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Mercer Street Tanker Attack: UK Special Forces Group ‘Sent to Yemen to Track Possible Perpetrators’

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MV Mercer Street, an Israel-operated tanker, was attacked off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea on 30 July, in an incident that claimed the lives of at least two people. Israel immediately put the blame on Iran, which vehemently denied the accusations.

A UK Special Forces team has been deployed to Yemen to track down those behind last week’s drone attack on a tanker in the Persian Gulf that killed a British security guard, the Daily Express has revealed.

The newspaper claimed that 40 Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers arrived in eastern Yemen on Saturday, and that the team includes an electronic warfare unit capable of intercepting communications chatter.

According to the news outlet, the servicemen will also rely on local handlers, who have received payment from the Foreign Office and have “knowledge of the region” to help the SAS team hunt down the alleged attackers. The Daily Mail added that London apparently believes the Iran-backed Houthi rebels carried out the attack on the tanker with support from Tehran.


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REUTERS / RULA ROUHANA

Mercer Street, an Israeli-managed oil tanker that was attacked off the coast of Oman, is seen near Fujairah Port in United Arab Emirates, August 3, 2021.

The newspaper cited unnamed UK military sources as saying that “everything points to the drone being launched from Yemen. The concern now is that an extended-range drone will give them a new capability”.

Yemen has been engulfed in an armed conflict between government forces led by its President-in-exile Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi movement since 2014. An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, often launches strikes to support the internationally-recognised Hadi government, while the Houthis continue to maintain control over vast parts of the north of the country, including the capital of Sanaa.

Tehran Condemns ‘Baseless’ G7 Accusations Against Iran Over Tanker Attack

The Daily Express report comes a few days after the Iranian Foreign Ministry denounced accusations by the G7 of attacking the Mercer Street tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

“We strongly condemn the baseless statement by the G7 foreign ministers and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in which they made baseless accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran”, spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement on Saturday. Earlier, the G7 put the blame for the attack on Iran, claiming that Tehran had violated international law and endangered the peace in the region.

The claims were preceded by UK Ambassador to the United Nations Barbara Woodward stating that even though “the door for diplomacy and dialogue remains open”, Britain will seek to hold Iran accountable over the tanker attack if Tehran “chooses not to take” a diplomatic route.

Woodward said the UK was confident Tehran was behind the incident, claiming that “based on the assessment of the data, the system used in the attack was an Iranian sharp-edge 136 UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] … manufactured only in Iran”.

At least two people died after the MV Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime was attacked off the coast of Oman on 30 July. Israel was quick to point the finger at Saeed Ara Jani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ UAV Command, with Tehran rejecting all the accusations.



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Putin faces test of popularity in Russian election

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Russians head to the polls on Friday for parliamentary elections in a test of authority for president Vladimir Putin, whose United Russia party is polling at a near-historic low of just 30 percent. There are few legitimate international observers, after the ODIHR, a Warsaw-based European monitoring body, declined to go because authorities refused to give them proper access. But some pro-Russian MEPs, such as France’s Thierry Mariani, are going anyway.

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‘It helped me get away from crime’: Cape Town’s College of Magic – a photo essay | Global development

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To fans of JK Rowling’s books, the story may sound somewhat familiar: a young boy living in difficult circumstances is enrolled in a mysterious school far from home, where his life is changed for ever by the transformative power of magic.

Anele Dyasi’s story is no fairytale, though, and the school in question is not Hogwarts, but the College of Magic in Cape Town, a unique institution that has been training some of the continent’s most skilled illusionists since the 1980s.

Confetti falls on performers from College of Magic at the end of a show at the Artscape theatre centre, Cape Town.
Jugglers from the College of Magic.
Emilie van den Hooyen, a performer and student at the College of Magic, has her face painted before a performance at the Artscape theatre centre.
Ayabonga Tshofui, a College of Magic student, has his face painted before a performance at the Artscape theatre centre.

Dyasi, who grew up in the sprawling township of Khayelitsha, where violent crime is rife and opportunities are few and far between, was 10 when the college began to train him in the ways of magic and sleight of hand. Within four years he was representing South Africa at magic competitions as far afield as Las Vegas and Beijing and had become a role model for a new generation of budding magicians.

Anele Dyasi.

“I think of it more as a college of life,” says Dyasi, now 23, and a teacher at the college. “It helped me get away from the crime and gangsterism.”

Dyasi says the most important things he learned in his six years as a student at the college had less to do with magic and more to do with self-confidence and effective communication: skills that he feels have left him in a good position to face life’s challenges.

