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Iran steps in to help extinguish massive fire at border crossing with Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 13, 2021)

Iran’s Director General of West Asia at the Iranian Foreign Ministry Seyed Rasoul Mousavi has called on officials to help Afghanistan extinguish the massive fire at the Islam Qala border facility in Herat province. 

Mousave said on Twitter: “Fire in the neighbor’s house, is fire in our house. Widespread fire in Islam Qala. We must go to the aid of Afghanistan with all our might.” 
 
“I have done everything in my area of responsibility, now I am waiting to see what will happen in practice,” he added.
 
This comes after dozens of fuel tankers and other trucks caught fire at the border crossing customs facility in Herat province at around midday on Saturday. 
 
Herat governor Waheed Qatali said on Saturday afternoon they did not have the resources to extinguish the blaze and had called on Iran for help. 
 
Associated Press in Tehran meanwhile reported early Saturday evening that the fire had spread to the Dogharoon customs facilities on the Iran side. 
 
According to this report, first responders, including the Iran fire department, Iranian army and border forces were helping to extinguish the blaze.
 
Iranian media have not reported on this but have confirmed Tehran has dispatched firefighting and military forces to the area.
 
The cause of the massive fire has not yet been established but business owners have been left reeling after dozens of fuel tankers exploded.
 
The massive fire sent plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky – which could be seen from kilometers away.
 
Videos on social media also captured the panic among the people who had been in the area when the fire broke out. 
 
Hundreds were seen racing away in their cars and running on foot as fuel tanker after fuel tanker exploded. 
 
Herat officials have meanwhile confirmed at least a dozen people have been wounded in the fire so far and have been taken to local hospitals. 

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German Defense Minister not ruling out more troops to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said if the security situation worsens drastically in Afghanistan, Germany would not rule out sending in more troops if necessary.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, she said should the situation deteriorate “we would have to talk about a completely new mandate.”

She told DW however that the current mandate ceiling of 1,300 soldiers should be sufficient for the next few months.

The German defense minister arrived in Afghanistan early Friday morning for an unannounced visit to Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, where the majority of German troops are stationed.

Her visit comes after the German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported that the new draft mandate still needs the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

The current mandate is set to expire at the end of March.

Under the draft agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet, German troops would be able to stay in the country until January 31, 2022, Deutsche Welle reported.

During her visit, Kramp-Karrenbauer stated that Afghanistan “urgently needs a settlement between the opposing groups of its society.”

She said German soldiers cannot replace these reconciliation processes, but they were “making an important contribution together with allies, especially in the north of the country,” she said.

“We stand ready to continue to support the peace process. The protection of our soldiers has a very high priority in view of the security situation, and all necessary measures are taken together with our partners,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added.

Kramp-Karrenbauer stated that Berlin’s goal remained an orderly withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that no final decision had been made on the future of foreign troops in Afghanistan – despite the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline.

Stoltenberg acknowledged that the military alliance is facing “many dilemmas” over its continued engagement in the country.

With over 1,100 troops, Germany has the second-largest contingent after the United States in the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

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Unemployment spikes in Kandahar as conflict intensifies

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(Last Updated On: February 27, 2021)

Kandahar officials said on Saturday that the local unemployment rate is estimated to be at 80 percent due to the ongoing conflict that has raged for the past four months between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces in the province.

“Job opportunities decreased during war without any doubt. If we say that 80 percent of youths are jobless it is correct,” said Habibullah Jailani, head of Kandahar labor and social affairs department.

According to Jailani, they have been forced to appeal to international organizations for help for destitute people.

“We want to distribute humanitarian assistance to them including foodstuff… and to keep them warm,” added Jailani.

Officials, meanwhile, stated that more than 20,000 families have been displaced in the province due to the war.

Residents said that they are suffering enormously, not only because of no work but also because they are being forced to seek shelter in the city.

“War has increased in recent days; we have come here (to Kandahar city) from Dand district,” said Raza Khan, a displaced resident.

“We have come here due to the war, the war has intensified, work opportunities are also less,” said Mohammad Daud, another displaced person.

Kandahar officials have not however provided updated information about the current security situation in the southern province.

Kandahar was where the Taliban originated and where its power base was located until the fall of the city in 2001, which signaled the end of organized Taliban control of Afghanistan.

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Pregnant Afghan refugee charged with arson after setting herself on fire

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(Last Updated On: February 27, 2021)

A pregnant Afghan woman who set herself on fire in a refugee camp on Lesbos island in Greece has been charged with arson and destruction of public property.

The UK’s Daily Mail reported that the 26-year-old, who has not been named, suffered burns to her hands, feet and head after the incident last Sunday.

The mother-of-three, who is expecting her fourth child next week, provided testimony to a prosecutor from her hospital bed.

According to the Daily Mail, the woman moved her two daughters and son, who are now being cared for by their father, outside the tent before setting it alight in the temporary refugee camp.

The woman reportedly set fire to herself after finding out she could not travel to Germany with others who had been given asylum due to being in the final phase of her pregnancy.

The Daily Mail quoted investigating magistrate Nikos Triantafyllos as having said: “When she was told she couldn’t travel, her distress and disappointment were such she attempted suicide.”

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