Friday, September 11, 2020

Trump announces normalisation of ties between Israel, Bahrain

US President Donald Trump

Washington [US], September 11 (ANI): US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the normalisation of ties between Israel and Bahrain, weeks after it brokered the peace deal between UAE and Israel.

Trump made the announcement of the agreement on Friday, following a three-way phone call he had wi
th Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The three leaders also issued a brief six-paragraph joint statement, attesting to the deal.

"President Donald J. Trump, King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke together and agreed to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain," according to the statement tweeted by Trump.

"The second Arab country to make peace with Israel in 30 days," he tweeted.

For decades, most Arab states have boycotted Israel, insisting they would only establish ties after the Palestinian dispute was settled.

Bahrain follows the lead of its neighbour, the United Arab Emirates, which reached the peace deal with Israel last month. Both historical agreements will be signed at the White House ceremony next Tuesday.

"This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East," Trump, Netanyahu and King Hamad said in the statement. "Opening direct dialogue and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security, and prosperity in the region." (ANI)

US will decide its Afghanistan policy based on peace talks results: State dept

US Department of State Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. (ANI)

Washington [US], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): The United States will decide on its policy and relations with Afghanistan based on the agreements reached during the upcoming peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban movement, US Department of State Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said in a press briefing on Friday.

"The future of Afghanistan is obviously after the Afghans to decide, but we would like to see Afghanistan that is sovereign and that is unified and democratic," Khalilzad said. "And the United States will decide its policies or its relations with Afghanistan, based on the decision and agreement that Afghanistan makes, and the implementation of those agreements."

Negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government are set to kick off in Qatar on September 12. Last week, the two sides completed the prisoner exchange, which was a mandatory precondition to starting the intra-Afghan talks.

The talks are expected to pave the way for a peace process and withdrawal of foreign troops after almost two decades of war and insurgency.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived at the Qatari capital of Doha to participate in the event. (ANI/Sputnik)

Trump expected to announce Israel, Bahrain peace agreement

US President Donald Trump

Tel Aviv [Israel], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): US President Donald Trump is expected to announce a peace agreement between Israel and Bahrain later on Friday, Israeli media reported.

A source familiar with the matter told the Jerusalem Post that Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa would
 be visiting Washington before the scheduled ceremony for Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the White next Tuesday.

The UAE is set to become the third Arab country to fully recognize Israel after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. US officials have repeatedly said they are holding negotiations with other Arab countries that can follow the UAE example and reach a peace agreement with Israel. Bahrain and Sudan are considered as the most likely nations in the region to do so.(ANI/Sputnik)

China likely to hand over 5 missing men from Arunachal Pradesh on Saturday: Rijiju

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New Delhi [India], September 11 (ANI): Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) is likely to hand over the five Indian nationals, who were missing from Arunachal Pradesh, to Indian authorities on Saturday, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju said on Friday.

"The Chinese PLA has conf
irmed to Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location," Rijiju said in a tweet.

Indian Army sources said that the handover will take place at Wacha near Kibithu border personnel meeting point in Arunachal Pradesh.

Rijiju on Tuesday tweeted that PLA has confirmed that five men missing from Arunachal Pradesh have been found by their side.

The Army had also said on Tuesday that five missing hunters from the Indian side of LAC in Upper Subansiri, who had inadvertently crossed over to another side on September 2, have been traced. (ANI)

Uyghur victim families narrate horrific experiences about Chinese atrocities

Uyghur victim families narrated horrific experiences about Chinese atrocities. (Photo: ANI)

London [UK], September 11 (ANI): As China faces worldwide condemnation over the atrocities faced by Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, victims from the community narrates horrific experiences in a recent webinar hosted by Campaign for Uyghurs, an organization for the human rights and democratic freedoms for the Uyghurs and other Turkic people.

According to the recent report by the academic Adeian Zenz and IPAC, Uyghur women are subject to forced abortion particularly if they fail to comply with the Chinese Communist Party arbitrary birth spacing requirements which generally require Uyghur women to wait between 3 or 4 years in between having children.

One of the former detainees Zumret Dawut said, "We were administered unknown medicines. The medication made us extremely lethargic and we noticed that our menstrual cycle stopped and till that day my cycle has not returned. We were also injected with an unknown substance once a week".

