Car bomb blast kills four, injures 20 in Baghdad’s Sadr City

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. (Reuters)
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 April 2021

Car bomb blast kills four, injures 20 in Baghdad’s Sadr City

Car bomb blast kills    four, injures 20 in Baghdad’s Sadr City
  • Thursday’s attack comes during an election year, a time when tension between rival Iraqi political groups has often caused violence

Four people were killed and 20 wounded in a car bomb attack on Thursday in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraqi police and medical workers said.

The car was parked at a busy second-hand equipment market in the mainly Shiite district, police said.

An Iraqi military statement said the blast had killed one civilian, wounded 12 others and set several vehicles on fire. A second statement by the military said only one person, the driver, had died. Medics in Sadr City put the death toll at four.

Black smoke rose from the marketplace after the blast and ambulances rushed to save the wounded, witnesses said. Police cordoned off the site of the blast shortly afterward.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. It was the second big deadly bombing to hit Baghdad this year after a suicide attack claimed by Daesh militants killed at least 32 people in a crowded market in January.

Thursday’s attack comes during an election year, a time when tension between rival Iraqi political groups has often caused violence.

The populist cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, after whom Sadr City is named and who commands a following of millions of Iraqis, counts among his enemies both Daesh and rival Shiite parties with militias backed by Iran.

On Wednesday, separate violence linked to regional rivalries saw an explosives-laden drone target US forces at Iraq’s Irbil airport in northern Iraq and a separate rocket attack kill a Turkish soldier at a military base nearby.

There were no casualties in the strike, although it did cause damage to a building in the military part of the airport.

“A drone packed with TNT targeted a coalition base at Irbil airport,” the Kurdish region’s Interior Ministry said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which caused an explosion heard across Irbil.

But a shadowy pro-Iranian group calling itself Awliyaa Al-Dam (Guardians of Blood), which claimed a previous attack on the same airport in February, hailed the strike on the messaging app Telegram.

Leading Kurdish politician Hoshyar Zebari, explicitly blamed pro-Iranian “militia” for the attack.

“It seems the same militia who targeted the airport two months ago are at it again,” Zebari tweeted. “This is a clear & dangerous escalation.”


Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
Updated 7 min 4 sec ago

Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
  • Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone
  • Former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many

BEIRUT: Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now owns a smartphone for the first time in 12 years, Israeli media reported on Monday.
Unseated as premier in early June, Israel Today said Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone across the country, highlighting that “today he is proud of the smartphone he has.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded in cobbling together a government in the aftermath of Israel’s fourth consecutive election in two years.
Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister until Bennett’s government was sworn in last week, has yet to move out of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
The former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many except for a select few, the newspaper said.
Mentioning the issue of owning smartphones in 2014, Netanyahu was reportedly overheard exclaiming to his entourage prior to filming and interview with an American TV channel: “I do not understand the new world where everybody wants to click photos! When do you live?”
Reporters cited him as saying “everybody takes pictures, that is all what they do! Don’t take pictures, live your life! I lived mine without taking photos. I am the only person, who doesn’t have electronic devices. I am a free man and you are all slaves to your devices.”
According to the newspaper, a friend of Netanyahu claimed that the last time he owned a personal phone was in 2009.
Despite the fact that he has not used a smartphone for more than a decade, he remains one of the most followed people on social media, with over 2 million followers on Twitter and over 2.6 million followers on Facebook.


Egypt to open complex for vaccine production

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production
Updated 34 min 13 sec ago

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production
  • Minister Hala Zayed inspected the factory complex of the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) in the Sixth of October City
  • Minister confirmed that the VACSERA factories will be the largest vaccine production complex in the MEA region and will contribute to raising the production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed inspected the factory complex of the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) in the Sixth of October City.

The minister followed up on the final preparations being made on the new production lines for the manufacture of vaccines, with equipment costing about $17 million, in addition to $5.1 million in construction.

Khaled Mujahid, the spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Health, said that the minister confirmed that the VACSERA factories will be the largest vaccine production complex in the Middle East and Africa and will contribute to raising the production capacity of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in cooperation with various vaccine-producing companies in the world.

During her visit to the complex, Zayed inspected the departments dedicated to the production of the vaccines, including a production line, eight central laboratories to monitor the vaccines and a central refrigerator that can store 150 million doses. The production capacity of the factories can reach 3 million doses per day, equivalent to six times the production capacity of the company’s factories in Agouza.

The minister praised the readiness of the VACSERA factory complex, which is environmentally friendly and which was built according to the highest levels of quality and according to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO). Last September, the WHO sent a delegation of experts to evaluate the production lines at the VACSERA factories and praised the designs and construction.

Zayed confirmed that the company is the state’s strong arm in the manufacture of vaccines, which will put Egypt in the ranks of the leading countries in this field.

The factory complex is scheduled to manufacture polio vaccines of all kinds, as well as the pneumococcal bacteria vaccine in cooperation with European companies.

Mujahid added that the complex will work in parallel with the company’s production lines in the Agouza area, which have already started manufacturing the vaccine in cooperation with the Chinese company Sinovac.


Not guilty pleas entered in Jordan sedition trial

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
Updated 43 min 6 sec ago

Not guilty pleas entered in Jordan sedition trial

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
  • The court also heard testimonies of two prosecution witnesses related to leaked audio clips
  • The court is scheduled to hold another closed-door session on Tuesday

AMMAN – The suspects in Jordan’s high-profile “sedition case,” former minister Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, appeared in court on Monday over their alleged roles in a plot to “destabilize the country.”

