Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
A senior Iranian official says the Islamic Republic will stand by the Afghan government in its fight against terrorism and extremism, offering condolences over a deadly militant attack on a Sikh temple that left dozens of people dead.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi condemned the Wednesday attack, which was claimed by the Daesh Takfiri group, commiserated with the families of the victims and extended his most sincere condolences to the bereaved ones.
“Terrorists will definitely not achieve their goals to foment insecurity, instability and religious disputes through [carrying out] sinister acts and imposing heavy expenses on the oppressed people of Afghanistan,” Mousavi pointed out.
Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has said his country wanted special relations with Afghanistan and valued bilateral economic and political relations with Kabul.
A statement from the Presidential Palace media office said President Ghani held a telephone call with Turkmeni president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow and congratulated him on New Year.
The statement said the Afghan leader expressed his hope for the Turkmenistan impartial conference and added all preparations had been made for the TAPI project and promised Afghanistan cooperation in power and transit areas.
During the phone conversation, the Turkmen President called President Ashraf Ghani as, “Dear brother thanks for the telephone” and congratulated Ghani on his reelection and promised further cooperation with Afghanistan.”
GurbangulyBerdimuhamedow said he was enjoying economic and political relationship with Afghanistan.
He said his country was ready to work and have cooperation with the war-hit country and the TAPI project has special place in both countries’ relationship.
Moscow has condemned a terrorist attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul and calls on the Afghan authorities to ensure security in the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
“We condemn this barbaric crime aimed at inciting religious hatred in Afghanistan,” the statement reads. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the attack “emphasizes the need for more effective measures to combat the threat of the Islamic State terror group [outlawed in Russia] and attempts to turn Afghanistan into a beachhead for spreading terrorism in the region.”
“We once again call on the Afghan authorities to take comprehensive steps in order to ensure the safety of the country’s people and step up efforts to destroy the Islamic State’s facilities on Afghan soil,” the statement adds.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the March 25 attack, which killed more than 20 people.
Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday expressed deep concern on reports of blasts near the cremation site of those killed in an attack on gurudwara in Kabul by Islamic State.
“Deeply concerned at the blasts reported near the cremation site of those killed during the attack on Gurudwara Sahib in Kabul,” the minister said in a tweet.
He said the government is working to bring back the mortal remains of Tian Singh, who was killed during the attack
“Medical opinion against moving injured at this stage. Embassy is working on the return of mortal remains of Tian Singh. Will keep you updated,” he said.
The minister said in tweets that the Indian embassy is in touch with families of those killed and injured and also security authorities in Kabul.
” Understandable grief and anger at the cowardly terrorist attack on Gurudwara in Kabul. Our Embassy is in continuous touch with the families of those killed and injured,” he said.
“Our Embassy has been in touch with Kabul security authorities. Have asked them to ensure adequate security on site as well as safe return of families to their homes thereafter,” he added.
The terror attack took place on Wednesday leaving at least 27 dead and eight others injured.
In a growing effort to protect the world’s most vulnerable against the rapid global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), international aid agency, World Vision, is increasing its response in 17 countries.
In January, World Vision began distributing protection equipment and supplies in Asia, where the virus outbreak was first recorded.
Teams on the ground are supporting vulnerable communities by promoting prevention behaviours, offering essential health advice and psychosocial support, and engaging government health authorities.
Further action is now underway in some of the world’s most fragile contexts, including Afghanistan.
World Vision is warning that the impact coronavirus will have on these countries is likely to be far greater than what we have seen to date in more medically-advanced countries, both directly through COVID-19 deaths, and indirectly through the reduction of life-saving child health services as countries focus on this new disease.
Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said 18,666 Afghan nationals have been directed to the Milak border after receiving healthcare services at Zahedan Alghadir camp since early March.
Harirchi told reporters on the sideline of a visit to the Alghadir camp in Zahedan on Thursday that at the moment, many Afghan nationals who are trying to leave Iran are being screened for coronavirus and other communicable diseases.
He stressed that necessary healthcare services are at their disposal.
These services are provided to citizens who have entered the country legally or unauthorized and are issued a health certificate for those who have identification documents, he said.
The UK in response to the coronavirus says the COVID-19 outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation.
UK in a press release said that it
has so far committed up to £241m of UK aid funding to support the global efforts to combat the outbreak of COVID-19.
According to the press release,
The UK is reinforcing the resilience of vulnerable countries; pursuing a vaccine; supporting the global economy and enabling travelling nationals to return home where necessary.
“In Afghanistan the UK is working with UN Agencies on an emergency humanitarian response plan,” the statement reads.
It added that the UK currently funds 75% of the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, which has already been used to contribute to the initial COVID response.
UK stressed that the outbreaks do not respect borders and to save lives around the world we need a fully coordinated international response.
The proclaimed president Abdullah Abdullah says the cut in US aid will be Irreparable for Afghanistan.
The US Secretary of State Mike in his recent trip to Kabul has said that Washington will cut its aid to Afghanistan by $1bn (£840m) if Ashraf Ghani and his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah fail to agree on an inclusive government for talks with the Taliban.
Abdullah in a press conference on Thursday said that “Pompeo did not come to Afghanistan for mediation,” and “he didn’t even suggest a model for us.”
