Afghan girl who killed Taliban gunmen ‘ready to fight again’

GHAZNI: An Afghan girl who shot dead two Taliban fighters after they gunned down her parents said on Wednesday (Jul 22) she was ready to confront any other insurgents who might try to attack her.

Qamar Gul, 15, killed the militants when they stormed her home last week in a village in the Taywara district of the central province of Ghor.

“I no longer fear them and I’m ready to fight them again,” Gul told AFP by telephone from a relative’s home.

It was about midnight when the Taliban arrived, Gul said, recounting the events of that night.

She was asleep in her room with her 12-year-old brother when she heard the sound of men pushing at the door of their home.

“My mother ran to stop them but by then they had already broken the door,” Gul said.

“They took my father and mother outside and shot them several times. I was terrified”.

But moments later, “anger took over”, she said.

“I picked up the gun we had at home, went to the door and shot them”.

Gul said her brother helped when one of the insurgents, who appeared to be the group’s leader, tried to return fire.

“My brother took the gun from me and hit (shot) him. The fighter ran away injured, only to return later,” Gul said.

By then, several villagers and pro-government militiamen had arrived at the house. The Taliban eventually fled following a lengthy firefight.

‘PROUD’

Officials said the Taliban had come to kill Gul’s father, who was the village chief, because he supported the government.

The insurgents regularly kill villagers they suspect of being informers for the government or security forces.

Taywara district, where Gul’s village is located, is a remote area with sporadic communication and the scene of near-daily clashes between government forces and the Taliban.

Gul said her father had taught her how to shoot an AK-47 assault rifle.

“I am proud I killed my parents’ murderers,” she said.

“I killed them because they killed my parents, and also because I knew they would come for me and my little brother.”

Gul regrets she was unable to say goodbye to her mother and father.

“After I killed the two Taliban, I went to talk to my parents, but they were not breathing,” she said.

“I feel sad, I could not talk to them one last time.”

Afghans have flooded social media to praise Gul, and a photo of her wearing a headscarf and holding an AK-47 has been shared widely.

Hundreds of people have called on the government to protect Gul and her family.

“I demand that the president help transfer her to a safe place as her and her family’s security is at risk,” prominent women’s rights activist and former lawmaker Fawzia Koofi wrote on Facebook.

President Ashraf Ghani also praised Gul for “defending her family against a ruthless enemy”, his spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told AFP.

A Taliban spokesman has confirmed an operation took place in the area of the attack, but denied any of the group’s fighters had been killed by a woman.

Myanmar holds muted Martyrs’ Day tribute to fallen independence heroes

YANGON: Myanmar’s public marked one of the Southeast Asian nation’s darkest moments on Sunday (Jul 19) with tributes to slain independence heroes, though the annual Martyrs’ Day gatherings were muted by the coronavirus pandemic due to social distancing measures.

Flanked by senior government and military officials, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi laid a wreath at a mausoleum dedicated to Aung San, her father and the country’s independence hero, who was assassinated alongside members of his cabinet on Jul 19, 1947.

Crowds also laid flowers beside statues of Aung San, who remains a potent political force in the country, with his image used by his daughter and some of her rivals to garner support among a public that continues to revere him.

Myanmar's President Win Myint attends during the Martyrs' Day ceremony in Yangon
Myanmar’s President Win Myint attend during the Martyrs’ Day ceremony in Yangon on Jul 19, 2020. (Ye Aung Thu/Pool via REUTERS)

The former ruling military government for years curtailed use of his image for fear it would help the democracy movement that emerged in 1988 led by Suu Kyi.

In the commercial capital of Yangon on Sunday, crowds queued to approach a statue of Aung San clutching portraits of the independence leader and his daughter, waiting on markers painted in the road to encourage people to keep a distance.

“The Martyrs’ Day was once extinct, during the political crisis,” said Yin Yin Phyo Thu, as she laid flowers.

“We young people are responsible for preserving the image of Martyrs’ Day not to fade away during COVID-19,” she said.

Myanmar's Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing salutes during the Martyrs' Day ceremony in Yangon o
Myanmar’s Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing salutes during the Martyrs’ Day ceremony in Yangon on Jul 19, 2020. (Ye Aung Thu/Pool via REUTERS)

Myanmar has reported 340 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The country goes to the polls again in November in a vote that will serve as a test of the fledgling democracy.

