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China to launch high-stakes crewed mission to space

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(Last Updated On: June 16, 2021)

China will send three astronauts into orbit on Thursday in a high-stakes mission, the first of four crewed space flights to complete the country’s space station by the end of next year.

China will launch Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo into orbit aboard the spacecraft Shenzhou-12 at 9:22 a.m. (0122 GMT) on June 17 from Jiuquan in northwestern Gansu province.

Nie, 56, a former air force pilot, will be the oldest Chinese astronaut to go to space.

Shenzhou-12, meaning “Divine Vessel”, is the third of 11 missions needed to build China’s space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules.

The Shenzhou-12 crew are to live on the Tianhe, which means “Harmony of the Heavens”, a cylinder 16.6 m (55 ft) long and 4.2 m (14 ft) in diameter.

The three-month stay for Nie, Liu and Tang will be the longest for any Chinese astronauts, and one focus will be seeing how the men handle their relatively long time in orbit.

“The (mission) is longer this time, and not only do we have to set up the core module – this ‘home’ in space – we’ve to carry out a series of pivotal technical tests,” Nie told reporters in Jiuquan.

“This mission is more arduous and the challenges are greater.”

Shenzhou-12 will be Nie’s third space outing, the second for Liu, 54, and the first for Tang, 45.

On Liu’s Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, his first, he almost did not get to perform a space walk to plant the Chinese flag on the exterior of the spacecraft.

Liu, with the help of another astronaut, used a crowbar to pry open the hatch after it refused to budge.

“We experienced some dangerous situations and encountered some difficulties on that mission,” Liu said on Wednesday.

“The amount of time spent outside the cabin on this mission is much longer, and there will be many rounds of extra-vehicular activity. The mission has thus become extremely complex and tough.”

Chinese astronauts have had a comparatively low international profile.

U.S. legislation bars NASA from any cooperation with China, and Chinese astronauts have not been to the more than two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS), which has been visited by more than 240 men and women of various nationalities.

The ISS may be decommissioned in 2024 if the project does not receive new funding, and China could end up being the operator of the only space station in Earth’s orbit.

“After the completion of the Chinese space station, in the near future, we will see both Chinese and foreign astronauts jointly participate in the flight of the Chinese space station,” said Ji Qiming, assistant director at the China Manned Space Agency, told reporters in Jiuquan.

China’s space launches drew intense international attention last month after remnants of the rocket that carried the Tianhe module into space fell back to Earth with no official forecast of their expected landing location until literally the final minutes.

“We’re willing to carry out more extensive international exchanges and cooperation with other countries on the issue of debris from spacecraft and in space,” Ji said.

Backup astronauts for the mission on Thursday are Zhai Zhigang, 54, Wang Yaping, 41 and Ye Guangfu, 40.

China’s last crewed flight mission was in 2016 when two men – Chen Dong and Jing Haipeng – were sent via the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft to Tiangong-2, a prototype of the space station where they later stayed for about a month.

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More tourists visiting Hairatan border town in Balkh

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)

Officials of the trade and port town of Hairatan border town in the center of Balkh province say that with the arrival of the fishing season and security improvement in the country, dozens of people come to this town every day for tourism and recreation.

Khalilullah Farooqi, the head of Hairatan border town, said that people can come to this recreational area without any worries.

“People can visit and have fun in this town without worrying under Islamic Sharia law,” said Farooqi.

The citizens meanwhile consider the improvement of security as the reason for the increase in the number of visitors to this town and express their satisfaction, calling on the government to expand recreational places in the country.

Hairatan border town is one of the largest commercial ports in the north of the country, which connects Afghanistan with Uzbekistan and other countries in the region.

According to experts, the more attention is paid to the country’s ports and the more infrastructure is built, the higher the government’s revenue will be.

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IEA condemns attack on Pakistan embassy in Kabul, vows probe

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)

The Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in a statement condemned Friday’s attack on Pakistan embassy in Kabul, adding security institutions will investigate the incident and that perpetrators of the attack will be punished.

The statement said that IEA will not allow any individual or group to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul.

“IEA strongly condemns failed firing attack towards the Pakistan embassy in Kabul and prays for speedy recovery of a security guard,” the statement said, adding that “IEA will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul.”

Kabul police spokesman meanwhile said firing on Pakistan embassy in Kabul was from a building, adding that security forces immediately arrived at the scene and stopped the firing. One suspect was arrested and two weapons were seized during the operation, Khalid Zadran said on Twitter.

The Pakistan foreign ministry in a statement said the attack on the Pakistan embassy compound was targeting the Head of Mission, Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani.

“By the grace of Allah Almighty, the Head of Mission is safe. However, a Pakistani security guard Sepoy Israr Mohammad has been critically injured in the attack while protecting the Head of Mission,” the statement said.

“The Interim Government of Afghanistan (IEA) must immediately hold thorough investigations in this attack, apprehend the culprits, hold them to account, and take urgent measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani diplomatic personnel and citizens in Afghanistan,” the statement added.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also condemned the attack as “dastardly.”

“Salute to brave security guard, who took bullet to save his life. Prayers for the swift recovery of security guard. I demand immediate investigation & action against perpetrators of this heinous act,” Shehbaz Sharif said on Twitter.

UNAMA also condemned the attack and noted that diplomatic missions are protected under international law.

 

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Six million Afghans face emergency level of food insecurity: UN

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2022)

The United Nations has recently warned that 6 million people in Afghanistan face emergency level of food insecurity amid shortage of sufficient humanitarian assistance due to lack of funding.

In a press conference on Wednesday, the UN Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Ramiz Alakbarov, said to reporters at the UN headquarters in Kabul that Afghans in need have increased to 25 million this year.

“The economic shocks, which we are experiencing these days are the primary drivers for the humanitarian needs,” said Alakbarov.

He said that winter is approaching with temperatures dropping in certain areas of the country to minus 25 degrees Celcius.

“We require $768 million to support winter preparedness activities, and 614 million are required before the end of the year… We’ve been struggling for the funding for the entire year,” he added.

Two-thirds of the entire population – more than 28 million people – will need humanitarian assistance next year, according to the UN.

He said that levels of food insecurity remain one of the highest in Afghanistan with about 6 million people facing emergency levels of food insecurity, also known as IPC4.

“That is the stage before you go to phase 5 and phase 5 is basically a catastrophic famine stage. So, 6 million people are getting close to that particular borderline,” he added.

The US and other Western nations suspended financial assistance to Afghanistan after the Islamic Emirate reclaimed power in August last year.

This comes while the US has frozen Afghan central bank foreign reserves worth $7 billion.

The UN human rights experts meanwhile have called for the US to end its freeze on Afghanistan’s foreign assets.

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