Egypt: At least 41 killed, 55 injured in Giza church fire

Update Egypt: At least 41 killed, 55 injured in Giza church fire
People and policemen gather near the scene where a deadly fire broke out at the Abu Sifin church in Giza, Egypt. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Egypt: At least 41 killed, 55 injured in Giza church fire

Egypt: At least 41 killed, 55 injured in Giza church fire
  • Dozens taken to local hospitals with fatalities expected to rise
  • President El-Sisi telephones Pope Tawadros II to express condolences, pledge support

CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Health announced that 55 people had been taken to hospital after a fire broke out at the Abu Sefein Church in the north of Giza on Sunday.

In a statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church said that a large fire broke out during the Divine Liturgy, and that a number of worshipers were transferred from the scene to Imbaba General Hospital and Agouza Hospital.

The statement added that, according to sources from the Ministry of Health, the number of deaths has so far reached 41 people with a further 14 injured.

These numbers are unconfirmed, with the tally expected to change.

 

Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Population, confirmed that 30 ambulances were dispatched to the church, and people taken to the two local hospitals.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi made a phone call to Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences to the victims of the accident.

During the call, El-Sisi stressed that all state institutions would provide the necessary support to contain the effects of the fire.

Abdel Ghaffar said the state of readiness at hospitals in Giza and Cairo had been raised, and that all blood types and emergency medicines are available at the facilities receiving the injured.

The General Administration of Civil Protection in Giza sent firefighters and vehicles to fight the blaze, which was swiftly brought under control.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly sent his sincere condolences to and expressed sympathy for the families of the victims.

Forensics and other authorities, meanwhile, are on the scene to determine the cause of the fire.

Public Prosecutor Hamada Al-Sawy issued a statement that an investigation team had been formed, and that the Public Prosecution would announce its results in due course.

The preliminary examination of the forensic evidence suggests the fire broke out in the air-conditioning system on the second floor of the church building, which includes a number of classrooms, as a result of an electrical fault.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia expressed “great sadness and sorrow” over the fire and offered its deepest and sincere condolences to the government and people of Egypt, wishing the injured a speedy recovery, and security and safety for Egypt and its people, Saudi Press Agency reported.

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EU to target Iranian officials with travel bans, asset freezes: France

EU to target Iranian officials with travel bans, asset freezes: France
Updated 24 sec ago

EU to target Iranian officials with travel bans, asset freezes: France

EU to target Iranian officials with travel bans, asset freezes: France
PARIS: France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that the European Union was looking to impose asset freezes and travel bans on a number of Iranian officials involved in the crackdown on protesters.
“France’s action at heart of EU ... (is) to target those responsible for the crackdown by holding them responsible for their acts,” Catherine Colonna told lawmakers in parliament, adding that the EU was looking at asset freezes and travel bans.
The bloc last agreed human rights sanctions on Tehran in 2021. No Iranians had been added to that list since 2013, however, as the bloc has shied away such measures in the hope of reviving a nuclear accord with Iran after the United States withdrew in 2018. Those talks have now stalled.
It currently has an array of sanctions on about 90 Iranian individuals which have been renewed annually every April.
Colonna suggested the new measures could target repressive regime figures who send their children to live in Western countries. Diplomats say the measures are expected to be rubber-stamped at an EU foreign ministers meeting on Oct. 17.
The United States and Canada have already imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying they held the unit responsible for the death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.
Amini, a Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for wearing “unsuitable attire” and fell into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would investigate the cause of her death.
Iran’s supreme leader on Monday gave his full backing to security forces confronting protests ignited by the death of Amini, comments that could herald a harsher crackdown to quell unrest more than two weeks since she died.
Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group, has said more than 100 people have been killed. Iranian authorities have not given a death toll, while saying many members of the security forces have been killed by “rioters and thugs backed by foreign foes.”

Little success seen in Algeria dialogue for Palestinian reconciliation

Little success seen in Algeria dialogue for Palestinian reconciliation
Updated 1 min 19 sec ago

Little success seen in Algeria dialogue for Palestinian reconciliation

Little success seen in Algeria dialogue for Palestinian reconciliation
  • Algeria has held separate dialogues with officials from Fatah and Hamas over the past few days to discuss the outlines of a paper prepared by an Algerian team for Palestinian reconciliation
  • Last January, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune launched an initiative to unite the Palestinians and end the split between Fatah and Hamas

GAZA CITY: Fourteen Palestinian factions, led by Fatah and Hamas, have received an invitation from Algeria to start a dialogue next week for Palestinian reconciliation, but doubts have overshadowed the gathering as few expect a significant breakthrough.

Various Palestinian forces announced that they had received Algerian invitations to participate in the two-day dialogue on Oct. 11-12.

Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said at a Cabinet meeting on Monday that “the government will be ready for any step that supports reconciliation efforts and ends the division.”

Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, said that the group has a principle that it does not miss any opportunity to achieve reconciliation and end the division, indicating that it informed Algeria of its readiness and seriousness to participate in the meetings.