“However, Pompeo told us that if the political tensions end, they (US) will continue to offer assistance and support to Afghan government to fight against terrorism,” Abdullah said.
Pompeo also warned that A further $1bn could be cut from the annual aid package of $4.5bn in 2021.
During his speech, Abdullah called on the Taliban to show their will for peace by announcing a ceasefire and holding intra-Afghan talks aimed at the coronavirus issue in the country.
“We have been at war with the Taliban for more than 20 years. The war is not the way to solve problems,” he said.
Abdullah emphasized that the delegation, for peace talks with the Taliban, must represent all.
“We are ready for talks to end the political crisis in the country,” and “a continuation of the political struggle would not benefit the people of Afghanistan,” he added.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says the day-time curfew for preventing the spread of the coronavirus will continue in the country.
The deputy MoPH health services provisions, Feda Muhammad Peykan in a press conference said that of the 80 cases of the coronavirus, 28 individuals of them have no experience of trip to Iran.
According to Paykan, one of the health workers in Kandahar and four others in Herat have been infected with the coronavirus.
He stressed that the day-time curfew in Herat, Farah and Zaranj cities will continue until the situation returns to normal.
He noted that there is the possibility of a large number of coronavirus cases in Kabul that have not been recorded so far.
Paykan has assured that serious measures have been taken for sending the addicts to the addiction Centre.
This comes as the total number of confirmed cases in Afghanistan reaches to 84.
The US military has halted troop movement for 60 days to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) but it will not affect the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, the Defence Department said in a statement.
“Today, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper enacted a 60-day stop movement order for all DoD uniformed and civilian personnel and their sponsored family members overseas. This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), to protect US personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” the release said.
The order is not expected to impact the drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan, the statement added.
Earlier, the Pentagon reported 94 new coronavirus cases, bringing to 435 the number of its infected servicemen and civilians, one of whom died of the disease.
An explosion occurred Thursday in Qalacha area of PD8 in Kabul city, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) confirmed.
The spokesman of MoI, Tariq Arian said the blast was as a result of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
He added that the incident happened at around 12:15pm and had no casualties.
Indian’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Vinay Kumar, has visited the scene of yesterday’s attack, and met with community leaders, elders and families of the victims, said the Indian embassy.
“He shared their grief and offered condolences. He was told that the injured are receiving satisfactory treatment,” the Indian embassy tweeted.
Heavily armed gunmen and suicide bombers blasted their way into a Sikh gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 25 worshippers and wounding 8 others.
The gunmen attacked the gurdwara in Shor Bazar area at about 07:45 (local time) as 150 worshippers were inside the building.
India strongly condemned the attack on a Gurudwara in Kabul, and pledged to help the Sikh and Hindu communities of Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State Micheal Pompeo on Wednesday condemned the Kabul Gurudwara terror attack which claimed the lives of 27 civilians and wounded eight others.
“I want to address the ISIS-K claimed attack in Afghanistan. The United States condemns the horrific ISIS-K claimed attack on a Sikh temple and community center in Kabul this morning which took the lives of more than two dozen innocent people. The Afghan people deserve a future free from ISIS-K and other terrorist activity,” said Pompeo.
Over the issue of the Afghan peace process, he added: “Despite the country’s political challenges, the ongoing Afghan peace process remains the primary opportunity for Afghans to come together to negotiate a political settlement and build a unified front against the menace of ISIS-K. We encourage all Afghans to embrace this opportunity.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Afghan interior ministry reported an attack on the Sikh religious site in Kabul, which included suicide bombers. All 4 terrorists involved in the attack were killed by Afghan security forces.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the attack in Kabul on a Sikh-Hindu temple in which dozens of civilians were killed and injured.
Guterres in a statement expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.
According to the statement, Secretary-General reiterated that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable.
“The United Nations stands in solidarity with the people and the Government of Afghanistan and will continue supporting efforts to bring peace to their country,” the statement added.
The Taliban says Afghanistan’s government has agreed to begin releasing Taliban prisoners by the end of March.
The development could help break a deadlock that has held up negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government under a U.S.-brokered peace process.
The Taliban announced the development following a video conference on March 25 in which the prisoner release was discussed in detail.
“The meeting decided that the release of the prisoners will practically start by the end of March,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter.
Shaheen said the Taliban would send a team to the Bagram detention center north of Kabul where Afghan authorities are holding many Taliban prisoners.
It was not immediately clear how many prisoners would be released. The Taliban have demanded 5,000 as a precondition to talks with Kabul.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, who has been leading U.S. peace talks with the Taliban, said the group and the Afghan government agreed to begin releasing their prisoners on March 31.
“This is a positive development,” he tweeted Wednesday, after an hours-long video conference between representatives of the Afghan government, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.S. and the Gulf state of Qatar. “Technical meetings will continue to make sure the process goes smoothly.”
On Wednesday, a pair of Taliban spokesmen and a U.S. official confirmed the prisoner release — a key condition in the peace framework between the militants and the U.S. announced about a month ago.
Another Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, explained Wednesday on Twitter that the Taliban would send a technical delegation to the Bagram prison, a complex on the outskirts of Kabul, to verify the prisoners being released.