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Texas church shooting leaves at least 26 dead

A lone gunman opened fire inside a Baptist church in the US state of Texas, killing more than two dozen people, including the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor. The shooter was found dead in his vehicle. The shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, during a church service on Sunday left 26 people dead and 20 others injured, according to police. Speaking at a press conference, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the attack on the church about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio was the "largest mass shooting in the state's history." The man officials identified as the killer had been discharged from the Air Force in 2014 for assaulting his wife and child, according to an Air Force spokeswoman. Abbott described the attacker as "a very deranged individual." Police have been studying social media for posts made by the suspect in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon. The lone gunman began firing shots outside the church while the morning service was in progress, armed with what police said appeared to be an assault rifle. Dressed entirely in black, tactical-type gear and wearing a ballistic vest, he then walked inside and opened fire on the worshippers, who authorities said were aged from 5 to 72 years old. Read more: 8 facts about gun control in the US Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a press conference it was unknown whether the shooter killed himself or was shot dead by a local resident who had engaged him in the church and then pursued him by car. Martin said police did not shoot the gunman. Pastor's daughter killed The dead include the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy. He said he and his wife, Sherri, were out of town and not at the church service. "We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends," Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. "Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can." Witnesses said the morning church service was usually attended by about 50 people. Emergency personnel quickly rushed to the scene, with some victims evacuated by helicopter. Max Massey, a reporter for San Antonio's local news channel KSAT, said Sutherland Springs residents gathered at the town's community building awaiting news about their loved ones. 'Act of evil' Speaking in Japan on a 12-day trip to Asia, US President Donald Trump described the shootings as an "act of evil" in a "place of sacred worship." After expressing the heartbreak felt by the American people, Trump went to say the issue was not gun control, but mental health. "We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, but this isn't a gun situation," he said. On Sunday evening hundreds of people, including Governor Abbott, gathered outside the church for a prayer vigil. The mass shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas fired down from a hotel room on a concert crowd, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more. The shootings quickly reignited a decadeslong national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to more atrocities. Among those to comment on social media was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who said: "How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the @NRA control this country's gun policies?"A lone gunman opened fire inside a Baptist church in the US state of Texas, killing more than two dozen people, including the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor. The shooter was found dead in his vehicle. The shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, during a church service on Sunday left 26 people dead and 20 others injured, according to police. Speaking at a press conference, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the attack on the church about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio was the "largest mass shooting in the state's history." The man officials identified as the killer had been discharged from the Air Force in 2014 for assaulting his wife and child, according to an Air Force spokeswoman. Abbott described the attacker as "a very deranged individual." Police have been studying social media for posts made by the suspect in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon. The lone gunman began firing shots outside the church while the morning service was in progress, armed with what police said appeared to be an assault rifle. Dressed entirely in black, tactical-type gear and wearing a ballistic vest, he then walked inside and opened fire on the worshippers, who authorities said were aged from 5 to 72 years old. Read more: 8 facts about gun control in the US Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told a press conference it was unknown whether the shooter killed himself or was shot dead by a local resident who had engaged him in the church and then pursued him by car. Martin said police did not shoot the gunman. Pastor's daughter killed The dead include the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy. He said he and his wife, Sherri, were out of town and not at the church service. "We lost our 14-year-old daughter today and many friends," Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. "Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the Charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as I can." Witnesses said the morning church service was usually attended by about 50 people. Emergency personnel quickly rushed to the scene, with some victims evacuated by helicopter. Max Massey, a reporter for San Antonio's local news channel KSAT, said Sutherland Springs residents gathered at the town's community building awaiting news about their loved ones. 'Act of evil' Speaking in Japan on a 12-day trip to Asia, US President Donald Trump described the shootings as an "act of evil" in a "place of sacred worship." After expressing the heartbreak felt by the American people, Trump went to say the issue was not gun control, but mental health. "We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, but this isn't a gun situation," he said. On Sunday evening hundreds of people, including Governor Abbott, gathered outside the church for a prayer vigil. The mass shooting comes just over a month after a gunman in Las Vegas fired down from a hotel room on a concert crowd, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more. The shootings quickly reignited a decadeslong national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to more atrocities. Among those to comment on social media was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who said: "How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the @NRA control this country's gun policies?"

