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G7 summit: World leaders discuss COVID origins – as WHO keeps Wuhan lab leak theory ‘open’ | Politics News

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G7 leaders have discussed the origins of the coronavirus outbreak as the World Health Organisation confirmed all hypotheses continue to be considered – including the Wuhan lab leak theory.

At their summit in Cornwall on Saturday, G7 leaders were joined by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general, during their talks on the COVID crisis and efforts to avoid future pandemics.

The WHO chief set the world’s leading democracies the challenge of vaccinating 70% of the global population against COVID by the time of the G7’s next summit in Germany next year.

U.S. President Joe Biden attends a working session during G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, June 12, 2021. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS
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Joe Biden ordered intelligence officials to ‘redouble’ efforts to investigate COVID origins

And, speaking to reporters at a briefing after the leaders’ discussions, Dr Tedros confirmed the subject of the COVID-19 outbreak was raised at the Cornwall summit.

Last month, US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China.

Referring to the millions around the world who have died due to COVID, Dr Tedros said: “This is very tragic and I think the respect these people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is, so we can prevent it from happening again.”

Dr Tedros confirmed the WHO was preparing for the second phase of its investigation into the origins of COVID, which he said would need “transparency” and the “cooperation” of China.

“We believe that all hypotheses should be open and we need to proceed with the second phase to really know the origins,” he said.

Dr Tedros also revealed how he had urged G7 leaders to step up efforts to vaccinate the entirety of the world.

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What is the G7?

“Around the world many other countries are facing a surge in cases, and they’re facing it without vaccines,” he said.

“We’re in the race of our lives and it’s not a fair race and most countries are very late to the starting line.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the chair of this year’s G7 summit, has challenged leaders to help vaccinate the global population by the end of next year, including through a commitment to provide at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses.

The US has pledged to purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for poorer countries, while the UK has vowed to provide at least 100 million surplus COVID vaccine doses to other countries within the next year.

But Dr Tedros called for “more” vaccines to be delivered “faster.

“The challenge I set to G7 leaders was that, to truly end the pandemic, our goal must be to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population by the time the G7 meets again in Germany next year,” he said.

“This can be done with the support of the G7 and the G20 together.

“To do that we need 11 billion doses. We welcome the generous announcement made by G7 nations about donations of vaccines, but we need more and we need them faster.”

Among the G7, countries are split between those in favour of waiving vaccine patents – such as the US and France – and those opposed, including the UK and Germany.

Dr Tedros said the waiving of intellectual property rights over vaccines was “essential”.

“If we cannot waive the IP now and use it in this unprecedented situation, then when? When do we use it?,” he asked.

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Natascha Kampusch says the man who held her captive for eight years wanted her to feel like a victim of the Nazis | World News

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Childhood kidnap victim Natascha Kampusch has spoken about how her captor admired Adolf Hitler and wanted her to feel like a victim of the Nazis.

Ms Kampusch, 33, was snatched on her way to school by Wolfgang Priklopil when she was 10 years old.

She was kept in a cell under the man’s garage near Vienna, Austria, from 1998 until her escape in 2006.

An undated police handout shows the passport photo of Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, who kidnapped an Austrian schoolgirl eight years ago and held her imprisoned in an underground cell in the garage of his house in Strasshof some 25km north-east of Vienna. Natascha Kampusch was kidnapped in 1998 and managed to break free while her kidnapper was distracted on August 23, 2006. REUTERS/HO/Police (AUSTRIA) QUALITY FROM SOURCE
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Wolfgang Priklopil, 44, killed himself after his captive escaped

Speaking to Austrian broadcaster ORF, 15 years after she fled, Ms Kampusch said of Priklopil: “He gave me little to eat, little clothes, humiliated me, let me do heavy work and shaved my head.”

She added: “He admired Adolf Hitler and wanted me to feel like the Nazi victims.”

In the time since, Ms Kampusch has written a book about her ordeal called 3,096 Days, which was also made into a film.

At one point in her captivity, Ms Kampusch weighed just six stone (38 kg).

She wrote a diary on toilet paper, which she stashed in a box to hide from Priklopil.

One entry read: “At least 60 blows in the face. Ten to 15 nausea-inducing fist blows to the head. One strike with the fist with full weight to my right ear.”

Undated police handout shows the room in the basement of a house where an Austrian girl, kidnapped eight years ago, was held imprisoned in an underground cell in Strasshof some 25km north-east of Vienna. Natascha Kampusch was kidnapped in 1998 and managed to break free while her kidnapper was distracted on August 23, 2006. REUTERS/HO/Police (AUSTRIA) QUALITY FROM SOURCE
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Ms Kampusch was kept in a room in the basement of a house for eight years

In her second book, 10 Years of Freedom, Ms Kampusch wrote that she had received abuse from “thousands” of people online since her escape.

