Pakistan arrests key militant over Iran terror links

Pakistan arrests key militant over Iran terror links
A police officer stands near a cordoned-off area with the backdrop of a demolished house, after a shootout in Hayatabad area, Peshawar, Pakistan, April 16, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Pakistan arrests key militant over Iran terror links

Pakistan arrests key militant over Iran terror links
  • Abbas Jafri was described as the right-hand man of Yawar Abbas and named in the “Red Book,” an official document that lists the names and profiles of hardened militants
  • In December, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) said it had arrested two members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade from the Qur’angi area of Karachi

KARACHI: Pakistan has arrested a “most wanted” militant linked to the Zainabiyoun Brigade, with investigators saying on Thursday he had received military training in neighboring Iran.

The Zainabiyoun Brigade was placed on the US Treasury’s financial blacklist in January 2019 and is believed to have sent young members of the Pakistani Shiite community to fight in Syria.

“The arrested terrorist, Abbas Jafri, is a close aide of another most-wanted terrorist, Yawar Abbas, and, much like other members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade, got his military training in neighboring Iran,” Omar Shahid, deputy inspector-general of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), said.

According to an official handout, Jafri, who was arrested in Karachi, was trained in 2014 and, among other skills, taught to carry out intelligence operations and provide medical services.

“The arrested terrorist specialized in automatic weapons and received training from a neighboring country,” the handout added.

Police said that weapons were confiscated from Jafri following his arrest.

Jafri was described as the right-hand man of Yawar Abbas and named in the “Red Book,” an official document that lists the names and profiles of hardened militants.

According to police, Jafri helped carry out reconnaissance activities for militants.

He has been moved to an undisclosed location for further investigation, police said.

Earlier in December, the CTD said it had arrested two members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade from the Qur’angi area of Karachi in connection with a string of killings in the past six years.

Tehran has not responded to the claims.

On Nov. 27, an AP report said that a number of Pakistanis were among 19 pro-Iran militia fighters killed in eastern Syria.

In March, a senior official told Arab News that up to 50 Pakistani fighters were killed by the Turkish army and Syrian forces in a major rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country.


Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says
Updated 21 sec ago

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says

Next pandemic could be more lethal than COVID-19, Oxford vaccine creator says
LONDON: Future pandemics could be even more lethal than COVID-19 so the lessons learned from the pandemic must not be squandered, one of the creators of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine said.
“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods,” Sarah Gilbert said in the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, the BBC reported. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both.”
“We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness,” she said. “The advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost.”

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman
Updated 53 min 58 sec ago

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi jailed for four years: Junta spokesman
  • For inciting dissent against the military and breaching COVID-19 rules
  • Former president Win Myint was also jailed for four years under the same charges

YANGON: A Myanmar court on Monday jailed ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for four years for inciting dissent against the military and breaching COVID-19 rules, a spokesman for the ruling junta SAID.
Suu Kyi “was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under section 505(b) and two years’ imprisonment under natural disaster law,” junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.
Former president Win Myint was also jailed for four years under the same charges, he said, adding that they would not yet be taken to prison.
“They will face other charges from the places where they are staying now” in the capital Naypyidaw, he added, without giving further details.
The 76-year-old Suu Kyi has been detained since the generals ousted her government in the early hours of February 1, ending Myanmar’s brief democratic interlude.
The junta has since added a slew of other indictments, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud. The Nobel laureate faces decades in jail if convicted on all counts.
Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the military-built capital, and Suu Kyi’s lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.
More than 1,300 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent since the coup, according to a local monitoring group.


Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant
Updated 06 December 2021

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant
  • The probable case was found among 10 people who tested positive for the virus on Saturday

A probable case of the omicron variant has been identified in a crew member of a Norwegian Cruise ship that reached New Orleans on Sunday after detecting COVID-19 among some crew and guests, the Louisiana Department of Health said.
The probable case was found among 10 people who tested positive for the virus on Saturday, the health agency said in a tweet on Sunday.
Another seven cases have since been reported, it added, taking the total number of cases among passengers and crew of Norwegian Breakaway, a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. , to 17.
“At this time, there have been no changes to scheduled future sailings on Norwegian Breakaway,” a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement to Reuters.
The cruise ship departed New Orleans on a week-long cruise on Nov. 28 and had stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, the health agency said.
“NCL has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols,” the department said in an earlier tweet.


