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Khalilzad heads to Doha, says world is watching talks closely 

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(Last Updated On: September 30, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad left Washington for Doha, Qatar on Tuesday to meet with intra-Afghan negotiating teams. 

The US State Department said in a statement overnight that Khalilzad will also meet with stakeholders to discuss increased regional connectivity, trade, and development following a peace settlement.  

“Ambassador Khalilzad will also meet with the negotiating teams to hear updates on their efforts to negotiate a settlement and bring an end to forty years of war,” the statement read. 

Khalilzad also tweeted early Wednesday that he was “headed back to Doha and the region to meet with partners on Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace negotiations and prospects for increased regional connectivity, trade, and development following peace.”

He said in his Twitter post “the Afghan people and international community are watching closely and expect the negotiations to make progress toward producing a roadmap for Afghanistan’s political future and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

Talks between the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban started more than two weeks ago but details around progress have been sketchy. 

The teams have yet to reach a consensus on the framework of talks going forward. 

Critics have said however a mediator might be needed to step in as reports indicate there are two sticking points between the teams. 

Last week it emerged there was a dispute over the religious jurisprudence and recognition of the US-Taliban agreement signed in February, which is what led to the current talks and on which the negotiations are based – an agreement that the Afghan government was not a party to. 

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UN to probe Takhar airstrike after locals claim children were killed

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Thursday night it was investigating an Afghan National Army (ANA) airstrike in Takhar province that reportedly killed 12 children. 

In a post on Twitter, the mission said: “UNAMA civilian protection team following up on allegations of ANA airstrike yesterday against Taliban in Takhar province killing 12 children, girls & boys, & injuring 18 other civilians.”

UNAMA also stated that the United Nations will issue findings when complete. 

This comes after local officials in Takhar said early Thursday morning a mosque had been targeted in an airstrike killing children and injuring many others, including the mosque’s imam. 

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh rejected the claims in a Facebook post later in the day and said Taliban members had been targeted and eliminated. 

“The news of the killing of children in a mosque in Takhar is baseless. Those who dragged our forces to dust and blood yesterday were destroyed, and we have undeniable proof,” Saleh wrote.

This came a day after the Taliban carried out a massive attack against Afghan security forces in the province, killing as many as 50 soldiers. 

Reuters reported that Abdul Qayoom Hayrat, head of the provincial health department in Takhar, said that 10 of the dead soldiers were members of the Afghan special forces.

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Brazilian volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies 

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Brazilian health authority Anvisa confirmed a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but said the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccination.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian, said a review committee had suggested the trial continue. 

The university is helping to coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil.

 

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Saleh rejects claims of civilians killed in Takhar airstrike

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Thursday rejected claims of civilian casualties, including children, following an airstrike in Takhar province on Wednesday night. 

In a message on Facebook, Saleh said: “The news of the killing of children in the mosque in Takhar is baseless.”

Referring to Tuesday night’s attack by the Taliban in the same province – which left more than 50 Afghan national security force members dead – Saleh said: “Those who buried our forces yesterday have been destroyed and we have undeniable proof.”

Earlier, security sources stated at least 12 people were killed and 14 wounded in the airstrike which they stated had targeted a mosque in Taloqan city.

Security sources said among the victims were children and the mosque’s imam.

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