Algeria probes lynching of arson suspect after deadly fires

Algeria probes lynching of arson suspect after deadly fires
Blazes raged across northern Algeria on Thursday as the country observed a national day of mourning for dozens of people killed. (AFP)
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Updated 13 August 2021

Algeria probes lynching of arson suspect after deadly fires

Algeria probes lynching of arson suspect after deadly fires
  • Video footage posted online on Wednesday showed a crowd beating to death 38-year-old Jamal Ben Ismail and setting him ablaze

ALGIERS: Algeria’s state prosecutor on Thursday ordered an investigation after a mob lynched a man they accused of sparking the country’s deadly wildfires.
The North African country has been in the grip of devastating fires since Monday that have cost at least 69 lives.
Video footage posted online on Wednesday showed a crowd beating to death 38-year-old Jamal Ben Ismail and setting him ablaze.
They alleged he had started the fires.
The grisly murder was staged in Larbaa Nath Irathen, in the Tizi Ouzou district, one of the worst hit by the fires.
Those responsible “will receive a severe punishment,” the prosecutor said, adding that “odious crimes should not remain unpunished.”
Amnesty International called on authorities to investigate Ben Ismail’s death, which the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights branded as “barbaric and atrocious.”
“Scenes of the lynching and torching of the suspected arsonist — a young artist who had come to help put out the fires — are shocking,” the Algerian group said.
Ben Ismail’s father, quoted by local media, called for “calm” as he urged the authorities to “shed light” on his son’s death.
Blazes raged across northern Algeria on Thursday as the country observed a national day of mourning for dozens of people killed in the latest wildfires to sweep the Mediterranean.
Soldiers and civilian volunteers have joined firefighters on multiple fronts in the effort to extinguish the blazes that have been fanned by windy and tinder-dry conditions.
In Tizi Ouzou district, the area with the highest casualty toll, an AFP journalist reported entire sectors of forest going up in smoke.
Villagers forced to evacuate in order to escape the flames began trickling back to their homes, overwhelmed by the scale of the damage.
“I have nothing left. My workshop, my car, my flat. Even the tiles were destroyed,” one of them said.
But he said he had “managed to save his family,” while adding that “neighbors died or lost their relatives.”
Flags were flying at half-mast after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning starting from Thursday.


Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
Updated 3 min 36 sec ago

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
  • A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Tarek Bitar from questioning top officials

BEIRUT: The probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast has been cleared to resume after being suspended for more than a month on legal claims against its lead investigator, judge Tarek Bitar, a judicial source said.
A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Bitar from questioning top officials on Tuesday.
“They have reversed the decision that had led to the suspension of the probe and he can now resume his work for sure,” Nizar Saghieh, head of the Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, told Reuters.
The resumption could be temporary should further legal complaints be filed, he said.
The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the city has made little headway amid pushback from powerful factions, some of whom lead smear campaigns and filed multiple suits against Bitar.
The leader of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Muslim political movement Hezbollah has repeatedly said he wanted Bitar removed from the case and the row over him has spilled over into government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet unable to meet since Oct. 12.
Many Lebanese are angry that more than one year on from the blast no senior official has been held accountable for the country’s worst peace-time disaster as it slips into political and economic meltdown.
Bitar has sought to question senior politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him.
He is the second judge to take charge of the investigation after a legal complaint against the partiality of his predecessor Fady Sawan saw him removed in February.


Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated
Updated 14 min 25 sec ago

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated

Austria plans to lift lockdown, but not for the unvaccinated
  • A week before that general lockdown, people not fully vaccinated against coronavirus had been placed under lockdown
  • Details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria’s nine provinces

