Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns extremist attack in Mopti region of Mali

Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns extremist attack in Mopti region of Mali
Members of the Malian armed forces stand guard following an extremist attack. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 23 June 2022

Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns extremist attack in Mopti region of Mali

Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns extremist attack in Mopti region of Mali
  • Mali has seen an increase in extremist insurgency following military coups in the last two years.

RIYADH: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed on Thursday Saudi Arabia's condemnation of the recent extremist attacks that took place in the Mopti region of Mali.

The Malian government said fighters from the Fulani religious leader Amadou Koufa's armed group, the Macina Katiba, killed 132 civilians in Diallassagou and two surrounding villages, a few dozen kilometers from Bankass.

The mass killing — the latest in a series of attacks across the Sahel — resulted in one of Mali's highest civilian death tolls.

Villagers were contining a search for the missing this week, raising fears of an even greater toll.Mali has seen an increase in extremist insurgency linked to Al-Qaeda following two military coups in the last two years.

The Saudi foreign ministry expressed sincere condolences to victim’s families, the government and the people of Mali, while affirming the Kingdom's opposition to all forms of violence.


ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail
Updated 57 min 5 sec ago

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail

ASEAN envoy appeals to Myanmar junta to spare Aun San Suu Kyi jail
  • Deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved to a prison in the capital Naypyitaw and kept in solitary confinement

PHNOM PENH: A special Southeast Asian envoy for the crisis in Myanmar on Monday urged its military rulers not to hold deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in prison, appealing for leniency ahead of a visit later this week.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn will make his second trip to Myanmar from Wednesday, a spokesperson for his ministry said, as part of the junta’s peace commitment with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Suu Kyi, who has been on trial accused of at least 20 crimes since a coup against her elected government last year, has been moved to a prison in the capital Naypyitaw and kept in solitary confinement. She denies all charges.
The 77-year-old had until last week been spared jail and was held in an undisclosed location, despite having several convictions for relatively minor offenses.
Prak Sokhonn in a letter to the junta urged compassion.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is regarded internationally and by many in Myanmar as having a critical role in your country’s return to normalcy and national reconciliation through a peaceful political solution,” he wrote, according to a statement.
Activists denounced Prak Sokhonn’s last visit in March as a failure that favored the junta and overlooked its opponents, criticism that he said he understood.
In his letter, he said a successful peace process was impossible with one side excluded.
“A peaceful political resolution to a conflict, no matter how complex it is, must involve the sharing of political space by all involved,” he added.


Knife attacker kills 1, wounds 5 at German asylum shelter

Knife attacker kills 1, wounds 5 at German asylum shelter
Updated 27 June 2022

Knife attacker kills 1, wounds 5 at German asylum shelter

Knife attacker kills 1, wounds 5 at German asylum shelter
  • Attacker said to have knocked on the doors of the rooms of the building in Kressbronn, on Lake Constance
  • And when residents opened, he stabbed them

BERLIN: A knife-wielding attacker stabbed several people in a shelter for asylum-seekers in southern Germany, killing one man and wounding at least five people, German news agency dpa reported Monday.
The attacker, reportedly a resident of the shelter, is said to have knocked on the doors of the rooms of the building in Kressbronn, on Lake Constance, on Sunday evening. When residents opened, he stabbed them, dpa reported.
One man died of his injuries right away, one seriously injured man was flown to a hospital, and four other injured people were taken to the hospital by ambulance. It was not immediately clear whether other people were also wounded.
Police officers detained a 31-year-old man, whose name was not given in line with German privacy policy, in front of the asylum-seekers’ shelter. Forensic specialists were investigating the scene on Monday morning.


Death toll of children in Afghanistan quake rises to 155

Death toll of children in Afghanistan quake rises to 155
Updated 27 June 2022

Death toll of children in Afghanistan quake rises to 155

Death toll of children in Afghanistan quake rises to 155
  • Annother 250 children were injured in the magnitude 6 temblor that struck the mountainous villages in the Paktika and Khost provinces

GAYAN, Afghanistan: The death toll of children in last week’s devastating earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan has risen to at least 155, the United Nations said as the scope of the deadliest quake to hit the impoverished country in two decades comes into focus.
The UN’s humanitarian coordination organization, OCHA, said on Sunday that another 250 children were injured in the magnitude 6 temblor that struck the mountainous villages in the Paktika and Khost provinces near the country’s border with Pakistan, flattening homes and triggering landslides. Most of the children died in Paktika’s hard-hit Gayan district, which remains a scene of life in ruins, days after the quake.
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers have put the total death toll from the quake at 1,150, with hundreds more injured, while the UN has offered a slightly lower estimate of 770, although the world body has warned the figure could still rise.
The quake has also left an estimated 65 children orphaned or unaccompanied, the UN humanitarian office added.
The disaster — the latest to convulse Afghanistan after decades of war, hunger, poverty and an economic crash — has become a test of the Taliban’s capacity to govern and the international community’s willingness to help.
When the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan as the United States and its NATO allies were withdrawing their forces last August, foreign aid stopped practically overnight. World governments piled on sanctions, halted bank transfers and froze billions more in Afghanistan’s currency reserves, refusing to recognize the Taliban government and demanding they allow a more inclusive rule and respect human rights.
The former insurgents have resisted the pressure, imposing restrictions on the freedoms of women and girls that recall their first time in power in the late 1990s, triggering Western backlash.
Aware of their limitations, the Taliban have appealed for foreign aid. The UN and an array of overstretched aid agencies in the country that have tried to keep Afghanistan from the brink of starvation have swung into action. Despite funding and access constraints, convoys of aid have trickled into the remote provinces.
The UN children’s agency said on Monday it was working to reunite children that had been separated from their families in the chaos of the quake. It also has set up clinics to offer mental health and psychological support to children in Gayan traumatized by the disaster.