Ziba Murat, a Uyghur American residing in Virginia and also a daughter of Dr Gulshan Abbas who is under Chinese government detention said, "My mother is missing and I don't know where she was taken from her home to concentration camps on September 11, 2018. My mom's case is just a tip of the iceberg, as there are millions of other families who have suffered in similar ways."

The Communist Party of China has detained at least 8 million Uyghurs and other minorities in concentration camps. Reports claim that At least 80,000 Uyghur were sent to work in factories across China against their will.

Kelley Currie, Ambassador-at-large for global women issues who was also part of the panel said, "The CCP has always shown utter disregard to the sanity of human lives and basic human dignity and this is what is happening in Xinjiang. Their effort to attack the core of Uyghur identity at the family level is so pernicious that we often lack a vocabulary to even explain how horrific this is".

Meanwhile, Nury A. Turkel, U.S. commission on international religious freedom said "UCIRF commended the U.S. government for taking action against these issues by banning imports from Chinese companies suspected of using forced labors".

According to reports, around 80 per cent of Uyghur women of childbearing age in the four Uyghur-populated prefectures have been targeted for forced sterilization. (ANI)

Afghanistan: Blast in Kandahar kills 2 civilians

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Kabul [Afghanistan], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): A roadside bomb blast in the Kandahar province in the south of Afghanistan killed two civilians, a security source told Sputnik on Friday.

According to the source, the incident took place in the Anjargi area of Shah Walikot district in the afternoon.
Recently, there has been an increase in the number of roadside blasts on civilians, with the government blaming the Taliban radical movement, but the Taliban itself has not commented on such blasts.

The Taliban and the Afghan government delegation are expected to begin peace talks on Saturday. (ANI/Sputnik)

Indian, Chinese Army hold Brigade Commander level talks in Chushul

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Leh (Ladakh) [India], September 11 (ANI): Indian Army and Chinese Army held Brigade Commander level talks in Chushul, Ladakh on Friday, a day after the meeting between Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

Indian Army sources said the meeting started at 11am and ended around 3pm.

External Affairs 
Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar held a detailed discussion with the State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi in Moscow on Thursday on the current tensions in the India-China border areas. The meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours.

According to government sources, Jaishankar said that as the recent incidents in eastern Ladakh have inevitably impacted the development of the bilateral relationship, an urgent resolution of the current situation was in the interest of both the nations.

The sources said that during the meeting the Indian side clearly conveyed that it expected full adherence to all agreements on the management of border areas and would not countenance any attempt to change the status quo unilaterally.

At the end of their discussions, the Ministers reached an agreement on five points that will guide their approach to the current situation, the sources added.

India recently outflanked China by taking control of strategic heights near Pangong Lake's southern bank. It thwarted an attempt by the Chinese soldiers to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh.

India and China have been engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including the Finger area, Galwan Valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala. The situation worsened after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in June.

Last Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the SCO dialogue in Moscow that attempts by Chinese troops to unilaterally alter the status quo along the LAC was in violation of the bilateral agreements, and Beijing should work with New Delhi for complete disengagement from all friction areas including Pangong Tso. (ANI)

China ready to take conciliatory steps to de-escalate tensions at LAC: FM Wang

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Moscow [Russia], September 11 (ANI): China is ready to take "conciliatory steps" in order to avoid new violations of the obligations on India-Chinese border, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday, a day after holding a crucial meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar over the current standoff in Ladakh.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Wang said troops and equipment should be withdrawn from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

"As for relations between China and India, the whole world follows developments. BRICS member states are in contact on the matter, I discuss it all the time with Minister Jaishankar and India's security officials ... Yesterday, I had a long conversation with my Indian counterpart (Jaishankar)," Sputnik quoted Wang as saying.

"Indian partners expressed commitment to cooperation and dialogue for de-escalating tensions at the border. We are ready to take conciliatory steps ... The most important thing is to avoid new violations of the obligations on the border ... Troops and equipment should be withdrawn from the Line of Actual Control," he added.

Jaishankar met Wang on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers' meet in Moscow on Thursday.

According to a joint press statement about the meeting, the two leaders had a "frank and constructive discussion on the developments in the India-China border areas as well as on India-China relations."

"The two Ministers agreed that both sides should take guidance from the series of consensus of the leaders on developing India-China relations, including not allowing differences to become disputes," it read.

Tension is high along the LAC as Indian and Chinese Army are engaged in a standoff at several points.