A lone gunman opened fire inside a Baptist church in the US state of Texas, killing more than two dozen people, including the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor. The shooter was found dead in his vehicle. The shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, during a church service on Sunday left 26 people dead and 20 ... Read More »

India’s domestic workers face abuse without legal protection

India's labor ministry is currently preparing legislation to provide social security for domestic workers. But rights groups say more legal protection against mistreatment is necessary. Murali Krishnan reports. Stories of wealthy families in India physically abusing and mistreating young women employed as domestic workers in metropolitan areas are becoming more common in India. In a high-profile case last July, a 26-year-old domestic worker from Bangladesh lodged a compliant with Indian police saying she had been beaten up and held captive by her employers at a home located in the upscale gated community of Noida, a suburb of New Delhi. She was freed after friends and family gathered in protest outside the apartment complex where she was being held. Her employers accused her of theft, but it was later discovered that she had not been paid for two months. The case is indicative of a larger trend of domestic workers in India being mistreated. Earlier this year, domestic workers at a posh housing complex in Mumbai went on a strike to protest the residents' attempts to standardize below-average payment. The residents eventually conceded to the workers' demands, but a few months later, all of the protesting maids were sacked. There have also been extreme cases of abuse - including the murder three years ago of a domestic worker in Delhi. A legislator and his wife were arrested in connection with the murder of the 35-year-old maid who worked in their home. It was reported that prior to her death, the maid had been physically abused with a hot iron and was hit with sharp objects like antelope horns. Read more:Hong Kong's domestic workers 'treated worse than the dogs' Where to turn for help? There are widespread reports of domestic workers in India being underpaid, overworked and abused by their employers. Incidents range from withholding of wages to starvation, not allowing time for sleep or rest, and beatings, torture, and sexual abuse. "Many resort to domestic work because of the decline of employment opportunities in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors," Pratchi Talwar, a social activist with Nirmala Niketan, an NGO that works with domestic workers, told DW, adding that domestic workers are vulnerable because they have no formal protection such as unions. Concerned about the mistreatment of domestic workers, India's labor ministry has initiated a policy paper and invited all stakeholders to contribute to a national policy for domestic workers. It is intended to provide them with legal status and the protection of social security. "The policy intends to set up an institutional mechanism for social security coverage, fair terms of employment, addressing grievances and resolving disputes," said Rajit Punhani, director general of labor welfare. "It provides for recognizing domestic workers as a worker with the right to register themselves with the state labor department or any other suitable mechanism." Read more: No social security for most of world's domestic workers A vulnerable population There is no exact figure for the number of domestic workers in India as they are mostly a floating population. Figures released from the National Sample Survey Office estimate they could range from anywhere between 4 to 10 million, many of whom migrate from the eastern states of Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh. But trade unions and organizations working with domestic workers are not convinced that the ministry's policy paper is specific enough. The issue, they argue, has been on the backburner for several years. "These are just guidelines which are not legally enforceable. What happens when there is sexual abuse, withholding salaries and denying leave?" Sonia Rani, project coordinator of the Self-employed Women's Association (SEWA), told DW. "Can the workers go to court? There also has to be a non-negotiable salary regime," she added. Limits of the law Other organizations like the National Domestic Workers Forum argue that neither the Maternity Benefits Act nor the Minimum Wages Act or any of the numerous other labor laws in India apply to domestic work. Domestic workers can be hired and fired at will and employers have no legally binding obligations. "We need to introduce a national policy for domestic workers, begin the process of fixing minimum wages for them and recognize domestic workers as 'workers' with legal rights," Amarjit Kaur, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, told DW. India has only two laws that in a roughly consider maids as workers - the Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act of 2008 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013. While the first law is a social welfare scheme, the other aims to protect working women in general. Importantly, neither law recognizes domestic workers as having legal rights. "This approach by the ministry is piecemeal and not workable. We need to have an omnibus board that looks at the rights of workers employed across sectors from construction and agriculture to domestic," Dunu Roy, social activist who has worked actively in the informal sector, told DW. Read more: Rights group urges justice for Nepali maids allegedly gang raped by Saudi diplomat Roy cites the example of Mathadi workers (head loaders) of Maharashtra, who fought a long and hard battle to secure their wages and are now governed by a welfare board that protects their rights. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has also not been behind in flagging domestic workers as part of the country's invisible workforce and emphasized that more needs to be done to make decent work a reality for them. In welcoming the Indian government initiative to formulate a national policy on domestic workers, the ILO said it is an important step in recognizing the rights of millions of domestic workers. India is a signatory to the ILO's 189th convention, known as the Convention on Domestic Workers, but has not ratified it yet. "Though a number of states in India have been promoting minimum wages for domestic workers, there are not enough mechanisms in place to regulate working conditions of domestic workers,” Suneetha Eluri, ILO's national project coordinator for domestic workers, told DW. Across the world, domestic work is a rapidly growing source of employment for women and girls. Unions and organizations argue that the mindset regarding domestic workers must shift from a policy paradigm to one that focuses on workers' rights. Only then, can domestic workers' rights be defined and protected.

