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TikTok banned in Nepal

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Nepal has banned China’s TikTok because its content “was detrimental to social harmony.”

The decision comes days after the country introduced a new rule requiring social media firms to set up liaison offices in the country.

TikTok, which has around a billion monthly users, has been banned by several countries including India.

Earlier this year, Montana became the first US state to ban it while the UK Parliament banned it from its network.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Rekha Sharma has told the BBC Nepali that the platform spread malicious content.

She added that “the ban would come into effect immediately and telecom authorities have been directed to implement the decision”.

But Gagan Thapa, a senior leader of Nepali Congress, which is part of the coalition government, has questioned the government’s decision to impose a ban on TikTok.

He said it was an attempt to curb the freedom of expression and officials should focus on regulating the platform.

(BBC News)

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash, official says

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

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(Reuters)

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8 killed and dozens injured after Mumbai billboard collapse

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A least eight people have been killed and about 60 injured after a giant billboard collapsed during a sudden storm in the Indian city of Mumbai, authorities said.

The billboard, measuring 70m by 50m according to the police, fell onto houses and a petrol station in the city’s financial district on Monday.

About 20 to 30 people are still feared to be trapped with a rescue operation under way, emergency services said.

The billboard fell after a rain and dust storm hit the city of Mumbai, ripping up trees and causing travel chaos and power outages.

Footage on local news channels shows the huge billboard swaying in the wind before giving way and crashing into the buildings near a busy road in the city’s eastern suburb of Ghatkopar.

Video posted on social media appears to show the immediate aftermath at the petrol station, with vehicles crushed under the fallen advertisement hoarding.

In photos from the scene, emergency teams can be seen working through the wreckage. dramatic video footage also shows rescue workers pulling out a victim from under the fallen billboard and using power tools to cut the metal.

In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said “speedy winds” caused the collapse and that several agencies including police, fire and national disaster response teams were involved in the rescue operation.

Devendra Fadnavis, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, said a “high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.”

She adde that the state government would provide financial assistance of 500,000 rupees (£4,767) to the families of those killed and wounded in the incident.

Flights were temporarily suspended at the city’s international airport during the storm with at least 15 planes diverted, local media report.

Mumbai is one of several cities in India prone to severe flooding and rain-related incidents during the monsoon season – which is usually between June and September.

(BBC News)

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Former Indian envoy to Sri Lanka, enters politics

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Former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu has joined India’s ruling BJP and is contesting the elections. After Sri Lanka, he also served in the United States.

He is a BJP candidate from the Amritsar seat and on Friday he declared his total assets worth Rs 39.92 crore, according to his poll affidavit, the NDTV reported.

Sandhu, 61, on Friday filed his nomination papers in Amritsar for the June 1 Lok Sabha polls.

According to his affidavit, Sandhu declared moveable and immovable assets owned by him and his wife to be Rs 10.88 crore and 29.04 crore, respectively.

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