“I fled from an enemy and suddenly I had tens of enemies – in some internet forums even thousands (of) enemies,” she wrote.

She said she thought some of the criticism towards her may have been because she seemed tough when talking about her experience, instead of behaving like a victim.

In her most recent interview, she said: “People probably thought that I was missing an eye or something, that I was crying all day and being under the influence of medication, many would have preferred that as a picture of a victim.”

Ms Kampusch was awarded ownership of her tormentor’s home as compensation for what she went through, but did not live there.

Priklopil killed himself after she escaped.

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Maritime wars: Did the attack on the Mercer Street deliberately target its crew? | World News

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The attack on an Israeli-linked tanker – the Mercer Street – triggered diplomatic turmoil propelling the shadow war between Iran and Israel on the high seas back into the international spotlight.

Two people on board the ship were killed in the strike, which is thought to have involved a suicide drone.

An intelligence expert has told Sky News that the use of such a weapon could indicate they were deliberately targeted.

The British, American and Israeli governments have openly said they believe it was a “deliberate, targeted and unlawful attack” but have not suggested crew members themselves were a target.

They blame Iran.

We’ve analysed the incident to see how it differs from previous attacks and why it might have drawn such a ferocious response.

The MV Mercer Street left Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on July 21 and headed north east to the Gulf of Oman.
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The MV Mercer Street left Dar es Salaam in Tanzania on 21 July and headed northeast to the Gulf of Oman. Source: MarineTraffic

The first warning was circulated on the morning of 29 July by UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO).

The UKMTO is a Royal Navy-run capability that monitors incidents at sea.

It reported that a “non-piracy” incident had occurred at 7am, approximately 86 nautical miles from Al Duqm port in Oman.

It did not explain the nature of the event, nor did it name the vessel involved.

However, shipping data provided by MarineTraffic indicate that the Mercer Street was sailing in the area at that time.

The ship’s position matches the coordinates given by UKMTO.

MarineTraffic data shows the Mercer Street off the coast of Oman.
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MarineTraffic data shows the Mercer Street off the coast of Oman. Source: MarineTraffic

The Mercer Street, which is Japanese-owned but operated by London-based firm Zodiac Maritime, had been travelling from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.

Zodiac is owned by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Shipping data show the tanker’s speed dropped slightly after 7am, before it regained pace and travelled northeast along the coast of the Omani island of Masirah.

Later that evening, UKMTO circulated a second report saying that a vessel had been attacked in waters northeast of the island.

Ships were asked to avoid the area.

The Mercer Street was north east of the Omani island of Masirah at 4:30pm UTC.
Image:
The Mercer Street was northeast of the Omani island of Masirah at 4:30pm UTC. Source: MarineTraffic

AIS data shows the Mercer Street travelling at 15.3 knots at 16:26pm.

But two hours later, its speed had dropped to 3.3 knots.

The ship's speed had dropped by 12 knots two hours later. The UKMTO reported an attack had occured at 6pm UTC.
Image:
The ship’s speed had dropped by 12 knots two hours later. The UKMTO reported an attack had occured at 6pm UTC. Source: MarineTraffic

The damaged tanker remained at this slower pace after the attack, and was escorted by the American guided missile destroyer the USS Mitscher and the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan until it reached Fujairah in the UAE.

Images circulating online appear to show the damage sustained by the Mercer Street.

The pictures of the damage were first shared by Or Heller, military correspondent for Channel 10 News Israel.

Heller shared background information about their origins with Sky News but we were not able to fully independently verify the images.

However, there are other visual clues.

This picture of the Mercer Street was taken in Cape Town in 2016. Credit: Johan Victor/MarineTraffic
Image:
This picture of the Mercer Street was taken in Cape Town in 2016. Credit: Johan Victor/MarineTraffic

The blue Zodiac logo and the shape of the railings and cabin match this picture of the Mercer Street, taken in Cape Town in 2016.

One open-source investigator identified other matching features which could help to confirm the images are of the same ship.

The US State Department said the attack involved “one-way explosive UAVs” – more commonly known as suicide drones.

These drones, rather than delivering a missile, often have explosives on board and are flown directly into the target. The pictures suggest the drone penetrated the roof of the bridge of the Mercer Street.

Their use is a change in approach from previous attacks against shipping targets in the Gulf, where limpet mines placed on the hull of a vessel have typically been deployed.

The drones can have a range of over 1,000km when guided by satellites, but experts believe the UAVs were likely controlled via radio signals limited to a 200km reach. The attack on the Mercer Street occurred approximately 400km from the coast of Iran.

Jeremy Binnie, a Middle East analyst at Janes, a defence intelligence provider, told Sky News: “The Iranians claim to have satellite communications on their best UAVs, but they don’t have their own satellite so they would be reliant on getting around sanctions to secure commercial bandwidth.

“The easiest solution would be for the base controllers to hand over to a forward control station, in this case on a boat, to extend the operational range of a UAV.”

