Ethiopia’s Abiy says Tigray fighting ‘completed’ as army claims regional capital

Ethiopia’s Abiy says Tigray fighting ‘completed’ as army claims regional capital
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Saturday that military operations in the country's northern Tigray region were "completed." (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

Ethiopia’s Abiy says Tigray fighting ‘completed’ as army claims regional capital

Ethiopia’s Abiy says Tigray fighting ‘completed’ as army claims regional capital
  • For more than three weeks now, Ethiopia and Tigray have engaged in fierce fighting
  • Global concern remains centered on the half a million residents of Mekele, Tigray’s regional capital

MEKELLE: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Saturday that military operations in the country's northern Tigray region were "completed" after the army claimed control of the regional capital, declaring victory in a three-week-old conflict that has left thousands dead.
"I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the #Tigray region," Abiy said in a Twitter post Saturday night.
Abiy, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced on November 4 he had ordered military operations against leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party that dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before he came to power in 2018.
Tigray has been under a communications blackout ever since, making it impossible to know the full toll of fierce fighting that has included multiple rounds of air strikes and at least one massacre that killed hundreds of civilians.
After securing control of western Tigray and giving TPLF leaders a 72-hour ultimatum to surrender, Abiy announced on Thursday he had ordered a "final offensive" against pro-TPLF forces in the regional capital, Mekele, a city of half a million.
Global concern mounted over a possible bloodbath, and heavy shelling was reported in Mekele earlier Saturday.
But on Saturday night Gen Berhanu Jula, the army chief, said in a statement that his forces "completely controlled" Mekele.
A government statement specified that federal forces had been able to "take control of the airport, public institutions, the regional administration office and other critical facilities".
Berhanu said his troops were now "hunting for members of the TPLF junta that are in hiding".
There was no immediate response from the TPLF.

Ever since Abiy took office, TPLF leaders have complained of being sidelined from top positions, targeted in corruption prosecutions and broadly scapegoated for the country's woes.
Tensions rose dramatically after Abiy's government postponed national elections scheduled for August, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Tigray held its own elections the following month and branded Abiy an illegitimate ruler.
The military operations that began on November 4 were, in Abiy's telling, triggered by attacks by pro-TPLF forces on two federal army camps in Tigray -- one in Mekele and another in the town of Dansha.
On Saturday the government said it controlled the camp in Mekele and had secured the release of thousands of federal army officers held hostage there.
Despite Abiy's triumphant statement, it was not immediately clear fighting in Tigray would end right away.
Tigray has considerable military assets, and at the outset of the conflict analysts estimated the TPLF could mobilise some 200,000 troops.
"The key next issues are what intent and capabilities do the Tigrayan forces have to continue armed resistance as an insurgency, and how will people react to the provisional government that will be established," said William Davison, analyst for the International Crisis Group.


Criminal charges against Alec Baldwin not ruled out: DA

Criminal charges against Alec Baldwin not ruled out: DA
Updated 44 min 37 sec ago

Criminal charges against Alec Baldwin not ruled out: DA

Criminal charges against Alec Baldwin not ruled out: DA
  • Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies: ‘He’s obviously the person that fired the weapon — all options are on the table at this point’
  • Sheriff Adan Mendoza: ‘We’re going to determine how those (live rounds) got there, why they were there, because they shouldn’t have been there’

LOS ANGELES: Criminal charges against actor Alec Baldwin, who shot dead a cinematographer and wounded a director on the set of his latest movie, have not been ruled out, the local district attorney said Wednesday.
“He’s obviously the person that fired the weapon,” said Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, whose area of responsibility covers the set of “Rust.”
“All options are on the table,” she told a news conference, adding: “No one has been ruled out at this point.”
An investigation into last Thursday’s fatal shooting has recovered 500 rounds of ammunition from the set in New Mexico, Sheriff Adan Mendoza told reporters, adding detectives believe they were a mix of blanks, dummies and live rounds.
“We’re going to determine how those (live rounds) got there, why they were there, because they shouldn’t have been there,” Mendoza said.