Pakistan orders masks on domestic flights as COVID-19 numbers rise

Pakistan orders masks on domestic flights as COVID-19 numbers rise
Updated 27 June 2022

Pakistan orders masks on domestic flights as COVID-19 numbers rise

Pakistan orders masks on domestic flights as COVID-19 numbers rise

KARACHI: Pakistan’s aviation regulator has made masks mandatory on domestic flights given a gradual rise in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country, it said a statement.
The order comes a day after Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, reported that its COVID-19 positivity ratio, or the rate of positive cases out of all tests conducted, rose to 21 percent compared with a national rate of 2.8 percent.
“With immediate effect, mask wearing will be mandatory onboard domestic flights,” the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said in the statement late on Sunday.
Pakistan has had very few COVID cases over recent months and had done away with almost all precautions.
But over the past 24 hours, the national COVID positivity ratio had risen to 2.85 percent with 382 positive cases and two deaths, according to data released on Monday by the National Institute of Health, Islamabad (NIH).
A month ago, the positivity ratio was 0.54 percent with 79 positive cases and no deaths. According to the NIH, 85 percent of eligible Pakistanis have been fully vaccinated against COVID.
Pakistan disbanded the National Command and Operations Center, which was overseeing the COVID response, on March 31 as infections fell to the lowest since the outbreak began in 2020.


‘Crime not to help’: South Korean ex-SEAL has no Ukraine regrets

‘Crime not to help’: South Korean ex-SEAL has no Ukraine regrets
Updated 27 June 2022

‘Crime not to help’: South Korean ex-SEAL has no Ukraine regrets

‘Crime not to help’: South Korean ex-SEAL has no Ukraine regrets
  • Ken Rhee signed up the moment President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for global volunteers
  • Former South Korean Navy SEAL was born in South Korea but raised in the United States

SEOUL: A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine says it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help.
Ken Rhee, an ex-special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian Embassy in Seoul the moment President Volodymyr Zelensky asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March.
To get there, he had to break South Korean law — Seoul banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations patrol there, was met at the airport by 15 police officers on his return.
But the celebrity ex-soldier, who has a YouTube channel with 700,000 followers and documented much of his Ukraine experience on his popular Instagram account, says he has no regrets.
“You’re walking down the beach and you see a sign by the water saying ‘no swimming’ — but you see someone drowning. It’s a crime not to help. That’s how I see it,” he said.
Rhee was born in South Korea but raised in the United States. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and planned to join the US Navy SEALS, but his father — a “patriot,” he says — convinced his son to return to South Korea to enlist.
He served for seven years, undergoing both US and Korean SEAL training and doing multiple stints in war zones in Somalia and Iraq before leaving to set up a defense consultancy.
“I have the skillset. I have the experience. I was in two different wars, and going to Ukraine, I knew I could help,” he said, adding that he viewed breaking South Korea’s passport law to leave as equivalent to a “traffic violation.”
But the reaction in South Korea — where Rhee shot to fame as a trainer in the popular YouTube series “Fake Men” — was swift and unforgiving.
“It was instant. People in Korea, they just criticized me about breaking the law,” said Rhee.
His critics claim the 38-year-old’s decision was criminally irresponsible, and point to his posting of war footage on his YouTube and Instagram accounts as evidence of showboating.
Rhee says he tries not to let the furor get to him. “I think it’s pretty obvious who the good guys are and who the bad guys are,” he said of Russia and Ukraine.
On his first day on the frontline in Irpin — which he describes as “the Wild West” and “chaos” — he says he witnessed Russian war crimes.
“I saw a civilian get shot. He was driving... and they shot him through the windshield and he died in front of us,” he said.
“It was like: there’s my proof. There’s definitely war crimes going on. It reminded me and my teammates what we were doing and why we were there,” he said.
Because of his military training, Rhee was told to set up his own team, so he recruited other volunteers with combat experience and set up a multi-national special operations group.
“I was eating Canadian MREs. My gun was from the Czech Republic. I have a Javelin missile from the United States. I have a rocket that’s from Germany... but nothing is Korean,” he said.
He tried to take his Korean-made night vision goggles but was not given government export permission. Seoul has provided non-lethal aid to Kyiv, but Rhee said they could do more.
“Korea has state-of-the-art equipment... they’re very good at making weapons,” he said.
Russia said earlier this month that 13 South Koreans had traveled to Ukraine — including four who were killed. Seoul said it was trying to verify the claims.
Although Rhee did not know the fate of all his teammates, he said “a lot of my friends have died.”
“I don’t want my friends’ sacrifices to be forgotten,” he said, adding that he plans to write a book — and maybe a screenplay — about his team’s experiences.
But first, he needs to deal with the official repercussions of his trip. He is quietly optimistic South Korea’s new conservative administration won’t put him in jail.
Rhee is not allowed to leave the country until his case is resolved, and is receiving treatment for his injuries. But he hopes one day to fight alongside his teammates again, for a cause they believe in.
The joke as people left the frontline was: “See you in Taiwan,” he said, referring darkly to the risk that Beijing will follow Moscow’s lead and invade a neighboring democracy.