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Trans Tasman Survey

first_imgIf you attended the recent 2014 Trans Tasman Series in Mudgee, we would love to hear your thoughts. We are committed to providing you with the most enjoyable experience at Touch Football events and participating in our surveys with greatly assist in this regard.There will are two surveys, one developed by Destination NSW and one developed by TFA. The different surveys will concentrate on different aspects of the event. If you would like to pass on some feedback of your experience you can do so through the Destination NSW survey which can be accessed from – http://ensw.customerdirect.com.au/ensw/start.aspx?meetingid=3877 The TFA survey goes further into some event logistics and is available from  – https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2014-OTTTS Related LinksTrans Tasman Surveylast_img

20 days agoChelsea boss Lampard pleased with England U21 call for Hudson-Odoi

first_imgChelsea boss Lampard pleased with England U21 call for Hudson-Odoiby Paul Vegas20 days agoSend to a friendShare the loveChelsea boss Frank Lampard is happy with the England U21 call for Callum Hudson-Odoi.The winger made his England debut last season before injury struck. “That is a good shout,” says Lampard. “I spoke to Gareth (Southgate) and all I can do is say what I see from a Chelsea end and it is Gareth’s choice. Callum has probably not played enough games and the international games will do him good. “It is England Under-21s and he should be proud of that anyway.” About the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img

North American stock indexes finish week flat Canadian dollar up

first_imgTORONTO – North American stock indexes capped of the week on a flat note amid heightened North Korea-U.S. tensions, as the loonie strengthened against a weakening greenback.Rallying gold and materials stocks weren’t enough to lift Toronto’s S&P/TSX composite index out of the red, which dropped 0.69 of a point to 15,454.23 in a largely broad-based decline.Despite the TSX’s minor slip Friday, the commodity-heavy index has gained more than 280 points on the week.“We had a decent run,” said Michael Currie, vice-president of TD Wealth Private Investment Advice. “We’ve got to take the positives out of the week.”In New York, stock indexes finished the day uneven with little movement in either direction.The Dow Jones industrial average gave back 9.64 points to 22,349.59, while the S&P 500 index edged up 1.62 points to 2,502.22 and the Nasdaq composite index added 4.23 points to 6,426.92.The small trades on Wall Street suggested investors were shrugging off the latest wave of ramped-up tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank.He also noted that the VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect in stocks, was little changed.Geopolitical tensions ratcheted up after President Donald Trump authorized stiffer sanctions in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons advances, drawing a furious response from Pyongyang. Trump expanded the Treasury Department’s ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the U.S. financial system.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un retaliated by calling Trump “deranged” and saying he’ll “pay dearly” for his threats.In currency markets, the Canadian dollar was trading at an average price of 81.19 cents US, up 0.15 of a cent.On the commodities front, the November crude contract added 11 cents at US$50.66 per barrel and the October natural gas contract was up one cent to US$2.96 per mmBTU.The December gold contract advanced $2.70 to US$1,297.50 an ounce and the December copper contract was up one cent at US$2.94 a pound.– With files from The Associated Press.Follow @DaveHTO on Twitter.last_img read more

