Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 

Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 
People gather to check on missing relatives a day after a twin suicide bombs attack, which killed scores of people outside Kabul airport, at a hospital run by Italian NGO Emergency in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 May 2024
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Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 

Tourists wounded in deadly Afghanistan shooting stable — hospital 
  • Group of tourists was fired at while shopping in mountainous city of Bamiyan on Friday 
  • Attack first deadly assault on foreign tourists since Taliban’s return to power in 20221

KABUL: Tourists wounded in an attack in Afghanistan which left three Spaniards and three Afghans dead were in a stable condition, a hospital said Saturday, as a survivor described the horror of the shooting in an open market.
The group was fired on while shopping in the bazaar in the mountainous city of Bamiyan, around 180 kilometers (110 miles) from the capital Kabul, on Friday.
French tourist Anne-France Brill, one of the dozen foreign travelers on an organized tour, said a gunman on foot approached the group’s vehicles and opened fire.
“There was blood everywhere,” the 55-year-old told AFP from Dubai, where she landed Saturday after being evacuated from Kabul with two Americans.
“One thing is certain,” she said, the assailant “was there for the foreigners.”
Brill, who works in marketing and lives near Paris, said she helped collect the bloodied belongings of her wounded fellow travelers before a Taliban escort brought them to the capital, where they were taken in by a European Union delegation.
The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence.
The bodies of those killed were transported to Kabul overnight Friday, along with the wounded and survivors, after bad weather made an airlift impossible.
Italian NGO Emergency, which operates a hospital in Kabul, received the injured who it said were from Spain, Lithuania, Norway, Australia and Afghanistan.
“The wounded people arrived at our hospital at 3:00 am (2230 GMT Friday) this morning, about 10 hours after the incident took place,” said Dejan Panic, Emergency’s country director in Afghanistan, in a statement.
“The Afghan national was the most critically injured, but all patients are now stable,” he added.
Spain’s government on Friday announced that three of the dead were Spanish tourists.
Its foreign ministry said one of the wounded was also a Spanish woman, who had been seriously injured and underwent surgery in Kabul.
The dead included three Afghans — two civilians and a Taliban member, the government’s interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said.
Local officials said the civilians were working with the tour group, while the Taliban security official had returned fire when the shooting broke out.
“Overwhelmed by the news of the murder of Spanish tourists in Afghanistan,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez posted on social media platform X.
The bodies of the dead would likely be brought back to Spain on Sunday, the country’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Spanish public television TVE.
Spanish diplomats were headed to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Qatar, where the Spanish ambassador to the country is currently based.
The Spanish embassy was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taliban took back control of Kabul, ending a bloody decades-long insurgency against foreign forces.
Spanish authorities have also been coordinating with a European Union delegation in the capital.
Interior ministry spokesman Qani said seven suspects had been arrested, “of which one is wounded.”
“The investigation is still going on and the Islamic Emirate is seriously looking into the matter,” he added.
There has not yet been a claim of responsibility.
The EU condemned the attack “in the strongest terms.”
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, said it was “deeply shocked and appalled by the deadly terrorist attack” in Bamiyan, adding it had provided assistance after the incident.
The Taliban government has yet to be officially recognized by any foreign government.
It has, however, supported a fledgling tourism sector, with more than 5,000 foreign tourists visiting Afghanistan in 2023, according to official figures.
Western nations advise against all travel to the country, warning of kidnap and attack risks.
Alongside security concerns, the country has limited road infrastructure and a dilapidated health service.
Multiple foreign tourism companies offer guided package tours to Afghanistan, often including visits to highlights in cities such as Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan.
Bamiyan is Afghanistan’s top tourist destination, once home to the giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in 2001 during their previous rule.
The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has fallen dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power, and deadly attacks on foreigners are rare.
However, a number of armed groups, including Daesh, remain a threat.
The group has waged a campaign of attacks on foreign interests in a bid to weaken the Taliban government, targeting the Pakistani and Russian embassies as well as Chinese businessmen.


Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center

Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center
Updated 5 sec ago
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Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center

Indonesian president secures UAE deal on new capital’s financial center
  • Widodo awarded Order of Zayed for strengthening UAE-Indonesian relations
  • First phase of the new capital megaproject is scheduled for completion in 2024

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo secured a deal during his UAE trip to involve Dubai’s financial hub in the new capital project, Nusantara, his office said on Thursday.

Widodo arrived in the UAE on a two-day working visit on Tuesday and was hosted by the Gulf state’s president, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

The two countries agreed to “significant bilateral cooperation in various sectors,” Indonesia’s Cabinet Secretariat said in a statement, as it listed eight agreements signed during the trip, including in the areas of renewable energy, tourism ecosystems, payments systems, and the “MoU (memorandum of understanding) between the international financial hub Dubai International Financial Centre Authority and the Nusantara National Capital Authority.”

