Ethiopia accuses WHO chief Tedros of backing Tigray rebels

Ethiopia accuses WHO chief Tedros of backing Tigray rebels
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus served as Ethiopia’s health minister and foreign minister from 2005-2016.
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Updated 20 November 2020

Ethiopia accuses WHO chief Tedros of backing Tigray rebels

Ethiopia accuses WHO chief Tedros of backing Tigray rebels

GENEVA: Ethiopia’s military accused the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday of supporting and trying to procure arms and diplomatic backing for Tigray state’s dominant political party, which is fighting federal forces.
“He himself is a member of that group and he is a criminal,” army chief of staff Gen. Birhanu Jula said in a televised statement, before calling for him to be removed. Birhanu did not offer any evidence to support his accusations.
There was no immediate WHO comment on the allegation against Tedros, who is Ethiopian of Tigrayan ethnicity.
The accusations came at a time when the WHO is under considerable strain trying to coordinate global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic after the US, its biggest donor, froze funding over a spat involving China. Cases and deaths are rising again in many countries around the world.
Tedros served as Ethiopia’s health minister and foreign minister from 2005-2016 in a ruling coalition led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the most powerful part of the coalition, until Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy took office in 2018.
Abiy has since folded the other three regional parties into his own national party, but the TPLF refused to join.
Birhanu accused Tedros of using his international platform to try to get diplomatic support and weapons for the TPLF.
“He has been doing everything to support them, he has campaigned to get the neighboring countries to condemn the war. He has worked to facilitate weapons for them (the TPLF),” he said.
“He tried to lobby people by using his international profile and mission to get support for the TPLF junta.”
Birhanu did not give further specifics.
Unverified accusations from Ethiopia are not enough to remove Tedros, 55, from his post.
He was elected in May 2017 as the WHO’s first African director-general on a platform of promoting universal health care.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced the US would withdraw from the WHO in July 2021 — in line with US law requiring a year’s notice — after accusing Tedros of not doing enough to hold China to account for what Trump described as initial attempts to cover up the COVID-19 outbreak.
Tedros has dismissed the suggestions, saying: “We are close to every nation, we are color-blind.”
The US was the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15 percent of its budget.


Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
Updated 52 min 36 sec ago

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 

Anti-junta protesters ready for armed resistance as Myanmar violence mounts 
  • People have started to join combat training camps run by paramilitary groups in eastern Karen State
  • National League for Democracy members are reportedly in talks with ethnic groups to form an army against the Myanmar military 

YANGON: A 24-year-old medical student who never imagined he would ever kill anyone, as his vocation was to save lives, did so in late March after Myanmar security forces shot dead dozens of protesting civilians in one of Yangon’s neighborhoods.

“They even used hand grenades and some kinds of explosive ammunition in cracking down on us,” the Yangon University of Medicine student, Swe Min, told Arab News.

At least 739 protesters have been killed by police and military personnel since the beginning of nationwide demonstrations against the junta that ousted the country’s elected National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders in a coup on Feb. 1, according to Friday’s data from Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma.

The incident in South Dagon township, where more than 30 people were killed on March 29, happened two days after the deadliest crackdown on protesters, when security forces killed 114 people across the country.

Footage shared on social media showed how a barricade built by protesting South Dagon residents was blown up with explosives by security forces.

Witnessing the state violence was beyond Swe Min’s threshold of endurance.

“There were randomly shooting and brutally assaulting residents,” he said.

Swe Min and other protesters seized a plainclothes police officer near the main demonstration site and started beating him indiscriminately.

“Seeing the slaughter of civilians, we got very upset and angry,” he recalled.

“We were out of our minds, and we have beaten and kicked him to death.”

As night raids followed the officer’s killing, Swe Min managed to escape Yangon the next morning with a group of friends.

Earlier this month, they joined a militant training camp in the mountainous eastern Karen State that borders Thailand.

“We have joined combat training a week ago,” he told Arab News over the phone from an undisclosed location. There is not much choice left for us. We have to choose to kill or to be killed.”

Arrest, torture and the daily forced disappearances of protesters since the military regime took power have pushed many like Swe Min to take up arms as they no longer seem to believe in non-violent resistance.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the oldest insurgent group fighting for the eastern state’s greater autonomy, said that thousands of people who are against the regime have sought refuge in their control area.

Padoh Man Man, a spokesperson for one of the KNU’s brigades, told Arab News that many are eager to join their combat training.

“Since they came here, most are determined to take up arms. After witnessing the momentum of brutality by the regime, it is understandable why they are in favor of armed resistance,” he said over the phone earlier this week.

The group, he added, had trained hundreds of volunteers alongside new KNU members in basic guerrilla warfare over the past two months.

“They are, therefore, more or less ready to join armed resistance,” he said.

Not only ordinary citizens but also dissident politicians are considering the option.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers ousted in the February coup that formed a parallel government in mid-April, has reportedly also been in negotiations with ethnic rebel groups in the hope of forming an army against the Tatmadaw — the armed forces of Myanmar.

However, this may not happen soon as, although opposed to the regime, ethnic minorities do not entirely trust NLD, which during its rule had alienated them, Sai Tun Aung Lwin, an ethnic affairs analyst and a researcher with the Yangon-based Pyidaungsu Institute, told Arab News.  

“Small community-based defense units have been formed across the country, but it seems only to defend themselves at the moment,” he said. “People are doing what they have to do. They are dutiful.”

