Afghanistan: Suicide attack by terrorists on mosque kills around 40; over 70 injured

News Network
October 15, 2021

Kabul, Oct 15: Suicide bombers assaulted a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan that was packed with worshippers attending weekly Friday prayers, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 70, according to a hospital official and an eyewitness.

The attack on the Imam Barga mosque came a week after a bombing claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate killed 46 people at a Shiite mosque in northern Afghanistan.

Murtaza, an eye-witness who like many Afghans goes by one name, said four suicide bombers attacked the mosque. Two detonated their explosives at a security gate, allowing the other two to run inside and strike the congregation of worshippers.

Speaking to The Associated Press by phone, he said Friday prayers are typically attended by around 500 people.

Video footage from the scene showed bodies scattered across blood-stained carpets, with survivors walking around in a daze or crying out in anguish.

A local hospital official was not authorized to brief media and so confirmed the casualty toll on condition of anonymity.

The extremist group, which is opposed to the ruling Taliban, views Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death. IS has claimed a number of deadly bombings across the country since the Taliban seized power in August amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The group has also targeted Taliban fighters in smaller attacks.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi confirmed the explosion and said an investigation was underway, without providing further details.

The Taliban have pledged to restore peace and security after decades of war. Both the Taliban and IS adhere to a rigid interpretation of Islamic law, but IS is far more radical, viewing itself as part of a worldwide Islamic caliphate that includes better-known branches in Iraq and Syria.

The Taliban and IS are Sunni Muslims, but they are bitterly split by ideology and have fought each other on numerous occasions.

That Taliban have pledged to protect Afghanistan's Shiite minority, which suffered persecution during the last period of Taliban rule, in the 1990s. 

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News Network
November 29,2021

New Delhi, Nov 29: The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the "Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021" to repeal the three contentious farms laws enacted in 2020, against which various farm organizations have been carrying out widespread protests for the past one year.

The bill, which was tabled by Union Minister for Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar, seeks to repeal the three farm laws - (1)Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; (2) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020; and (3)Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.

The bill was passed through a voice vote. Though opposition MPs belonging to Congress, TMC and DMK demanded a discussion, the bill was passed without any discussion.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Farm Laws Repeal Bills noted that "even though only a group of farmers are protesting against these laws, the government has tried hard to sensitise the farmers on the importance of the Farm Laws and explain the merits through several meetings and other forums."

These laws, enacted by the Parliament in September 2020, have been stoutly opposed by several farmers organizations. Several farmers groups across the nation have been holding widespread protests and agitations for over a year since the passing of these laws demanding that they be scrapped.

On November 19, in a special address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the Centre will take steps to repeal the three farm laws in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament.

In January 2021, the Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of these laws until further orders, to facilitate a process of negotiation between the Centre and the protesting groups. The Supreme Court had also constituted a committee to hold the talks. However, the leaders of the farmers unions boycotted the committee.

The main grievance raised by the farmers is that the laws will result in the dismantling of the state-run Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees, and will disrupt the Minimum Support Price mechanism. The protesting farmers fear that the laws will pave the way for corporate exploitation. A batch of petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of these farm laws and also questioning the competence of the Parliament in enacting the same.

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News Network
November 29,2021

Mangaluru, Nov 29: Former Health Minister U T Khader has urged the government of Karnataka to take all precautions in the wake of the threat of Omicron variant of covid-19 and not to create panic among people.

Addressing the media, the Mangaluru MLA said: “All the necessary precautions should be taken at all stages. The government should not create any confusion among the people. There is a need to intensify vaccination drives in the district, to ensure that all the beneficiaries are administered with vaccines to achieve 100 % success.”

The government should also mull over booster doses in the country. “Many countries have commenced booster dose vaccination drives, but we have not started yet. Covid warriors, who work in the frontline healthcare sector, should be given booster doses. The government should also take a decision on commencing vaccination drives for children below 18 years,” he said.

On oxygen generation units in government hospitals in the state, the former minister said that many units lack staff for maintenance. “An average of Rs 80 lakh for oxygen plants were spent by the government. If there are no staff for maintenance, then the units will remain unutilised,” he said.

The government should also release funds for covid-19 pandemic management, said the MLA.

On mobile applications introduced for Asha workers and lab technicians in the state, Khader said at present they have been using it in their mobile phones. All Asha workers and lab technicians should be provided with tabs so that they can upload the data immediately, he added.

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News Network
November 30,2021

ShahidJameel.jpg

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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