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Thousands escape after massacre in northern Burkina Faso



More than 7,000 families have fled their homes in Burkina Faso’s northern region following the area’s worst massacre in years, the government has said.

The mass flight came after gunmen killed at least 138 people and wounded many others in an attack on Solhan village in Yagha province on Friday.

“Steps have already been taken to give [displaced people] a base level of comfort, lodgings and food,” Prime Minister Christophe Dabire said on Tuesday.

“More than 7,000 families have moved to Sebba,” the capital of Yagha, about 15km (10 miles) from Solhan, he added.

In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch tallied the number of people escaping violence at about 3,300 people, including more than 2,000 children and almost 500 women.

Baloch said the death toll of 138 made the attack the “deadliest since 2015”.

Burkinabe Communications Minister Ousseni Tamboura said the village “has been completely emptied of people”. One local elected official said most of those who left Solhan had already been escaping armed group violence, including in the Mansila district to the west.

“They killed so many people without separating the women and children,” Mannou Tambanga, a Solhan resident told. “They killed, they burned all the goods they saw. They ransacked,” he added.

The prime minister said the attack would not go unpunished, adding that extra forces had already been deployed in the region.

The slaughter in Solhan followed the killing of 14 people in the village of Tadaryat in a similar region, where an armed group linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have been targeting civilians and soldiers.

Burkina Faso’s military is seen as unfit and undertrained to face increasing security threats, with experts warning of the implications in terms of people’s trust.

“Since the arrival of terrorism in 2015, this is the first time that there have been so many deaths in a single operation, and above all so many civilian deaths,” political analyst Siaka Coulibaly told. “This is the reason the Burkinabe population is very sad and questions about the ability of the country, and the defense and security system to stem the terrorist insurgency are growing,” said Coulibaly.

Urgent need

Displaced people “arrived with not many or no belongings”, Baloch said, adding that most “were generously welcomed by local families who are sharing what little they have.” Baloch also said the new arrivals urgently needed water, sanitation and shelter, plus essential aid items and medical care.

The UNHCR and its partners were building 200 shelters and providing assistance, but more resources were needed to increase the response.

Baloch said the massacre came just half a month after some attackers shot at the vehicles of the UNHCR and other aid organizations on the road between the city of Dori and the Goudoubo camp, housing some 12,200 Malian refugees and haven seekers.

While no one was injured in that attack, he warned that “growing insecurity and the presence of armed groups in several regions of Burkina Faso increasingly hamper the delivery of aid and protection for those in need”.

The UNHCR, he said, “calls for concerted action to reinforce the protection of civilians and reminds all parties that humanitarian organizations are carrying out life-saving interventions in an independent and impartial manner.”

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has struggled to fight back against increasingly frequent and deadly attacks from armed groups, including the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).

The attacks, which have killed at least 1,400 people, first started in the north close to the Mali border, but have since spread to other regions, particularly in the east.

“We’ve been fighting terrorism for some time and we’ve had some victories,” Prime Minister Dabire said. “But every time there are new challenges that appear.”

Since 2019, violence in the country has forced more than 1.2 million people to escape their homes, according to the UNHCR numbers.

Since the start of this year, some 150,000 people have become internally displaced in the country, Baloch said, adding that 84 percent of them were women and children.


With 9,056 fresh infections, Moscow Covid cases soar to pandemic high



New coronavirus infections hit a pandemic high in Moscow on Monday, tripling in just weeks and forcing Russia’s capital to close its Euro fan zone and extend other curbs.

Some 9,056 new cases were recorded in the megapolis of 12 million in the past 24 hours, up from 3,000 fourteen days ago and another every day record since the Covid-19 pandemic began in mid 2020, according to official statistics.

Faced with the spike, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who has been rolling out restrictions for almost seven days, said that the city would limit gatherings and close the Euro 2020 fan zone outside of the Luzhniki stadium.

“I didn’t want to do this, but we have to,” Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website.

“Starting today, we will limit mass events to a maximum of 1,000 people.”

“We are temporarily stopping all mass entertainment events and we’ll also have to close ballrooms and fan zones,” he wrote.

The move came a day after he warned that the city was facing another wave of infections, likely because of new Covid variants.

