More than 50 people, many of them female students, killed in bomb attack near Kabul high school



The death toll from a bomb near a girls’ school in Kabul has risen to 58, mostly students aged between 11 and 15, who were killed as they left to go home.

The death toll from an explosion outside a school in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has risen to 58, with doctors struggling to provide medical care to at least 150 injured.

The bombing on Saturday evening shook the city’s Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi. The community, a religious minority in Afghanistan, has been targeted in the past by so-called Islamic State militants. 

An eyewitness told Reuters all but seven or eight of the victims were schoolgirls going home after finishing studies.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday blamed the attack on Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the Taliban denied involvement, saying the group condemns any attacks on Afghan civilians.

Families of the victims blamed the Afghan government and Western powers for failing to put an end to violence and the ongoing war.

Bodies were still being collected from morgues as the first burials were conducted in the west of the city.

Some families were still searching for missing relatives on Sunday, gathering outside hospitals to read names posted on the walls, and checking morgues.

An injured student receives medical treatments at a hospital after the bomb explosion near a school west of Kabul, Afghanistan, 8 May 2021.
AAP

“The entire night we carried bodies of young girls and boys to a graveyard and prayed for everyone wounded in the attack,” said Mohammed Reza Ali, who has been helping families of the victims at a private hospital.

“Why not just kill all of us to put and end to this war?” he said.

The violence comes a week after remaining US and NATO troops began exiting Afghanistan, with a mission to complete the drawdown by 11 September, which will mark the end of America’s longest war.

But the foreign troop withdrawal has led to a surge in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents with both sides trying to retain control over strategic centres.

‘Unforgivable attack’

Washington’s top diplomat in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, condemned the attack in a post on Twitter: “With scores murdered, this unforgivable attack on children is an assault on Afghanistan’s future, which cannot stand.”

Neighbouring Pakistan, which has considerable influence over the Taliban and is pushing them to restart peace talks and agree to a ceasefire, also condemned the attack.

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police concerned for north Qld missing boy


Police have appealed to the public for help in locating a 12-year-old boy missing in north Queensland for more than 10 days.

The boy, from Kerwan, was last seen in the suburb of Garbutt, 6km west of Townsville centre, on April 29 when he had contact with friends.

The boy’s current location is unknown and police hold concerns due to his age.

He is described as being 120cm tall, Indigenous, with slim build.

He has brown hair and brown eyes.

Police are appealing for the boy or anyone with information on his whereabouts to contact police.

If you have information for police call 131 444.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Australia will only open borders ‘when it is safe to do so’


The Prime Minister is warning Australia’s international borders will remain closed for the foreseeable future, as his Treasurer notes this week’s federal budget assumes Australia will remain locked off to the rest of the world until at least 2022.

Australia’s borders were slammed shut in March last year as the coronavirus spread across the world, with the federal government trying to take advantage of the nation’s island geography to safeguard it from the worst of the deadly virus.

In an interview with News Corp, Mr Morrison said he did not believe Australians had an “appetite” for opening borders if it meant having to deal with more coronavirus outbreaks, lockdowns and social restrictions.

“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has,” he said.

In a later post on Facebook, he warned borders would only be opened “when it is safe to do so”.

“Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg echoed those sentiments, confirming Treasury’s budget forecasts were based on borders opening “next year”. 

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Scott Morrison says he will proceed cautiously on opening international borders.

The admission has prompted criticism from the opposition, which argued it is the consequence of ongoing mismanagement of the coronavirus vaccination program and hotel quarantine arrangements.

“Three weeks ago, Scott Morrison said there could be international travel and home quarantine by as early as July,” Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“This morning, three weeks later, he’s saying Australia will be locked down forever — which is it?

“Australia needs a clear plan on vaccines and quarantine but all we’re getting from this Prime Minister is excuses and failure.”

The Prime Minister has previously said he would not put hard dates on vaccination milestones.

Qantas had been planning to restart international flights from October, with chief executive Alan Joyce saying his airline was in discussions with the federal government about when border restrictions would be lifted. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would pursue more travel bubbles with countries, beyond the current arrangements with New Zealand, rather than totally open its borders.

