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Muslims begin downsized hajj amid pandemic

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Mecca (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Mask-clad Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday began the annual hajj, dramatically downsized this year as the Saudi hosts strive to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual, a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world that attended last year.Pilgrims walked into M…

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Virus curfew to be lifted in Australia as global deaths near a million

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Melbourne (AFP) - An overnight curfew in Australia's second-largest city will be lifted this week, officials said Sunday, even as the global coronavirus toll inched towards one million dead.Despite the number of infections worldwide passing 32 million -- with the US state of New York reporting a fresh spike -- more than 10,000 anti-lockdown protesters demonstrated in central London ahead of the re-imposition of restrictions there.In more positive news, residents of the Chinese city of Wuhan -- where the virus emerged last year -- reported a hesitant return to normalcy, while the French Open go... (more…)

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Paris inaugurates city’s first park honoring a Black woman

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The city of Paris inaugurated a public garden Saturday honoring a woman who fought for the liberation of slaves on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo also announced plans to erect a statue to the woman, Solitude, at the site in northeastern Paris. It will be the city’s first statue honoring a Black woman.

Amid global protests against monuments to white men linked to colonialism or the slave trade, French leaders have resisted taking down statues but pushed instead to design new monuments to more diverse, lesser-known historical figures.

Solitude was born around 1772 to an African slave who was raped by a white sailor on the ship bringing her to the Antilles, according to newspaper Le Monde.

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Suspect in Paris knife attack was not on police radar

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The primary suspect in Friday’s knife attack outside the former Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not on police radar – despite a recent arrest for carrying a weapon.

The suspected assailant was arrested in June, but had not been previously flagged for possible religious radicalisation, according to the interior ministry.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that the 18-year-old suspect arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor, apparently from Pakistan, but that his identity was still being verified.

Two people were wounded in the attack outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices, in Paris’s eastern 11th arrondissement (district). The suspect, his face speckled with blood, was arrested by police on the steps of the Bastille Opera House, not far from the scene.

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