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Death toll in Turkey wildfires rises to eight, coastal resorts affected

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(Last Updated On: August 2, 2021)

The death toll from wildfires on Turkey’s southern coast rose to eight on Sunday as firefighters battled for a fifth day to contain blazes still raging in coastal resort towns.

Two more people died on Sunday due to wildfires in the southern town of Manavgat, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, adding that 10 others were receiving treatment in hospital in the area, Reuters reported.

Most of more than 100 blazes that erupted in Turkey in the last five days have been contained, authorities said. However, fires were still blazing in Manavgat and in Marmaris and the inland town of Milas, Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said, prompting the evacuation of some residential areas and hotels.

In the popular resort town of Bodrum, a group of tourists and hotel staff was evacuated by boat as flames spread and plumes of smoke filled the sky, footage showed. Pakdemirli said the blaze in the area had been contained by Sunday morning, Reuters reported.

Since Wednesday thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. Locals as well as support teams from Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Azerbaijan were deployed to help firefighters. The Turkish government pledged to rebuild damaged homes and compensate for losses in areas affected by the fires.

Pakdemirli said at least 13 planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 828 fire-fighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts, Reuters reported.

The EU said it had helped mobilise three fire-fighting planes on Sunday, one from Croatia and two from Spain, after Turkey activated a disaster response scheme to request help from other European countries. Turkey is not a member of the EU.

In neighbouring Greece firefighters were trying to contain a wildfire burning in the west of the country that destroyed houses and left 15 citizens in hospital with breathing problems on Saturday, authorities said. Temperatures have been high in much of the country in recent days and are expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius on Monday and Tuesday.

On the Italian island of Sicily firemen said on Saturday they were battling for a second straight day wildfires that reached the town of Catania, forcing people to leave their homes and the local airport to temporarily shut down, Reuters reported.

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Putin ends self-isolation with Siberian fishing trip

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2021)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent several days on holiday in Siberia where he was hiking and fishing, the Kremlin said on Sunday, following a short spell in self-isolation as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, Reuters reported.

Putin said in the middle of September he would have to spend “a few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19. He had to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.

According to the report Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse bare-chested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.

This time, his outings were more mundane.

The Kremlin published 20 photos of Putin standing in a river and catching a fish, walking through lush meadows and talking to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, his usual holiday companion, read the report.

Putin, 68, has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The Kremlin has said he was feeling healthy.

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Lavrov says Mali asked private Russian military company for help

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Mali has asked a private Russian military company to help it fight against insurgents, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday at the United Nations, Reuters reported.

Mali’s year-old military junta is close to a deal to recruit the Russian private military contractors the Wagner Group, sources have told Reuters, triggering opposition from France, which has said it was “incompatible” with a continued French presence in the West African state.

“They are combating terrorism, incidentally, and they have turned to a private military company from Russia in connection with the fact that, as I understand, France wants to significantly draw down its military component which was present there,” Lavrov said of Mali’s junta during a news conference.

According to the report the French defence ministry declined to comment. Paris has started reshaping its 5,000-strong Barkhane mission to include more European partners and earlier this month began redeploying from bases in northern Mali.

Mali’s military junta has said it will oversee a transition to democracy leading to elections in February 2022.

Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Maiga told the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday that his country felt abandoned by the French move and signaled they were seeking other military help “to fill the gap which will certainly result from the withdrawal of Barkhane in the north of the country.”

“The new situation resulting from the end of Operation Barkhane puts Mali before a fait accompli – abandoning us, mid flight to a certain extent – and it leads us to explore pathways and means to better ensure our security autonomously, or with other partners,” he said.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that he told Lavrov and his counterpart from Mali this week in New York that the potential deployment of the Wagner Group would be a “red line” for the European Union, “and it would have immediate consequences on our cooperation.”

EU foreign ministers discussed the issue on Monday during a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders for the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Reuters reported.

Lavrov said the Russian government had nothing to do with any deal between the private military company and Mali.

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Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 8: official

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2021)

A suicide car bomb killed at least eight people in the Somali capital on Saturday near the president’s palace, police said.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab said it was behind the attack, which targeted a convoy going into the palace.

Police spokesperson Abdifatah Aden Hassan told reporters at the scene of the blast that casualties could be higher, since some of the dead and wounded had been taken away by their relatives.

Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the government spokesperson, said among those killed was Hibaq Abukar, an advisor of women and human rights affairs in Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble’s office.

It was not immediately clear if Abukar was in the convoy or if she just happened to be close by when the blast happened.

Al Shabaab wants to overthrow the government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islamic law. The group frequently carries out such bombings.

A Reuters witness at the scene of the attack reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood.

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