COVID-19: Fans May Return To Premier League Games From May 17

Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham (2L) misses a chance at goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Chelsea at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on February 1, 2020. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Fans could be in English stadiums for the final weekend of the Premier League season and there are hopes Wembley may be packed for the Euro 2020 final under plans to ease coronavirus restrictions unveiled on Monday.

The British government’s roadmap to easing a nationwide lockdown means elite sport will continue behind closed doors until at least May 17.

If there are no setbacks during the implementation of the four-stage plan, crowds of up to 10,000 or 25 percent of seated capacity, whichever is lower, will be allowed to return.

READ ALSOCOVID-19: Nigeria To Receive Four Million Doses Of AstraZeneca Vaccine Very Soon – FG

The Premier League season is due to finish on May 23. Other than a small number of matches played in front of 2,000 spectators late last year, the entire 2020/21 season has been played behind closed doors.

All further restrictions would then be lifted on June 21 in time for a series of major sports events in England.

The semi-finals and final of Euro 2020, which has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic, are scheduled to take place at Wembley from July 6 to 11.

Wimbledon, which was abandoned in 2020 for the first time since World War II, is due to start on June 28.

Golf’s British Open runs from July 15 to 18 at Royal St George’s in Kent.

Monday’s announcement is the first big step towards restoring normal life, nearly a year after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the first of three stay-at-home orders that have devastated the country and its economy.

Johnson told MPs that with a mass vaccination programme easing pressure on overstretched hospitals, “the end really is in sight”.

A Sunday Times report at the weekend said Britain could offer to host more Euro 2020 matches or the whole tournament due to the potential for crowds to return earlier than in other countries across Europe.

On top of the semi-finals and final, Wembley and Hampden Park in Glasgow are due to host four matches each in the group stages and last 16.

UEFA has so far publicly insisted it is sticking to the original plan of using 12 host cities across the continent despite the logistical challenges.

Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Saint Petersburg, Bilbao, Munich, Budapest, Baku, Rome and Bucharest are all due to host matches.

However, British health secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday he was unaware of any offer to host the tournament.

Hancock told Sky News: “I haven’t seen anything on that, I understand that that’s not right.”

AFP

Rockets Target US Embassy In Iraqi Capital

Iraqi Flag

 

A volley of rockets on Monday targeted the high-security zone in the Iraqi capital that is home to the US embassy, the military and security sources said.

The attack is the third in a week to target Western diplomatic, military or commercial installations across Iraq after months of relative calm.

At least two rockets hit within the perimeter of the Green Zone, where the American and other foreign embassies are based, according to a statement by Iraq’s security services.

A security source told AFP at least one rocket hit the headquarters of Iraq’s National Security Service near the US diplomatic mission.

Others crashed into nearby residential districts, including a multi-storey parking complex in the neighbourhood of Harithiya, a witness told AFP.

READ ALSO: Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

The attack comes one week after more than a dozen rockets targeted a military complex at the Arbil airport in northern Iraq, which hosts foreign troops from a US-led coalition helping Iraq fight jihadists since 2014.

Two people were killed, including one foreign contractor based at the airport, who died immediately, and a civilian, who died of his wounds on Monday.

On Saturday, another wave of rockets hit the Al-Balad airbase north of Baghdad, where Iraq keeps most of the F-16s it has purchased from the US in recent years.

Security sources said at least one local contractor for Sallyport, the US company that maintains the planes, was wounded.

AFP

Rwandan Opposition Activist Gunned Down In South Africa

 

A Rwandan opposition figure exiled in South Africa was on Sunday shot dead in Cape Town, his party said, calling the attack an “assassination”.

Seif Bamporiki, 49, who was the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) coordinator in South Africa, was killed as he delivered furniture in the crime-ridden township of Nyanga.

While the motive for his murder is still unclear, RNC spokesperson Etienne Mutabazi told AFP the method mirrored past politically-motivated attacks.