“We came here to pay respects and also to get ourselves politically motivated in 2020, the election year,” said Kyaw Swar, a university student.

Indonesia reports highest number of COVID-19 fatalities since March

JAKARTA: Indonesia on Sunday (Jul 19) recorded its highest number of COVID-19 fatalities since March, with 127 deaths, taking the national total to 4,143. 

Indonesian government spokesperson for COVID-19, Achmad Yurianto, said most of the deaths were recorded in East Java and Central Java. 

READ: Lack of compliance blamed for East Java’s high COVID-19 tally, health workers’ deaths: Indonesian minister

He added that another 1,639 new positive coronavirus cases were recorded, bringing the total number of infections to 86,521. A total of 16,538 of these cases are in Jakarta while 18,308 are in East Java. 

About 37,505 patients are still under surveillance, he said. 

READ: Indonesian president sees new COVID-19 peak in August-September

The highest number of COVID-19 positive cases was also recorded in East Java province with 18,308 infections, while Jakarta recorded 16,538. 

To date, East Java province has the highest number of deaths with 1,401 cases, followed by Jakarta with 736 fatalities. There have been 323 deaths related to COVID-19 in Central Java and 279 in South Sulawesi. 

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Malaysia discovers biggest abandoned shipment of illegal toxic waste from Romania

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has uncovered its largest case of abandoned toxic waste, after 110 containers of hazardous heavy metals from Romania and bound for Indonesia illegally entered the country last month, state media Bernama reported on Sunday (Jul 19).

Malaysia in recent years became the world’s main destination for plastic waste, after China banned imports of scrap. It has been negotiating with origin countries to take back hundreds of containers of plastic that entered the country illegally.

READ: Malaysia says won’t be ‘garbage dump’ as it returns waste

Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said 1,864 tonnes of electric arc furnace dust (EAFD) – a by-product of steel production that contains heavy metals like zinc, cadmium and lead – were found abandoned at the Tanjung Pelepas port in the southern state of Johor, according to Bernama.

“The discovery of the EAFD, on transit in Malaysia and bound for Indonesia, is the biggest finding of its kind in Malaysian history,” Tuan Ibrahim was quoted as saying.

He said the EAFD, classified as a toxic waste under the Basel Convention, had been listed as concentrated zinc in declaration forms.

“The Department of Environment, as the Basel Convention authority (for Malaysia), has not granted approval for or received notifications from the waste exporter to transit in Malaysia,” he said.

Malaysia has contacted the Romanian Basel Convention authority to arrange for the repatriation of the containers and have engaged Interpol for further investigations, Bernama said.

China says it will respond resolutely if UK sanctions officials

LONDON: China will respond resolutely to any attempt by Britain to sanction Chinese officials following the imposition of a security law in Hong Kong, its ambassador in London said on Sunday (Jul 19).

Earlier this month Britain introduced a new sanctions regime to target individuals it says are involved in human rights abuses or organised crime.

Some lawmakers in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party have said the sanctions should be used to target Chinese officials.

READ: UK top court says it is assessing UK judges’ position in Hong Kong appeal court

“If UK government goes that far to impose sanctions on any individual in China, China will certainly make a resolute response to it,” Liu Xiaoming told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“You’ve seen what happens in the United States – they sanction Chinese officials, we sanction their senators, their officials. I do not want to see this tit-for-tat happen in … China-UK relations.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the same programme he would not be drawn on future additions to Britain’s sanctions list but he denied that Britain would be too weak to challenge China through this channel.

Raab said he would update Britain’s parliament to outline further measures on Hong Kong and China on Monday.

READ: Hong Kong security law sends jitters through city’s feisty press

Britain says the new national security law in Hong Kong breaches agreements made before the handover and that China is crushing the freedoms that have helped make Hong Kong one of the world’s biggest financial hubs.

Hong Kong and Beijing officials have said the law is vital to plug holes in national security defences exposed by recent protests. China has repeatedly told Western powers to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.

Malaysia’s largest rubber glove manufacturer bullish about prospects as demand soars amid COVID-19

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s largest rubber glove manufacturer Top Glove is investing US$1 billion over the next five years to expand its production capacity, in order to meet surging demand for protective gloves amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Speaking to CNA in an exclusive interview, Top Glove’s executive chairman and founder Lim Wee Chai noted that the company’s third-quarter earnings ending May 31 jumped more than three times to hit almost US$90 million, while its share price has quadrupled since the beginning of the year.