Dozens of reporters had been outside the State Security Court (SSC) since the early hours on Monday waiting for permits to enter the heavily-guarded court but were told it was a closed-door hearing.

Images on social media showed Awadallah, a former royal court chief, and bin Zaid both wearing blue prison uniforms as they were escorted by security guards to the SSC building.

Sources who attended the session said that the judges read out the charge sheet against the defendants, who pleaded not guilty. The court also heard testimonies of two prosecution witnesses related to leaked audio clips.

The court is scheduled to hold another closed-door session on Tuesday.

Last week, the SSC prosecution office leveled sedition and incitement charges against Awadallah and bin Zaid and accused them of conspiring with former crown prince Hamzah to destabilize the country and fuel unrest against the monarch in collaboration with foreign parties.

Bin Zaid was also charged with possessing illegal narcotics (hashish).


Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
Updated 21 June 2021

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
  • The $136,000 award is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation in collaboration with UNHCR
  • RefuSHE was acknowledged for its efforts in protecting, educating and empowering refugee girls, children and young women (13-21)

SHARJAH: RefuSHE, a Nairobi-based humanitarian agency, was conferred with the 2021 Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) at a virtual ceremony.
Founded in 2008, RefuSHE addresses the significant, unmet needs for child and girl-focused refugee services in Kenya.
The $136,000 award, now in its fifth edition, is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organization dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
With the COVID-19 pandemic deepening the vulnerabilities of marginalized women and girls, the SIARA selection committee acknowledged the leading contributions of RefuSHE, a girl- and woman-centric humanitarian organization, for its efforts in protecting, educating, and empowering orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls, children and young women aged 13 — 21 in the Great Lakes region of East Africa.
Through a holistic model comprising of trauma-informed and girl-centric interventions and long-term programs that address urgent safety, shelter and health care concerns to economic empowerment, vocational training, and mental health initiatives, among others, RefuSHE has enabled 5,000 individuals, and around 20,000 indirect beneficiaries build healthier and more resilient futures for themselves and their children.
Three entities shortlisted for SIARA 2021, namely, RefuSHE from Kenya, International Network for Aid Relief and Assistance (INARA), which works for forcibly displaced children and youth in Lebanon and Turkey, and Iraq’s The Lotus Flower from Kurdistan which economically empowers vulnerable women and girls through innovative projects.
They are also recipients of a special grant this edition instituted by TBHF, in collaboration with UAE-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA). The $300,000-grant will be divided evenly among the three non-profit organizations.


Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
Updated 21 June 2021

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
  • The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talk
  • The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days”

TEHRAN: Iran’s only nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a “technical fault,” the country’s atomic energy body said in a statement.
The Bushehr plant and its 1,000-megawatt reactor, on Iran’s southern coast, were completed by Russia after years of delay and officially handed over in September 2013, raising regional concerns in what is an earthquake prone area.
The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talks, which an EU negotiator said Sunday were moving “closer to a deal.”
That agreement is staunchly opposed by Israel, which Tehran has accused in the past of sabotage against its nuclear enrichment efforts.
“Following a technical fault at Bushehr power plant, and after a one-day notice to the energy ministry, the plant was temporarily shut down and taken off the power grid,” the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on its website around Sunday midnight.
The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days,” but did not elaborate further.
Iran’s national electricity company had in a statement on Sunday called on Iranians to minimize consumption during peak hours due to a “predicted rise in temperature” and “limitations in power generation due to ongoing repairs” at Bushehr.
The company said that the repairs may continue until the end of the week, which is Friday in Iran.
In 2016, Russian and Iranian firms began building two additional 1,000-megawatt reactors at Bushehr. Their construction was expected to take 10 years.
Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors have often raised concerns about the reliability of the facility and the risk of radioactive leaks in the event of a major earthquake.
In April, Bushehr province was shaken by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, leaving five people injured but causing “no damage” to the nuclear complex, according to authorities.
Also in April, Iran accused Israel of being behind a “terrorist” attack on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, after a “small explosion” at that facility’s electricity distribution center.
Iran started rolling blackouts in May this year after Tehran and several other cities were hit by unannounced power cuts that sparked complaints from consumers and an apology from the energy minister.
The shortages were blamed on heat, drought impacting hydropower generation, and surging electricity demand blamed in part on crypto-currency mining.
Power cuts in the peak summer months are not uncommon in Iran, but a government report last month said precipitation was down 34 percent compared to the country’s long-term average, and warned of reduced water supplies for the year.
Since late May, the energy ministry regularly notifies citizens of “potential blackouts” lasting at least two hours, unless consumption in their area drops.
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani last month announced a ban on all crypto-currency mining until September to reduce the pressure on the power grid.
The Islamic republic has announced plans to construct 20 nuclear power plants in the long-term in order to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
The 2015 nuclear deal promised Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 after the former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed punishing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
But Trump’s successor Joe Biden favors rejoining the accord and the remaining parties are engaged in negotiations in Vienna to try to salvage it.
On May 23, nine people were injured in a blast at a plant producing explosive materials in central Iran, local media reported, and three days later, a pipeline explosion at a petrochemical complex near Iran’s Gulf coast left one dead.
Some in the Islamic republic see the various events as the result of attacks by Israel’s security forces. Others consider US sanctions — which almost completely isolate Iran from the rest of the world, complicating the maintenance of industrial facilities — as a more likely cause.
In July last year, a “worn out transformer” was blamed by a provincial electricity company for an explosion that hit a thermal power plant in the central province of Isfahan.