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Kabul Hotel Attack Ends After 16-Hours Siege

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2018)

Taliban attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul has come to an end after 16 hours siege, Afghan security forces said.

At least 18 people including 14 foreigners were killed and ten others were wounded in the attack, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) claimed.

A fire broke out at the hotel as the fighting raged, and the sound of explosions could be heard throughout the standoff.

According to witnesses, the attackers blasted their way into the hotel at 9 p.m. local time on Saturday night and set fire to the kitchen before taking up positions on the hotel’s fourth and fifth floors.

Ariananews Live TV footages showed people trying to escape through windows on the upper stories.

The security officials confirmed that 34 provincial officials were gathered at the hotel to participate in a conference organized by the Telecommunication Ministry.

Najib Danish, the spokesman of MoI noted that all of the four gunmen involved in the attack had been killed and more than 150 people, including 41 foreigners, were rescued from the hotel.

But the Taliban released a statement claiming responsibility and saying it was carried out by five assailants who have been armed with suicide vests targeted foreigners and Afghan officials.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the deployed five suicide bombers have been armed with hand grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

Mujahid added the insurgents initially planned to attack the hotel Thursday night but postponed the assault because there was a wedding underway and they wanted to avoid civilian casualties.

In the meantime, MoI has promised an investigation into how the attackers breached security, which was handed to a private firm to take responsibility for the security of the hotel around three weeks ago.

On the other hand, local airline Kam Air said around 40 of its pilots and air crew, many of whom are foreigners, were staying in the hotel and as many as 10 had been killed.

But Zamari Kamgar, the airline’s deputy director said it was still trying to locate its staff and did not yet know whether they were all safe.

Saturday’s siege comes just days after the US embassy in Kabul issued a warning about hotels in the city.

“We are aware of reports that extremist groups may be planning an attack against hotels in Kabul,” the embassy wrote in a public security alert published Thursday, though it highlighted another hotel near the international airport as a possible target.

“These groups may also be targeting public gatherings/demonstrations, government facilities, transportation, markets, and places where foreigners are known to congregate.”

The Intercontinental was a playground for the city’s elite when it opened in 1969 and was last targeted in June 2011 when a suicide attack killed 21 people, including 10 civilians.

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US blames Taliban for high level of violence in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

US Central Command chief, General Kenneth F. McKenzie on Thursday said the United States and NATO’s decision to withdraw troops will depend on conditions on the ground.

McKenzie also said that US and NATO in Afghanistan continue to support a negotiated settlement as the best possible outcome between the government and the Taliban going forward.

Speaking at a virtual Beirut Institute summit McKenzie said that the US still continues to see levels of violence that are way too high.

“I place a large measure of the blame on the Taliban who have continued to mount offensive operations and targeted killings of Afghan officials but the excessive violence has led the government to launch their own defensive operations to protect themselves – the violence while too high on both sides,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie also stressed that there is no sign that the Taliban had severed ties with al-Qaeda.

“In my clear judgment rests largely on the Taliban; we also continue to … look for signs of a Taliban break with al-Qaeda and I have not at this point seen any definitive signs that would lead to believe they’re prepared to or able to honor their obligations,” McKenzie added.

Meanwhile, a member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan said the path to peace in Afghanistan is difficult because the Taliban have always relied on war and violence and see it as an effective way to gain power.

“Taliban strategy is still focused on war, targeted killings and assassinations take place in cities as part of the same strategy,” said Amin Ahmadi, member of the Republic’s negotiating team.

On the other hand the German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

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

“The people of Afghanistan and the government are committed to peace, only those who are not committed to peace are fighting, the Taliban want to come to power through explosions and suicide,” said Shah Mahmood Miakhil, defense deputy minister.

However, the Interior Minister said the only way left for the Taliban is peace, otherwise they will be suppressed.

“The only way left for the Taliban is to make peace, otherwise they will be suppressed everywhere in the country,” said Massoud Andarabi, the interior minister.

Although talks between Afghans have resumed over the last three days, no results have been achieved so far.

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Pakistan to increase number of flights to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced Thursday it will increase the number of international flights to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.

According to the PIA, the national flag-carrier will increase its flights to Afghanistan from four to five a week.

“Expanding our network in Afghanistan by increasing weekly flights from 4 to 5. Best service & most comfortable aircraft on this scenic route,” PIA said in a tweet Thursday.

PIA also stated it will launch direct flights to Azerbaijan’s Baku from March 14. The flights will be operated twice a week from Lahore city of Pakistan

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German cabinet agrees to extend Afghanistan mission by 10 months

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

The German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported Thursday 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. .

Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said the new date “takes account appropriately of the complex situation in Afghanistan and also makes possible the flexibility necessary to be able to react if the volatile security and threat situation there changes.”

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

Seibert said that the maximum limit of 1,300 German troops will remain unchanged in the new mandate.

This comes after 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.

US President Joe Biden is reviewing Donald Trump’s 2020 deal with the Taliban, which sets May 1 as the deadline for a total US troop withdrawal.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision to withdraw troops should not be rushed, rather than being “slavishly” bound to the May deadline. Instead, the drawback of troops should be linked to slow-paced peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he has said.

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