Reclusive Taliban supreme leader makes rare public appearance

Haibatullah Akhundzada said to have visited religious school in Kandahar, confounding rumours of his death

The Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, has made a rare public appearance in the southern city of Kandahar, Taliban officials announced on Sunday, contradicting widespread rumours of his death.

Akhundzada, known as the leader of the faithful or Amir ul Momineen, had not been seen in public since the Taliban’s August takeover of the country, giving rise to the speculation.

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China rejects US intelligence report on Covid origins as ‘political and false’

Beijing has reacted angrily to the report, which said China was hindering investigations into source of the pandemic

Beijing has lashed out against a US intelligence review into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it “political and false” while urging Washington to stop attacking China.

The Chinese foreign ministry’s retort came on Sunday, days after the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a fuller version of its findings from a 90-day review ordered by president Joe Biden.

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Time running out for LGBTQ+ Afghans hiding from Taliban, warn charities

Large numbers linked to previous administration are stranded in Afghanistan, with calls for the UK to broker rapid mass evacuation

Calls for the government to speed up the evacuation of gay, lesbian and transgender Afghans intensified on Saturday after the first LGBTQ+ group arrived safely in Britain but left many behind to face an uncertain fate.

The group of 29 is “hoped to be the first of many” in the coming months, the Foreign Office said, hours after the Taliban announced LGBTQ+ rights would not be respected.

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Hindu-Muslim violence crosses border from Bangladesh to India

Footage shared on social media blamed for igniting violence between communities that left seven dead, buildings torched and many living in fear

It was early morning when Achintya Das, a 55-year-old teacher in the city of Cumilla in Bangladesh, was woken by the ringing of his mobile phone. On the other end of the line was a fearful, stricken voice. Come quickly, the local told him, something very grave had happened. A Qur’an had been found in the shrine they had recently erected for the upcoming Hindu festival of Durga Puja. The Islamic holy book had been placed on a statue of the Hindu god Hanuman.

Das, a Hindu who organised the festival in Cumilla, felt dread rise up in him at the news of the desecration of Muslim holy scripture in their shrine. “It didn’t even take me a second to understand the gravity of the situation. I rushed there immediately,” he said.

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New Zealand pledges to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030

With Cop26 climate summit about to begin, PM Jacinda Ardern says ‘it’s critical we pull our weight’

New Zealand has pledged to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, toughening its previous ambitions to limit global warming on the eve of the United Nations Cop26 climate conference.

“While we are a small contributor to global emissions, as a country surrounded by oceans and an economy reliant on our land we are not immune to the impact of climate change, so it’s critical we pull our weight,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Sunday.

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Gunmen kill at least three at Afghan wedding to stop music being played

Killers said they were Taliban but government denies responsibility and says two of them have been arrested

Gunmen presenting themselves as Taliban attacked a wedding in eastern Afghanistan to stop music being played and killed at least three people, the government has said.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Saturday that two of the three attackers had been arrested, and denied they were acting on behalf of the Islamist movement.

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Xi Jinping calls for mutual Covid vaccine approvals

Speaking to the G20 summit by video, China’s president stressed vaccine cooperation and economic stability

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has called for mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccines based on the World Health Organization’s emergency use list, according to a transcript of his remarks delivered to leaders of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, published by the official Xinhua news agency.

Speaking to the participants in Rome via video link, Xi said China had provided more than 1.6bn Covid shots to the world, and was working with 16 nations to cooperate on manufacturing doses.

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