorest countries will be unable to access vaccinations and effective Covid-19 treatments due to rich countries outspending them.