India’s labor ministry is currently preparing legislation to provide social security for domestic workers. But rights groups say more legal protection against mistreatment is necessary. Murali Krishnan reports. Stories of wealthy families in India physically abusing and mistreating young women employed as domestic workers in metropolitan areas are becoming more common in India. In a high-profile case last July, a ... Read More »

UN Rohingya conference: EU pledges millions in aid for refugees

سوئس شہر جنیوا میں آج دنیا میں پیدا ہونے والے مہاجرین سب سے بڑے بحران کے موضوع پر ایک ڈونر کانفرنس کا انعقاد کیا جا رہا ہے۔ اس دوران روہنگیا پناہ گزینوں کے لیے رقم جمع کی جائے گی۔ اقوام متحدہ نے مختلف ممالک سے درخواست کی ہے کہ جنیوا اجلاس کے دوران روہنگیا برادری کے لیے کم از کم 434 ملین ڈالر اکھٹے کیے جائیں۔ روہنگیا کی ہجرت کا معاملہ بنگلہ دیش اور میانمار کے مابین تیزی سے ایک بحران کی صورت اختیار کرتا جا رہا ہے۔ اقوام متحدہ کے ادارے برائے مہاجرین کے سربراہ فیلیپو گرانڈی کے بقول، ’’یہ بہت ہی نازک صورتحال ہے اور اس سلسلے میں امداد کی شدید ضرورت ہے۔‘‘ یہ رقم اقوام متحدہ کے ان مختلف منصوبوں پر خرچ کی جائے گی، جو بنگلہ دیش میں رہائش پذیر روہنگیا کے لیے جاری ہیں۔ بتايا گيا ہے کہ اس امدادی رقم سے آئندہ برس فروری تک کے ليے روہنگيا مسلمانوں کو بنيادی سہوليات فراہم کی جائيں گی۔ تشدد کی وجہ سے میانمار سے فرار ہو کر بنگلہ دیش پہنچنے والے روہنگیا کی تعداد تقریباً چھ لاکھ ہو چکی ہے۔ بنگلہ دیش کا شمار ایشیا کی غریب ترین ریاستوں میں ہوتا ہے، تاہم اس کے باوجود اس ملک نے اپنی سرحدیں روہنگیا مسلمانوں کے لیے کھولی ہوئی ہیں۔ اقوام متحدہ کے ہنگامی امداد کے ادارے کے سربراہ مارک لوکوک نے کہا ہے کہ سالوں سے روہنگیا برادری کے خلاف جاری ظلم و ستم، زیادتی اور نقل مکانی کی وجہ سے اسے کوئی علیحدہ یا الگ تھلگ بحران قرار نہیں دیا جا سکتا ہے۔ رپورٹس کے مطابق ہر دس روہنگیا مہاجر میں سے چھ بچے ہیں اور ان میں سے اکثریت کو کم خوراکی کا سامنا ہے۔ بنگلہ دیش میں شہر کوکس بازار میں اور اس کے ارد گرد قائم مہاجرین کے مراکز میں مقیم روہنگیا کو پانی کی کمی اور نکاسی آب کا نظام نہ ہونے کی وجہ سے ان کیمپوں میں بیماریوں کے پھوٹ پڑنے کے خطرات بڑھتے جا رہے ہیں۔

The EU has pledged €30 million as the UN holds a fundraising conference to aid Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar. More than 600,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh amid persecution at home. The European Commission on Monday promised to give €30 million ($35 million) as the United Nations opened a fundraising conference in Geneva that aims to secure some ... Read More »