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New Zealand travel bubble pause with NSW to lift on Sunday


The travel bubble pause between Sydney and New Zealand will be lifted after NSW reported no new locally acquired cases on Saturday.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, confirmed quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel will resume on Sunday at 11.59pm but warned the update was subject to there being no further issues with the Sydney outbreak.

“New Zealand health officials met today to conduct a further assessment of the public health risk from the recently identified COVID-19 community cases in Sydney,” he said in a statement released on Saturday night.

“It has been determined that the risk to public health in New Zealand remains low.

“I am pleased with the way the response process has been managed this week. There has been close liaison between the health agencies, and this is reflected in the sound advice our respective Governments have received.”

RELATED: Double Bay Woolworths added to alert list

The update comes as health authorities in NSW reported zero new locally acquired cases on Saturday, while six returned overseas travellers tested positive in quarantine.

A man in his 50s from Sydney’s eastern suburbs tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and contact tracing alerts from the case now cover more than a dozen suburbs across the city.

Genome sequencing has linked the man’s case to a returned traveller from the US, who had an Indian variant of the virus, but it is not yet known how the virus spread between them.

The man’s wife had also tested positive to the virus with Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday praising the man’s use of QR codes to accurately record his movements.

“This person did everything right, but it goes to show that we can’t take a single thing for granted,” she told reporters during the week.

“It goes to show we have to maintain our social distancing, have to make sure we have good hand hygiene, we need to get tested with the mildest of symptoms, and very importantly and significantly, we need to use QR codes.”

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Calls for an investigation after police raid on Brazil favela left more than 20 people dead



The United Nations has called for an ‘independent, thorough and impartial investigation’ into the operation.

Police in Brazil faced outraged protests and a UN call for an investigation Friday after a raid on a Rio de Janeiro favela left 28 people dead – some reportedly killed in cold blood.

“Stop killing us!” said hundreds of protesters from the impoverished neighbourhood of Jacarezinho, who marched outside police headquarters accusing officers of perpetrating a “massacre”.

“This is one of the most barbaric acts in the history of the Rio police,” student Roger Denis told AFP.

It was one of several protests against Thursday’s police operation, which rights groups said was the deadliest ever in a city all too used to violence and police killings – particularly in the poor, majority-black favelas, or slums.

People protest against a police operation to combat alleged drug traffickers that killed 25 people at the Jacarezinho favela.
AFP

Police said the operation targeted a drug gang that was recruiting children and teenagers. It turned the northern neighbourhood into a war zone Thursday morning, leaving streets strewn with bodies and pools of blood.

The initial death toll of 25 – including one policeman who was shot in the head and 24 “criminals”, according to police – was raised to 28 on Friday, following a funeral for the officer. 

Police now face mounting calls to prove that, as well as questions on why the suspects were killed rather than arrested.

Authorities have not released the identities of those killed.

United Nations rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva his office was “deeply disturbed” by the killings.

He called for prosecutors to open an “independent, thorough and impartial investigation”.

“We remind the Brazilian authorities that the use of force should be applied only when strictly necessary,” he said.

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin ordered the federal and Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors-general to investigate two videos circulating on social media that appeared to show police killing indiscriminately.

“The events reported appear extremely serious. In one video, there is evidence of acts that, in theory, could constitute an arbitrary execution,” he wrote.

Residents protest after a police operation against alleged drug traffickers at the Jacarezinho favela in Rio de Janeiro.

Residents protest after a police operation against alleged drug traffickers at the Jacarezinho favela in Rio de Janeiro.
AFP

‘It was an execution’ 

The police deny wrongdoing and say officers followed all protocols, opening fire only to defend themselves. They displayed large piles of drugs and guns seized in the operation.

But accounts from witnesses and relatives raised doubts.

One resident told AFP a wounded young man fled into her home, only for police to follow his blood tracks up the stairs to her second-floor apartment.

“I just had time to pull my children behind me before they murdered him,” she said.

“They didn’t even give him time to say anything.”


