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Ghani Confirms Release of Three Top Haqqani Network Commanders

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(Last Updated On: November 13, 2019)

President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday confirmed that Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid, three top Haqqani Network commanders, have been conditionally released in exchange for the release of two foreign university professors who were kidnapped by the Haqqani Network in 2016.

Speaking at a televised press conference, Ghani said the negotiations was made in close cooperation with the U.S. in order to pave the way for face-to-face negotiations with the Taliban.

Ghani said the health of the two professors has been deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists.

Kevin King, 61, from the U.S., and Timothy Weeks, 49, from Australia, were professors at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul.

The Afghan President added that the decision to conditionally release the prisoners was tough, but important and a humanitarian gesture.

He added that the decision was made after consulting with Afghanistan’s international allies, especially the United States of America.

“We have said that to reach a peace with dignity we have to pay this bitter price, but we will not sacrifice the rights of the people, our democratic principles, or women’s rights and achievements,” Ghani said.

The AUAF, in a statement, said it “is encouraged to hear reports of the possible release of our two colleagues, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks.”

“While AUAF is not part of these discussions, we continue to urge the immediate and safe return of our faculty members who have been held in captivity, away from their friends and families, for more than three years,” the AUAF statement said.

Anas Haqqani is the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani who is the leader of Haqqani network and Deputy Leader of the Taliban insurgent group. Mali Khan Zadran is a brother of the Haqqani Network’s Founder. Hafiz Rashid is the brother of Mullah Nabi Omari, a Guantanamo prisoner who was exchanged along other four men for captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl in 2014.

The announcement of prisoner swap comes a day after the Chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) visited Kabul and held talks with the Afghan National Security Advisor.

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Motorists concerned about rising fuel prices in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

Afghans have raised concerns over the increase in fuel prices on the local market, despite the resumption of fuel imports from neighboring countries.

Officials from Balkh’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment said last week that imports of fuel and gas through Hairatan and Aqina ports have resumed.

Motorists have however called on the Islamic Emirate to monitor and control market prices.

According to them, petrol currently costs 65 AFN per liter; diesel is 56 AFN; and gas costs between 72 and 80 AFN per kilogram in Kabul.

The Council of Fuel Merchants, however, says that limited access to cash and banking transactions, along with a monopoly of the industry by a few companies, are the key reasons for rising fuel prices.

Mohammad Asif, a member of the organization, stated: “If the Islamic Emirate wants to control the issue, they should control it at the [border] customs. Although [import] tariffs have been cut by 50%, prices are still high due to a monopoly of imports by some companies. They (merchants) set prices as they wish.”

Khan Jan Alokozay, Deputy Head of the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, stated: “The problem is that wholesalers have not set the market price, and when retailers distribute the goods to other areas that causes an increase in rates.”

People also called on property owners to reduce rental rates of houses in Kabul city, amid a looming economic crisis in Afghanistan.

Landlords, however, stated that the average rental has dropped by 50% compared to last year.

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40 suspects arrested in connection with Nangarhar explosions

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s head of intelligence directorate in Nangarhar said on Monday that 40 people have been arrested in connection with explosions that rocked Jalalabad city on Saturday and Sunday.

The intelligence chief, Dr Bashir, also confirmed that four people had died and six others were wounded in the explosions – three on Saturday and one on Sunday.

He said intelligence officials are being targeted.

Bashir did not give any further details on who was behind the explosions but Islamic State (ISIS-K/Daesh) claimed responsibility for the blasts on Sunday.

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Thousands flee as volcano erupts on Spain’s La Palma island, homes destroyed

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

The Canary Islands’ first volcanic eruption in 50 years has forced the evacuation of about 5,000 people, including around 500 tourists, and destroyed about 100 houses, officials said on Monday.

The volcano erupted on Sunday, shooting lava hundreds of metres into the air, engulfing houses and forests, and sending molten rock towards the Atlantic Ocean over a sparsely populated area of La Palma, the most northwestern island in the Canaries archipelago.

No fatalities have been reported but the volcano was still active on Monday. A Reuters reporter saw heavy smoke coming from the volcano and houses burning.

Officials said they were hopeful they would not need to evacuate any more people.

“The lava is moving towards the coast and the damage will be material. According to experts there are about 17-20 million cubic metres of lava,” regional president Angel Victor Torres told Cadena Ser radio.

The lava flow has destroyed about 100 houses so far, Mariano Hernandez, president of La Palma‘s council, told Cadena Ser.

About 20 houses were engulfed in the village of El Paso along with sections of roads, Mayor Sergio Rodriguez told state broadcaster TVE. The lava was spreading through neighbouring villages, putting hundreds more at risk, he said.

A group of 360 tourists were evacuated by boat to Tenerife from the beach resort of Puerto Naos, ferry operator Fred Olsen said, and more could be transferred later in the day.

Despite the destruction, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto told Canal Sur radio the eruption should be seen as an opportunity to entice visitors to the island.

“The island is open, if your hotel is affected we will find you another one,” she said. “Make the most of this opportunity to enjoy what nature has brought us.”

Volcanologist Nemesio Perez said there were unlikely to be fatalities as long as no-one behaved recklessly.

La Palma had been on high alert after thousands of tremors were reported over a week in Cumbre Vieja, which belongs to a chain of volcanoes that last had a major eruption in 1971 and is one of the Canaries’ most active volcanic regions.

One man was killed in 1971 as he took photographs near the lava flows. A submarine eruption occurred about 10 years ago close to the islands but caused little damage.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrived in La Palma on Sunday to coordinate with regional authorities and said citizens could “rest easy.” He will visit affected areas later on Monday.

Emergency services said it was unclear what path the lava would take to the ocean. Authorities had evacuated people with mobility issues from several coastal towns, including the Puerto Naos resort.

Airspace around the Canaries remained open with no visibility problems, the Enaire civil air authority said. Local airline Binter cancelled four flights but said it would resume its service later on Monday.

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