Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said they had arrested the IS-K operative who was one of the masterminds behind the assassination of Mawlawi Mohammad Ayaz Niazi and Mawlawi Azizullah Mofleh.
The man, identified as Obaidullah, known as Akrama, is the “commander of Daesh operations in the north and northeast of Afghanistan,” the NDS said in a statement on Thursday.
He was a member of the Haqqani Network who received terrorist and intelligence training in North Waziristan, Pakistan, and travelled to Afghanistan to carry out terrorist operations.
With the emergence of the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (IS), Obaidullah joined the group and had worked alongside Shahab al-Muhajir, the new IS-K chief, indicating that he was an important person within the group in Afghanistan.
They also said he had confessed to being “one of the main masterminds” behind the explosions in the Wazir Akbar Khan Mosque on June 6, and the Sher Shah Suri Mosque on June 12 in Kabul.
Mawlawi Mohammad Ayaz Niazi, the imam of the Wazir Akbar Khan Mosque in downtown Kabul, was one of the two fatalities of the suicide bombing on the mosque during evening prayers. The other victim had been an Afghan security personnel, while two others had been wounded.
The blast in the Sher Shah Suri Mosque in the Karte-e Char area of the capital, during Friday prayers, had killed four people, including the imam, Mawlawi Azizullah Mofleh and wounded at least eight.
Obaidullah was arrested in an operation when he had tried to attack a mosque in Kunduz province, NDS said.
Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh said on Thursday that if the Taliban stayed true to their claims of abiding by their deal with the U.S., then they should come to the negotiating table with the Afghan government as soon as possible.
Speaking at an environment summit, “Our Role in Protecting Clean Air,” Danesh said war has a devastating effect on the country’s environment and this proves must end.
He called the conflict “another dangerous enemy of the environment” and said that along with the loss of civilian lives, it has damaged the country’s economy, culture and politics, on top of causing pollution.
“Even one of the most important causes of air pollution is war. A country that has been at war for 40 years – has seen violence, explosions and fires. How can we expect a clean environment?”
According to Danesh, peace is a basic necessity for a “clean environment” while forest fires, mine clearing and use of chemicals are rooted in war.
“The government of Afghanistan has fully supported the process that has been initiated to bring peace… [The government] has removed the obstacles to peace,” the second vice president said.
He then called on the Taliban as the other negotiating party to understand their responsibilities under the Doha agreement.
“It is now up to the Taliban to come to the negotiating table as soon as possible. We call on them to understand their responsibility and if they are sincere in their claims, they should come to the negotiating table.”
Danesh added that “dignified, lasting peace and peaceful coexistence” are needed to prevent environmental degradation.
The Taliban has claimed that the Afghan government has been delaying the peace talks by not releasing all their detainees.
With the intra-Afghan talks on the cusp of starting, Taliban attacks remain unabated with 98 civilians casualties reported in the past week, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said on Thursday.
MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian said that the Taliban carried out 368 terrorist attacks which killed 49 civilians and wounded 49 others.
Arian added that civilians casualties were reported across 22 provinces, with a majority of them in Kandahar and Zabul.
Despite repeated calls from a number of international allied to reduce violence and call for a ceasefire, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks.
This week alone, for the first time in 19 years, a district in Panjshir was attacked by the Taliban.
Increasing violence in the capital
The attack on First Vice President Amrullah Saleh’s convoy on Wednesday claimed civilian casualties.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said that while no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, the majority of the victims were civilians.
The bombing attack on Saleh’s convoy claimed the lives of 10 people while 36 were injured, including five women and four children, the AIHRC said.
In the past 24 hours, 343 samples were tested for Coronavirus, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said, of which, 28 were positive.
The MoPH also reported that no COVID-19 patients had died in the past day while 81 have recovered.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Herat (11), Daykundi (7), Kabul (4), Balkh (4) and Kunduz (2).
The total number of registered cases in the country has reached 38,572, of which 31,129 have recovered while 1,420 have succumbed to the virus.