WHO: Europe had most COVID-19 cases, deaths over last week

WHO: Europe had most COVID-19 cases, deaths over last week
Updated 27 October 2021

WHO: Europe had most COVID-19 cases, deaths over last week

WHO: Europe had most COVID-19 cases, deaths over last week
  • WHO said cases in its 53-country European region recorded an 18% increase in COVID-19 cases over last week
  • In WHO's weekly epidemiological report on COVID-19, Europe also saw a 14% increase in deaths

GENEVA: Europe stood out as the only major region worldwide to report an increase in both coronavirus cases and deaths over the last week, with double-digit percentage increases in each, the United Nations’ health agency said on Wednesday.
The World Health Organization said that cases in its 53-country European region, which stretches as far east as several former Soviet republics in central Asia, recorded an 18 percent increase in COVID-19 cases over the last week — a fourth straight weekly increase for the area.
In WHO’s weekly epidemiological report on COVID-19, Europe also saw a 14 percent increase in deaths. That amounted to more than 1.6 million new cases and over 21,000 deaths.
The United States tallied the largest number of new cases over the last seven days — nearly 513,000 new cases, though that was a 12 percent drop from the previous week – and over 11,600 deaths, which was about the same number as the previous week, WHO said.
Britain was second at more than 330,000 new cases. Russia, which has chalked up a series of national daily records for COVID-19 deaths in recent days, had nearly a quarter million new cases over the last week.
WHO officials have pointed to a number of factors including relatively low rates of vaccination in some countries in eastern Europe. Countries including Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Georgia had some of the highest rates of infection per 100,000 people in the last week.
Overall, WHO’s vast Americas region — which has tallied the most deaths of any region from the pandemic, at more than 2.7 million — saw a 1 percent uptick in deaths over the last week, even as cases fell by nine percent. Cases in WHO’s southeast Asia region, which includes populous countries like India and Indonesia, fell 8 percent even as deaths rose 13 percent over the last week.


Iran says agrees to restart nuclear deal talks in Nov

Iran says agrees to restart nuclear deal talks in Nov
Updated 27 October 2021

Iran says agrees to restart nuclear deal talks in Nov

Iran says agrees to restart nuclear deal talks in Nov
  • The other participants in the talks still need to confirm the return to the table
  • "We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week," Tehran's chief negotiator wrote on Twitter

BRUSSELS: Iran has agreed to resume talks next month with world powers over its nuclear deal, the country’s deputy foreign minister said Wednesday, after talks with EU mediators in Brussels.
The other participants in the talks — which included indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran — still need to confirm the return to the table.
“We agree to start negotiations before the end of November. Exact date would be announced in the course of the next week,” Ali Bagheri, who also serves as Tehran’s chief negotiator, wrote on Twitter.
The EU and world powers have been scrambling to try to get negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 accord back on track after the election of a hard-liner in Tehran.
The agreement between Iran and world powers to find a long-term solution to the crisis over its controversial nuclear program has been moribund since former US president Donald Trump walked out of the deal in May 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions.
His successor Joe Biden has said he is ready to re-enter the agreement, so long as Iran meets key preconditions including full compliance with the deal whose terms it has repeatedly violated by ramping up nuclear activities since the US left the pact.
But the Vienna-based talks through intermediaries made little headway, before being interrupted by the election of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president and suspended for the last four months.
The US point man on Iran, Rob Malley, on Monday renewed a warning that the United States had “other options” if Iran’s nuclear work advances although he said the Biden administration preferred diplomacy.
The EU acts as coordinator for the deal that also involves Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.