Gambian President Barrow wins re-election; opposition cries foul

Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2021

Gambian President Barrow wins re-election; opposition cries foul

Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)

BANJUL: Gambian President Adama Barrow has comfortably won re-election, the electoral commission said on Sunday, though he may face a legal challenge from opposition candidates who rejected the results because of unspecified irregularities.
The vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former President Yahya Jammeh, who was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.
Jammeh’s despotic 22-year rule over the small West African nation of 2.5 million people, which began with a 1994 coup, was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents.
Saturday’s peaceful election was seen by many as a victory for democracy that helped draw a line under that troublesome period.
Once cowed by Jammeh’s omnipresent secret police, crowds of people hit the streets of Banjul on Sunday night to celebrate, or drove around in their cars, honking horns. Hundreds gathered in a park opposite the presidential palace to listen to Barrow speak.
“Democracy has taken its course,” Barrow told the cheering crowd after the results were announced. “I have been the lucky person to be chosen by you. I’ll use all the resources to make Gambia a better place for all.”
Barrow’s first term provided a welcome change for many to Jammeh’s brutal tenure. But progress was hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.
In the run-up to the election, Jammeh had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.
But he failed to dent Barrow’s following. The president received around 53 percent of Saturday’s vote, far outstripping his nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, who won about 28 percent.
As results came in on Sunday, representatives from all opposition parties signed off on nearly all the tally sheets read to the election commission.
But later in the day, Darboe and two other candidates, Mama Kandeh and Essa Mbye Faal, said they would not accept the results because the results took longer than expected and because of problems at polling stations.
They did not provide specifics or evidence of wrongdoing.
“We are concerned that there had been an inordinate delay in the announcement of results,” their statement said. “A number of issues have been raised by our party agents and representatives at the polling stations.”
The statement did not say what they would do now, only stating that “all actions are on the table.”


Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

Police use water canons to disperse demonstrators during a demonstration against Belgian government's measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination in Brussels on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
Police use water canons to disperse demonstrators during a demonstration against Belgian government's measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination in Brussels on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2021

Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

Police use water canons to disperse demonstrators during a demonstration against Belgian government's measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination in Brussels on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
  • The demonstrators oppose compulsory health measures — such as masks, lockdowns and vaccine passes — and some share conspiracy theories

BRUSSELS: Belgian police fired water cannon and used tear gas Sunday to disperse protesters opposed to compulsory health measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 8,000 people marched through Brussels toward the headquarters of the European Union, chanting “Freedom!” and letting off fireworks.
The crowd was smaller than the 35,000 vaccine and lockdown skeptics who marched last month, and police were better prepared.
Protesters were blocked from reaching the roundabout outside the EU headquarters by a barbed wire barricade and a line of riot officers.
As two drones and a helicopter circled overhead, they threw fireworks and beer cans. Police responded with water cannon and tear gas.
As the crowd dispersed into smaller groups around the European quarter, there were more clashes and some set fire to barricades of rubbish.
Police said two of their officers and four protesters had been hospitalized, and 20 people had been arrested.
Several European countries have seen demonstrations in recent weeks as governments respond to a surge in covid cases with tighter restrictions.
In Brussels, the organizers hoped to match the November 21 demo, in which police seemed caught off guard and there were violent clashes.
The demonstrators oppose compulsory health measures — such as masks, lockdowns and vaccine passes — and some share conspiracy theories.
Banners on Sunday compared the stigmatization of the non-vaccinated to the treatment of Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany.
“Covid = Organized Genocide,” said one sign. “The QR code is a Swastika,” declared another, referring to the EU Covid safe digital certificate.
Parents — some of whom brought small children to the protest — chanted their belief that the vaccine would make their toddlers sick.
Off duty firefighters in uniform, marched at the head of the protest as it wound its way through the city, to demand the right to refuse vaccination.
The measures imposed to fight Covid in Belgium were decided by the country’ own national and regional governments, but the European Union has also attracted the skeptics’ anger.
On Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that in her view it was time to “think about mandatory vaccination,” a suggestion that was denounced by speakers at the protest.
On Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced a series of measures to tighten sanitary rules, bringing school Christmas holidays forward and asking children aged six and over to wear masks.
Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has recorded an average of more than 17,800 daily infections with Covid-19 over the past seven days, as well as 44 deaths.
Around 800 people with severe forms of the disease are in intensive care in hospitals across the country, leading to overcrowding and the postponement of treatment for many other conditions.