Blast in eastern Afghanistan kills 3, wounds 7 at hotel frequented by Pakistani refugees

Blast in eastern Afghanistan kills 3, wounds 7 at hotel frequented by Pakistani refugees
Taliban security personnel stand guard near the site of an explosion in Khost, Afghanistan, on August 14, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2023
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Blast in eastern Afghanistan kills 3, wounds 7 at hotel frequented by Pakistani refugees

Blast in eastern Afghanistan kills 3, wounds 7 at hotel frequented by Pakistani refugees
  • The city hotel is frequented by refugees from Pakistan’s former militant stronghold of North Waziristan
  • Authorities in Pakistan say members of the Pakistani Taliban are hiding in Khost, elsewhere in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: An explosion ripped through a hotel in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost on Monday, killing at least three people and wounding seven others, police said. 

The blast occurred at a city hotel frequented by Afghan people and refugees from Pakistan’s former militant stronghold of North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan, said Mustaghfir Gurbaz, a police spokesperson in Khost. 

He said officers were investigating to determine what caused the blast and who was behind it. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though Afghanistan’s Taliban government has blamed the regional affiliate of the Daesh group — known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province — for previous attacks. 

Gurbaz provided no information about the Pakistani refugees staying at the hotel. Authorities in Pakistan have said members of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, are hiding in Khost and elsewhere in Afghanistan. 

TTP is a separate group but is a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war. 

Pakistani officials say many TTP leaders and fighters have found sanctuaries in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, which also emboldened the Pakistani Taliban. 


Gaza refugee stories bring Filipinos closer to Palestinians

Gaza refugee stories bring Filipinos closer to Palestinians
Updated 4 sec ago
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Gaza refugee stories bring Filipinos closer to Palestinians

Gaza refugee stories bring Filipinos closer to Palestinians
  • Nearly 150 Filipino-Palestinians were evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government
  • Their stories give Filipinos a new perspective as the narrative used to be dominated by Israel

MANILA: In 2023, Jehan Alabadla, 22, was in her senior year at the Islamic University of Gaza, where she was set to graduate from the school’s biotechnology program.

She was forced to flee her home in November — weeks after Israel started its deadly onslaught on the Gaza Strip — to seek shelter in the Philippines, her mother’s native country, leaving behind her Palestinian father and half-siblings, who now liv, displaced, in tents. Alabadla speaks with them whenever she can, but it is not easy as communication lines have been destroyed.

“It is really hard, this is not the life I was used to in Gaza,” she told Arab News.

“With the war, it’s like my life has stopped. Right now, my priority is to save a bit, help my dad in Gaza, as well as my siblings because they’re still so little. It makes me cry because they’ve gotten so thin.”

Alabadla is one of nearly 150 Filipino-Palestinians evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government — many leaving their homes, livelihoods, and often also loved ones.

She shared the story of her hometown and family in Gaza with over 1,000 people who gathered at the University of the Philippines on Sunday, for an event meant to support the evacuee families and bring them closer to the community.

Among them was also Zenith Abudalal, who returned to the Philippines with her Palestinian husband, children, and grandchildren.

She recalled their harrowing experiences in Gaza amid the Israeli attacks which since October have killed more than 36,000 people, wounded more than 80,000, and destroyed most of the enclave’s infrastructure.

As Philippine authorities were trying to bring her family to safety, they had to walk 8 km to the border with Egypt. Holding white flags, they were instructed to focus on their path, not to stop, not to look to their sides, not to react when Israeli soldiers called them.

“We walked. Our streets were filled with the dead. Severed limbs, heads, bodies,” she said. “We just prayed hard so we can reach our destination ... It was so difficult.”

The stories have given the Filipino audience a new perspective, where until now, their knowledge has been dominated by pro-Israeli narratives that utilize the Holocaust and World War II and have for decades marginalized Palestinian voices.

“We often hear about the plight of the Jews, but the Jews or Israelis are not the only victims ... The Palestinians have been driven off their land for a long time,” said Alexa Villano, a resident of Quezon City.

Manila-based writer Michiko Manalang, who brought her parents to the meeting, said that the refugees’ stories made them see things differently.

“I think the event gave them a different emotional truth, especially after knowing that some young women there were without parents or other loved ones, either because they’re still stuck in Rafah, or they were killed in the invasion,” she said.

“I feel that the world is waking up to the reality that community is where it’s at, and I think that can really change how we live. I feel we cannot go back to the way we lived before.”

Consolidating the refugees and the variety of their experiences is what the event sought to highlight.

“We are hoping with this kind of awareness comes the acceptance from a wider Filipino community,” Darwin Absari, professor at the UP’s Institute of Islamic Studies and a co-founder of the Moro-Palestinians Cooperation Team, told Arab News.

“In terms of raising awareness, I think we have somehow reached it. One thousand is still a small number for us, but those people who went there kept on sharing. So that multiplies. Janine Gutierrez went there with her mom Lot Lot. Aubrey Miles also promoted our event,” he said, referring to celebrity Filipino actresses.

There was an increasing awareness among Filipino politicians too, despite their strong links with the US and its ally, Israel.

Samira Gutoc, a former legislator in Mindanao, said that some were now — unlike before — convinced that the attacks on Gaza should stop, as they have been seeing more and more content giving a human face to the stories told about Palestine.

