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US, Somalia forces raid Al-Shabab, kill several: Official

Author: 
AP
Fri, 2017-07-14 03:00
ID: 
1500014676111260600

SOMALIA: United States and Somali military forces raided a rebel-held village in southern Somalia and killed several Al-Shabab fighters early Thursday, a senior Somali intelligence official said, as both countries step up efforts against Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group.
Somali commandos accompanied by US forces in two helicopters raided two locations, the official said. They included a detention center run by Al-Shabab in Kunya-Barrow village in Lower Shabelle region, and an unknown number of detainees were freed.
Troops engaged a small number of extremist fighters, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
US Africa Command spokesman Mark Cheadle said US forces conducted an “advise and assist mission” against Al-Shabab with members of the Somali National Army in Kunya-Barrow. He gave no further details.
There were no US casualties, AFRICOM spokeswoman Jennifer Dyrcz added Friday morning.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab said via its Andalus radio arm that its fighters foiled an attempted raid by US and African forces.
Earlier this month, the US military said it carried out an airstrike against Al-Shabab in Somalia and was assessing the results. The airstrike followed another last month that the US said killed eight extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp in the country’s south. Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said a training camp near Sakow in the Middle Juba region had been destroyed.
President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against Al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern Somalia areas of active hostilities. The US in April announced it was sending dozens of regular troops in the largest such deployment to Somalia in roughly two decades, saying it was for logistics training of the country’s army.
The Horn of Africa nation is trying to rebuild after more than two decades as a failed state, and its chaos helped in Al-Shabab’s rise. Now a new threat has emerged in the country’s north with some fighters claiming alliance to the Daesh group.
Al-Shabab last year became Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Pentagon-supported Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The extremist group has vowed to step up attacks against the recently elected government and has carried out numerous deadly attacks in the capital, Mogadishu.
Pressure is growing on Somalia’s military to assume full responsibility for the country’s security. The 22,000-strong African Union multinational force, AMISOM, which has been supporting the fragile central government, plans to start withdrawing in 2018 and leave by the end of 2020.
The US military has been among those expressing concern that Somalia’s forces are not yet ready.

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UN considers new base in South Sudan’s troubled Yei region

Author: 
AP
Fri, 2017-07-14 03:00
ID: 
1500013804461226800

SOUTH SUDAN: The United Nations says it is considering opening a peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s troubled Yei region, which has “gone through a nightmare” in recent months amid warnings of ethnic violence. It would be the UN’s first such expansion since civil war began in 2013.
“I can see the prosperity that was once here,” the peacekeeping mission’s chief, David Shearer, told residents on his first visit. But stories of rape, killings and abductions are common in what has become one of South Sudan’s most volatile cities.
The UN warned of growing ethnic violence after bodies with bound hands were found in Yei late last year. In May, a UN report said pro-government forces killed 114 civilians in Yei between July and January, brutally raping girls and women in front of their families.
Three months ago, 37-year-old Suzanne Minala was abducted by rebels on the edge of Yei and held for 30 days. Raped and beaten nightly, the mother of two said she returned home to find four of her relatives had been killed in her garden. She suspects it was government soldiers.
“The government doesn’t want to hear about crimes because they kill people,” Minala told The Associated Press, rubbing a scar on her wrist where she had been bound.
Since the fighting reached Yei a year ago, 70 percent of the population has fled. Remaining residents say it’s like living in a prison. The city is under government control but surrounded by opposition forces, and both have restricted access to food and aid.
“We can’t go out,” one community leader, Ali Ecsss, told the AP. Residents said some who go beyond a few miles outside the city never return.
“It is a cruel tragedy of this war that South Sudan’s breadbasket, a region that a year ago could feed millions, has turned into treacherous killing fields,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser.
The UN said a peacekeeping base will come to Yei only if local movements are unrestricted. At a meeting last week with humanitarian workers, Yei’s governor said he would open the roads. Aid workers and the UN have repeatedly noted that despite such promises by government officials, restrictions remain in many parts of the country.
“Humanitarians will have to work with the country’s national security service in order to ensure their safety,” said Goodwin Ale, a field officer with the interior ministry.
The UN has several peacekeeping bases in South Sudan, where tens of thousands have been killed in the civil war. More than 200,000 civilians still shelter in the bases after the UN took the unusual decision to open their doors shortly after the conflict began.
Nearly two million other people have fled the country, creating the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.

