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At least 18 dead as Air India repatriation flight crashes on landing

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

At least 18 people were killed and dozens injured after an Air India Express passenger plane repatriating Indians stranded by the COVID-19 pandemic overshot the runway in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode, officials said.

The Boeing-737 flight from Dubai to Calicut airport was carrying 190 passengers and crew, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement. Among them were 10 infants.

Television footage showed rescue workers moving around the wreckage in pouring rain. The aircraft lay split into at least two chunks after the plane’s fuselage sheared apart as it fell into a valley 30 feet below, authorities said.

“Unfortunately, 16 people have lost their lives. I offer my condolences to their next of kin and pray for speedy recovery of the injured,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said in a tweet.

Friday’s crash is the worst passenger aircraft accident in the country since 2010, when an Air India Express flight, also from Dubai, overshot the runway and slid down a hill while landing in the southern Indian city of Mangalore, killing 158 people.

Both Mangalore and Calicut have table-top runways that are located at an altitude and have steep drops at one or both ends of the runway.

Media reports suggested the plane skidded off the runway of Calicut international airport, crashing nose-first into the ground. Calicut is in the southern state of Kerala, home to a large number of Indians working in the Middle East.

Puri said rescue operations had been completed and all passengers had been removed from the aircraft. Police said earlier four people were stuck in the wreckage.

The civil aviation ministry said in a statement there was no fire on board.

India, which shut down all air travel in late March to try to contain the novel coronavirus, has restarted limited international air travel.

Air India Express AXB1344, was a government-operated repatriation flight for Indians previously unable to return home because of the travel restrictions.

TV visuals showed the aircraft’s nose smashed into a brick wall, with much of the middle of the plane pulverised.

Local TV news channels showed passengers, some of them lying motionless on stretchers, brought into a hospital surrounded by health workers wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Pained by the plane accident in Kozhikode” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest,” he said.

Source: Rueters

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Trump calls Taliban tough but says US military can’t police Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2020)

US President Donald Trump said Friday night that the Taliban was tough and smart but also “tired of fighting.”

Speaking to journalists at a press conference, Trump reiterated his decision on troop withdrawals and said “we’ll be down very shortly over the next couple of weeks to 4,000 — less than 4,000 in Afghanistan.

“And then we’ll make that final determination a little bit later on.”

On the Taliban, Trump said: “We’re dealing very well with the Taliban. They’re very tough, they’re very smart, they’re very sharp. But, you know, it’s been 19 years, and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness.”

Trump also said the US had been serving as a “police force” in Afghanistan. 

“And we really served as a police force, because if we wanted to do what we had to do, we would have fought a lot differently than they have over their 19 years.

“They didn’t fight it properly. They were police, okay? They’re not police; they’re — they’re soldiers. So there’s a difference. The police — nobody has more respect for police than I do, but they have to do their own policing.”

Trump went on to say the US is “having some very good discussions with the Taliban, as you probably heard. It’s been public. And — but we’ll be down to — very shortly, we’ll be down to less than 4,000 soldiers.”

“And so we’ll be out of there, knowing that certain things have to happen — certain things have to be fulfilled.  But 19 years is a long time, 8,000 miles away. Nineteen years is a long time,” he said.

This comes amid the first rounds of intra-Afghan negotiations following the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February that set out certain conditions – one of which is the withdrawal of all foreign troops by around April next year. 

 

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UN Security Council welcomes start of intra-Afghan talks

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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

UN Security Council (UNSC) has welcomed the start of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban negotiators in Doha, aimed at finding a political settlement for ending the long-term conflict in the country.

In a statement released on Friday, the UNSC reaffirmed its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national unity of Afghanistan. 

The organization emphasized that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.

“The members of the Security Council strongly encouraged parties to the negotiations to continue pursuing confidence-building measures including reductions in violence, and to continue to engage in good faith,” the statement noted.

Noting the importance of the United Nations’ role in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, the council welcomed the efforts of all regional and international partners of Afghanistan in facilitating intra-Afghan negotiations and in helping the parties reach peace.

“The members of the Security Council thanked the Government of Qatar for facilitating the first round of negotiations,” the statement read.

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Pakistan to set up markets along Afghanistan-Pakistan border

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(Last Updated On: September 18, 2020)

Pakistan has decided to establish 18 markets along the Pakistan-Iran and Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, Pakistan government said.

Pakistan’s government would establish the markets aimed at boosting trade with the two countries and preventing the menace of smuggling.

The decision was made during a high-level meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, Khan’s office said in a statement.

“The meeting was told that twelve border markets will be established on the Pak-Afghan border while six border markets will be established on the Pak-Iran border,” the statement read.

“The Prime Minister has approved the establishment of two border market in Balochistan Province and one border market in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a pilot project which will be completed and activated by February.”

Imran Khan’s Office noted that the decision to take more effective measures regarding the prevention of smuggling through borders

Talking about the establishment of border markets, the Prime Minister said that the establishment of markets where the population on border areas, especially youth, will get better business and trade opportunities, will come after fencing on the borders, the statement added.

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