Bangladeshi hiker starts world tour on foot while fasting

Bangladeshi hiker starts world tour on foot while fasting
Bangladeshi hiker Saiful Islam Shanto, center, is seen off by his family members as he begins his round-the-world journey in Dhaka on March 22, 2024. (AN Photo)
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Updated 22 March 2024
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Bangladeshi hiker starts world tour on foot while fasting

Bangladeshi hiker starts world tour on foot while fasting
  • 28-year-old geographer made special preparations for the Ramadan part of his expedition
  • He left Dhaka on Friday on a journey that he expects to take at least 10 years

DHAKA: Saiful Islam Shanto started his adventure with hiking and long-distance trails when he was still in school, exploring on foot all the sites he could reach in his native Cumilla in eastern Bangladesh.

Over a decade and thousands of kilometers later, the passion grew stronger, culminating with the beginning of his solitary walk around the globe, which he started on Friday morning.

Seen off by his father, friends and members of various Bangladeshi adventure and hiking groups, Shanto commenced his expedition from the National Parliament Building in Dhaka, setting out to first reach India and then Central Asian republics.

“I divided the world tour in seven parts for seven continents. The journey will start with Asia. From Dhaka, I will travel to Delhi through the Benapole crossing. According to the plan, from Delhi, I will take a flight to Uzbekistan and travel to other Central Asian countries,” the 28-year-old traveler told Arab News.

“Following that, I will either travel to the Middle East or to Russia and China through Mongolia. The plan may change depending on the situation. Maybe after traveling Central Asia, I could go to Makkah and Madinah, which to me as a Muslim are the two most sacred places on earth.”

Walking through the two holy cities is something he has been imagining while reading history books and listening to stories narrated by his father who for many years worked in Saudi Arabia.

The study of history was also one of the reasons he began his journey during the month of Ramadan.

“In the old days, people used to observe fasting in Ramadan as they traveled to new places,” Shanto said. “I wanted to experience this in the modern age.”

He made special preparations for the Ramadan part of his expedition, as he will continue to fast.

After the pre-dawn sahoor meal, he is going to walk 10 to 15 km until about 9 a.m., when he will take a break to resume the walk two hours before breaking fast. Then he will complete another 10 km until iftar, after which he will walk a further 10 km.

“I practiced a lot of walking for many hours without having any food and drinks. That made me fit for walking in this Ramadan. I will travel to different new places, will have iftar and sahoor with the new people I will meet,” Shanto said.

“Ramadan is like a festival among the Muslims, and I want to enjoy this festivity with new people. This is what motivated me to begin the journey during the holy month.”

While at school Shanto would be accompanied by friends but for the past few years all his long-distance travels have been solitary — a routine he has developed after enrolling at a university in the capital.

“During my study period in Dhaka, I started exploring the city walking on foot alone. That was when I found a new pleasure in walking alone. I love to move alone and see things in my own way,” he said.

“People travel by different modes, but walking is most interesting to me as it offers the opportunity to understand the socio-economic conditions and cultures of different societies. No other mode of traveling can offer this.”




Carrying a backpack and Bangladesh’s national flag, Saiful Islam Shanto begins his round-the-world journey in Dhaka on March 22, 2024. (AN Photo)

In 2022, Shanto covered 64 districts of Bangladesh — 3,000 km on foot in 75 days.

In the same year, he went abroad for the first time and completed the Bangladesh-India walking challenge from Dhaka through Sandakhphu to Darjeeling, covering 1,500 km in 64 days.

The region was new to him and until he crossed the border he was not sure how he would be received.

“I was very anxious about the tour, how people there would accept me. That’s why I studied a lot on the internet and contacted many persons from those localities ... It was a completely unknown area to me. But moving from one place to another, local people took care of me,” he said.

“People accepted me in a very cordial way. I never felt I was abroad. Rather, I felt like a citizen of the world.”

The experience further encouraged him to embark on his global expedition and like other travelers who take on similar tours, the geography graduate has chosen a theme for his efforts.

Close to his area of study and combining landscape and climate action, he wants to raise awareness about the importance of saving forests.

“Most of the time, people focus on planting new trees. But I put emphasis on saving them, because after cutting one mother tree, even 10 new plants can’t replace it. Saying they would plant new trees, people are cutting mother trees indiscriminately,” he said, referring to canopy trees, which environmentalists often see as a source of a forest’s resilience.

“We can’t stop global warming overnight, but we can make a significant development by saving the existing trees ... I will convey this message in person in different schools and communities.”

Wearing a T-shirt that bears his “Save Trees” campaign motto, a small backpack with the national flag of Bangladesh attached to it, Shanto started his journey with money from his savings and with support from members of several adventure organizations.

