Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Taliban have killed at least 42 civilians, including women and children, and wounded 105 others over the last week, said the Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) on Sunday.
Javid Faisal, ONSC spokesperson, released the figure on Twitter and said, “Taliban has failed to deliver on promises of reducing violence against the Afghan people and working for peace.”
The group carried out attacks across 18 provinces, with the maximum number of civilian casualties reported in Kabul, 5 dead and 16 wounded.
The total figures do not include the civilians who have been abducted, with the most prominent case in Daykundi where around 55 people had been held hostage by the Taliban, according to local officials.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a special report on Sunday raising concerns about attacks on health workers and healthcare facilities and attributed a majority of the incidents to Taliban.
Last week, the ONSC had also accused the group of violating the three-day Eid ceasefire.
Local officials in Daykundi province said all civilian hostages, about half of whom were women and children, taken by the Taliban were released on Sunday and returned to their homes.
Provincial Governor Zia Hamdard said the 55 hostages were captured on the Kandahar-Daykundi road a few days ago by the Taliban.
Local elders made efforts to negotiate with the militants and “fortunately today we saw the release of 55 of our brethren,” Hamdard said.
Authorities had said the Taliban kidnapped the group and demanded the provincial officers to hand over a boy and girl who had run away from Uruzgan’s Gohar Negin village and were said to have been spotted in Daykundi.
The acting Minister of Defence Asadullah Khalid had visited the province on Friday to hold talks and had even planned for military operations in case they failed to free the hostages.
However, the Taliban have denied involvement in the incident.
The India Embassy in Afghanistan marked International Yoga Day with fervor and enthusiasm on Sunday.
The embassy’s Twitter handle tweeted pictures of their staff socially distancing at an in-house event which was streamed online due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Ambassador of India to Afghanistan Vinay Kumar emphasized the importance of practicing yoga for better living and the participants also watched the special message of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
(1/2) Ambassador @vkumar1969 emphasized on the importance of practicing yoga for better living and realising the unity of human beings with the Nature which sustains all the lives on this planet. pic.twitter.com/vm5p1aTdyY
— India in Afghanistan (@IndianEmbKabul) June 21, 2020
The embassy encouraged everyone to follow the theme “Yoga at Home” for their mental and physical well-being even during the pandemic.
Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Sunday, to hold talks on various issues of bilateral concern.
Atmar led a high-ranking delegation to Tehran officials about the drowned Afghan migrants in the Harirud River and the car fire in Iran’s Yazd province.
The Afghan delegation includes officials from the ministries, the Presidential Palace and also from the National Security Council.
They discussed the resultant protests in Kabul, and solutions to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. They also decided to form a Joint Working Committee on Comprehensive Cooperation to strengthen Afghan-Iran relations in fields such as economics, border management, foreign nationals, media, security , health, water and energy.
Hamdullah Hamdard, the director of Herat Customs, tweeted that he had survived an ambush attack and blast which killed two of his bodyguards on Saturday.
Hamdard had been on his way to work at the Islam Qala office which is a town close to the Afghan-Iran border, when his convoy was hit by a roadside improvised explosive device (IED).
Three more members of his security detail were wounded in the attack.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $9.4 million for a three-year project for Afghanistan’s women carpet weavers.
The goal of the project, which is now in its final year, is to generate more than 70,000 square meters in carpet in partnership with nearly 35,000 weavers.
The Kabul-arm of operations is the Kabul Carpet Export Center (KCC), which was established by a U.S. national Rob Leahy, with the intention of empowering the women who weave intricate Afghan rugs.
Leahy is an experienced carpet appraised who has been traveling to Afghanistan since 2007. The American government finally asked him in 2017, to assess Afghanistan’s rug-making practices, which led to the project.
The idea of the project is “to make the Afghan manufacturers aware of the needs of the customers and to help them develop the procedures to satisfy [those needs] so they could establish long-term relationships,” Leahy tells the Post and Courier.
A large fine-quality Afghan rug can take up to a year to make and sells for $5,000 in the U.S.