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Trump supported us, say Afghan girls after robotics visa U-turn

Author: 
AFP
Thu, 2017-07-13 17:06
ID: 
1500012239511180400

AFGHANISTAN: A team of Afghan girls who had been denied visas to attend a Washington robotics competition spoke of Donald Trump’s support Thursday after US authorities changed course and allowed them to come.
Clutching Afghan flags and waving to photographers, the schoolgirls boarded a plane in Herat in western Afghanistan Thursday afternoon to begin the long journey to Washington, where they will become the first robotics team to represent the war-torn country overseas.
US authorities had originally refused access to schoolchildren from a number of Muslim-majority nations to participate in the science contest, decisions that followed implementation of stricter visa policies under Trump.
But the US president urged a reversal following public outcry over the Afghan girls’ inability to attend the event, according to US media, with the decision announced Wednesday.
“The President of the United States and the people of America supported us in this case, which shows that they have not forgotten us,” one competitor, Yasamin Yasinzadah told AFP at the airport in Herat.
“We want to take the message of peace to America and convey that Afghanistan is not only the country of war, and there are girls who chase their dreams in robots and education,” added Fatema Qaderyan.
Organizer Ali Reza Mehraban of the Digital Citizen Foundation said the decision meant “supporting peace and women of Afghanistan, who have been deprived of everything for the past forty years.”
President of organizers First Global, Joe Sestak said he was “most grateful” at the decision, noting that teams from Gambia, Yemen, Libya and Morocco would also attend.
“All 163 teams from 157 countries have gained approval to the United States, including Iran, Sudan, and a team of Syrian refugees,” said Sestak, a former US Navy admiral and congressman.
“I could not be more proud.”
The six girls from Herat, Afghanistan, were reportedly blocked from attending the robotics competition even after two rounds of interviews for a one-week visa.
The rejections appeared to contradict the administration’s claim it wants to empower women globally.
“We were not a terrorist group to go to America and scare people,” 14-year-old competitor Qaderyan told AFP in Herat before the U-turn.
“We just wanted to show the power and skills of Afghan girls to Americans.”
They told AFP they had worked for six months on their robot, which they built out of low-tech, recyclable material such as bottles and boxes.
Mehraban said it had been especially difficult to find girls in deeply conservative, war-torn Afghanistan whose families would allow them to take part.
When the reversal was announced, Ivanka Trump tweeted: “I look forward to welcoming this brilliant team of Afghan girls, and their competitors, to Washington DC next week!“
A limited version of Trump’s travel ban — temporarily barring refugees and visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — recently took effect, after the US Supreme Court allowed it to be enforced pending a full hearing in October.
Travelers from Afghanistan and Gambia are unaffected by that measure.

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Female Afghanistan students denied chance to attend US-based robotics competition, but Iranians given go-ahead

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Trump supported us, say Afghan girls after robotics visa U-turn

Author: 
AFP
Thu, 2017-07-13 17:06
ID: 
1500012239511180400

AFGHANISTAN: A team of Afghan girls who had been denied visas to attend a Washington robotics competition spoke of Donald Trump’s support Thursday after US authorities changed course and allowed them to come.
Clutching Afghan flags and waving to photographers, the schoolgirls boarded a plane in Herat in western Afghanistan Thursday afternoon to begin the long journey to Washington, where they will become the first robotics team to represent the war-torn country overseas.
US authorities had originally refused access to schoolchildren from a number of Muslim-majority nations to participate in the science contest, decisions that followed implementation of stricter visa policies under Trump.
But the US president urged a reversal following public outcry over the Afghan girls’ inability to attend the event, according to US media, with the decision announced Wednesday.
“The President of the United States and the people of America supported us in this case, which shows that they have not forgotten us,” one competitor, Yasamin Yasinzadah told AFP at the airport in Herat.
“We want to take the message of peace to America and convey that Afghanistan is not only the country of war, and there are girls who chase their dreams in robots and education,” added Fatema Qaderyan.
Organizer Ali Reza Mehraban of the Digital Citizen Foundation said the decision meant “supporting peace and women of Afghanistan, who have been deprived of everything for the past forty years.”
President of organizers First Global, Joe Sestak said he was “most grateful” at the decision, noting that teams from Gambia, Yemen, Libya and Morocco would also attend.
“All 163 teams from 157 countries have gained approval to the United States, including Iran, Sudan, and a team of Syrian refugees,” said Sestak, a former US Navy admiral and congressman.
“I could not be more proud.”
The six girls from Herat, Afghanistan, were reportedly blocked from attending the robotics competition even after two rounds of interviews for a one-week visa.
The rejections appeared to contradict the administration’s claim it wants to empower women globally.
“We were not a terrorist group to go to America and scare people,” 14-year-old competitor Qaderyan told AFP in Herat before the U-turn.
“We just wanted to show the power and skills of Afghan girls to Americans.”
They told AFP they had worked for six months on their robot, which they built out of low-tech, recyclable material such as bottles and boxes.
Mehraban said it had been especially difficult to find girls in deeply conservative, war-torn Afghanistan whose families would allow them to take part.
When the reversal was announced, Ivanka Trump tweeted: “I look forward to welcoming this brilliant team of Afghan girls, and their competitors, to Washington DC next week!“
A limited version of Trump’s travel ban — temporarily barring refugees and visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — recently took effect, after the US Supreme Court allowed it to be enforced pending a full hearing in October.
Travelers from Afghanistan and Gambia are unaffected by that measure.