Afghanistan mosque blasts: Dozens dead in suicide bomb attacks

افغان دارالحکومت کابل کی ایک شیعہ مسجد پر آج جمعہ بیس اکتوبر کو حملہ کیا گیا۔ حملے کے وقت شیعہ مسلمان شام کی نماز کے ادائیگی کے لیے جمع تھے۔ افغان دارالحکومت کےایک سینیئر سکیورٹی اہلکار نے بتایا ہے کہ کم از کم تیس نعشیں مسجد سے باہر لائی جا چکی ہیں۔ افغان وزارت داخلہ کے ایک اہلکار نے بھی ان ہلاکتوں کی تصدیق کر دی ہے۔ یہ حملہ کابل پولیس کے تیرہویں ڈسٹکرکٹ دشتی برچ میں واقع امام زمانہ مسجد پر کیا گیا۔ کابل میں مسجد کے باہر خودکش حملے میں چھ ہلاکتیں کابل، شیعہ مسجد پر خودکش حملہ، ایک درجن سے زائد ہلاکتیں اشتعال انگیز لیف لیٹ کی اشاعت پر امریکی جنرل کی معذرت ’افغانستان میں امریکی فوجیوں کی حقیقی تعداد گیارہ ہزار‘ کابل کے سکیورٹی ادارے سے منسلک ایک سینیئر اہلکار میجر جنرل علی مست مومند نے حملہ آور کے بارے میں بتایا گیا کہ وہ پیدل چلتے ہوئے امام زمانہ مسجد میں داخل ہوا تھا۔ اس خود کش حملہ آور نے نمازیوں کے درمیان پہنچ کر اپنی بارودی جیکٹ کو اڑا دیا۔ کابل شہر کی پولیس کی کرائم برانچ کے سربراہ جنرل محمد سلیم الماس نے نیوز ایجنسی اے ایف پی کو بتایا کہ حملے میں بارودی جیکٹ اڑانے سے قبل دہشت گرد نے مسجد کے اندر موجود افراد پر فائرنگ بھی کی۔ پینتالیس دیگر نمازیوں کے زخمی ہونے کا بھی بتایا گیا ہے۔ ان زخمیوں میں کئی کی حالت تشویشناک ہے۔ ہلاکتوں میں اضافے کا خدشہ ظاہر کیا گیا ہے۔ زخمیوں کو شہر کے استقلال ہسپتال کے علاوہ دوسرے طبی مراکز میں پہنچایا جا رہا ہے۔ کابل کے محکمہٴ صحت نے دس ہلاکتوں کی فی الحال تصدیق کی ہے۔ ہلاک شدگان اور زخمیوں کی حتمی تعداد کا تعین نہیں ہو سکا ہے۔ اس مناسبت سے متضاد رپورٹس سامنے آئی ہیں۔ امدادی کارروائیاں شروع کر دی گئی ہیں۔ ابھی تک کسی گروپ یا تنظیم نے اس حملے کی ذمہ داری قبول نہیں کی ہے۔

At least 39 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a Shiite mosque in Afghan capital Kabul. A separate bombing at a mosque in Afghanistan’s central province of Ghor left 20 dead. A suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a Shiite mosque on Friday in Kabul as worshippers gathered for evening prayers. An Afghan official at the Interior Ministry ... Read More »

Deadly fires rage in Portugal, Spain, ex-Hurricane Ophelia fans flames

Dozens of people have been killed in wildfires in northern and central Portugal and in Galicia in Spain. Arson has been blamed for some of the fires, which have been fanned by Hurricane Ophelia and hot autumn weather. Portugal has declared a state of emergency after hundreds of wildfires ravaged forests in the north and center of the country. Unusually hot temperatures and prolonged dry weather throughout helped the fires spread easily. - At least 31 people have died in Portugal, according to civil defense authorities - Over 5,000 firefighters are battling the blazes - Hundreds of people have been evacuated, with schools, roads and rail services being closed "We are facing new (weather) conditions... In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world," Portuguese Interior Minister, Constanca Urbano de Sousa, said citing thefires burning in California. The deaths come just four months after 64 people were killed and more than 250 injured in mid-June, in the deadliest fire in the country's history. Arsonists behind some fires Across the border in Spain, at least three people died as more than 105 fires broke out in the northwestern region of Galicia. Spanish and Portuguese authorities have blamed arson for some of the fires. Speaking to firefighters in the region, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said "what we are seeing here doesn't happen accidentally. This has been provoked." "They are absolutely intentional fires, premeditated, caused by people who know what they are doing," said Alberto Nunez Feijoo, the head of the Galicia regional government. He said that 90 percent of forest fires each year in Galicia were intentional. Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said "several people have been identified in connection to the fires in Galicia." The fires in both Spain and Portugal were exacerbated by strong winds caused by ex-Hurricane Ophelia, whose remnants brushed the Iberian coast and has also caused major disruption in Ireland. The European Commission offered its condolences and vowed to help where it could. Rain was forecast to fall later Monday and bring some respite for firefighters.

Dozens of people have been killed in wildfires in northern and central Portugal and in Galicia in Spain. Arson has been blamed for some of the fires, which have been fanned by Hurricane Ophelia and hot autumn weather. Portugal has declared a state of emergency after hundreds of wildfires ravaged forests in the north and center of the country. Unusually ... Read More »

