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Suspected militant accused of beheadings killed in Indonesia

Indonesian security forces killed a suspected militant accused of beheadings in a shootout Tuesday in a sweeping counterterrorism campaign against extremists in remote mountain jungles, police said.

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Provincial police chief Rudy Sufahriadi said Ahmad Gazali, 27, also known as Ahmad Panjang, a key member of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, was fatally shot by a joint team of military and police officers near Uempasa hamlet in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district. It borders Poso district, an extremist hotbed in the province.

The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians, some by beheading. It has pledged allegiance to ISIS. Police have said Gazali conducted several of the group’s executions, including the beheadings of four Christian farmers last May.

The joint team was patrolling the area when it came upon two militants in a camp, Sufahriadi said at a news conference. He said the second militant escaped into the jungle.

Tuesday’s shootout occurred four months after security forces killed two militants in another jungle shootout, including Ali Kalora, the group’s leader, who was one of the country’s most wanted militants.

“We are still searching for three remaining suspected members of the group,” Sufahriadi said, “We urge them to immediately surrender or we’ll continue hunting them down.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has conducted a crackdown on militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly Western and Asian tourists.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces, and people militants consider to be infidels, inspired by ISIS tactics abroad.

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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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