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Daesh Poses Serious Threat to Afghanistan: Atmar

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:18

National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar acknowledged in Tuesday's Senate meeting that Daesh posed a serious threat to Afghanistan's national interests.

Briefing the senators on the security situation in Tuesday's session, Atmar assured that the government had formulated a new strategy to curb Daesh militants – an extremist group that has seized large swathes in Iraq and Syria.

"Government of Afghanistan believes that Daesh is a serious threat to our national interests just like al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups," Atmar reiterated.

"Three months ago, Daesh officially announced its stance on Afghanistan and the region in which it didn't consider Afghanistan's sovereignty," Atmar said. "Daesh expects to unify the whole region into one province under the name of Khurasan Caliphate. Therefore, they have given this responsibility to infamous terrorist Hafiz Saeed of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP]."

Referring to the presence of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants in northern Afghanistan, Atmar stated that many particular groups were trying to reach their destinations through the Afghan territory.

He told the meeting that ETIM militants tried to enter into China through northern parts of Afghanistan.

"Ansarullah group wants to enter Tajikistan. Uzbekistan Islamic Movement [IMU] wants to enter Uzbekistan and then Russia. And Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is trying to enter Kashmir through the northeastern areas of Afghanistan," Atmar said.

He maintained that Afghanistan was facing serious threats from foreign militant groups – from al-Qaeda and Daesh to Tehreek Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, IMU, Ansarullah of Tajikistan and ETIM.

According to Atmar, the insurgent hideouts located in Pakistan were posing a serious threat to Afghanistan's peace and stability.

"We asked Pakistan to help us in the peace process, but our main demand was to eliminate insurgent hideouts located across the Afghan border. And we will not show any flexibility toward Pakistan in this respect," Atmar declared.

Referring to remarks by a number of senators that Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Kabul and Washington didn't work in favor of Afghanistan, Atmar emphasized that Afghanistan was satisfied with the security accord – signed last year, a day after President Ashraf Ghani was inaugurated.

He noted that U.S. and its allies were committed to providing an annual aid of $4 billion USD to Afghan forces.

"US assists Afghan forces with $12 million dollars on daily basis which is a huge amount," Atmar noted.

Referring to recent claims by the governor of eastern Paktika, Atmar cleared that the National Security Council (NSC) had paid no money to Daesh families in the province.

The session was concluded with a statement by chairman of Senate that Atmar managed to satisfy the senators with his answers.

Judge Promises Justice for Farkhunda Ahead of Verdict

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:15

The Chief of Kabul's Primary Court, Saifullah Mujadidi, said on Monday that a court delegation is conducting its final investigation into Farkhunda's murder and assured that justice would soon be served, with the verdict expected on Wednesday.

While the prosecutor in the case has demanded the death sentence for 30 of those who stand accused, Judge Mujadidi has said that, if found guilty of their various charges, the suspects could face a wide range of punishments, from one year in prison to life, or even death by hanging.

"We urge people to have trust in the court," Mujadidi said. "We will maintain justice."

The murder of Farkhunda became a national controversy in light of its sheer brutality and the fact that the mob attack took place in the heart of Kabul, considered Afghanistan's most progressive city, and right in front of a number of police officers. The incident has raised questions about persistent problems related to violence against women and religious extremism in Afghanistan.

Farkhunda's family, along with civil society activists, have called for justice against the perpetrators of the murder, but also urged court officials to not let top police officials off the hook for their negligence either.

"My request for the government and judiciary is justice; all the video tape from the incident is available," Farkhunda's father Mohammad Nadir Malikzada told TOLOnews on Tuesday.

Farkhunda's mother suggested that there would be no doubt about justice being served if her daughter had been the daughter of an influential official. She even said the murder may not have happened in the first place. "If my daughter was the daughter of a minister or an MP, twenty police would have died to rescue her, but we do not have anyone except Allah," she said.

But, at this stage, it is difficult to set any expectations for the trial's result. Judge Mujadidi has made it clear that a range of sentences is likely to emerge on Wednesday when the outcome is released. "Regarding the civilians, the verdict will be issued in three categories - short, middle and long terms of imprisonment - and then the toughest punishment, which is execution, and also in the absence of a crime, innocence will be established," he said.

Shahla Farid, a member of the fact-finding team assigned to Farkhunda's case, expressed concerns about what would come on Wednesday. "I am concerned about the three days of hearing. I fear neither Farkhunda will get justice nor the suspects," Farid said. "But, still, I am optimistic because still more trial sessions remain where justice will be considered."

