Taliban say Daesh cell destroyed after mosque attack

Taliban say Daesh cell destroyed after mosque attack
Taliban fighters stand guard near the venue of an open-air rally in a field on the outskirts of Kabul on October 3, 2021. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 October 2021

Taliban say Daesh cell destroyed after mosque attack

Taliban say Daesh cell destroyed after mosque attack
  • A witness at the mosque told AFP that Sunday’s attack at the entrance was carried out by a single suicide bomber
  • Witnesses and AFP journalists heard blasts and gunfire in the capital at the time of the raid

KABUL: The Taliban said on Monday they had destroyed a Daesh cell in the Afghan capital, hours after a suspected Daesh attack on a mosque killed five people.
The Taliban overran Kabul seven weeks ago and have set up an interim Afghan government, but still face attacks from the regional branch of Daesh.
The Taliban’s chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said fighters carried out the operation in the north of Kabul on Sunday evening.
“As a result of the operation, which was very decisive and successful, the Daesh center was completely destroyed and all the IS members in it were killed,” Mujahid said on Twitter.
Witnesses and AFP journalists heard blasts and gunfire in the capital at the time of the raid, and images posted to social media showed a large explosion and a fire at the scene.
Kabul resident and government employee Abdul Rahaman told AFP that a “large number” of Taliban special forces attacked at least three houses in his neighborhood.
“The fighting continued for several hours,” he said, adding the sound of weapons kept him awake all night.
“They said they were after Daesh (IS) fighters in the area,” Rahman said.
“I don’t know how many were killed or arrested but the fighting was intense.”
The operation took place within hours of a deadly attack targeting a prayer ceremony at the Eid Gah mosque in memory of Taliban spokesman Mujahid’s mother, who died last week.
A government cultural commission official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that five people died and 11 were wounded, adding the casualties included both civilians and Taliban members.
“We have also arrested three people in connection with the blast,” he said.
According to the official, the device was placed at the entrance to the mosque and detonated as mourners were leaving after offering condolences to Mujahid and his family.
A witness at the mosque, who asked not to be identified, told AFP that Sunday’s attack at the entrance was carried out by a single suicide bomber.
Just outside the eastern gate, a dark patch was visible on the ground where the explosion took place and bullet holes could be seen in a wall.
The witness said a group of Taliban members — including senior figures — inside the mosque grounds came under fire after the blast, taking two casualties.
He added that two Taliban units mistakenly opened fire on each other in the confusion following the explosion, but interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti denied there had been any gunfire.
“A suicide bomber detonated his explosives among the crowd killing three people and wounding a dozen,” he said.
Trails of blood into the mosque, as well as two red pools where the witness said the injured fighters were treated inside, were seen by AFP reporters on Monday.
On Monday, Mujahid told AFP that an investigation was still ongoing but “initial information suggests that Daesh-linked groups may have carried out the attack.”


UN headquarters cordoned off over armed man

Updated 3 sec ago

UN headquarters cordoned off over armed man

UN headquarters cordoned off over armed man
UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United Nations headquarters in New York was cordoned off on Thursday during a police stand-off with a lone man apparently holding a gun outside the venue, officials said.
“The UN headquarters is closed, there is police activity,” a UN spokesman told AFP.
Images showed armed police surrounding the man standing on a sidewalk while holding what appeared to be a gun.
According to an official speaking on condition of anonymity, the man threatened to kill himself in front of one of the building’s entrances.
The avenue along the UN headquarters was closed to traffic, but meetings inside were not immediately affected.
“Due to a police investigation, avoid the area of 42 Street and 1st Avenue. Expect emergency vehicles in the surrounding area,” the New York police department said on Twitter.