The meeting came days after Chinese soldiers fired in the air while attempting to close in on Indian positions across the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Army had said on Tuesday that Chinese troops have been "blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres".

In a statement about the Thursday's meeting, the Chinese defence ministry said the two sides have reached a five-point consensus regarding the current situation after a full in-depth discussion, says a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

This was the second high-level face-to-face meeting between the Chinese and Indian officials.

Last Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the SCO dialogue in Moscow that attempts by Chinese troops to unilaterally alter the status quo along the LAC was in violation of the bilateral agreements, and Beijing should work with New Delhi for complete disengagement from all friction areas including Pangong Tso. (ANI)

UNHCR shocked by series of fires at Greece's Moria Refugee Camp

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Geneva [Switzerland], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is shocked to learn of the series of devastating blazes at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, Shabia Mantoo, a representative for the agency, said on Friday.

"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is shocked a
nd saddened at events on Lesvos island this week where a series of fires have destroyed nearly all of Moria asylum center, leaving thousands of men, women and children, without a shelter," Mantoo said at a press briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva.

The first blaze broke out late on Tuesday evening, and more fires have been reported over the following days at the Moria facility, leaving roughly 11,500 people homeless, the representative stated.

The UNHCR is supporting the Greek authorities in their response, the representative added, citing the 35 positive tests for COVID-19 reported at the facility just before the blazes started.

Earlier on Friday, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that ten EU member states had pledged to take in a total of 400 unaccompanied minors who were previously living at the Moria camp.

Greek media outlets have alleged that arson caused the blazes at the camp. Refugees and the emergency services have reportedly clashed amid the fires. (ANI/Sputnik)

Flight carrying Indians, Chinese nationals landed in China's Ningbo last night

A flight carrying 212 Indians, few foreign & Chinese nationals landed in Ningbo, China. (ANI)

Shanghai [China], September 11 (ANI): A flight from Delhi carrying 212 Indians, few foreign and Chinese nationals landed in Ningbo, China on Thursday night, according to Consulate General of India in Shanghai.

"Late night of Sept 10 #VBM with 212 Indians few foreign and Chinese nationals flew into N
ingbo from Delhi uniting family members & enabling to join back work in China. The flight carried back 54 Indians who wanted to return back to motherland," Consulate General of India in Shanghai said in a tweet.

Over 13.70 lakh Indians stuck abroad due to coronavirus pandemic have so far been repatriated under Vande Bharat Mission.

"As of September 10, 13.74 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes under this mission and these modes include Air India fights, private and foreign carrier, chartered flight and naval ship and land border crossing," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing on Thursday.

The Vande Bharat Mission started in early May to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.

The mission is in its sixth phase which will continue till October 24.

"Phase 6 became operational on September 1 and 1,007 international flights have been scheduled in this phase and we expect to repatriate two lakh people," Srivastava said. (ANI)

8 people killed in armed attack in Mali

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Bamako [Mali], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): At least eight people were killed and three others were injured in an attack by armed men in central Mali, local media reported on Friday, citing sources.

According to the Independent newspaper, the attack took place on Wednesday near the town of Bankass, located in the Mopti region, after a period of "calm" followed by operations of the military in the area. The village of Ogoboro was attacked by several unknown armed militants on motorcycles.

The attackers also searched and burned the houses and granaries of local residents, causing significant material damage, the publication said. The military, which was close to the site of the attack, was unable to intervene, despite warnings from the local population. (ANI/Sputnik)

Pakistan refuses to accept bodies of two drug peddlers shot dead by BSF in Rajasthan

One of the dead was identified as Shahbaz Ali from the Identity card recovered (Photo/ANI)

New Delhi [India], September 11 (ANI): Pakistan has refused to accept the bodies of two drug peddlers shot dead by the Border Security Forces (BSF) on September 9 in Anupgarh sector in Rajasthan after which BSF personnel performed last rites and buried the bodies.

Sources said despite informing Paki
stan Rangers to take over the bodies, they disowned the bodies and finally the BSF personnel performed last rites and buried the bodies.

The two Pakistani drug peddlers have been shot dead by 91 Bn BSF at 0040 hour on September 9 near BP 336, South West of Khayaliwala BOP in the Anupgarh sect in Rajasthan.

These Pakistani nationals had thrown five packets across the fence and were trying to cross the IB fence, said sources while adding that on being challenged they ran back when they were shot dead.

