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‘Never apologise for who I am’ says Rashford after racist abuse

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Marcus Rashford faced a wave of racist abuse after missing a penalty during England's Euro 2020 final defeat

England’s Marcus Rashford said he will “never apologise for who I am” in an emotional statement after receiving racist abuse following the side’s Euro 2020 final defeat.

The Manchester United forward was one of three players, along with Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who were attacked by racist trolls after missing penalties in Sunday’s 3-2 shoot-out defeat by Italy.

Rashford’s England team-mate Tyrone Mings criticised British Home Secretary Priti Patel, saying she had “stoked the fire” by defending those who booed players taking the knee.

Rashford has become a hero to many outside football by lobbying the British government to provide free school meals for under-privileged children during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m Marcus Rashford, 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that,” Rashford wrote in a statement on Twitter.

Rashford, who came on late in the second period of extra time, apologised for his penalty miss and said “something didn’t feel quite right” when he came to take the kick.

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“It’s been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there’s probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. 1 penalty. History. All I can say is sorry. I wish it had gone differently,” he wrote.

“I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from,” Rashford added.

– ‘Stoke the fire’ –

Images on social media showed a mural honouring Rashford in his hometown of Withington had been defaced before locals covered the hateful language with messages of support.

“Seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears,” Rashford said.

He added that he was proud to have worn the England jersey during his side’s first major final appearance in 55 years, and grateful for the “brotherhood” that was created in the England camp.

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Mings criticism is not the first time he has disagreed with Patel.

The Aston Villa star criticised her — after the opening Euro 2020 win over Croatia — for her remarks that taking the knee was “gesture politics”.

She also refused to condemn the England fans who booed the team for doing it.

Premier League teams have taken the knee since last year following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States.

Patel had said on Monday the racial abuse of the three players was “disgusting” but it did not wash with Mings.

“You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens,” tweeted Mings.

Mings remarks received support from Patel’s fellow Conservative lawmaker and former defence minister Johnny Mercer.

“The painful truth is that this guy (Mings) is completely right,” Mercer tweeted.

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“Very uncomfortable with the position we Conservatives are needlessly forcing ourselves into.

“Do I fight it or stay silent? Modern Conservatism was always so much more to me. We must not lose our way.”

England captain Harry Kane lashed out at those who had posted the racial slurs — following England manager Gareth Southgate who had said the abuse was “unforgivable”.

“Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up and take a pen (penalty) when the stakes were high,” tweeted Kane.

“They deserve support and backing not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night (Sunday).

“If you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an England fan and we don’t want you.”

The racist attacks were strongly condemned by the English Football Association whose president, Prince William, said he was “sickened” by the abuse.

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Biafra: Economic activities shutdown again in eastern Nigeria

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No civilian deaths are confirmed in the civil protest which aims to cripple the Nigerian economy.

Economic activities were shutdown on Tuesday in Nigeria’s eastern region as separatists commemorate the victims of the 2017 military raid on the home of its leader Nnamdi Kanu.

At least 28 civilians were killed on September 14, 2017 when Nigerian forces raided Umuahia Palace in an attempt to assassinate the Biafra pro-independence leader after a high court granted him bail.

Markets were closed on Tuesday as traders lock their shops in accordance with a directive issued by the separatist group— Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB).

Restriction of vehicle movements led to violence in places like Enugu State, where suspected members of the separatist group set vehicles on fire and destroyed tricycles, violating the order.

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No civilian deaths are confirmed in the civil protest which aims to cripple the Nigerian economy.

Mr. Kanu, the leader of the separatist group who faces charges of treason and other baseless crimes for calling for a referendum on an independent state known as Biafra, is still in captivity after being seized in Kenya in July and illegally repatriated to Nigeria.

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Israel unveils remote-controlled armed robot to patrol battle zones

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AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner. Israel Aerospace Industries' semi-autonomous four-wheel-drive 'REX MKII' is seen at an IAI facility near the central Israeli city of Lod, September 9, 2021

REX MKII unmanned vehicle to be deployed alongside ground troops to assist in combat situations


Israel’s state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on Monday unveiled a remote-controlled armed robot for the purpose of keeping troops out of harm’s way during ground missions.

