Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond

Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond
Any Russian citizens whose purpose is tourism and other non-essential travel will be turned back at the border. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond

Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond

Norway will further curb access for Russian tourist travelers due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, blocking almost all entry from May 29, the Nordic country’s justice ministry said on Thursday.
Russia called the decision “purely discriminatory” and said it would respond.
Norway, a NATO member that shares a border with Russia in the Arctic measuring almost 200 km (124 miles), first imposed restrictions on Russian tourist visas in 2022, shortly after Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“The decision to tighten the entry rules is in line with the Norwegian approach of standing by allies and partners in reaction to Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said in a statement.
Any Russian citizens whose purpose is tourism and other non-essential travel will be turned back at the border. Exceptions may be granted in cases such as visits to close family residing in Norway, the ministry said in a statement.
“The change implies that the police can refuse the entry of Russian citizens who are covered by the instruction,” it said.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters such moves “cannot go unanswered.”
He added: “Of course, the decision is purely discriminatory. We do not accept such decisions. We regret that the Norwegian leadership has chosen this way of worsening our bilateral relations, which have already been of poor quality recently, and not on our initiative.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia did not intend to bar entry to Norwegian citizens. “But this does not mean that retaliatory measures won’t be taken. They will be,” she told reporters.


Doctors treat thousands of heatstroke victims in southern Pakistan as temperatures soar

Patients of heatstroke receive treatment at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP)
Patients of heatstroke receive treatment at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP)
Updated 29 sec ago
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Doctors treat thousands of heatstroke victims in southern Pakistan as temperatures soar

Patients of heatstroke receive treatment at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP)
  • On Monday, more than 1,500 victims of heatstroke were treated at other hospitals in the city, according to local media

KARACHI, Pakistan: A days-long intense heat wave has disrupted normal life in Pakistan, especially in its largest city, Karachi, where doctors treated thousands of victims of heatstroke at various hospitals, health officials said Tuesday.
Several people fell unconscious in the city and some of them later died, local media said.
Temperatures soared as high as 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sindh province on Tuesday. Authorities in Karachi, the provincial capital, are urging people to stay indoors, hydrate, and avoid unnecessary travel.
Weather forecasters say the heat wave, which began in May, will subside next week.
According to local media, the days-long heat wave also killed more than two dozen people in Karachi, but no government spokesman was available to confirm the number of heatstroke-related deaths.
On Tuesday, Faisal Edhi, the head of the Edhi Foundation, which runs the country’s largest ambulance service, said they received dozens of bodies of heatstroke victims in Karachi the previous day.
Imran Sarwar Sheikh, the head of the emergency ward at the state-run Civil Hospital in Karachi, told The Associated Press that they treated 120 victims of heatstroke the previous day. Eight of those patients later died, he said.
On Monday, more than 1,500 victims of heatstroke were treated at other hospitals in the city, according to local media.
Sardar Sarfaraz, the chief meteorologist in Karachi, said temperatures will continue to rise this week across Pakistan. “Today, the weather is dry. In such conditions, the temperature starts rising,” he said.
Pakistan’s climate is warming much faster than the global average, with a potential rise of 1.3 to 4.9 degrees Celsius (2.3 to 8.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by the 2090s over the 1986–2005 baseline, according to a World Bank expert panel on climate change.
The country, which is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change, also faces the risk of heavier monsoon rains, in part because of its immense northern glaciers, which are now melting as temperatures rise. Warmer air can hold more moisture, intensifying the monsoon.
This year’s monsoon will start in July, causing flash floods, according to a statement released by Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. The warning from the agency comes less than two weeks after a top UN official said an estimated 200,000 people in Pakistan could be affected by the upcoming monsoon season.
However, officials say this year’s rains would not be as heavy as those in 2022 when devastating floods killed 1,739 people, destroyed 2 million homes, and covered as much as one-third of the country at one point.
The 2022 floods caused more than $30 billion in damage to Pakistan’s already cash-strapped economy.
Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions worldwide, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters.
The ongoing heat in recent months also had a large impact on agriculture, damaging crops and reducing yields, as well as on education, with school vacations having to be extended and schools closed in several countries, affecting thousands of students.
Climate experts say extreme heat in South Asia during the pre-monsoon season is becoming more frequent. The study found that extreme temperatures are now about 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.5 Fahrenheit) hotter in the region because of climate change, and this year Pakistan witnessed above-normal rains and heat.