VIENNA: Unvaccinated individuals will continue to stay in lockdown even after Austria lifts its wider coronavirus measure for the general public on Sunday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed on Tuesday, a day after he took office.
Austria’s two-week-old lockdown aimed to counter a surge in daily COVID-19 infections to record levels, with restaurants, bars, theaters, museums and non-essential shops shut to all but take-away business. Hotels are closed to tourists.
A week before that general lockdown, people not fully vaccinated against coronavirus had been placed under lockdown, barring them from roughly the same places that are now shut, and allowed to leave home only for the same few reasons as the public now, such as going to work.
“The lockdown for the unvaccinated is staying,” Nehammer told a news conference, while confirming that the wider curbs would be lifted on Sunday as planned.
However, details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria’s nine provinces.
“For all the unvaccinated who are suffering from the fact they are staying in lockdown, there is a clear offer: you can come out of it if you seize the chance to get vaccinated,” Nehammer said, adding that his aim was to encourage as many as possible to get their first dose of vaccine.
Asked if restaurants and hotels would re-open at the weekend, Nehammer said that had already been agreed with provincial governors and the aim was to re-open businesses as broadly as possible.
The question that remained was what safety measures and curbs needed to be adopted, he added.


Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February

Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February
Updated 18 min 59 sec ago

Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February

Ryanair cancels Morocco flights until February
  • Move follows government ban on all arrivals to combat spread of omicron variant
  • Irish carrier is largest airline in Europe, which is facing severe COVID-19 outbreak

LONDON: Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has canceled all flights to Morocco until February 2022.

The move follows a total ban by the Moroccan government on flights arriving in the North African country until Dec. 13 to combat the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

It is not yet clear whether the ban will extend beyond the initial December deadline.

Other countries, including Japan and Israel, have also implemented stringent flight bans in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new variant.

Irish carrier Ryanair usually flies thousands of flights a day across Europe and beyond. The continent’s COVID-19 outbreak is far worse than many other places in the world, including Morocco, which recorded just 90 cases in the last 24 hours compared with 50,000 in Britain.


Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF

Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 46 min 48 sec ago

Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF

Inflation in eurozone economies is transitory: IMF
  • The reason the IMF gave this assessment is that the hikes in consumer prices didn’t turn into wage increases

Despite inflation hitting a record high last month in the euro area, the International Monetary Fund said that the rise in prices is transitory and not worrisome.

Annual inflation rate in the zone reached 4.9 percent in November, Reuters reported.

The reason the IMF gave this assessment is that the hikes in consumer prices didn’t turn into wage increases, also known as the second-round effect.

It pointed out that, meanwhile, monetary policy should remain loose.

The international lender also stated that governments in the euro area should continue backing their economies to overcome the adverse effects initiated by the pandemic. The organization added that fiscal consolidation is not urgent, but its plans should be readily available now.

“Policies should remain accommodative but become increasingly targeted, with a focus on mitigating potential rises in inequality and poverty,”the IMF said.

I took a quote from the source since it's reuters.


Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
Updated 47 min 56 sec ago

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online

Instagram reveals new features to protect teens and support parents online
  • Move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny

DUBAI: Instagram has announced new additions to its safety features for teens, which will be rolled out next year.

The move comes after the social media platform came under scrutiny following research that was revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on how the platform affects teens.

The leaked research documents showed that 32 percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse; 13.5 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse and 17 percent of teen girls said Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post: “Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere. I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests, and explore who they are.

“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”

The new features seek to implement tighter controls on what is recommended to teens, barring people from tagging or mentioning teens who don’t follow them, nudging teens towards different topics if they’ve been dwelling on one topic for a long time, and tightening controls on search, explore, hashtags and suggested accounts recommendations. Teens will also be able to bulk delete content they have posted.

The new features aim to help parents to be more involved in their teens’ Instagram experience, starting March 2022, Mosseri said. Instagram has created an educational hub for parents and guardians, which will include additional resources, such as product tutorials and tips from experts, to help them discuss social media use with their teens.

In addition, Instagram is piloting a tool that will give teens the option to notify their parents if they report someone, thereby providing their parents the opportunity to talk about it with them.

Mosseri announced the launch of “Take a Break,” a new feature for teens, in US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It is not being launched in the Middle East currently but will be introduced later as part of a phased rollout.

If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, Instagram will ask them to “take a break” from the platform and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future. Instagram said early test results seem to be promising with 90 percent of teens keeping the reminders on once they set them.

“As always, I’m grateful to the experts and researchers who lend us their expertise in critical areas like child development, teen mental health and online safety, and I continue to welcome productive collaboration with lawmakers and policymakers on our shared goal of creating an online world that both benefits and protects many generations to come,” Mosseri said.