Algeria has held separate dialogues with officials from Fatah and Hamas over the past few days to discuss the outlines of a paper prepared by an Algerian team for Palestinian reconciliation.

Last January, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune launched an initiative to unite the Palestinians and end the split between Fatah and Hamas, commissioned by the Arab League, provided that a final solution is reached before the Arab summit in November. 

The Algerian team, which briefed the leaders of the two movements on the reconciliation paper, which will be presented during the next expanded meeting, asked them to avoid escalation during the current period, and to stay away from bickering, especially in the media, as this could thwart efforts to heal the rift.

The Palestinian factions have engaged in various dialogues to reach reconciliation during the many years since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-2007.

The two movements concluded more than one agreement, the most prominent of which was in Makkah under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, as well as the Cairo Agreement brokered by Egypt.

Algeria is considered one of the Palestinian government’s most financially supportive Arab countries.Despite the positive public statements from the Palestinian factions toward the Algeria dialogue, ordinary Palestinians have cast doubt on its relevance.

Mahmoud Al-Rabi, 45, said: “Hamas and Fatah do not look at the Palestinian people or their need for reconciliation. They only want to achieve their own interests. What is different about this dialogue from previous ones? Nothing.”

Al-Rubai, who works as a history teacher in Gaza, added: “Will Algeria have the ability to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, as it is far from the Palestinian issue, in light of the two sides’ unwillingness to achieve reconciliation?”

Taghreed Toman, 29, said there was nothing new about the Algerian dialogue.

“This dialogue will be recorded in the files within the long list of dialogues that the Palestinians have engaged in to achieve reconciliation, and it will not have any impact on the ground, whether in Gaza or the West Bank,” Toman said.

Hamas and Fatah had agreed to hold the general elections for the Legislative Council, the presidency, and the National Council of PLO in succession, starting in May 2021, before the Palestinian President announced that they were canceled because Israel did not allow them to be held in the city of Jerusalem.

Palestine’s Ambassador to Algeria Fayez Abu Aita said that President Tebboune asked the two factions to develop a clear and practical vision for implementing and handing over reconciliation and working to find a solution to implement it.

Hamas proposed making fundamental amendments to the Palestinian political system, based on the principle of participation, adopting a unified political program for all Palestinians that recognizes all types of resistance, building Palestinian institutions on national foundations away from partisanship, and timetables for ending the division and the elections.

The Fatah proposal summarizes the formation of a national consensus government that accepts the Palestine Liberation Organization’s political program and meets international acceptance.  

Hani Al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst based in Ramallah, does not expect Algeria to succeed in achieving Palestinian reconciliation.

Asked if the Algeria dialogue has a chance of success, he said: “No, for a very simple reason, which is that the obstacles that prevented the success of previous dialogues and agreements still exist and have even become more rooted.”


Jordan hosts regional workshop on nuclear safety, security

Jordan hosts regional workshop on nuclear safety, security
Updated 38 min 47 sec ago

Jordan hosts regional workshop on nuclear safety, security

Jordan hosts regional workshop on nuclear safety, security
  • Jordan Atomic Energy Commission hosts workshop in collaboration Arab network of Nuclear Regulators and IAEA
  • Event aims to give participants a deeper understanding of nuclear safety and security through exchanging expertise

Amman: Jordan has signed and ratified relevant international instruments that govern nuclear safety and security, according to the chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission.
Speaking on the sidelines of a regional workshop on nuclear safety and security organized in Amman, Khaled Toukan said the move was essential for the successful and sustainable use of nuclear power.
In collaboration with the Arab network of Nuclear Regulators and the International Atomic Energy Agency, JAEC organizes the regional workshop from Oct. 3-6, reported Jordan News Agency, Petra, on Tuesday.
The workshop aims to give participants a deeper understanding of nuclear safety and security through exchanging expertise and practices that meet the IAEA’s standards, said a statement published in Petra.
Toukan gave a briefing on the achievements of the Jordanian nuclear program, which include an infrastructure of a 5 megawatts research atomic reactor, a 2.5 GeV third generation synchrotron light source, and the Jordanian uranium mining project working at full capacity.
Meanwhile Zia Hussain Shah, the IAEA’s representative, praised Jordan’s nuclear program and expertise in nuclear practices, saying: “IAEA intends to organize many regional workshops and events in Jordan.”
ANNuR coordinator Daw Mosbah said the network was established to boost regulators’ infrastructures to protect against radiation and be efficient and internationally recognized as a forum for Arab regulators in light of the increasing use of nuclear power in Arab countries, particularly in medicine, industry, agriculture, electricity generation, water desalination, radioactive material transport, and disposal of radioactive waste.
The four-day workshop brings together 17 of the Arab state members at the IAEA.
 


