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MoI says controversial Wardak clash is being investigated

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2021)

The Interior Ministry has refuted claims that unarmed civilians were targeted by police during a protest in Bihsud district in Maidan Wardak province on Friday that left at least eleven people dead.

The incident happened late Friday outside the district government compound and also left at least 25 people wounded.

A number of MPs from Wardak province claimed the residents were targeted by police special forces despite being unarmed.

The Interior Ministry however rejected these claims and said irresponsible gunmen opened fire on police and civilians in the district. They said the incident is being investigated.

The incident happened outside the district government compound after a group of locals embarked on a peaceful protest, said MP Mahdi Rasikh.

Rasikh said a group of about 30 elders had gathered to find out why a “special unit” had been dispatched to Bihsud district.

He said it was then that security forces opened fire on the group, adding that all were civilians and were unarmed.

“Eleven civilians, including children, were killed in the incident, and more than 25 others were wounded, and the wounded remained on the snow for hours,” he said adding that they were not allowed to be removed from the area.

Rasikh also said that security forces prevented about 150 others from leaving the area and that they had since been taken into custody.

“The crime of those who were targeted was because they believe in civilization, and not a single shot was fired by these people, but they were targeted as oppressors; we want to pursue this issue seriously,” said Ali Akbar Qasimi another MP from Ghazni.

Meanwhile, a former deputy interior minister says the attack on civilians in Bihsud district by security forces was unjustifiable.

“This attack is a cruel attack and we warn that as soon as possible, innocent people who have no authority and have been taken hostage in this incident should be released and a decision should be made as soon as possible to resolve this issue, and if the incident is a mistake even, it should not be forgiven,” said Murad Ali Murad, the former deputy minister of interior.

“Yesterday there was a shooting and the government shot at us and I got wounded in my back,” said Ahmad Jawed, a resident of Bihsud district.

However the Interior Ministry rejects these claims and states irresponsible gunmen were responsible for the bloody incident in Bihsud.

“Irresponsible gunmen gathered in Bihsud district and used local residents and shot and killed a number of local residents, injuring and martyring them. This issue is under investigation and a delegation has been sent to Wardak to investigate this incident thoroughly,” said Tairq Arian, the interior ministry’s spokesman.

However, protesters warned that if government does not take the incident seriously and does not release those in custody, they will stage large-scale demonstrations in Wardak and Kabul.

This comes after the MoI said earlier that clashes happened after “irresponsible armed men” loyal to commander Alipoor, an anti-Taliban commander known as Commander Shamshir (Sword), resisted the appointment of police chiefs for Hisa-i-Awal and Hisa-i-Dowom in Bihsud district.

According to the statement by the MoI’s spokesman Tariq Arian, Alipoor’s men, who were armed, gathered outside of the district compound and “opened fire on security forces and people…as a result of this chaos a number of security forces and five civilians were wounded.”

Arian stated police fired in the air to control the situation, adding that 68 irresponsible armed men loyal to Alipoor have been arrested in connection with the clashes.

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NATO hands over another base to Afghan military

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

NATO forces have handed over another military camp to Afghan security forces in northern Balkh province, the 209 Shaheen Corps said in a statement.

The camp known as Camp Mike Spann was handed over to the Afghan forces during a ceremony at the Corps’ headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif in the province on Wednesday morning.

Addressing the ceremony, the commander of Shaheen Corps General Ghulam Mustafa Wardak thanked the International Community and Germany for assisting Afghanistan in establishing and training the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

Wardak stated that the Afghan forces are capable of independently defending Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, NATO’s commander for the northern sector of Afghanistan General Ansgar Meyer stated that the Afghan forces have been able to independently carry out operations against militants since 2014.

Meyer emphasized that the international community will continue to support Afghan forces in the logistics and armament sectors.

This comes after the US forces handed over the responsibility of Camp Antonik to the Afghan forces in southern Helmand province on Sunday.

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Concerns raised after NDS chief and Taliban issue warnings to the media

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

A number of media advocates said on Wednesday that warnings issued against the media by both government and the Taliban could undermine the hard-won gains in press freedom in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

Concerns were raised after the National Security Directorate (NDS) chief Ahmad Zia told Parliament on Wednesday that a number of Afghan media outlets were broadcasting or publishing “propaganda in favor of the Taliban.”