Although Wednesday will be the first verdict issued in the Farkhunda trial, more are expected as others who stand accused face prosecution. Many commentators have said the case has provided a crucial litmus test for the judiciary, which has largely lost the trust of the public over the years amid corruption scandals and controversy over the treatment of women.

Some civil society groups have called for higher ranking police officials to be held accountable for Farkhunda's murder in addition to the low-level ones who are currently on trial.

TOLOnews 6pm News 05 May 2015

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:07

Top news in this Bulletin:

After two days of preliminary talks between an Afghan delegation and representatives of the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha, reports from sources close to the meetings have indicated there is reason for hope, pointing to early signs of flexibility on the part of the insurgent group. No Afghan government officials participated in the preliminary meetings. Instead, representatives from an organization called Pugwash, which is dedicated to peace building in Afghanistan, reported back from Doha.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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Officials have mishandled security threats in northern Badakhshan province and allowed a small problem devolve into an all out regional struggle, MP Fawzia Kofi told fellow lawmakers in the Lower House on Tuesday.

Early Qatar Talks Nourish Hope, But Raise Questions About Government's Strategy

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 17:02

After two days of preliminary talks between an Afghan delegation and representatives of the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha, reports from sources close to the meetings have indicated there is reason for hope, pointing to early signs of flexibility on the part of the insurgent group.

No Afghan government officials participated in the preliminary meetings. Instead, representatives from an organization called Pugwash, which is dedicated to peace building in Afghanistan, reported back from Doha.

"During the first meeting, it was emphasized that if we want peace, reaching it without the involvement of the government would not be possible, because it is the government that rules the country right now and the war is going on between the government and the Taliban," Pugwash delegation member Assadullah Saadati said on Tuesday. "Secondly, some groups outside of the Taliban and the government should also be present so they can explain the stance of the people, and these groups basically include civil society and political parties; the third party is of course the Taliban and the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar," he added.

According to the Pugwash delegation, the Taliban representatives in Doha made the following conditional demands in the early-stage talks:

1) That the peace process be led only by those who strongly believe in the spirit of the peace
2) That foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan
3) That the Taliban not be referred to as "militants"
4) That the Taliban be removed from the blacklist
5) That direct talks happen independent of Afghanistan's neighboring countries
6) That a special office be established for the Taliban and for peace talks to continue
7) That the Afghan Constitution be amended

"If we appraise the outcomes of the meetings generally, there are positive aspects in the talks and there are visible changes in thoughts," Saadati told TOLOnews. "Hope has developed, and if such meetings continue, undoubtedly, we will reach an outcome."

Nevertheless, some conflict has arisen around the national unity government's plan for the talks. Questions have been raised over just how much authority the non-governmental delegation meeting with the Taliban has been given. While P Ashraf Ghani has consistently said that no move for peace would be hidden from the Afghan people, a number of MPs have said that acceptance of the Taliban's demand that a political office be established for them indicates that the delegation was given executive authority to grant certain requests.

"Considering the importance of the peace talks, we are still in a state of uncertainty," MP Abdul Qayoum Sajjadi said. "Because the government doesn't have a clear program for peace, such moves pose a harm to both the people of Afghanistan and the government, despite their yielding a positive outcome," he added.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Ajmal Obaid Abidi has assured TOLOnews that no aspect of the peace talks has been hidden from the Afghan public. "The national unity government is abiding by its commitments to the people, and, so far, talks have not been conducted with the Taliban," Abidi said. "The government is committed to transparency in the peace talks and people will be informed about them. The peace process will move forward in line with the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan."

Ghani's National Security Advisor, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, was more blunt in his comments, asserting that the results of the current Qatar talks are not at all reflective of the official strategy or negotiating approach of the Afghan government. He assured that the government is not necessarily obliged to implement any of the commitments made by the delegation meeting with the Taliban leaders.

"The meetings that are being held in Qatar do not represent the official stance of the government of Afghanistan and the government doesn't have an envoy in the meetings and doesn't oblige itself to implement the decisions made in the talks," Atmar said on Tuesday.

And yet there remains a great deal of hope around the most recent round of talks. Former president Hamid Karzai has even weighed in on the negotiations, tying his own legacy of peace overtures to them. "Talks with the Afghan Taliban were my first priority during thirteen years in office, so that they can join us to rebuild our country," Karzai recent said in an interview with CNN. "Improving relations with Pakistan is one of the demands of the Afghans, but these ties can only be established at a time when extremism isn't exploited as Pakistan's proxy in our country; I hope that Islamabad will soon do this."

According to participants in the talks, in addition to the conditional demands made by the Taliban, representatives of Hizb-e-Islami called for the establishment tot an interim government.