Deyna Viret, a College of Magic student, practises a juggling routine in her dressing room ahead of a show at the Artscape theatre centre.
Illusionist Khanya Rubushe, a College of Magic student, before a performance at the Artscape theatre centre.

On this particular Saturday, clad in a flamboyant polka-dot blazer over a plain white T-shirt, he is teaching closeup card magic to a class of fifth-year students who scrutinise every move of his fingers as they try to figure out the trick. Outside the window, younger students are juggling with batons and doing circuits around the car park on unicycles.

Students practise outside the college

Less research has been done on the educational benefits of learning magic than other performing arts such as music, dance or circus. But the studies that do exist have linked it to physical and psychological benefits such as improved focus, a greater ability to solve problems and think laterally, better interpersonal skills, increased self-worth and an enhanced aptitude for teamwork.

David Gore, founder and director of the College of Magic.

“When we started out we never thought of all the spin-off benefits,” says David Gore, founder and director of the college. “We didn’t realise just how powerful magic was as a tool.”

The college’s students frequently give public performances at local venues, and Gore says he has observed how, within a matter of months, first-year students who arrived at the college shy and recalcitrant routinely end up being confident enough to perform on stage in front of hundreds of strangers.

Anele Dyasi enters the college dove coop

  • Above: Anele Dyasi enters the college’s dove coop. Right: students help each other prepare for a performance
    Below: a box of diabolos, batons and other juggling props, and face paints

College of Magic students Emilie van den Hooyen and Maelle Oudejans help each other get ready for a performance at the Artscape theatre centre.
Equipment used in magical and circus tricks lies in a box at the College of Magic.
Face paints on a table backstage during a performance.

Gore was just 19 when he and a colleague marched into the offices of a local newspaper wearing top hats and tailcoats and announced that they were starting a school for magicians. The newspaper published a story and before long 34 children had signed up. In the 40 years since, several thousand more students have come and gone through the hallways of the ramshackle Victorian mansion that houses the college.

A student juggles outside the college.
Students leave a classroom with walls covered with posters of illusionists.
Magic students walk downstairs after class.
Puppets, photographs and posters on the walls of the college

Built in the late 1800s, the building has a distinctively Hogwarts-esque feel, replete with crooked staircases, secret doorways hidden behind bookshelves, and a special enclosure for the rabbits and doves occasionally used in performances.

“It’s a lot more fun than my other school,” says Duma Mgqoki, a fourth-year student and aspiring magician, who says he enjoys wowing the other children in his neighbourhood with the tricks he learns at the college.

Duma Mgqoki practices a card trick.

While many of the college’s alumni have careers in magic and its associated arts, performing at children’s parties or corporate functions, or becoming TV entertainers, others say the college helped prepare them for a range of non-magical careers.

“Growing up, I went through a lot of trauma and depression. But here I felt free,” says Anela Gazi, a recent graduate of the college from Mfuleni township, who is starting her own shoe-cleaning company.

“This place prepared me for everything. It made me grow. It made me strong. I didn’t even know I could become the person I am now,” she says.

Anela Gazi.

  • ‘This place prepared me for everything. It made me grow. It made me strong,’ says Anela Gazi, a recent graduate

At the college, students from some of the city’s most underprivileged townships are learning alongside others from the wealthiest suburbs.

Twenty-seven years after the end of apartheid, Cape Town remains one of the world’s most divided cities, and many schools, indeed whole neighbourhoods, offer little in the way of ethnic diversity.

Students attend class.

“We believed what we were offering should be available to everyone, and we did that from day one,” says Gore, who flouted the laws of the apartheid regime in the 1980s by insisting on teaching multiracial classes.

The college operates as a nonprofit organisation, and helps to find sponsors to cover the fees of those who could not otherwise afford the courses. It also arranges transport to enable those from more distant areas to attend.

Performers from the College of Magic at the Artscape theatre centre, Cape Town.

“This is the rainbow nation,” says Dyasi after his class, pointing up at the building behind him. “We don’t judge each other here. Everyone is here to achieve the same thing: to become better magicians. It brings out the best in everyone.”

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Polls open in Russia’s parliamentary election

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Russians will head to the polls on Friday. Widespread anger over the stagnation economy has been rising in recent years, and the ruling party, United Russia, polls at historic lows. But it is expected to find a way to maintain its hold over the State Duma. Due to the size of the country, the polling takes three days. Voters will be able to cast ballots through to Sunday.

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