Schoolgirl farewelled after Baghdad blast

A Melbourne schoolgirl killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber was remembered as the “life of her family” as friends and family paid tribute.

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Zynab Al-Harbiya, 12, was farewelled on Wednesday in a fatiha, a traditional Muslim prayer service, attended by her uncle Ahmed Al-Saabry in the northern suburb of Fawkner.

The year seven girl was killed when a bomb exploded in a busy ice cream parlour in Baghdad on Tuesday. Her mother and uncles were also injured in the blast.

Her death has sent shockwaves through Melbourne’s Muslim community.

Family friend Yasser Alaskary said Zynab was known for being the “life of the family”.

“She was the cheeky one in her family and was funny,” he said.

Zynab was buried on Tuesday in the Najaf cemetery, outside Baghdad.

It is likely the surviving family, including Zynab’s two younger brothers, will remain in Iraq for some time.

“It’s very hard time for them and they are just in shock,” he added.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned the terrorist bombing in Baghdad, which killed 17 people.

“Another innocent killed by this violent tendency, this violent terrorist movement, that is gnawing away, seeking to destroy and pervert and blaspheme one of the great religions of the world,” Mr Turnbull told parliament of the attack.

In a Facebook post Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said his thoughts were with the family of the 12-year-old who was visiting her sick grandfather overseas.

“All terrorism is evil, but there’s something truly insidious about targeting children,” he said.

Teachers at Sirius College in Broadmeadows said she was loved by all her friends and dedicated to her studies.

“Before she went overseas she actually asked me for extra homework. She really cared about her studies and she was extremely excited to go overseas,” teacher Kiralee Mladenis told reporters.

“I think everyone’s in a state of shock, we’re all just trying to be there for each other as much as we can.”

Year seven co-ordinator Esra Alver said the attack happening at such a holy time on the Muslim calendar was particularly upsetting.

“It’s not part of Islam, it’s not part of our culture,” she said.

CCTV captured the blast, showing a building on a busy street engulfed in a huge fireball as drivers scramble to get away.

Other videos of the attack posted on social media show wounded and bloodied people crying for help on the footpath outside the ice cream parlour.

A second car bomb went off during rush hour, killing 14 and wounding at least 37 people.

IS claimed responsibility for the two attacks, in statements released online, saying its suicide bombers had targeted gatherings of Shi’ite Muslims.

Mental health ‘challenging’ for AFL clubs

Alex Fasolo’s depression struggle reinforces the need for clubs to help players manage the scrutiny of AFL life, Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson says.

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Collingwood forward Fasolo this week revealed he was suffering depression and would take a short break from football to manage the condition.

The 24-year-old will miss Sunday’s clash with Fremantle in his home state of Western Australia, and it is unclear whether he will be available for the traditional Queen’s Birthday match against Melbourne the following week.

Lance Franklin, Mitch Clark, Wayne Schwass and Nathan Thompson are among past and present players who have battled mental health issues in recent years, and veteran coach Clarkson says social media has added to the challenge.

“We’re confronting a different sort of landscape all the time and, unfortunately, some find that really, really difficult to cope with – that increased scrutiny and, in some cases, critique,” Clarkson said on Wednesday.

“(For) professional footballers, that makes it particularly demanding, challenging and, in some cases, confronting. It’s very, very difficult to manage and, as a football club, it’s just another layer of stuff that we have to help try to manage with our players and our staff.

“It isn’t easy but just bit by bit, we try to do the best we can to assist these players with what is a pretty tough environment.”

Clarkson said the AFL had provided a positive platform for awareness of gender inequality and issues affecting indigenous players, and he hoped it could have the same effect for mental health awareness.

Fasolo has kicked 118 goals in 91 games for Collingwood since his 2011 debut, including two in the Magpies’ 45-point victory on Sunday over Brisbane.

The Magpies have said Fasolo will continue to train and prepare “with the expectation of a swift return to playing”.

Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Call in army to deal with terror: Hastie

Former SAS commander-turned-politician Andrew Hastie says the Lindt Cafe siege suggests police and state governments are “not up to the task” of dealing with terror threats, and it should be easier for the military to become involved.

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The NSW Coroner, families of siege victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson, siege survivors and some security experts have been critical of NSW police for letting the December 2015 Sydney siege drag on for too long before storming the cafe and killing gunman Man Haron Monis.

While Sydney-based Australian Army commandos practised storming the building by using a replica of the Lindt Cafe on the day of the siege, they were never called upon by NSW police.

