Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the evolving security situation in the region on Monday, against the backdrop of a spike in terrorist violence in Afghanistan.
The two leaders had a phone conversation and exchanged greetings on the occasion of Eid al-Adha.
Ghani thanked Modi for timely supply of food and medical assistance to meet Afghanistan’s requirements, according to an official statement.
“The two leaders also exchanged views on the evolving security situation in the region and other areas of mutual bilateral interest,” the statement said, adding Modi had reiterated India’s commitment to the Afghan people “in their quest for a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Afghanistan”.
This coincided with a meeting between acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar and the Indian Ambassador to Kabul Vinay Kumar.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they “reflected on the importance of the ceasefire” between the Afghan government and the Taliban during Eid al-Adha and saw it as a positive step towards establishing lasting peace in the country.
Both sides then deliberated on important issues such as the upcoming Peace Consultative Loya Jirga, the importance of further strengthening regional consensus on the Afghan peace process, the need for an immediate start of negotiations, and Indian assistance to Afghanistan in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
In closing, Kumar reiterated the Indian government’s continued commitment to Afghanistan.
Atmar expressed appreciation for Indian support and reiterated the commitment of the Afghan government towards further expanding and strengthening bilateral relations between the two nations.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi revealed that the U.S. had told the Afghan government that despite the release of only 4,600 Taliban prisoners, the peace talks would begin.
The Office of the National Security Council (NSC) said the Afghan government has released 4,917 prisoners so far, of which 4,600 were based on the list given by the Taliban.
The government has called for a Loya Jirga to discuss the 400 Taliban inmates who had been accused of serious crimes.
Sediqqi said the Loya Jirga will decide the fate of the prisoners, some of whom were sentenced to death for their offences, and few had been blacklisted by other nations for the severity of their crimes.
Meanwhile, the Taliban had said that they had completed the release of government prisoners as agreed in the U.S. deal.
However, Sediqqi said that the Taliban had not released prisoners based on the government’s given list.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, condemned the IS-K attack on Nangarhar Prison, in a statement on Facebook on Sunday.
Abdullah said, “Such barbaric attacks will not dampen our spirits or our focus on peace. Rather, we will further coordinate against the enemy of this country and speed up our work for peace.”
He said that such attacks would make the people and the government present a more cohesive front against the enemy, and that efforts to secure peace in the country would accelerate.
A large number of civilians were “killed and wounded” in the attack on Nangarhar Prison, Abdullah said in a statement and called on the security agencies to thoroughly investigate the attack.
“We hope that the violence in in the country will subside, a permanent ceasefire will be established, intra-Afghan talks will begin soon and the war will end,” Abdullah wrote.
He expressed his condolences to the families and victims of the attack.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the attack on Nangarhar Prison ended after nearly 20 hours, with the death of eight attackers on Monday afternoon in the provincial capital of Jalalabad.
Deputy spokesperson for the MoD Fawad Aman said that the prison had been cleared of the terrorists, but clear-up operations are now ongoing in a building nearby, a shopping mall, where the attackers had holed-up.
The security forces have imposed a total lockdown in the city and asked residents to stay indoors.
The attack started at 6:40 pm on Sunday evening and continued into Monday.
Chief of Staff General Yasin Zia had travelled to Jalalabad to overlook the clean-up operations.
By mid-afternoon on Monday, the car explosion by the IS-K and the gun battle had claimed the lives of at least 29 people and wounded 50 others, including prisoners, security forces and civilians.
Several of the injured are in critical condition, the provincial health directorate said.
At the time of the attack, there had been 1,793 prisoners in the complex, of which 1,025 were captured while they were trying to flee. Another 430 were rescued by the security forces, few have been killed, including two Taliban detainees, while some have fled.
The attack started on the last day of the Eid ceasefire called by the Taliban.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said that the Taliban violated the Eid ceasefire by carrying out 38 offences in the past three days.
“Taliban has repeatedly violated the principles of war and reduction in violence,” said Tariq Arain, spokesperson for the MoI on Monday, adding that this showed “the group’s lack of commitment to what it says.”
Arian said 60 civilians had been “martyred and wounded” in the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Among them, 20 were killed and 40 were wounded in terrorist attacks, attacks and mine explosions.
The Taliban have not yet commented officially on the report.
The government and the Taliban have not yet officially stated their position on the extension of the ceasefire which the international community called for.
Afghanistan’s Coronavirus tally reached 36,746 as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported 36 new cases in the past 24 hours from 105 samples tested.
The MoPH also said that four people had died in the past day and 47 had recovered.
New cases tested positive in the provinces of Ghor (20), Kabul (7), Balkh (5) and Herat (4).
The tally for Afghanistan is 36,746 confirmed cases so far with 25,556 recovered and 1,288 dead.
The ministry had previously said that fewer people went to get tested during the Eid holidays, but many flouted the health regulations.
Former president Hamid Karzai condemned the terrorist attack on the Jalalabad prison in Nangarhar, that has left at least 21 people dead and 43 wounded so far, as the clashes continued.
Karzai called the terrorist attack during the Eid ceasefire the “work of enemies of Afghanistan’s peace and stability who want to keep the fire of war burning in the country for the benefit of foreigners.”
He urged the people to be wary of these “biased acts and conspiracies” by terrorist organisations in a Facebook post on Monday.
“Stand against them in unity and solidarity and work for peace in the country through the intra-Afghan negotiations,” the former president said.
President Ashraf Ghani has called for a national Peace Consultative Loya Jirga on August 7 in Kabul, state media Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) announced on Sunday.
The Loya Jirga or mass gathering of representatives from various ethnic, religious and tribal communities, will last three to five days and primarily discuss the fate of 400 Taliban prisoners who he does not have the authority to release.
During his speech on Eid al-Adha, Ghani said that the Constitutions of Afghanistan and the penal code, do not give him the authority to release those prisoners and the Loya Jirga must decide on it.
According to Afghan Constitution, a Loya Jirga is the “highest expression” of the people. Unofficially, its decisions are seen as final, but the two houses of the parliament and the president must approve of the ruling.
Of the 5,000 prisoners that Taliban wanted released, the Afghan government had identified 592 who were convicted of criminal and moral offences.
In the past two day, the Office of the National Security Council said the government had released 317 Taliban prisoners, bringing the total to 4,917 and planned to continue till the total reached 5,100.
However, of the 592, they have managed to reduce it to 400 detainees.
The Loya Jirga is expected to solve one of the last hurdles in the Afghan peace process for the talks to start with the Taliban.
Clashes between Afghan special forces and the assailants who attacked Nangarhar prison in the provincial capital, Jalalabad on Sunday, have continued for over 14 hours.
On Monday, Nangarhar governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani said that preliminary information indicates that 13 civilians have been killed so far, and 42 people have been injured.
The attackers targeted the Nangarhar Prison in PD4 of Jalalabad at 6:40 pm on Sunday. The assailants first detonated a car bomb, a Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED), at the entrance to the prison to breach the compound.
The remaining assailants then launched an attack on the prison and clashed with the security forces.
Khogyani said that security forces had killed three attackers so far, and the gun battle continued with shots being heard.
Taliban denied involvement and said that the “attack and shooting in Jalalabad” was not done by them.
However, Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-K), claimed responsibility via a statement on the official news website, Amaq.
Khogyani said security forces have managed to secure the prison checkpoint and are proceeding cautiously to eliminate the other attackers.
Around 700 detainees had managed to flee from the prison, but local authorities said that most have been re-arrested.
The prison was known to hold at least 1,500 people, including those who were affiliated with the Taliban and the IS-K.