Derrick Rose (New York Knicks) with a 2-pointer vs the Dallas Mavericks, 04/16/2021
Derrick Rose (New York Knicks) with a 2-pointer vs the Dallas Mavericks, 04/16/2021
Only 58% of parents said they would vaccinate their kids, despite 71% saying they would vaccinate themselves, according to a March survey.
The Labour leader is under fire after removing his deputy Angela Rayner from a key role - but allies insist she was not sacked.
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of the 'Back to Black' singer's tragic death.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove says PM will make announcement on Monday despite concerns about variants
Conservative rival Shaun Bailey gave the mayor a much harder fight than expected.
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for bringing France out of the pandemic aren't just about resuscitating long-closed restaurants, boutiques and museums. They are also about preparing his possible campaign for a second term. A year before the next presidential election, Macron is focusing on saving jobs and reviving the pandemic-battered French economy as his country inches out of its third partial lockdown. The centrist president's ability to meet the challenge will be significant for his political future and for France — which is among the world's worst-hit nations with the fourth-highest number of reported COVID-19 cases and the eighth-highest death toll at more than 106,000. While he has not officially declared his candidacy, Macron has made comments suggesting he intends to seek reelection. And he has pushed recent legislation on issues that potential rivals on the right and the left hold dear, from security to climate change. Pollsters suggest Macron, who four years ago became the youngest president in French history, has a good chance of winning the presidency again in 2022 despite his government’s oft-criticized management of the pandemic and earlier challenges to his policies, from activists protesting what they see as social and economic injustice to unions angry over retirement reforms. The coronavirus reopening strategy Macron unveiled this month calls for most restrictions on public life to be lifted June 30, when half of France's population is expected to have received at least one vaccine shot. With up to 3 million people in France getting vaccinated each week, the government plans to allow outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes, as well as museums and nonessential shops, to resume operating on May 19. In an interview with French media, Macron said he would visit France’s regions over the summer “to feel the pulse of the country" and to engage with people in a mass consultation aimed at “turning the page of that moment in the nation’s life.” “No individual destiny is worthwhile without a collective project,” he said, giving the latest hint about a potential reelection bid. At the moment, all opinion polls show Macron and Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader he beat in a presidential runoff election in 2017, again reaching the runoff next year. The polls also forecast that Macron would defeat National Rally leader Le Pen again, though by a smaller margin. Macron, 43, a former economy minister under his predecessor, Socialist President Francois Hollande, has characterized his policies as transcending traditional left-right divides. He was elected on a promise to make the French economy more competitive while preserving the country's welfare system. Macron’s government includes major figures previously belonging to conservative party The Republicans, including his prime minister and the finance and interior ministers. French politics expert Luc Rouban, a senior researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research. said the president's immediate goal “is to show he is still able to continue implementing his project, which has more or less been stopped by the health crisis.” Macron's recent priorities demonstrate he also is trying to attract voters from the moderate right and the moderate left, the same ones who helped him win the first time, Rouban said. Macron is “undermining the field of The Republicans by strengthening security laws, taking measures to protect the French against terrorism, reinforcing security also in urban areas, increasing police and justice staff,” he said. At the same time, Macron needs to show he is addressing inequality, economic mobility and other social justice issues that are important to France's left wing, Rouban said. Last month, the president decided to do away with France’s elite graduate school for future leaders, the Ecole Nationale d’Administration. He said his alma mater would be replaced with a more egalitarian institution. In the French newspapers interview, Macron also praised the country's benefits for low-income workers, who since 2019 have received up to 100 additional euros ($120) per month. Macron’s public image appears to have partially recovered from drubbing it took at the height of the “yellow vest" movement, which started in late 2018 to oppose a fuel tax and grew into a weekly anti-government protest targeting alleged social and economic injustice. At the time, critics angry over Macron eliminating a wealth tax labeled him the “president of the rich.” But Macron’s popularity in recent months has remained relatively stable, with an approval rating between 30% and 46%, higher than his predecessors Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy had after four years in office. Frédéric Dabi, deputy director-general of the polling organization IFOP, said Macron’s support appears “very solid.” Polls show his policies are satisfying most of his 2017 supporters, and 30% to 50% of voters from the traditional right- and left-wing parties. During the virus crisis, Macron applied a “whatever it takes” strategy based on state intervention to save jobs and businesses, including a massive partial unemployment program and subsidized child care leave. The government also approved a two-year 100 billion-euro ($120 billion) rescue plan to revive the economy. Macron promised there would be no tax increases to repay the debt, which soared last year to 115.7% of gross domestic product. Despite strong opposition from unions about planned changes to the pension system and unemployment benefits, he has pledged to keep reforming “until the last quarter of hour” of his five-year term, which runs out in May 2022. Recent polls show no strong rival emerging so far from mainstream French parties amid divisions on both the right and the left. But at this stage, the field remains wide open. As Macron himself proved in 2017, when he shot from a wild-card candidate to the presidency in less than four months, anything could happen in the next year. Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press
House of Gucci stars Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, ex-wife to the fashion house's former head Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver).
