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A smoke plume rises from houses amid ongoing fight between Afghan security forces and Taliban militants in the western city of Qala-i- Naw, the capital of Badghis province, on July 7, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Afghanistan fighting

Afghan authorities say they are preparing to deploy new troops to retake a key border crossing with Iran seized by the Taliban. A spokesman for the Herat governor said the troops will be soon dispatched to Islam Qala, a town along the border with Iran. The Taliban on Friday announced their fighters had captured the town. The militant group also seized the Torghundi border port, a key crossing with Turkmenistan. The Taliban now claim to be in control of 85-percent of Afghanistan. However, Afghan authorities have dismissed that figure, pledging to retake all the territory lost to the militants. The Taliban have increased their attacks on cities and villages since May, seizing dozens of rural districts. The fighting intensifies amid withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. The US also announced its complete pullout by the end of August.

South Korea COVID crisis

South Korea has posted its highest-ever number of nearly 1,400 daily COVID cases, which is the third consecutive day of record highs in new infections in the country. The surge has prompted the government to announce plans to tighten curbs to the strictest level possible in and around the capital Seoul. The restrictions will reportedly go into effect on Monday for two weeks. Health authorities have warned that the peak of a fourth wave of the virus is yet to come. So far, about 11 percent of South Korea's 52 million-population has been fully vaccinated, while 30 percent have received one dose. According to the country’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency, around 165,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths have been registered since the beginning of the pandemic.

Australia record COVID cases

Australia's New South Wales state has reported its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections this year, with officials warning that worse may yet to come for the state’s capital Sydney. The new cases take to 489 the number of infections caused by the most recently detected Delta variant which is highly infectious. Residents are asked to stay indoors to help contain the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, the new surge has deepened concerns that the lockdown of more than five million people in Sydney and surroundings will be extended. This comes as, for now, vaccinations are available in Australia only to people over 40 and those in risk groups either due to their health or work.

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