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12 Dead in Likely ‘Terror Attack’ on Berlin Xmas Market

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(Last Updated On: December 20, 2016)

9nednlode6oct8o6yjlau3bjvdeky-co-largeGerman police said on Tuesday they were treating as “a probable terrorist attack” the killing of 12 people when a speeding lorry cut a bloody swathe through a Berlin Christmas market.

At least 48 more were wounded when the truck tore through the crowd Monday, smashing wooden stalls and crushing victims, in scenes reminiscent of July’s deadly attack in the French Riviera city of Nice.

Images showed the mangled truck with its windscreen smashed and a trail of destruction in its wake, with Christmas trees toppled on their side and festive stalls obliterated into splinters.

One of the survivors, Australian Trisha O’Neill, recalled the horror of “this huge black truck speeding through the markets crushing so many people”, with “blood and bodies everywhere”.

“It wasn’t an accident,” said another visitor, Briton Emma Rushton, who was enjoying a glass of mulled wine when the festive scene was shattered by a loud crash and screams.

“We heard a really loud bang and saw some of the Christmas lights to our left starting to be pulled down,” she told Sky news.

“Then we saw the articulated vehicle going through people and through the stalls and just pulling everything down and then everything went dark.”

Police detained the man believed to have deliberately mowed the Scania truck loaded with steel beams for 80 metres (yards) into the popular tourist spot near the capital’s iconic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

The suspect was an asylum seeker believed to be from Pakistan or Afghanistan who arrived in Germany via the so-called Balkans route in February, according to unnamed security sources cited by DPA news agency.

Local newspapers said that, after the truck driver left the cabin, a man followed him on foot and used his mobile phone to stay in touch with police, who arrested him about two kilometres away near Berlin’s Victory Column.

Written by AFP

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Four killed as wildfires sweep Turkey, villages evacuated

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

The death toll from wildfires on Turkey‘s southern coast has risen to four and firefighters were battling blazes for a third day on Friday after the evacuation of dozens of villages and some hotels.

More than 70 wildfires have broken out this week in provinces on Turkey‘s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts as well as inland areas, President Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that 14 were still burning.

Planes from Russia and Ukraine helped battle the flames and another from Azerbaijan was joining them. “As of midday, with the arrival of the planes, we are turning in a positive direction,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers.

Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said fires raged on in six provinces and officials promised to bring to account anyone found responsible for starting them.

Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in tourist areas and television footage has shown people fleeing across fields as fires closed in on their homes.

Pakdemirli said fires were still blazing in the Mediterranean resort region of Antalya and the Aegean resort province of Mugla.

“We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” he said.

Wildfires have broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 in Greece in the last 24 hours, fanned by winds and soaring temperatures, authorities said. On Tuesday, a blaze tore through a pine forest north of Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.

Fires also burned large swathes of pine forest in the mountainous north of Lebanon this week, killing at least one firefighter and forcing some residents to flee.

In Turkey, firefighters on the ground and in helicopters were fighting a blaze that killed three people in Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of Antalya. Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighbourhoods were evacuated there.

One person was found dead on Thursday in Mugla’s Marmaris area, 290 km west of Manavgat. The blaze continued in Marmaris but residential areas were not at risk, Pakdemirli said.

Erdogan said at least five planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 1,080 firefighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts at 1,140 sites.

Istanbul governor’s office banned entry to forest areas until the end of August as a precaution against fires.

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20 villages cleared of Taliban, 4 militants arrested in Takhar operation

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)
The Interior Ministry said Friday that more than 20 villages in Taloqan city, the capital of Takhar province, were cleared of the Taliban in a joint operation by the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

The Ministry said in a statement that the ANSDF and the public uprising forces launched a clearance operation in the center of the city on Friday morning.

The operation was conducted in the PD1 and PD4 areas of Taloqan city.

According to the Ministry, dozens of militants were killed and wounded during the raids.

Security officials said the militants stormed the Qara Parcho, Abdal, Salakhi Qishlaq, Khaskapa, and Chob Bor villages of Taloqan on Thursday night.