Huge Halifax convention centre officially opens five years after first proposed

first_imgHALIFAX – Following years of controversy and delays Halifax’s new convention centre officially opened its doors Friday, with officials voicing confidence the massive development can attract the needed business to keep it afloat.The convention centre is part of an estimated $500-million construction project that dominates downtown Halifax.Taxpayers are spending $169.2 million for the convention centre as part of a deal with the developer that is cost shared by three levels of government.First announced in July 2012, the entire one-million square foot development known as the Nova Centre, includes a hotel, office tower and public plaza. The Halifax Convention Centre, about the size of an entire city block, is to host its first event — the Canadian weightlifting junior nationals — on Jan. 20.“When we first announced the project I thought I knew the meaning of perseverance,” Joe Ramia, president and CEO of Argyle Developments, told a crowd of invited guests during a ceremony in the facility’s giant ballroom.“In hindsight at that point our journey had just begun and I had much to learn.”The convention centre was originally slated to open in January 2016, but Ramia signalled as early as November 2014 that the date would be pushed back to September of 2016. That date was later revised to spring of 2017 before it too was changed in a November 2016 announcement to December of 2017.At the time, Ramia said the delay was to allow for design changes and mechanical upgrades to the building. That cost the convention centre 22 events that had been booked for 2017.The project was also the focus of intense debate within the city with opponents calling it a misuse of public money and too big for the location. At one point surrounding businesses fed up with the noise and dust from construction launched and eventually abandoned a lawsuit intended to recoup some of their financial losses because of a lack of customers.On Friday, a small group of protesters stood outside the building and handed out leaflets as those invited inside filed in.“The new convention centre is still the wrong use of public money, the wrong development, the wrong location and will continue to eat up a significant amount of public money in the coming 25 years,” the leaflet from Halifax Sane Development states.Ramia took the criticisms in stride.“Well, you can’t always satisfy everybody. All you can do is the best that you can,” he said. “Everybody has a voice and we respect all voices.”Ramia said overall construction was about 98 per cent complete with the finishing touches expected to be ready by March. He said an announcement would likely come within a couple of weeks regarding an operator for the facility’s hotel.In late 2012, criticism was also levelled by the province’s then auditor general Jacques Lapointe, who said projections for the project “lacked appropriate analysis given the size of the proposal.”Lapointe also questioned whether enough convention business could be wrestled away from larger cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.Convention centre CEO Carrie Cussons wouldn’t address the auditor’s concerns, but said that 90 events had already been booked for the first year of operations.Cussons said that number included nearly three times more national and international events than have ever been hosted at the city’s much smaller convention facility.She also expressed confidence the facility could thrive over the long term despite doubts expressed in some quarters about the viability of the convention business.“Halifax is a unique and interesting destination that a lot of convention goers want to come to. I’m not really concerned about filling it (the convention centre) for the future.”Premier Stephen McNeil said he wasn’t worried about the facility’s future viability.“I’m very confident … it will continue to be able to support itself,” McNeil said.The convention centre’s 25-year lease with the province is expected to be inked by the end of January.last_img read more

Virtual SIMs used in Pulwama terror attack India to seek US help

first_imgSrinagar: A request would be sent to the US to seek details from a service provider of “virtual SIMs”, which were used by the JeM suicide bomber behind the Pulwama attack and his Pakistan and Kashmir-based handlers, officials said.Piecing together probe from the site of the terror strike, searches carried out by the Jammu and Kashmir police and central security agencies at an encounter site in Tral as well as other locations, it was found that the bomber, Adil Dar, was in constant touch with the JeM across the border, they said. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’The main mastermind of the audacious attack, Mudassir Khan, was killed in the encounter in Tral. Forty CRPF personnel were killed on February 14 when Dar rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a paramilitary force bus at Pulwama in South Kashmir. India retaliated after the strike by bombing the Jaish terror group’s hideout in Balakot in Pakistan. It was a fairly new modus operandi where terrorists across the border were using a “virtual SIM”, generated by a service provider in the United States. In this technology, the computer generates a telephone number and the user downloads an application of the service provider on their smartphone. The number is linked to social networking sites like WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram or Twitter. The verification code generated by these networking sites is received on the smartphone and the user is ready. In case of Pulwama, Dar was in constant touch with the Jaish handler as well as Mudassir Khan using the same technology, the officials said. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&KThey said the numbers used were pre-fixed with “+1”, the Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number (MSISDN) number used for the United States. The request to the US will include details of phone numbers that got in touch with the “Virtual SIM” and who had activated it, they said, adding that Internet Protocol addresses would also be sought. While the security agencies would attempt to find who had paid for the virtual SIM, they were also aware that the terror groups used forged identities, as was done during the the Mumbai 26/11 terror strikes. During investigation of the 26/11 attacks it was found that an amount of USD 229 was wired to Callphonex, via Western Union Money Transfer receipt number 8364307716-0, for activating the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) used during the strikes.last_img read more