The operations in Kabul are managed by Najlla Habibyar who works with 65 companies to build capacity, secure access to international markets and make the trade long-term financially viable.
The typical income for a weaver can reach $100 a month, with the average yearly per capita income about $410.
The U.S. arm of the operations which Leahy looks at, cuts off the middleman and ensures the women receive a bigger share of the profit and allow their families to gain access to more opportunities.
Iran’s Khorasan Razavi province announced its donation of 100,000 masks to the Afghan government.
The Director-General of Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs of Khorasan Razavi Mohammad Taqi Hashemi said they had prepared low quality and high-quality masks for different uses.
Officials also stated that they were donating Coronavirus test kits and were ready to share their medical expertise with Afghanistan.
Three police officers and two Taliban militants were killed when the Taliban attacked a district police station in Baghlan on Saturday night.
Local officials confirmed that 11 Afghan national and local police members and five Taliban militants were also wounded when the militants stormed Pul-e-Khumri’s Nahrin district police station.
The attackers rode down on motorcycles and fled after the attack.
Local police in Baghlan confirmed that a mosque’s imam and another person were beaten by the Taliban for performing the funeral of a local police officer on Saturday night.
The incident took place in Dahana-i-Ghori district where the imam was at the funeral of a police commander.
The imam succumbed to his injuries.
The Taliban has not yet commented on the incident.
The Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) registered 409 Coronavirus cases within the last 24 hours as the country’s tally surged to 28,833.
The Ministry also reported 12 deaths and 472 recoveries during the day, bringing those figures to 581 deaths and 8,764 recovered cases to date.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Kabul (184), Herat (38), Badghis (33), Baghlan (29), Kandahar (19), Badakhsan (15), Nangarhar (15), Takhar (12), Ghazni (11) and Kunduz (10).
In addition, eight cases each were reported in Kapisa, Parwan, Nimroz and Farah, seven in Zabul, three in Bamyan and one in Kunar.
The government tested 1,007 samples during the day and their average rate of positive confirmation is 40.62%.
A convoy of vehicles carrying Nuristan governor Hafiz Abdul Qayyum was attacked by unknown gunmen in Kabul’s Surobi district at around 7am on Sunday.
While Qayyum survived the attack, one of his bodyguards was killed and another, who was also his nephew, was injured.
Qayyum had been on his way to Kabul for some official work this morning when they were accosted.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Upper House of the Afghan Parliament, the Mesherano Jirga (MJ) said it will not pass the government’s proposed amendments to the media laws if the bill is sent to them.
A number of MJ representatives believe the amendments were in violation of the Afghan constitution and the values of freedom of expression.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) have also voiced their concerns and said the move would push back press freedom and restrict media activities.
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani’s office has assured that they will safeguard press freedom.
The amendments to the media law have been approved by the cabinet and caused widespread protests this week as at least 20 media outlets wrote an open letter to Ghani raising their concerns.
The 2006 mass media law has 54 articles, of which at least 13 are said to have been amended and have sparked the backlash.
Article 6 of the mass media law compels journalists to reveal their sources only when a competent court orders the disclosure. The amended draft expands this to give the authority to other government institutions such as the police, the Attorney General’s Office and the military forces.
Afghan journalists have called on the Lower and Upper house not to pass the bill as it is set to be sent to the Parliament for ratification.
Pakistan and Afghanistan will resume bilateral trade through the Ghulam Khan border crossing, the third transit trade terminal after Torkham and Chaman, from June 22.
The Afghan ambassador in Pakistan, Atif Mashal had met senior Pakistani officials to strengthen bilateral trade and had announced the news.
The intended wait is required to take the necessary precautions to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan area and Afghanistan’s Khost province where the terminal is, officials confirmed.
According to the Pakistani foreign office press release, the decision was taken, keeping in view both countries’ desire to further increase mutual trade.
The crossing will be open for six days a week around-the-clock and Saturdays will be reserved for pedestrian movement across the border.
The Ghulam Khan crossing is more beneficial for Afghan traders as it is closer than Torkham to Karachi.