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Detained Afghan pilots fly out of Tajikistan on US-brokered flight

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(Last Updated On: November 10, 2021)

U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other personnel boarded a U.S.-brokered flight out of Tajikistan on Tuesday, ending a nearly three-month detention ordeal that began when they escaped there in their aircraft during the collapse of the former government, Afghan sources said.

The plight of the pilots had attracted U.S. congressional scrutiny – with lawmakers and military veterans frustrated by what they believed was a sluggish U.S. relocation effort, Reuters reported.

One pilot shared images of the group boarding the aircraft, saying it was destined for the United Arab Emirates. Flight-tracking data showed it had left the country.

“It’s a relief,” said David Hicks, a retired U.S. brigadier general who is helping lead a charity called Operation Sacred Promise working to evacuate and resettle Afghan air force personnel.

The Afghan personnel in Tajikistan represented the last major group of U.S.-trained pilots who fled abroad and were still known to be in limbo.

The group of evacuees included a U.S.-trained Afghan pilot at an advanced stage of pregnancy, who had expressed fear for her unborn baby in an interview with Reuters.

The group flew to Tajikistan in military aircraft at the end of the war, was detained by Tajik authorities and had been awaiting a U.S. relocation – hoping the transfer to the Middle East will lead to eventual U.S. resettlement.

Reuters detailed accounts from the pregnant pilot and other members of the group about their frustrations with their detention, and was first to report U.S. plans to relocate them.

The Pentagon estimated that the expected group of evacuees totaled about 191.

Afghan air force personnel flew dozens of military aircraft to Tajikistan and to Uzbekistan in August as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) swept to power.

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UK contributes £1 million to support Afghan refugees in Iran

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Iran has welcomed the UK’s first-ever contribution from the United Kingdom in support of vulnerable refugees from Afghanistan.

The £1 million contribution through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) will allow WFP to preposition assistance for potential new arrivals from Afghanistan with ready-to eat meals and other rations, the WFP said in a statement on Tuesday.

It also gives WFP the flexibility to channel part of the contribution towards supporting 31,000 refugees who have already been living in 20 settlements across the country, helping to stabilize their food security situation and avoid any further population movements.

This allocation will enhance WFP’s life-saving mission, allowing WFP to quickly respond to any increased additional needs through a combination of cash and direct food assistance.

“We’re extremely grateful to the FCDO for this generous contribution and its support to our operations in Iran,” said WFP Representative and Country Director in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Negar Gerami. “The harsh winter months, job losses, lack of cash and soaring prices have pushed the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan to new highs, with close to 23 million threatened by food insecurity. It is critical that WFP remains prepared to respond to any sudden onset refugee emergency.”

Simon Shercliff, the UK Ambassador to Iran said: “We are pleased to help Iran support the large numbers of Afghan refugees who have chosen to leave Afghanistan.

“This contribution enables WFP to provide these refugees with vital food assistance, including ready-to-eat meals and other rations. The UK stands with the people of Afghanistan and regional partners in pursuit of a stable, peaceful future for the country.”

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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Pakistan fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan: officials

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

Military officials in the eastern zone told Ariana News on Monday that clashes broke out between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Pakistani forces on Sunday night in the Sarkano district of Kunar province, close to the Durand Line.

Officials said that Pakistani forces fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan, but that no casualties were reported.

Hamdullah Hamdard, the spokesman for the 1st Border Battalion of the Eastern Zone, said that IEA forces also fired several rockets back at Pakistani forces.

“Clashes erupted between Taliban (IEA) and Pakistani forces in Sarkano district of Kunar province. The clashes continued until 9:00 pm. The cause of the clashes was because of the attack by Pakistani forces. In response, Taliban (IEA) forces also fired rockets towards them, and maybe they suffered casualties. Our forces and people did not suffer casualties,” added Hamdard.

IEA officials said recently they are establishing 32 new check posts along the Durand Line to counter Pakistani attacks.

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