Taliban asks EU for help with Afghanistan’s airports

The Taliban side also re-committed to allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave if they wish so, but “requested assistance for maintaining operations of airports” so that could happen. (AFP file photo)
The Taliban side also re-committed to allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave if they wish so, but “requested assistance for maintaining operations of airports” so that could happen. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Taliban asks EU for help with Afghanistan’s airports

The Taliban side also re-committed to allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave if they wish so, but “requested assistance for maintaining operations of airports” so that could happen. (AFP file photo)
  • The Taliban reiterated they would uphold human rights “in line with Islamic principles” and would welcome back diplomatic missions that had closed, according to the statement

BRUSSELS: The Taliban asked for help in keeping Afghanistan’s airports running in weekend talks with EU officials that also raised “grave concern” about the humanitarian situation in their country, according to an EU statement late Sunday.
Both sides sent senior officials to the Qatari capital Doha for the talks, which happened just ahead of two weeks of negotiations between the US and the Taliban due to start Monday, also in Doha.
The EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) said in its statement that “the dialogue does not imply recognition by the EU of the interim (Taliban) government but is part of EU’s operational engagement, in the interest of the EU and the Afghan people.”
The Taliban delegation was led by interim foreign minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi, accompanied by the interim ministers for education and health, the acting central bank governor, and officials from the foreign, finance and interior ministries and the intelligence directorate.
The EU side was headed by the EU special envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson, with officials from the EEAS and the European Commission’s service handling humanitarian aid, international partnerships, and migration.

The EU statement said the Taliban vowed to stick by its promise of “amnesty” for Afghans who had worked against it during the two decades of Western-oriented rule up to the hasty exit and evacuation by the US and its allies in August.
The Taliban side also re-committed to allowing Afghans and foreigners to leave if they wish so, but “requested assistance for maintaining operations of airports” so that could happen.
“The two sides expressed grave concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as winter is arriving,” the statement said, adding that the EU would continue supplying humanitarian aid.
The EU side pressed the Taliban to create an “inclusive government,” foster democracy, ensure girls had equal access to schooling, and prevent Afghanistan serving as a base for any group “that threatens the security of others.”
It also suggested that, if the Taliban met EU conditions, that could unlock extra financing for Afghanistan’s cash-strapped new rulers but only “for the direct benefit of the Afghan people.”
The Taliban reiterated they would uphold human rights “in line with Islamic principles” and would welcome back diplomatic missions that had closed, according to the statement.


Burkina Faso’s President Kabore is held by mutinous soldiers

Burkina Faso’s President Kabore is held by mutinous soldiers
Updated 7 sec ago

Burkina Faso’s President Kabore is held by mutinous soldiers

Burkina Faso’s President Kabore is held by mutinous soldiers
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore is being held by mutinous soldiers, two of the soldiers told The Associated Press by phone early Monday. They did not say where Kabore is being held, but said he is in a safe place.
Gunshots were heard late Sunday night near the president’s residence and in the early hours of Monday a battle took place at the presidential palace while a helicopter flew overhead. The roads of the capital were empty Sunday night except for checkpoints heavily guarded by mutinous soldiers.
State news station RTB was heavily guarded on Monday morning.
Fighting began on Sunday when soldiers took control of the Lamizana Sangoule military barracks in the capital, Ouagadougou. Civilians drove into town in a show of support for the rebellion but were broken up by security forces firing tear gas. The mutiny came a day after a public demonstration calling for Kabore’s resignation, the latest in a series of anti-Kabore protests as anger has mounted over his government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency.
The government has not made any statements since Sunday when Minister of Defense Aime Barthelemy Simpore told state broadcaster RTB that a few barracks had been affected by unrest not only in Ouagadougou but in other cities, too. He denied, however, that the president had been detained by the mutineers, even though Kabore’s whereabouts was unknown.
“Well, it’s a few barracks. There are not too many,” Simpore said.
Kabore had been leading Burkina Faso since being elected in 2015 after a popular uprising ousted longtime strongman President Blaise Compaore who was in power for nearly three decades. Kabore was reelected in November 2020 for another five-year term, however, frustration has been growing at his inability to stem the spread of jihadist violence across the country. Attacks linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group are escalating, killing thousands and displacing more than an estimated 1.5 million people.
The military has suffered losses since the extremist violence began in 2016. In December more than 50 security forces were killed in the Sahel region and nine security forces were killed in the Center North region in November.
Angry mutinous soldiers told the AP that the government was disconnected from its forces in the field and that their colleagues were dying and they wanted military rule. The soldiers put a man on the phone who said that they were seeking better working conditions for Burkina Faso’s military amid the escalating fight against Islamic militants. Among their demands are increased manpower in the battle against extremists and better care for those wounded and the families of the dead.

