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Around 400 Iraqi migrants flown back to Erbil from Belarus

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A new flight returning around 400 Iraqi migrants that had hoped to cross into EU-member Poland from Belarus left Minsk on Tuesday, authorities said.

It will be followed by the first repatriation flight to Damascus that will take Syrian nationals home on Wednesday.

Thousands of migrants have been camped in Belarus for weeks, often in bitter conditions, hoping to cross the Polish border and enter the European Union.

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An Iraqi Airways flight departed Minsk National Airport for Erbil – the main city in Iraqi Kurdistan – at 11:07 GMT, the airport said.

A total of 417 passengers, including two small children, had registered for the flight.

More than 3,000 Iraqi migrants have been flown back since repatriation flights began in mid-November from the ex-Soviet state, with many showing injuries from the freezing cold.

Several thousand more migrants remain in Belarus, including at a logistics center at the Bruzgi checkpoint of the Belarusian-Polish border.

Most of the Iraqis stranded on the border said they had spent their savings, sold valuables and even taken loans to escape economic hardship in Iraq and start a new life in the EU.

On Wednesday, the first flight bringing Syrian migrants home is set to depart Minsk for Damascus at 00:30 GMT.

The West has accused Belarus of purposefully luring migrants – mostly from the Middle East – to the EU’s border as revenge for sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

Belarus has denied the claim and criticized the EU for not taking in the migrants.

Read more:

Belarus plans to send more migrants to enter EU, Lukashenko can’t be trusted: Poland

UAE curbs flights to Belarus amid migrant crisis

Syrian airline suspends Belarus flights over migrant crisis

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US considering moving troops from Western Europe to Eastern Europe: NATO diplomat

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The United States is considering transferring some troops stationed in Western Europe to Eastern Europe in the coming weeks, a NATO diplomat told Reuters, amid escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

“This has to do with American troops that are already in Europe,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirming a New York Times report that said US President Joe Biden was considering sending US troops to the Baltics and Eastern European allies.

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NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, in what Russia denounced as an escalation of tensions over Ukraine.

The diplomat said the potential troop movements would be gradual and that any filling of NATO gaps on its eastern flank could take place in the coming weeks.

Read more: From Kyiv, top US diplomat warns Russia against Ukraine aggression

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Several wounded in shooting in German city; gunman dead

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A lone gunman wounded several people at a lecture theater in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg on Monday, police said.

Police said in a brief statement that the perpetrator was dead, but didn’t give details of how that happened. They had earlier asked people on Twitter to avoid the Neuenheimer Feld area of Heidelberg, where the city’s university campus is located.

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Police didn’t specify how many people were wounded, or how seriously, and there was no information on their identities or that of the suspected shooter. The university’s press office declined to give any details on the shooting and referred all inquiries to police.

German news agency dpa cited unidentified security sources as saying that the gunman killed himself.

Police said the weapon used in the shooting was a long-barreled firearm.

Heidelberg is located south of Frankfurt and has about 160,000 inhabitants. Its university is one of Germany’s best-known.

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Aramco CEO says oil demand nearing pre-pandemic levels: Report

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Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Al Nasser said that the demand for oil is nearing pre-pandemic levels, Asharq Business reported in a tweet on Monday.

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Saudi Aramco signs 50 agreements during IKTVA conference

Saudi Aramco to establish presence in China to focus on non-metals in construction

EIG-led investors in Aramco oil pipelines hire banks for dual-tranche bonds

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