One of the dead was identified as Shahbaz Ali, son of Mushtaq Ahmed from the Identity card recovered from the individual. Sources said eight Kgs of heroin, two pistols and one night sight enabled binoculars were recovered from the slain Pakistani smugglers.

According to sources, Pakistani Government agencies are actively involved in sending narcotics and weapons into Indian side and multiple attempts to smuggle arms and ammunition using quadcopters were foiled by alert border forces earlier this year.

"Two Pakistani smugglers were killed in an operation late last night at border outpost Khayaliwala in Sri Ganganagar district. Pistols, magazines, rounds, night vision device, Pakistani currency and identity card were recovered from them," BSF Inspector General (IG) Amit Lodha had told reporters earlier. (ANI)

Facebook launches new section Facebook Campus for college students

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California [US], September 11 (ANI): Social media giant Facebook announced a new section of the site called Facebook Campus, dedicated specifically to students.

According to the announcement, Facebook Campus will utilise new profiles, separate from the one users already have on the main platform, re
ported Mashable. To create a Campus profile, students need to provide their college email address and graduation year. Facebook Campus will be accessible on the main platform, as a tabbed feature, just like Facebook Watch.

The new feature will show a college-only newsfeed, specific to each student's school. Students can create Campus-only events and groups, which only people from their school can access. On the platform, a real-time chat room feature, called Campus Chats, will also be available.

As per Mashable, one stand-out feature, especially in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, is the Campus directory. The directory will allow students to search for classmates based on their major, graduation year, enrolled classes, and more.

As of now, the feature will roll out in 30 schools across the US. (ANI)

Do not extend mandate of Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances: ICJ

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Islamabad [Pakistan], September 11 (ANI): The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the mandate for the Commission of Inquiry of Enforced Disappearance's (COIED) should not be extended beyond September 14 as it has proven to be a failure in holding perpetrators accountable.

In an editorial 
published by Dawn quoting the paper 'Entrenching Impunity, Denying Redress', the COIED has only focussed on determining the whereabouts of the missing persons. Of the 6,752 cases it handled since March 2011 (when it was established) 4,642 have "been disposed of" while the remaining 2,110 are still pending.

"Do not extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances beyond 14 September 2020, when its current tenure expires. Make public the final report of the Commission and make public the report of the judicial commission that preceded the COIED," the paper read.

This also appears to be true for the COIED. While the Commission has made some progress in documenting cases of enforced disappearances and "trace the whereabouts" of a number of disappeared people, it has failed in holding perpetrators accountable.

"In its follow up report to its mission to Pakistan, Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), there is a climate of impunity in Pakistan with regard to enforced disappearances and the authorities are not sufficiently dedicated to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and hold the perpetrators accountable," it added.

"The Commission, however, has not "fixed responsibility" on any person or organization, or directed the registration of FIRs against those responsible for concealing the whereabouts of the disappeared people who were eventually traced in detention centers," the paper stated.

The paper also pointed out the "lack of structural independence" is problematic as the Ministry of Interior has "authority over law enforcement agencies, which are often involved in enforced disappearances".

"This structural subordination also explains in part why the Commission is seen to have limited authority over law enforcement and security agencies and why its orders are not complied with, a concern the WGEID also raised in its country report," it added.

Dawn further reports that there is a question of credibility of the commission as well considering the Chairman Retired Justice Javed Iqbal who is also the head of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The Supreme Court has also in its judgment denounced the NAB for violation of fundamental rights and pursuing a personal vendetta.

Dawn also reported that abductions are not only taking place in the night but in broad daylight as well in busy urban centres. Despite many witnesses, perpetrators are not being traced, let alone their prosecution. (ANI)

Germany to deliver aid to Moria Camp in Greece, Foreign Ministry allocates $3.6 million

Germany Flag

Berlin [Germany], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): The German civil protection service will travel to the fire-ravaged Moria refugee camp in Greece later on Friday to deliver aid urgently, and the Foreign Ministry announced that it is directing USD 3.6 million as aid, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday.

After a fire hit the camp on Tuesday, thousands of refugees were forced to sleep rough. Germany and several other European Union countries have offered to take in hundreds of unaccompanied minors from the camp.

