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Blasts kill 26 in Afghanistan; IS, Taliban claim responsibility

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Kabul, June 20 : Three separate blasts claimed 26 lives including those of two suicide bombers and 14 Nepalese nationals and injured more than 50 others in Afghanistan on Monday. The killings evoked strong condemnation.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in a statement released by his office blamed the enemies of Afghanistan for the attacks, saying the terrorists by conducting subversive activities in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan want to terrorise the people.

In his message, the president also expressed sympathy with the families of the Nepalese and Afghan victims.

Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah denounced the deadly bombings by saying, “I condemn the terrorist attack on those travelling to their work places in Kabul this morning. This attack is an act of terror and intimidation.”

In a suicide attack which targeted the minibus of Nepalese nationals reportedly worked as guards at the Canadian embassy at 5.40 a.m. 14 Nepalese citizens were killed and nine others including four Afghans injured.

Both the Islamic State terrorist group and the Taliban claimed responsibility for the bloodbath.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman, said over 20 people were killed or wounded in the attack. It said its “fighters” carried out the operation.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “strongly condemned the horrible tragedy” and offered “deep condolences” to the governments and people of Afghanistan and Nepal.

Nepal reacted with grief and shock.

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli said: “I am shocked to hear that 14 Nepalis were killed… I express my heartfelt condolences to their kin.”

He wished early recovery to those injured in the horrific incident.

Nepal has no embassy in Afghanistan. Its mission in Islamabad oversees the Afghan affairs.

The Nato-led Resolute Support Mission said: “The Taliban’s actions repeatedly harm civilians in an effort to undermine the government…”

A similar bombing in a bazaar in Kasham district of the northern Badakhshan province at around 10 a.m. claimed the lives of 10 civilians and injured 40 others, according to provincial government spokesman Nawed Frotan.

A bomb blast injured five people including a member of the Kabul provincial council Attaullah Faizani on the same day.

Afghans from all walks of life have strongly condemned the three bombings in a single day as a cowardly act of terror, calling upon the militants to respect Ramadan.

Kabul resident Abdul Ghani said, “Ramadan is the month of peace and reconciliation and killing people in this month is against teaching of Islam”.

Earlier on the eve of Ramadan, ulema or religious scholars had asked the Taliban to halt hostilities or at least observe a ceasefire during Ramadan.

However, the Taliban outfit described Ramadan as the month of Jihad or holy war and victory and vowed to intensify fighting in the month of Ramadan, a statement that has been widely condemned by Afghans.

Middle East

Turkish Court Jails 27 For Life Over 2016 Coup Attempt

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

A Turkish court on Thursday jailed 27 former pilots and other suspects for life in one of the largest trials stemming from the bloody 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They were convicted of crimes including murder, trying to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to assassinate the president, an AFP reporter in the courtroom said.

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Health

Saudi Arabia to make COVID-19 vaccine free for citizens and residents

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

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Saudi King Salman

Abu Dhabi: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry on Monday announced that it would make the coronavirus vaccine available for free to all citizens and residents.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri, the assistant undersecretary at the ministry.

He, however, added that those below 16 years of age will not be vaccinated unless research proves otherwise.

As per Gulf News, Dr Asiri told Al Ekhbariya that Saudi Arabia will receive vaccines through COVAX facility as well as through companies outside of the consortium.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organisation, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing…Saudi Arabia will obtain a large number of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is directly contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Arab News mentioned Asiri as saying.

According to the World Health Organization, “the COVAX facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.”

The Saudi Health Ministry further expected that by the end of next year, the vaccines would cover 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s population.

“One of the most important goals set by the G20 during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency is to support all-inclusive and equitable access to vaccines, diagnostic and treatment tools,” said Dr Abdullah Asiri.

Dr Asiri added that a comprehensive plan for vaccine distribution will be ready “in the coming weeks”.

During the two-day G20 summit hosted virtually in Riyadh, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, on Friday said that his country would be among the first ones to get hold of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Al Rabeeah added that Saudi Arabia has spent over USD 200 million on COVID-19 vaccine and drug development.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz had in March also ordered free coronavirus treatment for all citizens.

Meanwhile, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday announced: “There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic.”

His remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective. With this, AstraZeneca has become the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

“The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development,” added Tedros.

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India

India To Host G20 Summit In 2023: Grouping’s Declaration

India looks forward to taking forward the G20 agenda in 2023 after the Italian and Indonesian presidencies, the source said.

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g20 summit

G20 leaders announced on Sunday that India will host the summit of the high-profile grouping in 2023 — a year later than what was decided earlier.

India was earlier slated to host the summit in 2022 with the Osaka declaration of the G20 stating last year that “we look forward to meeting again in Saudi Arabia in 2020, in Italy in 2021 and in India in 2022”.

“We thank Saudi Arabia for hosting a successful Riyadh Summit and its contribution to the G20 process. We look forward to our next meetings in Italy in 2021, Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024,” the G20 Riyadh Summit Leaders Declaration said.

On India now hosting the summit in 2023, a source said, “The order of the rotating presidency is decided among member states on the basis of consultations and mutual convenience.”

India looks forward to taking forward the G20 agenda in 2023 after the Italian and Indonesian presidencies, the source said.

In a statement on the summit, the Ministry of External Affairs said it was decided that the G20 presidency will be held by Indonesia in 2022, India in 2023 and Brazil in 2024.

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