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UN official warns al-Qaeda still ‘heavily embedded’ with Taliban 

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

A UN official has said despite the Taliban’s pledge in February to cut ties with al-Qaeda, the group is still “heavily embedded” within the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Speaking to the BBC, Edmund Fitton-Brown, co-ordinator of the UN’s Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, said there has been regular communication between the two groups despite the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February. 

“The Taliban were talking regularly and at a high level with al-Qaeda and reassuring them that they would honor their historic ties,” Fitton-Brown said.

According to him, the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban was “not substantively” changed by the deal struck with the US. 

“Al-Qaeda are heavily embedded with the Taliban and they do a good deal of military action and training action with the Taliban, and that has not changed,” he said.

BBC reported that although al-Qaeda’s strength and ability to strike the West has significantly diminished over the past decade, its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is believed to still be based in Afghanistan along with a number of other senior figures in the group. 

But, Fitton-Brown said despite its lower profile, al-Qaeda remained “resilient” and “dangerous”.

Fitton-Brown also told the BBC that he had noted recent reports about the Taliban requiring some Pakistani foreign fighters in Afghanistan to register with them and abide by a code of conduct forbidding attacks outside Afghanistan. 

He said it was not yet clear whether that agreement applied to al-Qaeda, nor whether it was an “irrevocable” move toward preventing foreign militants posing a threat internationally from Afghanistan.

BBC stated US officials have been vague when questioned as to whether or not they believe the Taliban is fully complying with its commitments on al-Qaeda, and instead have often suggested the information is classified. 

Ambassador Nathan Sales, co-ordinator for counterterrorism at the US state department, told the BBC: “We expect the Taliban to honor the commitments that they made… to end all connections with terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. We intend to continue monitoring the situation very closely to ensure actions are matching words.”

Speaking to the BBC, Rahmatullah Andar, a former Taliban commander and now spokesman for the Afghan government’s National Security Council warned of the threat of a resurgence from al-Qaeda and other global militant groups. “The Americans might think the agreement they have signed with the Taliban will sort everything out,” he said. “But time will prove that’s not the case.”

Fitton-Brown also warned that were the peace process, currently underway in Doha, fall apart, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (Daesh) could attempt to further exploit “ungoverned space” in Afghanistan.

“Both of those groups have an avowed aspiration to pose an international threat,” he said.

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Kazakhs told to leave streets to avoid ‘anti-terrorist actions’

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2022)

A statement broadcast on Kazakh TV on Friday told Almaty residents to stay inside during the security operation in the city.

Video obtained by Reuters showed the broadcast statement, which said: “Respectable Inhabitants of Almaty! A counter-terrorist operation to destroy bandit groups is going on in Almaty. The main goal is to stop terrorists and safeguard the security of the city. If anti-terrorist activity takes place where you live, it is recommended you do not go near by windows or get out in the street. Hide in a safe place, do not leave children or the elderly without supervision.”

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city, has seen days of violence, with demonstrations that began as a response to a fuel price hike swelling into a broad movement against the government and ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state.

Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city on Friday after days of violence, and the Russian-backed president said he had ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put down a countrywide uprising.

A day after Moscow sent paratroopers to help crush the insurrection, police were patrolling the debris-strewn streets of Almaty, although some gunfire could still be heard, Reuters reported.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said foreign-trained terrorists were responsible for the unrest, and the interior ministry said 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated”, while 18 police and members of the national guard had been killed, figures that appeared not to have been updated since Thursday. State television reported more than 3,700 arrests.

 

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Japan pledges $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighbors to ‘address crisis’

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(Last Updated On: December 21, 2021)

The Japanese government has pledged to donate a total of approximately $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries “to address the humanitarian crisis” in the country.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

“The Government of Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in areas such as healthcare, food, and nutrition, protection, water, and sanitation, as well as livelihood improvement to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries,” the statement read.

According to the statement the assistance would be provided through 16 international organizations to improve the humanitarian crisis.

“The Government of Japan will continue to provide support and stand with the people of Afghanistan, and play an active role to realize stability in the region,” the statement added.

According to the statement, $100 million will be allocated for Afghanistan; $4.01 million to Iran; $3.72 million to Pakistan; $0.99 million to Tajikistan; and $0.43 million to Uzbekistan.

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Unvaccinated COVID patients flood French ICUs as cases surge

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(Last Updated On: December 18, 2021)

Pressure on French hospitals has been steadily mounting over the past few weeks as France battles a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, which has been filling up ICUs with unvaccinated patients.

Of the 20 COVID patients of the Mulhouse hospital ICU, only three are vaccinated while the youngest is aged 19 years old, head of the Emile Muller hospital ICU, doctor Khaldoun Kuteifan, told Reuters on Thursday.

“The Mulhouse hospital ICU is currently at full capacity as patients have been coming in for the past 20 days. Seventy percent of the ICU patients are positive COVID cases.”

France had recorded 60,866 new cases over the past 24 hours on Thursday night, while 78.1% of French people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to the French Health Ministry website.

“The waves keep coming and hitting us, and the more it goes on, the more tired we get,” nurse Aurelie Multhaupt told Reuters.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government expects to see around 4,000 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 by the Christmas holidays, Reuters reported.

Attal said new decisions on the reinforcement of border rules, the acceleration of the vaccination campaign and travel recommendations for the holidays could be announced in the coming days.

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