Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
An investigative report by Al Jazeera named parliamentarian Mir Rahman Ramani as one of the political figures who bought “golden passports” from Cyprus between late 2017 and late 2019.
The leaked Cypriot government documents said that those who bought the passports, worth a minimum of $2.5 million each, were several elected politicians and relatives of leaders, the news organisation said.
These individuals are known as “politically exposed person” (PEPs), who are internationally recognised to be at higher risk of corruption because of their position in government.
The speaker of the Lower House of Parliament bought Cypriot citizenship for himself, his wife and three daughters. Rahmani also provided the family passports for St. Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean nation.
Al Jazeera spoke to anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, which said PEPs such as Rahmani often hold “keys to vast sums of taxpayer money.”
“They have access to public resources, they can be sitting on a government contract and be in a position to make decisions, so it presents a high financial risk they are being corrupted or corrupting others,” Laure Brillaud, senior policy officer at the NGO told Al Jazeera.
The organisation caveats that the documents do not prove wrongdoing by any individual PEP or accuse them of being involved in corruption.
However, it does raise the question why a public official would want to buy a second, and in the case of Rahmani, a third citizenship for themselves or their family.
A Cypriot passport grants access to free travel, work and banking across the European Union (EU).
Under EU pressure, Cyprus changed its rules in 2019, but Al Jazeera’s investigation showed that many political figures had already secured their citizenship before the rule change was enforced.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the Taliban truck bombing in Balkh that killed three people and wounded 41 on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Defence said that two commandos were killed and six wounded, while the rest of the casualties were civilians.
“The Taliban must stop fighting and killing Afghans,” Ghani said in a press release. “The Taliban’s insistence on continuing war and violence is challenging peace opportunities.”
He added that Taliban stepping up its attacks on major cities, defied the conditions set by the Doha Deal signed between the militant group and the U.S.
“Accept the ceasefire and start face-to-face talks with the Afghan government. By committing crimes and violence, they can achieve nothing but hatred and disgust of the people,” the president said.
Most of the wounded civilians in the attack were women and children said the Afghan army corps spokesperson.
At least eight members of the Afghan army were killed in Ghor, two more in Parwan and a policeman in Kabul, over the past day.
Ghor governor’s spokersperson Arif Abir said at least right army soldiers were killed and six more were wounded when Taliban attacked security checkpoints in the Shahrak district on Tuesday.
Sources in Parwan also confirmed that two army soldiers were killed on Monday night after Taliban attacked a checkpoint in the Shinwari district. Six Taliban insurgents were also killed in the counterattack.
A roadside explosion in the Sarai Herati area of PD5 in Kabul city on Tuesday morning, killed a policeman, Kabul Police spokesperson Ferdowz Faramarz said.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that two Taliban fighters involved in attacks along the Kabul-Parwan highway were arrested by the army.
At least 91 Taliban fighters were killed, along with three commanders, and 50 wounded in the security forces operations to clear the Kunduz-Khanabad highway on Monday, the MoD said.
Ataullah Khogyani, spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar, said that four kidnappers, three from Hesarak and one from Shirzad, had been detained by security forces in Jalalabad city.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a statement on Tuesday, that it would “continuously monitor” the implementation of the document released by Pakistan ordering the imposition of UN Security Council sanctions against Taliban leaders.
The Pakistani Foreign Ministry had released a document last week ordering the enforcement of UN Security Council resolution that would enforce travel restrictions, arms embargo and freeze the assets of individuals and groups affiliated with the Taliban.
The Afghan MFA said they had “carefully considered and thoroughly reviewed the document” and will continue to monitor its progress.
“The implementation of all UN Security Council resolutions, especially those that cut off funding and equip terrorist activities and prevent war and bloodshed, are mandatory for all governments,” the MFA said.
They urged Pakistan to abide by its international obligations and fully commit to implementing the resolutions.
The ministry said the government of Afghanistan was committed to sustaining lasting peace and draining the sources of financing and equipping terrorism.
They also called on the Taliban to begin the peace talks as soon as possible and stop the bloodshed and make a full commitment to a lasting and dignified peace.
Rahmatullah Nabil, the former Afghan intelligence chief, revealed that he had obtained a list showing that along with several other politicians, he had been threatened by certain groups.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, met with Rahmatullah Nabil along with former finance minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, senior Hezb-e-Islami member Karim Amin, and a number of other political figures on Tuesday.
According to Sapidar Palace, the leaders shared their security concerns with Abdullah.
Nabil said that he had obtained a “hit” list which showed that he and a number of former government officials and politicians had received death threats.
According to Nabil, the threats were made because of his “clear views on current issues in the country.”
“This is how they want to silence our voice,” Nabil reportedly said, according to the press release.
The officials called such acts a threat to the freedom of expression and called for an investigation.
“Freedom of expression is a principle in the country’s political system. No individual or group has the right to deprive the citizens of the country for any reason, especially because of the expression of their views,” said Abdullah.
