Top Asian News 2:58 a.m. GMT
BEIRUT (AP) — A few days after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, a convoy of militants drove through the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria in cars bearing the group’s white-and-black flags, honking horns and firing their guns in the air. The celebrations by an al-Qaida affiliate in a remote corner of war-torn Syria were an expression of the triumph felt by radical Islamic groups from the Gaza Strip to Pakistan and West Africa who see America’s violence-marred exit from Afghanistan an opportunity to reassert their presence. For such groups, the chaotic U.S. departure following the collapse of security forces it had trained for two decades is a gift, underlining their message that Washington eventually abandons its allies, and that defeating powerful armies is possible with enough patience.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — American forces working under heightened security and threats of another attack pressed ahead in the closing days of the U.S.-led evacuation from Afghanistan after a devastating suicide bombing, and U.S. officials said they had killed a member of the extremist group that the United States believes responsible for it. A U.S. drone strike early Saturday in eastern Afghanistan killed a member of the country’s Islamic State affiliate, U.S. Central Command said. President Joe Biden has laid responsibility for Thursday’s suicide bombing on that offshoot extremist group which is an enemy both to the West and to Afghanistan’s Taliban and is known for especially lethal attacks.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus but believe China’s leaders did not know about the virus before the start of the global pandemic, according to results released Friday of a review ordered by President Joe Biden. According to an unclassified summary, four members of the U.S. intelligence community say with low confidence that the virus was initially transmitted from an animal to a human. A fifth intelligence agency believes with moderate confidence that the first human infection was linked to a lab. Analysts do not believe the virus was developed as a bioweapon and most agencies believe the virus was not genetically engineered.
BANGKOK (AP) — A spokesman for Myanmar’s military-installed government said Friday that COVID-19 vaccines will be given to members of the country’s persecuted Rohingya ethnic group. The Muslim minority was the target of a fierce counter-insurgency campaign in 2017 that some critics charged amounted to ethnic cleansing or genocide. The Rohingya face widespread discrimination and most are denied citizenship and other basic rights. Government spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun made the announcement at a news conference in the capital Naypyitaw, where he also said the authorities are trying to vaccinate 50% of the country’s population this year. Myanmar, whose poor public health system was weakened further by the political turmoil caused by the army’s February takeover from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been facing a devastating outbreak of the coronavirus, although in the past month the daily number of reported new cases and deaths has been falling.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — By early next week, New Zealanders should know if their government’s strict new lockdown is working to stamp out its first coronavirus outbreak in six months. A successful effort could again make the nation’s virus response the envy of the world. A failure could expose flaws in its health system, including a shortage of hospital beds and a slow vaccine rollout. The high-stakes campaign hinges on whether new infections, which have risen for the past 10 days, begin to drop. Last week, the government put the nation into the full lockdown after only a single community case was detected in the city of Auckland..
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Three critically endangered Sumatran tigers, including two cubs, were found dead in a conservation area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island after being caught in traps apparently set by a poacher, authorities said Friday. The mother and a female cub were found dead Tuesday in the Leuser Ecosystem Area, a forested region for tiger conservation in Aceh province, said Agus Arianto, head of the conservation agency. The body of a male cub was found on Thursday about 5 meters (15 feet) away, he said. An examination determined they died from infected wounds caused by traps, Arianto said. He said several traps similar to ones used to capture wild pigs on farms were found in the area of the bodies.
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A massive fire broke out at a chemical factory in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Friday, killing at least 10 workers and injuring several others, police and a government spokesman said. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze in the congested Mehran Town neighborhood. TV footage showed firefighters dousing the flames, as ambulances continued transporting victims to a government hospital. Murtaza Wahab, a spokesman for the provincial government, told reporters that the firefighters had almost extinguished the fire. He said officers had been asked to investigate what caused the fire. He said officers will also check whether the owner had installed fire extinguishing equipment.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.N. human rights investigators have asked North Korea to clarify whether it has ordered troops to shoot on sight any trespassers who cross its northern border in violation of the country’s pandemic closure. They were referring to a report by a news site focused on North Korea, Daily NK, which published a photo of what it said was a poster describing an August 2020 proclamation prohibiting acts that impede the closure of the northern border, shared mostly with China and a smaller section with Russia. The poster describes a 1-2 kilometer (0.62-1.24 mile) buffer zone and says any person who makes an unauthorized entry to North Korea “shall be shot unconditionally.” It also says trespassers from other countries found on the North Korean side of the Yulu and Tumen rivers will be “shot without prior warning.” In an Aug.
DHAKA,Bangladesh (AP) — A passenger boat carrying more than 100 people sank after a collision Friday in a large pond in Bangladesh, and officials said 21 people were dead and about 50 missing. The sinking occurred in the Bijoynagar area in Brahmanbaria district in the evening, local police official Imranul Islam said by phone. Rescuers recovered at least 21 bodies by late Friday, while survivors said about 100 people were on board, he said. Local news reports, quoting the area’s top government administrator, Hayat-Ud-Dola, said about 50 people were missing. A witness said two cargo vessels hit the boat, which sank quickly, Dhaka-based The Daily Star newspaper reported.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese regulators will exercise greater control over the algorithms used by Chinese technology firms to personalize and recommend content, the latest move in a regulation spree across the internet sector. China’s internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China, on Friday released a draft proposal of “algorithm recommendation management regulations” aimed at managing how technology companies use algorithms when providing services to consumers. The move expands the crackdown on the internet sector in China, as regulators seek to strengthen data privacy and consumer rights and curtail anti-competitive practices in order to curb the outsized influence of technology companies. Under the draft regulations, companies must disclose the basic principles, purpose and operation mechanism of its algorithm recommendation services, and must include convenient options for users to turn off the recommendation service.