NEW DELHI — India opened vaccinations to all adults this month, hoping to tame a disastrous coronavirus surge sweeping the country, but since then the pace of administering the shots has only dropped, with states saying they only have limited stock. New infections are still rising at record pace in the world’s second-most populous nation. Alongside a slowdown in vaccinations, states have gone to court over oxygen shortages as hospitals struggle to treat a running line of COVID-19 patients. On Sunday, India reported 403,738 confirmed cases, including 4,092 deaths. Overall, India has over 22 million confirmed infections and 240,000 deaths. Experts say both figures are significant undercounts. India’s Supreme Court said Saturday it would set up a national task force consisting of top experts and doctors to conduct an “oxygen audit” to determine whether supplies from the federal government were reaching states. Complaints of oxygen shortages have dominated the top court recently, which just stepped in to make sure the federal government provided more medical oxygen to hospitals in the capital, New Delhi. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — India's vaccination campaign falters due to a lack of vaccines even as new infections, deaths soar — Party-goers across Spain rejoice as nation’s state of emergency is lifted — Some US states scale back vaccine orders as interest wanes — EU says US patent waiver proposal isn't a magic bullet — As US reopens, campuses tighten restrictions for virus ___ Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: BARCELONA, Spain — Impromptu street celebrations erupted across Spain as the clock struck midnight on Saturday, when a six-month-long national state of emergency to contain the spread of coronavirus ended and many nighttime curfews were lifted. In Madrid, police had to usher revelers out of the central Puerta del Sol square, where the scenes of unmasked dancing and group signing esembled pre-pandemic nightlife. Teenagers and young adults also poured into central squares and beaches of Barcelona to mark the relaxation of restrictions. “Freedom!” said Juan Cadavid, who was reconnecting with friends. The 25-year-old Barcelona resident was also rejoicing at the prospect of going back to work at a Michelin-star restaurant that has been closed for the past seven months due to pandemic-related restrictions. ___ ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is struggling with a third surge of coronavirus cases, despite a complete closure of all business and transport that began this weekend and continues until May 16, the end of the Eid holidays. Pakistan reported 118 more deaths and 3,785 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day Sunday. It has now seen nearly 19,000 deaths in the pandemic. All businesses are now closed except for essential food stores, pharmacies and fuel stations. Public transport in major cities and town is either at halt or allowed only with 50% capacity while intercity passenger transport is completely shut. Federal authorities also extended school closures to May 21 After receiving the first consignment of 1.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday, the government is trying to ramp up inoculations. ___ DUBAI — Dubai’s long-haul carrier Emirates will begin shipping aid from the World Health Organization and other groups into India for free to help fight a crushing outbreak of the coronavirus, the airline said Sunday. The offer by Emirates, which has 95 flights weekly to nine cities in India, initially involves aid already in Dubai but may expand across the carrier’s network as time goes on. That could mean major savings for aid groups as airfreight costs have skyrocketed amid the pandemic. Demand for flown cargo stands at record levels worldwide. Emirates made the announcement at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, already home to a WHO warehouse that’s been crucial to the distribution of medical gear worldwide. A WHO worker on a forklift moved boxes of tents made in Pakistan and rolls of net shades from South Korea preparing for the initial flight planned for next Thursday. That will be used to construct field hospitals for India’s overwhelmed health care system. ___ ROME — The Italian Health Ministry has set out guidelines for visiting people in nursing homes in the latest sign of reopening in the onetime epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe. Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a decree Saturday setting out a plan that, among other things, requires visitors to either be fully vaccinated, have proof of having had COVID-19 and recovered, or a negative test result in the past 48 hours. As in other countries, Italian nursing homes and long-term residential facilities were devastated by the pandemic, especially during the first wave of infections in the spring of 2020. The total nursing home death toll isn’t known, since so many COVID-19-suspected deaths were not counted because residents were not tested. Italy has largely reopened after its wintertime lockdown, even though it is continuing to add around 10,000 confirmed infections and around 250-300 deaths per day. The 224 deaths reported Saturday brought Italy’s confirmed toll to 122,694, second only to Britain in Europe. ______ MADISON, Wisc. — U.S. states asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses. From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated to them. The turned-down vaccines amount to hundreds of thousands of doses this week alone, providing a stark illustration of the problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. More than 150 million Americans — about 57% of the adult population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, but government leaders are doing everything they can to persuade the rest of the country to get inoculated. The Biden administration announced this week that if states don’t order all the vaccine they’ve been allotted, the administration will shift the surplus to meet demand in other states. ___ ISTANBUL — Produce markets were allowed to open Saturday across Turkey as the country’s strictest lockdown continues amid an economic downturn with double-digit inflation. The markets, or “bazaars,” are integral to Turkish food culture. Producers bring their fruits and vegetables to nearly every neighbourhood on set days of the week. The full lockdown that began in late April and is set to last until May 17 has curtailed this tradition and limited it to Saturdays in designated marketplaces. Idris Taka, a vendor selling vegetables at an open-air market in Istanbul on Saturday, says he has taken a financial hit. “We could work four to five days a week and now we can work one day out of 17 days,” he said. Critics have said the Turkish government’s measures to fight a surge in cases have been inconsistent and impractical. Residents have been ordered to stay at home, but millions of people are exempt from the lockdown and continue to work in factories, hospitals, agriculture and tourism, among other sectors. Foreign tourists are also exempt. Prices continued climbing in April with year-to-year inflation hovering above 17%. ___ STOCKHOLM — The Swedish military says 200 conscripts have been sent home from a major military exercise involving thousands of soldiers in southern and central Sweden due to a suspected outbreak of coronavirus infections. The “Sydfront 21” drill with over 3,500 participants from 13 different units of the Swedish Armed Forces is the first major military exercise in the Scandinavian nation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exercise leader Maj. Ake Palm told Swedish broadcaster TV4 that the military made the decision to send some soldiers home after several conscripts with cold-like symptoms either tested positive or were suspected to have been infected. Alf Johansson, head of the exercise’s communications, told the Swedish news agency TT that the affected unit had 200 soldiers and 8 positive coronavirus so far. He defended holding the drill in the middle of the pandemic. “This is a very important exercise for the army to train together so that we can maintain our ability to defend Sweden,” Johansson told TT. Sweden, a nation of 10 million, has recorded just over 1 million coronavirus cases, with 14,173 deaths by Friday. ___ HARTFORD, Conn. — Of the more than 1.4 million Connecticut residents who are now fully vaccinated, 242 later became infected with COVID-19, according to data released Friday from the state Department of Public Health. Among the 242 so-called “vaccine breakthrough cases,” 109 people had no symptoms of the disease. DPH reported three deaths among vaccinated individuals who were confirmed to have had underlying medical conditions. Nationally, there have been 132 vaccine-breakthrough deaths, DPH said. “The main takeaway is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare,” said. Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting public health commissioner ___ HELENA, Mont. -- Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that Montana will share COVID-19 vaccines with Canadian truck drivers from neighbouring Alberta. According to a memorandum of understanding signed Friday about 2,000 truck drivers from Alberta who transport goods from Canada to the U.S. will be eligible to be vaccinated at a highway rest stop near Conrad. The vaccines will be available between May 10 and May 23. A similar program to vaccinate truck drivers from Canada began in North Dakota last month. The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana has given around 1,000 vaccines to their relatives and neighbours across the border. ___ SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The owner of a Northern California bar was arrested on suspicion of selling made-to-order fake COVID-19 vaccination cards to several undercover state agents for $20 each. The plainclothes agents from California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control were told to write their names and birthdates on Post-it notes. They say bar employees cut the cards, filled out the identifying information and bogus vaccination dates, then laminated the finished product. Vaccination cards are being used in some places as a pass for people to attend large gatherings. The European Union is considering allowing in tourists who can prove they have been vaccinated. The Associated Press