The Taliban in turn threatened local media and said they would “face the consequences” for reporting biased stories in favor of the government.

Responding to this, the US Embassy and the UK Embassy in Afghanistan issued a joint statement on Wednesday night condemning the Taliban’s attempts “to silence journalists”.

The embassies said: “The Taliban today, two days after World Press Freedom Day, threatened the Afghan media accusing them of being proxies for the government and ordering them to alter their reporting or they would ‘face the consequences.”

“We know the Taliban propaganda machine constantly manipulates the truth in order to deflect blame for the atrocities they commit onto others and to avoid responsibility for their actions.

“We strongly support Afghanistan’s independent media. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the ongoing violence and threats against the media, and the Taliban’s attempts to silence journalists,” the statement read.

This comes after MPs said that NDS chief Ahmad Zia said in Parliament on Wednesday that Afghan media “should be aware of the enemy’s psychological war.”

MP Arif Rahmani tweeted that Zia claimed a number of politicians, experts, and media outlets publicize propaganda in favor of the Taliban. However, he reportedly warned that these individuals and entities would “be treated as a terrorist.”

According to Rahmani, the NDS Chief further said that propaganda broadcast by a number of television channels in favor of the Taliban “is shocking.”

He said “this is not freedom of speech, but it is an abuse of freedom of expression; We will not tolerate it.”

In response to Rahmani’s tweet, the Taliban, in turn, warned Afghan media outlets against publishing or broadcasting one-sided reports.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group said in a series of tweets: “For several days, the Taliban have been witnessing one sided-propaganda and publications by some media outlets.”

He stated that the NDS is directly involved in such activities, adding: “Media must be aware of maintaining their neutrality” and avoid becoming a “propaganda tool” for the government in such a sensitive situation in the country.

Mujahid stated that if the media continue to broadcast or publish “misleading news and incorrect information” their objectivity could be questioned.

He said the same applies to the spreading of false news and misinformation by the media and journalists.

Should this continue, the onus will be on media executives to deal with the consequences and warned media executives and media workers against publicizing one-sided news in favor of the government.

Meanwhile, the media advocacy organization, NAI, and Afghanistan Free Press Hub said the remarks by the NDS Chief and the Taliban are concerning.

“The NDS Chief has accused some media of cooperating with the Taliban. He has to clarify which media outlets [he is referring to] and which media outlets have done this. A general accusation against all media is against the law. The Taliban also warned the media. This situation risks the work of the media in Afghanistan,” NAI Chief Executive Mujib Khilwatgar said.

The NDS, meanwhile, in a statement rejected the report and stated that Zia’s remarks were misinterpreted.
 
Afghanistan’s national spy agency said: “Disclosure and distortion of the contents of secret meetings to the public is unacceptable, and is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and contrary to the principles of the internal duties of the House of Representatives.”
 
“The NDS has been at the forefront of protecting the freedom of expression and journalists,” the statement read.
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Starlink satellite internet service gets 500,000 preorders, Musk says

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Photo credit Reuters
(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

SpaceX has received more than 500,000 preorders for its Starlink satellite internet service and anticipates no technical problems meeting the demand, founder Elon Musk said on Tuesday.

“Only limitation is high density of users in urban areas,” Musk tweeted, responding to a post from a CNBC reporter that said the $99 deposits SpaceX took for the service were fully refundable and did not guarantee service.

“More of a challenge when we get into the several million user range,” Musk said.

SpaceX has not set a date for Starlink’s service launch, but commercial service would not likely be offered in 2020 as it had previously planned.

The company plans to eventually deploy 12,000 satellites in total and has said the Starlink constellation will cost it roughly $10 billion.

Building and sending rockets to outer space is a capital-intensive business, but two of the world’s richest men, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Musk, who is also the chief of automaker Tesla Inc, have invested billions of dollars over the years to make inroads in this market.

Musk and Bezos have sparred publicly over the competing satellite plans.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month approved SpaceX’s plan to deploy some Starlink satellites at a lower earth orbit than planned but included a number of conditions to ensure the plan’s safety.

SpaceX agreed to accept that their satellites may encounter interference from satellites deployed under Amazon’s Kuiper Systems satellite project.

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