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Taliban Confirms ‘Successful’ Exchange of Prisoners

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2019)

Taliban confirms prisoners exchange, calling it a step forward in “good-will and confidence-building measures” that can help the Afghan peace process.

In a statement, released late on Thursday, the insurgent group confirmed the releasing of Anas Haqqani, Mali Khan, and Hafiz Abdul Rashid.

Taliban has “successfully” released the two foreign university professors and ten Afghan soldiers, the statement added. The militant group thanks the government of Qatar for facilitating the process.

Earlier today, the U.S. officials confirmed that American Kevin King, 63, and Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, who were abducted by the Haqqani Network in Kabul in 2016, were freed.

On November 12, President Ashraf Ghani announced that Taliban’s top three commanders have been “conditionally released” in exchange for the two professors from American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

Later on, Ghani’s Spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the swap didn’t happen, because Taliban couldn’t deliver on their promises.

The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, said this week that the Taliban prisoner exchange process suspended following the attacks in Logar and Kabul provinces on November 12 and 13.

By Hesamuddin Hesam

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20 children die in Balkh amid surge in pneumonia cases

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2021)

More than 20 children in Balkh province died from pneumonia last month, which provincial health officials attribute to the extremely cold weather.

Officials noted a marked increase in pneumonia cases among children this winter, stating that 326 had been hospitalized in December.

“1,679 children were hospitalized in Qaws (December 2020) of which 326 patients suffered from pneumonia; that shows a 20 percent increase in cases,” said Nawroz Seberi, the head of the Children’s Department of the Balkh Public Health Directorate.

Late last month, Save the Children warned that more than 300,000 Afghan children face freezing winter conditions that could lead to illness, in the worst case death, without proper winter clothing and heating.

The organization’s country director in Afghanistan, Chris Nyamandi, said in a statement that while schools are closed until March in the coldest parts of the country, this is a serious blow because often the classroom is the only source of warmth for children during winter – where temperatures can plummet to below minus 27 degrees Celsius in parts of the country.

“The situation is bleak for children forced to live in camps in places like Balkh province. It is already very cold in this northern province with overnight temperatures as low as minus ten. But it will get much colder before March,” said Nyamandi last month.

“Here, and in camps in other parts of Afghanistan, plastic sheeting and the clothes they wear are often all that separates them from the freezing temperatures.

“For thousands of children the Afghan winter is a time of grim survival,” he added.

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Qatar condemns killing of two Supreme Court judges

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2021)

Qatar strongly condemned the killing of two female judges who were targeted while driving to court on Sunday in Kabul. 

In a statement issued by Qatar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Sunday night, Doha reiterated its “firm position of rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and reasons.”

Qatar has played a solid role in not only hosting the intra-Afghan negotiations but also helping to mediate where necessary. 

Qatari officials also passed their condolences on to the families of the victims and to the people of Afghanistan. 

The two Supreme Court judges were gunned down in an early morning ambush, which also saw their driver wounded. 

This was the latest attack in a string of targeted killings which have substantially raised the levels of fear among the people in the capital. 

These attacks are targeting government officials, civil society activists and journalists and have increased markedly since the start of peace talks in September. 

On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning attacks on civilians and said “terror, horror and crime” was not a solution to Afghanistan’s problem and urged the Taliban to accept “a permanent ceasefire”.

No group claims responsibility for the assassinations but some government officials have repeatedly blamed the Taliban. 

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Republic’s peace team fully prepped for next round of talks: Abdullah

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said Sunday that the Afghan Republic’s negotiating team will accelerate the peace talks in Doha.

Addressing a virtual meeting with the ambassadors of a number of foreign countries and representatives of international entities in Kabul, Abdullah stressed the importance of regional and international consensus around the ongoing peace talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

“I cannot stress more on the need for consensus in the region and also consensus-building, with our partners in the international community, party participation of your excellencies… today shows the keenness on the part of our partners,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah stated that the Afghan team arrived in Doha on time and is ready to negotiate with full authority on any issue related to the agenda.

“They left Kabul reassured of broad consensus about the pursuit of negotiations on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and presenting a unified voice together that is what they are doing,” Abdullah said.

He added that a comprehensive ceasefire and a reduction in violence are the priorities of the Afghan peace team.

“When it comes to us, of course, achieving an inclusive peaceful settlement is our goal and preserving that achievement of the past 20 years and the sacrifices which are the results of the sacrifices of our people and these are the guiding principles for our negotiating team,” Abdullah noted.

The peace talks resumed 12 days ago in Doha after the Republic’s team and the Taliban’s team took a three-week break.

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