Framing the best Ohio State sports moments of 201213

Fans of Ohio State sports are lucky, spoiled even, you could say. Not only is Columbus home to one of the country’s best football programs with Urban Meyer at the helm, but the basketball team, under the watch of Thad Matta, has developed into a national power. Over the last five years, OSU leads all schools in the two-sport winning percentage of football and men’s basketball. The past academic year witnessed a flawed but driven football team go undefeated and a basketball squad, having to replace a two-time all-American and the program’s third all-time leading scorer, come within a game of matching its NCAA Tournament run from a season ago. As the photo editor of The Lantern, I was privileged to witness each of OSU’s 12 football games in person. I also covered the majority of the basketball team’s contests, including all of the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago and the NCAA Tournament games in Dayton and Los Angeles. Here’s the best that was on the gridiron and the hardwood in 2012-13 at OSU: Best game: OSU 73, Arizona 70, NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Playing in one of America’s basketball cathedrals, OSU advanced to its second Elite Eight in as many seasons at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The No. 6-seeded Wildcats, coached by Sean Miller, Matta’s former assistant at Xavier, raced out to a 26-17 lead. Junior forward Deshaun Thomas hit a couple 3-pointers to help the Buckeyes claw back to within four points at halftime. Out of the break, No. 2 seed OSU used a 10-2 run to take hold of the contest. The Buckeyes lead got as high as eight points with 7:42 to play, but an and-one layup from senior guard Mark Lyons tied the game at 70-70 with 21 seconds remaining. With the ball in his hands less than a week after hitting the game-winner in a third round contest against Iowa State, junior guard Aaron Craft passed to LaQuinton Ross with two seconds left. The sophomore forward and occupant of Kobe Bryant’s locker during the stay in L.A. hit a 3-pointer from the left arc to catapult the Buckeyes past the Wildcats. Best player: Then-sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller Thomas made a strong case for himself being the name in this category, leading the Big Ten in scoring and being OSU’s only offensive option for the most of the season. But as much as the junior forward was relied on this winter, Miller was to an even greater extent with the football team. The then-sophomore set a school record for total yards in a season and was a serious Heisman contender until the trophy’s finalists were announced in early December. In 2012, Miller totaled 3,310 yards and 28 touchdowns. With Thomas declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft, Miller is likely to see his name in this category again next year. Best play: Craft’s game-winning 3-pointer vs. Iowa State Two plays made by players on the football team came to mind when trying to decide who would win this category. There was the scrambling run for a touchdown by Miller at Penn State that involved multiple juke moves before a leap into the end zone. And the superman-esque dive by then-sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier into Wisconsin then-senior running back Montee Ball forced a fumble at the goal line and stopped history (Ball was a touchdown away from setting the NCAA career record). But neither of those, nor any play made by the football or basketball team this year, were better than the 3-pointer Craft hit in Dayton against Iowa State to send OSU into the Sweet 16. Dribbling the ball at the top of the key, the junior guard waved off calls for the ball by Thomas and junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. With Cyclone freshman forward Georges Niang isolated on him, Craft waited until there was one second left before firing a 3-pointer that found nothing but the bottom of the net. “I hope someday they put a statue in front of our building of him,” Matta said on CBS after the game. “Coaches were telling me he’s exhausted. He’s too tough to be tired. What a big-time shot.” Best moment: Then-redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton leads comeback against Purdue OSU’s dream of an undefeated season nearly came to a screeching halt at the end of the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ Oct. 20 game against Purdue in Columbus. Miller had just suffered an injury, left the field on a cart and exited the stadium in an ambulance. OSU was trailing the Boilermakers, 20-14, and with its best player out, the team’s perfect 7-0 record was almost assuredly going to be handed a blemish. In stepped Guiton, who did little to help the Buckeyes’ cause until the game was just about over. With 2:40 left and the score 22-14, the then-redshirt junior threw an interception. Meyer grabbed Guiton, who was noticeably distraught. “I said, ‘You’re going to win us a game,’” Meyer said. “He looked right at me. I think he was down but I think that moment kind of picked him up.” OSU got the ball back, and Guiton led a 61-yard drive with 47 seconds left that ended with a touchdown pass to then-redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Fields. The Buckeyes tied the game with a two-point conversion on a lobbed throw to then-freshman tight end Jeff Heuerman and won the contest in overtime. Best underdog story: Zach Boren’s move to linebacker OSU’s defense had shredded in back-to-back games against Nebraska and Indiana in mid-October. The Buckeyes allowed a combined 87 points in those two contests, and at the heart of Meyer’s concerns about his defense was the linebacker position. Boren, then-senior and 30-game starter at fullback, had played linebacker in high school and was recruited to OSU to play that position. Sensing that his team needed someone to step up and fill a void, Boren asked Meyer if he could play linebacker during an October practice. Meyer obliged to the request, and Boren responded by helping revamp a defense that allowed just 57 points in November. The Pickerington native recorded 50 tackles on the season and averaged 8.2 tackles per game in his six games at linebacker, including a career-high 12 in the overtime win at Wisconsin. “Talk about Zach Boren. You want someone to write a book on, wow, that would be good if you go write a book on Zach Boren,” Meyer said. Best team: Football The basketball team can make its arguments: Big Ten Tournament champions, an Elite Eight Appearance and an 11-game winning streak. The football team only needs to make one, though. Undefeated. Meyer and his squad literally accomplished everything they could in 2012, winning all 12 of their games and recording the school’s first perfect season since 2002. read more

