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Petros has no hand in Oman venture – CMO

KUCHING: The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) today clarified the online portal Sarawak Report’s reference to Petros in its July 20 article has got nothing to do with the state-owned petroleum company. The office in a press statement was referring to the article entitled “Taib’s Secret Interest in Sarawak’s Petros Venture”. It was understood that the […]

Tony Pua says it is his decision to serve without pay

PETALING JAYA: Damansara MP Tony Pua has said the reason he was not chosen as a cabinet member was that he preferred to remain as Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s special officer, a position that comes without any pay.

“It is a choice and I think it is the right choice because the Ministry of Finance is really huge. There is no one person who can run the show,” Pua said, adding that he was not neglected by the party nor that the party doesn’t want him.

Pua and Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming had been appointed as Lim’s special officers beginning May 22, both without pay. Ong has since been appointed deputy minister of trade and industry.

Afghan siblings killed by blast as they took out trash

KABUL: Every day Shah Mahmood’s children took it in turns to dump the family’s trash near their Kabul home. But this simple chore turned deadly on Sunday when a blast in the street killed two of them and wounded another.

No one appears to have witnessed the explosion on the quiet, dusty street divided by a putrid open drain, but police told AFP they believe a magnetic bomb hidden in a pile of garbage had detonated after the children touched it.

It is a tragic scene played out across war-torn Afghanistan almost every day — children killed or maimed by explosive devices left over from decades of conflict, carelessly discarded or deliberately planted.

“This is our life all around the city — it happens everywhere,” a tearful Mahmood told AFP, as he stood with a dozen male mourners in a narrow dirt lane outside his house.

“I was working as normal at the vegetable market, my children were throwing out the garbage and the bomb went off and they were killed.”

Mahmood, who has nine children, said his daughter Shabnam, 13, and his eight-year-old son Nisar died in the explosion.

Their small bodies were thrown several metres by the force of the blast, according to people who found them.

Another daughter, nine-year-old Rukhsar, was taken to the trauma facility run by Italian NGO Emergency where she underwent major surgery for multiple shrapnel wounds.

She was in critical but stable condition.

“Some people said the bomb was hidden under the (shipping) container and others were saying it was in the garbage (on the ground). It is difficult to know,” Mahmood said.

Behind the mud and brick wall of Mahmood’s home in a poor area of Khair Khana neighbourhood came the sound of grieving women wailing.

Civilians, including children, have borne the brunt of the country’s nearly 17-year conflict.

UN figures show 3,179 children were killed or wounded in 2017, accounting for almost one-third of the total civilian casualties for the year.

Improvised explosive devices, such as remotely detonated or pressure-plate bombs, killed or wounded 545 of them.

Unexploded ordnance claimed the lives of 142 children and wounded 376 in the same period.

“Conflict-related violence continues to erode the rights of children to education, healthcare, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights, as well as family life, playing outdoors and simply enjoying a childhood free of the brutal effects of war,” Unama’s human rights chief Danielle Bell said in a report recently.

Mahmood said Shabnam and Nisar were “calm and quiet children” who spent most of their time indoors — not uncommon in Kabul where many parents make their children play inside for fear of violence.

“My elder daughter … never went out on her own, she always wanted to have the company of her brother,” Mahmood said.

“Today, sadly, they were killed.” — AFP

25 injured in Iran earthquakes: State TV

TEHRAN: A series of moderate earthquakes in southern and western Iran on Sunday injured an estimated 25 people, state television said.

Two quakes struck a remote region near the town of Lar in the southern Hormozgan province shortly after 0500 GMT, according to the US Geological Survey.

The strongest of the two had a magnitude of 5.4.

Another 5.9-magnitude quake struck a rural part of the western Kermanshah province at 1007 GMT.

An AFP reporter said that quake was “felt strongly” across the border in Iraq’s Sulaymaniyah province.

State television said some damage had been reported in villages and that 25 people had been injured, without giving details of their locations. — AFP

Railway department will not accept damaged machinery – director

KOTA KINABALU: State Railway Department Director Melvin Majanga has clarified that the viral video of a heavy cargo seen crashing down onto a loader while being unloaded at a port was not a train carriage but a ballast regulator. Commenting on the incident, Melvin said that the ballast regulator is used for maintenance work of […]

Thai boys rescued from cave to be ordained in Buddhist ceremony

MAE SAI, Thailand: Most members of the Thai youth football team rescued from a flooded cave will have their heads shaved, don robes and be ordained in a Buddhist ceremony this week, officials said Sunday.

