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At least 65 killed in Algerian wildfires, Greece and Italy burn

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2021)

Exhausted Greek firefighters battled blazes for a ninth day on Wednesday amid sweltering temperatures that also helped stoke wildfires in Algeria, where at least 65 people died, and in southern Italy, Reuters reported.

From Turkey to Tunisia, countries around the Mediterranean have been seeing some of their highest temperatures in decades, as the United Nations climate panel this week warned that the world was dangerously close to runaway warming.

Greece, in the grip of its worst heatwave in three decades, evacuated around 20 villages on the Peloponnese, though ancient Olympia, site of the first Olympic Games, escaped the inferno, Reuters reported.

About 580 Greek firefighters, helped by colleagues from France, Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic, were battling blazes in Gortynia, near Olympia.

Flare-ups continued to ravage Evia, Greece’s second-largest island, just off the mainland east of Athens and scene of some of the worst devastation in the past week, Reuters reported.

“If helicopters and water bombing planes had come right away and operated for six, seven hours, the wildfire would have been put out in the first day,” said cafe owner Thrasyvoulos Kotzias, 34, gazing at an empty beach in the resort of Pefki on Evia.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called it a “nightmarish summer” and has apologised for failures in tackling some of the more than 500 wildfires that have raged across Greece.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, Algeria’s government deployed the army to help fight fires that tore through forested areas in the north of the country, killing at least 65 people, including 28 soldiers.

The worst hit area has been Tizi Ouzou, the largest district of the mountainous Kabylie region, where houses have burned and residents fled to shelter in hotels, hostels and university accommodation in nearby towns.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared three days of national mourning for the dead.

In southern Italy fires ravaged thousands of acres of land as temperatures hit records well above 40 degrees Celsius and hot winds fanned the flames, Reuters reported.

Firefighters said on Twitter they had carried out more than 3,000 operations in Sicily and Calabria in the last 12 hours, deploying seven planes to try to douse the flames.

“We are losing our history, our identity is turning to ashes, our soul is burning,” a local mayor in Calabria, Giuseppe Falcomata, wrote on Facebook, after a 76-year-old man died when flames engulfed his house.

Tunisia’s capital Tunis recorded its highest ever temperature of 49C on Tuesday, the Meteorological Institute said.

Turkey has also suffered nearly 300 wildfires over the past two weeks which have devastated tens of thousands of hectares of woodland, though only three were reported still burning as of late Wednesday.

Turkey’s northern coast, however, faced a different challenge – floods after unusually heavy rainfall that tore down a bridge and left villages without power.

The wildfires are not limited to the Mediterranean region. California has suffered the second-largest wildfire in its history that by late on Sunday had covered nearly 500,000 acres (2,000 sq km).

The U.N. climate panel published a report on Monday that said greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were high enough to guarantee climate disruption for decades if not centuries.

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Hezbollah says it won’t be dragged into war after Beirut bloodshed

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2021)

The deadly clashes that broke out in Beirut on Thursday amounted to a “massacre” and its perpetrators should be held to account, the pro-Iranian al-Mayadeen TV cited a Hezbollah representative in the Lebanese parliament as saying on Sunday.

“What the criminals … did is a massacre and it will have important ramifications,” MP Hassan Fadallah said, according to the Beirut-based channel.

“Those who incited, planned … and opened fire should be held to account all the way up to the top.”

On Friday the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah said it would not be dragged into civil war even as it stepped up accusations against the Christian Lebanese Forces (LF) party it says killed seven Shi’ites in Beirut’s bloodiest street violence in years.

The accusation, denied by the LF, underlines worsening sectarian tensions after Thursday’s violence which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast.

The probe into the catastrophic blast appears in increasing doubt, fuelled by a bitter political dispute over the lead investigator’s attempts to question officials who include Hezbollah allies.

The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhoods, has added to concerns for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s sharpest ever economic meltdowns.

The Lebanese Forces condemned the violence on Thursday which it blamed on Hezbollah “incitement” against Judge Tarek Bitar, the investigator.

The sound of gunfire could be heard across Beirut during funerals on Friday.

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Police arrest suspect for brutal murder at India’s mass farmer protest

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(Last Updated On: October 17, 2021)

Police investigating the killing of a Sikh man at the site of an ongoing farmers’ protest in New Delhi said on Saturday they had arrested a suspect from a Sikh warrior sect, after the mutilated body was found strung up on a police barricade.

Authorities in India are investigating the brutal murder of man at one of the locations used by the nationwide mass protests by farmers there, that have rocked the country since last year, Reuters reported.

The body of a 35-year-old man was reportedly found mutilated and strung up to a police barricade at the site in New Delhi. The victim was beaten to death by a group of men who had accused him of desecrating religious texts, sacred to Sikhs.

One of the man’s hands was cut off.

A member of a Sikh warrior sect has been taken into custody. Most of the farmers involved with the protests in New Delhi — thousands of them — come from Punjab, which is dominated by Sikhs, Reuters reported.

A group that represents farmers’ organizations has condemned the killing. The ongoing protests are over changes to the law which deregulates the agriculture sector, although the protesters say it leaves them vulnerable to big business.

The prime minister’s political party says the murder shows the protest leaders are losing control of their movement.

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Saudi foreign ministry says discussed Iran nuclear program with US Blinken

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington and exchanged views on Iran’s nuclear program and international talks on the matter, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Had a productive meeting today with my friend Secretary Blinken, during which we discussed a range of issues of common interest & concern to both our nations & ways to strengthen our strategic partnership & cooperation on multiple fronts,” Al Saud said in a twitter post on Friday.

Al Saud also met the US Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, and discussed intensifying joint efforts against “Iranian violations of international treaties related to the nuclear agreement,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.

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