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By NewsGram Staff Writer
Peshawar: At least 42 people, among 13 terrorists, were killed on Friday when heavily armed Pakistani Taliban guerrillas stormed a mosque during morning prayers in an air base near Peshawar.
The audacious attack took place less than a year after over 150 people, mostly children, were killed in a terrorist attack at an army-run public school in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Major General Asim Bajwa, the Inter-Services Public Relations director general, claimed the attack was planned and controlled from Afghanistan.
The terrorists, dressed in constabulary uniforms and wearing explosives-laden jackets and armed with hand-propelled grenades, mortars, and AK-47 rifles, entered the Badaber air base from two points and then quickly split into three groups, with two moving to a residential area.
The third group approached the mosque and sprayed worshippers with bullets during the morning ‘Fajar’ prayers, killing at least 16 people. However, it was not clear how many among the killed were civilians and how many were military personnel.
“The terrorists then split into two groups, with one group heading towards the administrative area of the base and the other group heading towards technical area,” Bajwa added.
“Captain Asfandyar embraced shahadat while fighting valiantly and leading his troops from the front,” Bajwa said.
The air base — which is essentially a residential complex rather than an operational one — is located on the southern-most tip of Peshawar’s administrative limits.
It is surrounded by tribal territory, which had been the hub of criminal and militant activity until recently.
The attack comes amid claims of success by the military in its 15-month operation in the tribal region, and might well be an attempt by militants to show they can still hit hard chosen targets.
It also exposed holes in Pakistan’s pre-emptive intelligence gathering mechanisms, mainly due to lack of coordination and information sharing among various security agencies.
Gen. Bajwa said 16 people offering prayers at the air base mosque, 10 km south of Peshawar, were shot dead.
He tweeted that 13 terrorists were killed. The Pakistan army too suffered casualties.
The total number of gunmen involved was unclear, but Bajwa said the armed forces were hunting for the remaining attackers.
At least 25 people, including eight soldiers and two army officers, were injured as army commandos and personnel of the Pakistan Air Force and Quick Reaction Force carried out a counter-attack.
A posse of security personnel quickly reached the spot, triggering a heavy exchange of fire. Residents said they heard explosions and gunfire soon after the terror attack was mounted.
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Muhammad Khurasani in an e-mailed statement claimed responsibility and said a “suicidal unit” had carried out the attack.
“We sent 14 men to attack the base and eight of them entered the base from one side and six from the other side,” the spokesperson’s e-mail said.
On August 16, 2012, militants attacked the Minhas base of the Pakistan Air Force at Kamra. But lately there has been a lull in the violence. The last deadly attack in the city came in February when three Taliban militants stormed a Shia mosque, killing 21 people.
Following Friday’s attack, army chief General Raheel Sharif reached Peshawar. Air chief Sohail Aman also left for the city, a PAF spokesperson said.
“Army chief visited CMH, met injured army and PAF personnel,” Bajwa said, adding the chief of air staff accompanied him. “Injured in high morale and spirits,” he added.
Condemning the attack, President Mamnoon Hussain said the nation was committed to eliminate terrorism from the country.
“Terrorists cannot undermine our resolve by carrying out coward acts of terrorism,” the president said.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack, saying: “Terrorists will be rooted out from the country.”
The premier said he was being updated on the ongoing operation against terrorists. He said the armed forces of the county have the full support of the entire nation.
Sharif also reached Peshawar and visited the wounded soldiers and civilians in hospital.
Corps commander Lt Gen. Hidayatur Rehman conducted aerial surveillance of the base from a helicopter.
(With inputs from IANS)
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook critics pounced Wednesday on a report that the social network plans to rename itself, arguing it may be seeking to distract from recent scandals and controversy.
The report from tech news website The Verge, which Facebook refused to confirm, said the embattled company was aiming to show its ambition to be more than a social media site.
But an activist group calling itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board warned that major industries like oil and tobacco had rebranded to "deflect attention" from their problems.
"Facebook thinks that a rebrand can help them change the subject," said the group's statement, adding the real issue was the need for oversight and regulation.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told AFP: "We don't have any comment and aren't confirming The Verge's report."
The Verge cited an unnamed source noting the name would reflect Facebook's efforts to build the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.
Facebook on Monday announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the metaverse, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg emerging as a leading promoter of the concept.
The announcement comes as Facebook grapples with the fallout of a damaging scandal, major outages of its services and rising calls for regulation to curb its vast influence.
The company has faced a storm of criticism over the past month after former employee Frances Haugen leaked internal studies showing Facebook knew its sites could be harmful to young people's mental health.
The Washington Post last month suggested that Facebook's interest in the metaverse is "part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company's reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave internet technologies."
Silicon Valley analyst Benedict Evans argued a rebranding would ignore fundamental problems with the platform.
"If you give a broken product a new name, people will quite quickly work out that this new brand has the same problems," he tweeted.
"A better 'rebrand' approach is generally to fix the problem first and then create a new brand reflecting the new experience," he added.
Google rebranded itself as Alphabet in a corporate reconfiguration in 2015, but the online search and ad powerhouse remains its defining unit despite other operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Verily life sciences. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Renaming, Fallout, Verge
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Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences