Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: To enhance mutual cooperation and discuss technical issues, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday announced that a high-level delegation of the Afghan government spoke to prosecutors of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on May 6.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar; Minister of Justice Fazl Ahmad Manawi; Zabihullah Kalim, Acting Attorney General and a number of high-ranking members of the government and experts from the judiciary and security departments are part of the team.
The Foreign Ministry said that the delegation had resumed talks with ICC prosecutors for a second day and the talks focused on technical issues aimed at mutual cooperation between the International Criminal Court and the judiciary. They are likely to release a joint statement soon.
The two sides also discussed mutual cooperation in dealing with international crimes, preventing exemptions and future crimes, helping to end the war and killing in Afghanistan, and ensuring a lasting ceasefire and peace.
The International Criminal Court operates under the Rome Statute, and Afghanistan has been a member of the tribunal since 2003. It assists member states in dealing with international crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and rape, using its complementary powers.
The judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 6, 2009, agreed to launch an investigation into the criminal aspects of the Afghan war.
Kabul: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) while condemning the May 8 attack on the Sayed ul Shuhada school in west Kabul in which over 50 people were killed and 151 were injured, said that there is an urgent need to take concrete steps including establishing a ceasefire which will prevent civilian casualties.
The AIHRC, on Sunday in a statement, called on the Taliban to commit to a lasting ceasefire and also sought special protection to the Hazaras and to the community in Dasht-e-Barchi by the Afghanistan government. “The Afghan government should communicate immediately a human rights-based protection plan for Dasht-e-Barchi and West Kabul,” said AIHRC in the statement.
The AIHRC also called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to call on a special leadership meeting this week, prior to Eid, and communicate to the Afghan people what the UN is willing to do to address the killing of these children. They also asked the UN Special Rapporteur for Children and Armed Conflict to outline concrete, practical steps to ensure targeting of schools, tutoring centers and universities does not repeat.
The AIHRC also called for an expert independent team of United Nations investigators to carry out fact-finding mission into the targeted attacks. “The purpose of this investigation should be identification of the perpetrators, as well as collection of evidence and submit a report within 60 days,” said AIHRC.
They also called on the security council to issue a resolution recognizing Saturday’s massacre of schoolchildren and prevalence of war crime and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.
Finally, the AIHRC also called on the Afghan government to ensure that these children have the right to be listed on the official list of victims held by the Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled.
Kabul: Accusing the Afghan government of trying to sabotage the political peace process, Mullah Hebatullah, the leader of the Taliban, warned the United States of the consequences of violating the Doha Agreement.
The Eid message from the leader of the Taliban group was made public on Sunday and Hebatullah welcomed the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, but he said that the US has violated the Doha Agreement as the prisoners have not been released and sanctions against Taliban members have not been lifted.
Highlighting that “negotiations and understanding” are a “priority” for the group, Hebatullah said that the group should be informed in advance before attending peace meetings in Afghanistan.
Hebatullah also did not mention the ceasefire for at least three days of Eid al-Fitr. The group had previously not accepted the government’s offer of a ceasefire during Ramadan.
The Taliban’s warning comes even as the international troops are withdrawing from the country, but violence is on the rise. The peace talks have seen no headway after the Istanbul Summit was postponed after Taliban allegedly did not participate in it.
Regional partners also seem worried about the peace process even as US-EU allies met on May 7 to discuss the Afghan peace process and wanted to accelerate it. Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon in Moscow on Saturday that the situation in Afghanistan gives rise to well-founded concerns in neighboring Tajikistan.
“Security issues are crucial in the region because of the ongoing developments in Afghanistan,” the Russian leader said, pointing out that Tajikistan has the longest border with Afghanistan.
“I know that you are worried about the situation. It goes without saying that this is a justified concern,” Putin said, emphasizing that Moscow was doing its utmost to back Dushanbe in this area. He recalled that the 201st Russian military base was stationed in Tajikistan.
“We are working on its strengthening and on the consolidation of the Tajik Armed Forces. We have teamed up in this field. We have a program scheduled for several years and we will be doing our best to implement it in due time,” he concluded.
Kabul: The terrorist attack on the Sayed ul-Shuhada school in western Kabul has been vehemently condemned by a joint working group of civil society organizations, which called it a war crime.
A statement issued by the Civil Society Joint Working Group on Sunday stated, “Attacks on civilians have intensified and no precautionary measures have been taken by the Afghan government. The perpetrators of the incident should be identified, tried and prosecuted. Security of citizens should be a priority.”
