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China coronavirus deaths rise to 17

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2020)

Deaths from China’s new virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 571 cases confirmed, news agencies reported.

According to the report, China is putting on lockdown a city of 11 million people considered the epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 and infected nearly 600, as health authorities around the world scramble to prevent a global pandemic.

Health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.

The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in China’s central city of Wuhan.

The virus has been reported in other major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and several other countries including the United States, stoking fears it is already spreading worldwide.

Wuhan’s city government said it would shut down all urban transport networks and suspend outgoing flights from 10 a.m. (0200 GMT) on Thursday, state media said. Domestic media said some airlines were operating after the deadline, however.

State media broadcast images of one of Wuhan’s transport hubs, the Hankou rail station, nearly deserted, with gates blocked or barred. The government is urging citizens not to leave the city.

State media reported highway toll booths around Wuhan were closing down, which would effectively cut off road exits. Guards were patrolling major highways, one resident told Reuters.

As the city slipped into isolation, residents thronged into hospitals for checks and scrambled for supplies, clearing out supermarket shelves and queuing for petrol.

Authorities had confirmed 571 cases and 17 deaths by the end of Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission said. Earlier, it said another 393 suspected cases had been reported.

Of eight known cases worldwide, Thailand has confirmed four, while Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States have reported one each.

In a report on Wednesday, Imperial College London said it estimated a total of 4,000 cases of the coronavirus in Wuhan alone as of Jan. 18, an infection rate based on the number of cases reported in China and elsewhere.

VIRUS SPREADING In contrast with its secrecy over the 2002-03 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed nearly 800 people, China’s communist government has provided regular updates to avoid panic ahead of the holidays.

During a visit to Wuhan, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said authorities needed to be open about the virus and efforts to contain it, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it will decide on Thursday whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which would step up the international response.

Source: Reuters

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Peace talks teams ‘making progress’ after meeting to discuss contentious issues

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan peace negotiating team said the contact groups from both sides met on Sunday for discussions and that progress was being made. 

The Peace Negotiation Team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan issued the same statement on their Twitter page but few details were given. 

The team said on Twitter: “Today evening, the contact groups of both sides met. This session lasted a few hours and the rules and regulations of the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations were discussed and progress was made.”

The Afghan peace team said peace talks members held the joint working meeting which lasted several hours and worked on contentious issues of rules and regulations  and that “progress was made in resolving disputes.”

“The procedure for the Afghan peace talks will be finalized soon,” they said. 

The talks, which started a week ago, are still ongoing in Doha, Qatar where the contact group members are reportedly discussing the talking points, agendas and schedules going forward. 

Until now, however, very few details have been released by either side. 

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MoD discovers and defuses over 4,000 IEDs in past six months

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

The Afghan Ministry of Defense said on Sunday the Afghan National Army (ANA) had discovered and defused 4,776 IEDs across the country in the past six months. 

The MoD stated the IEDs had been planted by Taliban on public roads, in residential areas and on highways.

A statement by the MoD said: “While Taliban’s explosive devices inflict heavy casualties on civilians, ANDSF risk their lives to discover and defuse the bombs to protect Afghans.”

“The IEDs, in addition to harming civilians, also destroy Afghanistan’s roads, highways and infrastructure.”

By finding and defusing the IEDs the lives of thousands of civilians were saved and “hundreds of kilometers of roads and hundreds of bridges and culverts were preserved,” the MoD stated. 

The ministry also said that in addition to the indiscriminate use of IEDs being a serious violation of the International Human Rights Law, “unfortunately, the Taliban continue applying it as a war tactic against the Afghan population.”

UNAMA said in July, in its mid-year report, that the use of non-suicide IEDs was the leading cause of civilian casualties by Anti-Government Elements during the first half of 2020, causing 688 civilian casualties (217 killed and 471 injured).

Almost half of all civilian casualties from IEDs – 45 percent – were caused by the Taliban’s widespread use of pressure-plate IEDs, which function as improvised anti-personnel mines.

Civilian casualties from these victim-activated devices increased by 50 percent during the first half of 2020 as compared to the same time period in 2019, reversing the trend of sizeable decreases over the last two years. 

UNAMA also noted that the week after the three-day Eid ceasefire, pressure-plate IEDs rose to the leading cause of civilian casualties.

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Ghani holds security review summit with senior officials in Bamiyan

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2020)

President Ashraf Ghani and a high-ranking delegation of officials held a “mini-summit” on the country’s security in Bamiyan on Sunday.

Also in attendance with First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Moheb and other senior security officials.

After landing at Bamiyan airport, the president and his delegation were met by the provincial governor and local officials, including members of the provincial council.

The Kabul delegation then went into a meeting where they examined the security situation across the country, discussed plans and operations on thwarting enemy threats and dealing with challenges. They also discussed the capabilities of the security and defense sectors.

Officials from the security and defense agencies called for the expansion of governance and the need for improved services at a district level.

Emphasizing the security and defense priorities, Ghani said that serious attention should be paid to protecting the people and to the security of development projects.

He also said reform and development programs of the security and defense agencies should be implemented.

Ghani also ordered increased security along highways so as to prevent enemy groups from extorting money out of motorists and said changes need to be brought in police departments so that all staff criteria is met.

He said that security and defense officials who have excelled in their work need to be commended.

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