Uzbekistan has expressed its readiness to organize one of the subsequent rounds of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Samarkand, the Uzbek deputy foreign minister told his Afghan counterpart on Wednesday.
The first trilateral meeting of the Subcommittee on Policy was held via videoconference with delegations led by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab, Uzbeki Deputy Foreign Minister Furkat Sidikov, and the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Afghanistan Nancy Jackson.
U.S. and Uzbekistan also joined in condemning the attack on Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh.
Tashkent has voiced consistent interest in the promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan. The issues of establishing peace in Afghanistan and the role of Uzbekistan in this process were discussed in the trilateral format.
Strengthening the political dialogue between the parties, expanding cooperation in the field of human rights, religious freedom, and human trafficking were also brought up.
The importance of promoting the early recovery of the Afghan economy by expanding bilateral trade and economic ties, accelerating the implementation of transport, communication, infrastructure and investment projects were recommended.
The three nations also emphasized the need for developing and implementing a Comprehensive Peace Program for Afghanistan, which should be prepared based on consolidated regional and global approaches.
The conceptual significance of the Tashkent Declaration, adopted at the International Conference on Afghanistan in March 2018 was also discussed. The declaration had called for direct talks with the Taliban without any preconditions in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
At the Wednesday meeting, the participants also officials also welcomed the decision to hold the first round of the intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Qatar, with the Uzbek side volunteering to organize one of the subsequent rounds of negotiations in Samarkand.
The Taliban political office has indicated before that subsequent rounds of the talks will be held in different locations.
The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had lifted the ban on Kam Air after it fulfilled the terms of operation. Kam Air had been banned from the UAE due to its non-standard flight safety.
In a letter dated Sep. 6 to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Afghanistan, the UAE government said that Kam Air has received its GCAA Foreign Operators Registration Code for its aircrafts and can commence operations from Sept. 15, 2020.
Kam Air can now resume flights along the Kabul-Dubai route and to other cities in the UAE.
Welcoming the decision of the UAE government, the CAA said they expected more cooperation between Emirati and Afghan airlines to be established through constructive interaction and healthy competition.
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres “strongly” condemned the Wednesday attack of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh’s convoy in Kabul, which resulted in dozens of civilian casualties.
“The Secretary-General reiterates the urgency of achieving a peaceful settlement to the conflict in the country and reaffirms the United Nations commitment to supporting the people and Government of Afghanistan in this important endeavour,” said a statement released by Guterres’ spokesperson on Thursday.
Guterres also extended his sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
Josep Borrell, the European Union (EU) High Representative/Vice-President, also condemned the attack and expressed their “full support for the democratic institutions of the Republic.”
“Those who seek to weaken the peace process by indiscriminately targeting and hurting officials and civilians, in breach of international law, will not prevail and will have to bear responsibility for their acts,” he said.
Borrell called targeted attack unacceptable and said this was a critical moment for Afghanistan and they fully supported the peace efforts.
The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that “spoilers” are becoming desperate to disrupt the Afghan peace process by launching targeted attacks.
Khalilzad condemned the attack on First Vice President Amrullah Saleh’s convoy in Kabul on Wednesday, which killed at least 10 civilians and injured 16 others.
“As peace talks near, spoilers are becoming more desperate in their attempt to disrupt this historic opportunity. Today’s attack on Amrullah Saleh’s convoy is the latest example. Luckily, he survived. Tragically, this terrorist attack killed and wounded many bystanders,” he wrote.
He said history has shown that when the opportunity for peace is close, spoilers will spare no effort to try and stop it.
“Afghans are not falling for their trap,” he wrote.
Khalilzad also wrote, “Afghans know that a successful peace process is the only antidote to the country’s protracted conflict. Their widespread yearning for peace will be for the two negotiating teams and their leaders to satisfy.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior has said that initial investigations show that the nature of the material used to make the bomb and the attack on Saleh, were similar to others that Haqqani Network has claimed responsibility for in the past.