“It’s tripling, there’s an enormous powerful that we have not seen during the previous waves,” he said, adding that cases jumped from 3,000 to 7,000 in just days and predicting they would pass the 9,000 mark on Friday.

Over the past week, the mayor has introduced a progression of new restrictions in an effort to contain the wave of infections, including declaring a “work-free” week, shutting settings, and ordering mandatory vaccinations of people working in the service industry in the city.

Also on Friday, Sobyanin extended until June 29 a few measures that were announced last weekend, similar to the closure of food corridors in shopping centers, zoos, playgrounds, and the closure of bars and restaurants between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Curbs tightened in Euro host St Pete –

Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches – including a quarter-final – and is expected to see thousands of football fans from Europe.

On Monday, Saint Petersburg also announced a tightening of restrictions, including no food deals in its fan zones.

The increase in cases in Russia comes as the country struggles to encourage Russians to get vaccinated, despite the fact that the country launched a mass campaign of free jabs in December and has developed and approved four vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-portion Sputnik Light.

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Chinese, Indian workers among 11 killed in Nepal floods; 25 missing



Landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy downpour across Nepal this week killed 11 people including one Indian and two Chinese workers at a development project, while 25 people were missing elsewhere, officials said on Friday.

The bodies of the three workers were recovered close to the town of Melamchi in Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of Kathmandu, which was hit by flash floods on Wednesday that also forced many people from their homes, district administrators said in a statement.

“The foreign nationals were working for a Chinese organization that is building a drinking water project,” district official Baburam Khanal told Reuters.

The Home Ministry said late on Thursday that 25 people were missing in floods in Sindhupalchowk, a mountainous district bordering the Tibet region of China, and other parts of the country.

The monsoon downpours, which normally begin in June and last until September, kill hundreds of people in mostly mountainous Nepal every year.

Heavy downpour since Tuesday have damaged roads, destroyed bridges, washed away fish ranches and livestock, and wrecked homes.

Hundreds of people have been forced to move to community shelters, including schools, sheds and tents, authorities said.

Aid agencies said the crisis this year could add to the social and economic troubles of a country hard hit by COVID-19. Nepal has been reporting among the highest coronavirus test positivity rates in the world.

“Those who have lost homes are resting in community centers,” said John Jordan of the U.S.- based charity World Neighbors.

“This forced density raises risks for a community that has been recovering from COVID-19.”

Israel to send 1 million Covid vaccine dosages to Palestinians

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Courts cannot appoint PM, says Nepal PM KP Oli as he defends dissolution of House of Representatives



Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Thursday defended his government’s controversial decision to dissolve the House of Representatives and told the Supreme Court that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a premier as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state, according to a media report.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari, at the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Oli, dissolved the House for the second time in five months on May 22 and announced snap elections on November 12 and November 19.

Prime Minister Oli is heading a minority government after losing a trust vote in the House.

In his written response to the Supreme Court, Oli said that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a Prime Minister as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state.

The Supreme Court on June 9 issued a show-cause notice to the Office of the Prime Minister and the President’s Office to outfit a written response within 15 days.

The Apex Court received Oli’s response by means of the Office of the Attorney General on Thursday, The Himalayan Times reported.

“The Court’s duty is to interpret the Constitution and the existing laws, it cannot assume the part of the legislative or the executive bodies,” Oli said.

“Appointment of a Prime Minister is absolutely a political and an executive process,” the 69-year-old embattled leader underlined.

The Prime Minister also defended the involvement of the President in this entire issue, saying that Article 76 of the Constitution grants the sole right to appoint a Prime Minister to the President only.

“According to Article 76 (5), there is no such provision of a person acquiring or losing a vote of confidence in the House being examined by the legislative or the legal executive,” he said.

Upwards of 30 writ petitions, including by the Opposition partnership, have been filed in the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the House, which they said was “unconstitutional”.

The Supreme Court has started hearing on the case. Regular hearings on the case will resume from June 23.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the decision Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

In February, the pinnacle court reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives, in a setback to embattled Prime Minister Oli who was preparing for snap polls.

Oli repeatedly defended his transition to dissolve the House of Representatives, saying some leaders of his party were attempting to form a “equal government”.

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