Iranian teenage protester’s body ‘stolen by security forces’

Iranian teenage protester’s body ‘stolen by security forces’
Updated 04 October 2022

Iranian teenage protester’s body ‘stolen by security forces’

Iranian teenage protester’s body ‘stolen by security forces’
  • Nika Shakarami’s family planned to bury her on Monday, but her body was stolen and buried in a village about 40 km away

LONDON: Security forces in Iran snatched the body of a 16-year-old protester and buried her secretly in a village, BBC Persian reported on Tuesday.

Nika Shakarami’s family planned to bury her on Monday, but her body was stolen and buried in a village about 40 km away.

The teenager went missing for 10 days after protesting in the Iranian capital Tehran on Sept. 20 over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. 

Shakarami’s disappearance and death unleashed an outpouring of anger on Iranian social media.

Her aunt told BBC Persian that she had sent a final message to a friend saying she was being chased by security forces.

Shakarami’s body was eventually found by her family in a morgue at a detention center in Tehran.

“When we went to identify her, they didn’t allow us to see her body, only her face for a few seconds,” Nika’s aunt, Atash Shakarami, said.

Shakarami’s family transferred her body to Khorramabad, her father’s hometown in the west of the country, on Sunday — on what would have been her 17th birthday.

After her family was forced to abandon its funeral plans, Shakarami’s body was stolen by security forces from Khorramabad and buried in the village of Veysian.

In response, hundreds of protesters gathered in Khorramabad cemetery and chanted slogans against the regime, including “death to the dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Shakarami’s aunt was arrested on Sunday after posting about her niece on social media. 

She was also threatened with death by security forces in an effort to stop family members taking part in the protests. 

Iranian authorities have used protesters’ bodies as “bargaining chips” to silence the families of victims in the past.


Pakistanis returning from Iran’s Zahedan say fighting spills to neighboring areas

Pakistanis returning from Iran’s Zahedan say fighting spills to neighboring areas
Updated 04 October 2022

Pakistanis returning from Iran’s Zahedan say fighting spills to neighboring areas

Pakistanis returning from Iran’s Zahedan say fighting spills to neighboring areas
  • At least 41 people were killed by Iranian security forces in city, according to Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights
  • Over the weekend, Iran shut down communication services in Zahedan and sealed its border with Pakistan

QUETTA: Fighting after deadly clashes in Iran’s Zahedan has subsided and moved to the city’s outskirts amid a heavy deployment of troops, Pakistanis who have returned from the southeastern Iranian town said on Tuesday, as cross-border movement resumed.

Violence broke out in the capital of Sistan and Balochistan province during Friday prayers, after worshipers in the city’s Makki Mosque called for a protest over the rape of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly by a local military commander.

At least 41 people were killed by Iranian security forces, according to data from the Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights released on Sunday. The administration of Sistan and Balochistan has cited a death toll of 19. The number is feared to be higher, as local activists and news outlets report new casualties every day.

Over the weekend, Iran shut down communication services in Zahedan and surrounding areas and sealed its border with Pakistan at Taftan, a city about 90 kilometers from Zahedan. A Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency official has confirmed to Arab News that the crossing reopened on Monday.

Khalil Ahmed, 27, a businessman from Nokundi, a Pakistani city on the border, returned from Rutuk, a small town adjacent to Zahedan, on Monday night.

Ahmed was stranded after Iran closed the border. He said that the situation in areas surrounding Zahedan was “grim” and most of their residents feared leaving their houses.

“In the day there is silence but at night we heard heavy gunshots,” he told Arab News. “I have seen a heavy presence of Iranian forces in Zahedan and its adjacent towns.”

Iran says five members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its volunteer force Basiji were killed in Zahedan in what state media described as a “terrorist incident.”

An IRGC provincial intelligence chief was among the personnel killed, and his death was claimed by Jaish Al-Adl, a militant group that says it is fighting for the independence of Sistan and Balochistan and greater rights for Baloch people – the main ethnic group in the province.

Naveed Ahmed, 32, a Pakistani who owns a shop in Taftan, said that he returned from Zahedan on Monday after spending six days in the city.

“Business activities are still closed in the entire Zahedan city after Friday’s clashes, but the fighting between the forces and the protesters has been halted,” he told Arab News.

“There were no more clashes in Zahedan city after Friday, but yes some fighting continued between the Iranian forces and separatist groups at the outskirts of Zahedan, because we heard gunshots in the night.”

The deaths of security personnel and the provincial IRGC intelligence chief have been a major escalation in the anti-government demonstrations that began in mid-September, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iranian morality police.

Official news agency IRNA quoted IRGC chief Gen. Hossein Salami pledging revenge for the killing of its forces.

“We consider revenge for the blood of the IRGC and Basiji martyrs and the people who were victims of the Black Friday crime in Zahedan to be on our agenda,” he said.

Ongoing countrywide demonstrations have been the largest manifestation of dissent against the Iranian government in more than a decade.

Rallies have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, with ethnic and religious minorities joining in, despite the violent response from authorities.

Iran Human Rights estimates that at least 133 people have been killed by security forces since the beginning of the protests — over three times higher than the number reported by Iranian state media.