Moscow welcomes Macron’s call for Kabul ‘safe zone’

Moscow welcomes Macron’s call for Kabul ‘safe zone’
French President Emmanuel Macron visits the landmark Al-Nuri mosque, which was damaged in a battle with Daesh militants in 2017 and is being rebuilt, Mosul, northern Iraq, Aug. 29, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 30 August 2021

Moscow welcomes Macron’s call for Kabul ‘safe zone’

Moscow welcomes Macron’s call for Kabul ‘safe zone’
  • The French leader said that such a safe zone would allow the international community ‘to maintain pressure on the Taliban’
  • Moscow earlier this month staged military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two former Soviet republics in Central Asia that share a border with Afghanistan

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Monday welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to create a “safe zone” in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to protect humanitarian operations.
“This is certainly a proposal that must be discussed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He said that it was “very important” to discuss all aspects of “such a zone.”
France and Britain will urge the United Nations Monday to work for the creation of this secure area to “allow humanitarian work to continue,” Macron said Sunday.
The French leader said that such a safe zone would allow the international community “to maintain pressure on the Taliban,” who swept into power earlier this month.
Macron’s comments came as international efforts to airlift foreign national and vulnerable Afghans come to an end.
France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday, Britain did so on Saturday and the United States is set to complete its efforts on Tuesday.
Russia for its part last week airlifted several hundred of its citizens and those of neighboring ex-Soviet states as the security situation deteriorated.
President Vladimir Putin has warned that militants could use the unstable situation in Afghanistan to enter neighboring countries under the guise of seeking asylum.
Moscow earlier this month staged military drills with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two former Soviet republics in Central Asia that share a border with Afghanistan.
But the Kremlin is nonetheless taking a cautiously optimistic stance to the new Taliban government.
Peskov on Monday said it was “premature” to discuss withdrawing the “terrorist” designation from the militant group in Russia.
“It is necessary to watch the first steps that the new government will take,” he said.


Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon
Updated 21 October 2021

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon
  • The 451,807 captagon tablets were seized at the Apapa sea port in September

ABUJA: Nigerian authorities intercepted nearly half a million amphetamine pills hidden in machinery coming into a Lagos port, an official said on Thursday.
The 451,807 captagon tablets were seized at the Apapa sea port in September, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Chairman Mohamed Marwa told reporters.
“This was traced to have come from Lebanon,” he said. “We have arrested one of those involved in the importation and he is helping us to trace all those involved.”
Marwa estimated the tablets were worth $11 million, or roughly 6 billion naira.
In April, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, blaming an increase in drug smuggling.


80,000-180,000 health workers may have died from Covid by May 2021: WHO

80,000-180,000 health workers may have died from Covid by May 2021: WHO
Updated 21 October 2021

80,000-180,000 health workers may have died from Covid by May 2021: WHO

80,000-180,000 health workers may have died from Covid by May 2021: WHO
  • A WHO paper estimated that out of the world's 135 million health staff between 80,000 to 180,000 health and care workers could have died from Covid-19
  • WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health care workers needed to be immunised against the disease first, as he slammed the global inequity in the vaccine roll-out

GENEVA: The World Health Organization said Thursday that 80,000 to 180,000 health care workers may have been killed by Covid-19 up to May this year, insisting they must be prioritized for vaccination.
A WHO paper estimated that out of the world’s 135 million health staff, “between 80,000 to 180,000 health and care workers could have died from Covid-19 in the period between January 2020 to May 2021.”
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health care workers needed to be immunized against the disease first, as he slammed the global inequity in the vaccine roll-out.
“Data from 119 countries suggest that on average, two in five health and care workers globally are fully vaccinated. But of course, that average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings.”
“In Africa, less than in one in 10 health workers have been fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, in most high-income countries, more than 80 percent of health workers are fully vaccinated.”
He added: “We call on all countries to ensure that all health and care workers in every country are prioritized for Covid-19 vaccines, alongside other at-risk groups.”
Tedros said that more than 10 months on since the first vaccines were approved by the WHO, the fact that millions of health workers still had not been vaccinated was an “indictment” on the countries and companies controlling the global supply of doses.
Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses, said the organization grieved for all health care workers who had lost their lives — “many needlessly; many we could have saved.”
“It’s a shocking indictment of governments. It’s a shocking indictment of their lack of duty of care to protect health care workers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives,” she said.
Kennedy added: “They are now burnt out, they are devastated, they are physically and mentally exhausted. And there is a prediction that 10 percent of them will leave within a very short time.”
The WHO wants each country to have vaccinated 40 percent of its population by the end of the year, but Tedros said 82 countries were now at risk of missing that target, chiefly through insufficient supply.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 4.9 million people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP, while nearly 242 million cases have been registered.


