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Man charged over drugging and rape of British teen on Thai island

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A French man has been charged with the rape of a British tourist on one of Thailand’s popular holiday islands.

Police say the woman was attacked on Koh Tao, which draws divers from around the world and made headlines in 2014 when British backpackers Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found bludgeoned to death on a beach.

French national Yohan Michael Tunka Buaga, 26, was arrested after the 18-year-old Briton told officers she was drugged and raped on 4 April.

Buaga was charged with rape on Monday and is being held on the nearby island of Koh Samui.

Police lieutenant colonel Piyapong Boonkaew said: “The suspect has admitted to having sexual intercourse with the victim, but he said that it was consensual and not rape.

“We are now investigating the case and waiting for forensic examination.”

Crimes against tourists in recent years have sparked concern about safety in the country, which remains a popular destination for those on a budget and relies on tourism to boost its economy.

Concerns over tourists travelling to Koh Tao were raised as early as August 2012 after British IT consultant Ben Harrington, 32, was found dead with both his watch and wallet missing.

In 2015, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Tun, migrant workers from Myanmar, were found guilty of killing Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.

Police said Ms Witheridge had been raped and bludgeoned to death and Mr Miller had died from blows to the head.

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US begins final phase of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan | World News

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The US has begun its final phase of the withdrawal of its own and NATO’s last troops from Afghanistan – with the aim of leaving the country by the end of summer.

It will bring to an end America’s “forever war” in the country, which began with the invasion in response to the 9/11 terror attacks.

About 2,500-3,500 US and about 7,000 NATO soldiers remain.

In recent weeks, the military has been flying out equipment on massive C-17 cargo planes but now it is stepping up the job of deciding what is being shipped back to the US, handed to the Afghan security forces or sold as junk in Afghanistan’s markets.

The Taliban, which has renewed vigour in its battle to regain power in Afghanistan, continues to accuse Washington of breaching the deal it signed with Donald Trump more than a year ago.

In that agreement, the US said it would withdraw completely by 1 May.

With the deadline having passed, Kabul was on edge on Saturday, with a noticeably increased military presence and security at checkpoints.

Security sources said the Afghan capital was on “high alert”.

In a statement on Saturday, Taliban military spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the failure of the US to withdraw by the agreed deadline “opened the way for (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) mujahidin to take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces”.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his plan to withdraw American troops
Image:
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his plan to withdraw American troops

But he said fighters on the battlefield would not act until their leaders told them to and any decision to do so would be based on “the sovereignty, values and higher interests of the country”.

On Saturday, it was unclear whether that vow was being adhered to.

What a US forces spokesman described as “ineffective indirect fire” at an airfield in Kandahar caused no injuries or damage and the Taliban did not comment on whether it was involved in the incident.

It prompted the commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller to warn it would be a mistake for insurgents to attack foreign troops.

The human cost of the Afghanistan war has been the lost of thousands of US and NATO troops. Pic: AP
Image:
The human cost of the Afghanistan war has been the lost of thousands of US and NATO troops. Pic: AP

The violence in Afghanistan has been getting worse since the agreement to withdraw was signed in February 2020.

Talks between the Taliban and Afghan government, which as part of the agreement were supposed to create a lasting peace, quickly got bogged down.

The US is thought to have spent more than $2 trillion in Afghanistan in the past two decades, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University.

Some 2,500-3,500 US and about 7,000 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan. Pic: AP
Image:
Some 2,500-3,500 US and about 7,000 NATO soldiers remain in Afghanistan. Pic: AP

It started on 7 October, 2001, with the US and its NATO allies setting out to hunt down the al Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who lived under the protection of the country’s Taliban rulers.

Two months later, the Taliban had been beaten and Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda forces had been forced to escape.

When he announced last month that the US withdrawal would go ahead, President Joe Biden said the initial mission was accomplished when bin Laden was killed by US special forces in neighbouring Pakistan 10 years ago.

Since then, al Qaeda has ceased to be the threat it once was perceived to be and Islamic State and other Islamist extremists have spread into a global phenomenon that Mr Biden said is not tackled by keeping a large number of troops in one country.

The US and NATO are paying $4bn a year to maintain the Afghan security forces. Pic: AP
Image:
The US and NATO are paying $4bn a year to maintain the Afghan security forces. Pic: AP

Some 47,245 civilians have been killed since 2001, according to the Costs of War project. Millions more have been forced to move away from their homes inside Afghanistan or to flee to Pakistan, Iran and Europe.

An estimated 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan troops have been killed, with the US and NATO paying $4bn a year to keep its security forces going.

Some 2,442 US troops, according to the US Department of Defence, and 1,144 personnel from other NATO countries have been killed, including 454 British forces as of 2015.

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COVID-19: India’s vaccine rollout-for-all stumbles before it starts amid record case numbers | World News

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India is still hitting yet more staggering new global highs for daily coronavirus cases as its vaccine rollout-for-all stuttered and stumbled even before it got properly off the ground.

Most states and many hospitals around the country reported being forced to postpone the programme for days, maybe longer as stocks failed to make it to the vaccination centres charged with inoculating everyone 18 years and older.

The citizens of India were left reeling, not for the first time, over how the world’s biggest manufacturer of vaccines has been left without enough for its own population.

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An out of stock sign at an Indian vaccine centre
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An out of stock sign at an Indian vaccine centre

We watched as people lined up, some dressed in hazmat suits, to make sure they got their vaccinations from the few centres in Delhi which had managed to procure the vaccine.

The centre we were at didn’t want to disclose exactly how many vaccines it had but a nurse told me they’d vaccinated 600 people the day before.

In a country of more than a billion, they have a long way to go yet if they’re to halt or even slow the rise in infections.