The killing “was executed in a similar modus operandi of luring the victim in a compromising and insecure environment for assassination,” he said.

Mutabazi was referring to past attacks on Rwandan dissidents in South Africa including ex-intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, whose body was found strangled in his room in a luxury hotel on January 1, 2014.

READ ALSO: Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

Bamporiki and his colleague from a pawn shop were accosted by two gun-toting assailants as they waited for a client who had disembarked from their vehicle to collect money to pay for a bed he had bought.

The client had “been looking for him for quite a while”, Mutabazi said. “Even on Saturday, that particular individual came to the shop and said only Bamporiki could serve him.”

The attackers made off with the activist’s pick-up truck and money, leaving his body on the ground.

No arrests have been made so far.

Another Rwandan exile, former general Kayumba Nyamwasa, survived two assassination attempts.

Pretoria described one of those, in June 2010 in South Africa, as an attack by foreign security operatives.

AFP

S.Africa’s Anti-Graft Panel Seeks Two-Year Jail For Zuma

Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on June 23, 2020. - Former President Zuma stands accused of taking kickbacks before he became president from a 51 billion rand (3.4 billion US dollar) purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military equipment manufactured by five European firms, including French defence company Thales. (Photo by KIM LUDBROOK / POOL / AFP) / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by KIM LUDBROOK has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [on June 23, 2020] instead of [on June 22, 2020].
File photo: Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on June 23, 2020.  (Photo by KIM LUDBROOK / POOL / AFP)

A judicial panel probing runaway graft on Monday asked South Africa’s top court to jail ex-president Jacob Zuma for two years for defying a court order compelling him to testify.

The 78-year-old had “intentionally and unlawfully failed to appear” on 15 to 19 February 2021 or to supply affidavits, the commission said as it filed an urgent application with the Constitutional Court.

Zuma has played cat-and-mouse with the commission since it was set up in 2018 to investigate the plunder of state coffers during his nine-year rule.

He has repeatedly snubbed summonses by the commission, claiming its chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is biased, and testified only once in July 2019 before staging a walkout days later.

In the latest showdown, Zuma refused to show up despite the Constitutional Court ordering him to do so.

The defiant Zuma said he did not fear being arrested, convicted or incarcerated.

In a 12-page statement last week, Zuma accused Zondo of “political propaganda.”

READ ALSO: Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

“Some judges… have assisted the incumbent president to hide from society what on the face of it seem to be bribes obtained in order to win an internal ANC election,” he added, without naming names.

Earlier on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa pushed back on attacks on the judiciary after Zuma accused judges of political bias.

He said such attacks, without evidence or being referred to relevant authorities, were “deeply disturbing” and could erode trust in the judiciary and constitutional order.

“We should… be concerned when those who occupy prominent positions in society make statements that demonstrate a disdain for the basic principles of our constitution and the institutions established to defend our democracy,” said Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter.

The president also said the attacks should not be taken lightly and warned those who make them of possible consequences.

There has been a growing push, including from within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), to compel the ex-leader to obey court orders.

The ANC’s top leadership is reportedly lining up a meeting with Zuma to resolve the impasse with the anti-graft commission.

On Tuesday he is due in court over a second, unrelated corruption case dating back more than 20 years, when he was deputy president.

In that case, he is accused of taking bribes of four million rand ($220,000/200,000 euros) in a $3.4-billion arms deal with French aerospace giant Thales.

Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 over mounting graft scandals.

AFP

Serie A: Osimhen Hospitalised After Losing Consciousness

File photo: Napoli’s Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen reacts during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg football match between Granada FC and Napoli at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium in Granada on February 18, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

Napoli forward Victor Osimhen was hospitalised on Sunday after losing consciousness following a knock to the head in Sunday’s 4-2 defeat to Atalanta in Serie A.

The Nigeria striker was stretchered off the pitch in Bergamo after 90 minutes after hitting his head on the ground after a Cristian Romero challenge.