However, Taliban delegation members reportedly did not endorse that demand themselves.

MPs Warn of Deteriorating Conditions in North, Look to Ascribe Blame

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 16:52

Officials have mishandled security threats in northern Badakhshan province and allowed a small problem devolve into an all out regional struggle, MP Fawzia Kofi told fellow lawmakers in the Lower House on Tuesday.

Kofi's remarks came just days after the Ministry of Interior (MoI) demanded representatives in Parliament not politicize security issues or at all interject themselves into the work of the Afghan National Police (ANP).

But what is undeniable is that security conditions in Badakhshan have rapidly deteriorated in recent months. Last Sunday, Taliban insurgents ambushed several ANP check points in Warduj district, leaving 17 police officers dead and 18 missing. Although 10 of the missing officers were reportedly later found, fate of the other eight remains uncertain.

The coordinated attacks by militants on ANP and Afghan National Army (ANA) check points in Warduj and Jurm districts in recent weeks have been just one indicator of the worsening security situation in Badakhshan, but also northern Afghanistan more broadly. Local officials have also reported an influx of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in militant activities.

According to MP Kofi, some government officials are to blame for the insecurity, after they allowed threats to intensify in order to strengthen their influence and pursue political ambitions. Now, however, they have lost control of the war, she said.

"In the beginning, disagreements could have been one of the factors causing the war in Badakhshan, but now, the war has escalated more and it has gone beyond the control of those using it as a project," Kofi said.

Local officials and other lawmakers in Parliament have echoed Kofi's warnings that conditions in provinces like Badakhshan, Faryab and Kunduz have deteriorated so much that insurgents are using the area as a safe haven.

Nevertheless, some have suggested local lawmakers are to blame. One ANA officer named Mahboobullah, who serves in southern Helmand province, recently told TOLOnews about how one of his former classmates from Badakhshan became disaffected with the government because of treatment by an MP, ultimately leading him to recruit thousands to fight against the government.

According to Mahboobullah, Maulavi Fazlurrahman, who was recently killed during an ANA operation in Jurm district, became and Taliban commander after being rejected from joining the Afghans security forces. He is said to have been responsible for beheading ten ANA officers.

"We studied together in Madrasa in Badakhshan and then in Pakistan," Mahboobullah told TOLOnews. "Maulavi Fazlurrahman wanted to serve the people and serve as a soldier of this country, but a lawmaker from Badakhshan told the officials not to accept him as an officer or as a soldier. Fazlurrahman warned that he would become an insurgent, but the officials told him he couldn't do anything, and then when he returned to Warduj and some other districts of Badakhshan, he recuruited more than 2,000 people, and now you can see the situation."

Officials from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) have denied that there is any evidence linking MPs to the recent spate of insecurity in northern Afghanistan, but did call on lawmakers to show more support for the Afghan security forces.

"We always maintained the expectation that honorable MPs would be cooperative with us and we need their support in areas where the police need their support to combat the challenges," MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. "But we want the illogical interventions that can undermine the work of the police to be stopped; today, we only need positive cooperation from the honorable MPs, within the framework of the law."

Various theories have circulated about how the northern provinces, which have traditionally been bastions of stability and security, became so embattled and overrun by insurgents. Most have in one way or another pointed back to Pakistan, where some commentators have said insurgents have been able to establish camps in the border region between Chatral and Afghanistan's Badakhshan and Nuristan provinces. Officials have highlighted the recent insecurity has evidence that Islamabad is not honestly committed to the ongoing Taliban peace process.

At the moment, instability in the north has promoted fears among many in the capital that this year, the first since the NATO combat mission ended, could see large parts of provinces fall out of government control. "Successful operations must be launched in northern provinces, particularly in Kunduz. Our findings from the area reveal that internal opponents have started coordinated attacks against the Afghan security forces," Senate Secretary Abdullah Qarloq said on Tuesday. "Therefore, the government must combat them correctly with a more effective strategy."

According to the Interior Minister, much progress has been made in the north and the militants have proven themselves incapable of facing off against the security forces in direct battle. Over the past few days, officials reported the deaths of several Taliban commanders in Warduj district, including Maulavi Hassan, Qari Payenda and Qari Homayoun.

Badakhshan province is unique in that it borders both Pakistan and China, and thus holds special geopolitical importance. Earlier in the year, officials in Beijing indicated their intent to develop a modern Silk Road through Badakhshan province to open up trade between Afghanistan and China. However, with the recent insecurity, some analysts have suggested Pakistan seeks to disrupt those plans and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a bigger economic player in the region.