Children survive ‘Islamic State’ hungry and traumatized

Children have been among those worst hit by "Islamic State" occupation and the battle to liberate Mosul. They suffer malnutrition for lack of food and toxic stress from the violence they witnessed, Judit Neurink reports. "Look, he is walking again!" Hanan Mohammed, 43, smiles, setting her two-year-old on his skinny legs. The family of three recently escaped the Old City of Mosul, where fighting had been going on for weeks, and food and water had been scarce for months. "Daesh left us hungry," she says, using the local abbreviation for the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group. "There was nothing to buy, and what was there was very expensive." That's why she could not feed her children and lost a six-month-old baby to malnutrition. Her son had started walking, but stopped again for the same reason. The single mother of two small children found refuge in Salamiyah, one of the newer camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) from Mosul. Many here have some connection to IS. Mohammed's husband was killed in the shelling - after she divorced him, possibly because he was a member of the militant Islamist group. She and her children lived with her parents and were moved by IS to serve as human shields. There was no water, no food, and there were constant bombardments. Those who tried to escape were killed by IS. Children were as much victims of the battle as the grown-ups, or perhaps even more because they had no choice. The camp houses hundreds of malnourished children, says Kelly Nau of the aid organization Samaritan Purse. She treats the children with special powered food and teaches their mothers about the positive effects of breastfeeding in a country where most mothers think that after 40 days milk formula is better than their own milk. Read more: Amnesty says US-led coalition violated international law in Mosul About five percent of the kids from Mosul are malnourished, many severely, as well as many of the babies under six months. Like Hanan Mohammed, many mothers lost babies. There was hardly any water other than from the river or the wells, and milk powder was no longer available. "I have seen cases that I had never seen before, not even in Sudan or Yemen," Nau says. Monsters, corpses and bombs But malnutrition is hardly the only problem facing children in Mosul, as many carry the scars of the violence, killing and air strikes they witnessed. "Some 650,000 boys and girls have paid a terrible price and endured many horrors over the past three years," while Mosul was occupied by IS, said Hamida Ramadhani, UNICEF's deputy representative in Iraq, in a press release. In the later stages of the battle for the old center of Mosul, aid organizations have saw an increase in the number of unaccompanied children arriving at medical facilities and reception areas. Some had been trapped under the rubble and had stopped eating because of the smell of death around them before they were saved. Some babies brought to them had been found alone in the debris, Ramadhani said. A doctor in a hospital facility in Western Mosul suggested in an interview with the BBC that these were babies belonging to local IS wives whose husbands had been killed and who were trying to rid themselves of their past with the group. Recently a Chechen girl was found wounded in the rubble, the daughter of a Chechen fighter who was killed. The fate of these foreign children looks bleak as the hate directly toward IS boils over in Iraq and Syria. These children will likely be victimized and end up in the special, closed camps set up for local IS families. Read more: Opinion: 'Islamic State' jihadism could live on Yazidi children who were kidnapped three years ago by IS have also been found, all deeply traumatized. Ramadhani pointed out that the deep physical and mental scars kids acquired during the occupation and the battle would take time to heal. It was an "unbearable reality," the title of a report by the aid organization Save the Children based on research conducted among Mosul children in two IDP camps. The children told researchers about their lives under IS rule and their escape from the Old City of Mosul, talking about monsters, dead bodies in the streets, bloodied faces and bombs falling on their homes. Researchers say many children still fear new attacks from the group and have nightmares that haunt them during the day. Children unlike children Most noticeable is that these children are hardly able to act like children and often show "robotic behavior," says Eileen McCarthy of Save the Children, worked on the report. "They are quiet and calm, and when you ask them what is positive for them, they will say: to be polite and abide [by] the rules." Read more: Iraqis wonder what will follow 'Islamic State' in Mosul The majority of children in her research have lost a family member, suffer from nightmares and frequently become aggressive. While aid workers try through art and games to help the kids come to terms with what happened and the effect it has on them, they also work with the equally traumatized parents so they can be supportive of their children, McCarthy told DW. She underlined the necessity for treatment, because stress can become toxic and lead to depression and other health issues. "For children, toxic stress can affect the brain and the behavior and lead to mental health problems in a country where this is considered a stigma." Save the Children has been working with the Iraqi government to combat the problem, McCarthy says, adding that apart from the stigma, the lack of qualified therapists poses a major problem that needs to be addressed. "Young people who have faced traumatic experiences and have not been given the appropriate support [...] may also pass on trauma to their own children," the report states. The researchers warn that "if the root causes of conflict in Iraq are not addressed and if perpetrators of human rights abuses are not brought to justice, trauma can remain chronic and reproduce itself for generations to come. The entire society, then, may suffer from a lasting culture of pain."

