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NSA says there’s been no sign of Taliban leader for a year

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(Last Updated On: May 29, 2021)

National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib said on Saturday that the Taiban’s supreme leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada has not been seen in the last year – which has again raised questions about whether he is dead or alive.

Mohib said in a press conference in Kabul Saturday that intelligence findings indicate that Taliban members have not had any contact with Akhundzada in the past 12 months.

He said: “The Taliban have had no contact with Mullah Hibatullah in the last 12 months. There is no information available whether he is alive or dead. No one has heard his voice and no one has met with him [in this time]. Intelligence information proves it.”

This comes after media reports in February this year indicated that Akhundzada had been killed in an explosion in Pakistan a few months earlier.

In February, Hasht-e-Subh newspaper reported that Akhundzada, along with other Taliban leaders including Mullah Matiullah, the Taliban’s intelligence chief, and Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the group’s head of finance, were killed in an explosion at a safe house in Quetta.

But at the time, the Taliban rejected the claims and said Akhundzada was still alive.

These reports came after Foreign Policy reported in May last year that Akhundzada could possibly be dead after having contracted COVID-19.

Pajhwok Afghan News meanwhile reported that senior government officials said this week that most of the decisions around peace and security are being made by the Taliban’s deputy leader Sarajuddin Haqqani.

However, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the reports that he was dead and told Pajhwok that Akhundzada was very much alive.

Mujahid said Akhundzada was merely in a safe place for his security and that he does not make public appearances.

Akhundzada is the Taliban’s third supreme leader. Founded in 1994, the group’s first leader Mullah Mohammad Omar died in a hospital in Pakistan in 2013. However, his death was only announced two years later.

Omar was succeeded by Mullah Mohammad Mansoor, who was killed in a drone strike in 2016.

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Pentagon offers payment to families of victims of botched drone strike

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

The Pentagon has offered unspecified condolence payments to the family of 10 civilians who were killed in a botched U.S. drone attack in Afghanistan in August in the final days before American troops withdrew from the country.

The U.S. Defense Department said it made a commitment that included offering ex-gratia condolence payments, in addition to working with the U.S. State Department in support of the family members who were interested in relocation to the United States.

The Pentagon had said the strike targeted an Islamic State (Daesh) suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to U.S.-led troops as they completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The intelligence failure raised hard questions about future risks, particularly whether the United States can keep track of threats from Afghanistan without a presence in the country.

The confirmation of civilian deaths provided further fuel to critics of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal, which generated the biggest foreign policy crisis yet for President Joe Biden’s administration.

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NASA probe will study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)
NASA launched a first-of-its kind mission on Saturday to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of primordial material that formed the solar system’s outer planets. Matthew Larotonda reports.
 
NASA launched a new space probe on Saturday (October 16) morning in a special 12-year mission designed to visit more asteroids than ever before.

It focuses on the Trojan asteroids, which are two large clumps of space rocks orbiting the sun. One floats ahead of Jupiter and the other behind it.

Scientists believe the rocks are leftovers from the formation of our solar system.

The probe is called “Lucy” and NASA hopes it will help us learn more about our solar system’s history.

The asteroids are also rich in carbon compounds, and may provide insights into organic materials and life on Earth.

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Turkey could run Kabul airport, says Erdogan

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

Having previously run Kabul airport, Turkey can take similar steps in the future with Qatar and Afghanistan if the three countries reach a deal, the Turkish president said on Friday.

“So far, we have had a lot of effort in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and superstructure … We were operating the Kabul Airport. In the future, if agreements can be reached, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, we can take such steps,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

About the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s recent visit to Turkey, Erdogan said the group asked for humanitarian aid and “made requests concerning the functionality of new process in Afghanistan.”

Erdogan vowed to provide “all manner of support” to the Afghan people as long as the interim administration “takes a just stance in protecting the rights of the Afghan people.”

He said the IEA should also take a fair stance in their relations with Turkey.

An IEA delegation visited Turkey on Thursday to discuss bilateral issues, as well as cooperation on the future of Afghanistan.

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