5 rockets fired at Kabul airport intercepted by missile defense system

News Network
August 30, 2021

Kabul, Aug 30: As many as five rockets were fired at Kabul's international airport but were intercepted by a missile defense system, a US official told Reuters, as the United States' nears the complete withdrawal of its troops from the city.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the rockets were fired early Monday morning Kabul time, though it was unclear if all were brought down by the defense system. Initial reports did not indicate any US casualties, but that information could change, the official said.

Earlier on Sunday, American forces launched a drone strike in Kabul targeting a suicide bomber in a vehicle who was aiming to attack the airport.

There is increasing concern that Islamic State militants will launch further attacks on the airport as US troops hurry to evacuate remaining American citizens and at-risk Afghans, before competing their own withdrawal by Aug. 31.

Officials had warned in the past that ISIS-K militants were looking to target the airport with rockets. But the United States has experience in countering such rockets, primarily in Iraq, and had already installed missile defense systems.

"We know that they (ISIS-K) would like to lob a rocket in there, if they could," General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters in Washington last week.

"Now we actually have pretty good protection against that. We have our anti-rocket and mortar system," McKenzie said.

There is greater concern about suicide bombers and car bombs attacking the airport, after a suicide bomb attack on Thursday that killed scores of Afghans and 13 US service members.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden said the situation on the ground remained extremely dangerous, and that his military chiefs had told him another militant attack was highly likely within the next 24-36 hours.

Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely, and the United States said it carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an explosives-laden vehicle.

That was followed on Monday morning by the sound of rockets flying across Kabul, according to AFP journalists in the city.

People living near the airport said they heard the sounds of the missile defensive system being activated.

Smoke could be seen rising near the airport.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed Sunday's incident, saying a car bomb destined for the airport had been destroyed -- and that a possible second strike had hit a nearby house.

The United States has been accused of killing many civilians in air strikes throughout the war, one reason for losing local support, and that was again a possibility on Sunday.

"We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today," Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.

Urban said the US military was investigating whether civilians were killed, noting there were "powerful" explosions that resulted from the destruction of the vehicle.

"We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life," he said.

In recent years, the Islamic State's Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.

They have massacred civilians at mosques, public squares, schools, and even hospitals.

While both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamists, they are bitter foes -- with each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad.

Last week's suicide bombing at the airport led to the worst single-day death toll for the US military in Afghanistan since 2011.

The IS threat has forced the US military and the Taliban to co-operate in ensuring security at the airport in a way unthinkable just weeks ago.

On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.

The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, which the US military ended because they gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.

But many Afghans fear a repeat of the Taliban's brutal interpretation of Islamic law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.

Western allies have warned many thousands of at-risk Afghans have not been able to get on the evacuation flights.

On Sunday, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance.

"He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

"He will soon appear in public," added deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi of the leader, whose whereabouts have remained largely unknown.

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News Network
November 25,2021

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Shivamogga, Nov 25: Anti Corruption Bureau (Eastern Zone) conducted raids at Joint Director of Gadag Agriculture Department, TS Rudreshappa's houses at and recovered 9.4 kg gold ornaments, eight acres of agriculture land documents and Rs 15,94,000 cash.

Besides the gold ornaments, cash, land documents, the ACB also recovered three kg silver, two cars, three bikes and home appliances worth Rs 20 lakh, said ACB.

"A total of 9 kg and 400 grams of gold ornaments, 3 kg silver, two cars, 3 bikes, 8 acres agriculture land documents, Rs 15, 94,000 cash and 20 lakh worth of home appliances were recovered during a raid," said ACB.

Close to 50 ACB officials pounced on his office and a rented house at Hudco Colony in Gadag and his Chalukya Nagar house in Shivamogga on Wednesday.

The cops raided the officer’s house and the agriculture department office at 6 am and searched the premises for over seven hours.

ACB Inspector Basavaraj Badnur told reporters, “Agriculture Joint Director Rudreshappa T S is staying alone at a rented premise at Hudco Colony in Gadag. His family stays in Shivamogga. During our search at the house and the office, we found documents of two cars. While Innova is in his mother-in-law’s name, Nexon car is owned by his wife.”

