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UAE President and pro-West moderniser Khalifa dies

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(Last Updated On: May 14, 2022)

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a pro-Western moderniser who had aligned the Gulf Arab state closer to the United States and its allies, died on Friday.

The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced the death of Khalifa, who was also ruler of the UAE’s richest emirate, Abu Dhabi, but gave no details.

Khalifa, born in 1948, had rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2014. He was buried and funeral prayers were held on Friday, state news agency WAM said.

“The UAE has lost its righteous son and leader of the ’empowerment phase’ and guardian of its blessed journey,” his half-brother and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said on Twitter, praising Khalifa’s wisdom and generosity.

Mohammed, known as MbZ, has for years been the de facto ruler of the UAE, an OPEC oil producer and a major trade and tourism hub which has moved to build its political influence in the region and abroad.

UAE state media on Friday started referring to MBZ as the new ruler of Abu Dhabi, which holds most of the UAE’s oil wealth and has held the presidency since the founding of the UAE federation by Khalifa’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, in 1971.

Under the constitution, vice-president and premier Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, would act as president until the federal supreme council which groups the rulers of the seven emirates meets within 30 days to elect a new president.

Diplomats and analysts expect MbZ to become new president, further consolidating Abu Dhabi’s power which had already grown under Khalifa, who came to power in 2004.

Khalifa’s death comes at a time when Abu Dhabi’s ties with Washington have been visibly strained over perceived U.S. disengagement from its Gulf allies’ security concerns.

“Not much will change in UAE foreign & domestic policies, except MbZ will have even less reason to seek consensus w/Dubai & other Emirates,” tweeted Cinzia Bianco, research fellow at European Council on Foreign Relations.

MbZ led a realignment of the Middle East that created a new anti-Iran axis with Israel and fought a rising tide of political Islam around the region.

U.S. President Joe Biden described Khalifa as a “true partner and friend of the United States” and said in a statement that the United States would continue strengthening its ties with the UAE.

The UAE forged ties with Israel in 2020 and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “The legacy and great deeds of Sheikh Khalifa were greatly appreciated in Israel.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, whose country has often had tense relations with the UAE, sent a letter of condolences to his Emirati counterpart, Iran’s state media said.

At home, Emirati citizen Ali Al Khatri said Khalifa would be remembered for his push to develop the country, which has a population of some 10 million, the majority expatriate workers.

“We will remember him like our father,” Khatri, 32, told Reuters in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE announced a 40-day mourning period with flags flown at half-staff and suspended work at all public and private sector organisations for three days.

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19 killed as bus tumbles into ravine in Balochistan, Pakistan

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(Last Updated On: July 3, 2022)

At least 19 passengers were killed and 14 injured when a bus fell into a ravine in the Dhana Sar region of Balochistan on Sunday morning, Pakistani authorities confirmed.

Assistant Commissioner Syed Mehtab Shah told Pakistan’s The Express Tribune that the bus was heading to Quetta from Rawalpindi when it tumbled into the ravine.

“Rainfall and speeding led to the incident,” he stated, adding that two students were  among the deceased.

So far four bodies have been brought to the district headquarters hospital in Zhob and a rescue operation has been launched to recover the remaining bodies, The Express Tribune reported.

“All injured people have been shifted to Zhob hospital,” Shah said.

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Five dead, 44 injured in 6.3-magnitude quake in Iran

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2022)

Five people were killed and 44 others injured in a magnitude-6.3 earthquake in southern Iran on Saturday.

Iran’s state media reported rescue teams were deployed near the epicentre, Sayeh Khosh village, which is home to around 300 people in Hormozgan province, south of the capital, Tehran.

People went into the streets as aftershocks continued to jolt the area after the early morning quake, which also damaged buildings and infrastructure, AP reported.

The earthquake was felt in many neighboring countries, the report said.

The area has seen several moderate earthquakes in recent weeks. In November, one man died following two magnitude-6.4 and 6.3 earthquakes.

Iran lies on major seismic faults and experiences one earthquake a day on average.

In 2003, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.

A magnitude-7 earthquake that struck western Iran in 2017 killed more than 600 people and injured more than 9,000.

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Russia kills 21 with missiles near Odessa after abandoning Snake Island

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(Last Updated On: July 1, 2022)

Russia flattened part of an apartment building while residents slept on Friday in missile attacks near Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa that killed at least 21 people, hours after Russian troops abandoned a nearby outpost at Snake Island.

Neighbors in the resort village of Serhiivka helped workers comb through the rubble of the nine-storey apartment block, a section of which had been completely destroyed at 1:00 a.m.

Walls and windows of a neighboring, 14-storey apartment block had also been damaged by the blast wave. Nearby holiday camps were also hit, Reuters reported.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional administration, said 21 people had been confirmed killed, including a 12-year-old boy. Authorities said earlier 41 people had been rescued from the apartment building where 152 lived.

The regional governor said the Soviet-era missiles had been fired from the direction of the Black Sea.

The Kremlin denied targeting civilians: “I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian Armed Forces do not work with civilian targets,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The attack came just four days after Russia struck a crowded shopping mall in central Ukraine killing at least 19 people.

Kyiv says Moscow has dramatically escalated its long-range attacks hitting civilian targets far from the front line in recent days, which Ukraine describes as a war crime. Russia says it has been aiming at military sites.

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