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Maldives police said Sunday they arrested a person believed to be the prime suspect in an explosion that critically wounded the country's former president and which was blamed on Muslim extremists. Police said they now have three of four suspects in custody. Thursday's blast targeted Mohamed Nasheed, currently the speaker of Parliament, who is recovering in a hospital after multiple surgeries. Police did not give details on the latest suspect or his background, but in a text message confirmed that they believe he is the person whose pictures were released Saturday as authorities sought public assistance identifying him. The fourth suspect remains at large. Officials blamed Islamic extremists for the attack, although investigators still don’t know which group was responsible. Two of Nasheed’s bodyguards and two apparent bystanders, including a British citizen, were also wounded. Nasheed has been an outspoken critic of religious extremism in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, where preaching and practicing other faiths are banned by law. He has been criticized by religious hard-liners for his closeness to the West and liberal policies. Hospital officials said Nasheed, 53, remains in an intensive care unit after initial life-saving surgeries to his head, chest, abdomen and limbs. A relative tweeted early Sunday that Nasheed had been able to have long conversations with some family members. Shrapnel from the blast damaged Nasheed's intestines and liver, and a piece of shrapnel broke his rib and had been less than a centimetre (0.4 inches) from his heart, hospital officials said. Officers from the Australian Federal Police were assisting with the investigation, following a request from the Maldives. A British investigator was also set to arrive in the Indian Ocean archipelago on Sunday. Nasheed was the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, serving from 2008 to 2012, when he resigned amid protests. He was defeated in the subsequent presidential election, and was ineligible for the 2018 race due to a prison sentence, but has remained an influential political figure. He has championed global efforts to fight climate change, particularly warning that rising seas caused by global warming threaten the archipelago nation’s low-lying islands. The Maldives is known for its luxury resorts but has experienced occasional violent attacks. In 2007, a blast in a park in the capital wounded 12 foreign tourists, and was also blamed on religious extremists. The Maldives has one of the highest per capita numbers of militants who fought in Syria and Iraq alongside the Islamic State group. Authorities announced in January that eight people arrested in November were found to have been planning to attack a school and were in the process of building bombs in a boat at sea. Police said the suspects conducted military training on uninhabited islands and recruited children. Krishan Francis, The Associated Press
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe with a speech warning that Nazi beliefs remain strong. Speaking to the annual military parade on Moscow's Red Square, Putin on Sunday decried “attempts to rewrite history, to justify traitors and criminals, on whose hands lies the blood of hundreds of thousands of peaceful people.” “Unfortunately, many of the ideologies of the Nazis, those who were obsessed with the delusional theory of their exclusiveness, are again trying to be put into service,” he said, without citing specifics. The parade, whose format varies little from year to year, included more than 190 military vehicles traversing the square, ranging from the renowned WWII-era T-34 tank to the hulking eight-axle Yars mobile ICBM launchers. The anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat, which Russia calls Victory Day, is the country's most significant secular holiday. commemorating the Red Army's military feats and the vast suffering of civilians. About 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians are estimated to have died in the war. The Associated Press
BENGALURU, India — Since India opened vaccinations to all adults this month, hoping to tame a disastrous coronavirus surge sweeping across the country, the pace of administering the shots has dropped with states saying they only have limited stock to give out. Cases meanwhile are still rising at record pace in the world’s second-most populous nation. Alongside a slowdown in vaccinations, states have gone to court over oxygen shortages as hospitals struggle to treat a running line of COVID-19 patients. On Sunday, India reported 403,738 confirmed cases, including 4,092 deaths. Overall, India has over 22 million confirmed infections and 240,000 deaths. Experts say both figures are undercounts. India’s Supreme Court said Saturday it would set up a national task force consisting of top experts and doctors to conduct an “oxygen audit” to determine whether supplies from the federal government were reaching states. Complaints of oxygen shortages have dominated the top court recently, which stepped in earlier this week to make sure the federal government provided more medical oxygen