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‘I’m alive’: Afghan Taliban issue message from ‘leader’

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2015)

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(AFP) – The Afghan Taliban released an audio message Saturday it said was from leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, vehemently rejecting reports of his death in a firefight with his own commanders as “enemy propaganda”.

The 16-minute file said those “rumours” had been deliberately planted to weaken the Taliban, which has seen a new resurgence under the firebrand supremo despite its internal divisions.

“I have recorded this message to let everyone know that I am alive,” the man purported to be Mansour says in a relaxed drawl.

Multiple reports citing intelligence and insurgent sources had stated that Mansour was wounded or killed on Tuesday in a firefight at an insurgent gathering in Kuchlak.

“I didn’t have a fight with anyone, no meeting was held and I have not been to Kuchlak (near Quetta in Pakistan) in years. This is all enemy propaganda,” the message added.

The clip, emailed to media by a Taliban spokesman, comes after days of fevered speculation about the fate of Mansour, who was elected leader just four months ago in a bitter power succession.

The voice in the clip could not be independently verified by AFP while some militant commanders said it appeared to be that of Mansour.

But government spokesman Sultan Faizi, who sparked a flurry of reactions when he tweeted on Friday that Mansour was dead, said it was not certain the audio message was from him.

“We will do our assessment,” he said in a new tweet.

The Taliban, which saw its first formal split last month, had appeared anxious to quell speculation about Mansour’s death as it grapples with simmering divisions inside the movement.

Vehement denials by the Islamist group of any shoot-out had fallen on sceptical ears, especially after they kept the death of longtime chief Mullah Omar secret for two years.

“The Taliban is suffering from a credibility crisis after they admitted to hiding Omar’s death,” Kabul-based military analyst Jawed Kohistani told AFP.

– Deep rifts –

Mansour was declared Taliban leader on July 31 after the insurgents confirmed the death of Omar, who led the Islamist movement for about two decades.

But splits immediately emerged in the group, with some top leaders refusing to pledge allegiance to Mansour, saying the process to select him was rushed and even biased.

Many were also unhappy that Omar’s death had been kept secret for two years — during which time annual Eid statements were issued in his name.

A breakaway faction of the Taliban led by Mullah Mohamed Rasool was formed last month, in the first formal division in the once-unified group.

But Mansour’s group has seen a resurgence in recent months, opening new battlefronts across the country with Afghan forces struggling to beat back the expanding insurgency.

They briefly captured the strategic northern city of Kunduz in September in their most spectacular victory in 14 years and opened new battlefronts across the country.

Speculation about Mansour’s death has also threatened to derail a renewed regional push to jump-start peace talks with the Taliban.

Mansour is believed to be a proponent of talks with Afghan authorities, a deeply contentious issue that has prompted much rancour within hardline insurgent ranks.

Pakistan, which wields considerable influence over the militants, hosted a historic first round of peace negotiations in July.

But the dialogue process stalled soon after Omar’s death was announced.

The United States and China have been pushing for the process to restart, but frosty ties between Islamabad and Kabul have been hampering those efforts.

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Four wounded in Kabul blast

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2021)

The Emergency Hospital in Kabul has confirmed four people were wounded in an IED explosion in Salim Karwan square in PD4 around midday Thursday.

The Emergency Hospital said in a tweet that the injured were taken to the hospital from the scene of the explosion.

The hospital said a child was among the injured adding the incident was caused by a magnetic IED attached to a vehicle.

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) Interior Ministry spokesman Saeed Khosti, however, said the incident was caused by an IED placed in a pot. He also claimed that there were no casualties in the blast.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two days ago, Kabul witnessed another explosion. The blast, which targeted an IEA vehicle, wounded five people, including members of the IEA.

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New NATO strategy being drawn up to deal with ‘changing world’

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that a new Strategic Concept was being drawn up for NATO in order to ensure the alliance is prepared for emerging threats in a changing world.

Speaking after the NATO defense minister’s meeting, Blinken said “three months after Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan ended, the alliance remains focused on the fight against terrorism, including ISIS-K (Daesh).

He said while NATO military operations in Afghanistan had ended, “our work together continues”.

“For 20 years, NATO made sure that Afghanistan could not again become a safe haven for terrorists to threaten our countries and our people. That’s why we went there in the first place. No attacks on allies or partners originated in Afghanistan during that time, and together we decimated al-Qaida’s capacity to attack any of our countries or people from Afghanistan.

“Now, NATO remains fully committed to the fight against terrorism worldwide and will use all our capabilities to aid in that fight,” he said.

He said the new Strategic Concept for NATO will be worked on from now until the summit next year and is vitally important for modernizing the alliance.

He said this concept would help make sure NATO will be able to address challenges in the future, and foster unity among the Allies “as we navigate an increasingly complex and unpredictable security environment”.

“I think as you know, the current Strategic Concept, the one that we’re operating under now, dates to 2010, when Russia was considered a partner, China was not mentioned, and the alliance did not yet account for new challenges like cyber threats and the climate crisis,” he said.

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UN defers decision to give IEA govt a seat in general assembly

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2021)

A special UN committee has ruled that Afghanistan’s seat in the UN General Assembly should not be given to the new Afghan government for now.

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is the IEA’s nominated UN ambassador, said in response to the announcement that “this decision is not based on principles and justice because it has taken away the legitimate rights of the Afghan people.

“We hope that in the near future this right will be handed over to the representative of the Government of Afghanistan at the United Nations so that the problems of the Afghan people can be solved more effectively and efficiently and we can have positive interactions with the international community.”

This comes after a UN committee on Wednesday deferred a decision on who will represent Afghanistan and Myanmar at the United Nations.

Rival claims were made for the seats of both countries with the IEA and Myanmar’s junta pitted against ambassadors appointed by the governments they ousted this year.

UN acceptance of the IEA or Myanmar’s junta would be a step toward the international recognition sought by both.

The nine-member UN credentials committee, which includes Russia, China and the United States, met at UN headquarters to consider the credentials of all 193 members for the current session of the UN General Assembly.

Several diplomats had told Reuters that the committee was likely to defer its decisions on the representation of Afghanistan and Myanmar on the understanding that the current ambassadors for both countries remain in those seats.

While the committee chair, Sweden’s UN Ambassador Anna Karin Enestrom, told reporters the decisions had been deferred, she declined to comment on whether the ambassador appointed by the former Ashraf Ghani government for Afghanistan would still represent their countries.

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