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Bangladesh agrees to join non-UN international force in Haiti

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United Nations, April 30 (IANS) Bangladesh has agreed to join an international force that will operate independently of the UN to help restore order in Haiti, which has spiralled into gang-fuelled chaos, according to a UN Spokesperson.

Bangladesh is one of the six countries that have written to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that they will contribute personnel to the Multinational Security Support Mission in Haiti (MSSM), Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.

Invoking the UN Charter provisions for maintaining peace, the Security Council authorised the creation of the MSSM mission to help ameliorate the situation in Haiti by helping its national political force.

Having been burnt by its earlier forays into the Caribbean nation, the UN is taking a hands-off approach this time, authorising a force that will operate independently and not as a UN peacekeeping mission.

The other countries in the Kenya-led force are the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad, and Jamaica.

Bangladesh is taking a bold step in joining the mission after the catastrophic end to the previous UN mission with military peacekeepers ended in 2017 amid accusations that Nepali troops introduced a strain of cholera from South Asia that, according to the World Health Organisation, killed 9,792 Haitians and sickened more than 810,000.

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The mission, known as MINUSTAH from its French initials, was ineffective in bringing peace to the country contributing to its demise.

A smaller mission without the military component that followed ended in 2019.

Armed gangs run several parts of the country, including the capital Port-au-Prince, and several thousands have perished in the violence that has destabilised the country.

More than 362,000 Haitians have been displaced by gang activity, according to the UN, and 1.4 of its 11.5 million people are threatened by famine, and four million face “acute food insecurity”.

There were few takers because of the history of ill-fated international interventions in Haiti.

Kenya finally offered to lead the mission but had to overcome court challenges within the country before it could take charge.

The latest twist in the tragic saga of Haiti, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who fled the country in February, resigned last week while in exile in the US.

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A National Transitional Council with representatives of political parties and civil society groups was immediately created with Finance Minister Michel Patrick Boisvert as interim Prime Minister to find a more enduring solution.

The assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021 was one of the milestones in the descent into chaos of Haiti which suffered under decades of brutal dictatorship under the Duvalier family, and after its overthrow in 1986 has gone through a military coup and violence that punctuated feeble attempts at democracy.

The UN set up an ambitious $400 million trust fund to help the victims of the cholera epidemic blamed on Nepali peacekeepers but it has collected only about five per cent of that amount.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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2019 Easter Sunday bombings: Lanka to probe why prior info from Indian intel was ignored

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Colombo, June 12 (IANS) Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a Committee of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate the actions taken by the Lankan intelligence services on the prior information received from their Indian counterparts regarding the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings which killed around 270 people.

President Wicremesinghe’s decision follows the findings of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry dated January 31, 2021, which highlighted that Indian Intelligence agencies and other sources had provided advance warnings about the impending attacks.

“The committee’s mandate includes examining whether adequate actions and measures were taken by the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Chief of National Intelligence (CNI), and other relevant authorities based on the prior intelligence, and evaluating the sufficiency of these measures,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement on Wednesday.

President Wickremesinghe has given full powers to the committee headed by retired high court judge A.N.J. De Alwis to question relevant officials and examine important documents to thoroughly investigate these matters.

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Additionally, the committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the Directorate of Military Intelligence’s (DMI) initial belief that the Vavunathivu killing of two police officers on November 30, 2018, was connected to the LTTE.

This belief was held for four months before suspects with alleged links to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) were identified.

A compact disk containing the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 bomb attacks has been provided to the committee, with a Senior Assistant Secretary to the President serving as the Secretary to the Committee of Inquiry.

The committee is expected to submit its report, including findings and recommendations, to the President by September 15, 2024.

A series of coordinated bomb attacks on three star hotels in Colombo and three churches carried out by ISIS suicide bombers on Easter Sunday in 2019 resulted in the death of 270 people, including at least 45 foreign nationals, besides injuring over 500 others.

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–IANS

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Taliban courts deliver punishments for sodomy, 'moral corruption'

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Islamabad, June 12 (IANS/DPA) The Taliban’s Supreme Court said on Wednesday that three convicts have been separately punished in two Afghan provinces for allegedly committing sodomy and “moral corruption”.

A convict in Zurmat district of Paktia province was sentenced to one year in prison and whipped 36 times for committing moral corruption. The specific nature of the crime was not disclosed.

Another two convicts were publicly punished in the Balkhab district of Sar-e-Pul for sodomy. One received a one-year sentence and 21 whips, while the other received six months and 31 whips.

In a separate development from Paktika province, a murder case in Mata Khan district was resolved through mediation by local officials, tribal elders, and religious scholars, resulting in forgiveness from the victim’s family, according to the Supreme Court.

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has seen the reintroduction of corporal punishment, including executions and whipping, for crimes such as murder, robbery and adultery.

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The United Nations has criticised the Taliban’s use of corporal punishment, saying it violates the UN Convention against Torture, and has called for an end to the practice.

The Taliban authorities have rejected the criticism, saying this form of punishment is in line with the country’s law and necessary to ensure security and safety for the public.

–IANS/DPA

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Death toll in Kuwait building blaze climbs to 49 (2nd Ld)

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Kuwait City, June 12 (IANS/DPA) The death toll in a fire that erupted on Wednesday in a building housing workers in Kuwait has risen to 49, the Gulf country’s state news agency Kuna reported, citing the Interior Ministry.

Local media said the fire broke out in a six-floor building crammed with migrant workers in al-Mangaf area, south of the capital Kuwait City.

The blaze occurred while the workers were asleep and some residents had to jump from the building in an attempt to survive, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas reported, citing witnesses.

