Afghanistan confirms first case of coronavirus along border with Iran

Afghanistan has detected its first coronavirus case, said Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz, involving a patient who had recently travelled to Iran, where 12 people have died from the outbreak. (AFP)
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Updated 24 February 2020

Afghanistan confirms first case of coronavirus along border with Iran

  • The infected individual has been placed under quarantine and is being treated by doctors at a health facility in Herat
  • Under the state of emergency, Herat’s residents are required to restrict their movement outside their homes

KABUL: Afghanistan’s government on Monday ordered a state of emergency in Herat province, which borders Iran, after one of its residents tested positive for coronavirus — the first case to be reported in the country.

Three elderly Afghan men were hospitalized on Sunday after displaying symptoms following their return from Iran five days ago.

“Their blood samples were sent for further testing in Kabul on Sunday, and one of them has been affected by coronavirus,” Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said on Monday.

He added that the infected individual has been placed under quarantine and is being treated by doctors at a health facility in Herat. The province, with a population of nearly 1 million, lies nearly 950 km from Kabul.

Under the state of emergency, Herat’s residents are required to restrict their movement outside their homes, stop traveling to other parts of the country and refrain from having visitors, Waheed Mayar, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, told Arab News on Monday.

Abdul Hakim Taman, head of Herat’s public health department, told Arab News: “We’re worried about the situation and the spread of coronavirus.”

Fearing the spread of the disease, the Afghan government on Sunday ordered the closure of the border with Iran.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been living for decades as war refugees in Iran, and routinely visit the country for business or to visit family members.

Some of them use illegal routes to travel to Iran and back, making it difficult for authorities to detect cases of the virus. Iran is Afghanistan’s main trade partner.


US tries to seize Iranian gas heading toward Venezuela

Updated 14 min 39 sec ago

US tries to seize Iranian gas heading toward Venezuela

  • The Trump administration has been stepping up pressure on ship owners to abide by sanctions against US adversaries like Iran and Venezuela
  • As commercial traders increasingly shun Venezuela, Maduro's government has been turning to Iran

MIAMI: US federal prosecutors are seeking to seize four tankers sailing toward Venezuela with gasoline supplied by Iran, the latest attempt to disrupt ever-closer trade ties between the two heavily sanctioned anti-American allies.
The civil-forfeiture complaint filed late Wednesday in the District of Columbia federal court alleges that the sale was arranged by a businessman, Mahmoud Madanipour, with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated foreign terrorist organization.
“The profits from these activities support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” prosecutor Zia Faruqui alleges in the complaint.
Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, said any attempt by the US to prevent Iran's lawful trading with any country of its choosing would be an act of “piracy, pure and simple.”
“This is a direct threat to international peace and security and in contravention of international law including the UN Charter,” he said in a statement.
The Trump administration has been stepping up pressure on ship owners to abide by sanctions against US adversaries like Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. In May, it issued an advisory urging the global maritime industry to be on the lookout for tactics to evade sanctions like dangerous ship-to-ship transfers and the turning off of mandatory tracking devices — both techniques used in recent oil deliveries to and from both Iran and Venezuela.
The campaign appears to be working.
On Thursday, the US Treasury Department lifted sanctions on eight vessels that were recently found to have transported Venezuelan crude. The move followed an attempted auction Wednesday by federal marshals in Houston of 100,000 barrels of gasoline seized from a Greek-managed ship whose owner suspected the cargo was heading toward Venezuela. None of the five parties at the auction agreed to the minimum $2.5 million bid.
As commercial traders increasingly shun Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro's socialist government has been increasingly turning to Iran.
In May, Maduro celebrated the arrival of five Iranian tankers delivering badly needed fuel supplies to alleviate shortages that have led to days-long gas lines even in the capital, Caracas, which is normally spared such hardships. Despite sitting atop the world's largest crude reserves, Venezuela doesn't produce enough domestically-refined gasoline and has seen its overall crude production plunge to the lowest in over seven decades amid the ongoing crisis and fallout from US sanctions.
We are “two rebel nations, two revolutionary nations that will never kneel down before US imperialism,” Maduro said at the time. “Venezuela has friends in this world, and brave friends at that.”
The flotilla’s arrival angered the Trump administration, which struck back by sanctioning the five Iranian captains of the vessels.
The four tankers named in the complaint filed Wednesday — the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna — are currently transporting to Venezuela 1.1 million barrels of gasoline obtained via risky ship-to-ship transfers, prosecutors allege. Of the four, the Bella is currently sailing near the Philippines, ship tracking data shows, while the Pandi appears to have turned off its satellite tracking system on June 29 after having spent two weeks between Iran and the UAE. The other two were last spotted in May — the Bering near Greece and the Luna sailing between Oman and Iran.
One of the companies involved in the shipment to Venezuela, the Avantgarde Group, was previously linked to the Revolutionary Guard and attempts to evade US sanctions, according to prosecutors. An affiliate of Avantgarde facilitated the purchase for the Revolutionary Guard of the Grace 1, a ship seized last year by Britain on US accusations that it was transporting oil to Syria.
Iran denied the charges and the Grace 1 was eventually released. But the seizure nonetheless triggered an international standoff in which Iran retaliated by seizing a British-flagged vessel.
According to the asset forfeiture complaint, an unnamed company in February invoiced Avantgarde for a $14.9 million cash payment for the sale of the gasoline aboard the Pandi. Nonetheless, a text message between Mandanipour and an unnamed co-conspirator suggest the voyage had encountered difficulties.
“The ship owner doesn't want to go because of the American threat, but we want him to go, and we even agreed We will also buy the ship,” according to the message, an excerpt of which was included in the complaint.