14 children among up to 22 dead in Cameroon massacre: UN

Aerial cityscape view to Yaounde, capital of Cameroon. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 17 February 2020

14 children among up to 22 dead in Cameroon massacre: UN

  • The attack was carried out on Friday in the village of Ntumbo in the northwest region
  • Separatists in the regions have been fighting the central government for three years

LIBREVILLE, Gabon: A massacre in an anglophone region of Cameroon left up to 22 villagers dead including 14 children, the UN said Sunday, with an opposition party blaming the killings on the army.
Armed men carried out the bloodshed on Friday in the village of Ntumbo in the Northwest region, James Nunan, a local official of humanitarian coordination agency OCHA, told AFP.
“Up to 22 civilians were killed, including a pregnant woman and several children,” Nunan said, adding that 14 children — including nine under age five — were among the dead.
Eleven of the children were girls, said Nunan, head of OCHA’s office for the Northwest and Southwest regions, which are home to the West African country’s large English-speaking minority.
Separatists in the regions have been fighting the central government for three years.
The Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon, one of the country’s two main opposition parties, issued a statement saying: “The dictatorial regime (and) the supreme head of the security and defense forces are chiefly responsible for these crimes.”
A key figure in the separatist movement, lawyer Agbor Mballa, in a Facebook post also accused “state defense forces” of carrying out the killings.
An army official contacted by AFP early Sunday denied the allegations, saying simply: “False.” No other official response was immediately available.
The three-year conflict between anglophone forces seeking to break away from French-speaking Cameroon has claimed more than 3,000 lives and forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes.
Friday’s killings followed elections on February 9 that were marred by violence in the regions blamed both on separatists and security forces.
Armed separatists prevented people from voting, threatening reprisals, while government soldiers were a heavy presence.
Separatists kidnapped more than 100 people and torched property in the run-up to the elections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.
The government has not yet announced the results of the elections or turnout figures.

 

 


Pakistan rolls out coronavirus surveillance app for incoming travelers

Updated 11 July 2020

Pakistan rolls out coronavirus surveillance app for incoming travelers

  • 246,351 cases registered since late February

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has developed a mobile app to keep track of travelers entering the country through land routes and airports to ensure a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for those testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

“The app will be rolled out in a few days,” Shabahat Ali Shah, CEO of the National Information Technology Board (NITB), told Arab News this week.

He said the app would help record symptoms of the incoming travelers and keep track of their location. It would also communicate coronavirus test results to them and check if they were violating the self-quarantine requirement.

The government was testing everyone entering the country until recently. Many travelers were kept at big isolation centers established in hotels and marquees for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to government officials, the new app will eliminate the costs associated with the old quarantine protocols and maintain a better record of people’s movements.

Pakistan has registered 246,351 coronavirus infections since late February and over 5,000 deaths.

The government has also been carrying out contact tracing to test suspected cases and sent over half-a-million text messages to those who have come into close contact with COVID-19 patients, according to the Ministry of National Health Services.

“We don’t share contact tracing numbers with the public since they keep changing on a daily basis,” Shah said, adding that people suspected to have the disease were requested to get themselves tested.

Discussing the projections, he said the numbers of coronavirus cases would keep changing but that the government’s actions had proved successful in bringing down the country’s infection rate.

“Smart lockdowns in different areas have helped reduce the disease,” Shah said, adding the decision to lock down virus hotspots was taken on the basis of data collected by the NITB.

He said that the COVID-19 curve would flatten if the government properly managed Eid Al-Adha and Muharram processions in the coming months.

According to independent IT analysts, the app would prove ineffective if “big data” was not properly analyzed.

“Developing an app is not a big deal,” Mustaneer Abdullah, an IT expert, told Arab News. “The real task is to extract useful information through the algorithms and break it down in specific categories to achieve the desired targets. The trouble is that government departments lack that kind of expertise.”

He also pointed out that such apps were hazardous to public privacy in the absence of data protection laws since they sought permission from users at the time of installation to access their photo galleries, locations and contact lists to work smoothly.

“The data collected through these apps can also be a goldmine for scoundrels. People working with government departments could leak user information to digital marketers or fraudsters with total impunity.”

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