The “Wild Boars” are enjoying their first few days home after being discharged from hospital and speaking to the media about their harrowing ordeal inside the Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border.

The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach went into the cave complex on June 23 after practice and were trapped by floods from monsoon rains.

They survived on water dripping from rocks for nine days before being found emaciated on a muddy ledge by rescue divers, who helped extract the team a week later in a risky mission.

All made a speedy and surprising recovery after a week in hospital, and on their first day out they prayed for good fortune in a traditional ceremony and mourned a former Thai navy SEAL who died during the rescue efforts.

Now they will go a step further and spend time living in a monastery before returning to normal life, a common practice in Buddhist-majority countries like Thailand.

“They will ordain for nine days,” Prachon Pratsakul, the Chaing Rai governor, told reporters in a briefing at the Mae Sai district office.

“There will be about 11 boys ordained as novices and one ordained as a monk which is Coach Ek,” he said, referring to Ekkapol Chantawong, who has already been in the monkhood and was said to have helped keep the boys calm inside the cave.

Praphun Khomjoi, Chiang Rai’s Buddhist office chief, said that the “Wild Boars” will have their heads shaved on July 24 and attend a robe ceremony the next day.

They will then stay in different monasteries until leaving Aug 4.

One of the children, Adul Sam-on, will not join them as he is Christian, the governor said.

Authorities have told media to give the teammates time to adjust to their lives but interest in the story remains high, with production houses looking to make a Hollywood-style film on the saga.

The story is readymade for the screen, with a bold rescue operation that entailed sedating and moving the boys out of the cave through treacherous passageways. — AFP

Pakistan candidate gets life term in drug case days before poll

ISLAMABAD: A candidate for the party of Pakistan’s ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been jailed for life by an anti-narcotics court, just days before a general election.

Hanif Abbasi, seen as a strong candidate for the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in Wednesday’s poll, was sentenced in a rare late-night session Saturday.

The six-year-old case was related to the supply of ephedrine to a drug smuggler.

Critics have long accused Pakistan’s powerful military, including its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, of meddling in politics and judicial affairs, a charge it denies.

Nawaz Sharif himself has accused the generals of targeting his party, including intimidating his candidates to switch allegiances — particularly in Punjab province.

Earlier Saturday an Islamabad High Court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, publicly accused the ISI of manipulating judicial decisions.

“ISI is fully involved in manipulating judicial process. ISI people get their choice of benches formed in the courts, cases are marked,” he told lawyers in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The political involvement of the military and ISI is rarely discussed openly due to fear of repercussions. Rights defenders have long accused the ISI of kidnapping and torturing rights activists, journalists and dissenting voices.

Journalists in Pakistan say they have come under unprecedented pressure from the authorities before the election.

The military asked the supreme court Sunday to probe Siddiqui’s allegations.

“In order to safeguard the sanctity and credibility of the state institutions, Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan has been requested to initiate appropriate process to ascertain the veracity of the allegations and take actions accordingly,” a statement said.

Nearly 106 million Pakistanis, including more than 19 million new voters, will be eligible to cast their ballots on Wednesday.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which took power in 2013, hopes for a new mandate under leader Shahbaz Sharif, a brother of the ousted Nawaz.

Its biggest challenger is the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by former national cricket captain Imran Khan.

The Pakistan Peoples Party of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — son of murdered premier Benazir Bhutto — could become kingmaker by forming a coalition with one of its rivals. — AFP

Poll candidate killed in NW Pakistan suicide blast

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: An election candidate and his driver were killed by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan Sunday, police said, three days before the country’s general election.

Ikramullah Gandapur, a member of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, was contesting polls for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly.

He “succumbed to his injuries in Combined Military Hospital after a suicide bomber blew himself up near his Land Cruiser (SUV) this morning,” district police chief Zaheer Afridi told AFP.

Faraz Mughul, Gandapur’s assistant, confirmed the casualties.

The bombing is the latest in a number of attacks targeting politicians campaigning ahead of the national polls on July 25.

A suicide blast in the southwestern province of Balochistan on July 13 killed 149 people — one of Pakistan’s worst-ever terror attacks — underscoring continuing security challenges in the country following years of dramatic improvements.

Violence in Pakistan has dropped significantly in recent years as a result of intensified military operations against militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

But analysts have long warned that Pakistan is not tackling the root causes of extremism, and that militants retain the ability to carry out spectacular attacks.

The military has warned of threats ahead of the polls, and said it will deploy more than 370,000 soldiers for security on election day. — AFP