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US begins airstrike in Afghanistan, kills IS planner

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The US military says it has killed an Islamic State ‘planner’ in retaliation for Thursday’s deadly suicide bombing in Kabul airport.

Spokesman for US Central Command, Captain Bill Urban, said the military had conducted a drone strike against an IS member in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province, which borders Pakistan.

He said, “The US military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner.

“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”

The US has not named the ‘planner’ it killed.

It is not clear if the fighter was involved in the devastating blast at the airport, which the Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for.

The blast killed as many as 170 Afghans and 13 American service members.

This is a swift action based on President Joe Biden’s promise to retaliate the deadly suicide bombing carried out by the Taliban at Kabul airport on Thursday.

Associated Press reports that the strike came amid what the White House called indications that IS planned to strike again as the US-led evacuation from Kabul airport moved into its final days. Biden has set Tuesday as his deadline for completing the exit.

Biden authorised the drone strike and it was ordered by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, a defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide details not yet publicly announced.

The airstrike was launched from beyond Afghanistan less than 48 hours after the devastating Kabul attack that killed 13 Americans and scores of Afghans with just days left in a final U.S. withdrawal after 20 years of war. U.S. Central Command provided few details; it said it believed its strike killed no civilians.

The speed with which the US military retaliated reflected its close monitoring of IS and years of experience in targeting extremists in remote parts of the world.

But it also shows the limits of U.S. power to eliminate extremist threats, which some believe will have more freedom of movement in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is in power.

Central Command said the drone strike was conducted in Nangarhar province against an IS member believed to be involved in planning attacks against the United States in Kabul. The strike killed one individual, spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban said.

The airstrike came after Biden declared Thursday that perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide. “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said. Pentagon leaders told reporters on Friday that they were prepared for whatever retaliatory action the president ordered.

“We have options there right now,” said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

The President was warned Friday to expect another lethal attack in the closing days of a frantic US-led evacuation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s national security team offered a grim outlook.

“They advised the President and Vice President that another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul airport,” Psaki said, echoing what the Pentagon has been saying since the bombing Thursday at Kabul airport.

Late Friday, the State Department again urged Americans to stay away from airport gates, including “the New Ministry of Interior gate.”

Few new details about the airport attack emerged a day later, but the Pentagon corrected its initial report that there had been suicide bombings at two locations. It said there was just one — at or near the Abbey Gate — followed by gunfire. The initial report of a second bombing at the nearby Baron Hotel proved to be false, said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff; he attributed the mistake to initial confusion.

Based on a preliminary assessment, US officials believe the suicide vest used in the attack, which killed at least 169 Afghans in addition to the 13 Americans, carried about 25 pounds of explosives and was loaded with shrapnel, a US official said Friday.

A suicide bomb typically carries five to 10 pounds of explosives, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary assessments of the bombing.

Biden still faces the problem over the longer term of containing an array of potential extremist threats based in Afghanistan, which will be harder with fewer U.S. intelligence assets and no military presence in the nation.

Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst and deputy staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she doubted Biden’s assurances that the United States will be able to monitor and strike terror threats from beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

The Pentagon also insists this so-called “over the horizon” capability, which includes surveillance and strike aircraft based in the Persian Gulf area, will be effective.

In an Oval Office appearance Friday, Biden again expressed his condolences to victims of the attack.

The return home of US military members’ remains in coming days will provide painful and poignant reminders not just of the devastation at the Kabul airport but also of the costly way the war is ending.

More than 2,400 US service members died in the war and tens of thousands were injured over the past two decades.

The Marine Corps said 11 of the 13 Americans killed were Marines. One was a navy sailor and one an army soldier. Their names have not been released pending notification of their families, a sometimes-lengthy process that Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said involves “difficult conversations.”

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Nigerians To Pay More For Beverages, Sweetened Drinks As FG Enforces Sugar Tax

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The Federal Government has commenced the implementation of the N10 per litre sugar tax on carbonated sugar drinks and beverages.

According to the Chief Superintendent of Customs, Department of Excise, Free Trade Zone and Industrial Incentives, Dennis Ituma, the tax would help combat Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs).