An Ababil 2 drone mounted on a boat at an event in Iran in 2020.
Image:
An Ababil 2 drone mounted on a boat at an event in Iran in 2020

Unmanned suicide drones can be pre-programmed to hit certain coordinates, but striking a moving ship makes this impractical. It is likely that the drone was remotely piloted by a person, using an infrared camera mounted on the device for guidance.

“This raises the question as to whether the controller of the drone deliberately targeted crew members on the bridge of the Mercer Street,” added Jeremy Binnie.

It’s the first time that people have been killed in the maritime “shadow war” between Iran and Israel.

And it marks a significant escalation in the tit-for-tat struggle between the two countries that has been rumbling on under the radar since 2019.

A recent Sky News investigation tracked eight separate incidents against both Israel and Iran in 2021 and uncovered business connections between the targeted vessels.

And the incident on the Mercer Street is not the first time Zodiac Maritime appears to have been targeted in recent weeks.

On 3 July, the CSAV Tyndall was attacked by a suspected missile in the Gulf but suffered only minor damage. The boat had been previously owned and operated by Zodiac Maritime and had changed hands just months before.

It is thought Iran may have mistakenly believed the ship was still connected to the company owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

And on 25 March, the Lori was attacked in the Arabian Sea, a vessel owned by XT Holdings, a company partly owned by Idan Ofer, the younger brother of Eyal.

It means there have been three attacks on ships connected to the Ofer family in the past five months.

The Ofers are one of Israel’s wealthiest and most influential families. Then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sammy Ofer, who started the family business, a “true Zionist” when he died in 2011.

It’s not immediately clear why the Mercer Street and Zodiac Management were targeted.

Simon Henderson, a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Sky News: “It is Israeli prestige which is being damaged and Israeli vulnerability which is being exposed, but no Israeli is dying.

“By targeting Israeli linked vessels in the Gulf of Oman, where there is no Israeli naval presence, Iran can expose a vulnerability and get the headlines without direct fear of retaliation.”

Mr Henderson suggested that should Israel retaliate in other regions, such as in Iran itself, it risks the international community reacting against it for fear that it will further imperil shipping in the Gulf.

The maritime war is one way Iran can respond to Israel’s efforts to undermine its nuclear programme and the regime more generally.

The death of a UK national and the response it prompted complicates things.

Mr Henderson said: “The Iranians are turning up the dial on this and they have calculated the US will not intervene, but no American has died, and we need to see where we go from here.”


The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News.

We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.

Why data journalism matters to Sky News



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Turkey fires: Despite exta crews battling hard, hot and dry conditions mean the wildfires rage on | World News

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Fires are still ravaging parts of southern Turkey as temperatures continued to soar amidst low humidity despite extra crews and personnel being drafted in.

We noticed a significant increase in firefighting units and crews as they battled to contain huge fires which have now moved to Turkevleri.

The crews are urgently trying to stop the flames spreading a few kilometres away to one of the main power stations in the area which provides electricity to more than half a million people.

Heavy machinery was brought in to dig deep scars in the mountain forest to try to create a break and stem the flames ripping through.

A team from Istanbul’s airport fire protection unit was half way up the mountain, furiously dragging hoses in and out of trees trying to douse the oncoming fires.

Ozan Karakis, the Commander, told us: “We have enough teams. We have more than enough equipment but it’s just too dry and it’s very tough terrain and the vehicles cant easily move here.”

He went on to say climate change had made it more challenging because the temperatures were much hotter and it is much drier, but he insisted the crews were on top of the situation and keeping it under control.

His reassurances came as the Turkish media watchdog RTUK issued advisories to outlets warning them they faced “heavy punitive sanctions” if they continued to focus on the actual fires and disregarded the “successes” of containing and putting out around 130 fires.

Fire crews are battling to contain huge fires
Image:
Fire crews are battling to contain huge fires

The warning note complained the media reports were causing alarm and panic amongst the population as well as impacting the morale of the fire-fighting crews.

In nearby Bozalan – another community in the Mugla area – we saw fire crews busily cutting down surviving bushes and foliage and urgently dousing the still-smouldering embers of the fire which had ripped through just a few hours earlier.

Climate change has made the fires more challenging
Image:
Climate change has made the fires more challenging

The earth is still so hot, several hotspots are reigniting after they’ve been contained. One firefighter was mopping his burned face with a damp cloth. He told us he’d suffered the burns whilst fighting the fire in Bodrum’s Titanic hotel a few days earlier.

Mustafa Ali has been a firefighter for a decade and he’s not giving a single thought to stopping now. There’s too much to do and no time to do it in if they’re to tackle these wildfires.

“I don’t even think about it. And I just cool it down with water if it starts hurting,” he tells us.

“‘I’ve been working day and night, 24/7 because this job is my heart.”

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