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Tokyo Olympics might be canceled due to COVID: official

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(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

A senior Japanese ruling party official said canceling this year’s Olympics in Tokyo remains an option if the coronavirus crisis worsens, Reuters reported.

This comes as a fourth wave of infections surges across the country in less than 100 days from the planned start of the Games.

“If it seems impossible to do it any more, then we have to stop, decisively,” Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said in comments to broadcaster TBS.

Cancellation is “of course” an option, Nikai said. “If the Olympics were to spread infection, then what are the Olympics for?” he added.

Reuters reported that Nikai, a key supporter of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is known for his frank comments, which come as many other ruling party lawmakers have avoided discussing the hot button issue of a possible cancellation.

The world’s biggest sporting event has already been delayed by a year and is being held without international spectators.

Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections, with numbers trending higher in Tokyo after the government ended a state of emergency, and Osaka suffering a record number of cases.

The government is pushing ahead with preparations incorporating social distancing measures and other restrictions for the Games set to begin on July 23, with a scaled back torch relay underway, Reuters reported.

“We’ll hold (the Games) in a way that’s feasible,” Taro Kono, a popular minister in charge of Japan’s vaccination drive, said on a separate TV programme, according to Kyodo News. “That may be without spectators,” he added.

Polls indicate little support in Japan for holding the Games during a global pandemic. “Canceling Olympics” was trending on Twitter in Japan on Thursday with more than 35,000 tweets from users.

“If this person says it, Olympics cancellation looks like a reality,” tweeted @marumaru_clm in reference to Nikai.

Olympic organisers, Japan’s national Olympic committee and the Tokyo government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Eight killed in car bomb outside acting defense minister’s house

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2021)

At least eight people were killed and more than 20 wounded on Tuesday night in a car bomb explosion outside the house of acting defense minister Bismillah Mohammadi, the Ministry of Interior confirmed Wednesday.

“At least eight people, including a woman, were killed and more than 20 others were injured in the car bomb attack,” the ministry said in a statement.

Immediately after the explosive-laden car was detonated, militants stormed the house.

A fire fight ensued, which lasted for five hours.

“The clash ended after five hours between special forces and fighters last night,” the statement said.

According to the ministry five attackers were reportedly involved in the incident.

The explosion happened in Sherpur, in PD10, and ripped through the city at about 8pm.

On Tuesday night officials said Mohammadi was safe.

Hours after the attack Mohammadi issued a video message and said he and his family were safe following a “terrorist attack” on his residence in Kabul.

He said some of his security guards had been wounded.

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh meanwhile met with Mohammadi in his office on Wednesday morning.

So far no group had claimed responsibility for the attack.

In addition to Tuesday night’s explosion, Kabul police confirmed an IED was detonated at about 08:15 on Wednesday morning, in PD10 in Kabul.

Police said two people were wounded in the incident.

President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the attack on the home of the acting defense minister and said that the Taliban’s war is about sedition and corruption and that a stand should be taken against such people according to divine instructions.

Ghani also said the show of support for the security forces seen over the last two days will continue in other parts of the country.

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Anti-corruption efforts need to be stepped up: UN report

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2021)

Stepping up ongoing efforts to address corruption in Afghanistan remains critical, the UN said Wednesday in a new report.

UNAMA’s fifth annual anti-corruption report, titled “Afghanistan’s Fight against Corruption: Stepping up integrity, transparency and accountability,” finds that Afghanistan has taken positive steps towards establishing solid anti-corruption legal and institutional frameworks but that numerous shortcomings remain, including the need to further increase transparency, integrity, and accountability.

According to the report, and to government’s credit, during the period covered by the report, from January 2020 to May 2021, government continued supporting anti-corruption reforms.

The worsening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing peace talks and increased violence after the announcement of international troops’ withdrawal, have however slowed down the pace of reforms, the report stated.

The report acknowledges positive developments such as the establishment in November last year of the Anti-Corruption Commission in line with the UN Convention Against Corruption.

The report further acknowledges an increase in the number of cases processed by the specialized anti-corruption tribunal (Anti-Corruption Justice Center) and the important role of the Supreme Court in increasing accountability, which should reduce corruption-related crimes.

It recommends enhancing the capacity of law enforcement to detect corruption crimes and arrest alleged perpetrators regardless of their status.

“Effectively fighting corruption goes hand in hand with increasing State legitimacy, prosperity and stability,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

While progress is being made in strengthening legal and institutional frameworks in particular, ongoing efforts to enhance monitoring and oversight mechanisms; streamline public funding and revenue management; and increasing transparency, integrity and impunity, need to be stepped up.

The report argues that it is time to take stock of the impact of anti-corruption reforms and increase genuine and sustained efforts to effectively address remaining gaps, including by reinforcing the effectiveness of monitoring and oversight mechanisms.

Considering the critical role of civil society and media in fostering transparency and exposing corruption, the report recommends that anti-corruption stakeholders continue engaging and supporting civil society and media. It also encourages government to protect media given the alarming increase of attacks targeting journalists.

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Security Council condemns attack on UN compound in Herat

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2021)

The members of the UN Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attack on the United Nations compound in Herat that took place on Friday and resulted in the death of one security guard.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the UN said: “The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about the high levels of violence in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s military offensive, and called for an immediate reduction of violence.

“They also expressed deep concern about the number of reported serious human rights abuses and violations in communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country,” the statement read.

Members of the UNSC emphasized that all parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances, including those related to the protection of civilians.

They underlined that deliberate attacks targeting civilians, United Nations personnel and United Nations compounds may constitute war crimes, and stressed the urgent and imperative need to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The UNSC also called on both the Afghan government and the Taliban to engage meaningfully in an inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in order to make urgent progress towards a political settlement and a ceasefire.

The members of the Security Council recognized that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process that aims at a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, as well as an inclusive, just and realistic political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

UN Security Council calls for immediate end of #Afghanistan violence. UNSC says its deeply concerned about serious human rights violations. Deliberate attacks against Afghan civilians or UN trying to help Afghans may be war crimes.

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