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Wildfire rips through Algeria, killing 42 people including soldiers

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2021)

Forest fires in Algeria killed 42 people on Tuesday, including 25 soldiers deployed to help put out the blaze, the government said, as thick clouds of smoke covered much of the mountainous Kabylie region east of the capital, Reuters reported.

Dozens of separate fires have raged through forest areas across northern Algeria since Monday night and Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud accused arsonists of igniting the flames, without providing more details on the allegations.

“Only criminal hands can be behind the simultaneous outbreak of about 50 fires across several localities,” he said.

According to Reuters last week, a European Union atmosphere monitor said the Mediterranean had become a wildfire hotspot as massive blazes engulfed forests in Turkey and Greece, aided by a heatwave.

Residents of the Tizi Ouzou region in Kabylie used tree branches to try to smother burning patches of forest or hurled water from plastic containers in a desperate effort to douse the fire.

The soldiers were killed in different areas, some while trying to extinguish the flames and others after they were cut off by the spreading fire, Kabylie residents said. The Defence Ministry said more soldiers had been badly injured with burns, Reuters said.

Several houses were burnt as families were escaping to hotels, youth hostels and university residences, witnesses said, adding that a dense smoke hampered the visibility of fire crews.

“We had a horror night. My house is completely burnt,” said Mohamed Kaci, who had fled with his family from the village of Azazga to a hotel.

Speaking on state television on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane said the death toll had risen to 42, including 25 members of the military. The government was in “advanced talks with (foreign) partners to hire planes and help speed up the process of extinguishing fires,” he added.

Firefighters and the army were still trying to contain the blazes, and Beldjoud said the priority was to avoid more victims. He vowed to compensate those affected.

Smaller fires have ravaged forests in at least 16 provinces of the North African country since Monday night.

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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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