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Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, has died aged 91

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(Last Updated On: September 30, 2020)

Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, has died at the age of 91, state media reported.

Sheikh Sabah’s 83-year-old half-brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed, has been named by the cabinet as his successor.

In a message of condolence to the royal family and Kuwaiti nationals, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said it was with “great regret and emotion” that he had received the news of the Emir’s death. 

“The Emir of Kuwait was one of the most important and prominent figures in the Islamic world and one of the good friends of Afghanistan. During his reign, he always had good intentions towards our country and paid special attention to the development of friendly and fraternal relations between the two countries,” said Ghani in a statement issued by the Presidential Palace.

“His Highness Sheikh Sabah during his reign performed valuable services for the advancement, progress and welfare of the people of his country,” said Ghani adding that he will always be remembered for the good work he had done. 

“On behalf of the government and people of Afghanistan, I express my deepest condolences and sympathy to the officials of the Kingdom of Kuwait, the family of the late Emir of Kuwait and the people of that country. I pray to God Almighty,” said Ghani. 

Afghanistan’s chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, who is currently on a three-day visit to Pakistan, also passed on his condolences. 

In a message on Twitter, Abdullah said: “Deeply saddened to hear the demise of His Royal Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, Amir of Kuwait. My thoughts and prayers are with Amir’s family, the people & government of Kuwait. His soul may rest in peace.”

The Emir had ruled the oil-rich Gulf state since 2006 and had overseen its foreign policy for more than 50 years and had been dubbed the “dean of Arab diplomacy” for his efforts to restore relations with states that backed Iraq during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, when Kuwait was invaded by Iraqi forces.

He also often acted as a mediator in regional disputes, including the ongoing diplomatic stand-off between Saudi Arabia, its allies and Qatar.

 

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NATO Defence Ministers meet to address security challenges

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday evening that alliance defense ministers had taken “another important step” and agreed to establish a new NATO Space Center in Germany. 

Addressing an online press conference after the first day of the two-day defense minister’s meeting, Stoltenberg said the new center will “help to coordinate Allied space activities; support NATO missions and operations from space, including with communications and satellite imagery; and protect Allied space systems by sharing information about potential threats.”

He also said they had addressed Russia’s growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and said the “challenge is serious, and growing in scale and complexity.”

A number of other issues were also addressed including that of new air and missile defense systems; strengthening NATO’s advanced conventional capabilities; and new fifth-generation fighter aircraft. 

Stoltenberg stated that ministers had also received a comprehensive report on the state of critical infrastructure, including ports and airports; supplies of fuel, food and medical equipment; and telecommunications, including 5G.

“While we have made progress, there are still vulnerabilities. For instance foreign control of the critical infrastructure upon which our societies and our militaries rely,” he said.

“Countries like China are investing aggressively in ports and airports, and our telecommunication networks remain vulnerable to attacks from the outside, and compromise from the inside.

“So we must continue to build up our resilience. And we have agreed that we will strengthen our resilience pledge when NATO leaders meet next year.”

On Friday, NATO’s training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq will be discussed.  

Addressing a pre-ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and supports the Afghan peace talks.

He also said however that: “The Taliban must live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence, and pave the way for a ceasefire.” 

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UN to probe Takhar airstrike after locals claim children were killed

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Thursday night it was investigating an Afghan National Army (ANA) airstrike in Takhar province that reportedly killed 12 children. 

In a post on Twitter, the mission said: “UNAMA civilian protection team following up on allegations of ANA airstrike yesterday against Taliban in Takhar province killing 12 children, girls & boys, & injuring 18 other civilians.”

UNAMA also stated that the United Nations will issue findings when complete. 

This comes after local officials in Takhar said early Thursday morning a mosque had been targeted in an airstrike killing children and injuring many others, including the mosque’s imam. 

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh rejected the claims in a Facebook post later in the day and said Taliban members had been targeted and eliminated. 

“The news of the killing of children in a mosque in Takhar is baseless. Those who dragged our forces to dust and blood yesterday were destroyed, and we have undeniable proof,” Saleh wrote.

This came a day after the Taliban carried out a massive attack against Afghan security forces in the province, killing as many as 50 soldiers. 

Reuters reported that Abdul Qayoom Hayrat, head of the provincial health department in Takhar, said that 10 of the dead soldiers were members of the Afghan special forces.

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Brazilian volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies 

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Brazilian health authority Anvisa confirmed a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but said the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccination.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian, said a review committee had suggested the trial continue. 

The university is helping to coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil.

 

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