The best quarter has yet to come, he declared, as the demand is still “very strong”. 

“We are now only just (getting) started. There are more good quarters to come. It is only the first quarter and we are seeing good results … The next five or six quarters can be even more in terms of sales revenue and profit.” 

Its nitrile gloves, he said, are oversold by 360 days, which means that customers will have to wait for up to a year to receive their orders. Most buyers are state agencies and many are willing to pay a higher price in order to secure their deliveries. 

Malaysia is reportedly producing around 65 per cent of the world’s supply for rubber gloves. There has been an exponential jump in demand for rubber gloves since the pandemic.

Dr Lim, 62, who started the company about 30 years ago with his wife Tong Siew Bee, took the company public in 2001. Top Glove obtained dual listing on SGX in 2016. 

Top Glove Corporation now has 45 manufacturing facilities across the country and controls over a fifth of the world’s multi-billion dollar rubber glove industry. 

Lim Wee Chai glove Malaysia
Malaysian firm Top Glove founder Lim Wee Chai tells CNA that 2020 is going to be a record year for the company.

With all its factories running at almost full capacity, Dr Lim wants to add up to 10 more factories over the next two years. 

“Usually we build one or two factories a year, this year we are building more. It is good times, we build four or five factories this year and next year, we will also build another four to five factories.” 

Top Glove Corporation’s current production capacity is 75 billion pieces of gloves per year. By 2021, this will be increased to close to 100 billion, he said.

READ: Top supplier Malaysia sees no quick end to shortages in US$8 billion gloves industry

CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY

A firm believer of cutting-edge technology, Dr Lim said Top Glove must constantly invest in research and development. 

The company has more than 600 researchers and half of them are engineers, while the rest are chemists and scientists, he said. 

“Traditional business grows very slow, 5 per cent to 10 per cent every year. But using technology, we can skill up … We find something new, something better – digitalisation, internet of things, artificial intelligence, all these are very important.” 

In particular, automation and artificial intelligence have saved costs and improved efficiency. They have also enhanced the quality of the products he said. 

By harnessing technology, between 1,000 to 2,000 workers are made redundant each year. They are then deployed to new factories, he explained. 

The number of workers to produce per million gloves has been reduced significantly, from five to 10 a decade ago to less than two today, he also said.

Malaysia Top Gloves
Top Glove Corporation is the world’s largest rubber glove producer. (Photo: Top Glove Corporation Bhd) 

LOFTY TARGET TO BECOME FORTUNE GLOBAL 500 COMPANY

Dr Lim who is a father of two grown children, has set lofty targets for himself and the company. 

He wants Top Glove to become Malaysia’s second Fortune Global 500 company after Petronas by 2040, with an annual revenue of US$35 billion.

“In order to grow big, to become a Fortune Global 500 company, we need to grow 30 times … almost 500 factories. Now we have 45 factories,” he told CNA. 

“It is very possible, because over the past 20 years, Top Glove has grown almost 200 times … I think (it is) not that difficult provided we get the right team of people.” 

READ: COVID-19 – US lifts ban on Malaysian medical glove maker amid shortage

Dr Lim added that he intends to live till 120 years old, by adhering to a strict health and fitness regime. He is a yoga enthusiast and plays badminton as well as golf twice a week. 

He also hopes that his staff will follow his regime on hygiene, health and fitness as well as work ethics. 

Top Glove has employed seven nutritionists, a team of doctors, dentists and nurses to look after its 20,000 employees. 

“People are the most important asset for the company or any organisation. That’s why this asset, must value it, must take care so that everybody is fit and healthy,” Dr Lim said. 

Last year, the company announced that it would bear all recruitment-related fees for its foreign workers. On Monday (Jul 13), the company said that it would implement a programme that will allow workers who have paid recruitment fees to agents in their source country to be reimbursed. 

He added: “(During) good times, we have to work hard, work smart … During bad times, difficult times, actually we learn more. We tend to innovate. Human beings during difficult times, they tend to work extra hard, think hard and have new ideas”. 

China reports six new COVID-19 cases

SHANGHAI: China reported on Wednesday (Jul 15) six new COVID-19 cases in the mainland for Tuesday, up from three cases a day earlier, the health authority said.

All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths.

