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Several French towns record high temperatures amid heatwave



France recorded the highest-ever temperatures on Monday as the country continues to battle wildfires burning in its southwestern region of Gironde, CNN reported.
According to the national meteorological service Meteo France, the town of Cazaux recorded 42.4 degrees Celsius (108.3 degrees Fahrenheit), the hottest it has ever seen since its weather station first opened more than 100 years ago in 1921.
Several cities in France including Nantes and Brest have also seen their records updated by the heatwave on Monday.
Nantes witnessed 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and Brest 39.3 degrees Celsius (102.7 degrees Fahrenheit), CNN citing Meteo France reported.
However, temperatures in the west are expected to be lower on Tuesday compared to Monday as the center of the heatwave moves toward the center and east of the country.
Paris is expected to reach 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit) Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Network Rail advised people not to travel on Tuesday due to extreme heat.

Spain suspends train services between Madrid and Galicia due to fire near tracks.
CNN quoting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reported that more than 70,000 hectares have been destroyed in Spain because of fires this year.
“70,000 hectares, to give you an idea is almost double of the last decade’s average. So far this year we have had 11 big fires,” he said.
Almost the entire country faces an extreme fire risk with many regions now classed as an “extreme” level of heat, according to Spain’s national weather agency AEMET.
On Monday, Spain was facing an eighth of a more than week-long heatwave, which caused more than 510 heat-related deaths, according to the latest figures from the Carlos III Health Institute.
The fatalities were reported by the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII), which forms part of the ministry, between July 10 and 16, with Saturday the deadliest to date with 150 victims, Xinhua reported.
The heat is especially affecting the elderly, with 321 of the 510 victims aged 85 or over, 121 between 75 and 84, and 44 between 65 and 74.
However, deaths were also reported among the younger population, including two municipal workers in Madrid who died of heatstroke. This prompted the city hall to adopt more flexible working hours, so that workers could avoid working outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, the media reports said.


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Russia must exit Ukraine nuclear plant, G7 says



They accused Moscow’s forces of putting the entire region in danger.

The facility and its surrounding area saw shelling last week, which Russia and Ukraine blamed on each other.

Ukraine says Russia has turned the site into a military base, launching attacks from there knowing that Ukrainian forces are unlikely to retaliate.

The complex, Europe’s largest, has been under Russian occupation since early March, although Ukrainian technicians still operate it.

Petro Kotin, the head of Enerhoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power operator, told the BBC earlier this week that about 500 Russian soldiers were at the site, using it as a nuclear shield.

Kotin said the threat was grave, but that the plant remained safe.

In other developments:

  • Ukraine’s Air Force command says about a dozen Russian warplanes may have been destroyed in explosions at an airfield in Russian-occupied Crimea on Tuesday
  • Ukraine has denied any responsibility for the blasts and Russia’s defence ministry said ammunition detonated at the base
  • The Ukrainian military reports a bridge in the occupied part of Kherson Region has been rendered unusable after being struck by artillery earlier in the week. Ukraine has mounted a counteroffensive in the area
  • Russian investigators have launched a criminal inquiry against journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who denounced Russia’s invasion on live TV

Ministers from the G7, an organisation of some of the world’s wealthiest nations, said they were profoundly concerned over the serious threat to safety at the nuclear plant.

Their warning echoed statements from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which called for an end to “all military activities that endanger nuclear security”.

However, the chances that Russia will take heed appear extremely remote at best, say analysts.

The G7 also said Russia’s actions undermined the IAEA’s ability to monitor the safety of nuclear activities in Ukraine.

For its part, Russia has accused Ukraine of creating “artificial obstacles and difficulties” to a potential IAEA mission to the nuclear power plant.

Russia has requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation at the power plant. The meeting will be held on Thursday in New York.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials say Russian shelling in central Ukraine overnight killed at least 16 people.

Thirteen of the victims were in the Dnipropetrovsk region, two died in the Donetsk region, and a woman was killed in the Zaporizhzhia region.


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Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in strike in Afghanistan – Biden



Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, US President Joe Biden said, in the biggest blow to the militant group since its founder Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head, helped coordinate the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3000 people.

US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the United States carried out a drone strike in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday morning at 6.18am local time.

“Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “We never back down.”

US intelligence determined with “high confidence” that the man killed was Zawahiri, a senior administration official told reporters. No other casualties occurred.

“Zawahiri continued to pose an active threat to US persons, interests and national security,” the official said on a conference call. “His death deals a significant blow to al Qaeda and will degrade the group’s ability to operate.”

There were rumours of Zawahiri’s death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health.

His death raises questions about whether Zawahiri received sanctuary from the Taliban following their takeover of Kabul in August 2021. The official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in the city.