"The people in Moria need help immediately. The German civil protection service is travelling to Greece today. The first transport with aid will include tents and camp beds to attend to the biggest need. The Foreign Ministry is initially allocating three million euros," Maas said on Twitter. (ANI/Sputnik)

India's FDI to Nepal stood at Nepali Rs 3.24 billion for 2019-20

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Kathmandu [Nepal], September 11 (ANI): India in 2019 has committed foreign direct investment (FDI) of Nepali Rupees 3.24 billion for the year 2019-20, data from the Department of Industry showed.

India in last the fiscal year proposed a total of 16 FDI proposals with pledges mainly targeting hotels 
with restaurants, manufacturing industry and construction industry and software development. In the year of 2018-19, the investment proposals stood at 50.

"Indian investors want to invest more in Nepal. The share of Indian FDI in Nepal stands at over 51 per cent in the Himalayan Nation but there are some provisions regarding sending dividends and service-related payments from Nepal to India, which should be eased to boost it further," Saibal Ghosh, Vice President of the Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Coordinator of the Indian Industry Forum Committee said in a webinar.

Nepal's Department of Industry data showed that the country received a foreign investment commitment worth Nepali Rs 25.79 billion in the fiscal year of 2019-20, with 177 companies willing to invest in Nepal. (ANI)

Russian Foreign Ministry refutes new US election meddling claims, criticises sanctions

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Moscow [Russia], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): Moscow believes that new US statements on Russia's alleged attempts to meddle in the US elections are insinuations and all these accusations are unfounded, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

On Thursday, the US Department
 of the Treasury imposed new sanctions on four Russia-linked individuals, including Ukrainian parliament member Andrii Derkach, for allegedly interfering in the US election. Washington designated Russian nationals Artem Lifshits, Anton Andreyev, and Darya Aslanova for their work on behalf of the previously sanctioned Internet Research Agency.

"A kind of sanctions assembly line has just released one more product: under the pretext of notorious interference in the election process, three more Russian citizens have been brought under US restrictions," Zakharova said at a briefing.

According to Zakharova, this move alienates the prospect for stabilisation of the Russia-US relations.

"By doing so, Washington demonstrates its intention to follow the course of further aggravating bilateral relations, and this is regrettable. However, this is probably a deliberate choice of those who shape the US policy in the Russian direction," she added.

Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the US political system, saying such practices run contrary to the principles and practice of the country's foreign policy. (ANI/Sputnik)

Oppose US attempt to abuse concept of national security to oppress specific companies: China

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Washington [US], September 11 (ANI): After the US President Donald Trump announced that there will no extension of TikTok deadline, China on Friday said it opposes US attempt to abuse concept of national security to oppress specific companies of other countries.

"Regarding TikTok, China opposes the 
US attempt to abuse the concept of national security and use its national power to oppress specific companies of other countries," said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

There will be no extension of the September 15 deadline imposed by the US government for the Chinese company ByteDance to sell its video-sharing application TikTok or see it closed up in the United States, President Donald Trump told reporters, according to Sputnik.

"There will be no extension of the TikTok deadline," Trump was quoted as saying on the runway at Joint Base Andrews on Thursday. "We will either close up TikTok in this country for security reasons or it will be sold. ... We will see what happens."

Last month, the US President had ordered the Beijing-based ByteDance to sell its US business or the popular video application would be banned.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed TikTok and other applications like WeChat are feeding data directly to China's national security apparatus. (ANI)

Russia records 5,504 COVID-19 cases in past 24 Hours

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Moscow [Russia], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): Russia has registered 5,504 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours (5,363 yesterday), which brings the cumulative total to 1,051,874, the country's coronavirus response centre said on Friday.

"Over the past 24 hours, Russia has confirmed 5,504 COVID-19 cases
 in 85 regions, of which 1,240 (22.5 per cent) have been detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms," the response centre said in a statement, adding that the total count has reached 1,051,874.

Moscow recorded 698 cases, St. Petersburg registered 216 cases, and the Moscow region confirmed 175 new cases.

In the past 24 hours, Russia recorded 102 COVID-19 fatalities, bringing the death toll to 18,365, and 5,734 recoveries, taking the total to 868,107.

According to the public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, over 39.9 million tests to detect COVID-19 have been conducted in Russia since the beginning of the pandemic, and 209,000 suspected carriers remain under medical monitoring. (ANI/Sputnik)

China defends Pakistan, says it has made tremendous efforts in fighting terrorism

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian

Beijing [China], September 11 (ANI): China on Friday came to defence of Pakistan, which is facing flak for sponsoring terrorism, saying the country has made "tremendous sacrifice" in fighting terrorism.

