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IFJ reiterates calls to Afghan govt to safeguard the lives of journalists

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(Last Updated On: December 22, 2020)
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the killing of well-known Ghazni-based journalist Rahmatullah Nikzad, who was gunned down outside his home on Monday night. 
 
In a statement issued by the IFJ on Tuesday, the organization’s General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “Afghanistan has descended again in terms of journalist safety in 2020 with at least eight media workers killed to date, up from six in 2019. 
 
“The IFJ again implores that the Afghan government must increase its efforts to ensure the safety of journalists in this volatile space. 
 
“Too often journalists are the target, often between internal conflicts and the quest for power. Journalists’ lives must be respected and defended,” Bellanger stated.
 
The IFJ’s Afghanistan affiliate the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) also condemned “the heinous assassination” and caled for swift action to locate and bring the perpetrators to justice.
 
The AIJA said: “AIJA strongly condemns the killing and call it a crime against humanity. AIJA shares empathy with his family and urges the Security forces to investigate the killing and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
 
Nikzad, a reporter, photographer and chief of the Ghazni Journalists’ Union, was killed by unknown gunmen outside his home on Monday night. 
 
According to the IFJ, Nikzad was shot three times in the chest with a pistol fitted with a silencer as he left his home to visit a local mosque. 
 
The gunmen have not yet been identified and no group has claimed responsibility. 
 
Nikzad, who was in his mid-40s, was a Ghazni resident and started working as a journalist in 2003. 
 
He was associated with several international news outlets and worked on a freelance basis with Al Jazeera and Associated Press. 
 
Al Jazeera issued a statement on Twitter and strongly condemned the attack and attempts to silence journalists in the country and stated it was “shocked at the news of the killing of our cameraman Rahmatullah Nikzad, a former colleague who worked with our team in Afghanistan.”
 
The Taliban meanwhile were quick to distance themselves from the incident on Monday night. Soon after news broke of Nikzad’s death, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban,  stated they were not involved in the shooting. 
 
Mujahid said Nikzad was a committed journalist and had “maintained good relations” with the group. “We consider this killing a loss for the country,” he said.
 
Nikzad is the third media worker to be killed in Afghanistan this month. On December 10, female reporter Malala Maiwand, and her driver Mohammad Tahir, were shot and killed when assailants opened fire on their car while she was on her way to work in Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province.
 
IS (Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attack. 
 
On November 12, Radio Free Europe correspondent Elias Daei was killed in a targeted magnetic mine explosion in Lashkar Gah.
 
However, the latest killing brings the total number of journalists killed in the past two months to five. 

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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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