Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists

Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists
In this June 23, 2021 file photo, Afghan militiamen join Afghan defense and security forces during a gathering in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
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Updated 28 July 2021

Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists

Taliban tell China Afghanistan will not be base for separatists
  • Taliban officials have cranked up their international diplomacy in recent months

KABUL: A top-level Taliban delegation visiting China assured Beijing the group will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for plotting against another country, an insurgent spokesman said Wednesday.
The delegation is in China for talks with Beijing officials, spokesman Mohammad Naeem told AFP, as the insurgents continue a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan — including areas along their shared border.
Their frontier is just 76 kilometers (47 miles) long — and at a rugged high altitude without a road crossing — but Beijing fears Afghanistan could be used as a staging ground for Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang.
“The Islamic Emirate assured China that Afghanistan’s soil would not be used against any country’s security,” Naeem said.
“They (China) promised not to interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs, but instead help to solve problems and bring peace.”
Taliban officials have cranked up their international diplomacy in recent months, seeking global recognition for when they hope to return to power.
They have made sweeping advances across Afghanistan since May, when US-led foreign forces began the last stage of a withdrawal due to be completed next month.
Beijing hosted a Taliban delegation in 2019, but back-door links with the insurgents stretch back longer, through Pakistan.
Communist Party leaders in Beijing and the fundamentalist Taliban have little ideological common ground, but experts feel shared pragmatism could see mutual self-interest trump sensitive differences.
For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and through the Central Asian republics.
The Taliban, meanwhile, would consider China a crucial source of investment and economic support.
“China can deal with the Taliban... but they still find the Taliban’s religious agenda and motivations inherently discomforting,” Andrew Small, author of “The China-Pakistan Axis,” told AFP earlier this month.
“They have never been sure how willing or able the Taliban really are to enforce agreements on issues such as harboring Uyghur militants.”
The Taliban’s campaign has so far seen them capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.
Government forces have abandoned some rural districts without a fight, but are digging in to defend provincial capitals even as the insurgents tighten a noose around the cities.
Rights groups have accused the insurgents of committing atrocities in territories under their control, including in the border town of Spin Boldak, where Afghan officials accuse Taliban fighters of killing around 100 civilians.
The nine-member Taliban team in China is led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the hard-line movement.


India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors
Updated 50 min 20 sec ago

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors

India to restart COVID-19 vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbors
  • India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID-19 shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population

NEW DELHI: India will resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines from the next quarter, prioritizing the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX and neighboring countries first as supplies rise, the health minister said on Monday.
India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID-19 shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.
The country’s monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to over 300 million doses next month, minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, adding that only excess supplies would be exported.
“We will help other countries and also fulfill our responsibility toward COVAX,” he told reporters.
Reuters reported last week that India was considering restarting exports of COVID-19 vaccines soon. It donated or sold 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries before the export halt.
The announcement on resumption of exports come ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington this week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries — the United States, India, Japan and Australia.
India wants to vaccinate all its 944 million adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 64 percent of them and two doses to 22 percent.
India’s inoculations have jumped since last month, especially as the world’s biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has more than trebled its output of the AstraZeneca shot to 200 million doses a month from April levels.
Indian companies have set up the capacity to produce nearly 3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses a year.


Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case

Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case
Updated 20 September 2021

Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case

Rwandan court finds ‘Hotel Rwanda’ film hero guilty in terrorism case
  • Prosecutors had sought a life sentence on nine charges
  • Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai

KIGALI: A Rwandan court on Monday found Paul Rusesabagina, a one-time hotel manager portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood film about the 1994 genocide, guilty of being part of a group responsible for terrorist attacks.

“They should be found guilty for being part of this terror group — MRCD-FLN,” judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi said of 20 defendants including Rusesabagina. “They attacked people in their homes, or even in their cars on the road traveling.”

The case has had a high profile since Rusesabagina, 67, was arrested last year on arrival from Dubai after what he described as a kidnapping by Rwandan authorities.

Since being portrayed by actor Don Cheadle as the hero of the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” Rusesabagina emerged as a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame, based in the United States. He had denied all the charges against him, while his supporters called the trial a sham and proof of Kagame’s ruthless treatment of political opponents.

Prosecutors had sought a life sentence on nine charges, including terrorism, arson, taking hostages and forming an armed rebel group which he directed from abroad. After the announcement of the initial verdict, one of the defendants became ill, causing a short recess which delayed verdicts on other charges and sentencing.

Rusesabagina became a global celebrity after the film, which depicted him risking his life to shelter hundreds as the boss of a luxury hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali during the 100-day genocide when Hutu ethnic extremists killed more than 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority.

Cheadle was nominated for an Oscar for the role. Rusesabagina used his fame to highlight what he described as rights violations by the government of Kagame, a Tutsi rebel commander who took power after his forces captured Kigali and halted the genocide.

Rusesabagina’s trial began in February, six months after he arrived in Kigali on a flight from Dubai. His supporters say he was kidnapped; the Rwandan government suggested he was tricked into boarding a private plane. Human Rights Watch said at the time that his arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, which it called a serious violation of international law.


