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Explosions Injured 4 Security Personnel in Maidan Wardak

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(Last Updated On: August 10, 2015)

Maidan Wardak

Two mine explosions injured four security personnel in Maidan Wardak province of Afghanistan on Monday morning, officials said.

Ataullah Khogyani provincial governor spokesman confirmed the incident saying the explosion took place today around 9:30 am; the armed militants had a plan to harm more civilians using the devices.

Injuries were taken to the hospital for treatment and their health conditions were reported as positive, he added.

Maidan Wardak is among the volatile provinces in Afghanistan where anti-government insurgent groups usually perform different types of violent attacks targeting civilians, officials and Afghan security personals.

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Lebanese government quits amid fury over Beirut blast

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying the huge explosion that devastated Beirut and triggered public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

Last week’s detonation at a port warehouse of what authorities said was more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the city, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

“Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a speech announcing the resignation.

He blamed the disaster on endemic corruption and said those responsible should be ashamed because their actions had led to a catastrophe “beyond description”.

“I said before that corruption is rooted in every lever of the state but I have discovered that corruption is greater than the state,” he said, pointing to a political elite for preventing change and saying his government faced a brick wall on reforms.

While Diab’s move attempted to respond to popular anger about the blast, it also plunged Lebanese politics deeper into turmoil and may further hamper already-stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a financial rescue plan.

The talks, launched in May, were put on hold due to inaction on reforms and a row between the government, banks and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.

President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation and asked Diab’s government – formed in January with the backing of Iran’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies – to stay as a caretaker until a new cabinet is formed, a televised announcement said.

At the White House, US President Donald Trump said the explosion had triggered what he called “a revolution,” but did not comment further.

Ahead of Diab’s announcement, demonstrations broke out for a third day in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

“The entire regime needs to change. It will make no difference if there is a new government,” Joe Haddad, a Beirut engineer, told Reuters. “We need quick elections.”

The system of government requires Aoun to consult with parliamentary blocs on who should be the next prime minister, and he is obliged to designate the candidate with the greatest level of support among parliamentarians.

Forming a government amid factional rifts has been daunting in the past. Now with growing public discontent with the ruling elite over the blast and a crushing financial crisis, it could be difficult to find a candidate willing to be prime minister.

After former premier Saad Hariri stepped down in October last year amid anti-government protests over perceived corruption and mismanagement, it took more than two months to form Diab’s government.

Diab’s cabinet was under severe pressure to step down. Some ministers had already resigned over the weekend and Monday while others, including the finance minister, were set to follow suit, ministerial and political sources said.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

Aoun has said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. In later comments, he said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said. The council usually handles top security cases.

Lebanese, meanwhile, are struggling to come to terms with the scale of losses after the blast wrecked entire areas.

“The economy was already a disaster and now I have no way of making money again,” said Eli Abi Hanna, whose house and car repair shop were destroyed. 

“It was easier to make money during the civil war. The politicians and the economic disaster have ruined everything.”

The Lebanese army said on Monday that another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163. Search and rescue operations continued.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level unaccountability.

An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.

Some Lebanese doubt change is possible in a country where sectarian politicians have dominated since the 1975-90 conflict.

“It won’t work, it’s just the same people. It’s a mafia,” said Antoinette Baaklini, an employee of an electricity company that was demolished in the blast.

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Stoltenberg says NATO ‘adjusting’ its presence to support Afghan peace process

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said he welcomes the planned peace talks between the government and the Taliban and said NATO is adjusting its presence to support the peace initiative. 

Taking to Twitter, Stoltenberg said: “I spoke to President Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah (Abdullah) to welcome the upcoming start of intra-Afghan talks. All parties should seize this historic moment for peace. NATO stand with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism, as we adjust our presence to support the peace process.

This comes after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday signed a decree to release the final 400 prisoners in order to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) confirmed on Monday evening on Twitter that the decree had been signed at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan leaders.

Ghani said on Sunday, after the Loya Jirga’s resolution on the prisoner issue had been issued, that he would respect the decision of the Jirga and release the prisoners – some of whom have been accused of having masterminded some of the deadliest attacks in the country over the past 19 years.

Government sources said Monday that the Afghan peace negotiating team would leave Kabul on Wednesday for Doha, Qatar, and that talks with the Taliban would likely start on Sunday.

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Second group of Afghan Sikhs due to leave for India Wednesday

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

A group of as many as 180 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are expected to leave Afghanistan for India on Wednesday. 

The Times of India reported Tuesday that the group will likely be relatives of the victims killed in the March temple attack in Kabul which claimed the lives of 25 Sikhs.

India’s Sikh community has pledged its help and has so far evacuated 11 Sikhs – the first of what could become hundreds. 

The first group left Kabul late last month and included Nidan Singh Sachdeva, who was abducted from a gurdwara in Paktia province in June.

Speaking to Singapore’s Straits Times, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said:  “We will do everything that we can to help the families out. We will help them with the education of their children.” 

Meanwhile, United Sikhs executive director Jagdeep Singh told the Times of India that their organization is assisting the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanting to leave with the necessary documents. 

He said United Sikhs had already finalized over 350 requests from Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to settle in India and they were working on the remainder. 

During the 1980s the Sikh and Hindu community numbered more than 80,000 but most left the country when the Soviet Union was ousted in 1992. 

Some returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban were ousted from power in the hope that things would improve. 

The Afghan government had encouraged their return but the community has faced vicious attacks claimed by Daesh during the past few years. Today, less than 700 live in their home country.

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