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Female Afghanistan students denied chance to attend US-based robotics competition, but Iranians given go-ahead

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US judge grants bid to narrow Trump travel ban

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-07-14 06:33
ID: 
1500011069891137200

A US judge on Thursday granted the state of Hawaii’s bid to exempt grandparents and other relatives from President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on residents from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees.
US District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu had been asked to narrowly interpret a US Supreme Court ruling that revived parts of Trump’s March 6 executive order banning people from those countries for 90 days. Watson on Thursday declined to put on hold his ruling exempting grandparents from the ban.

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US judge grants bid to narrow Trump travel ban

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-07-14 06:33
ID: 
1500011069891137200

A US judge on Thursday granted the state of Hawaii’s bid to exempt grandparents and other relatives from President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on residents from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees.
US District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu had been asked to narrowly interpret a US Supreme Court ruling that revived parts of Trump’s March 6 executive order banning people from those countries for 90 days. Watson on Thursday declined to put on hold his ruling exempting grandparents from the ban.

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One dead as under-construction Singapore highway collapses

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:21
ID: 
1500003105860968100

SINGAPORE: One man was killed and 10 others injured in Singapore Friday when a partially-built elevated highway they were working on collapsed, authorities said, a rare construction accident in the city-state.
The worker who died was Chinese, as were three of the injured. The other seven were Bangladeshis, officials said.
About 60 emergency officials rushed to the scene after the pre-dawn accident. Pictures circulating online showed rescuers searching in the early morning gloom among rubble and collapsed scaffolding.
“Eleven workers were working on top of the structure during the accident. One worker was killed and the other ten injured,” said Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, adding those hurt had been sent to hospital.
Officials said all workers at the site had now been accounted for.
The transport authority added it had “begun safety investigations into the cause of the accident in order to see if there are any lapses or gaps we would need to address urgently.”
Construction accidents in Singapore are rare because of the city-state’s stringent safety requirements. Much construction work in affluent Singapore is carried out by migrant workers, who come to the country on short-term work permits.

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One dead as under-construction Singapore highway collapses

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:21
ID: 
1500003105860968100

SINGAPORE: One man was killed and 10 others injured in Singapore Friday when a partially-built elevated highway they were working on collapsed, authorities said, a rare construction accident in the city-state.
The worker who died was Chinese, as were three of the injured. The other seven were Bangladeshis, officials said.
About 60 emergency officials rushed to the scene after the pre-dawn accident. Pictures circulating online showed rescuers searching in the early morning gloom among rubble and collapsed scaffolding.
“Eleven workers were working on top of the structure during the accident. One worker was killed and the other ten injured,” said Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, adding those hurt had been sent to hospital.
Officials said all workers at the site had now been accounted for.
The transport authority added it had “begun safety investigations into the cause of the accident in order to see if there are any lapses or gaps we would need to address urgently.”
Construction accidents in Singapore are rare because of the city-state’s stringent safety requirements. Much construction work in affluent Singapore is carried out by migrant workers, who come to the country on short-term work permits.