The 22-year-old came around as he was transported to hospital in northern Italy where tests revealed head trauma, but were reassuring, Napoli said.

“The player will remain in Bergamo until tomorrow (Monday) under clinical observation,” the team said in a statement.

Neither coach Gennaro Gattuso nor his players spoke to the media after the match which was a clash for fourth place and the Champions League berths.

The forward, who joined the club from Lille last summer, had only returned to action last month after being sidelined for over two months with a shoulder injury and coronavirus.

File photo: Napoli’s Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen (L) vies with Granada’s Spanish defender German Sanchez during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg football match between Granada FC and Napoli at Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium in Granada on February 18, 2021.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

Despite a promising start to the season he has scored just two goals for the club.

Napoli fell to their third defeat in five league games as Atalanta warmed-up for next week’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid to move fourth in Serie A.

READ ALSO: Osaka Aims To Inspire New Generation But Says Williams Is Still The Queen

After a first half marked only by the red card given to Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini, for arguing with the referee for a penalty after Matteo Pessina went down, the hosts dominated after the break.

Colombian striker Luis Muriel set up compatriot Duvan Zapata to head in seven minutes after the break.

Piotr Zielinski pulled Napoli level six minutes later volleying in off a Matteo Politano cross.

Robin Gosens restored Atalanta’s advantage on 64 minutes with Muriel adding a third seven minutes later.

German midfielder Gosens sent the ball into his own net five minutes later as he attempted to head clear but Romero headed in a fourth with 11 minutes to go.

Atalanta are fourth one point behind third-placed Roma who were held 0-0 at Benevento.

Napoli are seventh, three points off the Champions League places, with pressure on Gattuso after also losing their Europa League tie at Granada during the week.

AFP

Kagara Abduction: Gov. Matawalle Hints At Location Of Kidnapped Students

Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in Niger State was attacked by gunmen on February 17, 2021.
Schools have been targeted by kidnappers in Nigeria.

 

Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle has hinted at the location of the abducted students of Government Science Secondary School, Kagara in Niger State. 

“The students of Kagara are located around  Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State which I believe very soon they would be back home,” the governor said in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

Governor Matawalle also harped on cooperation from stakeholders and believes it is the key to unlock success in the country’s fight against criminality.

“As you are aware, the security issue needs more commitment from all stakeholders. We have two major problems of insecurity in the north with banditry and Boko Haram,” the governor elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) explained.

“The security operatives are doing their best but we must all put our hands on deck to succeed. Another issue is that all the leaders who are stakeholders must come to terms with the challenges at hand and speak with one voice.”

READ ALSO: Two Killed, Seven Children Injured In Kaduna

Gunmen had on Wednesday attacked the school in Kagara, killing one student and abducting others including teachers and their relatives.

In the attack which started from the staff quarters and ended in the students’ hostels, some students were also wounded by gunshots.

The gunmen gathered some staff and students at a place for hours before moving them out of the school premises to an unknown destination.

They wore military uniform and entered the school premises which has about 1000 students, overpowered the security guard, before whisking away the students and staff.

A Marching Order

Governor  Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State had in the wake of the attack, ordered the closure of all boarding schools in the bandits-ravaged areas of the state. He explained that the move was to forestall a similar incident in the northcentral state.

File photo of Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State.

 

And as efforts to rescue the abducted students intensify, President Muhammadu Buhari also directed Nigeria’s security agencies to ensure the safe return of the schoolboys.

“Following these reports, the President has directed the Armed Forces and Police, to ensure the immediate and safe return of all the captives,” a statement from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, noted.

“The President has also dispatched to Minna, Niger State a team of security chiefs to coordinate the rescue operation and meet with state officials, community leaders, as well as parents and staff of the College.”

 

We Have Secured Release Of Over 1,000 Captives Without Ransom – Matawalle

Zamfara in the northwestern part of Nigeria has seen a rise in banditry in recent times.

 

Governor Bello Matawalle of  Zamfara State on Sunday said his government has secured the release of more than 1,000 people from their captors without paying a ransom.