The “REX MKII” unmanned vehicle has the capabilities to patrol battle zones, assist in evacuation efforts, track infiltrators and execute remote attacks against threats, according to IAI.

The semi-autonomous machine was unveiled at DSEI 2021 in London, which claims to be the world’s largest gathering of the defense and security community.

Rani Avni, deputy head of the company’s autonomous systems division, said that the robot is operated by an electronic tablet and can be equipped with two machine guns, cameras and sensors.

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The robot is reportedly the most advanced so far developed by IAI subsidiary ELTA Systems over the past 15 years.

“The need to support ground forces in the field to carry out various missions while minimizing threats to soldiers’ lives is at the heart of our values here at Israel Aerospace Industries,” Zvika Yarom, general manager of IAI’s Land Division, said.

The Israeli military is currently using a similar but smaller unmanned platform called the “Jaguar” to patrol the border with the Gaza Strip.

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Catalan separatists hit streets ahead of Madrid talks

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Thousands of Catalan pro-independence supporters answered the call to march under their "Estelada" flags to mark the "Diada", the region's national day (AFP/Josep LAGO)

Thousands of Catalan separatists thronged the streets of Barcelona on Saturday in a test of their strength ahead of fresh negotiations with Spain’s government.

The protest coincides with Catalonia’s national day, or “Diada”, which commemorates the 1714 fall of Barcelona in the War of the Spanish Succession and the region’s subsequent loss of institutions.

As in other years, the march began at 17:14 (1514 GMT) — a nod to the year 1714. The slogan this year is: “We will fight for independence and win.”

At its peak in 2014, the annual demonstration brought an estimated 1.8 million people onto the streets. Though there were no provisional figures by early evening on Saturday’s attendance, thousands answered the call to gather and show their support for the cause as the afternoon drew on.

While Catalonia was the epicentre in July of a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections, the situation has since improved and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people was recently lifted.

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Jordi Cuixart, the leader of grassroots separatist movement Omnium Cultural, said he hoped to “bring hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets” this year to “prove once again that our movement is more alive than ever”.

But much has changed since the frenetic autumn of 2017 when Catalonia’s bid to break away from Spain triggered the country’s worst political crisis in decades going back to the end of the Franco dictatorship.

Leaders of the wealthy northeastern region, which has a population of 7.8 million, defied a government ban to organise a secession referendum and then issued a short-lived declaration of independence.

Those behind the move were arrested, tried and sentenced to long jail terms by Spain’s top court, while others fled abroad to avoid prosecution, leaving the movement sharply at odds over how to move forward.

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The Spanish government’s pardon in June of nine Catalan separatist leaders, including Cuixart, has also removed a rallying cry for the pro-independence camp.

Only 600,000 people turned out for the Diada in 2019. Last year, coronavirus-related health restrictions reduced the celebrations to separate events which drew fewer than 60,000 people.

Some, including 70-year-old pensioner Narcis Vilar, say some pro-independence supporters feel a certain loss of faith in some of their leaders.

His friends, he told AFP, “have not stopped being independents but they are fed up with the politicians”, while he conceded the pandemic — which has hit the region hard — was another factor cooling passion for the cause.

This year’s protest comes as top-level talks on resolving the Catalan crisis are set to resume next week between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority government and the separatist regional government of Catalonia.

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Sanchez tweeted Saturday that he wanted “to advance towards what unites us” and work for a positive outcome for the region.

The separatists have two key demands — an amnesty for those involved in the failed independence bid, which would exonerate those who fled abroad, and a referendum on self-determination, this time with Spain’s approval.

But Madrid is implacably opposed to both.

Mireia Nieto, a 21-year-old student demonstrating Saturday, declared herself “totally opposed to this dialogue” in putting the hardline pro-independence case.

Tensions rose sharply this week after Spain’s central government suspended plans to expand Barcelona airport, citing a “lack of confidence” in Catalonia’s regional leadership.

Catalonia’s regional leader Pere Aragones denounced the suspension as “blackmail”.

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