"Terrorism is a common challenge faced by all countries. Pakistan has made tremendous efforts and
 sacrifice in fighting terrorism. The international community should recognise and respect that. China opposes all kinds of terrorism," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

The United States and India at the US-India Counter-Terrorism Joint Working Group and Designations Dialogue underlined the urgent need for Pakistan to take immediate, sustained and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist attacks.

At the 17th meeting of the US-India Counter-Terrorism Joint Working Group and the third session of the US-India Designations Dialogue, Mahaveer Singhvi, Joint Secretary for Counter-Terrorism, Ministry of External Affairs and Ambassador Nathan A Sales, US State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, discussed counterterrorism cooperation, resolving to continue close coordination on this important element of the comprehensive global strategic partnership that exists between the two countries.

According to a press statement by the US Department of State, "They exchanged views on threats posed by UN-sanctioned terrorist entities and emphasised the need for concerted action against all terrorist networks, including al-Qa'ida, ISIS/Daesh, Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Hizb-ul Mujahideen."

"The two sides underlined the urgent need for Pakistan to take immediate, sustained, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks, including 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot," the statement read.

During the webinar, the US reiterated its support for the people and India in the fight against terrorism.

"There was a joint commitment to strengthen cooperation on information sharing and other steps to disrupt the ability of international terrorists to travel, consistent with the important provisions and obligations outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2396," the State Department added. (ANI)

Pakistan's confirmed COVID-19 cases top 300,000

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Islamabad [Pakistan], September 11 (ANI/Xinhua): Pakistan recorded 548 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the overall count to 300,371, according to the data updated by the country's Health Ministry on Friday morning.

The country also recorded five fatalities over the last 24 hours, tak
ing the nationwide death toll to 6,370.

According to the statistics, the country's southern Sindh province is the most affected region with 131,404 cases followed by eastern Punjab province with 97,533 cases.

The northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province reported 36,823 coronavirus cases. A total of 15,832 cases have been recorded in the federal capital Islamabad, and 13,282 in southwestern Balochistan province.

Overall, Pakistan has 5,795 active COVID-19 cases, while 288,206 infected people have recovered. Pakistan has conducted 29,534 coronavirus tests over the last 24 hours, according to the health ministry.

To control the disease spread, the Pakistani government imposed strict lockdown in March and April, and later "smart lockdown" in hotspots in the following months. (ANI/Xinhua)

Trump 'playing down' COVID-19 in US is almost criminal: Biden

Democratic nominee Joe Biden

Washington [US], September 11 (ANI): Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called President Donald Trump's "playing it down" approach in handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the US as "disgusting" and "almost criminal".

These remarks come after Trump confessed to "playing it down" the COVID-19 thre
at in interviews with journalist Bob Woodward from December 2019 to July 2020 in Woodward's latest book 'Rage'.

"This caused people to die. And what did he do the whole time? "He acknowledged this -- you breathe it, it's in the air -- and he won't put on a mask. He's talking about, 'It's ridiculous to put on a mask, what do you need social distancing for? Why have any of these rules?'" Biden said in an interview with CNN.

"It was all about making sure the stock market didn't come down, that his wealthy friends didn't lose any money, and that he could say anything, that in fact, anything that happened had nothing to do with him," he added.

The Democratic presidential nominee further accused the President of "waving the white flag". "He waved a white flag. He walked away. He didn't do a damn thing," Biden said. "Think about it. Think about what he did not do -- it's almost criminal."

As the US COVID-19 death toll stands at 191,789, as per Johns Hopkins University, Biden further slammed Trump for blaming China for the pandemic adding that the deaths are "his fault".

"The virus is not his fault, but the deaths are his fault. Because he could've done something about it," Biden said further in an interview to CNN.

In Woodward's book, Trump revealed that he "played it down" with regard to the severity of COVID-19 to the American people as he "didn't want to create panic".

Trump told Woodward that the virus was not "his fault" and that China was responsible for it. "The virus has nothing to do with me. It's not my fault. It's -- China let the damn virus out," as per CNN quoting Trump in his interaction with the journalist. (ANI)

Muslim American veteran opens up about racism post 9/11 attack

US Marine Veteran officer Mansoor T. Shams (Photo source: Twitter)

New York [US], September 11 (ANI): Nineteen years on since the devastating attack in New York took place, where the World Trade Centre buildings collapsed after planes hijacked by al-Qaeda operatives crashed into the twin buildings killing over 2,700 people, US Marine Veteran officer Mansoor T. Shams, a Muslim American recalls the racism he faced post the attack.