“And this is not an antisemitic campaign,” she said. “The content is really about human lives and people who care for lives. We have to stand up for human life.”


Russian guided bombs hit residential area in Kharkiv, nine injured

Russian guided bombs hit residential area in Kharkiv, nine injured
Updated 3 min 32 sec ago
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Russian guided bombs hit residential area in Kharkiv, nine injured

Russian guided bombs hit residential area in Kharkiv, nine injured
  • One of the guided aerial bombs, according to preliminary data, hit a cafe
  • A petrol station caught fire as a result of the attack as well

KHARKIV: A Russian air attack on Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv on Wednesday injured at least nine people, at least one severely, and set fire to a residential building, local officials said.
“One of the guided aerial bombs, according to preliminary data, hit a cafe. It is very close to a multi-story residential building,” Serhii Bolvinov, head of the investigative department of the regional police, told national TV.
Regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said a petrol station caught fire as a result of the attack as well.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and the surrounding region have been targeted by Russian attacks since the start of the war in 2022. Strikes have become far more intense in recent months, hitting civilian and energy infrastructure, and Russian forces have opened a new front north of the regional capital in recent weeks.
Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians but thousands have been killed and injured in its 27-months-old invasion of Ukraine.


UK ‘bionic MP’ returns to parliament after quadruple amputation

UK ‘bionic MP’ returns to parliament after quadruple amputation
Updated 12 min 37 sec ago
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UK ‘bionic MP’ returns to parliament after quadruple amputation

UK ‘bionic MP’ returns to parliament after quadruple amputation
  • MPs cheered as Craig Mackinlay — who has called himself “the bionic MP” — took his seat in the House of Commons
  • The UK Sepsis Trust says 245,000 people in Britain are affected every year

LONDON: A British lawmaker received a standing ovation in parliament on Wednesday, as he made his first appearance since having his hands and feet amputated due to sepsis.
MPs cheered as Craig Mackinlay — who has called himself “the bionic MP” — took his seat in the House of Commons shortly before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s weekly question and answer session.
The 57-year-old Conservative MP was rushed to hospital in September last year and spent 16 days in an induced coma before undergoing a quadruple amputation in December.
He has since been fitted with prosthetic hands and legs.
Sunak paid tribute to Mackinlay’s “incredible resilience” while main opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said he had shown “courage and determination.”
Mackinlay acknowledged the cheers and applause, before thanking his wife, daughter and family for their support, as well as medical staff who all watched his return from the public gallery.
He described his return as an “emotional day” but apologized for breaking parliamentary rules by wearing trainers, as his shoes would not fit, and not sporting a jacket because it would not go over his “bionic arm.”
Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection that occurs when the immune system overreacts and damages the body’s tissues and organs.
The UK Sepsis Trust says 245,000 people in Britain are affected every year, and at least 48,000 die — more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined.
Mackinlay recounted in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that his whole body “went a very strange blue” within half an hour of arriving at hospital, having gone into septic shock.
His wife Kati was told that her husband’s chances of emerging from the coma alive were just five percent.
On waking, Mackinlay discovered that his limbs had turned completely back and described them as being “like plastic.”
“They were desiccating, clenched and just looked dead,” he told the BBC.
Mackinlay recalled that he was not surprised when doctors told him they would have to be amputated and he was “surprisingly stoic.”
“They managed to save above the elbows and above the knees,” he told the broadcaster. “So, you might say I’m lucky.”
Mackinlay, a Tory MP since 2015, has said he intends to seek re-election in his constituency in Kent, southeast England, at a general election due this year.


Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media

Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media
Updated 22 May 2024
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Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media

Russia returns six children to Ukraine: state media
  • The children were reunited with their families at an event in the Qatari embassy in Moscow

Moscow: Russia has returned six children displaced by the conflict in Ukraine to their families in a deal brokered by Qatar, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.
Ukraine believes Russia has illegally taken more than 19,000 of its children since the start of its 2022 offensive, of which fewer than 400 have been returned.
The children — a group of boys aged six to 17 that included two brothers — were reunited with their families at an event in the Qatari embassy in Moscow, the agency reported.
The event was attended by the Qatari ambassador as well as officials representing Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, TASS said.
Lvova-Belova is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court for unlawfully deporting children from Ukraine to Russia, a charge the Kremlin denies.
Ukraine did not immediately comment.
Since July 2023, Qatar has helped bring back dozens of children taken to Russia and occupied territories during the two-year conflict, an issue that is highly sensitive in Ukraine.
Some of the children’s parents were killed, while others were separated from their carers by the fast-moving front lines at the start of Russia’s offensive.
Some were living in Ukrainian orphanages in areas Russia then occupied.


UAE president to visit South Korea

UAE president to visit South Korea
Updated 22 May 2024
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UAE president to visit South Korea

UAE president to visit South Korea
  • The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration

ABU DHABI: UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will make a two-day state visit to South Korea on May 28 at the invitation of President Yoon Suk Yeol, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration across various sectors including trade, investment, energy and technology.

They will also address regional and international developments of common interest.

“The meeting comes within the framework of strategic partnership between the UAE and South Korea in line with their vision to achieve a better and more prosperous future for the countries,” the WAM statement said.