Kuwait’s Emir Meshal Al Ahmad has ordered investigations to determine the cause of the blaze and bring to account those found responsible, Kuna said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasser Abu Salib said without elaborating that stringent measures would be taken against the building’s owners.

He added that the ministry was investigating the circumstances of the fire and identifying the victims.

Initially, officials had put the death toll at more than 35.

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Most fatalities were caused by smoke inhalation, according to a security official.

The Health Ministry earlier Wednesday said at least 43 people had been transferred to hospitals for treatment.

–IANS/DPA

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South Africa on high alert after five confirmed cases of monkeypox

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Johannesburg, June 12 (IANS) South Africa is on high alert following the outbreak of monkeypox in May, with five laboratory-confirmed cases including one death, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Wednesday.

Phaahla told the media that all five patients diagnosed with monkeypox, also known as Mpox, three from KwaZulu-Natal Province and two from Gauteng Province, were men between the ages of 30 and 39 with no history of travel. Two remain hospitalized, two have been discharged, and one died on Monday in a hospital in Johannesburg, reported Xinhua News Agency.

“All five cases were classified as severe cases as per the World Health Organization (WHO) definition requiring hospitalization. Since the beginning of 2024, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has received 12 Mpox test requests, with three testing positive. The other two cases were diagnosed by private laboratories,” said the minister. “Guidelines have been updated and shared widely across networks of healthcare workers using various platforms.”

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According to him, the outbreak response team, consisting of experts from various government sectors, the WHO, and other stakeholders, has embarked on contact tracing and case finding in the affected provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“We can disrupt the local transmission by supporting those diagnosed with this disease in taking their treatment to prevent infecting others. We can prevent avoidable deaths by cooperating with health officials when they conduct contact tracing and case finding,” Phaahla said, adding that they have held webinars about Mpox disease with more than 500 healthcare workers.

Fabian Ndenzako, a doctor with the WHO in South Africa, said they are working with the South African government to provide medicine for those infected with Mpox. A total of 10 doses of vaccine have been packaged in Geneva, Switzerland, and are awaiting paperwork to be processed and then shipped to South Africa.

The WHO defines an outbreak of monkeypox when two cases are confirmed. Ndenzako noted that since all five cases have no travel history, the country could be sitting on a high number of Mpox cases.

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Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Most people fully recover, but some get very sick. The virus can be transmitted to humans through physical contact with someone infectious, with contaminated materials, or with infected animals. Symptoms of monkeypox include an unexplained acute rash and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, acute onset of fever, headache, muscle and body aches, and low energy.

According to the WHO, from January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2024, a total of 97,208 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported, including 186 deaths from 117 countries. South Africa recorded five cases of monkeypox in 2022, with no cases reported in 2023.

–IANS

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Kuwait's Emir directs officials to find cause behind deadly fire incident

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Kuwait City, June 12 (IANS) Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Mishal al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has directed the country’s authorities to find the cause behind Wednesday’s tragic fire in a building in Kuwait City’s Mangaf area which has reportedly killed over 40 people, including many Indian workers.

The state-owned Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported that Kuwait’s ruler sent his condolences to the families of the victims of the unfortunate fire accident that resulted in the death and injury of dozens.

“His Highness directed officials to immediately follow up to determine the causes of the outbreak of this fire and hold those responsible for its occurrence accountable so that such an unfortunate incident is not repeated in the future,” the agency said, adding that the ruler shares the grief and pain of the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.

Meanwhile, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Kirti Vardhan Singh, is leaving for Kuwait to oversee the assistance being provided to injured Indian nationals.

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“As directed by PM Narendra Modi, MoS for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh is urgently travelling to Kuwait to oversee assistance to those injured in the fire tragedy and to coordinate with local authorities for early repatriation of mortal remains of those who have died in this unfortunate incident,” said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Prime Minister Modi has also condoled the death of several people in the shocking fire incident that took place on Wednesday.

“The fire mishap in Kuwait City is saddening. My thoughts are with all those who lost their near and dear ones,” PM Modi posted on X.

“I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. The Indian Embassy in Kuwait is closely monitoring the situation and working with the authorities there to assist the affected,” he added.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed deep shock over the incident, which he said has resulted in several deaths.

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“Deeply shocked by the news of the fire incident in Kuwait City. There are reportedly over 40 deaths and over 50 have been hospitalised. Our Ambassador has gone to the camp. We are awaiting further information,” Jaishankar said in a post on X.

“Deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically lost their lives. Wish early and full recovery to those who have been injured. Our Embassy will render the fullest assistance to all concerned in this regard,” he added.

Meanwhile, Adarsh Swaika, Ambassador of India to Kuwait, has already visited the hospitals in Kuwait City where several injured Indian workers have been admitted.

“Ambassador Adarsh Swaika visited the Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital, where 11 workers injured in today’s fire have been admitted. Ten of them are expected to be released today and one in hospital is reportedly stable. He met with patients still in hospital & assured them of the Embassy’s full support,” the Indian Embassy in Kuwait posted on X.

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Swaika also visited the fire incident site in Mangaf to ascertain the situation, assuring that the Indian Embassy is in constant touch with the relevant Kuwaiti law enforcement, fire service, and health authorities for necessary action and emergency medical care.

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait is operating an emergency helpline number (+965-65505246) in connection with the tragedy.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health also released a statement on Wednesday afternoon that said, “The Ministry of Health has so far dealt with 43 cases through the accident departments in a number of hospitals, in a building fire incident in Mangaf, of which 4 cases arrived dead.”

–IANS

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