Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has confirmed an explosion took place in Kabul city’s Dasht-e-Barchi on Saturday evening.
MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian said the explosion took place at 4:30 pm in the Pul-e-Khushk area of PD13.
Eyewitnesses have said that casualties were reported, but the exact figures are not known.
The site of the explosion is said to be near an educational institution.
According to preliminary reports, at least 14 people were killed and 35 wounded in a suicide bombing at an education centre in Kabul city’s PD13 on Saturday.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber who tried to target the Kawsar-e Danesh tuition centre in the Pul-e-Khoshk area of Dasht-e-Barchi in western Kabul.
Spokesperson for the MoI, Tariq Arian, said the bomber was identified by the security guard of the institution and detonated his explosives before reaching the target.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson for the High Council for National Reconciliation, called the attack inhumane and against Islamic norms.
The explosion took place at 4:30 pm.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
With the reduction in foreign troop levels, President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday, that the security sector will reform and implement plans to move towards self-sufficiency.
Ghani addressed the closing ceremony of the 2020 Future Force Conference on the theme “Strengthening and Reforms of Afghanistan National Defence and Security forces” at the Presidential Palace.
The conference’s aim was to identify problems, trim unnecessary expenses, establish reforms and ensure proper allocation for resources to better support forces on the front lines.
National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said such conferences were important for a comprehensive analysis of the current security situation and to maintain transparency so that the government of Afghanistan could provide for its own security and defence forces.
Referring to the increased coordination between the leadership and lower-ranking security officials, Mohib said they would take urgent action to resolve any issues.
Ghani thanked the security forces and said that the conference has brought more order to their plans for self-sufficiency, autonomy and reform of the military.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that with 620,000 migrants returning in 2020 and the resumption of in-person classes at school and universities with limited adherence to restrictions due to prevailing economic conditions, Afghanistan is entering the second wave of COVID-19 infections after the initial peak in June 2020.
Afghanistan has confirmed 40,768 Coronavirus cases with 1,511 deaths, however given the limited availability of testing resources, the true rate of infection is believed to be many times higher, the IOM said.
“Although most people are now aware of the dangers represented by COVID-19, we continue to see limited adherence to recommended prevention protocols,” says IOM Afghanistan’s Migration Health lead, Dr. Mohiuddin Khan.
“The high rate of health worker infections in Afghanistan has resulted in a major decline in hospital visits and rates of testing, therefore it is now more important than ever to continue a robust COVID-19 response while ensuring continuing access to life-saving basic primary care for the most marginalized and vulnerable populations.”
The organisation said that they were actively responding to COVID-19 across Afghanistan under the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) with financial support totalling €1.25 million from the German Government’s Federal Foreign Office.
Germany’s funding will ensure the deployment of six Rapid Response to engage in active COVID-19 sample collection and the deployment of four Mobile Health Teams to continue provision of basic primary care inclusive of 20,000 health consultations.
IOM’s border level screening teams will continue border level surveillance at major border crossings with Iran and Pakistan.
“IOM’s message is clear – this is not over and everyone needs to be an active agent in resolving the pandemic,” Dr. Khan said.
On United Nations (UN) Day on Saturday, marking the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the organisation, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) called on them to effectively support the intra-Afghan peace negotiations.
The rights commission asked the UN to work alongside Afghanistan to combat poverty and corruption, assist in the state-building process, the transition to democracy, and the promotion of human rights as the best options for the nation’s growth and development.
The AIHRC expressed hope that the UN may achieve its goals of preventing war, achieving world peace, pursuing human rights issues and implementing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In particular, the rights commission called for “effective support” for the ongoing peace talks in Doha, over 40 days since the start of the talks with the Taliban.
First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Saturday released a new list of decisions regarding the security of Kabul city and said that the capital had not seen any major crimes in the past week.
He noted that there had been cases of family violence and three sniper attacks by the Taliban in the outer districts.
