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Pilot killed by unidentified armed men in Parwan

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2021)

An Afghan military pilot was killed in an attack by unknown armed men in northern Parwan province on Friday, sources said.

Nusrat Koshan, an Afghan Air Force officer, was killed at around 6:30 Friday evening during a skirmish with armed men in the Bagram district of the province, sources added.

Bagram Governor Lala Shirin Raufi told Ariana News that the incident took place in the “Dorahi-e-Qale Khwaja and Qale Narzoy” of in the district.

Raufi said the assailants managed to flee from the area.

No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, Reuters reported citing two senior Afghan government officials that at least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months.

According to Reuters, this series of targeted killings, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate what U.S. and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan’s most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.

In so doing, the Taliban — who have no air force — are looking to level the playing field as they press major ground offensives.

Reuters confirmed the identities of two of the slain pilots through family members but could not independently verify the names of the other five who were allegedly targeted.

In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group had killed Afghan Air Force Major Dastagir Zamaray, and that it had started a program that will see the Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”

A U.N. report documented 229 civilian deaths caused by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2021, and 41 civilian deaths caused by the Afghan Air Force over the same period.

In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group had killed Zamaray, and that it had started a program that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”

Afghanistan’s government has not publicly disclosed the number of pilots assassinated in targeted killings and the Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment by Reuters.

The Pentagon meanwhile told Reuters it was aware of the deaths of several Afghan pilots in killings claimed by the Taliban, but declined to comment on U.S. intelligence and investigations.

Afghan military pilots are particularly attractive assassination targets, current and former U.S. and Afghan officials say. They can strike Taliban forces massing for major attacks, shuttle commandos to missions, and provide life-saving air cover for Afghan ground troops. Pilots take years to train and are hard to replace, representing an outsized blow to the country’s defenses with every loss.

Shoot-downs and accidents are ever-present risks. Yet these pilots often are most vulnerable in the streets of their own neighborhoods, where attackers can come from anywhere, said retired U.S. Brigadier General David Hicks, who commanded the training effort for the Afghan Air Force from 2016 to 2017.

“Their lives were at much greater risk during that time (off base) than they were while they were flying combat missions,” Hicks said.

Although Taliban assassinations of pilots have happened in years past, the recent killings take on greater significance as the Afghan Air Force is tested like never before, Reuters reported.

“Pilots are on top of the Taliban’s hit list,” the senior Afghan government official said.

That Afghan official and two others, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they’re working to protect pilots and their families, moving some to on-base housing and relocating others to safer civilian neighborhoods.

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UN office attacked in Herat, at least one guard killed

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Friday that its main compound in western Herat province was attacked by “anti-government elements,” killing at least guard and other officers injured.

In a statement issued on Friday, UNAMA condemned in the “strongest terms” today’s attack.

“The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces,” the statement read. 

The UN added that it is urgently seeking to establish a full picture of the attack and for this purpose is in contact with the relevant parties.

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. 

“Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” Lyons stated.

 According to the statement, no UN personnel was hurt in the incident, in which entrances were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.

“The perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account,” said Lyons.

 “Attacks against civilian UN personnel and compounds are prohibited under international law, and may amount to war crimes,” the UN noted.

Immediately, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sources, however, told Ariana News that at least six people – including two security guards of UNAMA, three policemen, and a member of the public uprising forces – were killed and 19 others were wounded in clashes with the Taliban militants in the Guzara, Anjel and Karokh districts at the outskirts of Herat city on Friday.

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Four killed as wildfires sweep Turkey, villages evacuated

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

The death toll from wildfires on Turkey‘s southern coast has risen to four and firefighters were battling blazes for a third day on Friday after the evacuation of dozens of villages and some hotels.

More than 70 wildfires have broken out this week in provinces on Turkey‘s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts as well as inland areas, President Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that 14 were still burning.

Planes from Russia and Ukraine helped battle the flames and another from Azerbaijan was joining them. “As of midday, with the arrival of the planes, we are turning in a positive direction,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers.

Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said fires raged on in six provinces and officials promised to bring to account anyone found responsible for starting them.

Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in tourist areas and television footage has shown people fleeing across fields as fires closed in on their homes.

Pakdemirli said fires were still blazing in the Mediterranean resort region of Antalya and the Aegean resort province of Mugla.

“We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” he said.

Wildfires have broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 in Greece in the last 24 hours, fanned by winds and soaring temperatures, authorities said. On Tuesday, a blaze tore through a pine forest north of Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.

Fires also burned large swathes of pine forest in the mountainous north of Lebanon this week, killing at least one firefighter and forcing some residents to flee.

In Turkey, firefighters on the ground and in helicopters were fighting a blaze that killed three people in Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of Antalya. Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighbourhoods were evacuated there.

One person was found dead on Thursday in Mugla’s Marmaris area, 290 km west of Manavgat. The blaze continued in Marmaris but residential areas were not at risk, Pakdemirli said.

Erdogan said at least five planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 1,080 firefighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts at 1,140 sites.

Istanbul governor’s office banned entry to forest areas until the end of August as a precaution against fires.

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20 villages cleared of Taliban, 4 militants arrested in Takhar operation

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)
The Interior Ministry said Friday that more than 20 villages in Taloqan city, the capital of Takhar province, were cleared of the Taliban in a joint operation by the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

The Ministry said in a statement that the ANSDF and the public uprising forces launched a clearance operation in the center of the city on Friday morning.

The operation was conducted in the PD1 and PD4 areas of Taloqan city.

According to the Ministry, dozens of militants were killed and wounded during the raids.

Security officials said the militants stormed the Qara Parcho, Abdal, Salakhi Qishlaq, Khaskapa, and Chob Bor villages of Taloqan on Thursday night.

According to the officials, at least 13 Taliban fighters were killed and 16 others were wounded in the counter-attacks by Afghan forces.

Three members of the uprising forces were also wounded in the skirmish, sources said.

Meanwhile, Takhar police told Ariana News that the Afghan forces arrested four Taliban insurgents during the operation.

The Taliban has not commented in this regard so far.

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