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Syrian forces strikes Eastern Ghouta despite ceasefire call

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UN approves 30-day ceasefire to end deadly bombing in Syria

Syrian government forces have launched a ground and air offensive in Eastern Ghouta, witnesses said, hours after the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of a resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria.

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces began fighting opposition groups from multiple fronts in the rebel enclave near Damascus, while Syrian warplanes continued to shell the besieged area for the eighth consecutive day.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javid, reporting from Gaziantep in neighbouring Turkey, said there were multiple attempts by the government to “storm” the area from several sides.

Besieged civilians in Eastern Ghouta await UN aid
Rebel sources in control of the enclave were resisting the attacks, Bin Javid reported, saying the fighters struggled to hold their positions on multiple fronts.

The ceasefire’s aim was to evacuate residents of the Damascus suburb, which is under siege, and to allow for the flow of food aid and medicine.

Last week, deadly air strikes and artillery fire launched by Russian-backed Syrian forces exacerbated a dire humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave, home to some 400,000 people.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), more than 500 civilians lost their lives as a result of the aerial bombardment campaign that began on February 18.

“It is worth noting that before this [ground offensive] began, there has been relentless bombardment in many of the places in Eastern Ghouta, where those rebel defense lines were” Bin Javid said.

Eastern Ghouta is the last remaining rebel-held area east of Damascus and has been under siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces since 2013, in an attempt to drive rebel forces out.

According to Bin Javid, government forces have been “specifically targeting underground tunnels and hideouts”.

“It seems that the government now is adamant to enter Eastern Ghouta.”

Meanwhile, the head of Iran’s armed forces Mohammed Baqri, said on Sunday Syria will respect the UN’s call for a ceasefire, but will continue attacks against what he called “terrorists” and on areas controlled by Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front. Read More

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Vietnamese President, Tran Dai Quang, dies

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Vietnamese President, Tran Dai Quang, dies

Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang died Friday at age 61 after a prolonged and serious illness, state media reported.

He passed away from a “serious illness despite devoted treatment by professors and doctors” both in Vietnam and abroad, the official Vietnam News Agency said.

In office as president since April 2016 after more than four decades at the powerful Ministry of Public Security, Quang had a reputation as a tough leader with little tolerance for dissent.

Though he held one of the country’s top four positions and was officially the head of state, his role as president was seen as largely ceremonial, greeting visiting leaders and hosting diplomatic events in a bid to boost Vietnam’s profile on the world stage.

Quang had appeared thin and pale in public, and was unstable on his feet last week when he hosted a welcoming ceremony for Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Hanoi last week.

His last public appearance was just two days ago, at a meeting with visiting Chinese politicians and foreign dignitaries in Hanoi.

Quang, a member of the Politburo, had a reputation as tough and influential in the inner circles of the communist party, though often appeared uncomfortable in the public eye and lacked the charisma of some of his peers in the upper echelons of the party.

In an interview with AFP in 2016 ahead of a visit by the former French leader Francois Hollande, Quang read from a prepared statement and was quickly escorted from the room by staff when a question went off-script.

State media made a sombre announcement of his death Friday and celebrated his long commitment to public service.

His time in office was dominated by a simmering conflict with Beijing over the South China Sea, a long-running dispute between the communist neighbours that escalated on several occasions.

Vietnam cancelled at least one oil drilling project in the resource-rich region during Quang’s tenure in an apparent bid to quell tensions.

He was the administration’s most public face at a series of high-profile events, most notably at an APEC meeting in Danang in November last year where he hosted a bevy of world leaders — including US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping.

As president, he oversaw a crackdown on dissidents that rights groups have decried as a chokehold on free expression. More than 40 people were jailed this year and some 100 have been behind bars as of April 2018, according to Amnesty International.

(AFP)

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Flood victims groan, beg for assistance in Bayelsa

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Flood victims groan, beg for assistance in Bayelsa

Some affected residents along the Epie Creek in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, have bemoaned their loss and the discomfort caused them by floods that submerged their houses.

Southern City News learnt on Thursday that the impact of flooding caused by the overflow of the waters from Taylor Creek, tributaries of Orashi and Niger rivers, dealt a devastating blow to the residents.

It was also gathered that the water levels rose beyond tolerable limits and thereby wreaked havoc on houses, the environment and properties of some residents.

Due to the development, some residents were said to have temporarily relocated from their homes to seek refuge in other places.

A resident of the Onopa area of the Yenagoa metropolis, Joy Elvis, said the people were helpless as the assistance promised by the state government in its sensitisation messages had yet to materialise.

Elvis said, “It has not been easy; the water levels have been on the increase and it is usually expected at this time of the year, but on Tuesday the flood entered our houses, destroying properties. Since then, we have been under intense pressure. Worse still, some of us have no where to run to.

“We need help badly but no one seems to care. We have resorted to moving some of our valuable items to neighbours’ houses because there are no shelters provided by the government yet.

“Our prayer is that the water go back because if it goes beyond this level, even the Good Samaritans accommodating some of us will be threatened as well.”

Another resident, John Abide, said they had been compelled to use local canoes to access their homes, following the constantly rising water levels in the past few days.

He lamented that a lot of people affected were not reluctant to leave as they did not want to become a burden to their friends.

Abide stated, “So, what most people do is to adapt by making wooden platforms within their houses where important things are kept.

“Those who have canoes have put them to use when they needed to go out. We are predominantly people who go to the river regularly to fish; so, we are not so afraid of water.”

Yet another resident, who gave his name only as Preye, said the recent flood had left a sour tale in the mouths of many residents of the area.

She appealed to the government and public-spirited individuals to come to their rescue in order to give them a new lease of life.

“We know what happened to us is a natural disaster but we are appealing for help. We know that government’s intervention will go a long way in ameliorating our predicament, “ he stated.

Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Government has said it is determined to ensure that no life is lost in the flood that is currently ravaging the state.

The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, had, while giving an update of the situation, assured the residents that with the proactive steps the government had taken, there was no cause for alarm.

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Rotimi Amaechi gets another appointment from Buhari

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Rotimi Amaechi gets another appointment from Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi as the Secretary/Director General of his campaign team.

This was contained in a statement signed by Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Thursday.

A terse statement said Amaechi will subsequently appoint other members of the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign team.

The statement reads, “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of a campaign organization for his re-election in 2019 with Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Secretary.

“Hon. Amaechi was the Director General of the Buhari-Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Committee in 2014-2015 that won the elections and brought the current administration into office.

“The new Director-General will announce other appointments into the campaign structure as approved by President Buhari.”

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