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Syrian girl born with no legs used to walk with tin cans as prosthetic limbs

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Istanbul:Earlier this month, Maya Merhi, 8, who was born with no legs due to a congenital condition, was moving around a Syrian displaced persons camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.
But after pictures of her plight, including those taken by AFP in Syria, were seen around the world, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life should be about to change.
“Maya will walk,” said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the prosthetics specialist treating her at an Istanbul clinic. “God willing, in three months time.”
Maya, originally from Aleppo region, had until her sudden transfer to Istanbul been living with her father at a camp for displaced people in the Idlib region of northern Syria, victims of Syria’s over seven year civil war.
Her homemade prosthetics had been cobbled together by her father Mohammad Merhi, 34, who also shares the same disability known as congenital amputation which means the person is born without lower limbs.
After the pictures of her shuffling with difficulty around the refugee camp made a huge impact across the world, the Turkish Red Crescent intervened.
The father and daughter were evacuated from Syria by the Turkish authorities and brought to Istanbul for treatment at a specialised clinic.
They had been living in the countryside of the south of Aleppo region but had to leave for Idlib at the start of the year as fighting began to rage in their native region.
Maya, like her father, had been able to move around more easily by crawling. But recent surgery, which further reduced the length of her limbs had impeded this.
“After the operation, she was not able to move around and was sitting the whole time in a tent,” Mohammad told AFP in an interview at the Istanbul clinic.
“In order for her to move out of the tent, I had the idea to fix on her limbs tubing, stuffed with a spongy material to reduce the pressure.
“Then, I added two empty cans of tuna because the plastic was not strong enough to resist the friction with the ground.”
With these impromptu prosthetics, Maya was able to walk outside of the tent and could even go on her own to the camp’s school.
Mohammad, who has five other children none of whom suffer from the condition, said he replaced the plastic tubing once a month and the tins once a week.
While her father spoke to AFP at the clinic, Maya sat in his arms in his wheelchair, clearly overwhelmed by the experience of the last days.
Her father will also be given prosthetic legs at the Turkish clinic. But it’s above all the fate of his daughter that worries him.
“It’s more important that she can walk so that she is autonomous. It would be like a new life for us,” he said.
“I dream of seeing her walk, going to school and back without suffering,” he added.


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International

Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House

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WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.

During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.

The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.

 

“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”

Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.

“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.

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Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11

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BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.

The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.

 

The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.

In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.

State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.

They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.

The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.

Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.

Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.

The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.

Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.

The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.

The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.

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Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process

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Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.

“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.

Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.

 

“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.

Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.

“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.

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