“We have also secured the release of 1,000 captives without paying any ransom,” the governor said during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics. “We equally received over 300 sophisticated weapons surrendered by bandits and their leaders.”


 

He explained that the government’s approach has ensured the return of some people who fled their homes due to attacks and promised to always do everything possible to make Zamfara State safe.  The governor also believes that if other governors adopt dialogue, criminality will be reduced in Nigeria.

 READ ALSO: Niger Govt Secures Release Of Kidnapped Commuters

“To me, as a leader, I cannot fold my arms seeing my people killed every day. I have to initiate anything I know I can to be able to make my people sleep with their both eyes closed,” the governor who had served as a commissioner in the state between 1999 and 2003, noted.

“That’s why I have to initiate that dialoguing with these people. And I believe that by the time all governors come together and agree on doing so, we can be able to secure our country.”

—‘ Nothing Has Been Paid’—

Governor Matawalle, however, does not support the payment of money to kidnappers and other criminals, reiterating that the abductors of Kagara schoolboys were not paid any ransom.

A file photo of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed

 

“I have said it earlier, nothing has been paid to them,” the governor insisted, corroborating the statement from the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed that the Federal Government did not pay money for the release of students who were at some point kidnapped in the country.

“If you are giving them money, they can use the same money to acquire more weapons which I believe we cannot do. These people, they can listen and you can discuss with them,” he explained, stating that the Zamfara government is working to empower some of the repentant bandits so they do not go back to crime.

Nigeria’s northwest region has in the past few years witnessed a growing level of criminality, notably banditry. Across the region, organised crime groups seem to have overpowered security forces, with kidnapping taking centre stage in an area were cattle rustlers  – in the past – had a field.

 

 

 

 

 

EPL: Man City Compound Arsenal’s Woes, Take 10-Point Lead At Summit

Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (L) jumps to head home the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 21, 2021. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City moved a step closer to the Premier League title as Raheem Sterling’s early goal gave the runaway leaders a 1-0 win against Arsenal on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s side made it 18 successive victories in all competitions thanks to Sterling’s second-minute header at the Emirates Stadium.

With 13 games left, City are 10 points clear of second-placed Leicester, who had closed the gap to seven with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa earlier on Sunday.

City have equalled the club record of 11 successive away victories in all competitions, set from May to November 2017.

READ ALSO: Osaka Aims To Inspire New Generation But Says Williams Is Still The Queen

They are the first top-flight team to win their opening 11 league matches in a calendar year.

Storming towards a third title in four seasons, City have won 13 consecutive league matches and are unbeaten in 25 games in all competitions since a defeat at Tottenham in November.

Incredibly, that was the last time they trailed in any league fixture.

Guardiola’s men weren’t even at their best on their return to north London, but they still had enough in the locker to hand Arsenal a third defeat in their last four league games.

Borussia Monchengladbach have the next chance to stop City’s incredible winning streak in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.

If anyone would have the secret to stopping City’s march to the title, it might have been Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard served as Guardiola’s City assistant before taking charge of Arsenal last season.

But Arteta had to make changes as several of his players were fatigued after their midweek Europa League draw in Benfica.

– Ruthless City –
City ruthlessly pounced on the uncertainty in Arsenal’s reshuffled line-up as they took the lead after just 80 seconds.

Ruben Dias played a superb long pass to Riyad Mahrez and the Algeria winger lofted a cross into the six-yard box, where Sterling defied his diminutive stature as he rose above Rob Holding to head into the far corner.

Arsenal’s Spanish defender Pablo Mari (R) looks on as Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) vies with Arsenal’s Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 21, 2021. John Walton / POOL / AFP

 

Sterling’s 13th club goal of the season was his sixth in his last nine appearances.

He should have had another moment later when Kevin De Bruyne’s pass split the Arsenal defence, but this time Sterling delayed his shot and Bernd Leno was able to save at the forward’s feet.