Children have been among those worst hit by “Islamic State” occupation and the battle to liberate Mosul. They suffer malnutrition for lack of food and toxic stress from the violence they witnessed, Judit Neurink reports. “Look, he is walking again!” Hanan Mohammed, 43, smiles, setting her two-year-old on his skinny legs. The family of three recently escaped the Old City ... Read More »

Humanitarian situation worsens in DRC

The Kasai crisis has led to the largest population of internally displaced people in the whole of Africa as aid workers struggle to respond amid increasing violence and political instability. A dramatic increase in violence between security forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has led to the internal displacement of a record 3.7 million people. Clashes initially began in August 2016 in the Kasai-Central province but have since spread to four other provinces. The conflict was initially sparked after the militia attacked local police and called for an insurrection of the central government. Over the past month thousands of people in affected regions have begun fleeing to neighboring Angola, stretching resources in villages along the border. On 25 April the United Nations (UN) launched a fresh $64.5 million USD (59.3 million euros) emergency response appeal in order to provide life-saving assistance to 731,000 people over the next six months. Humanitarian crisis Prior to the current Kasai crisis, the DRC already faced acute humanitarian problems, with more than 4 million people suffering from hunger and 3.5 million children under five facing malnutrition. Rein Paulsen is the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the DRC and will be visiting a number of key European capital cities this week in order to draw attention to the conflict. He told DW from Berlin that a rapid response by the UN and other aid organizations is key in order to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. "We are talking about funding life-saving interventions. This is to respond to the needs of people that have had to flee at short notice, are sleeping under the open stars, are exposed to violence, and a series of other urgent needs," he said. "Even with the initial funding, clearly the needs outstrip what we have, which is why we've launched the flash appeal and we've increased the overall amount required," Paulsen added Prior to the current emergency appeal, the UN launched a Humanitarian Response Plan for 2017 which was intended to reach approximately 6.7 million people in all parts of the country which were identified as vulnerable. However less than 20% of the original budget has been spent so far. "It really is a very very concerning situation and we need to mobilize resources in order to respond to these very urgent humanitarian needs. It requires our best staff and our best capabilities and it requires the kind of flexible and responsive strategy that we've put in place." Aid organizations struggle to respond However aid workers are finding it increasingly difficult to address the deteriorating situation in DRC. Many face the risk of attacks and are unable to access areas in most need of humanitarian assistance. Since the beginning of 2017, almost 3,000 incidents involving violence or direct threats against aid and development workers have been reported. On 28 March the bodies of two UN security experts alongside their interpreter were found in the Kasai Central province. They were in the region to assess a sanctions regime imposed on DRC by the UN Security Council when they disappeared on March 12. Paulsen said the UN places a high priority on the safety of its workers in the region. "We continue to place the highest possible premium on operating as securely as possible, because at the end of the day if we're not able to continue our operations, it is the Congolese who have been displaced who are going to suffer if programs are shut down." The huge geographic area of the conflict and the lack of front lines also complicates the response strategy. "We know that the situation is fluid, we have a series of activities that we can implement quickly in areas where access is easier, where the situation is a little bit more calm, places where people have come precisely to flee from the violence," Paulsen said. "[We also] allow rapid interventions in locations where access is more of a challenge." Political instability remains rife The Kasai crisis continues to unfold in the wake of a wave of violence across the DRC following President Joseph Kabila's failure to step down the end of his constitutional mandate in December 2016. A new expanded government was revealed on Tuesday, as part of a power-sharing deal with the opposition in an attempt to ease tensions over the president's intent to remain in power. Opposition leader Bruno Tshibala was named Prime Minister following the resignation of Samy Badibanga Although the new government has again reiterated an election will take place by 2018, the reality of this occurring is unlikely, as political analyst Benoît Kamili told DW. "The Congolese people needed this government, but from what we have seen and heard. I have to say that there's no difference between Tshibala and Badibanga," he said. "I don't think that Tshibala will organize the elections." Kablia has held office since 2001 and was widely accused of serious electoral fraud in 2011, which has plunged the DRC into a long-term political crisis.

The Kasai crisis has led to the largest population of internally displaced people in the whole of Africa as aid workers struggle to respond amid increasing violence and political instability. A dramatic increase in violence between security forces and the Kamwina Nsapu militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has led to the internal displacement of a record 3.7 ... Read More »

Yemen aid workers: ‘If ever there was a time for support, then it’s now’

