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Taliban storm Afghanistan’s Ghazni, seize parts of city

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South China Morning Post

Kabul, Aug 10 : The Taliban launched a massive offensive in Afghanistan’s Ghazni city on Friday amid reports of multiple casualties even as heavy fighting continued between the government forces and militants.

Afghan soldiers fought back as militants converged from four sides of the city, resulting in several deaths on all sides, Ghazni provincial government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori said.

Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the provincial city as Afghan forces exchanged fire with militants. The spokesperson said that a group of Taliban fighters who had made their way into the city were holed up near the provincial police headquarters and were firing on the building, CNN reported.

Noori claimed that Ghazni security forces managed to drive out most of the Taliban forces from the city centre but as per reports, residents in several neighbourhoods said that heavy fighting was ongoing around them.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement to the media that the Taliban entered Ghazni city around 1 a.m. and captured a number of strategic sites within the city.

“Hundreds of Mujahedeen entered the city, captured the police headquarters and all six police districts and an important military base, Bala Hesar,” he said.

“Attacks were underway on the governor’s office, the National Directorate for Security (Afghan intelligence agency) headquarters and other government offices,” he said, adding that more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed.

One resident Nasir Ahmad Faqiri told the New York Times that the militants were fighting with “their whole power”.

“There are Taliban militants in all roads and streets of the city, but they are facing strong resistance from government forces,” he said.

The Ghazni attack was the second assault on an Afghan city this year. In May, insurgents overran the western city of Farah, but they left a day later amid counterattacks from the Afghan government and American airstrikes.

The Afghan government had unilaterally called off a ceasefire with the militant group that it had in place for Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In a tweet, US Forces Afghanistan called the attack a “failed attempt to seize terrain”, saying that Afghan forces were able to maintain control of government buildings.

“US Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni. Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all (government) centres. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines,” it read.

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Tech

Top tech firms halt Hong Kong’s requests for users” data

Twitter said in an earlier statement that it has “grave concerns and is committed to protecting the people using our services and their freedom of expression”.

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San Francisco, July 7 : Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Twitter and Telegram have said they will not process official requests from the Hong Kong authorities to hand over user data for the time being, in the wake of China imposing a controversial new National Security Law in Hong Kong.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, WhatsApp decided to pause the review of Hong Kong government requests for user data “pending further assessment” of China”s national-security law for territory.

Facebook is “pausing” such reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” a WhatsApp spokeswoman was quoted as saying in the report.

Google and Twitter said they suspended their reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities immediately after the law went into effect.

Twitter cited “grave concerns” about the law”s implications.

Dubai-based Telegram Group said in a statement that it doesn”t intend to process “any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city.”

A company spokesperson said it “has never shared any data with the Hong Kong authorities in the past.”

The people in Hong Kong fear that the new law can send them to jail on the basis of their social media posts and messages.

After China imposed a controversial new National Security Law in Hong Kong, tech giants now face a free speech test in the country.

The new law requires local authorities to take steps to supervise and regulate the city”s internet.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube currently operate freely in Hong Kong, unlike China where the great Firewall has censored the US tech giants in mainland China.

Twitter said in an earlier statement that it has “grave concerns and is committed to protecting the people using our services and their freedom of expression”.

The Hong Kong government last week said the US has no right to intervene in the city”s internal affairs, after the American Senate unanimously passed a punitive sanctions bill in reaction to the controversial new National Security Law imposed by China.

The national security law, which Beijing put into effect and made public last week on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong”s handover from British to Chinese rule, criminalises a wide range of behaviour and acts under four categories of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with a foreign power.

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Disaster

7 killed in Karachi rain

The provincial disaster management authority of Sindh province, where Karachi is located, issued a warning of urban flooding in parts of the city and other areas.

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Pakistan Rains (File Picture)

Karachi, July 7 : At least seven people were killed and several others injured in Pakistan’s Karachi city in separate rain-related incidents.

After weeks of extremely hot weather, the residents of Karachi on Monday found solace when the first monsoon rain in the ongoing summer season hit the port city of over 20 million people, but at the same time the unfortunate incidents of electrocution, roof collapse and uprooting of trees and billboards claimed seven lives, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), rainfall up to 43 mm was recorded in the city, and it wreaked havoc in the areas where it was coupled with heavy winds.

Rescue teams said that the rainwater inundated several low-lying areas of the city, creating trouble for the residents.

Road traffic was also disrupted in several areas after rainwater submerged highways and other roads.

Electric poles also uprooted in several areas of the city, resulting in hours-long suspension of electricity supply.

The provincial disaster management authority of Sindh province, where Karachi is located, issued a warning of urban flooding in parts of the city and other areas.

The authority said heavy rainfall is expected in the province due to the monsoon and the residents and concerned departments of the urban areas should remain alert and take necessary precautionary measures during the forecast periods to avert any unfortunate incident.

The PMD forecast more rains on the same pattern in the city for the next two days.

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Disaster

Situation ‘really not good’ as new COVID-19 cases break records: Fauci

The worst-hit states due to the fresh outbreak are California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

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Anthony Fauci

Washington, July 7 : America’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci warned “the current state is really not good” due to the fresh spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

“We had been in a situation (where) we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day,” Xinhua news agency quoted Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying on Monday.

In a livestream with Director of the US National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, Fauci said a series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up, in the sense of getting back to some form of normality, has led to a situation where the country now has record-breaking cases.

He said the average age of people getting infected now is 15 years younger than it was a few months ago, but young people must understand they are not “in a vacuum”.

“Innocently, they could infect someone who’d infect someone, and then all of a sudden someone’s grandmother or grandfather, or aunt who”s getting chemotherapy for breast cancer gets infected.

“You’re part of the propagation of the pandemic so it’s your responsibility to yourself, as well as to society, to avoid infection,” Fauci added.

The US currently accounts for the world”s highest number of infections and fatalities at 2,935,008 and 130,277, respectively, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The worst-hit states due to the fresh outbreak are California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

Nearly two dozen states have paused their reopenings to combat the virus spread while others have taken extra measures to keep it out of their borders, said a CNN report.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a travel advisory that requires people arriving from eight states with high coronavirus rates to quarantine for two weeks.

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