Mahrez was tormenting Arsenal left-back Kieran Tierney and he danced past him for a shot that deflected wide.

City’s De Bruyne was making his first start for over a month after a hamstring injury.

The Belgium midfielder, who came off the bench in the win at Everton in midweek, tried to pick out Ilkay Gundogan but his errant pass betrayed a little rustiness.

City had monopolised possession but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.

They nearly conceded against the run of play when Tierney’s volley forced a good save from Ederson.

By the time Arsenal winger, Nicolas Pepe shot into the side-netting, Guardiola’s frustrated voice could be heard exhorting his players to press harder.

City regained their momentum at the start of the second half and De Bruyne was just wide with an audacious chip from the edge of the area.

Leno had to save well from Gundogan’s 20-yard drive before De Bruyne’s volley whistled wide.

De Bruyne, not quite at his sharpest following the injury, was taken off after 63 minutes.

Joao Cancelo nearly gifted Arsenal an equaliser when his high backpass was volleyed straight to Mohamed Elneny by Ederson, but the midfielder blazed just wide.

Adding to Arsenal’s woes, Holding was forced off with a potential concussion in the closing stages.

AFP

COVID-19: Russia Begins Vaccination Of Homeless People

A healthcare worker administers to a woman a dose of Russia’s Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the Covid-19, at a vaccination centre in Saint Petersburg, on February 21, 2021, as Russia launched a mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign for homeless people. Olga MALTSEVA / AFP

 

Forty homeless people in Saint Petersburg received coronavirus vaccine jabs on Sunday, under a charity initiative that has received the backing of local officials.

“Here there are many people at risk. It is important for them to be vaccinated,” said Taysia Suvorova, of the Nochlezhka non-governmental that organisation provides aid to the homeless in Russia’s second city.

The 40 people receiving the vaccine are currently housed by the charity.

According to official figures there are 15,000 homeless people in the former imperial capital, out of a total population of five million.

READ ALSO: 31 Dead In DR Congo Plague Outbreak

Nochlezhka believes the real figure is at least double that.

“Some people have been saying controversial things about the vaccine, but I think there are more advantages than negatives,” 57-year-old Galina Ivanovna told AFP, after receiving the first dose of the vaccine.

“I’m pretty happy to do it,” she added.

Fellow recipient Aleksandr Suvorov, 60, echoed her sentiment, adding that the vaccine was a good thing “because the situation is complicated with coronavirus”.

Homeless people queue to receive a dose of Russia’s Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the Covid-19, at a vaccination centre in Saint Petersburg, on February, 21, 2021, as Russia launched a mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Olga MALTSEVA / AFP

 

An NGO has already launched a similar initiative for the homeless in Moscow, aided by the authorities in the Russian capital.

Russia registered its first coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, back in August.

A second Russian vaccine , EpiVacCorona, was approved in October 2020. The country officially launched its programme of mass vaccinations in January.

On Saturday Russia announced the registration of its third coronavirus vaccine Kovivak.

According to official figures, 4.6 million coronavirus cases have been registered in Russia, 83,293 of wich have proved fatal.

AFP

 

Serie A: Lukaku Scores In Inter’s Thrashing Of AC Milan

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku shoots to score the third goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Inter Milan beat city rivals AC Milan 3-0 to extend their lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday as Lautaro Martinez scored a double, with Romelu Lukaku also on target.

Inter opened up a four-point lead over their second-placed opponents as Antonio Conte’s side target a first league title since their unprecedented treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010.

Lukaku was on top form, the Belgian playing a role in Martinez’s two goals on five and 57 minutes before scoring his 17th goal in the league this season to move top of the Serie A scorers’ chart.

Milan, chasing a first Scudetto since 2011, fell to back-to-back Serie A losses for the first time this season, with their title push suffering another blow with a fourth defeat in eight league games.

“We’ve suffered a lot this year,” said Martinez.