Most French believe white Christians risk ‘extinction’ from Muslim migration: Poll

Most French believe white Christians risk ‘extinction’ from Muslim migration: Poll
Updated 27 October 2021

Most French believe white Christians risk ‘extinction’ from Muslim migration: Poll

Most French believe white Christians risk ‘extinction’ from Muslim migration: Poll
  • 60% say such a scenario will “definitely” or “probably” play out in their country
  • Islamophobic, anti-Semitic “Great Replacement” theory is popular among far right

LONDON: Almost two-thirds of French people believe that white European Christian populations are being “threatened with extinction” as a result of immigration from Muslim and African countries, a new poll suggests.

Sixty percent of French people responding to a Harris Interactive poll said such a scenario will “definitely” or “probably” play out in their country, the Daily Mail reported.

The poll was designed to test public opinion on the “Great Replacement” theory, a conspiratorial idea that argues that Christian civilization is being intentionally replaced by global capitalists — or to some proponents of the theory, by Jews — using Muslim immigration from Africa.

The theory — abhorred by many for its Islamophobic, racist and anti-Semitic themes — is popular in far-right and white nationalist circles.

Poll respondents were balanced across age and gender but split by their political affiliation. Right-wing anti-immigration parties, the most significant of which is Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale, hold significant sway among France’s voting public, and the poll illustrated the strong feelings those voters had toward Muslim immigrants.

More than 90 percent of supporters of Le Pen’s party said they believe that replacement is a likely scenario, while just 30 percent of the left-wing Greens said the same.

More than half — 52 percent — of supporters of incumbent President Emmanuel Macron’s center-right En Marche party also said they believe the theory is a likely scenario.

The issue of Muslim immigration and integration has become a hot-button issue in France in recent years.

Le Pen’s own party is facing a challenge from populist right-wing challenger Eric Zemmour, a TV personality who has previous convictions for hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Zemmour has said Paris is being “colonized” by Muslim migrants with large families, which he warns will make up the majority of the population by the mid-century.

While statisticians have comprehensively discredited this idea, it appears to hold sway with the French public.

Zemmour has said French Muslims must “choose between Islam and France” — a statement that earned him one of his hate speech convictions — following a series of terror attacks and other such incidents that have inflamed relations between the country’s Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

According to a 2017 study by Pew Research, 8.8 percent of French people are Muslim — the highest proportion in Northern and Western Europe.

Zemmour has not yet officially announced that he will run for president in April 2022, and the French electoral system means either he or Le Pen — but not both — will ultimately be tested against Macron’s party.


Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above
Updated 27 October 2021

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above
  • Booster shots of mRNA vaccine will be gradually extended to cover all people in the Nordic country aged 16 or older during the winter and spring
  • The healthcare staff to be offered boosters included all employees involved in home care, nursing homes and assisted living programmes

STOCKHOLM: Sweden will start offering COVID-19 booster shots to people aged 65 or older as well as many care workers and plans to gradually extend the third jabs to most Swedes in the coming months, the government said on Wednesday.
The booster shots of mRNA vaccine will be gradually extended to cover all people in the Nordic country aged 16 or older during the winter and spring, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.
“It is thanks to the fact that so many have been vaccinated that we can live our lives a little bit more as usual,” Hallengren said. “Now we offer booster shots to 1.5 million more.”
The health care staff to be offered boosters included all employees involved in home care, nursing homes and assisted living programs.
Infections remain at fairly low levels four weeks after almost all restrictions and recommendations were abolished in Sweden. Still, deaths have started to slowly edge higher after a slow summer, pushing the toll over the course of the pandemic above the 15,000 mark this week.
“According to studies, we notice a diminishing antibody effect. We saw during the summer that we had outbreaks in nursing homes,” Public Health Agency head Johan Carlson said. “A third dose provides a substantial increase in antibodies.”
Previously, people living in elderly care homes and those aged 80 or older were eligible for a booster shot six months after the second dose. Around 85 percent of all Swedes aged 16 or above have had one vaccine shot and 80 percent have had two shots or more.
In recent weeks, vaccinations have also been offered to children in the 12-15 age group though only relatively few have received inoculations so far.