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Taliban order shop owners in western Afghanistan to behead mannequins

The Taliban have ordered shop owners in western Afghanistan to cut off the heads of mannequins, insisting the human figures violate Islamic law.

A video clip showing men sawing the plastic heads off women figures went viral on social media.

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Since returning to power in August, the Taliban have increasingly imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, severely curtailing freedoms, particularly those of women and girls.

“We have ordered the shopkeepers to cut the heads off mannequins as this is against (Islamic) Sharia law,” Aziz Rahman, head of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the city of Herat, told AFP on Wednesday.

“If they just cover the head or hide the entire mannequin, the angel of Allah will not enter their shop or house and bless them,” he added, after some clothes vendors initially responded by covering the heads of mannequins with plastic bags or headscarves.

The Taliban have so far issued no national policy on mannequins or statues.

Under the former militants’ strict interpretation of Islamic law, depictions of the human figure are forbidden.

During their first regime in the 1990s the Taliban triggered global outrage after blowing up two ancient Buddha statues.

Since seizing power, they have banned girls from secondary schools in several provinces while women have largely been prevented from working in the public sector and excluded from government positions.

Last week authorities in Kabul said women seeking to travel long distances should not be offered road transport unless accompanied by a close male relative.

The extremist group has increased raids on liquor sellers, rounded up drug addicts and banned music.

The Taliban takeover has devastated aid-dependent Afghanistan’s economy, with billions of dollars of assets frozen by the United States and international aid largely paused.

However, the UN Security Council last week adopted a US-proposed resolution to help humanitarian aid reach desperate Afghans, while seeking to keep funds out of the hands of the Taliban government, which has yet to be recognized by any country.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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