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Phuket Gazette World News: Somalia rocked by hotel blasts; Palestinian envoy to Prague killed; Hong Kong stages democracy march

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Phuket Gazette World News: Somalia rocked by hotel blasts; Palestinian envoy to Prague killed; Hong Kong stages democracy march | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Mogadishu hotel targeted by bombs, at least 11 killed
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Three bombs exploded within an hour outside a hotel frequented by government officials in a heavily fortified district of the Somali capital on Wednesday, killing at least 11 people.

The attacks on the Jazira hotel, one of the securest places in Mogadishu, underscore the security challenges facing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, whose election by lawmakers last year was hailed by many as a way to end two decades of conflict.

The first two bombs came in quick succession and were followed by heavy bursts of gunfire by Somali security forces. The third blast took place about an hour later when a bomb went off inside a car that was being searched by the military.

At least one of the first two bombs appeared to be a suicide bomber, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Islamist rebel group al Shabaab has carried out a campaign of attacks over the past two and a half years in Mogadishu.

“First we heard a big crash and the security forces immediately opened fire,” said Abdullahi Hussein who lives 300 metres behind the hotel. “After a few minutes another explosion took place and there was more gunfire.”

Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of a private ambulance service, told Reuters at least 11 people had been killed and 17 others were wounded.

The attack will be an embarrassment to the government whose survival depends heavily on a near 18,000-strong African peacekeeping force. Donors pump in hundreds of millions of dollars into the Horn of Africa country every year to provide basic services.

“This year, 2014 is going to be the strengthening of Somali forces and the elimination of the extremists,” the newly appointed Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement on Wednesday.

The African forces helped drive al Shabaab out of the capital in August 2011, as well as other major urban centres, but the militants still hold sway over swathes of rural areas.

Islamist suicide bombers attacked the Jazira hotel in September last year as Mohamud was giving a news conference just two days into the job. He and the visiting Kenyan foreign minister were unhurt in that assault.

An attack on Kenyan shopping mall in September that killed dozens of people highlighted the militants’ ability to strike beyond Somalia’s borders.

Croatia arrests ex-spy chief wanted in Germany
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Croatia arrested on Wednesday a former intelligence chief wanted in Germany, responding to an extradition row that overshadowed the Balkan state’s accession to the European Union last summer.

Josip Perkovic was one of 10 people arrested, state news agency Hina reported, as an amended law took effect that brought the country’s extradition laws into line with most of the rest of the bloc.

He is sought in connection with the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria, allegedly orchestrated by communist Yugoslavia’s secret services for which he then worked.

He has denied wrongdoing. His lawyer, Anto Nobilo, told state television HRT that Perkovic would oppose extradition, saying he did not expect a fair trial in Germany and because he had already been investigated and cleared of all charges in Croatia.

Shortly before joining the EU on July 1, Zagreb changed its laws to prevent the extradition of suspects in crimes committed before 2002, when new EU extradition rules had taken effect.

The government said it wanted to protect veterans of Croatia’s 1991-95 independence war from facing potential prosecution elsewhere in the EU, and denied any connection to the Perkovic case. Some EU member states have the same 2002 time limit.

But the government removed the time restriction in August after the European Commission warned it could face legal action, including the possible loss of EU funds.

The amended law took effect on January 1 and Hina said that in addition to Perkovic, police had immediately arrested a second Yugoslav era intelligence chief, Zdravko Mustac, and eight others.

“It is now a matter for the police and the judiciary. The new law is applied equally to everyone,” President Ivo Josipovic said.

Perkovic had worked for the communist-era secret service, the UDBA, and led the intelligence service in Croatia after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

His lawyer Nobilo said a local court should rule on whether Perkovic would be extradited within eight days.

Perkovic, who could not be reached for comment, said last month he was ready to testify before a Croatian court as soon as the new law took effect.

Palestinian envoy killed by explosion at Prague home
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Palestinian ambassador to Prague was killed on Wednesday in an explosion that was triggered when he opened the door to a safe, Czech police said.

Jamal al-Jamal, 56, died in hospital after the incident at his home on the morning of New Year’s Day.

“According to information from the investigation so far, this was definitely not a terrorist attack,” national police president Martin Cervicek said on Czech Television.

Police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova said an explosive – which may have been part of a security mechanism – went off after the safe was opened. “With the greatest probability, an explosive device placed on the door of the safe was triggered,” she said.

The Palestinian foreign ministry, in a statement reported by the official WAFA news agency, said the blast happened minutes after Jamal opened a safe that had come from the embassy’s old offices.

The mission is in the course of moving into new premises next to the residence in a suburb of the capital.

Zoulova told reporters: “The possibilities include inexpert handling of an explosive device or its spontaneous detonation … The device was in a safe and was triggered after the door of the safe was opened.”

Some safes can be fitted with small charges to destroy secret documents in the event of the lock being tampered with.

A spokesman for the embassy, Nabil el-Fahel, said he had no details on what it was that blew up. “We need to wait for the results of the police investigation,” he said.

Jamal suffered lethal injuries to his head, chest and abdomen, surgeon Daniel Langer told Czech television.

