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Russia Questions Reports of Unidentified Helicopters Sighted in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 23, 2017)

Russia Foreign Ministry has asked Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials to provide a “rational explanation” about reports of unidentified helicopters providing support to ISIS-K militants in Afghanistan.

“We’ve taken note of new reports about unmarked helicopters ferrying the fighters of ISIS Afghan branch, as well as weapons and munitions for them, in eastern Afghanistan,” Russia Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Zakharova also pointed to the brief capture of Tora Bora, a strategic cave in Pachiragam district of Nangarhar, by IS fighters on June 14 which was recaptured by Afghan security forces during a clearing operation.

“Some reports say that shortly before this, unmarked helicopters delivered over 50 armed extremists to reinforce the fighters who were preparing an offensive on Tora Bora, as well as a container full of weapons and munitions,” she added.

IS militants also known as Daesh is widely active in some parts of Nangarhar province and there were reports of the group activities in some other provinces of the country as well.

“It is symptomatic that neither the Afghan authorities nor the U.S. and NATO military contingent officials in Afghanistan have offered a rational explanation for the increased number of flights made by unidentified helicopters providing support to ISIS fighters in many Afghan provinces, Zakharova stated,” Silence in this case is becoming increasingly conspicuous.”

She further asked Western media to ask these questions from the Pentagon, the White House and the U.S. State Department.

Immediately there was no reaction from U.S. officials regarding the statements made by Moscow while Afghan ministry of defense have rejected the report and called it baseless.

Afghan and U.S. forces have conducted many counter terrorism operations against the IS fighters in Nangarhar province during the last two years.

Reports of unidentified helicopters landing in Taliban controlled areas in Sar-e-Pul and Ghazni districts of Afghanistan have also been published during the last couple of months.

In a latest report by an official U.S. watchdog, U.S. officials have expressed concerns about the security situation in Afghanistan as Russia, Pakistan and Iran are providing support to the insurgents fighting the Kabul government.

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Defense Ministry confirms at least 10 Daesh militants killed in prison battle

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Photo credit Reuters
(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

At least 10 attackers were killed in the almost day-long battle between Afghan security forces and Daesh militants in Jalalabad city.

The attack carried out against the city’s prison and a building opposite the facility, lasted for almost 24 hours before the area was declared clear of militants.

According to Nangarhar officials, five prisoners were also killed in the attack, and six more wounded while 40 families were rescued from the building opposite the prison, the ministry of defense confirmed on Monday night.

Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, meanwhile said the death toll was 30 and 50 wounded. This included civilians, security forces, and prisoners.

The rampage started on Sunday evening just after 6.30 pm when Daesh militants detonated a car bomb outside the prison.

After blasting the gates open, they stormed the facility. In the chaos, hundreds of prisoners escaped.

An estimated 1,700 prisoners were being held in the facility at the time of the attack – many of the Daesh fighters.

The gunbattle between militants and security forces lasted about 20 hours. Added to this, security manpower had to be diverted in order to round up the escapees.

Some prisoners who had been arrested told Ariana News that six attackers entered the prison and ordered them to leave. The prisoners were told that if they did not leave they would be killed by the assailants.

A security source said that the prisoners who escaped included Taliban members, Daesh militants, and criminals.

Earlier in the day, Zahir Adil, a spokesman for the provincial health directorate, told Ariana News that 13 of those wounded were in a critical condition.

This attack 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 eastern Afghanistan.
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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Anxious WHO implores world to ‘do it all’ in long war on COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The World Health Organization warned on Monday that there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19 in the form of a perfect vaccine and that the road to normality would be long, with some countries requiring a reset of strategy.

Reuters reported that more than 18.14 million people around the world are reported to have been infected with the disease and 688,080​ have died, according to a Reuters tally, with some nations that thought they were over the worst experiencing a resurgence.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan exhorted nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, and testing.

“The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the U.N. body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity around the world.

“A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be.”

The WHO head said that, while the coronavirus was the biggest health emergency since the early 20th century, the international scramble for a vaccine was also “unprecedented”.

But he underscored uncertainties. “There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work or its protection could be for just a few months, not more. But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know.”

“THE WAY OUT IS LONG”

Ryan said countries with high transmission rates, including Brazil and India, needed to brace for a big battle: “The way out is long and requires a sustained commitment,” he said, calling for a “reset” of approach in some places.

“Some countries are really going to have to take a step back now and really take a look at how they are addressing the pandemic within their national borders,” he added.

Asked about the U.S. outbreak, which White House coronavirus experts say is entering a “new phase”, he said officials seemed to have set out the “right path” and it was not the WHO’s job to do so.

The WHO officials said an advance investigation team had concluded its China mission and laid out the groundwork for further efforts to identify the origins of the virus.

The study is one of the demands made by top donor the United States which plans to leave the body next year, accusing it of being too acquiescent to China.

A larger, WHO-led team of Chinese and international experts is planned next, including in the city of Wuhan, although the timing and composition of that were unclear. Ryan said China had already given some information but knowledge gaps remained.

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Loya Jirga on fate of Taliban prisoners to convene Friday in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The Afghan government will convene a Consultative Loya Jirga on Friday in Kabul to decide the fate of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners who are on the group’s list.

For this Jirga, the Presidential Palace is yet to release details but officials have said the expected participants would be the same as those who participated in the last Peace Jirga along with members of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

“Loya Jirga will be held on August 7th. It is in continuation of the Consultative Jirga for Peace. Members are the same from the previous Jirga which will be divided into different categories such as civil society, media, and people’s council … the commission that is tasked for convening the Jirga will provide further details by tomorrow,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Presidential Palace.

A Loya Jirga is a mass national gathering that brings together representatives from the various ethnic, religious, and tribal communities in Afghanistan.

The Jirga, or “grand council” is a centuries-old tradition that is convened at times of a national crisis or to settle a national issue.

Historically, it has been used to approve a new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or to make sweeping social or political reforms.

A question that’s been raised however is why did the government not convene a Loya Jirga on the release of the other 4,600 Taliban prisoners – who have already been freed.

Some lawyers believe however that this latest move, to hold a Loya Jirga, is purely symbolic and holds no legal authority.

Nasrullah Stanikzai, a law expert, said: “No one is authorized to forgive the Taliban prisoner. The Loya Jirga doesn’t have legal status. Its decisions don’t have a legal base. How can they resolve a legal issue? Political pressure has made the government release 4,500 Taliban prisoners. This Jirga, which is scheduled on Friday, is a symbolic and political move.”

In addition to this, the government has called for the Jirga – which will bring together scores of people – amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In April last year, a peace Jirga brought together more than 3,200 delegates.

The Ministry of Public Health does not, however, see this as an issue and feels participants should simply adhere to precautionary measures and health guidelines.

“Undoubtedly, we will consider all precautionary measures, and based on the health directives, it will not be a problem to hold a Loya Jirga,” said Mohammad Jawad Osmani, the Acting Health Minister.

Meanwhile, the Second Vice President, Sarwar Danesh, has told the US Deputy Ambassador to Kabul that holding the Jirga on the fate of the 400 controversial Taliban prisoners is a positive move toward intra-Afghan talks.

So far, the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, as per the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban, has been a stumbling block in the way of talks.

However, over 4,500 prisoners have already been released but 400 are still behind bars.

Some Afghan government officials and Western allies have in the past few weeks raised concerns over at least 200 of these prisoners. Many of them are said to have been the masterminds behind serious attacks over the past few years.

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