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Prisoner release process ‘delaying’ start to talks: Taliban 

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(Last Updated On: September 8, 2020)

Newly appointed spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Mohammad Naeem Wardak, said overnight that the prisoner release process has not been finalized and only once this is complete will negotiations start. 

In what is possibly his first official comment as the new spokesman, Wardak posted his message on Twitter and said: “The process of release of prisoners of the Islamic Emirate [Taliban] has not been finalized yet, the release of some prisoners is still pending and work is underway.”

He then said once the prisoner release process is complete, the group’s negotiating team will be ready to start intra-Afghan negotiations. 

No further details were given but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Monday that there were no “major issues” causing the delay, adding that they were waiting for six prisoners to be released.

These six are responsible for having killed Australian and French nationals and instead of being freed will reportedly be sent to Qatar where they will be held under supervision. 

This comes after the Taliban negotiating team held its first meeting on Sunday to discuss intra-Afghan negotiations, a statement from the group read. 

According to the group, the meeting was chaired by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani was introduced as the new head of the Taliban’s negotiating team, and Mohammad Naeem Wardak as the spokesman.   

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Key Taliban fighter killed in Helmand operation

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

At least 38 Taliban militants, including the group’s shadow district governor for Nad Ali were killed in an operation by the Afghan forces in battle-weary Helmand province.

The provincial media office said in a statement on Wednesday night that Mullah Shawali, the Taliban’s shadow district governor for Nad Ali, was killed during a clearance operation on the Lashkargah-Nad Ali road.

The Defense Ministry (MoD), however, stated that Shawali was killed in an airstrike in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, Shawali was leading the clashes against the Afghan forces in Chah Anjir and Babaji area in the province.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry stated that the route was cleared of the Taliban.

The Taliban has not yet commented on the death of Shawali. 

The clearance operation was launched on Monday to push back the Taliban who had taken control of a number of areas in the past two weeks.

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EU says ‘killings and peace talks cannot go hand in hand’

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

The European Union said Wednesday the high level of civilian casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan is “unacceptable.”

According to a statement, the EU repeated its stance on “the central role of International Humanitarian Law in an armed conflict to protect civilians.”

The EU said that despite the high levels of violence taking place against the backdrop of ongoing peace negotiations, “killings and peace talks cannot go hand in hand.”

“Therefore, the European Union joins the Afghan people longing for peace by reiterating its call for an immediate, comprehensive, nationwide and unconditional ceasefire respected by both parties.”

The EU’s statement comes in response to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) new report published on Tuesday that documented 5,939 civilian casualties (2,117 killed and 3,822 injured) from 1 January to 30 September 2020.

In its report, the mission said: “High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.”

UNAMA stated that while the number of civilian casualties documented is the lowest in the first nine months of any year since 2012, “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking.”

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Afghans protest in Kabul against Macron’s Islamaphobic remarks

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

Kabul residents took to the streets of Kabul on Wednesday in protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial remarks about Islam. 

The protest, outside the French Cultural Center in Kabul city drew cries such as “death to France” and “death to Macron”.

Kabul high school students also protested against Macron’s remarks. 

Wednesday’s demonstration comes amid a standoff between France and Muslim countries after Macron reacted to the beheading of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson about freedom of speech. 

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added his voice to calls for a boycott of French goods.

Erdogan has led the charge against  Macron and said on Monday: “Never give credit to French-labelled goods, don’t buy them.”

French goods have already been pulled from supermarket shelves in Qatar and Kuwait, among other Gulf states, and in Syria people have burned pictures of Macron and French flags have been torched in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meanwhile has called on France to revise its separatist policies that target Islam and offend over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. In a statement, the OIC has said: “We condemn the constant systematic attack on the feelings of Muslims by insulting the religious symbols represented by the person of the Prophet Muhammad.”

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