World Tour: Ebola in Congo, and Iran frees US resident

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in ItWorld Tour with Mindy Belz.

MINDY BELZ, REPORTER: Syria targeting civilians—We start today in Syria.

AUDIO: [Sound of bombing in Syria]

Human rights groups say Russian-backed government forces are targeting civilians in Idlib. That’s a rebel stronghold where more than 300 people have died in attacks since April. At least 61 were children.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used similar tactics against Aleppo in 2016. Terror groups in some cases have embedded themselves in residential areas. Assad has used that to justify indiscriminate bombing campaigns—labeling all civilians terrorists. It’s all part of the Syrian army’s effort to force remaining rebel fighters to surrender.

The United Nations warns the attacks against civilians could amount to war crimes. But with Russia’s support, Assad has shown little concern for international condemnation.

Mysterious crop fires—Meanwhile, in eastern Syria and Iraq farmers are battling mysterious fires that threaten to destroy their crops.

AUDIO: [Wheat fire in Syria]

The fires could be the latest weapon of choice for Islamic State militants. ISIS claimed responsibility for some of the fires and in a statement posted online urged supporters to burn fields of wheat and barley owned by, quote—“apostates.”

Ebola in Congo—Next we go to Africa.

Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo say the country’s Ebola outbreak is getting worse. More than 2,000 people have come down with the deadly disease since August.

The World Health Organization blames regional unrest for allowing the disease to spread.

AUDIO: This outbreak is still ongoing, not because we don’t have the tools and skills we need. It is still ongoing because we don’t have the sustained access to communities that we need to finish the job.

So far, more than 1,300 people have died.

Arab interests in Sudan—And in Sudan, the streets of Khartoum remain mostly deserted. Tuesday marked the third straight day businesses were closed as part of a nationwide strike.

The strike follows last week’s violent crackdown on protesters calling for a civilian government. Analysts now say regional Arab powers with business interests in Sudan are helping to prop up the country’s military leaders. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan.

Khartoum’s Transitional Military Council appears intent on wooing partners to its cause ahead of an international summit scheduled June 21 to discuss the country’s future in Berlin.

Iran frees US resident—Next we go to Iran.

Officials in Tehran have freed a U.S. resident who spent the last four years in prison. Lebanese-born businessman Nizar Zakka was serving a 10-year sentence for allegedly spying for the U.S.

The move came at Lebanon’s request. Iranian officials said its ally Hezbollah considered the move, quote— “prudent.”

But Lebanese officials denied reports Zakka would be handed over to Hezbollah when he arrived in Beirut. They also denied rumors the release was part of a wider prisoner swap.

Pastor’s wife freed in China—And finally, we end today with good news out of China.

Christians there are celebrating reports that a pastor’s wife is free after spending six months in prison. Members of Early Rain Covenant Church announced Jiang Rong’s release on Facebook yesterday.

Officials arrested Jiang and her husband, Pastor Wang Yi, in December. She is charged with “inciting to subvert state power” and will face a trial in the coming months. Until then she has been reunited with her young son.

Pastor Wang remains behind bars.

That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Mindy Belz.

(AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro, File) This Tuesday, April, 16, 2019 file photo taken in Congo shows an Ebola health worker at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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