China also reported four new asymptomatic patients, down from five a day earlier.

As of Jul 14, mainland China had a total of 83,611 confirmed coronavirus cases, it said. China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained unchanged at 4,634.

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China releases professor who criticised President Xi, friends say

BEIJING: A Beijing law professor who has been an outspoken critic of China’s President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party was released on Sunday (Jul 12) after six days of detention, his friends said.

Xu Zhangrun, a constitutional law professor at the prestigious Tsinghua University, returned home on Sunday morning but remained under surveillance and was not free to speak publicly about what happened, one of his friends, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

Calls to the media departments of the Beijing police and Tsinghua University seeking comment went unanswered on Sunday.

Xu, 57, came to prominence in July 2018 for denouncing the removal of the two-term limit for China’s leader, which will allow Xi to remain in office beyond his current second term.

According to a text message circulated among Xu’s friends and seen by Reuters, he was taken from his house in suburban Beijing on Monday morning by more than 20 policemen, who searched his house and confiscated his computer.

According to Xu’s friends, police told his wife that he was being detained for allegedly soliciting prostitution during a trip to Chengdu, but at least two friends dismissed that allegation as character assassination.

Since the 2018 article, Xu has written other critiques of the party. At the peak of China’s coronavirus outbreak in February, he wrote an article calling for freedom of speech.

Most recently in May, before China’s delayed annual parliamentary meeting, he wrote an article accusing Xi of trying to bring the Cultural Revolution back to China.

Under Xi, China has clamped down on dissent and tightened censorship.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Tuesday the United States was deeply concerned about China’s detention of Xu and urged Beijing to release him.

Indonesia reports 1,681 new COVID-19 cases: Health Ministry official

JAKARTA: Indonesia reported 1,681 new coronavirus cases on Sunday (Jul 12), bringing the total count to 75,699, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.

Fatalities from the COVID-19 rose by 71 on Sunday, he said, bringing the total in the Southeast Asian nation to 3,606, the highest in East Asia outside China.

A significant new cluster has emerged at a military training centre in West Java, where nearly 1,300 people have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The outbreak was first detected when two cadets at the Indonesian Army Officer Candidate School went to a medical facility after complaining of fever and back pain.

Both tested positive for COVID-19, sparking mass swab testing at the academy, which has 2,000 staff and cadets.

It is not clear how the cadets were infected, the army’s chief of staff said.

The governor of West Java apologised for the outbreak and urged residents to restrict their movements in and out of the neighbourhood where the academy is located until it is brought under control.

READ: Indonesia military academy hit by COVID-19 outbreak

Indonesia is the hardest hit country in Southeast Asia with more than 74,000 known cases of COVID-19 and over 3,500 deaths.

The real toll is widely believed to be much higher, however, with experts saying limited testing was understating the true scale of the crisis.

The World Health Organization recently urged Indonesia to do more testing.

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Tokyo confirms 206 new cases of COVID-19 infections on Sunday: Report

TOKYO: Tokyo officials confirmed 206 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, public broadcaster NHK reported, as Japan’s capital struggles with a resurgence in cases after the government lifted a state of emergency.

The total marks the fourth straight day of more than 200 cases.

The capital city hit a record high of 243 new cases on Friday, with infections surging particularly in Tokyo’s Kabukicho red-light district. 

READ: Tokyo shopkeepers brace for another slowdown as COVID-19 flares

The country’s economy minister said Japanese host and hostess clubs must act quickly to ensure they abide by rules to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus after nightlife districts also became new hotspots. 

Infections in the capital have been creeping up since the government lifted a state of emergency about a month ago. 

Outbreaks have also been found in similar clubs in Ikebukuro’s red-light district, as well as in some cafes where women dress up as maids to entertain customers in the Akihabara electronics town.​​​​​​​

Japan has more than 21,000 cases and 980 deaths. Researchers have cited various factors for those low numbers, from the nation’s robust healthcare system to infrequent hugging and handshaking. But they say there is no clear single reason for the country’s success.

Norio Sugaya, a member of the World Health Organization’s influenza panel, said people in Japan should not feel secure just because of the relatively small scale of infections and deaths there so far.

“Talks about how Japan has ridden out the first wave successfully. Talks about ‘Japan miracle’. Those make me very worried,” Sugaya said. “It’s terrifying if there are people out there who believe Japan is invincible.”

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