• Taliban fighters enter northern Afghan city of Kunduz

    28/Sep/2015 // 190 Viewers

    Taliban fighters launched a three-pronged offensive on the capital of the northern Afghan province of Kunduz on Monday, fighting their way through the main entrances to the city, burning buildings and briefly taking over a hospital.

    Breaching a provincial capital marks a troubling milestone in the nearly 14-year-old insurgency, though Afghan forces this year have driven the Taliban from most territory they’ve gained in the warm-weather fighting season.

    The assault was the second time this year that the Taliban have besieged Kunduz city, as the NATO-trained Afghan police and army fight largely without the help of foreign forces.

    By mid-morning, the Taliban fighters were inside the city limits. A Reuters witness saw buildings on fire in the south of the city, and he saw Taliban fighters entering a 200-bed government-run hospital.

    Dozens of panicked residents fled to the city’s main airport but were turned away by security forces. By afternoon, the fighting had reached about a kilometre (0.62 mile) from the city’s main government compound, according to a Reuters witness.

    Afghan military helicopters were firing rockets at militants in three areas on the city’s outskirts, a police spokesman said. Artillery and gunfire could be heard in the city centre from just after daybreak.

    “Right now heavy fighting is ongoing in Khanabad, Chardara and at Imam Saheb, the main entrances to the city,” Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman for Kunduz police, said. “We have enough forces and will drive them out soon.”

    He said 20 Taliban fighters were killed and three Afghan police wounded in the clashes.

    But if Afghan forces cannot drive out the Taliban from any of the city’s three main entrances, it would appear be difficult for the government to maintain control.

    Special forces of the Afghan police and army were on their way from neighbouring Balkh province to help defend Kunduz, a Balkh police commander said.

    Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Majahid urged Kunduz residents to stay inside.

    “The mujahideen are trying to avoid any harm to Kunduz residents,” he said on his official Twitter account, referring to Taliban fighters.

    “Residents have to be assured they will not face any problem from our side.”

    Later in the day, Mujahid said that Taliban fighters had seized the hospital and taken over government buildings.

    A hospital official confirmed Taliban fighters had entered the hospital briefly, apparently looking for wounded government fighters.

    “They just visited our rooms. They didn’t harm anybody and didn’t damage anything. They left soon after,” said the official, who declined to be identified as he feared repercussions.

    The once-quiet north of Afghanistan has seen escalating violence in recent years. Kunduz city was the centre of fierce fighting in April as the Taliban, driven from power by a 2001 U.S.-backed military intervention, sought to gain territory after the end of NATO’s combat mission last year.

    A scaled-down NATO mission now mostly trains and advises Afghan forces, although U.S. drones still target militant leaders and a U.S. counter-terrorist force also operates in the country.

    (REUTERS)


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  • Turkey won't host 'inhumane' migrant processing centre: PM

    28/Sep/2015 // 216 Viewers

    AFP | Turkish Prime Minister and Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Ahmet Davutoglu rules out migrant processing centres in Turkey
    ANKARA (AFP) - 
    Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday ruled out creating a processing centre for the thousands of mostly Syrian migrants trying to enter Europe from Turkish territory, calling instead for them to be hosted in "safe zones" inside Syria.

    Responding to repeated calls by EU members for migrants' asylum claims to be handled in the countries from which they set sail for Europe, Davutoglu told Hurriyet newspaper: "We have told Europe that there will be no reception centre in Turkey."

    EU leaders last week agreed to boost aid for Turkey and other countries neighbouring Syria, which have taken in the bulk of the over four million people fleeing the Syrian civil war and Islamic State extremists.

    They also vowed to strengthen the bloc's outer frontiers and create controversial centres in frontline states like Greece and Italy to sort refugees from economic migrants more quickly.

    Davutoglu said such centres were "unacceptable" and "inhumane" and repeated Turkey's call for the formation of a safe zone inside Syria stretching from Azaz to Jarablus in the north.

    "If Azaz-Jarablus is cleared (of Islamic State extremists), we can establish three cities there each hosting 100 thousand people," said the Turkish premier.

    "You (Europe) will undertake the financial costs and we will build it," he proposed.

    Turkey and Germany would join forces to tackle the refugee crisis, he said.

    "We have decided that Turkey and Germany will establish a working group," said Davutoglu, who met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in New York at the weekend, ahead of this week's UN General Assembly.

    "At first, we will form a bilateral mechanism and later will include Greece if necessary," he said, without elaborating further.

    Many of the Syrian refugees pouring into Europe have been living in Turkey for months, even years.

