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Sudan’s PM announces resignation amid political deadlock

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced his resignation Sunday amid political deadlock and widespread pro-democracy protests following a military coup that derailed the country’s fragile transition to democratic rule.

Hamdok called for a dialogue to agree on a “national charter” and to “draw a roadmap” to complete the transition. The October coup had upended Sudan's plans to move to democracy after a popular uprising forced the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

On Sunday, prior to his resignation, Sudanese security forces violently dispersed pro-democracy protesters, in the latest demonstrations to denounce the takeover and a subsequent deal that reinstated the prime minister but sidelined the pro-democracy movement. A medical group said at least two people were killed.

The Sudan Doctors Committee, which is part of the pro-democracy movement, said one of the dead was hit “violently” in his head while taking part in a protest march in Khartoum. The second was shot in his chest in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, it added. The group said dozens of protesters were injured.

Activist Nazim Sirag said security forces used tear gas and sound grenades to disperse protesters, and chased them in side streets across the capital.

Protests also took place in other cities including Port Sudan and Nyala in the Darfur region.

The protests came despite tightened security and blocked bridges and roads in Khartoum and Omdurman. Internet connections were also disrupted ahead of the protests, according to advocacy group NetBlocs. Authorities have used such tactics repeatedly since the Oct. 25 coup.

Sunday's fatalities have brought the death toll among protesters since the coup to at least 56, according to the medical group. Hundreds have also been wounded.

Allegations surfaced last month of sexual violence, including rape and gang rape by security forces against female protesters, according to the United Nations.

The ruling sovereign council has vowed to investigate violence against the protesters.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged security forces to “immediately cease the use of deadly force against protesters" and to hold those responsible for violence accountable.

He also called for Sudanese leaders to accelerate their efforts to form a “credible cabinet,” an interim parliament and judicial electoral bodies that will prepare for the country’s planned 2023 elections.

The rotating leadership of the sovereign council now chaired by Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan should be transferred to a civilian as was planned before the coup, Blinken said.

“We do not want to return to the past, and are prepared to respond to those who seek to block the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a civilian-led, democratic government,” he added.

The October military takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule following a popular uprising that forced the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.

Hamdok, a former UN official seen as the civilian face of Sudan’s transitional government, was reinstated in November amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight led by him.

That deal, however, was rejected by the pro-democracy movement, which insists that power be handed over to a fully civilian government tasked with leading the transition.

Hamdok defended the Nov. 21 deal with the military, saying that it was meant to preserve achievements his government made in the past two years, and to “protect our nation from sliding to a new international isolation.”

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Roche develops monkeypox PCR tests

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche said Wednesday it had come up with PCR tests that can detect monkeypox, as the virus spreads outside endemic countries.

Roche and its subsidiary TIB Molbiol have developed three test kits which are for use by researchers in most countries worldwide, the Basel-based firm said.

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The first kit detects viruses in the wider orthopoxvirus group. The second detects monkeypox viruses only, while the third detects both simultaneously.

“Roche has very quickly developed a new suite of tests that detect the monkeypox virus and aid in following its epidemiologic spread,” said diagnostics chief Thomas Schinecker.

“Diagnostic tools are crucial for responding to and ultimately controlling emerging public health challenges as they advance response measures such as tracing efforts and treatment strategies.”

Roche said the research test kits could assess the spread of the virus and help monitor the potential impact of treatments, vaccines and public health measures.

The World Health Organization said that as of May 22, more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases had been officially reported to the UN health agency from 16 countries outside endemic nations in west and central Africa.

The WHO says a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the “preferred laboratory test given its accuracy and sensitivity”. For this, optimal samples are from skin lesions and dry crusts.

It says PCR blood tests are usually inconclusive and should not be routinely collected from patients.

The WHO says antigen and antibody detection methods do not distinguish between orthopoxviruses.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said Wednesday that countries had been sharing information that was allowing the agency to better understand the spread of monkeypox.

He said its origins at the animal-human interface had not been properly controlled, “and we’re paying a price now in monkeypox for an unmanaged, endemic disease which we do not fully understand.”

“We have not put in place preventive measures and we’re now dealing with a multi-country event directly related to our inability, or unwillingness, to manage those risks earlier,” he said.

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Moscow says Mariupol port reopened after demining

Russia said Wednesday that the port of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol has reopened after Moscow’s troops took control of the city on the Azov Sea.
Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a press briefing that the port has “started functioning normally” after demining.
The strategic port city in southeast Ukraine fell to Moscow recently after a devastating siege.
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Mariupol’s new Moscow-appointed city chief, Konstantin Ivashchenko, said on Russian television that a ship carrying around 3,000 tons of metal products will soon depart from the port to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
Ivashchenko said that “demining is taking place in the city, particularly in the commercial sea port and its waters.”
The port has taken on 4,000 workers, Ivashchenko said.
“Practically all the rubble has been removed, the rubbish has been removed, and what’s most important, the port is preparing to ship the first cargo in liberated Mariupol. The shipment will leave in the next few days,” Ivashchenko said.
He added that the port could also be used to receive construction materials to rebuild the city.
The Russian army said Tuesday that it had demined an area measuring 1.5 million square meters in the port, with sappers working in the docks and on ships moored there.
The United Nations has urged Russian authorities to release grain stuck in Ukrainian ports to avert global food shortages.
Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko said earlier Wednesday Moscow was acting in “cooperation with the UN” and is prepared to escort vessels to safety if Ukrainian forces clear mines from around their ports.
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Blasts in Kabul mosque, north Afghanistan, kill at least 14

A series of explosions shook Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Taliban said, including a blast inside a mosque in the capital of Kabul that killed at least five worshippers and three bombings of minivans in the country’s north that killed nine passengers.
The Kabul Emergency Hospital said it received 22 victims of the mosque bombing, including five dead. There were no further details on the blast that struck the Hazrat Zakaria Mosque in the city’s central Police District 4, according to Khalid Zadran, a Taliban police spokesman in Kabul.
“The blast took place while people were inside the mosque for the evening prayers,” Zadran said, adding that they were waiting for an update.
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The minivans were targeted in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif after explosive devices were placed inside the vehicles, according to Mohammad Asif Waziri, a Taliban-appointed spokesman in Balkh province. He said the explosions killed nine and wounded 15.
All the victims in Mazar-e-Sharif were from the country’s minority Shia Muslims, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to give details to the media.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions, but they had the hallmarks of the regional affiliate of ISIS, known as Islamic State in Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
The ISIS affiliate, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s new Taliban rulers. Following their takeover when they seized power in Kabul and elsewhere in the country last August, the Taliban have launched a sweeping crackdown against the ISIS headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.
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ISIS claims bombing targeting Shias in north Afghanistan

Blast kills more than 50 worshipers at Kabul mosque

ISIS claims attack on Kabul mosque

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