One woman told us: “I’m not sure India should have given so many vaccines away before vaccinating its own population.”

The government’s own data showed it had sent nearly 70 million doses overseas since January – enough to easily vaccinate the entire populations of Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.

COVID-19: 7,600km away from a worsening crisis, close-knit Indian community in Leicester take action

A long queue outside a vaccine centre in India
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A long queue outside a vaccine centre in India

The country famously sent out vaccine stocks to Bhutan which inoculated 93% of its population in just over a fortnight.

The Indian government had reassured its citizens only days before the 1 May rollout that the vaccination programme which began in January for its elder population would be extended to everyone 18 years old and over.

There’s been a very slow take-up in the vaccines up until now, (around 2% are fully inoculated), possibly because they’d been informed the country had beaten coronavirus – and possibly because of worries over the vaccine side-effects.

But that was a few months ago.

Since then, the virus has ripped through the Indian population, overwhelming its fragile health service; causing an acute shortage in oxygen supplies; and transformed the country which once boasted it was in the pandemic end-game into the global epicentre of the disease.

COVID-19: Amid India’s corruption and profiteering are shining examples of courage and selflessness

People queue to get fresh supplies of oxygen in India
Image:
People queue to get fresh supplies of oxygen in India

Many scientists believe the only way India is going to get on top of the virus is to vaccinate.

Many will be questioning why this wasn’t started earlier and with vigour.

But the country which is home to the world-famous Serum Institute India (SII), the globe’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, must surely be in a good position to do just that now?

The institute seemed well ahead of the game having signed a deal with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, long before the vaccine had been authorised in mid 2020.

It was to manufacture a “billion doses for low and middle income countries”.

COVID-19: India’s vaccine export ban could send shockwaves worldwide. Should the UK step in to help?

A man gets his vaccination at an Indian vaccination centre
Image:
A man gets his vaccination at an Indian vaccination centre

But it was still attempting to fulfil its contractual obligations overseas up until mid-April when the country was recording world record highs in daily coronavirus infections.

The Indian government has now temporarily halted vaccine exports while it gets to grip with one of the worst crises it has ever endured.

But the signs are not good. And vaccines are far from the only shortage.

Despite days ago promising that the oxygen shortfall would be sorted, we still saw queues and queues of people in Delhi, some of whom have waited 10 hours to try to fill up a cylinder of oxygen for hospitals who don’t have supplies for their sick relatives.

One young woman who’s mother is ill in hospital with COVID said she’d been looking for oxygen for the past three days.

COVID-19: Why India’s COVID spike means the world has to wait for its jabs

A sign advertising what India says it the world's largest vaccination drive
Image:
A sign advertising what India says it the world’s largest vaccination drive

“When cases started rising up,” Urvashi Sharma told us, “I thought the government had a plan… but it turns out they didn’t… within the first week, I understood the government had no idea and they’re not prepared for anything… that we don’t have enough ventilators in one hospital, never mind whatever we need for the entire city or entire nation.”

Delhi’s High Court judges have now been forced to step in, warning the government it needs to fulfil its obligations, follow through on its guarantees to sort the oxygen and provide the capital with enough oxygen.

“Enough is enough,” the judges ruled. “Water has gone above the head. Now we mean business. You will arrange everything now.”

This is all happening nearly two weeks after the crisis ignited – and as the capital city is hearing that yet more patients – including a doctor – died when oxygen supplies ran out at a Delhi hospital for about 80 minutes.

People wait to be given their vaccine against COVID in India
Image:
People wait to be given their vaccine against COVID in India

Hospital chiefs from the Batra Hospital reported at time of writing that 12 people had died after their oxygen stocks were depleted.

SOS calls from hospitals and relatives across the country are still filling social media pleading for oxygen, just days after the prime minister said he was putting the nation on a war-footing to try to solve the crisis.

I’m sitting late at night in Delhi listening to an official from Batra Hospital saying he only has enough oxygen until early morning.

“It’s been a harrowing nine days,” he said. “We are battling all the time. We are constantly running out of oxygen. The enemy is not at the doorstep. It’s right inside our houses.”

The worry for India is that the virus spread, the virus deaths and the virus chaos does not seem to be abating one bit. Rather, it seems to be growing.

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South Africa: Cash van driver evades armed robbers as vehicle shot multiple times | World News

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Dramatic dashcam footage has shown the moment a van carrying cash in South Africa was bombarded with bullets as robbers opened fire.

The driver and his colleague are on an apparently uneventful journey when, suddenly, loud bangs can be heard.

The driver’s door window has become a target and is heavily pitted, cracks in the glass radiating from a dark central point after bullets rattle against it.

Cash van. Pic: @Abramjee/Twitter
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Damage to the driver’s door window was severe. Pic: @Abramjee/Twitter

The driver swerves and then corrects his course before asking his colleague to grab the large rifle they have in the cab.

“He’s coming after us,” the driver tells his colleague as the chase continues.

It is possible to hear the driver’s breathing quickening but he remains remarkably calm in the circumstances as his driving allows them to escape the scene.

He takes a sharp right and says: “They’re going to shoot. They’re going to f****** shoot.” Several more bullets hit the vehicle.

Handing a phone to his colleague, the driver says: “Phone Robbie, phone Josh. Ask them where they are.”

Damage was done to the driver's door and windscreen.
Pic: @Abramjee/Twitter
Image:
The windscreen was damaged too. Pic: @Abramjee/Twitter
Cash van. Pic: @Abramjee/Twitter
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The rear of the van appeared unharmed. Pic: @Abramjee/Twitter

A little later the driver stops the vehicle, grabs the rifle from his colleague, and gets out of the cab.

Yusuf Abramjee, who posted the video and stills on Twitter, said the driver and his colleague survived, according to website SA Trucker.

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