5 things to watch for Ohio State v Penn State

3. Braxton Miller’s rollercoaster season.Since spraining the MCL in his left knee in OSU’s win against San Diego State, junior quarterback Braxton Miller has struggled to play consistently. After a four-touchdown performance against Wisconsin, Miller played poorly against Northwestern, turning the ball over three times and failing to find the end zone. Now Miller heads into the game against Penn State on the heels of a performance against Iowa in which he threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and added 102 yards on the ground. If Miller wants to lead the Buckeyes to another undefeated season, he will need to find more consistency in his play and keep his mistakes to a minimum. Although he was successful against the Hawkeyes, it remains to be seen which Miller will show up Saturday. If Miller can avoid turning the ball over and instead score a couple of touchdowns, it will go a long way to pushing the Buckeyes to 8-0 overall on the season. 4. Can Ohio Stadium and Buckeye Nation rattle Christian Hackenberg?True freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been all Penn State could have asked for this season. The 6-foot-4-inch Palmyra, Va., product has thrown for 1,672 yards and 11 touchdowns so far in 2013, against six interceptions. His three first-half scoring tosses kept the Nittany Lions afloat early on in their quadruple overtime win against Michigan two weeks ago, and the freshman is only getting better. OSU’s secondary has taken multiple hits this season, with the loss of senior safety Christian Bryant to a broken ankle against Wisconsin Sept. 28 and Roby last week to the ejection. If Hackenberg is able to find holes and complete big plays to Robinson and others, the team could light up the scoreboard. 5. Will the pressure get to OSU?The Buckeyes currently sport the nation’s longest winning streak at 19 games, and with the opportunity to take another step toward a Leaders Division title, will the pressure finally get to the team? The last time OSU boasted a 19-game winning streak, Meyer was on the other sidelines with Florida when it ended in the 2006 BCS National Championship. A victory against conference rival Penn State (8 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium) would surely vault the Buckeyes ahead into their next two games on the road against Purdue and Illinois. 2. Will Bradley Roby be ready to step up?This year hasn’t gone exactly how redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby had planned. After being named a preseason All-American, Roby was then suspended for the season opener after a July incident at a Bloomington, Ind., bar. He has been outplayed during games against California and Wisconsin and was then ejected from the game against Iowa for targeting. Roby is expected to play the whole game against the Nittany Lions and will likely be matched up against Penn State junior wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson is averaging 117.5 receiving yards per game, the highest among players that OSU has faced so far in 2013. It will be another test for Roby, who continues to watch his NFL Draft stock plummet with his struggles. If Roby can contain Robinson, it could be a long day for Penn State. Senior running back Carlos Hyde (34) dives forward during a game against Iowa Oct. 19 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 34-24.Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor1. How many yards does Carlos Hyde gain?Let’s face it: The lead running back role in the Buckeye offense belongs to Carlos Hyde. Although redshirt-senior Jordan Hall played well during Hyde’s three-game suspension stemming from an incident at a Columbus bar in July, Hyde has completely taken over No. 4 Ohio State’s (7-0, 3-0) backfield. In the four games since returning from suspension, Hyde has rushed for 41, 85, 168 and 149 yards, respectively, and five total touchdowns. Two of those games came against then-top 10 rushing defenses in Wisconsin and Iowa, and Hyde was still successful. Penn State (4-2, 1-1) comes into the game Saturday with the No. 21 rushing defense in the country, so Hyde will look to have another big game to help OSU win its 20th straight game. read more

