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World in brief: January 13, 2022

EL SALVADOR: Dozens of journalists and human rights defenders had their mobiles repeatedly hacked over the past year and a half, an internet watchdog said on Wednesday.

Reporting on its latest findings about use of the Israeli firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said it had identified a Pegasus operator working almost exclusively in El Salvador in early 2020.

While the researchers could not conclusively link the hacks to the government, it said “the strong country-specific focus of the infections suggests that this is very likely.”

CHINA: Beijing defended its “historical rights” to the South China Sea today, following a US government report claiming Beijing’s claims are almost entirely invalid.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the US State Department report was an attempt to “distort international law, confuse the public, sow discord and disrupt the regional situation.

“China’s sovereignty and related rights and interests in the South China Sea have been established in a long period of history and are consistent with international law,” Mr Wang said.

FRANCE: Vaccinated British travellers will be allowed to visit the country without having to self-isolate or to offer a valid reason for the trip, Prime Minister Jean Castex said today.

Mr Castex said travel restrictions will be eased starting Friday because the highly contagious omicron variant is now largely dominant in both countries.

All those arriving from Britain must present a negative virus test taken within the previous 24 hours. Unvaccinated travellers must still provide a valid reason for travelling and undergo a 10-day quarantine under police supervision.

KAZAKHSTAN: Troops belonging to a Russia-led security alliance were preparing to pull out of the country, the Russian Defence Ministry said today.

The withdrawal comes only a week after they were deployed to the ex-Soviet nation on the request of its president, who was seeking to crush mass protests.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that the troops had “played an important role” in stabilising Kazakhstan.

The Kazakh government said the Almaty police had detained another 2,000 people involved in the uprising.

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