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Indonesia cathedral bombing an ‘act of terror,’ says president

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An Indonesian cathedral was rocked by a suspected suicide bombing on Sunday that wounded more than a dozen as Christians inside celebrated the start of Holy Week, an attack slammed by the country’s leader as an “act of terror”.

The powerful blast outside a church hosting around 100 people in Makassar city on Sulawesi island happened around 10:30 am local time (0330 GMT) and left at least 14 church officials and congregants injured by debris, police said.

Authorities have said it appeared that at least one of two attackers who drove into the church compound on a motorcycle was killed in the blast.

Forensic investigators were poring over body parts of the suspected attackers scattered at the scene to determine the fate of the second suspect and to identify those behind what authorities have called a “suspected suicide bombing”.

“There were two people riding on a motorbike when the explosion happened at the main gate of the church — the perpetrators were trying to enter the compound,” National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

One eyewitness described hearing two “very strong” explosions and then seeing plumes of smoke at the scene.

“There were several injured people on the street. I helped one woman…who was wounded and covered in blood,” Yosi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

“Her grandchild was also injured. There were body parts everywhere.”

It was not clear if the victims’ wounds were life-threatening.

“We were finishing the service and people were going home when it happened,” Pastor Wilhelmus Tulak told reporters.

– ‘Act of terror’ –

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he “strongly condemned this act of terror”.

“Terrorism is a crime against humanity,” Widodo said.

“I call on everyone to fight against terror and radicalism, which go against religious values.”

Amnesty International said the bombing showed “complete contempt” for human rights.

The explosion at the main Catholic cathedral in Makassar — a port city of about 1.5 million — happened just after congregants finished celebrating Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week, which commemorates Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem.

It comes a week before Easter.

In his mass for Palm Sunday, Pope Francis said he prayed for all the victims of violence “especially those of this morning’s attack in Indonesia, in front of the Cathedral of Makassar”.

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Churches have been targeted in the past by extremists in Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation and home to several religious minorities including Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.

Sunday’s attack follows the arrest in recent months of dozens of militants suspected of planning terror attacks, according to Indonesia’s counter-terror squad.

In 2018, a dozen people were killed when a family of suicide bombers blew themselves up at churches during Sunday services in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya.

The family — including two daughters aged nine and 12 — and another family of five, which carried out a suicide bombing on a police headquarters, all belonged to the same Koran study group.

They were also linked to local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

JAD, which has not claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, gained notoriety in 2016 for a gun and suicide bomb attack in the capital Jakarta that killed four civilians and four attackers — including one who blew himself up at a Starbucks outlet.

It was the first attack claimed by Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has long struggled with Islamist militancy and has suffered a series of attacks in the past two decades, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists. The bombings were Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack.

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Global News

Okonjo-Iweala announces four WTO deputy DGs

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Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday, announced the appointment of Angela Ellard of the United States, Anabel González of Costa Rica, Ambassador Jean-Marie Paugam of France and Ambassador Xiangchen Zhang of China as her four Deputy Directors-General.

This was contained in a statement titled, ‘DG Okonjo-Iweala announces her four Deputy Directors-General’.

“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of four new Deputy Directors-General at the WTO. It is the first time in the history of our Organisation that half of the DDGs are women. This underscores my commitment to strengthening our Organisation with talented leaders whilst at the same time achieving gender balance in senior positions. I look forward to welcoming them to the WTO,” said Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian Finance Minister, who broke the 26-year record of the global institution to emerge the first African and female DG.

Ellard, international expert on trade and international economic policy, has a distinguished career of service working at the US Congress as Majority and Minority Chief Trade Counsel and Staff Director.

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González, a renowned global expert on trade, investment and economic development, served as Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; as Director-General for International Trade Negotiations; as Director-General of the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency; and as Special Ambassador and Chief negotiator of the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.

Also, Paugam has held senior management positions in the French Government on trade, most recently as Permanent Representative of France to the WTO. He has also held a number of senior positions in the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, including as a member of the Executive Committee of the French Treasury.

Zhang currently serves as Vice Minister in the Ministry of Commerce of China. He has long and extensive experience on WTO issues, international negotiations, and policy research. Ambassador Zhang served until recently as China’s Permanent Representative to the WTO and previously as Deputy Permanent Representative.

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COVID-19 resurgence, threat to oil demand recovery – OPEC

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The resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries is posing a threat to economic and oil demand recovery, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has said.

It disclosed this at the 16th OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting of the Declaration of Cooperation, which took place via teleconference on Tuesday.

In a document on some of the deliberations at the meeting, the organisation stated that participants highlighted the continuing recovery in the global economy, supported by unprecedented levels of monetary and fiscal support.

They noted that the recovery was expected to pick up in the second half of the year, but observed that the resurgence of COVID-19 across the globe could hamper economic and oil demand recovery.

OPEC said, “The ministerial meeting emphasised, however, that COVID-19 cases are rising in a number of countries, despite the ongoing vaccination campaigns, and that the resurgence could hamper the economic and oil demand recovery.”

The meeting also emphasised the ongoing positive contributions of the Declaration of Cooperation in supporting a rebalancing of the global oil market.

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This, according to the organisation, was in line with the historic decisions taken at the 10th (Extraordinary) OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meeting on April 12, 2020 to adjust downwards overall crude oil production, and subsequent decisions.

The meeting further reviewed the monthly report prepared by the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, including the crude oil production data for March 2021.

Participants welcomed the positive performance of the participating countries, as they noted that overall conformity to the production adjustments was 115 per cent in March 2021, reinforcing the trend of high conformity by the nations.

OPEC said the meeting expressed its appreciation to the participating countries that performed beyond expectation in March 2021, with total over-conformed volumes of 1.23 million barrels per day.

It, however, noted that some participating countries had yet to achieve the minimum expectation of 100 per cent conformity and to compensate for overproduced volumes.

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COVID-19

Close international airports, increase COVID-19 testing, experts tell FG

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In a bid to avert the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have advised the Federal Government to close international airports for two weeks and increase COVID-19 testing capacities.

The President, President Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, in a statement on Tuesday said, the low-level transmission in the country was largely due to the lockdowns going on in Europe and some countries.

He said, “There is the urgent need to enforce the use of PTF regulations of social distancing, washing of hands, the use of hand sanitisers and the wearing of facemasks.

 “In view of the current trends regarding the third wave, The Academy of Medicine Specialties and our Rapid-Response initiative group of the Academy of Medicine Specialties feel that we should close our international airports to all flights for at least two weeks. This third wave is affecting not only India but France, Germany and Italy. The Federal Government should be proactive.

“Nigeria cannot afford to have a third wave. Only a small percentage of the population have been vaccinated. Furthermore, all the theories speculated for our immunity such as heat, sun, and other endemic immunities also applies to India,” he said.

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Also, a medical virologist at Adeleke University, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, in an interview with our correspondent said, Nigerians should be warned to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent COVID-19.

“Everyone needs to be careful to avoid something like the third wave of Spanish influenza between 1918/19. However, testing has reduced, so we may not accurately picture what is going on. More COVID-19 tests should be carried out to understand the epidemiological trend to know the circulating variants in the country. International travels should be well monitored and coordinated, putting in mind countries affected by the third wave as it demands,” he said.

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