"As the days went on, we would come to find out the attacks originated from Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan, the country I was born in. It was heart wrenching, painful to say the least. Deep down I began wondering why did it have to be the people with whom I shared heritage, and, worse, the same faith. Why not someone else? Why not some other group? " Shams wrote in his opinion piece on CNN.

"Although the Marine Corps is a unique breed of brotherhood, which prides itself on certain core values like honor, courage, and commitment, I started to experience a level of discrimination I could never have imagined," he added.

He further went on to say that "certain Marines" gave him weird looks while others "half-jokingly and "openly called" him names such as "Taliban, terrorist and Osama bin Laden".

"In the beginning, I'd either try to ignore it or just laugh it off -- but as time went on, I could feel things starting to get to me. I made complaints to my leadership, but they did little to intervene. Sadly, sometimes they were part of the problem," he wrote further.

Shams also recalled the time his warrant officer denied his request to hold-off a physical training until the end of the holy month of Ramzan. "The armed forces do make reasonable accommodations as needed, so I felt that the denial was part of the discrimination I was facing. Luckily, I passed my physical fitness test successfully without passing out," he said further in an opinion piece to CNN.

While adjusting to the new way of life -- since he joined the Marine Corps -- was hard, things became harder post 9/11 for the veteran.

He wrote, "Adjusting to the Marine Corps way of life up until that point had been hard enough. Now, I was dealing with a new environment that was more intimidating. Months later, I was moved to a different unit on base and able to start over, earning a Marine of the Quarter award and later a meritorious promotion to Corporal."

Though, he does not accuse the Marine Corps of being "full of racists and bigots" but added that racism and bigotry do exist in the armed forces as well.

"To be absolutely clear, I'm not saying the Marine Corps is full of racists and bigots. I'm just saying, unfortunately, racism and bigotry also exists within the armed forces," he wrote.

However, as the "chaos was still going on", he "somehow managed" to remain true to who he was and the oath he took as a US Marine. He further wrote that he had reached out to the leadership to make him aware of his unique background -- an ability to understand Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.

"In short, I was asking my leadership to use me in any way that could be helpful, even if that meant sending me into the heat of battle. I was ready to die for my country. This was my mindset. This was the level of love and dedication I had for America. In many ways, what I was doing was Islam in action, because love and service to country of residence is part of my Islamic faith as taught by the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad," the veteran wrote.

The veteran further wrote that "for far too long" Muslims had to bear "dreadful discrimination, persecution, hate and bigotry" because of the 19 terrorists "who claimed the peaceful religion".

"So yes, "some people did something" and it's unfair to associate all Muslims with the atrocity. It's the same sort of battle Black America faces today if one black person does something wrong, thousands of African Americans are now automatically seen as criminal," Shams said further.

He further urged the American public "who still may hold 'some sort of" anti-Muslim discrimination because of the 9/11 attacks "to take a moment to think and to understand that Muslims were also among the victims of the attack".

"Muslims have served and died for this nation since the days of George Washington. In fact, there has never been an America without Muslims. So as you commemorate 9/11 this year, let's honour those innocent lives lost, together, hand in hand, in solidarity as Americans. But whatever you do, please don't bring our Muslim faith into it," he wrote further.

On September 11, 2001, the United States faced the deadliest terrorist attack in world history. In a span of just 102 minutes, both towers of New York's World Trade Center collapsed after planes hijacked by al Qaeda operatives crashed into them, claiming the lives of at least 2,753 people. (ANI)

History will judge your silence, indifference when your govt is harassing women: Kangana Ranaut to Sonia Gandhi

Actor Kangana Ranaut (File Photo)

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], September 11 (ANI): Actor Kangana Ranaut on Friday asked Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi to take note of the "treatment" being meted out to her by the Maharashtra Government, in which her party is a coalition member, and sought her intervention.

The actor said t
hat the Congress interim chief's silence on her party's government "harassing women" would be judged by "history" and further urged her to direct the Maharashtra government to uphold the principles of the Indian Constitution.

