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Pakistan remains safe harbor for “terrorist groups”: US

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2020)

Pakistan is a safe harbor for “regionally focused terrorist groups”, allowing the groups to target Afghanistan, the US State Department said in a report.

In its annual terror assessment, released Wednesday, the Department said that Pakistan remained a safe harbor for other regionally focused terrorist groups.

“It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated Haqqani Network, as well as groups targeting India, including Lashkar e-Tayyiba and its affiliated front organizations, and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), to operate from its territory,” the report said.

Although Pakistan’s National Action Plan calls to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” several terrorist groups that focus on attacks outside the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2019, including the Haqqani Network – a group by the Afghan government for the deadliest attacks inside Afghanistan – Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and Jaish-e-Mohammed.  

According to the report the Haqqani Network has planned and carried out numerous significant kidnappings and attacks against US and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan government, and civilian targets. 

The government and military of Pakistan have acted inconsistently concerning terrorist safe havens throughout the country, the report said.

“Authorities did not take sufficient action to stop certain terrorist groups and individuals from openly operating in the country,” the report added.

Meanwhile, the US said that Pakistan did make some positive contributions to the Afghanistan peace process, such as encouraging Taliban reductions in violence.

The report noted that Afghanistan continued to face significant challenges in protecting its borders, particularly those with Pakistan and Iran. 

“Under the bilateral Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS), which met for the first time in July 2018, Afghan and Pakistani officials agreed in principle to create a mechanism for communication between security forces on each side of the border,” the report said.

Despite this review and discussions between the two governments to utilize APAPPS, progress through this forum remains slow, read the report.

Throughout 2019, the United States sought to negotiate an agreement with the Taliban that would commit the Taliban to take action against international terrorist groups, including not allowing those groups to recruit, train, or raise funds on Afghan territory, and to not host those groups.  

In return for these commitments and for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government, other Afghan leaders, and the Taliban, the United States would agree to a timeline for the conditions-based withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan.  

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At least 26 dead in Greece and Turkey earthquake

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2020)

The massive earthquake that hit Greece and Turkey on Friday has left at least 26 people dead in the Turkish coastal city of Izmir and on the Greek island of Samos. 

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit in the Aegean Sea at a depth of 16.5kms, the US Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed. 

On Saturday morning, rescue workers were still digging through the rubble of collapsed buildings in search of survivors. 

Officials confirmed that 10 buildings were completely destroyed in Izmir. 

Turkey’s disaster and emergency management authority (AFAD) said in a statement issued early Saturday that 24 people had died in Turkey. Greek authorities said two people had so far died.

The earthquake also triggered a mini-tsunami in Izmir. 

Speaking to Euronews Tonight on Saturday, the deputy director-general of the Turkish Red Crescent, Ibrahim Ozer, said that the organization has “more than 3,000 volunteers” in Izmir, who are currently providing people with “hot soups and beverages” and will keep providing assistance at least for the next 24 hours.

He added that Turkey is currently on emergency level “three”, which stands for “nationwide disaster”.

In Greece, the media reported the residents of Samos and other islands fled their homes, especially when a “mini-tsunami” occurred on the island of Samos.

Greece’s Special Department for Medical Disaster (ETIK) confirmed that two children had died on the island, in the town of Vathi.

“The two children, shortly after the earthquake were leaving their school. As they were passing a narrow street of the city, a wall from an old building collapsed and crushed them,” emergency services wrote on Facebook.

“Despite the best effort of (emergency services) EKAB rescuers to release them alive, the children did not make it,” it added.

A total of 196 aftershocks have been recorded, 23 of which were over 4.0 magnitude.

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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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