Yet another team had visited his native Tanigere in Channagiri taluk of Davangere district. The cops have found eight-acre agricultural land and are verifying if it was inherited or purchased by the officer in question.

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News Network
November 26,2021

New Delhi, Nov 26: The Centre will resume regular international flights from December 15, barring 14 countries, people familiar with the development said on Friday. 

The countries which do not feature on the list are the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Singapore, sources said. 

The decision has been taken in consultation with the health ministry in light of the Covid situation across the world, especially the emergence of new variants. On Thursday, South Africa confirmed a new variant of Coronavirus which is believed to be more transmissible and vaccine-evasive. 

The variant has been reported in Botswana and Hong Kong as well apart from South Africa. India is not resuming regular international flight operations with Botswana and South Africa.

With some of the countries on the list India has a travel bubble that permits a certain number of flights a week, which will continue, officials explained.

Regular international flights operations were suspended in March 2020 owing to the Coronavirus pandemic. The civil aviation ministry started Vande Bharat flights to ferry Indians who got stuck in other countries during the pandemic. After the Vande Bharat flights, the ministry entered into air bubble agreements with some countries allowing international travel.

With the number of Covid cases steadily going down and the vaccine coverage in the country going up, the Centre was mulling easing restrictions regarding international travel. Two days ago, civil aviation secretary Rajiv Bansal said the ministry is working towards allowing international passenger flights from this year-end.

Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia too recently expressed the ministry's keenness to resume normal international travel operations. “We are evaluating the process. We are coming back to normalcy. First, we allowed 100% passenger capacity in our domestic flights and now we allowed in-flight meals in those flights," Scindia said at an industry summit.

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News Network
November 30,2021

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A “very large” number of Indians are likely to remain protected from Omicron or any other variant of Covid-19 and there is no need to panic, eminent virologist Dr Shahid Jameel has said.

Jameel, who is the former head of the advisory group to the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INASACOG), said people must be cautious and keep wearing masks.

"While we should be cautious, there is no need to panic. India's second wave due to the Delta variant was huge, infecting more people than we imagined. This is reflected in the fourth National Sero-survey that showed 67 per cent of Indians to have Covid antibodies. That is about 930-940 million people at a time when the vaccination levels were very low, and so it came mainly from infection," he said in an interview.

"More recently, Delhi showed 97 per cent with antibodies, Mumbai around 85-90 per cent and so on. All this means that a very large fraction of Indians will be protected from severe disease caused by Omicron or any other variant," Jameel said.

A new variant of Covid-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa. On November 26, the WHO had designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it Omicron.

Speaking on the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant, Jameel said more data is awaited but vaccine effectiveness against the variant may dip by a few points. However, vaccines will not become useless, he said.

"We don't have this data available yet. It may take another one to two weeks for the first laboratory results to become available. My hunch is that vaccine effectiveness against this variant may dip a few points, but vaccines will not become useless. They will continue to protect from severe disease," he said.

On how India can prepare to tackle the new variant, he said people should not panic, and continue to wear mask while the government should increase the rate of vaccination.

"We are fortunate to have sufficient vaccines and the ability to vaccinate. Along this line, it may help to reduce the duration between two doses of Covishield from 16 weeks to 12 weeks. This will get more people vaccinated quickly, especially those in vulnerable age groups (elderly), those with comorbidities and those in high risk occupations (health care)," he said.

On what role a booster dose of vaccine can play against the new variant to tackle waning immunity against Covid-19, he said booster shots help, but it is more important to first get more people vaccinated with two doses.

"Further, about 90 per cent of doses in India are Covishield, and this has limited use as a booster. For that we will need either RNA, DNA or protein vaccines. For the moment, just make sure more and more people get the two doses," he said.

Responding to reports claiming that the variant mainly affects people below 25 years of age, he said there is no data available on the subject.

"So far, the few known patients are in this age group. I doubt it will pose a bigger threat to children who naturally have no or mild disease to this virus," Jameel said.

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