Omicron variant no more severe than original strain: WHO

People line up inside a post office to buy rapid testing kits for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Cambodia on Monday as the country sees a surge of cases from Omicron variant. (AFP)
People line up inside a post office to buy rapid testing kits for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Cambodia on Monday as the country sees a surge of cases from Omicron variant. (AFP)
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Updated 23 February 2022

Omicron variant no more severe than original strain: WHO

People line up inside a post office to buy rapid testing kits for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Cambodia on Monday as the country sees a surge of cases from Omicron variant. (AFP)
  • "We are not seeing a difference in severity of BA.1 compared to BA.2," a senior WHO official said
  • Initial data suggests the new BA2 variant "appears inherently more transmissible than BA.1"

GENEVA: The BA.2 variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain is not more severe than the original, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
Based on a sample of people from various countries, “we are not seeing a difference in severity of BA.1 compared to BA.2,” Maria Van Kerkhove, a senior WHO official, said in an online question and answer session.
“So this is a similar level of severity as it relates to risk of hospitalization. And this is really important, because in many countries they’ve had a substantial amount of circulation, both of BA.1 and BA.2,” she said.
Van Kerkhove, who leads the technical side of the WHO’s Covid-19 response team, was reporting the findings of a committee of experts tracking the evolution of the virus.
Their conclusions will come as a relief to countries such as Denmark, where the BA.2 variant of Omicron has circulated widely.
The WHO said in a statement that initial data suggests the new BA2 variant “appears inherently more transmissible than BA.1,” and that further studies are ongoing to discover why this is the case.
“However the global circulation of all variants is reportedly declining,” it added.
Coronavirus has killed more than 5.8 million people worldwide, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources on Tuesday.
Taking into account excess mortality linked to Covid-19, the WHO estimates the true death toll could be two to three times higher.


Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers

Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers
Updated 9 sec ago

Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers

Wife of Daesh leader jailed for 8 years in Somalia over terror fund transfers
  • Fartun Abdirashid, wife of Abdiqadir Mumin, head of the Daesh group, was sentenced on Monday at a military court

MOGADISHU: A military tribunal in Somalia has sentenced the wife of the head of a terrorist organization linked to Daesh to eight years in prison for passing on information and organizing financial transactions for the group, a military official said on Monday.

Fartun Abdirashid, wife of Abdiqadir Mumin, head of the Daesh group, was sentenced on Monday at a military court.

She has been under custody since her arrest in March last year in the capital, Mogadishu.

Abdirashid was accused of frequently transferring $100 to $200 to the group’s members, the public prosecutor’s office said.

She had a working relationship with Bilal Al-Sudaani, a senior Daesh official who was killed on Wednesday in a US raid in Somalia’s northern Bari region.

Mumin, a former Al-Shabab cleric, pledged his allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in 2015.

Daesh holds a smaller footprint in Somalia compared to the Al-Shabab terrorist group that has carried out numerous attacks in the country.

Somalia’s forces are carrying out an offensive against Al-Shabab that has been described at the most significant in more than a decade.

The first US Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 urged the world’s distracted donors to give immediate help to a country facing deadly famine, which she calls “the ultimate failure of the international community.”


Young Palestinians and Israelis invited to Japan by Foreign Ministry

File photo of the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo. (ANJ)
File photo of the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo. (ANJ)
Updated 30 January 2023

Young Palestinians and Israelis invited to Japan by Foreign Ministry

File photo of the Foreign Ministry building in Tokyo. (ANJ)
  • Four Israelis and four Palestinians were invited to Japan as part of Japan’s efforts to realize a “two-state solution”

TOKYO: Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting a group of Palestinians and Israelis as part of the 2022 Israeli-Palestinian Joint Youth Invitation Program.

Four Israelis and four Palestinians were invited to Japan as part of Japan’s efforts to realize a “two-state solution” by establishing a future “Palestinian state” alongside Israel.

The program with the youths “aims to provide a forum for building mutual trust and deepen understanding of Japan’s efforts toward peace in the Middle East, foreign policy, economy and culture.”

The invitation program is now in its 23rd year and more than 220 people have been invited from Israel and Palestine.

During their stay, the delegation will visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, exchange opinions with the students, and tour Tokyo and local cities, including Kyoto and Hiroshima.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan. Click here to read it.


Three injured in knife attack near EU Brussels headquarters

Emergency personnel arrive outside of a metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP)
Emergency personnel arrive outside of a metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP)
Updated 28 min 47 sec ago

Three injured in knife attack near EU Brussels headquarters

Emergency personnel arrive outside of a metro station near EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (AP)
  • The suspected attacker was known to police for “psychiatric problems,” a source close to the investigation said

BRUSSELS: Three people were injured, one seriously, in a knife attack Monday in a metro station near the European Union headquarters in Brussels, officials said, adding that the attacker had been arrested.
Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said the man was speedily detained due to coordinated police action at the Schuman metro station.
Police said one of the injured was in “critical condition.”
The suspected attacker was known to police for “psychiatric problems,” a source close to the investigation said.
The attack took place at rush hour around 6:00 pm.
European Union chief Charles Michel, a former Belgian prime minister, thanked the police in a tweet and said his thoughts were with the victims.
An AFP journalist at the site said a woman told people not to enter the station, saying there was a man inside armed with a knife as police rushed in.
Traffic was interrupted on the line.
 


Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans

Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans
Updated 30 January 2023

Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans

Afghans urge international support amid Taliban bans
  • UN, aid organization officials have visited country this month
  • Needs of Afghanistan a ‘priority,’ top UN aid chief said last week 

KABUL: Afghans are calling for more international support following increasingly restrictive edicts issued by the Taliban administration, as the US special representative for Afghanistan began a trip on Monday aimed at refining an international response to support the country.

The Taliban has introduced a series of restrictions on Afghan women since taking control of the country in 2021, including barring women from university and secondary schools. Authorities in December ordered all NGOs to ban women employees, though those in health were allowed to return to work earlier this month.

The moves drew widespread condemnation, with high-ranking UN officials and leaders of major international organizations visiting Afghanistan this month to try and reverse the Taliban’s crackdown on women and girls.

Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West will travel to Pakistan, Germany and Switzerland on a mission to “consult with partners, Afghans and humanitarian relief organizations,” the US Department of State said in a statement, in one of the latest efforts to address the situation in the South Asian country.

“SRA West will work with counterparts to refine a unified regional and international response that reflects a collective commitment to Afghan women and girls’ rights, and access to vital aid,” the statement added.

Afghans are hopeful that West’s trip could benefit Afghanistan, with some urging the international community to increase pressure on the Taliban.

“No doubt this mission will help in the case of Afghanistan. I believe if this mission is implemented in a way to find a solution for the misery of Afghan people it will most definitely work,” Mohibullah Sharif, an Afghan political expert based in Kabul, told Arab News.

“However, if like previously, the mission is only for securing the interests of regional and international players, this will bring no good for Afghans and will worsen the situation.”

Life in Afghanistan has grown increasingly difficult for women, said Shamsia Hassanzadah, a member of the Afghan Women’s Network and former director of Star Education Center in Kabul, who was affected by the ban on women working for NGOs.

“Women in NGOs should be allowed to work because a woman’s work is very important for their family economy,” Hassanzadah told Arab News, adding that she was the breadwinner in her family.

“We want the international community to bring further pressure on the current government of Afghanistan and we believe such steps and measures will help to decrease the Taliban’s restrictions toward Afghan women,” she added.

“It will also prevent or even stop the Taliban from issuing further decrees against women’s education and employment in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan needs more support from the UN and the global community, according to women’s rights activist Farimah Nikkhwah, who was also affected by the recent ban.

“In the current situation, Afghanistan needs the special attention of the UN and the international community to prevent the negative and illogical actions of the Taliban,” Nikkhwah told Arab News.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said last week following a Kabul visit that Taliban ministers are working on new guidelines to allow women more freedom in humanitarian work.

“The needs of Afghanistan, for us, are of the highest importance because of its people, because of its obvious, deserved priority for us in our humanitarian world. The need for Afghanistan to be properly serviced by humanitarian operations is also a global priority,” Griffiths told AFP in an interview.

When it comes to Afghan girls’ education, pleas are also coming from within the country, said Dr. Hatef Mokhtar, head of the Afghanistan International Strategic Studies Center.

“Afghans want Afghanistan to come out of isolation,” Mokhtar told Arab News.

“The opening of Afghan girls’ schools is not the voice of the world, but it is the voice of the Afghans themselves. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should take this issue seriously and open the girls’ schools as soon as possible.”


Body of missing Saudi Arabian tourist Abdulrahman Al-Anazi found in US

Body of missing Saudi Arabian tourist Abdulrahman Al-Anazi found in US
Updated 30 January 2023

Body of missing Saudi Arabian tourist Abdulrahman Al-Anazi found in US

Body of missing Saudi Arabian tourist Abdulrahman Al-Anazi found in US
  • Body found in the waters of Lake Erie early on Monday
  • National Weather Service reported that temperatures at the location were only 2 C

CHICAGO: The body of missing Saudi Arabian tourist Abdulrahman Al-Anazi was discovered early on Monday in Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Al-Anazi was reported missing after having a meal with friends and a relative on Friday morning, Jan. 27. They said Al-Anazi had walked away and was not seen again.

Cleveland Police officials said they sent search teams to find the man, near to where he was last seen in the popular tourist district near the East 9th Street pier along the lakefront.

Al-Anazi’s family immediately contacted the authorities in Clevland and the Saudi embassy in the US to investigate his disappearance.

“He left without his jacket, without his mobile phone and wallet, on the condition that he would return after that,” his brother Badr Falah Al-Anazi told MBC News 24. “Meanwhile, his cousin was waiting for him in the car, provided that he would after 10 minutes,” he added.

His body was found in the waters of Lake Erie early on Monday, near to where he had last been seen, it was reported.

The National Weather Service reported that temperatures at the location were only 2 C.

The official cause of death will not be announced until he is examined by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.

Cleveland police told Arab News they were concerned about Alanazi's whereabouts. He reportedly could not speak English, was unfamiliar with the area and that his disappearance status was listed by the police as “endangered.”

Relatives told local news media that Alanazi had been in the US to accompany his brother, who was receiving liver transplant treatment. 

Al-Anazi’s passing comes after the death of 25-year-old Saudi student Alwaleed Algheraibi who was found stabbed to death in his Hansberry Street property in Germantown Philadelphia on Jan. 23.

A Pennsylvania judge has denied bail for Nicole Marie Rodgers, 19, who is accused of the Jan. 23 murder.