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Five stories you may have missed this week because of COVID-19

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In this  Jan. 24, 2020 photo, a farmer's daughter waves her shawl in the air to try to chase away swarms of desert locusts from her crops, in Katitika village, Kenya.
In this Jan. 24, 2020 photo, a farmer's daughter waves her shawl in the air to try to chase away swarms of desert locusts from her crops, in Katitika village, Kenya.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File
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The COVID-19 pandemic continued to dominate headlines this week as the virus spread quickly across Europe and North America which may have led you to erroneously believe nothing else of note happened around the world.

Here are the coronavirus-free stories you might have missed:

1. Syria enters its tenth year of war

Hassan Ammar/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
In this Dec. 5, 2016 file photo, Syrian army soldiers fire their weapons during a battle with rebel fighters at the Ramouseh front line, east of Aleppo, Syria.Hassan Ammar/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak took over daily lives around the globe, the conflict, which began in early 2011, had largely fallen off the world’s collective radars — reduced to a never-ending fight involving an ever-more complex web of players and refugees.

But as it enters its tenth year, the war — which gave rise to the Islamic State group and triggered the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century — has shown it is still creating new tragedies that can have an outsized impact on global politics.

Earlier this month, Turkish and Syrian troops were clashing in Syria’s northwest. That brought NATO-member Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides of the war, to the brink of direct confrontation, and produced an unprecedented wave of displaced people. Arguing that it faces a potential new influx of refugees from Syria, Turkey announced it would no longer stop its vast migrant and refugee population from illegally entering Greece, touching off a new crisis for the European Union.

More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million people have been driven from their homes, and a staggering 80% of the population live beneath the poverty line, according to the United Nations. Half the country lies in ruins. A political process does not exist. Contrary to what some may hope, the Syrian war is nowhere near its end-game.

2. Manchester bomber's brother convicted of murder

Hashem Abedi, the younger brother of the suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a May 2017 Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, was on Tuesday found guilty of 22 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder for those injured and one count of conspiring to cause explosions.

More than 260 people were injured in the attack.

Abedi, 22, who was extradited to Britain last year after being arrested in his parents' home country of Libya, had denied all the charges. Prosecutors described however how he had helped to buy chemicals and bomb parts and bought a car to store all the components.

He is to be sentenced at a later date.

3. German police raid neo-Nazi movement

Carsten Koall/dpa via AP
Police officers carrying boxes out of a house after an apartment raid in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, March 18, 2020.Carsten Koall/dpa via APCarsten Koall

More than 400 law enforcement officers carried out raids at 21 locations across Germany on Thursday against the far-right, anti-Semitic "Reichburger" organisation, the Interior Ministry has announced.

"Reichburger" or Reich Citizen's Movement is an umbrella organisation for groups that reject the legitimacy of the modern German state.

Police recovered firearms, small amounts of narcotics and propaganda materials.

The group has also now been banned, with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer saying in a statement: "We are dealing with an association that disseminates racist and anti-Semitic writings and thus systematically poisons out free society".

"We are fighting right-wing extremism relentlessly, even in times of crisis. We don't have a millimetre of space in our society for racism and anti-Semitism," he added.

4. Locusts cause 'extremely alarming' situation in east Africa

Swarms of locusts continued to wreak havoc in east Africa, destroying crops and posing an unprecedented threat to food security in the region as ten countries have so far been affected.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Tuesday that the situation is "extremely alarming in the Horn of Africa, specifically Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form".

The agency had previously described it as the "worst desert locust crisis in over 25 years, and the most serious in 70 years for Kenya."

5. Joe Biden sweeps to primary victory in three further states

US Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden swept to victory in three states, leading him further down the path to nomination.

The former vice president of the United States won Arizona, Florida, and Illinois, the Associated Press reported.

Biden cut into groups that have been part of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' coalition including young people and Latino voters.

Evan Vucci/The Associated Press
Joe Biden during a debate against berie Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nominationEvan Vucci/The Associated Press

He did particularly well among women, moderates and conservatives. He also performed well with African American voters, a group that propelled him to the primary leaderboard after his campaign underperformed in early states. These are all key groups among Democratic primary voters.

Biden said his goal was to unify the party, especially in "times like these".

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