Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Telia has divested its 12.25% stake in telecommunication operator, Roshan, and exited from Afghanistan after striking a deal with the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.
In a statement, the Swedish group revealed that they had struck the deal with the financial institution.
The Aga Khan Fund is a majority stakeholder in Roshan. The terms of the agreement were not revealed.
Telia had first said in 2016 that it was planning to sell its stake in Roshan, but had to wait to find the right buyer.
This move was part of a strategic shift that Telia first announced in 2015 to exit from the Eurasia region and focus on its core assets in the Nordic and Baltic region.
The Taliban killed at least four people in Takhar’s Khwaja Ghar district who were protesting against the alleged rape committed by a member of the militant group.
Khwaja Ghar governor Mohammad Omar said on Tuesday, that people from the villages of Dobandi, Chicheke and Manchqur had gathered to demand justice for the minors who were allegedly gang-raped.
According to local sources, a number of Taliban members entered the house of a man named Khudai Noor Malang at night, stole 25,000 AFN from him and gang-raped his two daughters, aged 14 and 17.
Omar said that after the incident, the people demanded that the perpetrators of the rape be punished and handed over.
The Taliban had promised to carry out the punishment, but failed to fulfil their promise.
The Khwaja Ghar governor added that three cases of gang-rape had been reported in Taliban-controlled areas over the past year.
The district police chief, Mohammad Ishaq, also said that Taliban prevented the people from gathering by moving the group’s members through the streets of the villages.
Omar said that the protests began when the rape suspects were to be transferred by the Taliban to the Chahar Dara district of Kunduz.
People surrounded the prison during a rally, and the Taliban opened fire on protesters, he said, wounding four more people.
Omar added that the people had initially disarmed a number of Taliban fighters who had shot dead the four protesters.
According the authorities, the protests have continued in the areas which are controlled by the Taliban.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said that starting in-person classes posed health risks for young primary school students and paved the way for the spread of COVID-19.
At a news conference on Tuesday, MoPH spokesperson Akmal Samsor said the Afghan cabinet would soon decide whether they would be re-opening schools and universities for classes.
“If it is decided to open schools and universities, we suggest that the upper classes be opened gradually and initially,” he said, adding, “Opening primary classes is dangerous and sets the stage for the spread of the virus.”
“According to the Ministry of Public Health, we may not be ready to open elementary schools this year, because children cannot wear masks or observe social distance.”
It had been decided that school and universities would resume for in-person classes on Aug. 6, depending on the COVID-19 transmission rate and cases at the time.
Samsor said that though the ministry has not noted an increase in cases at hospitals since Eid al-Adha, it would likely increase within the coming fortnight.
The MoPH is already prepared to conduct tests and handle the influx of new cases, he said.
An explosion in the Shegal district of Kunar has killed two civilians, a woman and a child, and injured three more, said the governor’s office.
Abdul Ghani Musamim, spokesperson for the Kunar governor, said that an improvised explosive device (IED) caused the explosion at around 10:30 am on Tuesday.
He said the roadside mine had been planted by “armed opposition.”
Afghanistan called on Turkey to take action against the people who raised the Taliban flag inside the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul.
On Monday, a video allegedly showing a group of men posing with the Taliban flag inside the mosque went viral on social media. This came after a similar incident was also reported in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gran Hewad said that the support for the Taliban should be countered in Turkey and Iran for the sake of the Afghan peace process.
“The peace process is supported by the Afghan government and the Afghan people, [they] should support it too and get rid of movements that can harm this process and that appear in these countries,” Hewad said.
The video shot in Hagia Sophia showed men dressed in traditional Afghan clothes and unfurling the Taliban banner, shouting slogans at the mosque’s entrance and then inside the prayer hall.
Hagia Sophia, which used to be a museum was opened as a mosque recently.
The video was posted by Noor Dahri, a U.K.-based researcher on counterterrorism and extremism.
#AfghanTaliban flag was raised in #HagiaSophia, #Turkey by pro #Taliban activists.
The conversion of Hagia Sophia was a motivational message of #MuslimBrotherhood to the world’s Islamist #extremists and #terrorists.
Soon, pro #ISIS activists will raise their flag too. #CHIIS pic.twitter.com/B6ArvLmSfe
— Noor Dahri (@dahrinoor2) August 3, 2020
The Afghan government said that it considers such actions, in support of the Taliban, as meddling in the country’s internal affairs.
The Embassy of India in Kabul has issued visas for at least 75 more Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, reported ABP Live, an Indian news website, on Tuesday.
They are scheduled to fly out of Kabul on Aug. 4 and the Indian embassy is facilitating this process by trying to get KamAir onboard.
The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee in India’s capital city said that the government had agreed to provide long term visas for all of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, who are estimated to be around 700, and wish to go to India.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said to build and support the international consensus on peace, they will be hosting two meetings in Kabul on Tuesday.
MFA spokesperson Gran Hewad said the meetings will also discuss the Loya Jirga which is being convened on Aug. 7 to decide the release of the 400 remaining Taliban prisoners.
Representatives from Pakistan and China are expected to attend the meetings.
Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has revealed its newest flight location from the UAE capital to Kabul starting on Aug. 7.
There will be three flights a week, on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning.
Air Arabia Abu Dhabi was formed by a joint-venture of Etihad Airways and Air Arabia to establish a low-cost carrier to cater to that segment in the region.
Kabul was last served by Safi Airways back in 2013.
President Ashraf Ghani called Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Monday, to exchange Eid al-Adha greetings and discussed issues regarding the Afghan peace process and COVID-19.
Khan “expressed hope that the next phase of the Afghan peace process would start soon, leading to the peaceful end of the lingering conflict in the war-ravaged country,” the statement by the Office of the Prime Minister said.
The two leaders, as per the official statement, discussed the latest efforts in the Afghan reconciliation process.
Khan highlighted Pakistan’s “positive contribution to the peace process” and stressed that “peace in Afghanistan is of paramount importance.”
He expressed the hope that the current momentum would be further built to implement the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in Doha, in its entirety leading to intra-Afghan negotiations at the earliest.
Referring to the various institutional mechanisms between the two countries, Khan and Ghani highlighted the importance of working together to further strengthen bilateral relations, in bilateral mechanisms such as the next session of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) at the earliest.
They also commiserated on the loss of lives due to COVID-19 and expressed the hope that the coronavirus pandemic would be successfully contained.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Taliban’s political chief and lead negotiator, Mullah Baradar, to discuss the Afghan peace process on Monday.
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said the discussions between the Taliban deputy and Pompeo was attended by the rest of the delegation also.
They spoke about the issue of Taliban prisoners whose release is “essential for commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations” Shaheen tweeted.
The Taliban want the prisoners freed according to the original list submitted by their technical team, before they join talks with the Afghan government, as per the Doha Agreement.
The U.S. State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
“Both sides talked about the inception of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Shaheen wrote.
The meeting came as President Ashraf Ghani called for a Peace Consultative Loya Jirga to decide the fate of the 400 Taliban prisoners the government considers the most dangerous.