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Afghan capital in shock after deadly ambulance bomb attack
28 January 2018, 7:35 AM

Kabul reacted in despair and fear on Sunday, a day after a suicide bomb in the centre of the city killed and wounded more than 250 people in the worst attack seen in the Afghan capital in months.

With security officials warning that more attacks were possible after an ambulance packed with explosives blew up in a crowded city street on Saturday, there was a mix of helpless anger at the seemingly endless wave of attacks.

“How are we to live? Where should we go?” asked shopkeeper Mohammad Hanif, who was in his shop near the site of the explosion when it went off.

“We have no security, we don’t have no proper government, what should we do?” he said.

At least 95 people were killed and 158 wounded in the blast, which was claimed by the Taliban, a week after they claimed a deadly attack on the city’s Intercontinental Hotel.

It was the worst attack seen in the Afghan capital since a truck bomb near the German embassy killed 150 people in May.

“People were running everywhere to escape, there were wounded people lying on the ground, people with wounds to their arms, legs, heads,” Hanif said.

After a deadly week in which an office of the aid group Save the Children in the eastern city of Jalalabad was also attacked, President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government has faced growing pressure to improve security.

Despite a major tightening in checks following the May 31 attack, the ambulance was able to get through the checkpoints, apparently without difficulty.

“People don’t have work, there’s no life for people in Afghanistan, people have to look for a life somewhere else, there’s nowhere,” said shopkeeper Sameem.

The attack, described as “an atrocity” by the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, drew universal condemnation from allies and neighbouring countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who last year sent more American troops to Afghanistan and ordered an increase in air strikes and other assistance to Afghan forces, said the attack “renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners”.

U.S. officials have said that the new strategy is putting pressure on the Taliban.

Following a recent visit to Kabul, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said the strategy was working and pushing the insurgents closer to peace talks.

However, the Taliban have dismissed any suggestion that they have been weakened by the U.S. approach and say they will only agree to talks when international forces leave Afghanistan.

The attack, in one of the most heavily protected parts of the city, close to foreign embassies and government buildings, demonstrated that their ability to mount deadly high profile attacks that undermine confidence in the government remains undiminished.

ANC is the only centre and must rule- Mabuza
28 January 2018, 7:10 AM

ANC Deputy president David Mabuza says he will protect the party’s president Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that he is safe as they pursue unity within the party.

Mabuza was speaking at the ANC provincial fundraising gala dinner held in Polokwane in Limpopo on Saturday  night. Mabuza says he will work with the party’s president all the time.

ANC members from various branches in Limpopo province attended the party’s fundraising gala dinner held in Polokwane. Business people, Party’s Provincial Executive Committee members and members of the National Executive Committee had attended the fundraising event.

The event preceded the party’s 106th provincial anniversary celebrations to be held at Ephraim Mogale stadium on Sunday.

Addressing the fundraising the gala dinner Mabuza says he will use his position to protect party’s president Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Unity doesn’t longer belong to DP, it doesn’t no longer belong to the president. it belongs to all of us. I’m sure we are going to pursue this unity no matter what, just to set you free as the deputy president of the ANC and you must know that the president of the ANC is safe ahead of me. There’s no one who will protect the ANC president like myself. I’m not going to contradict the president. I’m going to work with the president all the time.”

Mabuza however says ANC deployees in government must understand that ANC is the only centre and must rule.

“There’s no Minister that will wake up one morning and think of policy and announce it policy is announce by the ANC as deployees in government we must all understand that there’s only one centre and could be the ANC now that we are in the leadership of the ANC the centre must rule as the ANC we don’t agree with what is happening in ESKOM things are not going right in those state enterprises.”

Meanwhile, ANC provincial Deputy Chairperson in Limpopo, Jerry Ndou says the province is united and also united behind the national leadership. “Our unity is a unity of purpose is a unity based on the understanding Limpopo is not just united is also united behind our national leadership as led by comrade Cyril Ramaphosa.”

ANC Deputy president David Mabuza will address the party’s provincial 106th Anniversary Celebrations in Modimolle on Sunday.

 

Gunmen kill at least 14 Mali soldiers in attack on army camp
28 January 2018, 6:50 AM

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday said his people would not be frightened by “barbaric attacks” after unidentified gunmen killed at least 14 soldiers in a pre-dawn assault on a military camp.

West Africa’s arid Sahel region is suffering a spike in violence by militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, that is drawing an increasingly aggressive response from countries including France and the United States.

A group of around 30 heavily armed fighters attacked the military camp in Soumpi, located in the centre of the country near the southern boundary of Mali’s Timbuktu region, according to an army statement read on state radio.

It said 14 soldiers were killed and 15 others were wounded, adding that 17 of the attackers had been killed in the battle.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

“The soldiers abandoned their position. The enemy carried away material,” said one army officer, who said the camp had been overrun and asked not to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Islamist fighters seized control of Mali’s northern desert regions in 2012 before being driven back by a French-led intervention a year later.

But despite the presence of a U.N. peacekeeping mission and troops operating under a regional French anti-militant mission, violence is again on the rise and attacks are spreading further south towards the capital, Bamako.

“These barbaric attacks will not scare us. On the contrary, they reinforce our determination to fight against the terrorists,” President Keita said, speaking in the central Mali village of Boni where 26 people were killed on Thursday.

Those victims were travelling from neighbouring Burkina Faso in a civilian passenger vehicle when it struck a landmine.

In a separate incident on the same day in the nearby town of Youwarou, the Malian military said its forces repelled an attack by suspected Islamist fighters.

Mali and its western neighbour Senegal plan to deploy 1,000 troops soon in an operation to pacify central Mali and contain jihadists who had previously been confined to its Saharan expanses in the north.

But analysts doubt they will be able to do so purely through military means. The Islamists exploit the grievances of Fulani cattle herders and their disputes with local farmers over access to grazing lands.

The government’s periodic crackdowns on suspected jihadists have therefore tended to target the Fulani, driving some of them into the arms of the armed groups.

China’s Weibo social media site suspends portals after reprimand
28 January 2018, 6:40 AM

China’s Sina Weibo was ordered to move several portals offline for a week after spreading obscene and wrongly oriented content, the internet watchdog said.

The government has been tightening controls over internet content as part of efforts to maintain “social stability”, taking on “vulgar” and pornographic content as well as the unauthorized dissemination of news.

“Content of wrong public opinion orientation, obscenity and ethnic discrimination continued to spread on Sina Weibo,” the Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement late on Saturday.

In a separate statement, Weibo said it accepted the criticism and was suspending key portals such as its hot search site and portal on celebrities and their personal lives for a week.

China shut down as many as 128,000 websites that contained obscene and other “harmful” information in 2017, state media has reported.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal released- family sources
27 January 2018, 1:48 PM

Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been released from detention, family sources said on Saturday, more than two months after he was taken into custody in the kingdom’s sweeping crackdown on corruption.

His release came hours after he told Reuters in an exclusive interview at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh that he expected to be cleared of any wrongdoing and be released from custody within days.

Family sources said Prince Alwaleed was released on Saturday.

“He has he arrived home,” one told Reuters.

Saudi officials could not immediately be reached for comment and the terms of his release were not immediately clear.

Prince Alwaleed had been confined at the Ritz-Carlton since early November, along with dozens of others, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to consolidate control and reform oil superpower Saudi Arabia.

In his first interview since he was taken into custody in November, Prince Alwaleed told Reuters he was continuing to maintain his innocence of any corruption in talks with authorities.

He said he expected to keep full control of his global investment firm Kingdom Holding Co without being required to give up assets to the government.

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