to hospitals in the capital, New Delhi. The country’s massive vaccination drive kicked off sluggishly in January when cases were low and exports of vaccines were high, with 64 million doses going overseas. But as infections started to rise in March and April, India's exports drastically slowed down so doses went to its own population. So far, around 10% of India’s population have received one shot while just under 2.5% have got both. At its peak in early April, India was administering a record high of 3.5 million shots a day on average. But this number has consistently shrunk since, reaching an average of 1.3 million shots a day over the past week. Between April 6 and May 6, daily doses have dropped by 38%, even as cases have tripled and deaths have jumped sixfold, according to Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who has been tracking India’s epidemic. One reason for the drop in shots is that there are just not enough available, experts say. Currently, India’s two vaccine makers produce an estimated 70 million doses each month of the two approved shots — AstraZeneca, made by the Serum Institute of India, and another by Bharat Biotech. Vaccine supply has remained nearly the same since the drive began in January, but the target population eligible has increased by threefold, said Chandrakant Lahariya, a health policy expert. “In the beginning, India had far more assured supply available than the demand, but now the situation has reversed,” he added. In Kerala state, the drive to inoculate all adults is crawling along because “our single biggest problem is the very slow arrival of supplies,” said the state's COVID-19 officer, Amar Fetle. In New Delhi, many are waiting for hours outside vaccination centres — but only after they’ve been able to book a slot. For Gurmukh Singh, a marketing professional in the city, this has been impossible. “It gets really frustrating, having so many hospitals and vaccine centres around but not being able to get access because they are all pre-booked,” he said. Experts also point to a new policy change by the government, which has upended how doses are being distributed. Previously, all of the stock was bought by the federal government and then administered to the population through both public and private health facilities. But from May 1, all available stock has been divided in two, with 50% purchased by the government going to public health centres to inoculate those above 45. The remaining half is being purchased by states and the private sector directly from manufacturers at set prices to give adults below 45. This has led to lags as states and private hospitals, still adjusting to new rules, struggle to procure supplies on their own. “You have now taken it out of a fairly efficient system where every dose was still centrally-controlled,” said Jacob John, a professor of community medicine at Christian Medical College, Vellore. “But with market forces at play and unprepared states burdened with such a daunting task, the efficiency of the system has fallen.” Things could change in the coming months, as the government last month gave an advance to the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, which could help boost manufacturing. And last week, India received its first batch of Sputnik V vaccines. Russia has signed a deal with an Indian pharmaceutical company to distribute 125 million doses. But with vaccines currently in short supply, there are worries that those most in need are missing out. The goal should be to prioritize preventing deaths, which means fully vaccinating the elderly and vulnerable first, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, a microbiologist at Christian Medical College, Vellore. “You need to give it (earlier) to people who are more likely to die first,” Kang said. ___ Associated Press journalists Rishabh R. Jain and Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi contributed to this report. Krutika Pathi, The Associated Press
Everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s match
Everything you need to know ahead of the match
Everything you need to know ahead of the match
Everything you need to know ahead of the match
Everything you need to know ahead of the match
JERUSALEM — Police on Sunday gave the go-ahead to the annual Jerusalem Day parade, a flag-waving display of Israeli claims to all of the contested city, despite days of unrest and soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions at a flashpoint holy site. Monday's parade will pass through Jerusalem's Old City, part of east Jerusalem, which was captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The march was approved amid ongoing clashes between police and Palestinians in the Old City, the emotional epicenter of the long-running conflict. Before dawn Sunday, thousands of Muslim worshippers skirmished anew with police at the gates of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City. Videos on social media showed Palestinians hurling water bottles and rocks at officers, who fired stun grenades. Amos Gilad, a former senior defence official, told Army Radio that the Jerusalem Day parade should be cancelled or rerouted away from the Old City’s Damascus