Ex-Minneapolis cop gets 57 months in killing of 911 caller

Ex-Minneapolis cop gets 57 months in killing of 911 caller
Updated 21 October 2021

Ex-Minneapolis cop gets 57 months in killing of 911 caller

Ex-Minneapolis cop gets 57 months in killing of 911 caller
  • Mohamed Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond
  • Don Damond, the victim’s fiancé, spoke directly to Noor, saying he forgave him and had no doubt Justine also would have forgiven him

MINNEAPOLIS: A Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman after she called 911 to report a possible rape happening behind her home was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in prison — the maximum allowed for manslaughter after his murder conviction was overturned in the case.
Mohamed Noor was initially convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a 40-year-old dual US-Australian citizen and yoga teacher who was engaged to be married. But the Minnesota Supreme Court tossed out Noor’s murder conviction and sentence last month, saying the third-degree murder statute doesn’t fit the case. The justices said the charge can only apply when a defendant shows a “generalized indifference to human life,” not when the conduct is directed at a particular person, as it was with Damond.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance, who also presided at Noor’s initial trial, granted prosecutors’ request to impose the maximum sentence called for by state sentencing guidelines on Noor’s manslaughter conviction, 57 months. In doing so, she brushed aside the defense’s request for 41 months, which is the low end of the range.
“Mr. Noor, I am not surprised that you have been a model prisoner,” Quaintance said. “However, I do not know any authority that would make that grounds for reducing your sentence.” She cited Noor “shooting across the nose of your partner” and endangering others the night of the shooting to hand down the stiffest sentence she could.
Noor, who was fired after he was charged, has already served more than 29 months. In Minnesota, inmates who behave well typically serve two-thirds of their prison sentences and the remainder on supervised release.
Experts said the state Supreme Court ruling that rejected Noor’s third-degree murder conviction means the third-degree murder conviction earlier this year against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s 2020 death likely also will be tossed out. But that would have little impact because Chauvin was also convicted of a more serious second-degree murder charge in Floyd’s death. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years.
Noor testified at his 2019 trial that he and his partner were driving slowly in an alley when a loud bang on their police SUV made him fear for their lives. He said he saw a woman appear at the partner’s driver’s side window and raise her right arm before he fired a shot from the passenger seat to stop what he thought was a threat.
He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years on the murder count and had been serving most of his time at an out-of-state facility.
Noor’s attorneys, Tom Plunkett and Peter Wold, sought 41 months at the resentencing, citing Noor’s good behavior behind bars and harsh conditions he faced during many months in solitary, away from the general prison population.
Plunkett said Thursday that much attention has been given to the victim as a kind and giving person — “all true,” he said. But Plunkett said there is “similar goodness” in Noor. He said Noor had always sought to help people around him, and recapped Noor’s good behavior while in prison.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy, meanwhile, asked Quaintance to give Noor the longest possible sentence. She said the case “is worse than typical” because of who Noor is. “The most serious sentence this court can impose is required,” she said.
Damond’s parents, John Ruszczyk and Maryan Heffernan, also asked the judge to impose the longest sentence. In a statement read by prosecutors, they called Damond’s death “utterly gratuitous” and said that the Minnesota Supreme Court’s overturning of a “poorly written law” didn’t change the jury’s belief that Noor committed murder.
“Our sorrow is forever, our lives will always endure an emptiness,” they said.
The victim’s fiancé, Don Damond, gave his statement via Zoom. He started by praising prosecutors for their “sound application of the law” and criticizing the state Supreme Court for its reversal, which he said “does not diminish the truth that was uncovered during the trial.”
“The truth is Justine should be alive. No amount of justification, embellishment, cover-up, dishonesty or politics will ever change that truth,” he said.
But Don Damond also spoke directly to Noor, saying he forgave him and had no doubt Justine also would have forgiven him “for your inability in managing your emotions that night.”
Noor, wearing a suit and tie and donning a face mask, appeared impassive as the victim’s loved ones’ statements were read. He later addressed the court briefly, saying, “I’m deeply grateful for Mr. Damond’s forgiveness. I will take his advice and be a unifier. Thank you.”
Damond’s death angered citizens in the US and Australia, and led to the resignation of Minneapolis’ police chief. It also led the department to change its policy on body cameras; Noor and his partner didn’t have theirs activated when they were investigating Damond’s 911 call.
Noor, who is Somali American, was believed to be the first Minnesota officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting. Activists who had long called for officers to be held accountable for the deadly use of force applauded the murder conviction but lamented that it came in a case in which the officer is Black and his victim was white. Some questioned whether the case was treated the same as police shootings involving Black victims.
Days after Noor’s conviction, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to Damond’s family, believed at the time to be the largest settlement stemming from police violence in Minnesota. It was surpassed earlier this year when Minneapolis agreed to a $27 million settlement in Floyd’s death just as Chauvin was going on trial.