It is not enough to cover the whole voyage that is expected to take at least 10 years, but it does not deter him.

“In the places I will travel to, I will represent my country,” he said. “Inshallah, there will be a way.”


Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv
Updated 23 sec ago
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Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv
Prosecutors said the mid-afternoon missile attack targeted the railway station in Budy, southwest of Kharkiv
After rescue teams arrived, a second missile hit the area, injuring 23 people

KYIV: Russian forces launched a “double tap” missile attack on Saturday on a small town near Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, killing two people, an emergency services official and a police officer, officials said.
Officials also reported two dead in Russian attacks on the Donetsk region to the southeast.
Prosecutors said the mid-afternoon missile attack targeted the railway station in Budy, southwest of Kharkiv. After rescue teams arrived, a second missile hit the area.
They said 23 people were injured in the incidents.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said the head of the Kharkiv district emergency services was killed, along with a police officer from a rapid reaction unit. Among the injured were three emergency workers, a policeman and about 20 civilians.
Reuters could not verify independently the accounts and Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians. But Russian forces have used the “double tap” tactic to devastating effect.
Kharkiv remained out of Russian hands in the initial advance of the Kremlin’s forces after the February 2022 invasion.
The city and surrounding area have since come under constant attack, though Ukrainian officials say the frequency has diminished since US supplies of weaponry to Ukraine resumed after a break of several months.
Donetsk regional governor Vadym Filashkin said an attack by multiple rocket launchers hit a multi-story apartment building in Chasiv Yar — a town targeted by Russian forces as a key staging point in moving forward through Ukraine’s east.
And a guided bomb killed one person near the town of Kurakhove, where some of the heaviest fighting is taking place along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front.

Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes

Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes
Updated 13 July 2024
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Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes

Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes
  • Several hundred athletes plus coaches and other people closely involved in professional and amateur sports in Ukraine have been killed
  • Volodymyr Kogutyak, vice president of the French Ukrainian association, said: “Some were killed fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces”

PARIS: In a powerful tribute to the hundreds of Ukrainian athletes who have perished since the Russian invasion of their homeland, the Union of Ukrainians of France led a peaceful march of several hundred people in Paris on Saturday.
The demonstration, held in the run-up to this month’s Olympic Games, aimed to honor these fallen sports heroes and highlight the ongoing impact of the conflict on Ukraine’s athletic community.
Several hundred athletes — including some who competed at elite levels — plus coaches and other people closely involved in professional and amateur sports in Ukraine have been killed in the full-scale invasion since 2022, some while fighting as soldiers on the front lines.
The human losses, the ongoing war, and the widespread destruction of sports facilities threaten to erode Ukraine’s edge, both at the Paris Games that open July 26 and in the future, as a powerhouse of Olympic sport after the breakup of the former Soviet Union.
“What is tragic today is that we have hundreds of Ukrainian athletes who will unfortunately not have the chance to come to the Olympic Games in Paris because the Russian Federation senselessly killed them,” said Volodymyr Kogutyak, vice president of the French Ukrainian association. “Some were killed fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces, but many others were simply killed as civilians.”
Among those being remembered is Maksym Halinichev, a promising boxer who won a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018 and was the junior European champion in 2017. Halinichev joined the Ukrainian army and was killed at the front in March 2023 at the age of 22. Other notable athletes include Ivan Bidnyak and Yehor Kikhitov, both pistol shooters and members of the Ukrainian national team. Bidnyak won a silver medal at the European Championships in Osijek in 2013.
Also commemorated is Stanislav Hulenkov, a 22-year-old judoka, whose body was only identified 10 months after his death, and Oleksandr Peleshenko, a weightlifter who represented Ukraine at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Anastasiia Ihnatenko, an acrobatic gymnastics coach, died in a Russian missile strike along with her husband and their 18-month-old son.
The event drew scores of participants, including Ukrainians, French citizens, and people from various other backgrounds, all united in their grief and determination to honor the athletes’ memories. Participants wore T-shirts displaying the names of the deceased athletes, and a minute of silence was observed, followed by speeches from organizers.
“These athletes were killed at a time when they could have been training to be chosen for the Olympic Games. That is significant. Russia did not give them the choice to train and go to Paris. That is the sad part,” Kogutyak emphasized.
Ukraine’s haul of 11 medals at the 2016 Rio Games was its smallest as an independent nation and it tumbled to a low of 22nd in the country rankings. Ukraine recovered to 16th at the pandemic-delayed Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, but just one of its 19 medals was gold — another new low.
The peaceful protest also served a political purpose, aiming to send a clear message regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the upcoming Paris Games. “The protest is to loudly and clearly state that the Belarusian and Russian athletes, regardless of what flag or colors they come to Paris under, are not welcome,” Kogutyak declared.
He further noted his sadness that some of those Russian athletes had been decorated by various ministries and had met President Vladimir Putin.
The human toll of the ongoing war, coupled with the widespread destruction of sports facilities in Ukraine, poses a severe threat to the country’s future in Olympic sports. The loss of these athletes robs the nation of its current talents and jeopardizes its sporting future.
It is still unclear how many Russian athletes will compete at the Olympics being held from July 26-Aug. 11. The IOC already barred them from taking part in the opening ceremony of boats sailing along the River Seine.


Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says

Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says
Updated 13 July 2024
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Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says

Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says
  • Peskov noted that throughout the Cold War, American missiles based in Europe were aimed at Russia

MOSCOW: European countries would be putting themselves at risk if they accept deployments of long-range US missiles, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a video published on Saturday.
Asked by Russian state TV reporter Pavel Zarubin about the possibility of the United States deploying hypersonic missiles to Europe, Peskov said: “We have enough potential to deter these missiles. But the capitals of these (European) states are potential victims.”
Peskov noted that throughout the Cold War, American missiles based in Europe were aimed at Russia, with Russian missiles aimed at Europe in return, making the continent’s countries the chief victim of any potential conflict.
He said: “Europe is now coming apart at the seams. This is not the best time for Europe. Therefore, in one way or another, history will repeat itself.”


Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent
Updated 13 July 2024
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Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent
  • The man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence
  • After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland

GENEVA: Swiss prosecutors said Saturday they were investigating a Russian diplomat and suspected agent alongside two others reported to have tried to procure weapons and other potentially dangerous material.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it had been conducting an investigation into the two accused people without diplomatic immunity, suspected of violating laws including Switzerland’s War Material Act and Embargo Act.
It confirmed to AFP that its request to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) for authorization to also look into the third man in the case had been granted.
“A national arrest warrant” had been issued, it said.
The Tages-Anzeiger daily reported that the man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence.
After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland, the paper said.
After the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that the man’s diplomatic immunity was lifted when he left the country, and following searches of “several houses,” “the FDJP has now granted ... authorization to prosecute,” the OAG said.
It added that the accused enjoyed the presumption of innocence.
The case comes amid concern over swelling numbers of Russian spies in Switzerland since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Swiss lawmakers in May demanded that the government take a harsher stance on Russian spies operating in the country — a center of international activity considered a hub for espionage.
That came after Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) warned last year that the country was among European nations with the highest number of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.
FIS chief Christian Dussey suggested then that around a third of the some 220 people accredited as diplomatic or other staff at the Russian mission in Geneva were intelligence service operatives.


Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist

Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist
Updated 13 July 2024
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Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist

Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist
  • Man punched in head multiple times as group of officers stage arrest
  • Ex-Labour Party staffer condemns ‘level of violence’ seen in footage

LONDON: A video has surfaced online appearing to show a pro-Palestine campaigner being violently arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police.

The clip, which was met with angered reaction across social media, follows a series of policing controversies in the UK capital amid weekly pro-Palestine rallies.

In the video, a man is seen protesting his arrest as he stands next to a convertible bearing a large Palestinian flag and a sign saying: “Free Palestine. Stop Gaza genocide.”

A group of officers drag the man to the ground, punching him in the head as he shouts: “I haven’t done nothing. I haven’t done nothing.”

The clip was filmed in the borough of Tower Hamlets, home to a large Muslim community.

Halima Khan, a former Labour Party staffer who ran as a parliamentary candidate in the UK general election last week, condemned the violence seen in the footage.

“The level of violence by the hands of the London Metropolitan Police in East London, for just waving the flag of Palestine. Are we Britain or are we Israel,” she wrote on X.

Other users responded to Khan’s post, criticizing the Met officers for their conduct. One said: “I am tired of answering that question. Is our police force trained in Israel? The Itamar Ben-Gvir school of policing.”

Another said: “There should be charges against that officer — you can clearly see his rage. That man didn’t do anything.”

The officer in question, who is seen in the clip throwing multiple punches at the activist’s head, was accused by another X user of wanting to cause “maximum damage” as part of a “premeditated” attack.

The Met Police, in an online statement, denied that the man was arrested for having a Palestinian flag.

Superintendent Brittany Clarke said: “We’re aware of the video and commentary online following an incident that took place in Whitechapel Road ... A PCSO (police community support officer) requested urgent assistance from officer colleagues. A man was arrested for assault on police and is in custody at this time.”

Clarke added that the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards is reviewing the footage and body-worn camera videos from the officers involved.

“I can assure local people that we are understanding of their concerns and that we will be working to establish the circumstances,” she said.

The controversy is the latest to beset the Met Police, after the force was accused of using heavy-handed tactics to clamp down on the weekly pro-Palestine rallies that have taken place in London since last October.