“Two eliminations in the Italian Cup and the Champions League, this is the only goal we have left and we’re fighting for that.”

 

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (R) celebrates with Inter Milan’s Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez (C), Inter Milan’s Romanian goalkeeper Ionut Andrei Radu (Top R), Inter Milan’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal (Top C) and Inter Milan’s Italian goalkeeper Daniele Padelli (2ndL) after scoring the third goal during the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

The match was played behind closed doors at the San Siro because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that did not stop thousands of fans gathering outside the stadium for the final Milan derby of the season.

It was the third derby of the season, with Milan winning the first 2-1 in the league.

Inter won a fiery Italian Cup quarter-final by the same scoreline, a game overshadowed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lukaku squaring off and trading insults, with the Swede later sent off.

The supporters waited for the team buses to arrive, waving flags and singing, dispersing once the teams had entered the stadium grounds.

The game was also preceded by a minute’s silence and applause for former Inter defender Mauro Bellugi who died aged 71 years on Saturday, months after having both his legs amputated because of coronavirus.

– ‘Tough week’ –
Inter were fresher having been eliminated early from European action, with Milan coming off a 2-2 Europa League midweek draw at Red Star Belgrade.

And Conte’s side came out firing with Lukaku powering down the right flank.

Milan defender Simon Kjaer blocked his initial cross, but the ball returned to the Belgian for a perfect delivery for Martinez to nod home.

Ibrahimovic threated with a back-heel flick after quarter of an hour following a scramble in the box but Inter keeper Samir Handanovic kept it out.

Milan Skriniar headed wide before the break from a Christian Eriksen free-kick.

Inter players celebrate winning at the end of the Italian Serie A football match AC Milan vs Inter Milan on February 21, 2021 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma got his hand to the ball to deny Ivan Perisic, with Handanovic pulling off a double save from Ibrahimovic after the break.

But Martinez broke through again, finishing off a Perisic pull-back from the by-line in a move started by Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.

Donnarumma denied Lukaku minutes later but the former Manchester United striker then burst through to score the third, becoming the first Inter player to score in four straight Serie A derbies since Benito Lorenzi in 1950.

Ibrahimovic asked to be substituted with a quarter of an hour to go complaining of calf cramps.

“A striker depends on the team’s performance,” said Pioli.

“The goal after five minutes weighed heavy.

“In the first half we could have done more. In the second half we had many scoring chances, but Handanovic hasn’t saved so well for a long time.”

“If we had been told months ago that we would now be second, everyone would have jumped for joy, but this would not be us.

“We didn’t do our best in the last three games and we know we can do something more.

“It was a tough week, the worst one of the season.”

READ ALSO: Osaka Aims To Inspire New Generation But Says Williams Is Still The Queen

Inter next host 11th-placed Genoa with Milan travelling to Roma, with the capital side third before they play Benevento later on Sunday.

“Ragazzi!!!!!! With full heart and great work we will never stop,” Chinese-owned Inter’s club president Steven Zhang wrote on Instagram.

Defending champions Juventus, in fifth, 11 points behind Inter, play catch-up at home against lowly Crotone on Monday.

AFP

Libya’s Minister Escapes Assassination Attempt

A file photo taken on July 28, 2020 shows Fathi Bashagha, Interior Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), addressing a press conference at the Tajura Training Institute, southeast of the GNA-held capital Tripoli.  Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

 

The powerful interior minister of Libya’s unity government survived an assassination attempt Sunday, an aide said, sparking fears of resurgent violence despite UN-led peace efforts.

Fathi Bashagha’s convoy “was fired on from an armoured car while he was on the highway” near the capital Tripoli, seat of the Government of National Accord (GNA), a member of his inner circle said.

“His police escort returned fire. Two of the assailants were arrested,” the source said.

READ ALSO: 31 Dead In DR Congo Plague Outbreak

A third later died in hospital, a source close to the minister said.

An AFP journalist heard an intense exchange of gunfire around 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) on the coastal road near Janzur on the eastern edges of Tripoli, which was later closed for an hour by security forces.

