38 dead, hundreds flee their homes as forest wildfires ravage north Algeria

A man stands across a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers. (File/AFP)
A man stands across a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 August 2022

38 dead, hundreds flee their homes as forest wildfires ravage north Algeria

38 dead, hundreds flee their homes as forest wildfires ravage north Algeria
  • More than 200 more victims have suffered burns or respiratory problems from the smoke and hundreds have fled their homes
  • Nearly 40 separate blazes were ravaging various parts of northern Algeria as temperatures reached 48C, according to the fire service

JEDDAH: At least 38 people have died in a series of forest wildfires fanned by drought and a blistering heatwave in northern Algeria.

More than 200 more victims have suffered burns or respiratory problems from the smoke and hundreds have fled their homes as flames spread throughout the El-Tarf region near Algeria’s eastern border with Tunisia.

One witness described “scenes of devastation” on the road to El-Kala in the country’s far northeast. “A tornado of fire swept everything away in seconds,” he said. “Most of those who died were surrounded by flames while visiting a wildlife park.”

The death toll included a family of five found in their home and 12 people who were burned to death inside abus as they tried to escape. “Most of the victims in El-Tarf are vacationers who came to enjoy paradisebeaches and enchanting landscapes,” Prime Minister Aïmene Benabderrahmane said.

In El-Kala there was a strong smell of smoke and authorities feared that strong winds could cause new fires to break out. There was major damage in the wildlife park, and firefighters were also battling a large blaze in the mountainous area of Souk Ahras. A witness described scenes of panic in the city of half a million people, where nearly 100 women and 17 newborn babies had to be evacuated from a hospital near the forest.

Algerian television showed people fleeing their burning homes, with women carrying children in their arms. 

Nearly 40 separate blazes were ravaging various parts of northern Algeria as temperatures reached 48C, according to the fire service, and there were fears that hot winds could spark new ones that authorities are illequipped to fight.

The scenes sparked fears of a repeat of fires last year which killed at least 90 people and ravaged 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland in the north. Last year’s catastrophe provoked bitter criticism of authorities over the lack of firefighting aircraft.

Authorities have rented a Russian Beriev BE 200 water bomber plane, but it has suffered a breakdown and is not expected to be operational again until Saturday, Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud said.

The civil protection service and the army do have access to several firefighting helicopters.


Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
Updated 26 September 2022

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination

Iran indicts 14 in top nuclear scientist’s assassination
  • Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in attack on his car outside Tehran that Iran has blamed on Israel

TEHRAN: Iran has pressed charges against 14 people for their alleged role in the November 2020 assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, local media reported Sunday.
Fakhrizadeh, who had been under US sanctions for his role in Iran’s nuclear program, was killed in an attack on his car outside Tehran that the Islamic republic has blamed on Israel.
Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi announced that “14 people were indicted” in the case, according to Tasnim news agency, without naming them.
The charges against them include “corruption on earth,” aiding “espionage for the Zionist regime,” “colluding with the purpose of disrupting national security” and “actions against national security,” Salehi said.
Iran claims that the bombing and shooting attack that killed Fakhrizadeh was carried out by a remote-controlled machine gun.
Israel has never commented on the killing. In 2018, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Fakhrizadeh had led Iran’s efforts to build an atomic bomb, a claim Iran has always vehemently denied.


Japan’s foreign minister Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Japan’s foreign minister Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister
Updated 59 min 43 sec ago

Japan’s foreign minister Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

Japan’s foreign minister Hayashi meets Egyptian foreign affairs minister

DUBAI: HAYASHI Yoshimasa, minister of foreign affairs of Japan, and Sameh Shoukry, minister of foreign affairs of Egypt, held a foreign ministers meeting discussing efforts to tackle climate change, methods of controlling the international food crisis, and further enhancing the bilateral relations between both countries on Sept. 22.

The COP27, a conference discussing the current climate situation, will be taking place in Egypt and HAYASHI expressed his hope to collaborate with the government of Egypt to extend efforts to hinder climate change. 

The Japanese minister argued that the root of the existing global food crisis stems from the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Both ministers agreed that cooperation between Japan and Egypt is mandatory to stop the current international food crisis as well as sustaining and enhancing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Minister Shoukry extended his condolences on the passing of the former prime minister and in return HAYASHI expressed his appreciation to the Egyptian president for sending a presidential envoy to attend the state funeral.

The two ministers shared a mutual agreement that both nations are vital partners for each other and encouraged further enhancement of the bilateral relationship. 

Originally published in Arab News Japan


Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
Updated 26 September 2022

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin

Mahsa Amini faced torture, abuse before police custody death: Cousin
  • ‘By the time she reached hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view’

LONDON: Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman whose death in police custody has sparked nationwide protests in Iran, faced torture and psychological abuse before dying, her cousin told Sky News in an exclusive interview.
Erfan Mortezaei, a political activist and Kurdish fighter based in Iraq, told Sky News that Amini had become the “voice of the anger of the Iranian people,” urging the international community to respond appropriately to the regime in Tehran.
In the lead-up to her death on Sept. 16, Amini had been shopping in Tehran with family. Mortezaei said a confrontation occurred with local morality police: “When they saw Mahsa and others they decided her hijab was not correct. Ashkan (Amini’s brother) tried to explain to them they were not in their home city, and were strangers in Tehran, so asked to please take that into consideration and pleaded not to be taken away.
“In the struggle the police officers pepper-sprayed Ashkan in the face and forced Mahsa into the van and took her to the morality police station.” He added: “During the journey to the police station she was tortured and insulted.”
Mortezaei said the physical toll of the torture inflicted during the journey caused Amini to lose her vision and pass out, with an ambulance taking 90 minutes to transport her to a local hospital.
“There is a report from Kasra hospital that says effectively by the time she reached the hospital she was already dead from a medical point of view. She suffered a concussion from a blow to the head,” he added.
Mortezaei said his family had been pressured by regime officials to appear on state TV to deny their claims of torture and abuse. 
But steps by the regime to curtail public anger failed, with “Mahsa’s death becoming a spark for this protest movement across Iran and Kurdistan.”
President Ebrahim Raisi said Iran must “deal decisively with those who oppose the country’s security and tranquility.”
The country’s police chief Hossein Ashtari also sent out a public message warning against demonstrations.


Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96
Updated 26 September 2022

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

Egyptian controversial cleric revered by Muslim Brotherhood dies at 96

DUBAI: Youssef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian controversial cleric who was seen as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood group, has died at the age of 96, his official website said Monday. 

He died in Qatar, where he had been living in exile since 2013. Al-Qaradawi had been tried and sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt. 


Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests
Updated 26 September 2022

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

Germany summons Iranian ambassador for talks on protests

BERLIN: Germany summoned the Iranian ambassador in Berlin on Monday over a crackdown on nationwide protests that were sparked by the death of a woman in custody, a German foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Asked about the possibility of further sanctions on Tehran in response to the unrest, the spokesperson said “we will consider all options” with other European Union states.
Last week, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of the 22-year-old in custody.