Some are even ready to abandon their monastic life.

A Buddhist monk known for his charity work in Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar township, who now identifies himself with a changed name, Ashin Rsara, took off his religious robes and completed combat training in Karen State.

“The regime considers us their enemy, and I witnessed the merciless crackdown in Hlaing Thar Yar last month. Then I realized that we would never have peace as long as it is in power,” he told Arab News.

“Buddha teaches us to love each other in any situation. I have been trying to follow Buddha’s teachings my whole life, but I can’t this time,” he said. “I have to live with hate till the resistance prevails or I die.”


More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
Updated 23 April 2021

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
  • An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications
  • The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries

Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 and their newborn children face higher risks of complications than was previously known, a study by British scientists showed on Friday.
An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications, according to a study conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford. 
While pregnant women are at higher risk of complications such as premature birth, high blood pressure with organ failure risk, need for intensive care and possible death.
“Women with COVID-19 during pregnancy were over 50% more likely to experience pregnancy complications compared to pregnant women unaffected by COVID-19,” said Aris Papageorghiou, co-lead of the trial and a professor of fetal medicine at Oxford University.
The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries, where each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared to two non-infected women giving birth at the same time in the same hospital.
Findings from the study, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, also showed a delivery by caesarean section may be associated with an increased risk of virus infection in newborns.
However, breastfeeding does not seem to heighten risks of babies contracting COVID-19 from their mothers, scientists said.


UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
Updated 23 April 2021

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
  • Infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine
  • More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in UK research, which scientists said showed the real-world impact of the nation’s immunization campaign against the pandemic.
Crucially, the research was conducted at a time when a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus, called B1.1.7, was dominant in Britain, but still found vaccination was just as effective in elderly people and those with underlying health conditions as it was in the young and healthy.
“These real-world findings are extremely promising,” health minister James Bethell said in a statement as the data were published. He said they showed Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program — one of the world’s fastest — was having a “significant impact.”
The data come from two studies that are part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey — a collaboration between Oxford University, the government’s health department, and the Office of National Statistics. Both studies were published online as preprints on Friday and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The researchers analyzed more than 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021.
They found that 21 days after a single dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — with no second dose — rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%.
This included a drop in symptomatic infections by 74% and a drop in infections with no reported symptoms by 57%.
Reductions in overall infections and in symptomatic infections, were even greater after a second dose — 70% and 90% respectively — the study found, and were similar to effects in people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection.
The second study looked at levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see how they changed after one dose of either vaccine, and after two Pfizer doses.
Results showed that antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were slightly lower in older people, but high across all ages after two Pfizer doses.
More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 10 million having had two doses, official data showed on Wednesday.


Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 April 2021

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
  • Akayed Ullah, 31, claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh
  • Ullah will serve a minimum of 35 years behind bars

NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man convicted of setting off a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City’s busiest subway station, Times Square, was sentenced on Thursday to life plus 30 years in prison.
Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn, had claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh when he detonated his homemade bomb on Dec. 11, 2017.
No one died and four people were injured in the explosion, which led to the temporary closure of the station and the adjacent Port Authority Bus Terminal during the morning rush. Ullah was burned in what prosecutors called a “lone wolf” attack.
US Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, who imposed the sentence, told Ullah he had committed a “truly barbaric and heinous crime” without regard for the humanity of those in his way.
“They were just people on the way to work, or school,” Sullivan said. “People who maybe had finished the night shift. ... To you, these people were expendable.”
Ullah, who is married and has a 3-year-old son, had faced a mandatory minimum 35-year term.
He told Sullivan he did not condone violence, and apologized to New York City, law enforcement and the United States.
“What I did on December 11, it was wrong,” Ullah said. “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry.”
Prosecutors said Ullah was angry with then-President Donald Trump and with US foreign policy in the Middle East, and that Daesh propaganda inspired him to kill, maim and terrorize as many commuters as possible.
“Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
At the time of the attack, Ullah had a green card, allowing him to live in the United States.
He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn, while his wife and then-infant son lived in Bangladesh.
Ullah’s lawyer Amy Gallicchio, a federal public defender, called him a “deeply troubled soul” who had been attracted on the Internet to the “distorted and radical messages” of extremism.
“He is not an evil man,” Gallicchio said, a sentiment the judge also expressed. “He is not a monster.”
But federal prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski questioned why Ullah chose Times Square to set off the bomb if suicide was his goal.
The bomb materials had come from a nearby construction site where Ullah worked as an electrician.
“It is important to send a message that when you attack New York City, there will be no leniency,” Donaleski said.
Ullah was convicted in November 2018. Sullivan presided over Ullah’s case when he was a federal district judge.


Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
Updated 23 April 2021

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
  • French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral
  • Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors

N’DJAMENA: Thousands of people gathered at the main square in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Friday to pay their respects to the late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
Although criticized by human rights groups for his repressive rule, he established himself as a key military ally of Western powers in the international fight against Islamist militants.
“He liberated our country from dictatorship and gave us the opportunity to participate fully in democracy,” said Emmanuel Gaba, a young resident of the capital.
His death was announced by the army on Tuesday, a day after election officials said he had won a sixth term in office. Most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
“He protected us for so long that today we have come to wish him eternal rest. A deserved rest,” said Hassan Adoum, who attended the ceremony.
On Thursday a car with mounted speakers drove around N’Djamena telling residents not to panic if they hear cannon fire as Deby would receive a 21-gun salute.