    "What's good here is that we have for years wanted to draw attention to the humanitarian crises caused by the Syrian crisis but the international community left the table and put the burden on Turkey," Davutoglu said.

    ? 2015 AFP


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  • Pyongyang fires short-range missile over sea in another repeated violation

    29/Mar/2016 // 181 Viewers

     

    PARIS, MARCH 29, 2016: (DGW)  - PYONGYANG on Tuesday fired a short-range missile of its east coast in another round of  repeated armed test violations, South Korea News Agency has reported.

    The missile reportedly fired from North Korea resort town of Wonsan at about 5.40 p.m.flew for about 200 km north-east over the sea before landing , the News Agency further reported.

    The hermit kingdom has repeatedly violated armed test ban in recent weeks. Recall the UN had imposed sanction on North Korea for conducting its fourth nuclear test early this year, January to be precise.

     

     


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  • China abandons one-child policy

    29/Oct/2015 // 163 Viewers

    China announced the end of its hugely controversial one-child policy on Thursday, with the official Xinhua news agency saying that all couples would be allowed two children.

    It cited a communiqué issued by the ruling Communist Party after a four-day meeting in Beijing to chart the course of the world's second largest economy over the next five years.

    China is "abandoning its decades-long one-child policy", Xinhua reported.

    The policy restricted most couples to only a single offspring, and for years authorities argued that it was a key contributor to China's economic boom.

    But after years of strict, sometimes brutal enforcement by a dedicated government commission, China's population -- the world's largest -- is now ageing rapidly, gender imbalances are severe, and its workforce is shrinking.

    The concerns led to limited reforms in 2013, including allowing a second child for some couples in urban areas, but relatively few have taken up the opportunity.

    The Communist leadership met in Beijing to discuss ways to put the country's stuttering economy back on a smooth growth path as it struggles with structural inefficiencies and social policies left over from an era before it embraced market reforms.

    Known as the fifth plenum, the conclave discussed the next Five-Year Plan for China -- the 13th since the People's Republic was founded in 1949.

    Over four days of meetings the 205 members of the Central Committee, plus around 170 alternates, examined the specifics of the plan, which was largely worked out through a process of national consultations before the leaders even set foot in the capital.

    The country's rubber-stamp legislature will officially approve the resulting document next year.

    The world's most populous country has enjoyed a decades-long boom since the ruling party embraced market economics and opened up to the rest of the world from the late 1970s.

    The process has transformed the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people and propelled the country to global prominence.

    But growth has been slowing for several years, and analysts say the party needs to embrace further liberalisation to avoid falling into the stagnation of the "middle income trap", when developing countries fail to fulfil their full potential.

    The meeting reiterated the Communist Party's goal to double 2010 GDP by 2020, as part of its aim to achieve a "moderately prosperous society" by the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party's founding.

    (AFP)


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  • Indian airline blocks woman in short dress from flight

    29/Oct/2015 // 191 Viewers

    © AFP/File | Budget carrier IndiGo said a female passenger was prevented from boarding a flight because her dress was too short

     

    MUMBAI (AFP) - 

    A female passenger was prevented from boarding a domestic flight in India because she was showing too much leg, the budget carrier IndiGo and newspaper reports said on Thursday.

    The woman travelling from the western city of Mumbai to India's capital New Delhi was not allowed to board Monday's flight because her dress was too short, the Indian Express reported.

    An official at IndiGo, who asked not to be named, told AFP that the dress had stopped above the knee, in violation of rules issued to employees and relatives of staff.

    The woman was formerly employed by the airline and was travelling on a special ticket because her sister worked for the company, the official said.

    "Employees and the nominated family members are required to maintain a specific dress code, as and when they fly with the airline under the staff leisure travel privileges," read an IndiGo statement.

    "Keeping in mind this policy, the Mumbai ground staff followed the protocol to brief this passenger on the dress code policy," it added.

    The Indian national changed her attire and was allowed onto a later flight, the official said, stressing that the dress code was not for ordinary customers.

    IndiGo is India's only consistently profitable airline and commands almost 40 percent of its home market, the biggest share of any airline.

    It is currently seeking to raise $460 million through an initial public offering.


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  • Bidhya Bhandari elected Nepal’s first woman president

    29/Oct/2015 // 252 Viewers

    Nepal's parliament Wednesday elected communist lawmaker Bidhya Bhandari as the country's first female president after the adoption of a landmark constitution last month.

    The former defence minister defeated her opponent Kul Bahadur Gurung by 327 to 214 votes to become the Himalayan nation's ceremonial head of state.

