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Spain plans another Afghan evacuation mission; arrivals 'imminent', but details 'top secret'

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ANOTHER mission to evacuate Afghans who were unable to escape their home country in August is due to take place in the next few days, confirms Spain’s defence minister Margarita Robles, but details are being kept under wraps for safety reasons.

Afghan evacuees queuing at Kabul airport (photo: Ministry of defence)

Two months ago, a total of 2,206 men, women and children were flown to safety from the Afghan capital, Kabul, to the military air base in Torrejón de Ardoz (Greater Madrid region).

Some of them were Spanish citizens based in the Asian country, although most were Afghans desperate to flee the newly-installed Taliban régime.

Women in particular were anxious to get out of the country, fearing a return of the extreme oppression of half the population seen in the run-up to the war in 2001, sparked by 9/11, leading to international troops being based in Afghanistan for the next 20 years.

One of these was Nilofar Bayat, Afghan national women’s wheelchair basketball team captain, who was brought safely to Spain with her husband Ramish, captain of the men’s team in the sport, both of whom have been offered similar jobs with Basque Country team Bidaideak Bilbao BSR.

They were rescued after Nilofar made an emotional appeal to Spanish reporter Antonio Pampliega.

Another family unit successfully transported to Torrejón de Ardoz was that of a student who spent his exchange year in Madrid and whose father and sister had been government workers for the previous régime, meaning they were likely to be targeted by the Taliban.

Spain’s instant response to the political crisis, including evacuating Afghans who had no connection with the country rather than focusing entirely on its own nationals and Afghan citizens linked to them, was highly praised by the European Union as an example of global solidarity.

Figures from the last of the August evacuations showed that, at the time, around 70% of arrivals had applied for asylum in Spain.

The next mission will see a further 200 or so Afghans flown to Spain, this time via neighbouring Pakistan and, if all goes according to plan, should be landing in Torrejón de Ardoz some time this coming week.

Foreign affairs minister José Manuel Albares, whose department is working alongside Margarita Robles’ defence ministry on the operation, recently travelled to Pakistan and to Qatar to express Spain’s wish to set up safe corridors for Afghan nationals with Spanish links – such as interpreters working for troops, and those whose family members have already been taken to Madrid – and who were unable to escape during the initial multi-national rescue mission when numerous flights operated in constant rotation with Kabul.

Qatar and Pakistan are the countries with the closest political relationship to the extreme Islamist Afghan government, according to Albares, making their cooperation of huge benefit in the evacuation mission. 

Other than likely numbers, the fact that they will probably travel via Pakistan and Qatar, and that their arrival in Madrid is imminent, nothing further has been made public about Spain’s latest mission, so as not to compromise the security of those involved.

Celebrity

Spain’s Princess Leonor calls on young people to change the future in moving speech at Asturias Awards

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PRINCESS Leonor of Spain has urged young people around the world to help build a better future. Speaking at the 2021 Princess of Asturias Awards gala, which was founded by her father in 1980, the heir to the throne closed the glittering ceremony in Asturias with a passionate speech. 

“As a high school student, I think of all of us who can do more and how much we can learn from tonight’s winners,” she said onstage at the Campoamor Theater in Oviedo on Friday. 

 “You project on us, the youngest, the certainty that we also have a lot to contribute, that we can be important and show ourselves responsible to try to think about a more sustainable, fairer, better future for everyone.

“Studying and observing your work excites me and fills me with strength to continue assuming my responsibilities and always work with the greatest commitment.” 

The 15-year-old princess of Asturias has been studying at UWC Atlantic College in Wales since September but returned to Spain to attend the annual awards during her half term break.

Princess Leonor was there to congratulate the winners and hand out the trophies created by Spanish prestigious sculptor Joan Miro. 

Sharing its name with Leonor, who is heir to the Spanish throne and holds the title of Princess of Asturias, the annual awards are presented to individuals or organisations who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, and public affairs. 

Speaking onstage she said:  “I am very happy to return to Oviedo to celebrate the delivery of our awards. I have always seen my parents on this stage honouring  the initiatives and ideas that improve our society.” 

She added that would ‘miss Asturias, a place which she loves so much’ where she and her sister Princess Sofia, 14, ‘always feel at home’.

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Aquaman star Jason Momoa to film reality TV show in Spain’s Mallorca

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ACTOR Jason Momoa, star of Dune, Aquaman and Game of Thrones, will be filming a reality TV show about rock climbing on the island of Mallorca, it has been revealed.

The show entitled The Climb produced by HBO Max will follow complete amateurs as they train and compete for the title of ‘World’s Best Amateur Rock Climber‘. 

Momoa will be presenting alongside Chris Sharma, widely considered to be the best climber in the world. The pair have been friends since climbing together as teenagers.

The 41-year-old Hawaii born actor is a huge fan of rock-climbing and incorporated it into his training regime for the Aquaman movies, where they built a climbing gym on set.

One episode will be filmed at an as yet undisclosed location in Mallorca although current top picks are the Serra de Tramuntana and the famous Es Pontà arch.

Production teams have also been seen in Alt Urgell and Pallars Jussà in Catalunya.

Twelve amateur climbers will attempt difficult ascents throughout France, Austria, Spain, Mallorca and the US in order to be titled the world’s best amateur climber.

Viewers will be able to watch The Climb on HBO at the end of 2022.

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Alec Baldwin says his “heart is broken”

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Alec Baldwin says his
Alec Baldwin says his “heart is broken”. image: twitter

Alec Baldwin says his “heart is broken” after fatal shooting incident

Alec Baldwin has spoken for the first time about the tragic shooting incident that occurred on the set of his latest film ‘Rust’. The 63-year-old renowned actor took to Twitter twice to convey his feelings about what had happened.

“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother, and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred, and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family”,

Adding, “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna”.

The victim of the accident was 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins, who was the Director of Photography on the set located on a Western-style ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was a mother of two children. Hutchins was airlifted to hospital immediately after the accident on Thursday evening, October 21, but was pronounced dead.

Joel Souza, the film’s 48-year-old director was also injured in the incident. He was taken to hospital on Thursday evening but later released. One single shot from a prop gun that Baldwin fired, somehow managed to hit both people.

Sante Fe police took Baldwin in for questioning, but he was later released without any charges. Mystery still surrounds the shooting, because, for authenticity purposes, the prop guns are always only loaded with either blanks or dummy bullets. There has been no confirmation whether a live bullet somehow found its way into the gun’s chamber, as reported by dailymail.co.uk.

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