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Lashkargah residents flee the city as Taliban closes in

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: October 11, 2020)

Heavy clashes have been reported in Helmand’s capital Lashkargah with hundreds of people fleeing the city after reports emerged that the Taliban had taken control of at least one Police District – PD4.

Civil society activists confirmed the clashes and said several checkpoints in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, had fallen to the Taliban.

They said PD4 in Lashkargah, Sayeed Abad area in Nad Ali district, and Nahr-e-Saraj area in Grishk district had all collapsed to the insurgent group on Sunday afternoon.

The insurgent group carried out a number of coordinated attacks on various parts of the province Saturday night and through Sunday. 

According to Omar Zwak, spokesman for Helmand’s governor, the Afghan security forces have retreated from a number of checkpoints in Lashkargah in order to prevent civilian casualties. 

He said it had been “a tactical retreat”. 

Helmand Governor Mohammad Yasin Khan meanwhile confirmed the clashes but said the Afghan security forces have launched counter-attacks – air and ground operations – against the militants.

He said at least 200 Taliban have been killed in the last 10 days across the province.

Khan said some of the Taliban militants who were recently released from Afghan prisons under the US-Taliban deal have returned to the battlefield and were involved in the current clashes.

Meanwhile, photographs posted on social media show trucks loaded with household goods heading away from the city as residents flee their homes. 

Sources also said the Taliban have captured 37 policemen and engineers from an electricity substation in Dorahi in Lashkargah.

As terrified residents took to social media, #SaveHelmand started trending on Sunday night. Cries for help from government went out in their hundreds and as one resident said on Twitter: “The only word on the streets of Lashkargah is that Taliban are coming. There is a severe chaos & confusion among the local residents of the city. #SaveHelmand.”

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Finland’s FM warns against ‘donor fatigue’ at upcoming Geneva summit

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2020)

The Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Friday the world must not forget about Afghanistan nor allow for “donor fatigue” during next month’s pledging summit in Geneva.  

Delivering a speech at the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Haavisto said: “As the international donors prepare for the conference in Geneva in November this year, our message to the donors will be not to forget Afghanistan. 

“We all need peace in Afghanistan, particularly the neighboring countries like Iran, Pakistan and India.

“They all agree that the peace in Afghanistan is necessary for them also,” he said. 

“Our battle while preparing for the conference is to convince the donors to commit for the development in Afghanistan. There should be no donor fatigue,” he said adding that “unfortunately the aid has not come for all areas in the country.”

Referring to the ongoing peace talks in Doha between the Afghan government representatives and the Taliban, and Qatar’s role in hosting the negotiations, Haavisto said: “This is very important phase of the process taking place here. The role of Qatar in bringing the parties together is appreciable. There are always people who promote cynicism whenever there are peace negotiations. I am however hopeful for the success of the ongoing process.”

Responding to a question about inclusivity in the peace talks of all sectors of society, Haavisto said: “I will try and make sure that the issue of including women and minorities in the donors’ conference. I always say that women and youth are very important stakeholders in any peacemaking attempt. The education for Afghan women is a key issue.”

Finland will co-host next month’s donor conference which aims to commit the Afghan government and the international community to shared development objectives for 2021-2024 as well as ensure financial support for the Afghan administration.

But unlike previous donor conferences, this year Afghan officials and international donors will face a changed situation. In the past, the focus has been on tying financial assistance to government reform amid an ongoing war with the Taliban. 

This year, peace talks are underway with the Taliban and government and a new Afghanistan could lie ahead but when officials and donors meet, they will face a changed, more fragile situation and the outcome of the summit is uncertain, 

In a recent analysis by the United States Institute of Peace, the organization stated the donor conference “could effectively promote development and peace in Afghanistan, or it could turn out to be counterproductive. 

“That will depend on whether participants come together and focus on a four-year development and peace framework or allow the meeting to be hijacked by one of several conflicting agendas that might undermine the peace process.”

More than 70 nations and organizations will attend the conference – countries and organizations that share an interest in Afghanistan’s development.  

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Saudi man crashes car into gate at Mecca’s Grand Mosque

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2020)

A Saudi man crashed his speeding car into the outer gates of Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Friday night, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The incident happened at about 10.30 pm when the man drove through a barrier and kept driving until he hit the gate at the Grand Mosque’s southern side. 

Police arrested the man who appeared to be in an “abnormal” condition, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The man was then referred to prosecutors for possible charges. 

The Grand Mosque houses the cube-shaped Kaaba that observant Muslims pray toward five times a day. 

The mosque had been shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, but recently reopened to small groups of pilgrims. 

 

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Renegades signs Afghan teenager for Australia’s Big Bash League

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

Australia’s Melbourne Renegades have signed up 15-year-old Noor Ahmad after a 12-month scouting mission and plan to unleash him on the Big Bash League later this year. 

Earlier this week Renegades confirmed Mohammad Nabi had also signed up and on Thursday, the club announced on its website, 15-year-old Noor Ahmad, from Kabul, will also join their team. 

“We’ve been tracking Noor Ahmad closely for more than a year now and although he’s in the early stages of his career, he’s an exciting prospect and he has a few tricks that’ll make life difficult for batsmen,” Renegades Coach Michael Klinger said. 

Ahmad is a left-arm wrist-spinner who has earned high praise around the globe.

Ahmad earned a contract in the Caribbean Premier League earlier this year and won a T20 trophy under Mohammad Nabi’s captaincy in 2019.

“The Renegades fans and followers of the Big Bash may not know much about Noor at this stage but I can tell you, he is a very exciting talent who I feel has a big future in the game,” Nabi said.

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