Boston Celtics’ Kanter sparks backlash in China after comments on Tibet, Xi

Boston Celtics’ Kanter sparks backlash in China after comments on Tibet, Xi
Updated 21 October 2021

Boston Celtics’ Kanter sparks backlash in China after comments on Tibet, Xi

Boston Celtics’ Kanter sparks backlash in China after comments on Tibet, Xi
  • Enes Kanter, who is Turkish and has a history of activism, tweeted a video expressing support for Tibet and wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of the Dalai Lama
  • An outspoken critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter, 29, was indicted in his home country in 2018 on charges of belonging to an armed terrorist group

SHANGHAI: Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter was pilloried on Chinese social media and his name appeared to be blocked on the popular Weibo messaging platform after he criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping and China’s treatment of Tibet.
Kanter, who is Turkish and has a history of activism, tweeted a two-minute video of himself expressing support for Tibet and wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of the Dalai Lama, its exiled spiritual leader.
“I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet. Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are non-existent,” Kanter said in the video posted on Wednesday in US time, along with text describing Xi as a “brutal dictator.”
Kanter posted similar messages on his Instagram feed. On Wednesday, he wore shoes emblazoned with the phrase “Free Tibet’ during the game against the New York Knicks made by Baidiucao, a dissident China-born cartoonist and artist based in Australia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news briefing on Thursday that Kanter was “trying to get attention” and that his remarks “were not worth refuting.”
“We will never accept those attacks to discredit Tibet’s development and progress,” he said.
Kanter’s remarks, and the backlash, come two years after then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s comments in support of the democracy movement in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong prompted state broadcaster CCTV to cease broadcasting NBA games and e-commerce vendors to remove listings for Rockets merchandise.
The tweet also followed the Wednesday arrival of the Olympic torch in Beijing, whose scheduled hosting of the Winter Games in February 2022 has prompted calls for boycotts over Chinese treatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.
As of mid-Thursday in China, Kanter’s Chinese-language surname and full name yielded only one result, compared with multiple results earlier in the morning.
Weibo did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the NBA in China did not respond to an emailed request for comment, and the Boston Celtics did not respond to a request for comment sent outside business hours.
Beijing has ruled the remote western region of Tibet since 1951, after its People’s Liberation Army marched in and took control in what it calls a “peaceful liberation,” and considers the Dalai Lama a separatist.
A Weibo fan page for the Boston Celtics with over 650,000 followers wrote that it would cease updating its social feed after Kanter’s tweets.
Twitter is blocked in China.
“Any information on the team will cease to appear on this Weibo. Any behavior that undermines the harmony of the nation and the dignity of the motherland, we resolutely resist!” the page’s administrator wrote.
On the Celtics’ official Weibo page, more than 100 commentators left comments on Thursday criticizing the club and Kanter, with some calling for him to be sacked.
“I’ve been an old Celtics fan for more than 10 years. After Kanter did this, I won’t support the Celtics team a single day any longer. Between my hobbies and my country, there’s no comparison,” wrote one commentator.
An outspoken critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter, 29, was indicted in his home country in 2018 on charges of belonging to an armed terrorist group, which he denies. Turkey, which revoked his passport, is seeking his extradition.


Bereaved families angry as Manchester bomber’s brother evades inquiry

Bereaved families angry as Manchester bomber’s brother evades inquiry
Updated 21 October 2021

Bereaved families angry as Manchester bomber’s brother evades inquiry

Bereaved families angry as Manchester bomber’s brother evades inquiry
  • Salman Abedi blew himself up at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena venue, as parents arrived to collect their children
  • A lawyer representing bereaved families said they had "the very gravest of concerns and the most extreme sense of frustration that this has occurred"

LONDON: The brother of a suicide bomber who killed 22 people in Manchester in May 2017 failed to appear on Thursday at a public inquiry investigating the attack, angering bereaved families seeking answers about the killer’s motivations.
Salman Abedi blew himself up at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena venue, as parents arrived to collect their children. Among those killed were seven children, the youngest aged eight, while 237 people were injured.
Ismail Abedi, the bomber’s older brother, had been summoned to give evidence at the public inquiry, which has been running for more than a year to examine issues raised by the bombing.
Paul Greaney, counsel to the inquiry, told Thursday’s public hearing that Abedi was stopped at Manchester airport on Aug. 28 while trying to leave the country. But he boarded a flight at the same airport on Aug. 29 and has not returned to Britain.
Duncan Atkinson, a lawyer representing bereaved families, said they had “the very gravest of concerns and the most extreme sense of frustration that this has occurred” and accused Abedi of “profound disrespect” toward them.
The inquiry chairman, retired judge John Saunders, said the circumstances of his departure, and whether the police, the courts or the inquiry itself could have done more to prevent it, were matters that were not yet fully understood.
“The means of enforcing someone’s attendance at an inquiry are not straightforward,” he said, urging people not to jump to conclusions about who or what was to blame.
The inquiry was due to hear evidence later on Thursday from a friend of Salman Abedi, Ahmed Taghdi. He was arrested on Monday as he tried to leave the country and is in custody.
Another brother of Salman Abedi, Hashem Abedi, was found guilty of murder and jailed for at least 55 years in August 2020 for helping Salman plan the attack.
The brothers were born to Libyan parents who emigrated to Britain during the rule of Muammar Qaddafi. The parents and their younger children are in Libya and are also refusing to cooperate with the inquiry.