At least 11 dead, scores injured in Afghanistan landmine explosion

Robie de Guzman   •   July 16, 2019   •   1521

Ambulance transferring victims to a hospital | Courtesy: Image grabbed from Reuters video

At least 11 pilgrims including seven children were killed and on Monday (July 15) when their vehicle set off a landmine in southern Afghanistan, local government and health officials said.

The blast happened in the Khakrez district of Kandahar province at around midday, said Hayatullah Hayat, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor.

A senior health official said 22 children and eight women were among another 33 women and children who were critically wounded.

The victims were going to a pilgrimage to a shrine that houses the tomb of Sufi Shah Agha, a companion and relative of the Prophet Mohammad.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Taliban fighters say they use roadside bombs and landmines to attack security forces, but civilians are frequently hurt or killed.

In Balkh province in the north, two children were killed in a landmine explosion on Sunday (July 14), officials said.

Years of conflict have left Afghanistan strewn with landmines, which are often picked up by curious children.

Last year, at least 1,415 Afghan civilians were killed or injured by landmines and unexploded munitions. Children made up one-third of overall casualties, and 80 percent of those from unexploded munitions, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service. (REUTERS)

(Production: Ismail Sameem, Hameed Farzad)

Hong Kong leader says she hoped peaceful protest as turning point

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2019

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (August 20) she hoped the peaceful protest over the weekend was the start of an effort to restore peace in the city and that the government would speak to peaceful protesters as well as tackle complaints against police.

Lam said the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPPC), had set up a task force to investigate complaints about police actions, whilst also reiterating that there is no plan to revive the controversial extradition bill.

“One is an important fact-finding study in addition to a very robust system to investigate and look at the complaints against police over this prolonged period of confrontations and violence. The other is a more rare arrangement, is for the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council), which is statutory and independent, to create a fact finding study into the causes and the facts of these incidents. So, I hope that this is a very responsible response to the aspirations for better understanding of what has taken place in Hong Kong,” she said.

“The second area of work that I have announced, which will give us much better basis to address some anxieties and differences in society, is we will start immediately a platform for dialogue with people from all walks of life. So, this is something that we want to do in a very sincere and humble manner. I and my principal officials are committed to listen to what the people have to tell us and we want to reach out to the community as soon as possible,” she added.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied peacefully in the Chinese-ruled city amidst torrential rain on Sunday (August 18) in the eleventh week of what have often been violent demonstrations.

Aside from Lam’s resignation, demonstrators have five demands – complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, a halt to descriptions of the protests as “riots”, a waiver of charges against those arrested, an independent inquiry and resumption of political reform. (Reuters)

(Production: Ronn Bautista, Joyce Zhou, Juarawee Kittisilpa)

UK PM presents new Brexit negotiation terms with EU

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk to propose conditions on negotiating a new Brexit deal by seeking the removal of the Irish backstop.

In the letter, Johnson said the so-called “backstop” agreement designed to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland undermines the sovereignty of Britain, which must be removed.

Johnson has proposed to find a “flexible and creative” border agreement to solve the potential problems regarding the Northern Ireland border.

According to the withdrawal agreement reached by the former British Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU, the “backstop” will serve as an insurance policy to maintain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event that the UK leaves the EU without securing an all-encompassing deal.

Some critics believe that this arrangement could trap Northern Ireland inside the EU and cause the split of Britain.

Johnson vowed to bring Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, and this is his first attempt to reopen Brexit negotiations after becoming the prime minister in July. (Reuters)

Archaeologists in Peru unearth ancient mural reflecting on importance of water

Robie de Guzman   •   August 20, 2019

Archaeologists in northern Peru have unearthed an ancient mural from the lost Caral civilization that is believed to be about 3,800 years old, officials reported.

The discovery was made in the Vichama archaeological site. A team of excavators has brushed away earth from the mural to reveal figures that depict a toad that wraps its hands around the head of a man.

Archaeologist Tatiana Abad, told a news conference in Lima, the mural represents the “announcement of the arrival of water,” adding “it talks about the importance of water in times of crisis and the reflections that we can create from them.”

“It has been found in the same building as last year when we presented one about snakes and this would complement the message. The importance of this mural is its age, which is 3,800 years old, which talks about the importance of water in times of crisis and the reflections that we can create from them,” Abad said.

“It belongs to the late period of what would be the Caral civilization. Caral is 4,500 years old and this relief would’ve been built in the late period within the archaeological site of Vichama in the Huara Valley,” she added.

Excavations at Vichama have been ongoing since 2007 and continue to reveal new insights into the ancient civilization such as an advanced city plan and architecture.

The Caral is believed to be the oldest civilization in the Americas, dating as far back as 3,000 BCE. But little is still known of this ancient city. The site is currently in an arid region of Peru, leaving many to conclude that climate change may have played a role in its demise.

According to archaeologists, the civilization was mysteriously toppled at around 1,600 BCE. (Reuters)

(Production: Carlos Valdez)

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