Dozens killed and wounded as explosions, gunfire hit Kabul hospital

News Network
November 2, 2021

Kabul, Nov 2: At least 25 people were killed and more than 50 wounded when gunmen attacked Afghanistan's biggest military hospital after two heavy explosionsat the site in central Kabul, officials said.

The explosions hit the entrance of the 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital and were followed with an assault by a group of Islamic State gunmen, all of whom were killed within 15 minutes, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

He said Taliban special forces dropped by helicopter had prevented the attackers from entering the hospital itself, with all killed at the entrance or in the courtyard. Earlier another spokesman said one of the attackers was captured.

The blasts add to a growing list of attacks and killings since the Taliban completed their victory over the Western-backed government in August, undermining their claim to have restored security to Afghanistan after decades of war.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the operation was typical of the complex attacks mounted by Islamic State. It follows a string of bombings by the group which has emerged as the biggest threat to Taliban control of Afghanistan.

A Taliban security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 25 people had been killed and more than 50 wounded in the assault but there was no officially confirmed casualty toll.

Among the dead was Mawlawi Hamdullah Mukhlis, head of the Kabul military corps and one of the first senior Taliban commanders to enter the abandoned presidential palace when the city fell, Taliban officials said.

Photographs shared by residents showed a plume of smoke over the area of the blasts near the former diplomatic zone in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of the city.

Witnesses said at least two helicopters flew over the area as the assault went on, one of the first times Taliban forces have used aircraft captured from the Western-backed government in a military operation.

A health worker at the hospital, who managed to escape, said he heard a large explosion followed by gunfire and a second, larger explosion about 10 minutes later.

Islamic State, an anti-Islamic terror outfit, which has carried out a series of attacks on mosques and other targets since the Taliban's seizure of Kabul in August, mounted a complex attack on the hospital in 2017, killing more than 30 people. 

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News Network
November 15,2021

New Delhi, Nov 15: India’s excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic could be as high as 49 lakh (4.9 million), according to a new study that provides further evidence that millions more may have died from coronavirus than the official tally.

Experts who have questioned India’s official covid-19 death toll of 4.63 lakh citing Civil Registry Service (CRS) data, seroprevalence studies and other sources, claimed that the country registered anywhere between 27 lakh and 49 lakh excess deaths during the pandemic till June 2021.

Indo-Canadian epidemiologist Dr Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research, University of Toronto, said various data showed that Covid-19 is the main contributor to excess deaths in the pandemic months in both 2020 and 2021.

“The actual numbers are at least three million or substantially higher than what has been officially reported, and with the adjustments India’s Covid deaths per million are close or similar to Latin America,” he said.

Dr Jha and other experts, who spoke at a specially convened panel by the Indian Academy of Sciences (IASc), said the calculations were made using several sources: CRS data from states, data from the Consumer Payment Household Surveys (CPHS) and surveys by the polling agency CVoter (Since May 2020, the polling agency has been asking households if they have recorded a Covid death).

“In the first wave, there was a modest 1 per cent increase in the number of households reporting deaths but then it abated. Then from April to June, there was a colossal 6% increase in households reporting a death,” said Dr Jha.

According to Dr Arvind Subramaniam, Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the overall Indian “undercounting was somewhere between a factor of 7 and 10”.

Not all of these deaths were recorded as Covid-19 deaths, said Rukmini S, an independent data expert based in Chennai.

Rukmini said the Indian government's definition of a Covid-19 fatality “covered people who tested positive and then died soon after with a clear progression of the disease”.
Low medical certification

Most deaths in India remain without medical certification, which complicates matters.

Dr Jha, citing the United Nations, said there were about 10 million deaths a year in India out of which 3 million (30%) went unregistered. 

“They are just not counted but this is greater in women where close to 60% of women deaths are not counted. And of those seven million deaths registered, only about 13% have medical certification,” he said.

According to an under-review study on excess mortality in India, Bengaluru suffered an excess death ratio of 2.9 in the second wave.

Many of the excess deaths have since been disclosed in the daily Covid-19 bulletins, with one source in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) saying that “some deaths were held back during the second wave to avoid magnifying already high numbers and inducing greater panic in the public.”