Gate, saying “the powder keg is burning and can explode at any time.” The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It has been a tinderbox for serious violence in the past. Dozens of Palestinians were wounded in violent confrontations with police in Jerusalem overnight from Saturday to Sunday, when Muslims marked Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of destiny,” the holiest period of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. On Friday, more than 200 Palestinians were wounded in clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem, drawing condemnations from Israel’s Arab allies and calls for calm from the United States, Europe and the United Nations. Addressing a Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel “will not allow any extremists to destabilize the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly." “We will continue to maintain freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances,” he said. On Sunday, COGAT, Israel’s defence ministry body controlling crossings with the Gaza Strip, said it had suspended entry of 350 Gaza merchants until further notice because of the upsurge in violence. Police spokesman Eli Levi said Sunday that there were no plans to call off the Jerusalem Day parade, despite the rising friction and the potential for violence. He said police were constantly assessing the situation. Monday afternoon's march marks Israel's capture of east Jerusalem and is typically attended by hardline nationalist Israelis, who wend their way through the Damascus Gate of the Old City and through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray. The annual event is widely perceived as provocative, and this year's parade comes at a particularly volatile time. The march coincides with an expected decision Monday by Israel's Supreme Court on the fate of dozens of Palestinians who are fighting attempts by Israeli settlers to evict them from their homes in Jerusalem's Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Palestinians and international rights groups portray the planned evictions as an ongoing campaign by Israel to drive Palestinians from traditionally Arab neighbourhoods, especially in the heart of Jerusalem. Israel has cast the Sheikh Jarrah evictions case as a mere real estate dispute. The neighbourhood has been the scene of regular confrontations, particularly during Ramadan, between Palestinian residents and their supporters on one side, and Israeli police and ultra-nationalist Israeli activists on the other. The flare-up in hostilities comes at a crucial point in Israel’s political crisis after longtime leader Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition. His opponents are now working to build an alternate government. If they succeed, Netanyahu would be pushed to the opposition for the first time in 12 years. Ilan Ben Zion, The Associated Press
The U.S. Space Command said it could confirm that the rocket reentered over the Arabian Peninsula at about 10:15 p.m. EDT.
KABUL — Grieving families buried their dead Sunday following a horrific bombing at a girls’ school in the Afghan capital that killed 50 people, many of them pupils between 11 and 15 years old. The number of wounded in Saturday's attack climbed to more than 100, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian. In the western neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, families buried their dead amid angry recriminations at a government they said has failed to protect them amid repeated attacks in the mostly Shiite Muslim neighbourhood. “The government reacts after the incident, it doesn’t do anything before the incident,” said Mohammad Baqir, Alizada, 41, who had gathered to bury his niece, Latifa, a Grade 11 student the Syed Al-Shahda school. Three explosions outside the school entrance struck as students were leaving for the day, said Arian. The blasts targeted Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras who dominate the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood, where the bombings occurred. Most Hazaras are Shiite Muslims. The Taliban denied responsibility, condemning the attack and the many deaths. The first explosion came from a vehicle packed with explosives, followed by two others, said Arian, adding that the casualty figures could still rise. In the capital rattled by relentless bombings, Saturday's attack was among the worst. Criticism has mounted over lack of security and growing fears of even more violence as the U.S. and NATO complete their final military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Dasht-e-Barchi area has been hit by several incidents of violence targeting minority Shiites and most often claimed by the Islamic State affiliate operating in the country. No one has yet claimed Saturday’s bombings. In this same neighbourhood in 2018, a school bombing killed 34 people, mostly students. In September 2018 a wrestling club was attacked killing 24 people and in May 2020 a maternity hospital was brutally attacked killing 24 people, including pregnant women and infants. And in October 2020, the Kawsar-e-Danish tutoring centre was attacked, killing 30 people. Most of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State