US forces battled insurgents around the rebel stronghold of Fallujah yesterday. Many Iraqi Christians skipped Mass following bombings at churches in the capital. \nFierce clashes between US troops and insurgents broke out on a highway east of Fallujah and in the southern part of the city, witnesses said. The road, which leads to Baghdad, has been completely blocked. Residents reported fresh aerial and artillery attacks as explosions boomed across the city. \nPlumes of smoke were seen rising from the eastern neighborhood of Askari and southern area of Shuhada as families began to flee the area, residents reported. They said a Humvee was seen burning in the eastern edge of the city. Hospital officials said three civilians were injured in the clashes. \nYesterday, Fallujah clerics repeated their offer to return to the negotiating table if the US stopped its bombing, while blaming the Iraqi government for the violence. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had threatened military action if Fallujah didn't turn over terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. \n"We are still ready to go back to the talks and open new channels of dialogue," said negotiator Abdul Hamid Jadou. But he said Allawi is "responsible for each drop of blood being spilled in Fallujah. This government sided with the Americans in bombing the innocent people who are fasting [on] Ramadan." \nIraq's interim government responded by renewing a call to Fallujah to hand over "terrorists" or face attack. \n"The ongoing threat of terrorists to our people and the use of some areas and cities as a haven for them is something the government cannot accept or tolerate," national security adviser Qassem Dawoud said in a statement yesterday. \nMeanwhile, police in Kerbala said gunmen ambushed a minibus carrying nine Iraqi police recruits home from a training course in Jordan, killing all of them. \nThe attack happened late on Saturday as the men were passing between the volatile towns of Latifiya and Yusufiya, about 35km southwest of Baghdad. \n"They were returning from a training course in Amman," a police spokesman said. "No one survived and the attackers escaped." \nInsurgents regularly attack military convoys and vehicles carrying foreign contractors on the main road which leads south from Baghdad towards the holy city of Kerbala.
NINE NEW CASES: The CECC said two locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, and seven imported ones – five women and two men – brought the nation’s total to 348 People who refuse to wear a mask on public transportation after being asked to do so would face a NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 fine, effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday after announcing nine additional COVID-19 cases. In a move to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Tuesday announced that people must wear masks on trains and intercity buses, while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, on Tuesday said that people should wear them when they cannot maintain a social distance of 1.5m indoors. Chen yesterday
TRILLION PROPOSED: The premier said the goal was to keep ‘businesses solvent, the unemployment rate down, transportation and logistics going, and cash flowing’ The Executive Yuan yesterday announced an expanded economic stimulus package totaling NT$1.05 trillion (US$34.64 billion), including NT$81.6 billion in subsidies for employers to prevent a spike in unemployment. The increased budget comprises a special budget of NT$210 billion, up from the NT$60 billion already passed by the Legislative Yuan; NT$140 billion — up from NT$40 billion — to be appropriated from the general budget; and NT$700 billion in loans to industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) told a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. The NT$150 billion increase in the
TARGETED TEXTS: The center’s head said that visitor numbers at scenic spots were greater than expected and people did not do a very good job of social distancing The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday sent two warning text messages to urge people to practice social distancing, especially by avoiding crowded scenic areas. The two messages were sent at 11:55am on the third day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, reminding people about social distancing and hand hygiene to help prevent COVID-19 infection. “When visiting crowded scenic spots during the Tomb Sweeping Day weekend, please keep a social distance of at least 1.5m indoors and 1m outdoors, wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. Please wear a mask and seek immediate medical attention if you are feeling ill
The US National Security Council yesterday thanked Taiwan for its support amid the COVID-19 pandemic following President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) announcement that Taiwan would donate 10 million masks to hard-hit countries. The donation includes 2 million masks to the US on top of the weekly 100,000 announced previously; 7 million to Europe; and 1 million to diplomatic allies, on top of 1 million Taiwan procured for allies from their neighboring countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday. After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed appreciation for the donations, the US body yesterday wrote its thanks on Twitter. “We