However, Saleh added that the name and shame campaign of posting criminals’ photos in public places had been successful and several had surrendered to the police.
“Gang members have asked for pardon in return for cooperation in dismantling the entire criminal network. Name and shame campaign will not stop. We will catch them all,” Saleh said.
He said that a number of criminals had agreed to surrender due to family pressure and this tactical approach was working for them. Several whose photos had not even been posted, came forward to report in exchange of their reputation being preserved.
“In this regard, work is being done on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “None of the long list of 2,500 people has been incorrect so far, including government officials.”
The vice president said that wealthy and powerful residents of several neighbourhoods had also voluntarily vacated the encroached green areas. The residents had asked the police to give them a day and not to publicly shame them.
He said that there were no undocumented vehicles in Kabul without license plates and have seized hundreds of violators.
In another part of his article, he stressed that those who defame government forces are being prosecuted.
Amnesty International said on Friday that despite ongoing peace talks, civilians continue to pay the price for the conflict in Afghanistan.
The global human rights organisation made a statement following a spate of bloody attacks that killed 51 people and wounded 137 in the past week alone, according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI).
“The world must sit up and take notice. Afghan civilians are being slaughtered on a daily basis. While the parties talk peace, we’ve seen a marked escalation in violence this month, with Afghan civilians as ever paying the heaviest price,” said Omar Waraich, head of South Asia, Amnesty International.
Earlier this week, MoI said that 180 civilians killed and 375 wounded in the past month.
“While the parties talk peace, we’ve seen a marked escalation in violence this month, with Afghan civilians as ever paying the heaviest price,” said Waraich.
Amnesty urged all stakeholders to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law. “The international community must make the protection of civilians a core demand for their ongoing support of the peace process,” he added.
Intense fighting between the Afghan government and the Taliban forces over the past fortnight in Helmand capital Lashkar Gah is still ongoing and has so far forced at least 40,000 people to flee their homes.
At an event on Friday, Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh also said that the increase in Taliban violence amidst peace negotiations “shows that the Taliban is thinking about its military success by prolonging the negotiations, but this is a wrong calculation.”
He said that “resistance” by the people against the Taliban will increase unexpectedly if the group is thinking they will win militarily.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that in the past 24 hours, 81 new Coronavirus cases were found positive from the 227 samples tested across Afghanistan.
According to the MoPH, four people succumbed to the virus while 13 have recovered in the past day.
The new cases were reported in the provinces of Balkh (27), Takhar (23), Kunduz (11), Baghlan (7), Kabul (6), Kandahar (4), Uruzgan (2) and Kunar (1).
With the addition of these, Afghanistan has confirmed 40,768 COVID-19 cases so far, of which 5,234 are active, 1,511 have died and 34,023 have recovered.
Kabul Police arrested three people on suspicion of smuggling €380,000 (around 34.6 million AFN) and eight gold bricks via Mazar-iSharif city and then out of the country.
The Office of the First Vice President said on Saturday, that the eight gold bricks weighed 22.925 kg along and were being transported, along with the money, in two bags at the bus station.
Later, the office said that the gold was around 22 kg and €250,000 in cash was found.
First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Friday that the head of Kabul’s PD1 was pressured by some “political celebrities” to return the confiscated gold and money the police found. Saleh assured that all police officers will be supported and defended from political pressure and the smuggled property cannot be returned without a trial.
He said that last year alone, nearly $800 million was smuggled out of the country via the north.
The first vice president described gold and currency smuggling as a major problem that strengthens lawlessness and the criminal economy.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said on Saturday that the Taliban carried out 356 offensives in the past week, killing 51 civilians and wounding 137 others.
MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian tweeted the figure and said that the Taliban had carried out two suicide attacks and 52 mine explosions.
In response to the Taliban’s offensive and in the counterattacks, Arian said, 403 militants were killed and 140 were wounded.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that 95 Taliban militants had been killed and 43 had been wounded in clashes with the security forces in the past 24 hours across 26 provinces.