affiliate operating in Afghanistan. The radical Sunni Muslim group has declared war on Afghanistan’s Shiites. Washington blamed IS for a vicious attack last year in a maternity hospital in the same area that killed pregnant women and newborn babies. Soon after the bombing, angry crowds attacked ambulances and even beat health workers as they tried to evacuate the wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastigar Nazari said. He had implored residents to co-operate and allow ambulances free access to the site. Arian, the Interior Ministry spokesman, blamed the attack on the Taliban despite their denials. Bloodied backpacks and schools books lay strewn outside the Syed Al-Shahda school. In the morning, boys attend classes in the sprawling school compound and in the afternoon, it's girls' turn. On Sunday, Hazara leaders from Dasht-e- Barchi met to express their frustration with the government failure to protect ethnic Hazaras, deciding to cobble together a protection force of their own from among the Hazara community. The force would be deployed outside schools, mosques and public facilities and would co-operate with government security forces. The intention is to supplement the local forces, said Parliamentarian Ghulam Hussein Naseri. The meeting participants decided that “there is not any other way, except for people themselves to provide their own security alongside of the security forces,” said Naseri, who added that the government should provide local Hazaras with weapons. Naseri said Hazaras have been attacked in their schools, in their mosques and “it is their right to be upset. How many more families lose their loved ones? How many more attacks against this minority has to occur in this part of the city before something is done?" One of the students fleeing the school recalled the attack, the girls' screams of the girls, the blood. “I was with my classmate, we were leaving the school, when suddenly an explosion happened, “ said 15-year-old Zahra, whose arm had been broken by a piece of shrapnel. “Ten minutes later there was another explosion and just a couple of minutes later another explosion,” she said. “Everyone was yelling and there was blood everywhere, and I couldn’t see anything clearly.” Her friend died. Most of the dozens of injured brought to the EMERGENCY Hospital for war wounded in the Afghan capital, “almost all girls and young women between 12 and 20 years old,” said Marco Puntin, the hospital's programme co-ordinator in Afghanistan. In a statement following the attack, the hospital, which has operated in Kabul since 2000 said the first three months of this year has seen a 21 per cent increase in war-wounded. Even as the IS has been degraded in Afghanistan, according to government and US officials, it has stepped-up its attacks particularly against Shiite Muslims and women workers. The attack comes days after the remaining 2,500 to 3,500 American troops officially began leaving the country. They will be out by Sept. 11 at the latest. The pullout comes amid a resurgent Taliban, who control or hold sway over half of Afghanistan. The top U.S. military officer said Sunday that Afghan government forces face an uncertain future and possibly some “bad possible outcomes” against Taliban insurgents as the withdrawal accelerates in the coming weeks. _____ Associated Press photographer Rahmat Gul and video journalist Ahmad Seir in Kabul, Afghanistan and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report. Rahim Faiez, The Associated Press
DAMASCUS, Syria — Firefighters extinguished a blaze Sunday in a distillation unit at one of Syria’s two oil refineries, Syrian state TV reported. No one was hurt, but the fire caused some damage to the facility, a refinery official said. The TV named the cause of the fire as crude oil leakage from one of the pumping stations at the Homs Oil Refinery in the central province of Homs. The fire came amid a series of mysterious attacks on vessels and oil facilities in Syria over the past months. The war-torn country has been suffering from fuel shortage in recent months. Head of Homs Oil Refinery Suleiman Mohammed told state TV that the distillation unit that caught fire is one of four at the refinery. In addition to the refinery in Homs, Syria has another one near the coastal town of Banias. Both are government-run and operating. Syria’s oil resources are mostly outside of government controlled areas. Syria controls some small oil and gas fields in the country’s centre but most of the country’s large fields in the east are controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters. This has made Damascus reliant on Iran for fuel. The U.S. Treasury sanctions have targeted a network that spanned Syria, Iran and Russia responsible for shipping oil to the Syrian government. In late April, Syria’s oil ministry said a fire erupted in an oil tanker on its coast after what it said was a suspected drone attack. In January, an explosion in an oil tanker outside a state fuel distribution company in Homs caused massive fire. The minister of oil told Syrian state TV at the time that seven tankers caught fire but there were no civilian casualties. The Associated Press