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms
Updated 02 December 2021

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms
  • Measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded
  • “The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity”

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential stores, cultural and recreational venues.
And parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections that again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period.
Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity.”
She said officials also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee.
If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Merkel said, adding that she would have voted in favor of the measure if she were still a member of parliament.
About 68.7 percent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 percent the government is aiming for.
There have been large protests against pandemic measures in the past in Germany and the vaccine mandate is likely to be opposed by a minority, though opinion polls show most Germans are in favor.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a center-left coalition next week, has also backed a general vaccine mandate, but favors letting lawmakers vote on the issue according to their personal conscience rather than party lines.
“If we had a higher vaccination rate, we wouldn’t be discussing this now,”he said.
The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that medical services in the country could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Agreeing what measures to take has been complicated by Germany’s political structure — with the 16 states responsible for many of the regulations — and the ongoing transition at the federal level.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.
To reduce the pressure on hospitals over the festive period, the sale of fireworks traditionally set off during New Year’s in Germany will be banned. Each year, hospitals treat hundreds of people with serious injuries because of mishandled fireworks.
The new measures will take effect once Germany’s 16 states incorporate them into existing rules, likely in the coming days.


Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections

Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections
Updated 02 December 2021

Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections

Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections
  • “More cases are expected. Effective tracing is being done to limit transmission routes and prevent major outbreaks,” said Oslo Municipality
  • The government agency said that there was “a high vaccination coverage” in the group

COPENHAGEN: At least 50 people in and around Norway’s capital have been infected with the omicron coronavirus variant and the cases are connected to a Norwegian company’s Christmas party in an Oslo restaurant, officials said Thursday.
“More cases are expected. Effective tracing is being done to limit transmission routes and prevent major outbreaks,” the Oslo Municipality said in a statement.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that those affected live in Oslo and surrounding municipalities, and “the infection detection team in Oslo has contacted the municipalities concerned to start infection detection.”
The government agency said that there was “a high vaccination coverage” in the group, adding that overall “more than 50 cases” have been recorded in Norway. The country’s first two cases were announced Monday.
On Wednesday the city of Oslo urged people who visited two restaurants in the capital to be tested. One reportedly was where the Christmas party was held.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.
It is customary in Scandinavia for companies, associations and individuals to hold Christmas parties in the weeks leading up to Christmas eve.


Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus

Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus
Updated 02 December 2021

Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus

Pope Francis arrives in Cyprus with migrants in focus
  • On Friday he is scheduled to perform mass at an open-air stadium and later hold an 'ecumenical prayer' with migrants at a Catholic Church
  • Francis has arranged to have 50 migrants relocated to Italy after his trip this week

LARNACA, Cyprus: Pope Francis arrived on Cyprus on Thursday with a focus on inter-faith dialogue and lending his support to a country on one of the frontlines of Europe’s migration crisis.
Francis, who will travel on to Greece on Dec. 4, was to meet with Cyprus’s president on Thursday as well as with the Maronite Church. On Friday he is scheduled to perform mass at an open-air stadium and later hold an ‘ecumenical prayer’ with migrants at a Catholic Church in the divided capital.
“It will be a beautiful trip but we will touch some wounds. I hope that we all will be able to gather up the messages given to us,” Pope Francis told journalists on the aircraft.
Young children waving flags of Cyprus and the Vatican welcomed Francis at Larnaca airport, and three young girls in Cypriot traditional dress gave him bouquets of flowers.
Cyprus says it is struggling to cope with an influx of undocumented migrants, either through a dividing line splitting the island, or by boats from the neighboring Middle East.
Francis, who has made defense of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his papacy, has arranged to have 50 migrants relocated to Italy after his trip this week.
Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict, visited Cyprus in 2010. Cyprus’s Orthodox Church, the dominant Christian communion, traces its lineage back to some of Christ’s earliest followers.
According to the Book of Acts in Christian scripture, St. Paul visited the island with Barnabas, the founder of Cyprus’s Church, and Mark the Evangelist.
The Pope will be staying at a Franciscan monastery in the capital Nicosia, one of the last divided capitals of the world. The Roman Catholic Holy Cross Church, in the same compound, still bears scars from the crossfire of ethnic strife and from a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup in 1974.


EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia
Updated 02 December 2021

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia

EU orders ‘non essential’ staff out of Ethiopia
  • EU ordered its non-essential staff to leave war-torn Ethiopia

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Thursday announced that it was ordering its non-essential staff to leave war-torn Ethiopia.
EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said security would be stepped up for EU and local staff remaining at its missions to Ethiopia and to the African Union.