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Three-match ODI series sees Afghanistan take on Ireland

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2021)

A big stand-off is building as the first of a three-match ODI series gets underway between Afghanistan and Ireland on Thursday.

These three matches form part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League.

Last time Afghanistan and Ireland met in an ODI was 21 May 2019 in Belfast, where the visitors won by 126 runs.

The Afghans were also the team to cut Ireland’s World Cup dreams short three years ago when they knocked them out in the qualifiers back in 2018. Afghanistan have not played an International match since March 2020.

An unofficial warm-up match was played between the two sides last weekend, providing a chance for the teams to size each other up. It could prove to be a useful exercise in deciphering the opposition ahead of the match.

Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland captain, said: “We’re fully confident that we play good cricket and that we can come away with 30 points, but we’re going to have to do it (play good cricket) for all three games – they come thick and fast, but that’s what everyone is here for: we’re here to get 30 points and if we don’t come away with that, we’ll be disappointed.”

The first ODI between the two teams gets underway Thursday at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

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Taliban frees 53 security force members held captive in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

The Taliban has released 53 members of the Afghan Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) that were being held captive by the group in southern Kandahar province.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the move in a tweet late Friday night.

A list of released hostages seen by Ariana News shows that this group of captives had been captured in Arghandab, Spin Boldak, Maroof, Arghistan, Panjwai, Shah Walikot, and Maiwand districts in recent months.

Heavy fighting has been ongoing in these districts in Kandahar since late last year and has displaced thousands of families.

The government has not yet however commented on the release of the security force members.

This comes just days after Afghan security forces freed over 30 prisoners from Taliban captivity in Herat province.

“Eleven army soldiers, seven policemen, three Afghan Air Force personnel, seven civilian workers of development projects, seven government employees, and a member of the public uprising force are released from prison,” the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

The MoD also shared pictures of the prisoners who were said to have been held in an improvised Taliban prison in the Adraskan district of Herat.

The release of prisoners, held by both parties to the conflict, has become a contentious issue in the past two months.

According to the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February last year, both the Afghan government and the Taliban had to free prisoners.

The Afghan government released the last batch of 5,500 Taliban prisoners six months ago in accordance with the agreement.

The Taliban at the time also released over 1,000 prisoners.

However, in ongoing peace talks in Doha, the Taliban has repeatedly called for a further 7,000 Taliban prisoners to be freed but government has refused to do so.

In an interview last month, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the Taliban had breached their commitments under the deal, pointing to an increase in violence and to intelligence showing they had not severed their ties to al-Qaeda.

He also said that Taliban prisoners freed by the Afghan government as part of the US-brokered deal had in fact resumed fighting instead of going back to their homes.

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Indian farmers block highway outside Delhi to mark 100th day of protest

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

Indian farmers began gathering on Saturday to block a six-lane highway outside New Delhi to mark the 100th day of protests against deregulation of agriculture markets.

According to Reuters, farmers headed in cars, trucks and tractors to the highway for a five-hour roadblock to oppose three farm laws enacted in September 2020 that they say hurt them by opening up the agriculture sector to private players.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s has called the laws much-needed reforms for the country’s vast and antiquated agriculture sector, and painted the protests as politically motivated, Reuters reported.

“The Modi government has turned this protest movement into an ego issue. They are unable to see the pain of the farmers,” said Amarjeet Singh, a 68-year-old farmer from Punjab state.

“They have left us no option but to protest.”

Tens of thousands of farmers from several north Indian states have been camped out on the outskirts of the capital in bitter cold since December demanding that the laws be repealed.

According to Reuters, their movement has gained international attention and support, including from celebrities such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and U.S. singer Rihanna, but several rounds of negotiations between farmer leaders and the government have failed.

Modi’s government has lashed out at supporters of the protests and stands accused by rights activists of using heavy-handed tactics to curb the protests.

Reuters reported that while the protests have been mostly peaceful, a brief spate of violence on Jan. 26 led to the death of a protestor, and the police have filed criminal charges against eight journalists over alleged misreporting on the events of the day.

“The Indian authorities’ response to protests has focused on discrediting peaceful protesters, harassing critics of the government, and prosecuting those reporting on the events,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement last month.

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UAE reports spike in COVID cases amid major testing drive

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(Last Updated On: March 6, 2021)

The UAE reported 2,959 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, with a further 14 deaths.

According to The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, the UAE government, in its daily coronavirus update, said 242,159 people had been tested in one day – marking one of the biggest days for screening to date.

Weekend figures for testing are typically high, as people prepare to travel or get a weekly or fortnightly test as mandated by their employer, The National reported.

Since the start of the pandemic, the UAE has recorded a total of 1,310 death; 408,236 Covid-19 cases and 391,205 recoveries.

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