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NATO Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to Ensure Long-term Security, Stability in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 11, 2018)

NATO summit kicked off on Wednesday in Brussels with heads of states and partners from 43 countries, including President Ghani and the U.S. President Donald Trump.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the Taliban will not win on the battlefield and will gain much more if they sit down on negotiating table with the Afghan government.

“Message to the Taliban is that they will not win on the battlefield. They have to sit down at the negotiating table,” Stoltenberg said. “We will continue to support the Afghan security forces.”

 NATO chief also welcomed the government’s unconditioned peace talks and ceasefire with the Taliban.

The alliance’s leaders in a declaration of the summit reaffirmed their commitment to ensure long-term security and stability in Afghanistan.

“We will continue our assistance by extending our financial sustainment of the Afghan forces through 2024 and by pledging to fill staffing shortfalls, especially in priority areas,” the declaration reads.

It said that the regional actors have an important role to play in support of peace and stabilisation in Afghanistan.

“We call on them to cooperate more closely on fighting terrorism, to improve the conditions for economic development, to support the Afghan government’s peace and reconciliation efforts, and to prevent any form of support to the insurgency.”

“In this regard, we encourage Pakistan, Iran, and Russia to contribute to regional stability by fully supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” it added.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah  are representing Afghanistan in the summit and one of them is expected to deliver remarks on second day of the summit.

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Hundreds of Daesh and Taliban prisoners on the run after prison siege

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

An Afghan MP on Tuesday claimed as many as 800 ISIS (Daesh) and Taliban prisoners are on the loose after escaping during Sunday’s deadly prison attack in Jalalabad.

Abdul Karim Karimi, a Member of Parliament, said: “1,700 prisoners were inside the jail during the attack, they all attempted to escape. Out of which, 500 of them failed to escape, whereas 800 more prisoners including Daesh, Taliban, and criminals fled.”

According to officials, prisoners being held in that particular jail were political prisoners and criminals. Among them were Taliban and Daesh militants.

The Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Ataullah Khogyani, confirmed that hundreds of prisoners escaped but that the matter will be investigated in order to ascertain whether there was any negligence on the part of prison staff.

“So far, hundreds of prisoners including Daesh, Taliban, and other criminals are missing,” Khogyani said.
Local officials did not give details as to the identity of the missing prisoners but said search operations were underway in a bid to capture the escaped convicts.

Sources meanwhile added that out of five prisoners killed in Sunday’s attack, three of them were Taliban commanders.

Meanwhile, Daesh sent out letters overnight to residents of Jalalabad warning them not to hand over any CCTV footage they might have that recorded events outside their shops or houses during the time of the siege.

Sunday’s prison attack started with a car bomb just after 6.30pm and lasted for at least 18 hours before security forces were able to bring the situation under control.

Soon after militants stormed the facility, Daesh claimed responsibility. Officials said 11 Daesh militants had been involved.

While the siege was underway, security forces also raided a property in Behsoud district in Nangarhar and seized hundreds of weapons and military hardware.

The prison siege started just a day after Afghanistan’s intelligence services announced the Afghan special forces had killed a high-ranking Daesh member in an operation in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

A statement late Saturday by the National Directorate of Security said the slain militant was Assadullah Orakzai, an intelligence leader for the IS affiliate (Daesh) in Afghanistan. The statement said he was killed near Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. IS has its headquarters in the province.

Orakzai was suspected of being involved in several deadly attacks against both military and civilian targets in Afghanistan.

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Universities to reopen Wednesday as COVID-19 infection rate drops

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

Afghanistan’s universities are set to reopen on Wednesday after having closed four months ago due to the spread of COVID-19.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday in Kabul, Presidential Spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said cabinet decided to allow universities to reopen on Wednesday, noting students and lecturers must adhere to precautionary measures and health guidelines at all times.

“The plan proposed by the Ministry of Higher Education is finalized, and tomorrow, the universities will reopen observing the health instructions,” said Sediqqi.

Sediqqi added that all schools remain closed until further notice.

He also said cabinet has asked the Ministry of Education to present a new plan to them at the next cabinet meeting.

The Ministry of Public Health insists on a gradual reopening of schools and universities.

Students, meanwhile, are optimistic about the reopening of universities saying that the MoHE should closely monitor the health status of students and staff at universities.

This comes after only 36 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the past 24 hours – a significant drop against the daily tally so far.

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Massive explosion rocks port area in Lebanon’s capital Beirut

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

A massive explosion rocked Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, Tuesday, injuring many people as glass shattered and balconies collapsed from the impact, Reuters reported.

Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are warehouses housing explosives. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses.

“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street,” a witness told Reuters.

Local broadcaster LBC quoted the health minister as saying there was a “very high number” of injures and a large amount of damage. Al Mayadeen television said hundreds were wounded.

Another witness told Reuters that she saw heavy grey smoke near the port area and then heard an explosion and saw flames of fire and black smoke: “All the downtown area windows are smashed and there are wounded people walking around. It is total chaos.”

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