Macron asks ‘forgiveness’ for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters

Macron asks ‘forgiveness’ for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters
Updated 20 September 2021

Macron asks ‘forgiveness’ for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters

Macron asks ‘forgiveness’ for French treatment of Algerian Harki fighters
  • Tens of thousands of Algerians fought with the French army in the war from 1954 to 1962

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday asked for “forgiveness” on behalf of his country for abandoning Algerians who fought alongside France in their country’s war of independence.
Tens of thousands of Algerians fought with the French army in the war that pitted Algerian independence fighters against their French colonial masters from 1954 to 1962.
At the end of the war, the loyalist fighters known as “harkis” were left to fend for themselves, despite earlier promises that France would look after them.


Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus

Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus
Updated 51 min 15 sec ago

Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus

Six dead after gunman opens fire on Russian campus
  • The Investigative Committee initially said eight people were killed
  • Country’s second mass shooting this year to target students

MOSCOW: A gunman opened fire Monday on a university campus in central Russia and killed six people before being detained, investigators said, in the country’s second mass shooting this year to target students.

Video on social media showed students throwing belongings from the windows of university buildings in the city of Perm, around 1,300 kilometers east of Moscow, before jumping to flee the shooter.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, initially said eight people were killed but later revised the number of deaths to six.

It said 28 people were being treated after the attack at Perm State National Research University.

“Some of them have been hospitalized with injuries of varying severity,” it said in a statement.

It said the gunman, later identified as a student at the university, carried out the shooting with a hunting rifle he purchased earlier this year.

“During his arrest, he put up resistance and was wounded, after which he was taken to a medical facility,” the statement said.

The health ministry, in comments cited by Russian news agencies, said 19 among the wounded were being treated for gunshots.

State media broadcast amateur footage reportedly taken during the attack showing an individual dressed in black tactical clothing, including a helmet, carrying a weapon and walking through the campus.

Video from outside the university showed distressed students fleeing the campus and making phone calls to friends and family behind a cordon of police wearing helmets and body armor.

President Vladimir Putin had been notified of the shooting, the Kremlin said, and ministers had been ordered to travel to Perm to coordinate assistance for the victims.

“The president expresses sincere condolences to those who have lost family and loved ones as a result of this incident,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Regional authorities said that classes at local schools, colleges and universities were canceled on Monday.

School shootings have been relatively unusual in Russia due to tight security at education facilities and because it is difficult to buy firearms.

But Monday’s attack was the second one this year, after a 19-year-old opened fire in his old school in the central city of Kazan in May, killing nine people.

Investigators said that gunman suffered from a brain disorder, but he was deemed fit to receive a license for the semi-automatic shotgun he used in the attack.

On the day of that attack — one of the worst in recent Russian history — Putin called for a review of gun control laws. The age to acquire hunting rifles was increased from 18 to 21 and medical checks were strengthened.

Peskov noted Monday that despite the tightened legislation “unfortunately, this tragedy has happened, and it has to be analyzed.”

“Law enforcement agencies must give an expert assessment. It looks like we are talking about abnormalities in a young man who committed these killings,” Peskov said.

Authorities have blamed foreign influences for previous school shootings, saying young Russians have been influenced by similar attacks in the United States and elsewhere.

In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire at his college, killing one classmate and injuring three other people before shooting and killing himself.

In October 2018, another teenage gunman killed 20 people at a Kerch technical college in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

He was shown in camera footage wearing a similar T-shirt to Eric Harris, one of the killers in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in the United States, which left 13 people dead.

The Crimea shooter was able to legally obtain a gun license after undergoing marksmanship training and being examined by a psychiatrist.

The country’s FSB security service says it has prevented dozens of armed attacks on schools in recent years.

The shooting took place as Russia was counting ballots following three-day parliamentary and local elections.


Philippines to reopen 120 schools for in-person classes

Philippines to reopen 120 schools for in-person classes
Updated 20 September 2021

Philippines to reopen 120 schools for in-person classes

Philippines to reopen 120 schools for in-person classes
  • Up to a hundred public schools in areas considered ‘minimal risk’ for coronavirus transmission will be allowed to take part in the two-month trial

MANILA: The Philippines will reopen up to 120 schools for limited in-person classes for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in a pilot approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, officials said Monday.
While nearly every country in the world has already partially or fully reopened schools for face-to-face lessons, the Philippines has kept them closed since March 2020.
“We have to pilot face-to-face (classes) because this is not just an issue for education, it’s an issue for the children’s mental health,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters.
“It’s also an issue for the economy because we might lose a generation if we don’t have face-to-face (classes).”
Under guidelines approved by Duterte Monday, up to a hundred public schools in areas considered “minimal risk” for virus transmission will be allowed to take part in the two-month trial.
Twenty private schools can also participate.
Classrooms will be open to children in kindergarten to grade three, and senior high school, but the number of students and hours spent in face-to-face lessons limited.
Schools wanting to take part will be assessed for their preparedness and need approval from local governments to reopen. Written consent from parents will be required.
“If the pilot class is safe, if it is effective, then we will gradually increase it,” said Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
Duterte rejected previous proposals for a pilot reopening of schools for fear children could catch Covid-19 and infect elderly relatives.
But there have been growing calls from the UN’s children fund and many teachers for a return to in-person learning amid concerns the prolonged closure was exacerbating an education crisis in the country.
It is not clear when the pilot will begin or which schools will be included.
A “blended learning” program, which involves online classes, printed materials and lessons broadcast on television and social media, will continue.
France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said the decision was “long overdue.”
Fifteen-year-olds in the Philippines were at or near the bottom in reading, mathematics and science, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Most students attend public schools where large class sizes, outdated teaching methods, lack of investment in basic infrastructure such as toilets, and poverty have been blamed for youngsters lagging behind.