No one else was injured in the explosion, police said, although a spokeswoman for Prague’s emergency medical services said a 52-year-old woman was treated for smoke inhalation and shock. Jamal’s family was at home at the time of the blast.

No sign of damage to the two-storey house was visible outside, but police cordoned off part of the street while bomb experts searched the premises.

Palestinians sending team

The Palestinian foreign ministry said it would send a team to Prague to help with the investigation.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, quoted by WAFA, said Jamal was “martyred in the line of duty”.

Born in Beirut to a refugee family, Jamal joined Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1975 and served in PLO missions to Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia in the 1

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

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Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ipsos

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

New Covid-19 cases are again surging in many countries. Globally, the number of infected people exceeded 40 million as of last night with new infections starting to accelerate again. Today the total number of confirmed cases around the world is 40,323,461. The number of total deaths remains at 1,118,826 and recovered patients at 30,135,040 (as of 4pm Thai time).

Covid19 - US infections

Notably, the death rate from Covid-19 is not rising as treatment for complicated cases continues to rapidly improve. The US, India, Russia, Brazil, the rest of South America, and parts of Europe and the UK, are the current ‘hot spots’ (below).

Regionally, the surge of cases in Myanmar is causing headaches for Thai border officials in the north west of the country. The Governor of Tak decided to close the border checkpoints this morning. But the 2,000 kilometre long land border between Thailand and Myanmar has many unofficial “Natural” crossing points.

In the US, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says following public health measures is the way out of the crisis that has hobbled the economy, claimed thousands of lives and sickened millions.

“The predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out.”

The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day cases counts last Friday. As of this morning, US time, there were more than 8.5 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers.info

“The Covid-19 crisis would have to be ‘really, really bad’ to implement a national lockdown. Despite the climbing totals, a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University says the worst fears of rising cases, leading into winter, are being realised.

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

After hitting an all-time high in July, cases did drop significantly, but the US never reached a level where the public health system could truly get a handle on the outbreak or describe it as ‘contained’.

Now infections are on the rise again, driven by ballooning outbreaks across the country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.

Contributing to the rise is the return of students to schools and campuses across the country, puzzling resistance to social distancing and mask wearing recommendations, and more people spending time in restaurants and other indoor settings as the weather starts to cool down.

SOURCE: worldometers.info | nor.org

Covid19 - US infections

TABLE: worldometers.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns

Maya Taylor

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2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Medical Xpress

After Johnson & Johnson paused phase 3 of its Covid vaccine trials due to safety concerns, a second pharmaceutical company has followed suit. Eli Lilly has halted phase 3 trials of a lab-produced antibody treatment, 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson decision. The Bangkok Post reports that an unspecified incident led Eli Lilly to call a temporary halt to the trials. The day before, Johnson & Johnson paused its phase 3 trials after a participant fell ill. A spokesperson for J&J says the hiatus is temporary.

The 2 delays follow a similar incident with phase 3 trials of a vaccine being jointly worked on by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, which was briefly delayed last month due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Trials of that vaccine have now resumed globally, with the exception of the US, for reasons unknown. Such snags are par for the course in the final phase testing of vaccine development, particularly as the number of participants is increased significantly to see if very rare side-effects are presented.

A spokesperson for Eli Lilly says the company backs the Data Safety and Monitoring Board in calling a temporary halt to phase 3 trials.

“Lilly is supportive of the decision by the independent DSMB to cautiously ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study.”

Eli Lilly’s trial began in August, aimed at recruiting 10,000 participants, across 50 sites, including the US, Denmark and Singapore, using a lab-produced antibody treatment, similar to that developed by Regeneron and used to treat US President Donald Trump recently. Eli Lilly has not given any further information about the safety concern which has paused phase 3.

Meanwhile, a J&J spokesman says such breaks are to be expected in large-scale trials and that reported illnesses or side-effects may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy

Maya Taylor

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Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Following recent reports that the elusive Red Bull heir, Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, is living in Dubai, Thai police say they’re writing to the UAE embassy to verify the claims (the embassy is in Witthayu road… we can send you the address if you need so you can ‘drop in’ and have a chat).

Boss is wanted in relation to a 2012 hit-and-run incident that claimed the life of Wichian Klanprasert, a 47 year old Bangkok policeman. Wichian died after his bike was dragged 100 metres by a Ferrari which then fled the scene. The vehicle was allegedly being driven by Boss.

Incredibly, Boss managed to flee Thailand in 2017. Charges that were initially dropped against him in July this year have recently been re-instated following an independent inquiry. Recently, rumours began circulating that due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the wanted Red Bull heir is currently living in Dubai. Assistant National Police Chief Jaruwat Waisaya says Thai police are submitting a letter to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates to enquire as to his whereabouts.

“We want to confirm with the local authorities whether he is in the UAE or not. If he is, we will coordinate with them to extradite him to Thailand so he can face trial.”

A red Interpol notice has been issued for Boss, meaning if he enters a country that is a member of Interpol, officials should inform the Royal Thai Police. However, enforcement of the notice is at the discretion of individual countries. The United Arab Emirates is an Interpol member country.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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