As a UN donor conference nears, aid workers warn the humanitarian crisis in Yemen could worsen without more international support. An attempted rebellion and Saudi-led military intervention has led to severe famine. International funding for Yemen is urgently needed in response to widespread malnutrition and limited access to medical care caused by the war in the country, representatives of an aid organization active in Yemen reported Monday in Berlin. Roughly 17 million Yemenis are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, among them 7 million Yemenis exposed to extreme food shortages and almost 500,000 severely malnourished children under the age of five, aid organization CARE International reported. Ahead of a UN donor conference later in April, aid workers warned that more money was needed to stop the situation from spiraling further out of control. "If there was ever a time for support from the international community, then it's now," said Marten Mylius, an emergency help coordinator with CARE. Little money so far Less than 10 percent of the $2.1 billion (1.98 billion-euro) aid package sought by the UN for 2017 has been funded, according to the most recent UN numbers. The funding target is based on the projected costs of supplying basic provisions like food, water and shelter by those in need as a result of the war - more than 60 percent of Yemen's total population, according to CARE. Famine is a growing concern, representatives said. With South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, Yemen is likely to be a focal point of Western humanitarian help in the months ahead. The UN donor conference for the country is scheduled for April 25 in Geneva. Children suffer the most Ordinary Yemenis, and especially children, continue to bear the brunt of a bombing campaign started by Saudi Arabia in March 2015 to stop the advance of Shiite Houthi rebels against the internationally-recognized government in Sana'a. A Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports and restrictions imposed on Yemeni airspace have proven more devastating for the civilian population, limiting the arrival of critical supplies in a country that depends heavily upon imports for foodstuffs, and preventing Yemenis from escaping the country. The war has killed more than 10,000 people, according to a January UN estimate. More than 4,700 civilians had been killed and 8,200 injured as of March, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights reported. Roughly 2.2 million children in Yemen were malnourished as of December, "an all-time high and increasing," according to UNICEF. 'Unacceptable' conditions CARE representatives criticized the use of food or medical access as forms of leverage, even as they avoided criticizing specific nations or groups. They called pointedly for the lifting of blockades and airspace restrictions. "It's simply unacceptable," said CARE general secretary Karl-Otto Zentel. "It's unheard of that civilians severely injured in war are unable to be treated on location but can't be evacuated out of the country. These are unacceptable conditions." Despite the extent of suffering on the ground, the war in Yemen receives less attention in the West than conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, where NATO forces are active. In Yemen, several NATO powers are providing intelligence and logistical support to the Saudis' coalition, but stopping short of airstrikes. The conflict still has global consequences, seen by many observers as part of the broader regional struggle between Sunni power Saudi Arabia, a US ally, and Shiite Iran, which supports the rebels. UN funding has yet to match the projected need for the country. In 2016, the organization received only 62 percent of the $1.6 billion sought. Of that total, CARE received $13.7 million for Yemen projects.

As a UN donor conference nears, aid workers warn the humanitarian crisis in Yemen could worsen without more international support. An attempted rebellion and Saudi-led military intervention has led to severe famine. International funding for Yemen is urgently needed in response to widespread malnutrition and limited access to medical care caused by the war in the country, representatives of an ... Read More »

Deaths reported in Syria ‘gas attack’

A monitor has reported that dozens civilians were killed and hundreds injured by a "toxic gas" attack in northwestern Idlib province. The Syrian government had vowed to destroy its stock of chemical weapons. At least 100 people, many of them children, were reportedly killed on Tuesday morning by a "toxic gas" attack in northwest Syria, a monitor said. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that an airstrike on the rebel-held town of Sheikhun was responsible for the civilian deaths. SOHR, which relies on witness reporting from within Syria and is sometimes accused of a favorable stance towards the opposition forces, said it was trying to determine what the substance was and if it had been dropped by Syrian aircraft or planes belonging to allied Russia. Russia vehemently denied carrying out Tuesday's attack. The Syrian government had promised to destroy its store of chemical weapons in 2013 as part of a deal to avoid US military intervention. But photographs collected by activists showed some of the White Helmets volunteer rescue group hosing down victims with water, and two men foaming at the mouth after the attack. The Syrian Medical Relief Group, an international aid agency funding hospitals in Paris, said at least 400 people were injured in the attack. Many of the wounded are reportedly suffering from respiratory problems. Medical workers in the town told SOHR that victims had been brought in vomiting and fainting after the air raid, and on top of the dead there were dozens of patients suffering respiratory problems as a result. UN rights investigators launch investigation Idlib province, where Sheikhun is located, is controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliated Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front. Later on Tuesday, UN human rights investigators started gathering information on the alleged chemical weapons attack after the National Coalition - an opposition group uniting more moderate elements - demanded an independent investigation from the United Nations. UN investigators also said they were probing whether a medical facility treating victims was also under siege. "The National Coalition demands the Security Council convene an emergency session..., open an immediate investigation and take the necessary measures to ensure the officials, perpetrators and supporters are held accountable," the group said in a statement. UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that "both the use of chemical weapons, as well as the deliberate targeting of medical facilities, would amount to war crimes and serious violations of human rights law," International outcry Leaders across the world condemned the Syrian government and its allies following reports of the attack, and called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be held to account. French President Francois Hollande accused the Assad regime of carrying out a "massacre." "Once again the Syrian regime will deny the evidence of its responsibility for this massacre," Hollande said. "Those who support this regime can once again reflect on the enormity of their political, strategic and moral responsibility." British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the alleged chemical attack near Idlib "bears all the hallmarks" of the Syrian government, adding that the UK government would "continue to lead international efforts to hold perpetrators to account." Both the UK and France have called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which could take place as early as Tuesday. Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft urged Russia and China not to veto any council resolution against those responsible for the attack. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that Tuesday's attack served as a "dramatic reminder of the fact that the first priority is, as in any conflict, stopping the fighting," adding that the Assad regime had the "primary responsibility of protecting its people and not attacking its people." Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, called the attack "a crime against humanity" but also criticized the West for intervening for similar attack in the past. Western nations, he said, were glad to give frequent lectures to the Middle East on human rights but "remained carefree when the red line was crossed before." The attack came as the European Union was preparing to hold a two-day summit on the Syrian conflict in Brussels. After US President Donald Trump last week walked back from the demand that President Bashar al-Assad step down, EU foreign ministers have said they see no place for the strongman in Syria. US lawmakers demands tougher Trump approach Trump's suggestion that removing Assad from power might no longer be the top US priority in Syria would represent quite a shift in policy for Washington in the six-year civil war. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also raised eye brows last week when he said that Assad's fate would be "decided by the Syrian people." However, Tuesday's attack could force Trump to challenge the Syrian government more forcefully. While the White House and US congressional leaders had yet to react to the attack, Republican lawmakers urged the president to take action. House Republican Adam Kinzinger wrote on Twitter that "Removing #Assad from power IS and MUST be a priority." Senator John McCain described the attacks as "butchery," and criticized the administration's handling of the crisis, warning that Tillerson's words only served to encourage Assad and his allies.