"Dear respected honourable Congress president Sonia Gandhi ji being a woman aren't you anguished by the treatment I am given by your government in Maharashtra? Can you not request your Government to uphold the principles of the Constitution given to us by Dr. Ambedkar?" Ranaut's tweet read.

"You have grown up in the west and lived here in India. You may be aware of the struggles of women. History will judge your silence and indifference when your own Government is harassing women and ensuring a total mockery of law and order. I hope you will intervene," she added in a subsequent tweet.

Ranaut has been making headlines with her statements and revelations about the Hindi film industry after actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Mumbai residence in June.

She had been provided with Y-plus category security cover by the Union Home Ministry in the wake of the row over her remarks, in which she compared Mumbai with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and also targeted the Mumbai police.

Recently, the actor had also moved the Bombay High Court against the demolition drive by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) at her property in Mumbai here. (ANI)

Taliban kill 16 Afghan servicemen in Nangarhar province

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Kabul [Afghanistan], September 11 (ANI/Sputnik): The Taliban Islamist movement has attacked positions of the Afghan security forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, leaving 16 servicemen dead and some more injured, a local source told Sputnik on Friday.

The terrorists targeted checkpoints of th
e Afghan army and police in the Gandumak area of Nangarhar's Khogyani district, the source added.

According to the source, three security posts collapsed as a result of the attack.

The attack took place before the much anticipated intra-Afghan peace talks that are expected to begin in Qatar on Saturday following the mutual release of prisoners by Kabul and the Taliban.

The negotiations will be focused, among other things, on the ceasefire with the outlook to make it permanent following almost two decades of war and insurgency in Afghanistan. (ANI/Sputnik)

Motorbike bombing at wedding party kills 4, wounds 8 in Afghanistan

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Khost [Afghanistan], September 11 (ANI/Xinhua): Four people were killed and eight others injured as a motorbike bomb struck a wedding party in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province on Thursday, provincial police spokesman Haider Adel said Friday.

The wedding party was underway in Satar village outsid
e the provincial capital Khost city, when an explosive device planted on a motorbike went off, killing four on the spot and wounding eight others, all civilians, the official added.

No group or individual has claimed responsibility. (ANI/Xinhua)

Pakistan's hypocrisy on press freedom exposed amid PM's 'don't mind criticism' claim

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Islamabad [Pakistan], September 11 (ANI): Prime Minister Imran Khan recently claimed that there is no crackdown on the press in the country. However, the arrest of editors and threats of violence against journalists clearly show the stark reality of the situation in Pakistan.

"I don't mind criticism
 but there is blatant propaganda against the government. Unfortunately, it is the government who feels unprotected, not the media," Khan told Al Jazeera.

There are many who disagree.

As per an article by Brad Adams, director of the Human Rights Watch in Asia, Mur Shakilur Rehman, the editor in chief of the Jang group, has been in pretrial detention since March 12 after being arrested in Lahore by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) pertaining to a 34-year-old property transaction.

Rehman had requested bail on account of ill-health but was denied by the Lahore High Court. However, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Pakistan Bar Council termed the ruling as "disappointing and painful".

"The NAB has been widely criticised as being used for political purposes and it's evident that the charges against Rehman were politically motivated. Rehman's ordeal epitomizes the fast-shrinking space for dissent and criticism in Pakistan," wrote Adams.

The article further cited the Jang Groups' allegations of its reporters, editors, and producers receiving dozens of letters of "critical reporting of the NAB. GEO TV, a private channel of the group was forced "off the air" and audience access restricted "as punishment for editorials criticising the government".

"Pakistani authorities frequently use prolonged pretrial detention as a form of punishment and intimidation. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors state compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has stated that 'pretrial detention should be an exception and as short as possible'," the Asia director for Human Rights Watch wrote further.

"In Pakistan, arbitrary arrest, detention, and baseless criminal prosecutions are used as instruments of press censorship. So long as Rehman and others in the media are punished for practicing journalism, Prime Minister Khan's statement that "I don't mind criticism" is not worth the paper it won't be printed on," Adams wrote.

The United Nations Human Rights Office on Tuesday expressed its concern over the increasing instances of threats of violence against journalists and human rights activists in Pakistan.

"We have followed with increasing concern numerous instances of incitement to violence - online and offline - against journalists and human rights defenders in Pakistan, in particular against women and minorities. Especially worrying are accusations of blasphemy - which can put accused individuals at imminent risk of violence," said a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville in a briefing.

Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019. (ANI)

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