The statement added that the Afghan government should take precautionary measures and also emphasized that security officials who are incapable of providing security to citizens should be fired and prosecuted. The statement also called on the international community, the United States and the European Union to put pressure on the parties to end the war and establish a permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the People’s Rights Protection Assembly, a group of Hazara parliamentarians, also condemned the attack on the school. “The government must take serious and responsible action to defend its citizens. We call on the United Nations, and in particular the United Nations Security Council, to not be indifferent to these crimes and war crimes, which often target and victimize a particular ethnic or religious group, and within the framework of law and convention.”
The representatives of the people in the Wolesi Jirga of the National Assembly, while expressing their grief to the suffering people and the families of the victims and the injured of this tragic event, will act responsibly to pursue the perpetrators of this horrible crime, the statement added.
At 4:27pm on Saturday, three explosions took place near a school in PD13 of Kabul. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that according to the technical team’s findings, the incident was caused by a car bomb and that two landmines had exploded in the area. More than 50 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in the incident. Most of the victims are schoolchildren.
The attack comes even as a report by the Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) show that in the past five years, 40 percent of all civilian airstrike casualties in Afghanistan were children. As per the report, of the 3,977 deaths caused between 2016 and 2020, nearly 1,600 were children.
“Afghanistan has been the deadliest country for children for years,” said Chris Nyamandi, country director for Afghanistan at Save the Children International. Nyamandi added for the past 14 years five children were killed or maimed in Afghanistan every single day.
Leading up to the departure of US-led forces expected later this year, casualties from international coalition airstrikes more than tripled from 247 in 2017 to 757 in 2019, according to data (PDF) from United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Iain Overton, executive director of Action on Armed Violence, said in 2018-19 the US military dropped more munitions on Afghanistan than at the height of bombing in 2011 – a rate of more than 20 a day. Such heavy bombardment resulted in the deadliest year of airstrikes for children in Afghanistan on record.
In 2018, there was an 85 percent increase from the year before, resulting in a rate of four child casualties every three days. The majority of these child casualties, 57 percent, were caused by US-led international forces.
“The conflict that has been raging for decades has plunged the country into one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world, where millions of children are on the brink of hunger and need urgent support,” Nyamandi added.
Kabul: The contract for setting up a pine nut processing company in Khost province and a raisin cleaning company in Kabul has been signed by the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock with two companies.
The raisin processing company in Kabul will be established at a cost of $3.2 million with the joint venture of the Horticulture Valune Chain Development Sector Project, owned by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Murid Fayeq Company. The Ministry of Agriculture is providing $ 1 million in grants through the HVCDSP—a project funded by the Asian Development Bank.
The Ministry of Agriculture is also jointly investing with the Rahmani Zadran Agricultural Company in the pine nut processing company in Khost province. The share of the Ministry of Agriculture in this $360,000 project is $180,000, also funded by the HVCDSP.
Agriculture Minister Anwarul Haq Ahadi said, “The private sector plays a vital role in increasing domestic production and exports. He added that joint ventures between the government and the private sector are the most important incentives for investors.”
ADB Deputy Country Director Artur Andrysiak, who had attended the ceremony virtually, said ADB has been one of the major donors in the field of agriculture, and the bank’s assistance in the agricultural sector has reached $900 million.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday reported 221 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 12 deaths and 182 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stands at 62,063, while the number of reported deaths is 2,698 and the total number of recoveries is 54,222.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Nimroz, Parwan, Wardak, Logar, Ghazni, Panjshir, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Ghor provinces.
Kabul: At least four police officials were killed in a Taliban infiltrator attack at a checkpoint in the Khanqah area of Tranikot city at 11pm on Saturday night, said Mohammad Omar Shirzad, the governor of Uruzgan.
According to Shirzad, a Taliban infiltrator attacked his colleagues in the checkpoint during the incident.
Meanwhile, Uruzgan Provincial Council Deputy Chairman Mohammad Karim Musaizavi said that the Taliban killed 10 policemen at the checkpoint on Saturday night and took six others with them.
The Taliban have not commented on the matter yet. However, this comes a day after the security top brass of Afghanistan said that the Taliban have heightened their attacks across the country.
Meanwhile, the Logar Police Command also stated on Sunday that four uprising forces have been killed by a roadside bomb in the Mohammad Agha district of the province.