The MoD said that the Taliban attacks in nine provinces were repulsed as part of “active defence.”
Clashes and attacks between the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the militants were reported in Nangarhar, Helmand, Herat, Wardak, Zabul, Kandahar, Ghor, Kunduz and Badghis provinces.
The air force also carried out strikes in Nangarhar, Zabul, Helmand, Badghis and Kandahar provinces.
The Taliban have not yet commented.
However, the figures indicate that the past week was deadly for civilians as well as for the Afghan security forces.
Amnesty International on Friday had condemned the increasing civilian casualties in the Afghan conflict and urged the parties to protect the citizens and respect international humanitarian laws.
Four members of a family were killed and three others were injured when a roof a house collapsed in Nangarhar, provincial officials confirmed on Saturday.
Nangarhar governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani said that incident took place on Friday night in the Girkhel area of Pachir Aw Agam district of the province.
Khogyani said the house, which belonged to a man named Kimia Gul, was old and the roof collapsed due to excessive wear.
While Kimia and two of his sons were injured, his wife, two young daughters and another son were killed.
The authorities have been instructed to provide emergency assistance to the victim’s family.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday urged the Taliban to reduce the “unacceptable levels of violence” as allies reaffirmed their support for the Afghan peace process.
The Afghan peace negotiations that began last month are crucial, Stoltenberg said, and very fragile, but remain the “best chance for peace in a generation.”
“To pave the way to a ceasefire they [Taliban] must break all ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, so that Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for terrorist attacks on our countries,” he told the militant group.
Showing concern over repeated U.S. announcements on American troop withdrawals despite the impact on the peace negotiations, Stoltenberg cautioned that the “next months are decisive for Afghanistan.”
The secretary general noted that just a few years ago, the alliance had over 100,000 troops engaged in combat operations.
“Now, we have reduced our presence to under 12,000,” he said.
“We decided to go into Afghanistan together; we will make decisions about future adjustments together; and we will leave together, when the time is right,” Stoltenberg insisted.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday that Afghanistan has untapped economic prospects and peace in the nation will open new avenues for cooperation and enhance connectivity that will also benefit Pakistan.
Khan, who was talking to Speaker of the Afghan House of Representatives Mir Rahman Rahmani, discussed bilateral ties, Afghan peace and matters of mutual interest.
Pakistani National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was also present at the meeting.
Khan reiterated Pakistan’s desire to enhance fraternal relations with Afghanistan in all areas. Emphasising the need for a negotiated political settlement, the prime minister said that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict.
He also reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Rahmani is on a six-day visit of the country along with a 17-member delegation for a seminar on bilateral trade and investments, and to discuss Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process.
Balkh Police said the Taliban had abducted seven employees of a private construction firm in the Nahr-e-Shahi district of the province on Friday.
The workers were allegedly abducted for failing to pay 10% of the mining tax and fines imposed by the Taliban, said Adel Shah Adel, spokesperson for the Balkh Police.
Balkh urban development director Abdul Basit Aini said the men had been on duty in the Langar Khan area of the district and were working on the construction of a 14.5km road in the village.
Aini said the Taliban also took an excavator, a road roller and another vehicle.
Balkh Police said the Taliban had most likely transferred the prisoners to another village in the district and they are investigating the incident.
The Taliban have yet to comment.
Two women, allegedly members of a gang of robbers, were arrested in Mahmud Raqi city, Kapisa security officials said on Saturday.
The women had rented a car from the Saray Shamali area of Kabul with a driver, to travel to the Sayad area of Mahmud Taqi, said Abdul Shaykh Shoresh, Kapisa Police spokesperson.
Once they reached their destination, where the women said they were collecting rent, they made a phone call to the other gang members.
Three armed men arrived and stole the car on gunpoint.
Shoresh said the driver managed to escape and file a complaint with the police, based on which the women were arrested.
They are also investigating the incident to identify the other members of the ring.