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Millions of women in the southern Indian state of Kerala have formed a 385-mile long “wall” in protest against a ban on females between 10 and 50 at the Sabarimala temple.

Footage has emerged showing part of the human chain in the city of Thrissur after the “women’s wall” was organised by Kerala state’s left-wing coalition government on Tuesday.

Local media reports suggested some in the chain were heckled and stoned by right-wing activists.

Officials told the BBC that about five million women had helped to form the 385-mile (620km) chain, which stretched along the length of Kerala from its northern tip of Kasaragod to its southern end in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram.

Women form part of the 385-mile line in the city of Kochi in Kerala
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Women form part of the 385-mile line in the city of Kochi in Kerala

Thousands of men also formed a second “human wall” to show solidarity, the Times of India reported.

It came as protests broke out after two women secretly breached a blockade to enter the Hindu Sabarimala temple, which is a major pilgrimage site, in part of an ongoing row earlier on Wednesday.

Devotees have been enraged by an Indian Supreme Court decision to overturn an earlier ban on women aged between 10 and 50.

Video footage has shown the two women entering the Sabarimala temple
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Video footage has shown the two women entering the Sabarimala temple

In 1991, the Kerala High Court had legalised the ban which forbade women of menstruating age from visiting the site because temple authorities believe it disrespects the celibate nature of the deity worshipped.

The temple has been at the centre of an increasingly angry showdown between Hindu traditionalists who support the longstanding ban and women activists who oppose it.

The two women entered the temple, which is a four-hour uphill trek from the nearest village, under police protection just before dawn.

The women entered the shrine under police protection
Image:
The women entered the shrine under police protection

Images show Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini hurrying inside with their heads bowed and wearing black tunics.

One of the women, who both remain under police guard, later told reporters: “We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps but went through the staff gate.”

Kerala state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said: “It is a fact that the women entered the shrine.

“Police are bound to offer protection to anyone wanting to worship at the shrine.”

Protests have taken place across Kerala after two women entered the Sabarimala  temple
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Protests have taken place across Kerala after two women entered the Sabarimala temple

Violent protests broke out across the southern state with Indian police firing tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons.

Clashes were reported between scores of people in front of the state parliament in Thiruvananthapuram.

Protests with sporadic violence were also reported in several other towns across the state, local media said.

The temple head ordered the shrine closed for a purification ritual after news of the women’s entry spread.

Men queue to entered the Sabarimala shrine which sits at the top of a four-hour uphill trek
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Men queue to entered the Sabarimala shrine which sits at the top of a four-hour uphill trek

Sabarimala reopened after around an hour.

The attempts to enter the temple and resulting protests have become a flashpoint as some Hindu hardliners in the nationalist BJP-led country try to defend what they see as core values in Hindu-majority India.

Others in the secular nation have challenged those beliefs as incompatible with a modern way of life.

The Indian Supreme Court ruled in September that the temple must open its doors to women of all ages, but right-wing protesters attacked female visitors and and prevented them from entering.

Repeated efforts by women to enter the shrine after the ruling have been rebuffed by Hindu devotees with police having to step in to escort them out.

In October, devotees clashed with police in a town near the temple leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.

The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on 22 January.

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Mueller report: Putin ready to improve US ties after Trump cleared of collusion | US News

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Vladimir Putin is ready to improve ties with the US after Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was cleared of colluding with Russia, the Kremlin has said.

Russia’s foreign ministry has called on the US to formally recognise the findings of the long-awaited Mueller investigation after Mr Trump said he had “complete and total exoneration”.

Responding to the special counsel report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had never interfered in elections in other countries and “doesn’t intend to do so”.

Vladmir Putin is ready to improve ties with the US, the Kremlin says
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Vladmir Putin is ready to improve ties with the US, the Kremlin says

He added: “It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there.”

Mr Peskov said it was now up to the US to make the first move in improving relations with Russia, telling reporters: “The ball is absolutely in their court.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller spent almost two years examining alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, bringing charges against 34 people and three Russian companies.

A summary of his main findings was released on Sunday which said there was no evidence that Mr Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia.

The report does not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice, the US Justice Department said.

However, the summary, sent by the US Attorney General William Barr to members of Congress, said there was not enough evidence to prove charges of obstruction.



President Donald Trump reacts to the Mueller findings







Trump claims ‘complete and total exoneration’

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Mr Trump will let Mr Barr decide whether the full report should be publicly released after calls from high-profile Democrats, adding the president was “more than happy for any of this stuff to come out”.

