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Pakistan Taliban kill at least 19 as they storm university

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(Last Updated On: January 20, 2016)

 

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Islamist Taliban militants stormed a university in volatile northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens as the army hunted for any gunmen still holed up on the campus, officials said.

A security official said the death toll could rise to as high as 40 as army commandos cleared out student hostels and classrooms. A spokesman for the rescue workers, Bilal Ahmad Faizi, said 19 bodies had been recovered including students, guards, policemen and at least one teacher, named by media as chemistry professor Syed Hamid Husain.

Many of the dead were apparently shot in the head execution-style, TV footage showed.

Umar Mansoor, a senior Pakistani Taliban commander and the mastermind of a student massacre in December 2014 at a military-run school in nearby Peshawar, claimed responsibility for the assault and said it involved four of his men.

A senior security officer at the scene told Reuters 90 percent of the campus had been secured after a three-hour gunfight with the militants ended, and that 51 people were wounded. Four gunmen were killed.

The militants, using the cover of thick, wintry fog, scaled the walls of the Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, before entering buildings and opening fire on students and teachers in classrooms and hostels, police said.

Students told media they saw several young men wielding AK-47 guns storming the university housing where many students were sleeping.

“They came from behind and there was a big commotion,” an unnamed male student told a news channel from a hospital bed in Charsadda’s District Hospital. “We were told by teachers to leave immediately. Some people hid in bathrooms.”

The gunmen attacked as the university prepared to host a poetry recital on Wednesday afternoon to commemorate the death anniversary of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a popular ethnic Pashtun independence activist after whom the university is named.

 

RUMOURS OF ATTACK

Vice Chancellor Fazal Rahim told reporters that the university teaches over 3,000 students and was hosting an additional 600 visitors on Wednesday for the recital.

Police inspector Saeed Wazir said 70 percent of the students had been rescued.

“All students have been evacuated from the hostels, but militants are still hiding in different parts of the university and some students and staff are stuck inside,” he said before the firing had stopped, adding that it was unclear how many gunmen were involved.

Television footage showed military vehicles packed with soldiers driving into the campus as helicopters buzzed overhead and ambulances lined up outside the main gate while anxious parents consoled each other.

Shabir Khan, a lecturer in the English department, said he was about to leave his university housing for the department when firing began.

“Most of the students and staff were in classes when the firing began,” Khan said. “I have no idea about what’s going on but I heard one security official talking on the phone to someone and said many people had been killed and injured.”

Several schools had closed early on the weekend around Peshawar after rumors circulated of a possible attack.

Pakistan, which has suffered from years of jihadist militant violence, has killed and arrested hundreds of suspected militants under a major crackdown launched after the massacre of school children in December 2014 in Peshawar.

The school attack by six Pakistani Taliban gunmen hit a raw nerve in Pakistan and was seen as having hardened Pakistan’s resolve to fight militants along its lawless border with Afghanistan.

“We are determined and resolved in our commitment to wipe out the menace of terrorism from our homeland,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement after Wednesday’s attack.

By: Reuters

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Karzai says Pakistan must not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the current Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) government in needs internal legitimacy in order for it to gain international recognition and that Pakistan should not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs.

In an interview with VOA, Karzai said that internal legitimacy could only be achieved through the expression of the will of the Afghan people, either in the form of elections or holding the Loya Jirga, a traditional grand council.

He said that Afghanistan is at a critical juncture in its history and Afghans have a responsibility to “unite” and create a government premised on “the expression of the will of the Afghan people.”

“Legitimacy within our own country for this government (IEA) or for any other government is the foundation of recognition by countries and the international community,” Karzai said.

Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quresh, have advocated for the IEA and have urged the international community to work with the new government in Kabul.

“If we neglect Afghanistan right now, there’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead, and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere,” Imran Khan told the U.N. General Assembly in September.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan. What have the Taliban (IEA) promised? They will respect human rights, they will have an inclusive government, they will not allow this soil to be used by terrorists,” Khan added.

Karzai told VOA that Pakistan is not the representative of the Afghan people.

“My message to Pakistan, our brotherly country, is that they should not try to represent Afghanistan. On the contrary, the country should try to establish a civil relationship with our country,” he said.

“We have deep people-to-people relations with Pakistan. … Our hope from Pakistan is that the country should not try to maintain its relations with us through interference, the encouragement of extremism and terrorism or by force, but rather establish relations with Afghanistan through civil principles and principles of international relations, and we will happily maintain that relationship with them,” he added.

Karzai also voiced concerns about the Islamic State (Daesh) terror group’s uptick in violence in Afghanistan and deemed it a threat to both Afghanistan and the region.

The militant group’s local branch, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for several vicious attacks in recent weeks in Kabul, Kunduz and Kandahar provinces, where more than 100 civilians have been killed and many others wounded.

“As proven by the unfortunate bomb blasts — rather, suicide attacks in the mosque in Kabul two weeks ago, then in Kunduz last week, and then in Kandahar yesterday (October 15) — this has proven that Daesh is a threat to Afghanistan and to the life and livelihood of the Afghan people,” Karzai said.

Karzai showed optimism that the region will support Afghanistan in its fight against Daesh because it could pose a threat to their security. In addition, he said he hopes that regional powers would seek common ground in Afghanistan,.

He said it is Afghanistan’s responsibility to work with other countries in the region in a way that results in peace and stability.

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U.S. Secretary of State Blinken discusses Afghanistan with Qatar

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has discussed the situation in Afghanistan with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, thanking Qatar for helping with evacuations from Kabul, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani about Afghanistan. Secretary Blinken thanked Qatar for its strong partnership on regional security issues and assistance to safely transit U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent

The readout of the call released by the State Department did not given any details, except that Blinken acknowledged Qatar’s assistance to transit U.S. citizens and Afghans at risk.

On Wednesday, Qatar’s foreign minister proposed creating a unified platform for international cooperation on Afghanistan.

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Russia-led bloc holds large-scale drills near Tajik-Afghan border

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

A Russia-led post-Soviet security bloc started its largest military drills near the Tajik-Afghan border in years on Monday amid cross-border tensions ahead of talks between Afghanistan’s new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders and major regional powers, Reuters reported.

Unlike Afghanistan’s other northern neighbours who have de facto acknowledged the IEA leadership and started building working relationships with Kabul, Tajikistan has refused to recognise the IEA and there are reports of troop build-ups on both sides of the border.

According to the report the exercise carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) will involve over 5,000 servicemen, more than half of them Russian soldiers, Russia and Tajikistan’s defence ministries said.

The six-day drills follow a series of smaller-scale exercises held in the vicinity of the Afghan border by Russia and its Central Asian allies in August and September.

Russia is worried about the possibility of Islamist militants infiltrating the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which Moscow views as its southern defensive buffer, Reuters reported.

Moscow operates a military base in the former Soviet republic and has reassured Dushanbe it would assist it in the event of any cross-border intrusion.

A high-level IEA delegation is set to visit Moscow this week for talks that will also involve China, Pakistan, India and Iran, although a senior Russian official has been reported as saying he did not expect any breakthrough.

Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, also said officials from Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan would meet separately in Moscow on Tuesday to come up with a united position on the changing situation in Afghanistan.

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