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Another resident told news site UOL her husband, 32-year-old Jonas do Carmo dos Santos, had gone out to buy bread when police killed him at point-blank range.

Dos Santos, who worked in construction and at a pizzeria, was not involved in crime, she said.

“It was an execution,” she said.

He left behind a newborn son.

‘All bad guys’

President Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle was quick to rally around the police.

The far-right leader won office in 2018 on a pro-gun, pro-security platform, and has close ties with the police and military.

“They were all bad guys,” said Vice President Hamilton Mourao, an army general, referring to the 24 suspects killed.

President Jair Bolsonaro's inner circle was quick to rally around the police.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle was quick to rally around the police.
AAP

Mr Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a congressman, criticised “bums” who questioned the police.

“There’s a police officer murdered, and they defend the murderers,” he wrote on Twitter.

Rio, an iconic beach city of 6.7 million people, is notorious for its violent crime, and also a troubled history of police killings.

Last year, 1,245 people were killed by police in Rio state – more, for example, than the 1,127 such cases across the entire United States.

Police are rarely held to account for those incidents.

Experts questioned why the authorities continue a highly militarised strategy against organised crime that has produced decades of high death tolls and few results.

“When the police leave, the gangs aren’t weaker. The traffickers just get more guns and come back more powerful than before,” said Silvia Ramos, head of the Security Observatory at Candido Mendes University.

“Then the police return shooting even more, leaving the population even more traumatised.”

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Returned traveller from India rushed to hospital in Perth


A man has been taken to a Perth intensive care unit after falling ill with COVID-19.

The Western Australian department of health said a man in his 30s who was in hotel quarantine was rushed to Fiona Stanley Hospital on Saturday.

He is a recently returned traveller from India. The man’s condition is said to be stable.

The nation of 1.3 billion is currently battling a huge surge in cases fuelled by a more contagious variant of the virus.

Perth recently underwent a snap lockdown after a man who had been in hotel quarantine later tested positive for the India coronavirus variant.

Western Australia has agreed with the Commonwealth to cut the number of overseas arrivals coming into the state by half following the latest lockdown.

Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales will in contrast welcome more arrivals, including from India.

WA reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. The state is monitoring 22 active cases of COVID-19.

Yesterday, 433 people were assessed for testing at WA Health COVID clinics and 432 were swabbed.

There have been just over one million tests performed in the state.

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Teenager stabbed to death at basketball venue in Werribee


A teenager has been stabbed to death at a junior sports stadium in Melbourne’s western suburbs on Friday night.

Police and paramedics rushed to Eagle Stadium in Werribee about 5.50pm following reports “a male had been injured”.

A 17-year-old Wyndham Vale boy was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries where he later died.

The emergency response triggered an evacuation of the sporting complex, with all other junior games in the VJBL league on Saturday cancelled due to a “serious incident”.

“Unfortunately, due to a serious incident at Eagle Stadium tonight all domestic games have been cancelled tomorrow,” Wyndham Basketball wrote on Facebook.

A 15-year-old Wyndham Vale teenager was assisting police with their inquiries after the shocking incident, but was last night released from custody.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

anthony.piovesan@news.com.au

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Single parents will be offered help to buy their first home in next week’s federal budget



Under the measure announced ahead of Tuesday’s federal budget, up to 10,000 first-time buyers with dependants will be able to access the scheme over four years.

Single parents buying their first home may soon be able to with a deposit of only two per cent under a new federal scheme.

The program allows first home buyers to obtain a loan for a new or newly-built home with a deposit of as little as two per cent with the government guaranteeing up to 18 per cent of the loan.

Under the measure announced ahead of Tuesday’s federal budget, up to 10,000 first-time buyers with dependants will be able to access the scheme over four years.

Minster for Women’s Economic Security Jane Hume says the aim is to make the “great Australian dream” accessible for single mothers.

“We know that so many single parents use so much of their income towards rent and building that deposit is so much harder for them with the demands of children,” she said.

“So this is all about removing those barriers to building that deposit and it’s also about giving those a hand up who need it the most.”

The government has also extended its similar First Home Loan Deposit Scheme to an additional 10,000 buyers.