Gul Haidar Ahmadi, spokesperson for the Logar provincial police said that the blast took place on Saturday afternoon in a vehicle belonging to the Uprising Forces. As per Ahmadi, the deputy commander of the forces also was killed.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Maidan Wardak too, Sharifullah Hotak, deputy head of the provincial council, said that a car bomb had exploded in the Chek district of the province, killing 12 ANA soldiers.
Security officials in Maidan Wardak province have, however, not commented on the incident.
Kabul: In a grim development for all of Afghanistan, explosions caused by a car bomb and mortars outside a school in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Saturday killed at least 55 people and wounded over 150, mostly female students, officials said.
Senior security official said that most of the casualties were students who were coming out of the Sayed ul Shuhada school, and many were badly wounded, undergoing treatment at hospitals. Footage on social media showed chaotic scenes, with books and school bags strewn across a bloodstained road, and residents rushing to help victims.
“It was a car bomb blast that occurred in front of the school entrance,” an eyewitness said. He said all, but seven or eight of the victims, were schoolgirls heading home.
Najiba Arian, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education, said that at the school, girls and boys come to study in three different shifts, the second slot is for female students. The wounded were mostly female students, she added.
Tariq Arian, spokesperson for the interior ministry, said that the toll could increase further. “I do not know what country we are in… We want peace and security,” a grieving relative of one of the victims told Reuters.
The killing of innocent schoolchildren comes even as the withdrawal of international troops is underway. President Ashraf Ghani blamed the attack on the Taliban insurgents as Kabul was on high alert since US President Joe Biden’s announcement to pullout troops and Afghan officials on Saturday had held a press conference stating that the Taliban had stepped up attacks across the country following the announcement. President Ashraf Ghani too stated that the Taliban by intensifying violence once again showed that they have no interest in peaceful solution to the current crisis and are seeking to complicate the situation.
However, no group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the group was involved and condemned the incident.
Meanwhile, globally too, the attack was condemned vehemently. UNICEF strongly condemned the horrific attack and said, “Violence in or around schools is never acceptable. Schools must be havens of peace where children can play, learn and socialize safely. Children must never be the target of violence. UNICEF continues to call on all parties to the conflict to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law and ensure the safety and protection of all children,” UNICEF stated.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General in a released statement said, “The Secretary-General expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Afghanistan and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured. Those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable. The Secretary-General underlines the urgency of ending the violence in Afghanistan and achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
“Girls in Afghanistan have the right to pursue an education free from violence. My thoughts are with the brave women and girls of Afghanistan who inspire the world and must be supported in the weeks, months, and years to come,” said the US deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman.
Australian embassy in Afghanistan also offered condolences for Saturday’s attack on a school in PD13 of Kabul and said that it was a terrible reminder of the violence faced by innocent Afghans.
Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan Ried Sirrs said, “Safe access to education is essential for society and necessary for the future of Afghanistan; children of all genders and ethnicities should never be targets of such unjustifiable violence.”
French embassy in Kabul too offered condolences and called it a horrendous attack. “Committing such an act of barbarism against children reaches the lowest point of humanity,” the embassy said.
US State Department also condemned the attack near a girls’ school in Kabul, Afghanistan. “We offer our condolences to the victims, many of whom were children, and their families. We call for an immediate end to violence and the senseless targeting of innocent civilians. We will continue to support and partner with the people of Afghanistan, who are determined to see to it that the gains of the past two decades aren’t erased,” read the statement.
Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO civilian representative to Afghanistan, said, “Saturday’s terrorist attack in Dasht-I-Barchi, Kabul, is a cowardly, repulsive attack on the Afghan people who will remember who keeps the violence at unacceptable levels creating the conditions for these heinous actions.”
The UN family in Afghanistan too expressed its deep revulsion at Saturday’s blasts in Dasht-I-Barchi Kabul, calling it an atrocity, said UNAMA.
EU Spokesperson also mourned with those who have lost loved ones in the latest horrendous terrorist attack in Afghanistan. The targeting of civilians, including schoolchildren in a bomb attack is a blatant and despicable violation of international humanitarian law. “We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. Those responsible must be held to account, and those that support their actions should feel total shame. The attack is an attack not only on the Afghan population, but on all those worldwide that respect the equal rights of women,” EU added.
The European Union has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan, in which a lasting peace can be achieved through an inclusive, negotiated political settlement among Afghans. Our priority remains to support a prosperous, stable and secure Afghanistan, the statement added.