According to the officials, at least 13 Taliban fighters were killed and 16 others were wounded in the counter-attacks by Afghan forces.

Three members of the uprising forces were also wounded in the skirmish, sources said.

Meanwhile, Takhar police told Ariana News that the Afghan forces arrested four Taliban insurgents during the operation.

The Taliban has not commented in this regard so far.

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Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during its longest war

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

Some 200 Afghans were set to begin new lives in the United States on Friday as an airlift got underway for translators and others who risk Taliban retaliation because they worked for the United States during its 20-year war in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The operation to evacuate U.S.-affiliated Afghans and family members comes as the U.S. troop pullout nears completion and government forces struggle to repulse Taliban advances.

The first planeload of 200 evacuees arrived at Fort Lee, a military base in Virginia, for final paperwork processing and medical examinations.

The Afghans are being granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) entitling them to bring their families. As many as 50,000 or more people ultimately could be evacuated in “Operation Allies Refuge”.

“These arrivals are just the first of many as we work quickly to relocate SIV-eligible Afghans out of harm’s way — to the United States, to U.S. facilities abroad, or to third countries — so that they can wait in safety while they finish their visa applications,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement that the U.S. would continue to use “the full force of our diplomatic, economic, and development toolkit” to support the Afghan people after the United States’ longest war.

The first group of arrivals is among some 2,500 SIV applicants and family members who have almost completed the process, clearing them for evacuation, said Russ Travers, Biden’s deputy homeland security adviser.

The Afghans were expected to remain at Fort Lee for up to seven days before joining relatives or host families across the country.

The evacuees underwent “rigorous background checks” and COVID-19 tests, Travers added. Some were already vaccinated, and the rest will be offered shots at Fort Lee.

Approximately 300 U.S. service members from several installations will provide logistics, temporary lodging, and medical support at Fort Lee, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Around 75,000 other Afghans have been resettled in the United States in the last decade, he said in a statement, adding there is a “moral obligation” for the country “to help those who have helped us.”

The surging violence in Afghanistan has created serious problems for many SIV applicants whose paperwork is in the pipeline amid reports – denied by the Taliban – that some have been killed by vengeful insurgents.

Some applicants are unable to get to the capital Kabul to complete the required steps at the U.S. embassy or reach their flights.

The SIV program has also been plagued by long processing times and bureaucratic knots that led to a backlog of some 20,000 applications. The State Department has added staff to handle them.

The majority of those would likely miss out on the airlift operation, including the roughly 50% who were in the early stages of the process as the clock counts down towards the U.S. withdrawal by September.

Applicants in that group have held multiple protests in Kabul in recent months and they and advocates say they face the risk of violence while they wait that will be heightened once troops withdraw.

Ross Wilson, Charge D’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, told reporters that after the initial round of flights taking out those who received security clearances, around 4,000 applicants and their families who were in the later stages but still needed interviews would be taken somewhere outside the United States for processing.

That left roughly 15,000 applicants in earlier stages waiting in Afghanistan.

“We’ve felt it appropriate that we focus our energies on those parts of the SIV applicant pool who have demonstrated that they meet the criteria under the law and then work to relocate them,” he said, adding efforts were taking place in Washington to help early-stage applicants access documents.

Adam Bates, policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, which provides legal aid for refugees, said the United States had had 20 years to anticipate what the withdrawal would look like.

“It’s unconscionable that we are so late,” he said.

Kim Staffieri, co-founder of the Association of Wartime Allies, which helps SIV applicants, said surveys conducted over Facebook show that about half of the applicants cannot reach Kabul, including many approved for evacuation.

Wilson said that they believed the “overwhelming majority” of people the airlift was offered to were able to get to Kabul.

“We’re focusing our efforts on those that we can get out,” he said. “We cannot through this program solve every problem in this country.”

Congress created SIV programs in 2006 for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who risked retaliation for working for the U.S. government.

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