 


21 Nigerien soldiers killed in ambush by ‘terrorist group,’ ruling junta says

21 Nigerien soldiers killed in ambush by ‘terrorist group,’ ruling junta says
Updated 12 min 4 sec ago
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21 Nigerien soldiers killed in ambush by ‘terrorist group,’ ruling junta says

21 Nigerien soldiers killed in ambush by ‘terrorist group,’ ruling junta says

NIAMEY, Niger: An ambush by a “terrorist group” killed 21 Nigerien soldiers near the country’s border with Burkina Faso on Tuesday, Niger’s ruling military junta said in a statement read on national television.

The statement Tuesday evening did not specify which group was behind the attack. Niger is struggling with a deadly security crisis involving several armed groups.

Last week, the rebel Patriotic Liberation Front attacked a China-backed pipeline and threatened more attacks if the $400 million deal with China isn’t canceled. The group, led by Salah Mahmoud, a former rebel leader, took up arms after the junta staged a coup last year ousting a democratically elected government.

Niger and neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso are also battling movements linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh extremist group in a decade-long conflict in the Sahel region that is worsening.

The violence killed thousands of people last year, and more than 2 million people have been displaced, according to the United Nations

Mali and Burkina Faso are also led by juntas and have experienced two coups each since 2020. Both juntas have expelled French forces and turned to Russian mercenaries as they struggle to quell the Islamist groups.


The Taliban confirm they will attend a UN-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan

The Taliban confirm they will attend a UN-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan
Updated 13 min 38 sec ago
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The Taliban confirm they will attend a UN-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan

The Taliban confirm they will attend a UN-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan
  • On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry in Kabul said the chief Taliban government spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, will lead the Taliban delegation at the two-day meeting, starting Sunday

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban on Tuesday confirmed their delegation will attend an upcoming UN-led meeting in Qatar on Afghanistan after the organizers said last week that women would be excluded from the gathering.
The meeting on June 30 and July 1 is the third UN-sponsored gathering on the Afghan crisis in the Qatari capital of Doha.
The Taliban were not invited to the first and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said they set unacceptable conditions for attending the second meeting, in February, including demands that Afghan civil society members be excluded from the talks and that they be treated as the country’s legitimate rulers.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry in Kabul said the chief Taliban government spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, will lead the Taliban delegation at the two-day meeting, starting Sunday.
The ministry said the strategy for the Doha gathering was discussed at a meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi thet touched on several topics, including international restrictions imposed on Afghanistan’s financial and banking system, the challenges in growing the private sector and government actions against drug trafficking.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as American and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country following two decades of war.
No country has so far officially recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government. The United Nations has said that recognition is almost impossible while bans on female education and employment remain in place.
Last week, the United Nations’ top official in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva, defended the failure to include Afghan women in the upcoming meeting in Doha, insisting that demands for women’s rights are certain to be raised.

 


4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate

4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate
Updated 25 June 2024
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4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate

4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country estate
  • North Yorkshire police said the group was detained just after noon and arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass
  • The group said in a statement chock-full of a crude four-letter word for human waste that it was a “parting gift” to the prime minister

LONDON: Four men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of trespassing after entering the grounds of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s country estate in northern England, police said.
North Yorkshire police said the group was detained just after noon and arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass.
A group called Youth Demand posted video showing a man in boots step into Sunak’s pond, where he pretended to defecate.
The group said in a statement chock-full of a crude four-letter word for human waste that it was a “parting gift” to the prime minister. It said the stool used in the stunt was made of latex so it could be retrieved and prevent environmental damage.
Sunak was in London at the time for the state visit by the Japanese emperor and empress.
The incident comes just over a week before the UK’s general election that will determine if Sunak remains in power. Polls and pundits have predicted the Labour Party to take control after 14 years of Conservative rule.
The police officer who confronted the group asked the man identified by the group as “Oliver” what his intentions were, according to video of the incident.
“I think our intentions are carried out,” he replied.
Youth Demand said it is calling for a two-way arms embargo on Israel and for the next UK government to revoke oil and gas licenses granted since 2021.
The group said the four detained included a press photographer.
Sunak had condemned the group earlier this year when it hung a banner on the home of Labour leader Keir Starmer, saying “Stop the killing,” in reference to Israel’s war with Hamas militants.
In August, four Greenpeace protesters were charged with criminal damage after climbing on Sunak’s home while he was away and draping it in black fabric to protest his plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.


Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies

Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies
Updated 25 June 2024
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Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies

Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies
  • Gen. CQ Brown: ‘Threats like Wagner, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations continue to sow instability in multiple regions’
  • Brown: ‘I think we can all agree, what happens in one part of the world, does not stay in one part of the world’

GABORONE, Botswana: Violent extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group are growing in size and influence across Africa, fueling worries that as they improve their tactics, they could attack the US or Western allies.
US defense and military officials described the threats and their concerns about growing instability in Africa, where a number of coups have put ruling juntas in control, leading to the ouster of American troops and a decline in US intelligence gathering.
“Threats like Wagner, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations continue to sow instability in multiple regions,” Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in opening remarks Tuesday at a conference of African chiefs of defense in Botswana. “I think we can all agree, what happens in one part of the world, does not stay in one part of the world.”
Wagner is the Russian mercenary group that has gone into African nations to provide security as Western forces, including from the US and France, have been pushed out. The group is known for its brutality, and human rights organizations have accused its members of raping and killing civilians.
While Brown only touched briefly on the terror threat in the region, it was a key topic among others at the conference and spurred questions from military chiefs in the audience after his speech. They wanted to know what the US could do to help stem the spread of insurgents in West Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel.
This is the first time that the chiefs of defense conference has been held on African soil. And it is the first time the US joint chiefs chairman has visited a sub-Saharan country since 1994, when Gen. John Shalikashvili visited Rwanda and Zaire.
A senior US defense official said Al-Qaeda linked groups — such as Al-Shabab in Somalia and Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin, known as JNIM, in the Sahel region — are the largest and most financially viable insurgencies. JNIM is active in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and is looking to expand into Benin and Togo, which it uses as hubs to rest, recuperate, get financing and gather weapons but also has increased attacks there.
At the same time, the Daesh group has key cells in West Africa and in the Sahel. The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a threat assessment, said the Daesh cells were getting increasing direction from the group’s leadership that relocated to northern Somalia. That has included how to kidnap Westerners for ransom, how to learn better military tactics, how to hide from drones and how to build their own small quadcopters.
A US military airstrike in Somalia on May 31 targeted Daesh militants and killed three, according to US Africa Command. US officials have said the strike targeted the group’s leader, but the defense official said Monday that it’s still unclear if he was killed.
Roughly 200 Daesh insurgents are in Somalia, so they are vastly outnumbered by Al-Shabab, which has grown in size to between 10,000 and 12,000.
The growth of the insurgent groups within Africa signals the belief by both Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group that the continent is a ripe location for extremism, where extremist ideology can take root and expand, the official said.
And it comes as the US was ordered to pull out its 1,000 troops from Niger in the wake of last July’s coup and also about 75 from Chad. Those troop cuts, which shut down a critical US counterterrorism and drone base at Agadez, hamper intelligence gathering in Niger, said Gen. Michael Langley, head of US Africa Command.
Surveillance operations before the coup gave the US a greater ability to get intelligence on insurgent movements. Now, he said, the key goal is a safe and secure withdrawal of personnel and equipment from both Agadez and a smaller US facility near the airport.
Langley met with Niger’s top military chief, Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, during the conference, and said military-to-military communications continue but that it’s yet to be determined how much the new transitional government will deal with the US
Currently, he said, there are about 400 troops still at Agadez and 200 near the airport.
But, he added that “as we’re in transition and resetting, we need to maintain capabilities to get enough intelligence to identify warnings of a threat out there.”
Langley said the US is still trying to assess the militant groups’ capabilities as they grow.
“Yes, they’ve been growing in number. Have they been growing in capability where they can do what we call external ops attacks on the homeland and attacks on allies, whether we’re talking about Europe or anyone? That’s what we closely watch,” he said. “I’d say it has the potential as they grow in numbers.”
Both Langley and Brown spoke more extensively about the need for the US and African nations to communicate more effectively and work together to solve security and other problems.
And Brown acknowledged that the US needs to “do better at understanding the perspectives of others, ensuring their voices and expertise don’t get drowned out.”
The US has struggled to maintain relations with African nations as many foster growing ties to Russia and China.
Some African countries have expressed frustration with the US for forcing issues, such as democracy and human rights, that many see as hypocrisy, given Washington’s close ties to some autocratic leaders elsewhere. Meanwhile, Russia offers security assistance without interfering in politics, making it an appealing partner for military juntas that seized power in places like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in recent years.