This is borne out by data. During April and May, 4,033 Covid-19 deaths were made public. However, subsequent releases of backlog deaths, including some cases re-evaluated as Covid-19 fatalities by the death audit committee, show that 9,917 deaths actually happened during those two months.

Professor Dr Satyajith Mayor, Director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), and L S Shashidhara, co-organisers of the panel discussion, demanded data transparency from the government.

"These high numbers must figure in our response to the ongoing pandemic and also caution our citizens of the dire consequences of this disease,” said Mayor and Shashidhara in a joint statement.

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News Network
November 20,2021

New Delhi, Nov 20: Om Raj excitedly shows his small diary carrying details of all the friends he made at Singhu border, while Manak Singh says he will miss the protest site which witnessed their daily hardship for over a year to convince the Centre to repeal the farm laws.

Sitting with his friends on a cot near temporary tents set up at Ghazipur border, Raj (85) said the protest venue now feels like home and that the agitating farmers have developed a deep bond with each other.

The farmer, a native of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, shows his diary in which he has meticulously maintained details of all the protesters he has befriended in the past one year.

"See this is my tenth diary and there are hardly any pages left. I have maintained details of all the farmers I met here and became friends with over the period. We all stay in touch. The bond that we developed here has only become stronger. I also plan to visit them,” Raj says enthusiastically.

At Ghazipur border, one of the three prominent venues of the anti-farm laws agitation, protesters were filled with excitement following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of repealing the controversial farm laws.

Another protestor says he will definitely miss the venue after he will return to his village.

Asked if he ever went to his hometown during the last one year, Raj recalled that he visited his native place on just two to three occasions and returned within a few days.

Since the last two months, the elderly farmer has set up a small venture which he starts at around 10 am and closes by 5 in the evening. He says the intention behind it was just to have some ‘gupshup’ (conversation) and pass the time with other farmers.

He also showed the spread of the products for sale -- bidis, matchboxes, badges and flags.

"When the farmers get bored, they sit here and pass time. I sell bidis and matchboxes which usually fetches me around Rs 100 a day,” he said.

Manak Singh (77), a native of Amroha district in Punjab, says, "This spot has become our place for chit-chat. We will stay here until all the laws are repealed as per legal procedure. We will not go unless all our listed seven demands are met by the central government. This announcement by the Centre could have also been done with upcoming elections in mind."

Having braved severe weather conditions and other hardship during their protest, the farmers say this has only made their brotherhood and will power stronger.

"If the government would have made this announcement earlier, we would not have suffered so much," a protester rues.

Meanwhile, a few tents away, 68-year-old Ram Kumar Sharma, hailing from Nithari village in Noida, had been serving ‘langar’ (free meals) from morning till night, at the protest site for nearly a year now.

Sharma, who is also a member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, says he comes around 10 am and leaves at night after the last langar is served.

“I have been organising the langar with the spirit of social service. I will miss the farmers after they will leave the site,” he says.

“I do not want to see anyone going back with an empty stomach. I am myself a farmer and do not want to see anyone hungry,” he adds.

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News Network
November 25,2021

RaghurajSingh.jpg

Lucknow, Nov 25: A minister in Uttar Pradesh government today termed the madrasas (Islamic Schools) as "terrorist dens" and demanded that they be closed immediately.

"The madrasas are dens of terrorists.....they churn out terrorists.....those passing out of the madrasas become terrorists," UP minister of state for labour Raghuraj Singh said in Aligarh.

Speaking to reporters, Singh said that there were only 250 madrasas in UP till a few decades back. "Now there are more than 22 thousand madrasas in the state," the minister said.

Singh, while referring to Burhan Wani, who was a top commander of the terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen and was killed in a gun battle with security forces in Jammu & Kashmir in 2016, said that he was also a 'product' of a madrasa in the state.

The minister added that he would order the closure of all the madrasas if he got a chance.

Singh's remarks came amid announcement by the Yogi Adityanath government to renovate and modernise the madrasas in the state.

The Muslim clerics and opposition parties slammed the minister for the remarks. "Many, who studied in the madrasas, had fought for the freedom of the country....the minister should read history before making such a statement....he must be sacked immediately," said a Muslim cleric here.

"The remarks reflect the anti-Muslim mindset of the BJP....the minister is not alone in saying so...there are many MLAs in the BJP, who have also made objectionable comments on the Muslims," said a senior Samajwadi Party leader here. 

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