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Over 10,000 Afghan Civilians Killed or Wounded in 2017: UN

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(Last Updated On: February 15, 2018)

More than 10,000 civilians lost their lives or suffered injuries in Afghanistan in 2017, the United Nations said Thursday, with militant bombings the main cause while airstrikes by U.S. and government forces inflicted a rising toll.

In its annual report released on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, documented 3,438 deaths and 7,015 injuries – a nine percent decline from the record-high figure in 2016.

“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan said in a statement.

The second leading cause of civilian casualties in 2017 was ground engagements between anti-government elements and pro-government forces, although there was a decrease of 19 percent from the record levels seen in 2016.

The report attributed 42 percent of the casualties to the Taliban, 10 percent to Islamic State (IS) also known as Daesh and 13 percent to other anti-government elements.

Pro-government forces, including Afghan national security forces and international military forces caused a fifth of the civilian casualties.

The deadliest attack since the U.N. mission began recording civilian casualties in 2009 was in Kabul on May 31 when a suicide attacker detonated a truck bomb, killing 92 civilians and injuring 491.

The air campaign by international and government forces accounted for 6 percent of civilian casualties in 2017, with 295 people killed and 336 wounded, a 7 percent increase over the previous year.

“Afghan civilians have been killed going about their daily lives – traveling on a bus, praying in a mosque, simply walking past a building that was targeted. The people of Afghanistan, year after year, continue to live in insecurity and fear, while those responsible for ending lives and blighting lives escape punishment,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in the statement.

“Such attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are likely, in most cases, to constitute war crimes. The perpetrators must be identified and held accountable,” he added.

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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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