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Senior Afghan leaders to travel to Doha for talks with Taliban

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(Last Updated On: July 14, 2021)

Senior Afghan leaders will fly to Doha for talks with the Taliban this week, as the insurgent group takes a hard stance on negotiations, even warning Turkey against plans to keep some troops in Afghanistan to run and guard Kabul’s main airport.

The eight-member delegation will include senior Afghan peace official Abdullah Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai, and is expected to discuss the speeding up of peace talks, a government official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the talks, which are separate from the stalled intra-Afghan negotiations taking place between Taliban and Afghan government negotiators in the Qatari capital of Doha.

The news of the delegation’s visit came hours after the Taliban warned of “consequences” of plans to keep some Turkish troops in Afghanistan to run and guard Kabul airport after foreign forces pull out.

It was not immediately clear if the Kabul airport matter would be discussed between the Taliban and the senior Afghan delegation, expected to fly to Doha on Friday.

AIRPORT PLAN

Ankara, which has offered to run and guard the airport in the capital after NATO withdraws, has been in talks with the United States on financial, political and logistical support.

Turkey has repeated that the airport must stay open to preserve diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, where a blast rocked Kabul on Tuesday and clashes have intensified across the country.

“If Turkish officials fail to reconsider their decision and continue the occupation of our country, the Islamic Emirate… will take a stand against them,” the Taliban said in a statement, referring to Turkey’s plan.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, have been fighting for 20 years to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Emboldened by the departure of foreign forces by a September target, they are making a fresh push to surround cities and gain territory.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday evening that Turkey agreed to some points with U.S. counterparts on running the airport and work towards a deal continues.

“The airport needs to remain open, be operated. All countries say this. If the airport does not operate, the countries will have to withdraw their diplomatic missions there,” he said.

Talks now involving ministries should be complete by the time U.S. forces leave, a senior Turkish official told Reuters. “We still think there will be an agreement on the airport. We want to side with the Afghan people,” the official said.

EMBASSY URGES FRENCH TO LEAVE

The deteriorating situation across Afghanistan led France’s Embassy in Kabul to call on French citizens to leave Afghanistan on a free flight scheduled for Saturday.

“The French Embassy informs its compatriots who would remain in Afghanistan after July 17 that it will no longer be able to ensure the safety of their departure,” a statement on the embassy’s website said on Tuesday.

The senior Afghan delegation is expected to talk to the Taliban about a ceasefire as violence rises across Afghanistan.

Police said a blast rocked a busy area of Kabul on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding five. It was not clear who was behind the explosion or the target.

Clashes were continuing in the southern province of Kandahar, said Attaullah Atta, a provincial council member, with the Taliban being pushed back after a bid to break into a city prison.

Hundreds of families had fled the violence, he added.

Mohammad Daoud Farhad, director of Kandahar’s provincial hospital, said it had received eight dead and more than 30 people, mostly civilians, wounded in clashes in the past 24 hours.

Early on Tuesday, Afghan security forces had retreated from the district of Alingar in the eastern province of Laghman, a local government official said on condition of anonymity.

A ceasefire pact with the Taliban in the district fell through in May.

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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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