Mr Hastie, a Liberal MP who previously served in Afghanistan with the military, said the “threshold” for states asking for Commonwealth help in dealing with terror and security situation was too ambiguous.

States have the primary role for law enforcement under the Australian constitution, but the NSW response was clearly inadequate in relation to the Lindt siege, he told 6PR radio.

“It’s the state’s responsibility, they have lead on law enforcement, but if they are going to continue to respond to these sorts of terror threats they need to demonstrate adequate capacity and capability,” he said.

“The Lindt Cafe siege suggests they are not up to the task.”

Mr Hastie said if it was established a terror incident was being conducted by an organisation “listed” by the Commonwealth, it should be considered an attack on the Australian people, and the federal government should automatically take control.

He said as a former SAS soldier people wanted to hear his view.

“The most lethal means of statecraft resides with the ADF,” Mr Hastie said.

“Contain and negotiating which was the approach in the Lindt cafe siege isn’t going to work (in dealing with Islamic terrorists).”

The federal government is reviewing the military call-out powers in relation to terrorism events, but federal police chief Andrew Colvin has played down the need to make it easier.

Aust not ready for China slowdown: Citi

Australia lacks a list of large, ready-to-go infrastructure projects needed to be ready for an impending downturn in China that will have a significant impact on the local economy, a senior economist has warned.

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And an infrastructure-driven investment buffer is even more important given the threat posed by Australia’s “quite spectacular” housing debt bubble, chief economist at international bank Citi, Willem Buiter, says.

“I am surprised that there is no long list of shovel-ready infrastructure projects, with impact assessments done, NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) considerations dealt with, only waiting for a yes and the money” Mr Buiter told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to Australia.

Such a project list could be activated whenever a cyclical downturn occurs, he said.

“Apparently such a list doesn’t exist, and won’t be around until 2020 or thereabouts,” Mr Buiter said.

While the federal government has recently outlined plans to invest in several public infrastructure projects, it has been widely criticised for not taking advantage of record low interest rates globally to spend more on the sector.

Australia has been the best-performing of the advanced economies globally but, Mr Buiter said, it will also be the most affected by China’s slowdown because of the commodities-heavy trade between the two countries.

Mr Buiter believes a cyclical downturn in China is waiting to happen, with the two main ingredients in place – massive leverage in the economy and excess capacity in most major sectors.

While its government is taking steps to address the issues, these are not likely to be adequate or timely and China is unlikely to dodge the bullet, he said.

In Australia, there is still some monetary policy elbow room left to deal with future crises, with the the Reserve Bank of Australia still holding the cash rate at 1.5 per cent.

However, there is a lot more scope in terms of fiscal stimulus.

Mr Buiter said Australia’s economy suffers, however, from two major obstacles to growth – the unpreparedness for huge infrastructure investment, and the housing debt overhang.

Tributes pour in for Australian schoolgirl killed in ice cream parlour attack in Iraq

Australian 12-year-old Zynab Al Harbiya had only been in Iraq for a few days with her parents and siblings, to visit her sick grandfather, when she was killed by a bomb after going to get ice cream with her family.

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Now her family, class mates and federal ministers are expressing their anguish for her to be lost in such tragic circumstances.

Cousin Layla Al Saabary said Zynab had expressed fears about going to the Iraqi capital before she left Melbourne.

“She was going to get ice cream after she broke her fast. And I was running after her [back in Melbourne], and she was saying, ‘Layla, I’m scared. There might be bombs in Iraq.’ And I said, you know, ‘That’s okay, you’ll be fine.'”

She added: “It just shows that terrorism can target everyone and that everyone can be a victim of it, and I really hope that no-one ever, ever experiences something like this ever again.”

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Zynab was a student at Sirius College in Broadmeadows.

The students have held prayers, and the school has brought in counsellors for her classmates. 

Principal Halid Serdar Takimoglu said it is a devastating time.

“All of us are deeply distressed that one of our smiling students has been taken from us in a cruel act of violence that is beyond understanding,” he said.

IS claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it is a tragedy that shows IS has absolutely no respect for anything.

“This tragedy underscores the brutality of this terrorist organisation that shows no respect for religion, nationality, sovereignty, borders, no respect for humanity,” Ms Bishop said.

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has expressed similar sentiments, saying those responsible “aren’t acting in the name of their faith.”

“They’re just criminals motivated by murderous ideology, and I think every Australian feels so much for this little 12-year old girl from Melbourne’s northern suburbs,” Mr Shorten said.

Zynab was buried last night in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.

The family is holding a private ceremony on Wednesday at their house and the mosque the family attends in Fawkner.

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