He spoke at a Policy Breakfast Meeting which held in Abuja this weekend.

The event was organised by the National Action on Sugar Reduction (NASR) to proffer ways to implement tax and other interventions to reduce consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) in Nigeria.

The implementation is coming despite pleas by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and some related stakeholders who asked the government to halt the policy introduced in the Finance Act, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 31, 2021.

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In a statement, the Coalition Representative of the 12-member NASR, Omei Bongos-Ikwue, quoted  the Customs official as saying the services had commenced.

“The N10 per litre of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages has been implemented on June 1, by July 21, all excise duties must have been collected and paid into the federation account. It should interest you that taxation on SSBs was a policy of the Federal Government in 1984 but was stopped in January 2009.

“Previously both SSBs, alcoholic drinks and tobacco were all taxed until 2009 when SSBs was removed from taxable beverages,” he said.

Members of the NASR are Diabetes Association of Nigeria, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Nigeria Cancer Society, Breast Without Spot, Lafiya Wealth Initiative, TalkHealth9ja, Nigeria Health Watch, Project PINK BLUE, Sustainable Development Initiative, African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD), Bundies Care Initiative, and Nigerian Heart Foundation.

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Ekweremadu: Immigration says Ukpo birthday certificate shows he’s 21 not 15

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Birth certificate of Ekweremadu ‘kidney donor’ shows he’s 21, says immigration

The Nigeria Immigration Service says David Ukpo, the “kidney donor” at the centre of the organ harvesting allegation against Ike Ekweremadu, is 21 years old — not 15.

Spokesman for the NIS, Amos Okpu, disclosed this in a statement released on Sunday.

Okpu said the birth certificate presented by Ukpo during his international passport registration showed that he is 21 years old.

Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, were arrested last Thursday and arraigned in court for allegedly bringing a child to the UK for organ harvesting.

They were subsequently remanded in custody till July 7 while investigations are still ongoing.

The senator had written to the UK high commission to support a visa application of a “donor”.

Although the UK police said the donor was 15, Ukpo was listed as 21 years old on his international passport and the Bank Verification Number (BVN) portal.

The immigration spokesman said the birth certificate issued by the National Population Commission (NPC) and the national identity number (NIN) slip presented by Ukpo indicated that he is 21.

He explained that Ukpo’s date of birth was listed as October 12, 2000 — meaning he will be 22 years old in October 2022.

“The facts of the matter concerning the case above, therefore, are that the said Mr David Ukpo Nwamina applied and paid for the enhanced standard passport using the NIS portal after which he approached the Gwagwalada Passport Office, FCT Abuja, on the 2nd November 2021 for his interview,” the statement reads.

“To support his application, Mr. Nwamina presented all the necessary documents required, including his National Population Commission (NPC) issued Birth Certificate, showing 12 October, 2000, as his date of birth; his National Identity Number (NIN) corroborating the date of birth on his birth certificate, issued by NIMC; a letter of introduction issued by Ebonyi State Government Liaison Office situated at Maitama District Abuja, and a Guarantor’s form duly signed by one Mr. Uchechukwu Chukwuma Ogbonno.
“In view of the above, the general public may wish to be informed that the date of birth, or any other information for that matter, on any Nigerian passport is printed on the document only after a thorough vetting process that involves both physical and forensic examination of the applicant’s breeder documents. Mr. Nwamina’s case, therefore, was not different.”

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South African police investigate death of 20 in nightclub 

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South African police are investigating the deaths of at least 20 people at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning.

According to AP, it is unclear what led to the deaths of the young people, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams.

Local newspaper Daily Dispatch reported that bodies were strewn across tables and chairs without any visible signs of injuries.

“At this point we cannot confirm the cause of death,” said health department spokesperson Siyanda Manana.

“We are going to conduct autopsies as soon as possible to establish the probable cause of death. The deceased have been taken to state mortuaries,” Manana added.

The owner of the club, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told local broadcaster eNCA that he had been called to the scene early Sunday morning.

“I am still uncertain about what really happened, but when I was called in the morning I was told the place was too full and that some people were trying to force their way into the tavern,” he said.

“However, we will hear what the police say about the cause of death,” Ndevu added.

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