Nabil’s remarks to the chairman came after he posted an “assassination list” on his Twitter account that was allegedly released by Taliban insiders.
The list also included names of former chief of staff Abdul Karim Khurram, Qazi Mohammad Amin Waqad, Pajhwok Afghan News director Danish Karokhel, and many others.
The Taliban have not yet commented, but Nabil had said at the time: “We are well aware of this stupid game by domestic and foreign mercenary groups!”
Abdullah noted that threatening certain figures for expressing their thoughts was a “crime.”
He promised to talk to the president and security officials about the necessary steps to be taken.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) blamed the Taliban for killing 88 civilians over the past two weeks.
MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian tweeted out on Tuesday, that the Taliban had carried out 781 attacks during the past two weeks, where “88 civilians were martyred, and 133 others were injured.”
He said that the Taliban remained active in 27 provinces of the country, causing the highest number of civilian casualties in Kandahar and Ghazni provinces.
Both provinces witnessed deadly roadside bombings in the past week along with some clashes.
In Kandahar, the MoI reports that 20 people were killed and nine were injured, while in Ghazni, 16 were killed and eight wounded.
Arian said, “Targeting civilians is against religious and military norms.”
The Taliban has not yet commented on the ministry’s figures.
The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) said over 7,000 families have been displaced in Kunduz due to rising insecurity in the past eight days.
Officials said that due to clashes between the Taliban and the security forces along the Kunduz-Khanabad highway, hundreds of people living on both sides of the road have fled in Khanabad, Hazrat Imam Sahib and Aqtash districts of the province.
Local residents told the media that they had been left without food and shelter since their district was under siege.
The MoRR said they had set up teams to help the internally displaced people.
However, the ministry also said that the number of displaced families in Kunduz has been increasing every day.
Increase of Taliban attacks in Kunduz
Taliban insurgents have intensified their attacks on parts of Kunduz province, most recently attacking the village of Talukeh in central Kunduz province and security checkpoints.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Taliban attack was repulsed by security forces and 27 Taliban were killed in the clashes.
On the other hand, the MoD announced on Monday that it had cleared the Kunduz-Khanabad highway, which had previously been blocked by the Taliban, and that the highway was open to traffic.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPh) announced that 16 positive cases of Coronavirus have been identified in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.
The MoPH said that seven were infected in Paktua, six in Kabul, one in Panjshir, one in Nangarhar and one in Kunduz.
The ministry said that the confirmed number of cases has now reached 38,070 cases so far.
The ministry added that eight people have died while 80 have recovered, bringing those figures to 1,397 fatalities and 28,440 recoveries.
An explosion in the Balkh district of the northern province led to many civilian casualties on Tueday morning.
“A bomb exploded at 8 am today near a veterinary clinic where army commandos were stationed in Balkh district,” Balkh Police spokesperson Adel Shah Adel told Reporterly.
The Ministry of Interior said a “car bomb” had exploded at around 9 am, and spokesperson Tariq Arian said details will be made available in a while.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Defence said that two civilians were killed and 35 others were wounded when a “truck bomb” exploded in Balkh.
They added that a commando was also killed and six more were wounded in the incident, while many houses in the vicinity were destroyed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Badakhshan resident and officials said Taliban are taxing illegal gold mines in the province and making considerable revenues to support the group, reports Gandhara Radio Free Europe.
Residents told Radio Free Afghanistan that gold miners are forced to share one-fifth of their find with the Taliban. Haseebullah, a resident of Raghistan, also told them that Taliban are equipping some of the rudimentary mining operations with modern machinery to increase their output.
Badakhshan Governor Mohammad Zakaria Sawda, told Gandhara, that through this tactic, the Taliban may be earning tens of thousands of dollars every month from the gold mines which are concentrated in the Raghistan and Yaftali Shufla districts.
The area that the Taliban control in Badakhshan has gold and lapis lazuli mines, both of which are being used to bankroll their operations and strengthen their forces.
However, the Taliban denied taxing the gold mines, with Zabihullah Mujahid, the grop’s spokesperson telling Radio Free Afghanistan that only local were involved in the mining operations.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said three new cases of wild polio, or poliomyelitis, were reported in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of cases to 40.
According to the ministry, the three new cases were identified on Monday in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Khost.
Of the 40 cases identified this year, 28 were reported in the southern provinces.
In the past eight months, 13 cases of polio have been reported In Helmand and nine in Kandahar, but Khost reported its first case after almost seven years.
Poliomyelitis is an acutely infectious disease which attack the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.
Last year, there were 29 positive cases of polio in Afghanistan but this year, the number of positive cases increased since the vaccine campaign was affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MoPH announced the launch of a new vaccine campaign in 10 provinces.
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) set to certify the African continent free from wild polio on Tuesday, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world where the infection persists.