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US indicates Daesh might have been behind deadly school bombing

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(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)

The US State Department said Monday ISIS (Daesh) could possibly have been behind the deadly school bombing in Kabul that left over 80 people, mostly schoolgirls, dead.

In a press briefing, the department’s spokesman Ned Price said there are some indications that Daesh was behind the attack.

“We are still looking into what or who is responsible, but I would note that ISIS has been responsible for similar attacks on Shia communities in Kabul in the past,” he said.

“We note the Taliban has denied involvement in the attack, and we welcome their announcement of a three-day ceasefire over the upcoming Eid holiday.

“We call on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to engage seriously in the ongoing peace process to ensure the Afghan people enjoy a future free of terrorism and of senseless violence,” he said.

He went on to say that although the United States is withdrawing its troops, America is not disengaging from Afghanistan. He said Washington “will continue to use our diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian toolset to ensure that the gains of the past 20 years, particularly those made by women, girls, and minorities, are preserved.”

Price pointed out that in leaving Afghanistan, it was only “a military withdrawal”.

Quoting US President Joe Biden, Price said: “As the President has said, we will be withdrawing our military forces, except those required for the protection of our embassy in Kabul. And that’s the other important point: We are going to retain an embassy in Kabul precisely though – so that we can continue to partner and to provide support for not only the Government of Afghanistan, but the people of Afghanistan.

He stated that the circumstances of the bombing at the school on Saturday “are not yet crystal clear. As I said before, there are some indications that this may have been attributable to ISIS and not the Taliban.”

Price also stated that Washington has “long been concerned about the growth of ISIS in Afghanistan”.

“As you know, we have had a military presence in Afghanistan to see to it that the country could not be used as a staging ground to attack the United States, to propel force beyond – well beyond Afghanistan’s borders. We have been able to accomplish that goal.

“We continue to have important humanitarian goals when it comes to Afghanistan. We will continue to carry out and to move forward with those objectives, even as our military withdraws from the country,” he said.

Special Immigrant Visa Program

Price also noted that as the US withdraws, they will keep “adequate resources in the region and over-the-horizon capacity should threats emerge that require us to leverage the use of force.”

On the issue of visas for interpreters who have worked for the US military, Price said that serious attention was being given to the Special Immigrant Visa Program.

He said Washington has “added resources to help process the special immigrant visa applicants, knowing that as the United States, we have a special responsibility to those who have helped us along the way, who have helped the US military, who have helped the US government, oftentimes placing themselves in harm’s way.

“Our commitment to these people, to these individuals will continue, and we are doing all we can to process them as expeditiously as we can,” he said.

In answer to a question, Price added: “We have been acting with the utmost urgency knowing that, again, we have a special responsibility to the women and men who have, in many cases, placed themselves in harm’s way to assist the US government over the years.”

He said additional resources, including augmenting domestic staff in Washington to process applications, has already been put in place. In addition, the US has approved a temporary increase in consular staffing at the embassy in Kabul in order to conduct interviews and process visa applications,” Price said.

“And we’ll continue to do that contingent on the security situation in the country. We will continue to look for ways to speed up this process, to facilitate the processing of – for these brave individuals.”

Welcoming the three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban for the Eid holidays, Price said they “urge the Taliban to extend the ceasefire and order a significant reduction in violence.

“We all know that a return to violence would be senseless as well as tragic. We remind the Taliban that engaging in violence will not afford it legitimacy or durability. That has been our point all along. Engaging in serious negotiations to determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future that leads to a just and durable settlement will,” he said.

He said it was in no one’s interest for Afghanistan to once again devolve into civil war. “It’s not in the Taliban’s interests, it’s not in the Government of Afghanistan’s interests, it’s not in the interests of Afghanistan’s neighbors, and it’s certainly not in the interests of the people of Afghanistan.”

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Herat residents welcome much needed food parcels from Bayat Foundation

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

Following the donation of food supplies in southern Kandahar province last week, the Bayat Foundation, an Afghan Charity Organization, has also stepped in to help desperate families in western Herat Province.

The foundation distributed food packages, which included cooking oil, flour, and rice, to dozens of vulnerable families this week.

Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Chairman of the Bayat Foundation, said: “The Bayat Foundation has distributed aid in provinces. We already distributed to vulnerable people in Kandahar. Fortunately, we came here to Herat to distribute aid including flour, cooking oil, and rice to the most vulnerable and displaced people.”

“Inshallah, additional aid from us will be distributed to other zones and provinces as well,” he added.

Zarin Sultani, Head of Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) in Herat, which is working in coordination with the Bayat Foundation, stated: “A list (of other vulnerable families) will be prepared and will be handed over to a committee for assessment.”

“This list will be finalized and then the list will be shared with elders such as Haji Sahib Bayat and Haji Sahib Ismail; thereafter, aid will be provided to them (the families),” he said.

The recipients of the latest delivery expressed their gratitude for the food supplies and thanked the foundation.

Again, recipients appealed to other organizations to step forward with urgent humanitarian aid.

One Herat recipient said she was “very happy” to receive the food parcel as she was a widow with children.

“I am very happy for this aid. I have children and am widowed and there is no place to work,” she said.

Gul Ahmad, a recipient of Bayat Foundation’s aid was another grateful recipient. “We had nothing to cook for four or five days. I am going out [of the house for work] but cannot find any [job]. Now, I am very happy…for this aid that I received.”

The Bayat Foundation started helping needy families months ago and the organization plans to distribute aid to as many vulnerable people in other provinces as it can.

This comes amid a crushing economy that has put millions of Afghans at risk of starvation.

As winter looms, international organizations including the UN have warned of dire consequences unless Afghans get immediate help.

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Pentagon offers payment to families of victims of botched drone strike

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)

The Pentagon has offered unspecified condolence payments to the family of 10 civilians who were killed in a botched U.S. drone attack in Afghanistan in August in the final days before American troops withdrew from the country.

The U.S. Defense Department said it made a commitment that included offering ex-gratia condolence payments, in addition to working with the U.S. State Department in support of the family members who were interested in relocation to the United States.

The Pentagon had said the strike targeted an Islamic State (Daesh) suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to U.S.-led troops as they completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The intelligence failure raised hard questions about future risks, particularly whether the United States can keep track of threats from Afghanistan without a presence in the country.

The confirmation of civilian deaths provided further fuel to critics of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal, which generated the biggest foreign policy crisis yet for President Joe Biden’s administration.

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NASA probe will study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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(Last Updated On: October 16, 2021)
NASA launched a first-of-its kind mission on Saturday to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of primordial material that formed the solar system’s outer planets. Matthew Larotonda reports.
 
NASA launched a new space probe on Saturday (October 16) morning in a special 12-year mission designed to visit more asteroids than ever before.

It focuses on the Trojan asteroids, which are two large clumps of space rocks orbiting the sun. One floats ahead of Jupiter and the other behind it.

Scientists believe the rocks are leftovers from the formation of our solar system.

The probe is called “Lucy” and NASA hopes it will help us learn more about our solar system’s history.

The asteroids are also rich in carbon compounds, and may provide insights into organic materials and life on Earth.

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