An interior ministry official confirmed that Bashagha was not harmed.

In a statement, the ministry said Bashagha had been targeted in an “assassination attempt as he returned from his residence in Janzur”.

It said the attackers had used an armoured Toyota truck armed with a machine gun.

Security forces responded and arrested the militants, but a guard was wounded in the attack, it added.

Bashagha, a heavyweight in Libyan politics and a champion of anti-corruption efforts, has stepped up efforts in recent months to absorb armed groups into state security forces, while trying to rein in those acting outside the state — a campaign rejected by some groups.

In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019 Fathi Bashagha, Libya’s UN-recognised and Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) interior minister, gives a press conference in the Tunisian capital Tunis.  FETHI BELAID / AFP

 

The 58-year-old has served as interior minister for the GNA since 2018 and had been a favourite to lead a new interim government under UN-led peace efforts following an October ceasefire last year.

The post finally went to businessman Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer, who has called for reconstruction, democracy and reunification in Libya.

– ‘Outrage’ –
Libya has been riven by violence since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Two rival administrations, backed by an array of militias and foreign powers, have battled for control of the oil-rich country.

After pro-GNA forces last summer repelled a year-long offensive by eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar to seize the capital, a UN-backed ceasefire set the stage for talks aimed at reaching a political solution to a decade of conflict.

Dbeibah and a three-member presidency council, elected by UN-selected delegates at talks in Switzerland on February 5, are to lead the country towards elections set for December 24.

But while some have voiced hopes for meaningful peace talks, the apparent attempt on Bashagha’s life was a stark reminder of Libya’s precarious security situation and the sway of armed groups across the chaos-ridden country.

The US embassy in Tripoli voiced “outrage” at the attack, saying a member of Bashagha’s team had been wounded.

Bashagha’s “focus on ending the influence of rogue militias has our full support”, said ambassador Richard Norland.

The shooting came just days after Libyans marked the 10-year anniversary of Kadhafi’s overthrow.

AFP

US COVID-19 Death Toll Nears 500,000

Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

The United States was on the brink Sunday of the grim milestone of 500,000 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, as the nation’s top virus expert warned a form of normalcy may not return until the end of the year.

Signs of hope were emerging in the rollout of vaccines and the dropping off of a massive winter spike in infections, but the heavy toll continues to mount in a nation that has reported the most fatalities and cases in the world.

“It’s terrible. It is historic. We haven’t seen anything even close to this for well over a hundred years, since the 1918 pandemic of influenza,” Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden, said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“It’s something that is stunning when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable, but it’s true,” he added, as the toll on the Johns Hopkins University tracking website stood at 497,600.

After the first Covid-19 death was announced in the US in February 2020 it took about three months to pass the 100,000 mark, during a first wave that hit New York particularly hard.

But as the outbreak grew in the United States the pace of deaths increased, with the toll jumping from 400,000 in just over a month amid a spike fueled in part by holiday gatherings.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Al Drago - Pool/Getty Images/AFP
File photo: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Al Drago – Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

Fauci noted that the number of daily new infections was on a steep decline after peaking in January, but he added normal life may still be some way off.

“I think we’ll have a significant degree of normality… as we get into the fall and the winter, by the end of the year,” Fauci said in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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Biden said last week the program to deliver vaccines into people’s arms is as complicated as the already intense challenges of manufacturing them in huge quantities at speed.

“There has never, ever, ever been a logistical challenge as consequential as what we’re trying to do, but we’re getting it done,” he said.

According to Biden, his goal of administering a million shots a day for a total of 100 million in the first 100 days of his presidency is on track to be easily surpassed, with a current average of 1.7 million vaccinations a day.

With the US death toll set soon to pass 500,000, Biden said he did not want to give firm predictions of when the crisis will be curbed.

However, he said that 600 million doses — enough to provide the two-dose regimen to most of the country — were expected to be ready by the end of July.

AFP