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is relocating its capital to Borneo island to replace the overcrowded and sinking Jakarta on Java island, with the $33 billion megaproject scheduled for completion in 2045.

The mammoth undertaking is expected to mostly rely on private investors, with government funding planned to cover 20 percent of the total expenditure.

“In the field of strategic investment, the UEA’s contribution is increasingly significant in the development of the Indonesian Capital City,” Widodo said on X.

While construction works are underway and the central government expected to begin operations in the new city in 2024, the new capital has begun work on its financial center area, where Indonesia’s largest state-owned banks — Bank Mandiri, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, and Bank Negara Indonesia — broke ground on their new corporate offices earlier this year.

The financial center will cover 260 hectares within the city’s broader business district.

Through the MoU between Dubai International Financial Centre and Nusantara Capital City Authority, Indonesia and the UAE are “forming a new framework to ultimately grow the two financial ecosystems,” DIFC governor Essa Kazim said, the UAE state news agency reported on Thursday.

“As the UAE and Indonesia collaborate and innovate to drive economic growth and social impact in both countries, DIFC as MEASA’s (the Middle East, Africa, and Southern Asia) global leading financial center, is perfectly positioned to facilitate significant opportunities by way of this strategic partnership,” he said.

The ambitious move to relocate the capital from Jakarta about 2,000 km away in the middle of a forest is a flagship project for Widodo, who officially launched it in 2019.

The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in 2024, in what has been widely seen as the president’s attempt to seal his legacy before the end of his second and final term in office in October this year.

During the UAE trip, Sheikh Mohamed presented Widodo with the Order of Zayed for his efforts in strengthening UAE-Indonesian relations.

The order is the highest civilian honor in the UAE and is bestowed upon leaders and heads of state.

During Widodo’s second term, the countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in July 2022 — Indonesia’s first free trade deal with a Middle Eastern country.

“Building upon the close and enduring ties between the UAE and Indonesia, we explored opportunities to further expand our economic partnership,” Sheikh Mohamed said on X.

“I extend my sincere thanks to President Widodo for his tireless efforts during his time in office to strengthen the bonds between our two nations.”


British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds

A person holds a placard with an image of former PM Rishi Sunak promoting the government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme.
A person holds a placard with an image of former PM Rishi Sunak promoting the government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme.
Updated 11 min 56 sec ago
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British public were failed by flawed planning for COVID pandemic, inquiry finds

A person holds a placard with an image of former PM Rishi Sunak promoting the government’s “Eat out to help out” scheme.
  • Britain recorded one of the world’s highest number of fatalities from COVID with more than 230,000 deaths reported by December 2023
  • Nation’s finances are still suffering from economic consequences

LONDON: Britain let down its citizens by leaving the nation ill-prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic because of significantly flawed planning and failures by ministers and scientific experts, a public inquiry concluded in a scathing report on Thursday.
Britain recorded one of the world’s highest number of fatalities from COVID with more than 230,000 deaths reported by December 2023, while the nation’s finances are still suffering from the economic consequences.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered an inquiry in May 2021, and its first report, which examined the nation’s preparedness for an outbreak, was damning.
“Had the UK been better prepared for and more resilient to the pandemic, some of the financial and human cost may have been avoided,” the report by the inquiry chair, former judge Heather Hallett, said in the report.
“The inquiry has no hesitation in concluding that the processes, planning and policy of the civil contingency structures within the UK government and devolved administrations and civil service failed their citizens.”
The inquiry found there had been a “lack of adequate leadership” with “groupthink” clouding expert advice. Ministers had not been given a broad enough range of opinions, and then had failed to sufficiently challenge what they did receive.
A flawed 2011 strategy, which had underpinned the nation’s preparations for such an emergency, had prepared for only one type of pandemic — influenza.
It was outdated, had focused on dealing with the impact of an outbreak rather than trying to prevent its spread, and had not taken into account the economic and social impact, the report said. That strategy was virtually abandoned on its first encounter with COVID.
“The Secretaries of State for Health ... who adhered to the strategy, the experts and officials who advised them to do so, and the governments of the devolved nations that adopted it, all bear responsibility for failing to have these flaws examined and rectified,” the report said.
Radical reform
Hallett made 10 recommendations, saying preparation for a civil emergency should be treated the same way as a threat from a hostile state.
“There must be radical reform. Never again can a disease be allowed to lead to so many deaths and so much suffering,” she said in her introduction to the report.
Her inquiry’s first module has only examined Britain’s preparedness, and later reports will provide assessments of the more politically charged issues of decision-making during the pandemic against a backdrop of widespread accusations of government incompetence.
Johnson himself was forced from office in July 2022, with revelations of parties during COVID lockdowns among the many scandals that ended his premiership. A parliamentary committee later concluded he had misled lawmakers over the parties.
Rishi Sunak, the finance minister during the pandemic who later became prime minister, was also fined for breaking lockdown rules at the time.
“We know that for lives to be saved in the future, lessons must be learnt from the mistakes of the past,” Brenda Doherty said on behalf of the campaign group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK ahead of the report’s release.
“Sadly, nobody knows the true cost of the government’s failure to prepare as we do.”


Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others

Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others
Updated 29 min 24 sec ago
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Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others

Passenger train derails in India, killing at least 2 passengers and injuring 20 others
  • Last year, a train crash in eastern India killed over 280 people in one of the country’s deadliest accidents in decades
  • In June, a cargo train rammed into a passenger train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others

LUCKNOW, India: A passenger train derailed on Thursday in northern India, killing at least two passengers and injuring 20 others, a railroad official said. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Naveen Kumar, a state relief commissioner, said rescuers and ambulances have reached the site of the accident.
The train was on its way to Dibrugarh, a town in northeastern Assam state, from the northern city of Chandigarh when it derailed near the town of Gonda, causing some coaches to overturn.
Television images showed scores of passengers standing next to derailed coaches waiting for rescuers.
In June, a cargo train rammed into a passenger train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others. Investigators said the driver of the cargo train, who was among the dead, disregarded a signal and caused the collision.
Last year, a train crash in eastern India killed over 280 people in one of the country’s deadliest accidents in decades.
More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India daily, traveling on 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) of track. Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents happen annually, most blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment.


North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military

North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military
Updated 18 July 2024
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North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military

North Korea launching more trash balloons: Seoul military
  • This is the eighth round of trash-carrying balloons launched by Pyongyang since late May
  • In response to the trash balloons, Seoul has fully suspended a tension-reducing military deal

SEOUL: North Korea is launching more balloons believed to be carrying trash toward the South, Seoul’s military said Thursday, in the latest round of a tit-for-tat balloon war between the two Koreas.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North was “launching (suspected) trash balloons aimed at the South once again,” adding they were currently floating across the border.
“Citizens are advised to be cautious of falling debris. If you find any fallen balloons do not touch them and report them to the nearest military unit or police station,” it added.
Seoul city authorities issued an alert to residents Thursday, saying “a suspected balloon from North Korea is confirmed to have entered the airspace of Northern Gyeonggi province. Citizens should be cautious of outside activities.”
This is the eighth round of trash-carrying balloons launched by Pyongyang since late May.
The nuclear-armed North has already sent more than a thousand of the balloons south, calling it retaliation for ones carrying anti-regime propaganda floated northwards by activists south of the border.
In response to the trash balloons, Seoul has fully suspended a tension-reducing military deal and restarted some propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers along the border.
It has also carried out live-fire drills in some border areas.
The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last week that more “dirty leaflets” from South Korean “scum” had been found in the North’s territory along the border, warning they would pay “a very high price.”
Kim Yo Jong, a key regime spokesperson, went on to say that North Korean military personnel were “now making an all-out search, throwing into fire and disposing of the found rubbishes,” according to a statement from the official Korean Central News Agency.


Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population
Updated 18 July 2024
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Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population

Italy sends humanitarian flight with aid for Gaza population
  • Aid includes over 60 tons of food, hygiene kits and sanitary equipment, along with 150 tents
  • The flight, which departed from the southern city of Brindisi, has landed in the Jordan capital of Amman from where the materials will be delivered to Gaza

ROME: Italy has sent food supplies and health equipment for the Gaza population aboard a humanitarian flight that landed in Jordan, a statement said on Thursday, as part of Rome’s “Food for Gaza” initiative to help civilians there.
Aid includes over 60 tons of food, hygiene kits and sanitary equipment, along with 150 tents. The flight, which departed from the southern city of Brindisi, has landed in the Jordan capital of Amman from where the materials will be delivered to Gaza.
“With this operation we give a tangible demonstration of the attention that the Italian government is dedicating to the humanitarian situation in the Strip,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said.
He added Italy was committed “to do everything possible to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population in Gaza.”
The Food for Gaza initiative is led by Italy together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food program (WFP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
On Wednesday, the US military announced that its mission to install and operate a temporary, floating pier off the coast of Gaza was complete, formally ending an effort to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians.
Italy said in May it would allocate 30 million euros ($32.8 million) in the Food for Gaza plan, as it resumed funding for the United Nations’ Palestinian relief organization UNRWA.
UNRWA faced criticism over allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. ($1 = 0.9151 euros)