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ADB warns climate change ‘disastrous’ for Asia

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:29
ID: 
1500003105880968200

MANILA: A business-as-usual approach to climate change will be “disastrous” for Asia, undoing much of the phenomenal economic growth that has helped it make vast inroads against poverty, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released Friday.
A continued reliance on fossil fuels will see the world’s most populous region face prolonged heat waves, rising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns that will disrupt the ecosystem, damage livelihoods and possibly even cause wars, it said.
“Unabated climate change threatens to undo many of the development advancements of the last decades, not least by incurring high economic losses,” the report from the Manila-based bank said.
By the end of the century, parts of the continent could see mean temperatures shoot up to eight degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as the global mean temperature rises by half that, it added.
“A business-as-usual scenario will lead to disastrous climate impacts for the people of Asia and the Pacific, especially for poor and vulnerable populations,” it said.
But it said the region could avert disaster by shifting to renewable energy sources.
The 2015 Paris climate accord commits nations to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
While a 2 degrees Celsius rise will be difficult to manage, “one can assume that a 4 degrees Celsius increase would lead to humanitarian disasters in many nations and result in unmanageable migration flows or locked-in populations,” the report said.
Asia as a whole would see sea levels rise by 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) within this century, nearly twice the projected increase under the Paris deal, and face more destructive cyclones, it said.
In this scenario, the report said the region’s coral reef systems would collapse from mass bleaching, with severe consequences for fisheries and tourism.
Melting Asian glaciers would cause both floods and water shortages, disrupting agriculture, and increase dependence on rainfall to meet water needs.
The impact of such changes on access to energy and natural resources were all potential powderkegs for conflict, it said.
The study projects additional heat-related deaths of nearly 52,000 elderly people across the region annually by the 2050s, nearly 8,000 extra diarrheal deaths in South Asia, and some 10,000 more malaria and dengue deaths in Asia.
Asia’s global economic links mean that extreme climate events could disrupt supply chains not only in the region but also in the rest of the world, it warned.
Despite stunning economic growth that saw Asian per capita incomes rise 10-fold in the past 25 years, it remains home to the majority of the world’s poor, the ADB said.
This, along with the fact that a large share of its population inhabit low-lying coastlines, has made the world’s largest continent “particularly vulnerable” to climate change.
Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand are among the world’s top 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events, it said.
The ADB vowed in 2015 to double its climate finance mitigation investments to $6 billion by 2020, including $2 billion to help countries shift to renewable energy.

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ADB warns climate change ‘disastrous’ for Asia

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:29
ID: 
1500003105880968200

MANILA: A business-as-usual approach to climate change will be “disastrous” for Asia, undoing much of the phenomenal economic growth that has helped it make vast inroads against poverty, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released Friday.
A continued reliance on fossil fuels will see the world’s most populous region face prolonged heat waves, rising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns that will disrupt the ecosystem, damage livelihoods and possibly even cause wars, it said.
“Unabated climate change threatens to undo many of the development advancements of the last decades, not least by incurring high economic losses,” the report from the Manila-based bank said.
By the end of the century, parts of the continent could see mean temperatures shoot up to eight degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as the global mean temperature rises by half that, it added.
“A business-as-usual scenario will lead to disastrous climate impacts for the people of Asia and the Pacific, especially for poor and vulnerable populations,” it said.
But it said the region could avert disaster by shifting to renewable energy sources.
The 2015 Paris climate accord commits nations to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
While a 2 degrees Celsius rise will be difficult to manage, “one can assume that a 4 degrees Celsius increase would lead to humanitarian disasters in many nations and result in unmanageable migration flows or locked-in populations,” the report said.
Asia as a whole would see sea levels rise by 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) within this century, nearly twice the projected increase under the Paris deal, and face more destructive cyclones, it said.
In this scenario, the report said the region’s coral reef systems would collapse from mass bleaching, with severe consequences for fisheries and tourism.
Melting Asian glaciers would cause both floods and water shortages, disrupting agriculture, and increase dependence on rainfall to meet water needs.
The impact of such changes on access to energy and natural resources were all potential powderkegs for conflict, it said.
The study projects additional heat-related deaths of nearly 52,000 elderly people across the region annually by the 2050s, nearly 8,000 extra diarrheal deaths in South Asia, and some 10,000 more malaria and dengue deaths in Asia.
Asia’s global economic links mean that extreme climate events could disrupt supply chains not only in the region but also in the rest of the world, it warned.
Despite stunning economic growth that saw Asian per capita incomes rise 10-fold in the past 25 years, it remains home to the majority of the world’s poor, the ADB said.
This, along with the fact that a large share of its population inhabit low-lying coastlines, has made the world’s largest continent “particularly vulnerable” to climate change.
Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand are among the world’s top 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events, it said.
The ADB vowed in 2015 to double its climate finance mitigation investments to $6 billion by 2020, including $2 billion to help countries shift to renewable energy.

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