That scheme allows first-time buyers to build or purchase new homes with a deposit as small as five per cent.

Both measures are designed to fuel construction and boost property ownership, building on the government’s HomeBuilder program, which provided grants of $25,000 for new homes and major renovations.

“The government understands the importance of owning your own home and the significant economic and social benefits home ownership provides,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

However Labor spokesman Jason Clare said it was too little, too late.

“This government has had eight years to fix housing affordability and it’s just got worse,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“What the government’s announced today is not enough to fix this.”

Mr Clare renewed calls to scrap the cap on the number of people able to benefit from the scheme.

More than 100,000 Australians buy a home for the first time every year and the scheme at best helps only 20,000 of them, he said.

Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Dr Cassandra Goldie called it a “cheap as chips” measure that will have no impact on struggling single parents.

There has to be more in the budget to help the one in three single parents living in poverty, she said.

“The question will be: is this it,” she said.

“It’ll help a handful … (but) we are still leaving hundreds of thousands of the lowest income, single parents absolutely behind.”

However, the Commonwealth and NAB banks and peak housing industry associations are all fans.

“The new Family Home Guarantee will be a revolution in providing single custodial parents, the overwhelming majority of whom are women, with a step up to gaining the security that comes with home ownership,” Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn said.

In Sydney and NSW regional centres, the schemes are capped at homes worth $950,000, while the rest of the state has a limit of $600,000.

The cap for Melbourne and Victorian regional cities is $850,000 and elsewhere in the state, $550,000.

In Brisbane and Queensland regional centres it is $650,000 falling to $400,000 in country areas.

WA, SA, Tasmania and the NT have state-wide caps of $550,000, while the ACT limit is for dwellings worth $600,000.

More than half the first-home buyers who have accessed the scheme are under 30, while 15 per cent of the guarantees went to people over 40.

Around 85 per cent of people bought a house, with 10 per cent purchasing a unit or apartment and four per cent buying townhouses.

The average annual income for applicants is $70,000 for singles and $115,000 for couples.

The government is also increasing the amount in voluntary superannuation contributions that can be released to buy a first home from $30,000 to $50,000 and providing $124.7 million in extra state funding to bolster public housing stocks.

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Huge haul of steroids, cocaine seized in Qld drug raids


A special police operation has busted an alleged drug trafficking network distributing steroids, cocaine and MDMA spanning hundreds of kilometres in Queensland.

Officers raided a Bundaberg business following a tip-off searching for Selective Androgen Receptive Modulators (SARM), known commonly as testosterone.

Queensland Police will allege more than twenty containers of restricted SARM drugs were found along with steroidal powders, liquids, a substantial amount of packaging, labels, gel capsules and empty vials.

A 29-year-old Bargara man was charged with drug trafficking along with 11 counts of unlawful possession of a restricted drug, nine counts of supplying dangerous drugs (cocaine and steroids) and seven counts of possessing dangerous drugs.

He is due to appear in Bundaberg Magistrates Court on June 10.

Several other residences and businesses were also searched during the operation with officers uncovering cash, drugs and equipment.

At a Brisbane home, it will be alleged more than 140 vials of steroids, about $15,000 cash and a firearm was found alongside about 32,000 SARM capsules and around 100 SARM liquid bottles.

A 44-year-old Brendale man was charged with drug trafficking following the search, as well as 13 counts of supplying dangerous drugs (cocaine, MDMA and testosterone), three counts of possession of dangerous drugs and unlawful possession of a firearm.

He is due to appear in Pine Rivers Magistrates Court on May 17.

A third man, 44, from Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, is alleged to be connected with the pair and was charged with five counts of supplying dangerous drugs and possessing property used in connection with a crime.

He is due to appear in Southport Magistrates Court on June 7.

The Officer-in-Charge of the Bundaberg Criminal Investigation Branch, Detective Senior Sergeant Michael Bishop, said the operation was a significant disruption to drug trafficking in Bundaberg and across southeast Queensland.

“We will continue to work with our partners to disrupt this behaviour to make our communities a safer place,” he said.

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