A monitor has reported that dozens civilians were killed and hundreds injured by a “toxic gas” attack in northwestern Idlib province. The Syrian government had vowed to destroy its stock of chemical weapons. At least 100 people, many of them children, were reportedly killed on Tuesday morning by a “toxic gas” attack in northwest Syria, a monitor said. The London-based ... Read More »

St. Petersburg metro hit by deadly blast

Some 10 people have been killed and some 50 injured in an explosion on a train in the subway system of the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Russian authorities say. All stations were closed after the blast. An explosion in a train carriage on the St. Petersburg subway system on Monday killed at least 10 people and injured some 50 others, Russian authorities said. The blast was reported to have taken place in a train traveling between the stations of Sennaya Ploshchad and the Institute of Technology. A spokesman for Russia's National Anti-Terrorism committee (NAK), Andrei Przhezdomsky, said in televised remarks that the blast occurred at 2:40 pm local time (1140 UTC). St Petersburg metro blast: Timeline Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying the explosion was caused by a shrapnel-filled bomb. The blast tore a hole in the side of a carriage. The NAK later said it had found and deactivated another homemade bomb found at a different St. Petersburg station. Terrorism 'being considered' Following the explosion, there were scenes of confusion, with traffic blocked on the busy thoroughfare of Moskovsky Prospect, while emergency vehicles and a helicopter rushed to assist the victims. All stations on the subway system were closed following the blast. The Moscow metro also said it was stepping up security in case of an attack there, while the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee said security would be tightened at all criticial transport facilities. President Vladimir Putin, who was visiting the city for talks with his Belarus counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, expressed his condolences to the families of those killed in the blast, and said all possible causes, including terrorism, were being considered. "Law enforcement agencies and intelligence services are doingtheir best to establish the cause and give a full picture of what happened," Putin said at the start of his talks with Lukashenko. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed his condolences following the blast, saying he had learned of the news "with deep sorrow." He said Germany's thoughts were "with our friends in Russia, the victims and their families in this dark hour." Several enemies Russia has seen several attacks by separatist Islamist Chechen militants in past years, and the extremist group "Islamic State" (IS) has also threatened to carry out attacks in the country in retaliation for the Russian military operations in Syria. Russia is giving military assistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in fighting rebel groups including IS. There has, however, been no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. Double suicide bombings in the Moscow subway in March 2010 killed 40 people and wounded more than 100 others. Those attacks, carried out by two female suicide bombers, were claimed by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov. In November 2009, 26 people were killed and some 100 injured in a bombing on the high-speed Moscow-to-St. Petersburg train, with Umarov's group saying he also ordered that attack.

Some 10 people have been killed and some 50 injured in an explosion on a train in the subway system of the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Russian authorities say. All stations were closed after the blast. An explosion in a train carriage on the St. Petersburg subway system on Monday killed at least 10 people and injured some 50 ... Read More »

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