Severe weather brings snow to Athens, Greek islands

Severe weather brings snow to Athens, Greek islands
Updated 18 min 23 sec ago

Severe weather brings snow to Athens, Greek islands

Severe weather brings snow to Athens, Greek islands
  • Authorities have warned the public to limit their movements outdoors
  • Snow is common in the Greek mountains and in the northern part of the country
ATHENS, Greece: A severe weather front has hit Greece, with below-freezing temperatures and snowfall in many parts of the country, including the capital Athens and many Aegean islands.
Authorities have warned the public to limit their movements outdoors to the essential on Monday and Tuesday, while schools shifted to online classes only. Coronavirus vaccination appointments scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in one children’s hospital in Athens were rescheduled for later in the week in a different location.
The snow was coming down thick and fast in central Athens, settling on the marble columns of the ancient Acropolis. Authorities sent out emergency alerts to cell phones in the wider Athens area on Monday morning warning of severe snowfall over the next few hours and calling on people to avoid any unnecessary movement. Snow chains were mandatory for cars in parts of the northern fringes of the capital.
Snow is common in the Greek mountains and in the northern part of the country, but is more infrequent in central Athens and on Aegean islands. Last year, the Greek capital was hit by a major snowstorm that caused severe problems, knocking out power for days in certain neighborhoods and making all streets impassable without snow chains. Thousands of trees buckled and fell from the weight of the snow.

China tests 2M in Beijing, lifts COVID lockdown in Xi’an

China tests 2M in Beijing, lifts COVID lockdown in Xi’an
Updated 17 min 26 sec ago

China tests 2M in Beijing, lifts COVID lockdown in Xi’an

China tests 2M in Beijing, lifts COVID lockdown in Xi’an
  • The Olympics are being held under strict controls that are meant to isolate athletes, staff, reporters and officials from residents
  • China has reported relatively few cases of the highly infectious omicron variant

BEIJING: A fresh outbreak in Beijing has prompted authorities to test millions and impose new measures two weeks ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics, even as Chinese officials on Monday lifted a monthlong lockdown on the northern city of Xi’an and its 13 million residents.
Despite falling case numbers, pandemic controls have been stepped up ahead of the Olympics, where all participants must be tested before and after their arrival in Beijing.
In the capital, the 2 million residents of Fengtai district underwent testing following the discovery of more than three dozen cases in the capital. Targeted testing was being conducted at residential communities in six other districts.
The government told people in areas of Beijing deemed at high risk for infection not to leave the city after 25 cases were found in Fengtai and 14 elsewhere. Residents lined up Sunday on snow-covered sidewalks in freezing weather for testing.
The Beijing Municipal Health Commission also said Sunday that anyone who had purchased medicine for fever, cough and other infections within the past two weeks would be required to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours, the state-owned Global Times newspaper reported.
The Olympics are being held under strict controls that are meant to isolate athletes, staff, reporters and officials from residents. Athletes are required to be vaccinated or undergo a quarantine after arriving in China.
The announcement by the city of Xi’an Monday followed the restart of commercial flights from the city over the weekend. The major tourism center and former imperial capital, famed as the home of the Terracotta Warrior statue army, struggled to get food to some residents in the early days of the lockdown, after people were confined to their homes.
Xi’an has been a cornerstone of the ruling Communist Party’s “zero tolerance” strategy toward COVID-19 that mandates lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing whenever a case is discovered.
Xi’an is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southwest of Beijing, where the Olympics open Feb. 4.
Access to Xi’an was suspended Dec. 22 following an outbreak attributed to the delta variant of the coronavirus.
Other outbreaks prompted the government to impose travel bans on a number of cities, including the port of Tianjin, about an hour from Beijing. The stiff regulations are credited with preventing major nationwide outbreaks and China has reported relatively few cases of the highly infectious omicron variant.
China on Monday reported just 18 new cases of local infection, including six in Beijing. The country has 2,754 current cases of infection and has reported a total of 105,660 cases of COVID-19 with 4,636 deaths.
A number of nearby provinces reported cases linked to the outbreaks in the capital, including Shandong and Hebei provinces. The city of Shenyang in Liaoning province reported a positive test result in a person with no symptoms, also related to the Beijing clusters.
Organizers on Monday said 39 people among the 2,586 athletes, team officials and others who arrived after Jan. 4 had tested positive for the virus upon landing at Beijing airport. Another 33 people who had already entered the bubble isolating participants from the general public later tested positive, the organizing committee said on its website.
The statement did not identify those who tested positive other than to say they were “outside stakeholders,” a term that excludes athletes or coaches. China mandates 21 days of quarantine for people arriving from abroad, but had waived that for those coming for the Olympics on condition they tested negative for the virus.


UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims

UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims
Updated 55 min 6 sec ago

UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims

UK govt orders probe into Muslim ex-minister’s claims

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into claims by a Muslim former minister that she was sacked from his government because of her faith, a spokesperson said Monday.
The claims by Nusrat Ghani, a former junior transport minister, have stoked fresh controversy for Downing Street as Johnson awaits the findings of a different inquiry into “partygate” revelations.
“The prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP,” the spokesperson said.
Johnson had initially urged Ghani to file a formal complaint through the Conservative party. But she declined, arguing that the allegation centered on government rather than party work.
“The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened,” the spokesperson said, adding that Johnson “takes these claims very seriously.”
Ghani welcomed the new probe, which was announced after she held talks with Johnson on Sunday evening.
“As I said to the prime minister last night, all I want is for this to be taken seriously and for him to investigate,” she tweeted.
The inquiry must look into what she was told both by Downing Street aides and by a Conservative whip in parliament, the Tory MP added.
Ghani, 49, was sacked as a transport minister in 2020, and told the Sunday Times that a whip said her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” at one meeting in Downing Street.
She was also told her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable,” she claimed.
Chief whip Mark Spencer, whose role is to keep MPs on board with the government’s agenda, took the unusual step of identifying himself as the person at the center of the claims, and strongly denied the allegations.
The government whips were already in the spotlight after they were accused by another Tory MP of “blackmailing” backbench critics of Johnson over the partygate affair.
Several Conservatives have called for the prime minister to quit after revelations that his staff had held frequent parties in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns.
Johnson attended at least one of the gatherings, but denies breaking the law, and has commissioned senior civil servant Sue Gray to investigate.
Gray’s report could come out this week, according to reports.
In a newspaper column in 2018, Johnson sparked widespread criticism by writing that Muslim women wearing the burqa looked like “letter boxes” and a “bank robber.”


Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent

Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent
Updated 24 January 2022

Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent

Australian admits abducting 4-year-old girl from family tent
  • Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon in a video link from a Perth prison

PERTH: A man pleaded guilty Monday to abducting a 4-year-old girl from her family’s camping tent on Australia’s west coast last year.
Police found the girl, Cleo Smith, alone in a house in Carnavon, a town of 5,000 people, 18 days after she went missing last October.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, admitted to the abduction during a brief court appearance in Carnarvon in a video link from a Perth prison, 900 kilometer (560 miles) to the south.
He faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison on a conviction of forcibly taking a child aged under 16. He will next appear in a Western Australian state District Court in Perth on March 20.
Kelly has not entered a plea to other criminal charges he faces, including assaulting a public officer. Those charges have been adjourned to a later date.