After the release of Mr Mueller’s findings, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

He also tweeted several quotes from news reports about the investigation on Monday, including one that said it had found “no Trump-Russia conspiracy”.

Former FBI director James Comey, who headed the investigation before being fired by Mr Trump in May 2017, tweeted an image of himself in a forest surrounded by trees with the caption: “So many questions.”

Republican senator Lindsey Graham replied to the tweet, writing: “Could not agree more. See you soon,” implying Mr Comey may be called before Congress in the near future.



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Congo ebola epidemic becomes second worst outbreak ever | World News

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The ebola epidemic crippling parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo has now exceeded 1,000 cases, making it the second worst outbreak in history.

In a statement, the Congolese health ministry revealed that the total number affected stood at 1,009, with the numbers of people killed having climbed to 629.

New technologies including a trial vaccine, experimental treatments and mobile units for looking after patients had raised hopes that medics would be better equipped to cope, but security issues have hampered the response.

Two medical staff walk with a man in the Ebola treatment area of Bunia
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Some centres set up to treat patients have been attacked by armed assailants

Five centres set up to treat those with the disease have been attacked since last month, sometimes by armed assailants, which forced a French medical charity to suspend its activities in eastern areas that are most badly affected.

Last December, Sky News visited a similar centre set up in the city of Beni, where 200 health workers were tasked with treating those admitted.

They erected a series of innovative, air-conditioned tents to house and treat the most serious cases, but there is no cure for the disease, which kills more than half of those it infects.

More than 190 have died during this outbreak
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Efforts are ongoing to contain the spread of the viral disease

It has since become the second deadliest ebola outbreak of all-time, behind an unprecedented crisis in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people between 2013 and 2016.

More from Democratic Republic Of Congo

There are fears that the Congo outbreak could still spread further, with authorities confirming a case last week in the northeastern city of Bunia, which is home to almost one million people.

The disease, which causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding, is thought to be able to move across vast distances due to it being carried by bats.

The site is run by a  French medical charity called ALIMA
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It has since become the second deadliest ebola outbreak ever

Large gaps between outbreaks can be explained by the likelihood that ebola-carrying bats move around and will only occasionally come into the kind of contact with people that leads to infection.

But as they are extremely social animals, the potential for the disease to spread from bat to bat – and potentially to other animals that could come into contact with humans – is very high.

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Emiliano Sala contract not legally binding, Cardiff to tell FIFA | UK News

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Cardiff City will tell world football’s governing body FIFA that the contract to sign Emiliano Sala from Nantes was not legally binding.

The Welsh club have refused to pay the £15m transfer fee for the striker, who was killed in a plane crash two months ago.

Ligue 1 outfit Nantes have complained to FIFA, and Premier League side Cardiff have until 3 April to respond.

The 28-year-old Argentinian died, along with pilot David Ibbotson, when the Piper Malibu aircraft they were travelling in came down in the English Channel on 21 January, two days after the Welsh club made him their record signing “subject to international clearance”.

Emiliano Sala
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Sala died aged 28 in a plane crash

Cardiff have refused to pay the first £5m instalment of the Sala transfer fee.

It is understood Cardiff will argue that Sala’s contract had been rejected by the Premier League because it contravened signing-on fee rules and was therefore ‘null and void’.

He had been unable to sign a revised deal before his death.

The club will also claim that further contract clauses – proposed by Nantes – had not been met.

Without these clauses being fulfilled, Cardiff will argue Sala was perfectly entitled to join another club with more than a week of the January transfer market remaining.

Nantes say they are fully compliant with FIFA rules and point to the fact that FIFA registered the international transfer certificate on 21 January, 2019 at 5.30pm.

A Cardiff spokesperson said: “The club is aware of FIFA’s request for a response by 3 April and is processing that accordingly. We have no further comment at this stage.”

Separately, Cardiff City has denied claims it failed to offer Emiliano Sala suitable travel arrangements before his ill-fated flight to the UK.

In a statement the club said: “Cardiff City FC strongly rejects the claim that it neglected to provide Mr Sala with travel arrangements.

“Our club was in the process of organising a commercial flight for Mr Sala until this offer was declined owing to separate arrangements being made – the planning and specifics of which Cardiff was not privy to.

“Cardiff has serious concerns over the potential unlawfulness of the journey following information that has been released. Clearly more answers as to the details surrounding this terrible tragedy are required.”

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