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Afghan opposition leader Massoud says he is ready for talks with Taliban
5 September 2021, 9:44 PM

The leader of the Afghan opposition group resisting Taliban forces in the Panjshir valley north of Kabul said on Sunday he welcomed proposals from religious scholars for a negotiated settlement to end the fighting.

Ahmad Massoud, head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), made the announcement on the group’s Facebook page. Earlier, Taliban forces said they had fought their way into the provincial capital of Panjshir after securing the surrounding districts.

The Islamist Taliban took control of the rest of Afghanistan three weeks ago, taking power in Kabul on August 15 after the Western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Earlier, Afghan media outlets reported that religious scholars had called on the Taliban to accept a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in Panjshir.

There was no immediate response from the Taliban.

Massoud, who leads a force made up of remnants of regular Afghan army and special forces units as well as local militia fighters, called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban before the fighting broke out around a week ago.

Several attempts at talks were held but they eventually broke down, with each side blaming the other for their failure.

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said earlier on Sunday that their forces had fought their way into the provincial capital Bazarak and had captured large quantities of weapons and ammunition.

Under Massoud’s late father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the region long resisted control by both the invading Soviet army and by the Taliban government that previously ruled from 1996 to 2001.

African Union condemns military takeover in Guinea
5 September 2021, 9:32 PM

The African Union (AU) bloc condemned on Sunday a military takeover in Guinea and demanded the immediate liberation of President Alpha Conde.

A statement by AU chairman and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and AU Commission head Moussa Faki Mahamat called on the body’s Peace and Security Council to meet urgently to examine the situation and take appropriate measures.

Special forces soldiers apparently ousted the long-serving Conde on Sunday, saying they had dissolved Guinea’s government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.

As the United Nations and Nigeria, the region’s dominant power, condemned any takeover by force, the elite army unit’s head, Mamady Doumbouya, said “poverty and endemic corruption” had driven his forces to remove Conde from office.

“We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya said on state television, draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers.

“We are going to rewrite a constitution together.”

Gunfire erupted and fighting broke out near the presidential palace in the capital, Conakry, on Sunday morning. Hours later, videos shared on social media, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.

Argentine players to play against Brazil despite isolation order
5 September 2021, 9:06 PM

Three Argentine footballers accused of breaking Brazil’s quarantine laws are set to play in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier between the two sides, even though Brazil’s health regulator ordered their immediate isolation just hours earlier.

The official line ups published by the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) showed Argentina with Emiliano Martinez in goal, Cristian Romero in central defence and Giovani Lo Celso in midfield.

The three were among four Argentine players who play in England’s Premier League. All four were accused of breaking Brazil’s quarantine laws by health regulator Anvisa.

Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Anvisa was tipped off the four did not state that information on their immigration forms and on Sunday said they confirmed the details given were “false”.

“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so, has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement.

Nevertheless, no such action was taken and the three, along with Emiliano Buendia, were allowed to travel with the Argentine team from the hotel to the Corinthians arena.

Buendia and Martinez play for Aston Villa and Lo Celso and Romero are with Tottenham Hotspur.

The confusion comes amid anger in South America at rules which have robbed several teams of key players for this month’s three World Cup qualifiers in the South American group.

Brazil are without nine key men for the Argentina game, and other South American sides have also lost players due to a decision by some European clubs not to let their players travel to the continent.

They would have to quarantine on return and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.

Aston Villa said the two Emilianos had agreed to return to their club after the Brazil game and miss Argentina’s next match against Bolivia on Tuesday.

The Argentine Football Association, however, said they would play all three games.

It was not clear what would happen to the four after the match.

Brazil currently lead the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022, six points ahead of second-placed Argentina. The top four qualify automatically for the tournament.

SA seeing ‘ promising decline in confirmed cases’: CSIR
5 September 2021, 8:34 PM

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says a significant decrease in new COVID-19 infections points to a decline in the third wave of the pandemic in South Africa.

According to the latest figures, an average of 8 100 new cases were recorded per day over the past week.

This is 26% lower than the previous week.  ‘

Senior Researcher at the CSIR, Dr. Ridhwaan Suliman says the drop in cases is confirmed by the decline in the test positivity rate.

“The decline in confirmed cases that we have seen is not just an artefact of decreased testing but is a real decline that we are seeing now. The test positivity rate it is still high but is promisingly coming down by just under 20% a week ago. It does indicate that one in every six tests being conducted currently is coming back positive, but I think promisingly it is on a decline.”

The country has recorded 5 931 new infection since the last reporting period, bringing the cumulative number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2 819 945.

With 76 new fatalities, the death toll now stands at 83 419.

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Power struggle roils Guinea as soldiers say they’ve taken over
5 September 2021, 7:22 PM

Soldiers who staged an uprising in Guinea’s capital on Sunday said on state television that they had dissolved the West African nation’s government and constitution and closed all land and air borders.

However, the defence ministry said an attack on the presidential palace in Conakry had been repelled.

Fighting broke out near the palace on Sunday morning, with several sources saying an elite national army unit led by a former French legionnaire, Mamady Doumbouya, was behind the unrest.

Videos shared on social media on Sunday afternoon, which Reuters could not immediately authenticate, showed President Alpha Conde in a room surrounded by army special forces.

Conde, whose whereabouts were not immediately clear, won a third term in October after changing the constitution to allow him to stand again, despite violent protests from the opposition, raising concerns of further political upheavals in a region that has seen coups in Mali and Chad in recent months.

Doumbouya appeared on state television draped in Guinea’s national flag and surrounded by eight other armed soldiers, saying his supporters planned to form a transitional government and would give further details later.

“We have dissolved government and institutions,” Doumbouya said. “We call our brothers in arms to join the people.”

As the defence ministry said security forces loyal to Conde had repulsed the attack and were restoring order, people emerged onto the streets during the afternoon to celebrate the uprising’s apparent success.

A Reuters witness saw pick-up trucks and military vehicles accompanied by motorcyclists and cheering onlookers. “Guinea is free! Bravo,” a woman shouted from her balcony.

The Guinean government has drastically increased and multiplied taxes in recent weeks to replenish state coffers. The price of fuel has increased by 20%, causing frustration among many Guineans.

Videos shared on social media had earlier shown military vehicles patrolling Conakry’s streets and one military source said the only bridge connecting the mainland to the Kaloum neighbourhood, where the palace and most government ministries are located, had been sealed off.

Guinea has seen sustained economic growth during Conde’s decade in power thanks to its bauxite, iron ore, gold and diamond wealth, but few of its citizens have seen the benefits.

Critics say the government has used restrictive criminal laws to discourage dissent, while ethnic divisions and endemic graft have sharpened political rivalries.

“While the president was proclaiming everywhere that he wanted to govern differently by annihilating corruption, the embezzlement of public funds increased. The new rich were taunting us,” Alassane Diallo, a resident of Conakry, told Reuters.

“It is all this that made it easier for the military.”

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