    Bhandari, the vice-chair of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), replaces Ram Baran Yadav.

    He was elected as the country's first president in 2008 following the abolition of a 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.

    "I announce that Bidhya Devi Bhandari has been elected to the post of Nepal's president," said Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar, to loud cheers from parliamentarians.

    Scores of supporters waited for Bhandari outside parliament, applauding as she thanked lawmakers for electing her.

    "I will do my best to protect the constitution and work for the country's development and prosperity," she told reporters.

    Bhandari, a rare female face in Nepal's parliament, took up politics in her teens, seeking to overturn the absolute monarchy and later marrying a fellow communist, Madan Bhandari.

    But it was after her husband's death in a vehicle accident in 1993 that the mother of two became a prominent voice, riding a wave of sympathy to win a seat in parliament.

    Bhandari, who served as defence minister from 2009 to 2011, was hailed by campaigners for her strong stance in favour of increasing female representation in parliament to 33 percent.

    But she earned the anger of rights activists when she supported a provision in the new charter that bars Nepali single mothers and women married to foreigners from passing on citizenship to their children.

    "Some may say she is not the most feminist person to become president," said Guna Raj Luitel, editor of Nepali newspaper Nagarik Daily.

    "But she is a single woman in a male-dominated society who has made such progress in politics and that is quite commendable," he said.

    Bhandari's predecessor Yadav was initially supposed to hold office for only two years. But years of political wrangling delayed agreement on a new constitution, which was only finally adopted last month.

    Women in power

    Bhandari, 54, is the second woman to be elected to a senior position since the new charter, after Magar became the country's first female Speaker earlier this month.

    As required by the constitution, parliament this month also elected a new prime minister, KP Sharma Oli, who faces the tough task of unifying the earthquake-hit country as ethnic tensions flare.

    The constitution, the first drawn up by elected representatives, was meant to bolster peace and ease Nepal's transformation to a democratic republic after decades of political instability and a 10-year Maoist insurgency.

    But it has instead sparked deadly violence.

    More than 40 people have been killed in clashes between police and ethnic minority protesters, who say a new federal structure laid out in the charter will leave them under-represented in parliament.

    Work on the constitution began in 2008 after Maoist rebels laid down arms and entered politics, winning parliamentary elections and abolishing the monarchy. But power-sharing squabbles between parties stymied progress.

    Lawmakers finally reached agreement in June, spurred by the massive earthquake two months earlier that killed nearly 8,900 people and left more than half a million people homeless.

    (AFP)


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  • Japan puts military on alert for possible North Korea missile launch

    31/May/2016 // 488 Viewers

     

    TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) - Japan put its military on alert on Monday for a possible North Korean ballistic missile firing, while South Korea also said it had detected evidence of launch preparations, officials from Japan and South Korea said.

    Tension in the region has been high since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and test launches of various missiles.

    Japan ordered naval destroyers and Patriot anti-ballistic missile batteries to be ready to shoot down any projectile heading for the country, state broadcaster NHK said.

    A Japanese official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed the order. A spokesmen for Japan's defense ministry declined to comment.

    The missile tubes on a Patriot missile battery on the grounds of Japan's Ministry of Defense were elevated to a firing position.

    The South Korean defense official declined to comment on what type of missile might be launched, but South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said officials believe it would be an intermediate-range Musudan missile.

    "We've detected a sign and are tracking that. We are fully prepared," said the South Korean official, who also declined to be identified.

    A Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Navy Commander Gary Ross, said: "We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula in coordination with our regional allies. We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments."

    Ross said he would not discuss U.S. intelligence assessments. The White House declined to comment.

    North Korea tried unsuccessfully to test launch the Musudan three times in April, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.

    Japan has put its anti-ballistic missile forces on alert at least twice this year after detecting signs of launches by North Korea.

    North Korea's nuclear and missile tests this year triggered new U.N. sanctions. But it seems determined to press ahead with its weapons programs, despite the sanctions and the disapproval of its sole main ally, China.

    Last Friday, leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama, met in Japan and demanded that North Korea comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution to stop all nuclear and missile tests and refrain from provocative action.

    On the same day, North Korea threatened to retaliate against South Korea after it fired what it said were warning shots when boats from the North crossed the disputed sea border off the west coast of the Korean peninsula.

    Japan has advanced Aegis vessels in the Sea of Japan that are able to track multiple targets and are armed with SM-3 missiles designed to destroy incoming warheads in space before they re-enter the atmosphere.

    Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, designed to hit warheads near the ground, are deployed around Tokyo and other sites as a second and final line of defense.


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