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Baghdad mall attack :IS claims responsibility

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The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad mall attack that killed 18 people on Monday. Gunmen stormed into the Jawhara Mall after setting off a car bomb and launching a suicide attack at its entrance.

 

Iraqi officials say the attack which lasted over an hour, killed at least 18 people and wounded 50 in the city’s mainly Shiite east.

The IS statement, posted online shortly after the attack, said a car bomb and four IS fighters carried out the attack, targeting an area where many Shiite Muslims are known to gather and warned of “worse” to come. Iraqi officials say the attack was carried out by seven men, one of whom died when he detonated his explosive vest at the start of the attack. The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled.
Flames rise from an attack on a mall in Baghdad, Iraq. Gunmen stormed into a Baghdad mall on Monday after setting off a car bomb and launching a suicide attack at its entrance, killing at least a dozen people in the city’s mainly Shiite east, Iraqi officials said. AP

Iraqi officials initially described the attack as a hostage situation, estimating that 50 people were trapped inside the complex. But Iraqi forces soon surrounded the building and landed troops on the roof. They clashed with the attackers inside, killing two of them, and arresting the other four.

At least four police officers were among those killed in the assault, which lasted around an hour and a half, according to police and medical officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Following the attack, authorities shut down the city’s highly fortified Green Zone, home to a number of foreign embassies and most of the country’s political elite. A number of major roads, shopping malls and bridges around the Iraqi capital were also closed for fear of follow-up attacks.

Also on Monday evening, a car bomb in southeast Baghdad in a crowded market area killed five and wounded 12, according to hospital and police officials.

Another deadly attack was carried out in the town of Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles (90 kilometers) north of Baghdad in Diyala province. A double suicide bombing at a cafe killed 24 and wounded 52, according to hospital and police officials. Police officials say the cafe was frequented by militia fighters under the government-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces and many fighters are among the dead.

The Islamic State group suffered a major defeat last month when Iraqi forces drove the extremists out of the western city of Ramadi, capital of the sprawling Anbar province. The group still controls much of northern and western Iraq.

The IS rampage across Iraq in the summer of 2014 was halted several miles away from Baghdad, but the group has claimed a number of attacks in the heavily guarded capital since then.

Politics

China must respect norms, use diplomacy to resolve border issue with India: Top US Congressman

Eliot L Engel, who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs, said, “China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law.”

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India China Border Sikkim

Washington, June 2 : The US censured China for resorting to aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and not resolving the conflict as per the international law.

In the first comments from Capitol Hill on the ongoing tension along the India-China border, a top US Congressman — who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs — has expressed “concern”, called China a “bully”, and “strongly” urged China to “respect norms and use diplomacy” to resolve its border questions with India.

In a statement late on Monday night, US Congress’ House Committee chair Eliot L Engel said, “I am extremely concerned by the ongoing Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border.”

“China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law. Countries must all abide by the same set of rules so that we don’t live in a world where “might makes right,” he said.

“I strongly urge China to respect norms and use diplomacy and existing mechanisms to resolve its border questions with India.”

Engel, an influential Democrat Congressman, has long been a supporter of India. However, External Affairs minister S Jaishankar had cancelled a meeting with Engel and other Congress members in Washington DC last December, over Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s inclusion into the delegation.

In July last year, after US President Donald Trump had falsely claimed that PM Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir, Engel had spoken with then Indian ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

“Engel reiterated his support for the longstanding US position on the Kashmir dispute, saying he supported dialogue between India and Pakistan, but reaffirmed that the dialogue’s pace and scope can only be determined by India and Pakistan,” he had said in a statement.

During the call, Engel “reaffirmed that in order for dialogue to be meaningful, Pakistan must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure” on its soil, the statement had said.

Last week, on May 29, Trump had claimed that he spoke to PM Modi about the India-China border, but sources in New Delhi said there has been “no recent contact” between the two leaders and the last conversation took place almost two months ago, on April 4.

Trump had claimed that he had spoken to Modi, who was “not in a good mood” about what’s going on with China. The US President made those remarks in response to questions at the White House.

“They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not — he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China,” the US President had said.

That had been the only comment so far from the US on the ongoing India-China border tension.

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Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accuses US of ‘double standards’ over protests

According to local lawyers and activists, the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Hong Kong, June 2 : Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday accused the US government of double standards when addressing the pro-democratic protests that occurred in the Asian city and the current protests against racism across American.

“We now see how local authorities are handling the revolts in the US, compared to the position they took last year when almost the same riots occurred in Hong Kong,” Lam said during her weekly press conference.

The controversial Hong Kong leader spread this accusation to other foreign governments, although she did not give names: “They are very concerned about their own national security, but about our national security… They see it through tinted glasses,” Efe news reported.

On Monday, the US was still mired in protests and riots, despite the curfews declared in the major cities, a week since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in the city of Minneapolis.

Last week, US President Donald Trump had ordered to start a process to finalize Hong Kong”s preferred trade status.

In this regard, Lam was of the opinion that it would not benefit either party and proove more harmful to both.

This latest decision by Trump is a response to the approval by the Chinese legislature of a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that aims, very broadly, to eradicate any loophole of “foreign interference” in the former British colony and that was endorsed last Thursday by China.

The law could allow Chinese security forces to operate freely in Hong Kong and carry out enforcement techniques such as those commonly practiced in mainland China.

According to local lawyers and activists, the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

–IANS

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7 million Afghan kids affected by COVID-19 pandemic

A new report by the National Statistics and Information Authority shows that nearly half of the estimated 32.9 million Afghan population is under 15 years of age.

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Afghan kids

Kabul, June 2 : The coronavirus pandemic has left more than 7 million children in Afghanistan prone to poverty, barring them from their basic rights in a country where half the population is under 15 years of age, a rights group said.

“The COVID-19 crisis exposes more than seven million Afghan children to the threat of hunger. Also, the children who have been deprived of school in the last three months have not had access to their basic right that is education,” TOLO News quoted Maryam Ataee, spokesperson for Save the Children, as saying in the report on Monday.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan stood at 15,750, with 265 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Citing Unicef figures, Ghulam Hairdar Jailani, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said that about six million children were prone to danger.

“We have 3.1 million children that are highly vulnerable and 1.2 million working children,” he said.

Meanwhile, Naeem Nazari, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that despite “big commitments by the government, the situation of children in terms of access to education, child marriages and sexual abuse is critical and unacceptable”.

A new report by the National Statistics and Information Authority shows that nearly half of the estimated 32.9 million Afghan population is under 15 years of age.

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