Report Jan Vertonghen a longterm injury concern for Spurs

first_imgTottenham are reportedly worried that they will have to make do without Jan Vertonghen for the next two monthsThe 31-year-old defender’s hamstring problem ruled him out of Spurs’ last two matches against Cardiff City and Barcelona.Vertonghen sustained the injury in a Premier League game at Huddersfield Town on September 29, where he limped off at half-time, and had been expected to be on the sidelines for the next six weeks.Roberto Firmino, LiverpoolVirgil van Dijk praises Roberto Firmino after Liverpool’s win Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Virgil van Dijk hailed team-mate Roberto Firmino after coming off the bench to inspire Liverpool to a 3-1 comeback win against Newcastle United.But the Daily Mirror reports that Spurs have suffered a big blow after learning that Vertonghen will be out for at least eight weeks and is now a doubt for the remainder of their Champions League group-stage campaign.Spurs will also likely have to make do without Vertonghen for their key Premier League clashes against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.Vertonghen will be unavailable for Belgium in their upcoming games against Switzerland and the Netherlands.last_img read more

Atalanta star Josip Ilicic admits he contemplated quitting football

first_imgAtalanta star midfielder Josip Ilicic has revealed how he had considered in many times of quitting football especially when he was sick and in hospital.Earlier, the Slovenia international spent most of the summer in and out of the hospital as a result of a bacterial infection at his lymph nodes.“As a man, the illness changed me a great deal,” Ilicic told Sky Sport Italia via Football Italia, after Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Parma.Serie A, Gian Piero GasperiniGasperini reveals why he rejected Inter Manuel R. Medina – September 14, 2019 Atalanta manager, Gian Piero Gasperini, has revealed why he rejected Internazionale Milan’s job proposal over the summer transfer window.“I want to thank everyone who stood by me during this difficult time. I look at the world differently now. I thought many times that I might have to give up football, especially when I was in the hospital.“I’m glad that Atalanta are doing well and it’s not about me, but the team. Finally, we’re getting the goals that we deserved to score earlier in the season.”The Atalanta midfielder missed out on the 2010 FIFA World Cup but made his debut for the national side in a friendly match against Australia in August of the same. He scored his first international goal against Cypruslast_img read more

US 7th Fleet units complete first advanced training

first_img Categories: Good Morning San Diego, Local San Diego News FacebookTwitter April 8, 2019 KUSI Newsroom, Posted: April 8, 2019 00:00 00:00 spaceplay / pause qunload | stop ffullscreenshift + ←→slower / faster ↑↓volume mmute ←→seek  . seek to previous 12… 6 seek to 10%, 20% … 60% XColor SettingsAaAaAaAaTextBackgroundOpacity SettingsTextOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundSemi-TransparentOpaqueTransparentFont SettingsSize||TypeSerif MonospaceSerifSans Serif MonospaceSans SerifCasualCursiveSmallCapsResetSave SettingsSAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The US Navy recently held their first Forward Deployed Naval Forces, Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training exercise.Warfare Tactics Instructor Lt. Cmdr. Rich Ray joined Good Morning San Diego to talk more about the exercise and the mission of the training. center_img Updated: 1:33 PM KUSI Newsroom U.S. 7th Fleet units complete first advanced traininglast_img read more

