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Top Asian News 4:54 a.m. GMT

December 16, 2021 GMT

The AP Interview: Karzai ‘invited’ Taliban to stop chaos

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban didn’t take the Afghan capital — they were invited, says the man who issued the invitation. In an Associated Press interview, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered some of the first insights into the secret and sudden departure of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani — and how he came to invite the Taliban into the city “to protect the population so that the country, the city doesn’t fall into chaos and the unwanted elements who would probably loot the country, loot shops.” When Ghani left, his security officials also left. Defense minister Bismillah Khan even asked Karzai if he wanted to leave Kabul when Karzai contacted him to know what remnants of the government still remained.

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Afghan victims saddened US drone strike to go unpunished

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan survivors of an errant U.S. drone strike that killed 10 members of their family in August said Tuesday they are frustrated and saddened that U.S. troops involved in the attack will not face disciplinary action. A hellfire missile had slammed into a car belonging to Zemerai Ahmadi, killing him and nine relatives, including seven children, in the chaotic final days of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, three of Ahmadi’s brothers spoke of their loss, sitting just a few feet from where the missile struck Aug. 29. They said that to this day, they have heard nothing from Washington about financial compensation or when they would be evacuated from Afghanistan.

Myanmar public urges gas sanctions to stop military funding

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — The young woman in Myanmar decided to speak out when she realized that money from the company she loved was now in the hands of the military leaders she hated. She and her parents had long worked for Total Energies, the French company that operates a lucrative gas field off the coast of southern Myanmar with a state-owned enterprise. But in February, the military took over Myanmar’s government and its bank accounts, including those that receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the Total gas field, known as Yadana. As military abuses such as the murder and detention of thousands have grown, the young woman joined others across Myanmar in a groundswell of support for targeted sanctions on oil and gas funds, the country’s single largest source of foreign currency revenue.

SKorea bans gatherings of 5 or more people amid virus surge

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea will prohibit private social gatherings of five or more people nationwide and force restaurants to close at 9 p.m., rolling out the country’s toughest coronavirus restrictions yet as hospitals grapple with the deadliest month of the pandemic. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said Thursday that the new measures will be enforced for at least 16 days after taking effect on Saturday, saying there’s an urgent need to bring the country to a “standstill” with the delta-driven surge overwhelming stretched hospitals and exhausted medical workers. Schools in the densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, where the virus has hit hardest, will also go back to remote learning after fully reopening in November.

In pictures: Kim Jong Un’s decade of total but isolated rule

Since assuming power 10 years ago, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ruled the isolated country with absolute power, significantly expanded its nuclear arsenal and become the North’s first ruler to hold a summit with a sitting U.S. president. But now, he’s hunkering down and struggling to revive a dilapidated economy battered hard by pandemic-related border shutdowns, toughened U.N. sanctions and mismanagement. When he inherited power upon the death of his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong Il, there were questions about the future of North Korea. Little was known about the then-27-year-old son who was taking his family’s dynastic rule into a third generation.

Powerful typhoon threatens Philippines, thousands evacuated

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated to safety in the southern and central Philippines on Thursday as a powerful typhoon approached and as authorities were warning the public to avoid crowds after the first infections caused by the omicron strain of the coronavirus were reported in the country, officials said. Forecasters said they last tracked Typhoon Rai, which has sustained winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 230 kph (143 mph), about 175 kilometers (109 miles) east of southern Surigao del Norte province. It was blowing northwestward at 25 kph (15 mph).

Two awarded top bravery honor in New Zealand mosque attack

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Two Muslim worshippers who at different times charged toward a gunman to try and stop his massacre were each awarded New Zealand’s highest honor for civilian bravery on Thursday. Both men are credited with helping save others in the 2019 attack at two Christchurch mosques in which 51 people were killed. One of the men awarded the New Zealand Cross, Dr. Naeem Rashid, was himself killed when he tried to tackle the gunman. The other recipient, Abdul Aziz, survived after dodging bullets and chasing the gunman away. The award had previously been given to just two other people since it was started in 1999.

Australia’s New South Wales sets record for new COVID cases

Australia’s New South Wales state recorded 1,742 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, its highest daily total since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations were also up across the state. There were 192 coronavirus patients in New South Wales hospitals on Thursday, up from 166 the day before. Of those, 26 were in intensive care. The previous peak for new infections in one day in Australia’s most populous state was 1,599 on September 11. The state’s Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Wednesday said cases are doubling every two to three days. Modeling at the University of New South Wales forecasts up to 25,000 cases per day by the end of January.

Indonesian court sends to jail elephant poacher and traders

IDI, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian court on Wednesday handed down prison sentences for five men accused of being involved in killing a Sumatran elephant and illegally trading its ivory, as local conservation authorities look to protect the endangered species. The court in Aceh convicted the men of violating Indonesian laws protecting natural resources and their ecosystems. Jainal, the poacher who killed the elephant and cut off its head, along with Edy Murdani, a man accused of being the first point of sale for the ivory, were both sentenced to three and a half years in prison with a fine of 50 millions rupiah ($3,487).

India unveils $10.2B plan to attract semiconductor makers

NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Wednesday announced a $10.2 billion plan to try to attract global chipmakers to set up shop in the country and transform it into a production hub of semiconductors. The plan unveiled by Information Technology and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw comes amid a severe shortage of semiconductors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to global shortages of products that need them, including new cars. India wants to lure countries with economic incentives, including manufacturers with operations in China that might be willing to shift to India because of the ongoing trade disputes between the U.S.