The drone attack is the first known US strike inside Afghanistan since US troops and diplomats left the country in August 2021. The move may bolster the credibility of Washington’s assurances that the United States can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that a strike took place and strongly condemned it, calling it a violation of “international principles.”

Zawahiri succeeded bin Laden as al Qaeda leader after years as its main organizer and strategist, but his lack of charisma and competition from rival militants Islamic State hobbled his ability to inspire spectacular attacks on the West.

Until the US announcement, Zawahiri had been rumoured variously to be in Pakistan’s tribal area or inside Afghanistan.

A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic head scarf dispelled rumours that he had died.

The senior US official said finding Zawahiri was the result of persistent counterterrorism work. The United States identified this year that Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children had relocated to a safe house in Kabul, then identified that Zawahiri was there as well, the official said.

“Once Zawahiri arrived at the location, we are not aware of him ever leaving the safe house,” the official said. He was identified multiple times on the balcony, where he was ultimately struck. He continued to produce videos from the house and some may be released after his death, the official said.

In the last few weeks, Biden convened officials to scrutinize the intelligence. He was updated throughout May and June and was briefed on 1 July on a proposed operation by intelligence leaders. On 25 July he received an updated report and authorised the strike once an opportunity was available.

A loud explosion echoed through Kabul early Sunday morning.

“A house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor. There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor, spokesman of the interior ministry, said earlier.

One Taliban source, requesting anonymity, said there had been reports of at least one drone flying over Kabul that morning.

With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the 12 October 2000 attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.

He was indicted in the United States for his role in bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on 7 August 1998 that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5000 others.

Both bin laden and Zawahiri had eluded capture when US-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Bin Laden was killed in 2011 by US forces in Pakistan. (RNZ)

– Reuters

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Rishi Sunak tops Tory leadership poll, as Tugendhat drops out of race



Former chancellor Rishi Sunak has topped the third MPs’ vote for the next Tory leader and prime minister, with backbencher Tom Tugendhat eliminated.

Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt took second place, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was third and ex-equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was fourth.

The four remaining candidates go to another round of voting on Tuesday.

The field will be cut to two on Wednesday, with Conservative Party members then having the final say.

The placings were the same as in the second round of voting last Thursday, but Sunak picked up 14 more votes, Badenoch nine and Truss seven.

Mordaunt’s support dropped by one vote, as did Tugendhat’s.

In a statement, Tugendhat said: “I want to thank my team, colleagues and, most of all, the British people for their support.

“I have been overwhelmed by the response we have received across the country. People are ready for a clean start and our party must deliver on it and put trust back into politics.”

A source within Truss’s campaign told the BBC: “We’ve narrowed the gap to Penny pretty considerably. Story is Penny going backwards. All to play for!”

But Mordaunt said: “My vote is steady and I’m grateful to my colleagues for all their support and thrilled to be in second place once more.”


A prominent Sunak supporter said: “That’s a cracking result – Rishi gaining most [votes].”

And a Badenoch campaign source said: “Kemi is pleased to have taken it to the next vote. She has momentum over both Mordaunt and Truss. It’s all to play for and Kemi is in it to win.”

The Tory leadership contest has become increasingly bitter and personal in tone, as those left in it fight for the final two places.

Tugendhat earlier rejected calls to stand aside and throw his support behind another candidate, as did Badenoch.

But most of the rancour has been between Sunak, Mordaunt and Truss, who clashed in an ITV-hosted debate on Sunday over their economic policies.

Sky News debate scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled after Sunak and Truss declined to take part, and amid concern among senior Tories that angry arguments in public could damage the party.

The new Tory leader and prime minister is due to be announced on 5 September.

Separately, the government won a vote of confidence in itself in the House of Commons.

It could have led to a general election, had ministers been defeated.

But this would have required dozens of Conservative MPs to side with Labour and other opposition parties.

Opening the debate, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was still in charge of “one of the most dynamic governments of modern times”.

He told MPs: “He [Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer] wants [a confidence vote] and since they want one, it’s his constitutional prerogative, we will comply and we will win.”

He also told the Commons: “Some people will say as I leave office that this is the end of Brexit, and the Leader of the Opposition and the deep state will prevail in its plot to haul us back into alignment with the EU as a prelude to our eventual return, and we on this side of the House will prove them wrong, won’t we?” Tory MPs cheered in response.

Sir Keir responded to the PM’s speech, saying: “Unlike his predecessors, this prime minister has not been forced out over policy disagreements.

“And despite the delusions he has fostered in his bunker, he has not been felled by the stampede of an eccentric herd. Instead, he has been forced out in disgrace.”

The government won by 349 votes to 238, a majority of 111.



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