Asian shares extend rally relieved at China growth

first_imgAsian shares rose for a second session on Wednesday as a barrage of Chinese data confirmed the economy had stabilized on the back of government spending and a hot housing market, even if worries about debt continue to mount.The initial reaction was muted with few fireworks in the figures and Shanghai stocks edged up 0.2 percent.MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan added 0.4 percent, on top of Tuesday’s 1.4 percent jump.Australian shares firmed 0.4 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2 percent.Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 6.7 percent in the year to September, exactly as forecasted. Private investment remained subdued with government spending and property strong.Other data showed retail sales rising a solid 10.7 percent and urban investment 8.2 percent, but industrial output disappointed by growing only 6.1 percent.”The upshot from today’s data is that economic activity seems to be holding up reasonably well, with few signs that a renewed slowdown is just around the corner,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.”Nonetheless, the recent recovery is ultimately on borrowed time given that it has been driven in large part by faster credit growth and a property market boom, both of which policymakers are now working to rein in.”Sentiment had got an early lift from Wall Street which benefited from encouraging corporate earnings. The Dow ended Tuesday up 0.42 percent, while the S&P 500 added 0.62 percent and the Nasdaq 0.85 percent.Of the 52 S&P 500 companies that have reported results to date for the third quarter, 81 percent had earnings that topped average analyst estimates, according to forecasts collated by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.One company seemingly disappointing investors was Intel, which slid 5.4 percent after the bell despite beating expectations on its earnings.POUND UP AMID BREXIT CONFUSIONA report on U.S. consumer prices showed underlying inflation moderated slightly in September to 2.2 percent, leading the market to slightly pare back bets on a December rate hike.Fed fund futures imply around a 65 percent probability of a move, down from 70 percent.Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week the U.S. central bank could allow inflation to run above its target.U.S. Treasury yields dipped, in line with their UK counterparts, amid confusion on whether parliament will have to ratify Britain’s exit from the European Union.British lawmakers are seen as less inclined to take a hard line on Brexit than Prime Minister Theresa May.The news headlines caught the market very short of sterling and left the pound up at $1.2291, after a rally of 1 percent on Tuesday.The dollar was steady on the yen at 103.82, after edging back from 104.20 the previous session. Against a basket of currencies it dipped 0.1 percent to 97.809 .DXY.The euro remained vulnerable at $1.0987 ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the European Central Bank where some investors wager President Mario Draghi will push back against talk of a tapering in its asset buying.In commodity markets, oil prices extended gains as an industry group’s data showed an unexpected draw in U.S. crude inventories last week. Brent crude LCOc1 was quoted up 47 cents at $52.15 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 added 47 cents to $50.76.last_img read more

Suicide bomber kills 13 at wrestling match in Afghanistan

first_imgMap of Afghanistan, locating Lashkar Gah, where an explosion has caused multiple casualties, officials said. Photo: AFPA car packed with explosives blew up outside a sports stadium in Afghanistan’s restive south on Friday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens more, officials said, capping a bloody week in the war-torn country.The suicide attack happened in Lashkar Gah, the capital of opium poppy-rich Helmand province, as spectators were leaving a wrestling match at the stadium, provincial governor spokesman Omar Zwak told AFP.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which Zwak said killed at least 13 people and wounded 45 others, including children.Helmand police spokesman Salam Afghan had earlier given a lower toll of 10 dead and 35 wounded.Afghan officials often give conflicting figures in the wake of attacks.”The suicide bomber detonated his car bomb as spectators were leaving the stadium,” Zwak said.”The bomber wanted to go inside the stadium but he was identified by the police and he detonated himself.”Local officials were at the match, which witnesses said had been held as part of celebrations for Nawrooz, the Persian new year holiday that some fundamentalist Muslims consider un-Islamic.Agha Mohammad, a 25-year-old shopkeeper from Lashkar Gah, was among the spectators leaving the stadium when the blast happened.”Four of my family members were martyred and three others were wounded,” a sobbing Mohammad told AFP at the hospital run by the Italian NGO Emergency.Photos posted on Twitter purportedly of the explosion showed a huge fire and a thick plume of black smoke rising into the sky.”We heard a loud explosion from our surgical centre in the city, Emergency tweeted.”35 wounded already taken to our hospital, another 4 were dead on arrival.”- Bloody few days -President Ashraf Ghani, whose government has been lambasted for its inability to protect ordinary Afghans, condemned the attack against “innocent people”, according to a statement.Helmand is largely controlled by the Taliban, which is under growing pressure to take up Ghani’s offer of peace talks to end the 16-year war.So far the Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest militant group, has given only a muted response.The attack caps a bloody few days in Afghanistan as Taliban and Islamic State militants ramp up attacks even before the official start of the spring fighting season.In Kabul on Wednesday a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of people celebrating Nawrooz, killing dozens of people, many of them teenagers.IS’s local franchise in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the assault in the heavily Shiite neighbourhood — the fifth suicide bombing in the Afghan capital in recent weeks — via the messaging app Telegram.The blast killed 33 and wounded 65, the health ministry said, up from an earlier toll given by the interior ministry of 26 dead and 18 hurt.All the injured were civilians, said interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi.Despite calls for the Taliban to sit down with the Afghan government, the group — which has been resurgent since the withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops at the end of 2014 — appears to have few reasons to negotiate.In October, insurgents controlled or influenced nearly half of Afghanistan’s districts — double the percentage in 2015, the US government’s office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in January.Over the same period, the watchdog said, the number of districts under Afghan government control or influence fell to its lowest level since December 2015.last_img read more