UAE Gives Afghan Investors Two Weeks To Leave

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 16:22

United Arab Emirate (UAE) has set a two-week deadline for 600 Afghan businessmen to leave the country and close their businesses.

However at this stage, the reasons for this bold decision are still unclear.

In addition, UAE has reportedly canceled visas and work permits of these 600 Afghan investors – some of whom have been running businesses there for years.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) officials confirmed this on Tuesday and said that a large number of Afghan investors had been asked by the UAE government to move their investments out of the country.

The government has assigned a team to visit the gulf country and discuss the matter with their officials, MoFA officials told TOLOnews.

"The government is aware of the matter," MoFA spokesman Shekib Mostaghni said. "A high-level delegation is expected to visit the country soon and resolve the issue."

But Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) officials blame the issue on what they call government's lack of support to Afghan investors.

They urged the Afghan government to not allow any country to force out Afghan businessmen.

"The government needs to strictly follow the issue because no one has the right to expel someone without any reason," head of ACCI's international relations committee, Azrakhsh Hafizi said.

It is said that about 11,000 Afghans have set up businesses in UAE – estimated to total nearly $20 billion USD.

TOLOnews' April Roundup Notes Sharp Spike In Civilian Casualties

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 15:26

TOLOnews' April security report shows a 169 percent increase against last month in civilian casualties that were largely due to suicide bombings.

Last month, insurgents carried out 10 suicide bombings in Afghanistan, said the report - which has been compiled monthly since the withdrawal of foreign troops and the handover of security duties to the Afghan forces at the end of last year.

The survey found that a total of 254 civilians lost their lives due to suicide bombings, armed attacks, roadside mines and other insurgent-related incidents.

However, insurgents suffered the highest casualty toll during the month. In the month of April, 2,493 insurgents were killed by security forces, the report stated.

In addition, the number of insurgent activities increased by 154 percent against March.

Northwestern Faryab noted 65 insecurity incidents in April – proving to be the most insecure of provinces, followed by northern Kunduz – where more than 200 insurgents were killed over the past two weeks.

Helmand, Herat and Nangarhar were the three other most insecure provinces, while central Bamyan and Daikundi were the most safe provinces recording only a couple of incidents.

According to the report, over 900 insecurity incidents occurred throughout the country, showing an overall increase of 28 percent in insecurity occurrences against March.

The security forces launched 422 anti-insurgent operations throughout the country which resulted in the deaths of almost 2,500 insurgents.

Furthermore, the report stated that 247 security forces members were killed during the month – about a 32 percent increase as compared to March.

In addition to 72 incidents of roadside bombings and explosions, about 47 violence and kidnapping-related incidents occurred during the month.

Abduction incidents also continued to occur in different parts of the country. The report said 105 people were abducted during the month.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman Sediq Sediqqi admitted to an increase in insecurity incidents.

"They [insurgents] come out of their hideouts in this season and carry out attacks," Sediqqi said. "But the insurgents have always been defeated."

The report also stated that in addition to the attacks, over 300 families of foreign militants – fleeing Pakistan's anti-insurgent operations in Waziristan – are believed to have taken refuge in southern Zabul province.

Furthermore, the report quoted some local officials saying that nearly 5,000 foreign militants have moved from eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces to northern provinces.

The northern provinces, especially Kunduz have been extremely unsafe over the past few weeks after the insurgents began their spring offensive in Imam Sahib and other remote districts of Kunduz.

Initially, many feared the province would fall into Taliban hands. But the situation was largely brought under control after security forces launched a massive operation about two weeks ago to flush out insurgents.

Marked Increase Of Foreigners in Faryab: Local Officials

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 13:17

The head of Faryab provincial council Abdul Baqi Hashimi on Tuesday said there has been a marked increase in the number of foreigners in the region – people he said who do not speak an Afghan language.

A number of Faryab MPs agree and say they are concerned the foreigners intend joining insurgent groups in the area.

The head of the Faryab provincial council Abdul Baqi Hashimi said: "In recent weeks movements of foreign nationals who apparently can't talk in national languages have increased inside the metropolitan and districts of Faryab province and they are coordinating with the Taliban fighters in the area."

He warned that security will deteriorate in Faryab if the government does not address the issue.

"If central government does not undertake to make the necessary arrangements to prevent these individuals from entering the country, Faryab could change into one of the most insecure provinces of the country," he said.

In addition, the acting governor of Faryab Abdul Sattar Barez has said that so far more than a hundred foreign nationals have been arrested and deported.

"We have arrested more than a hundred suspicious men, but released them after conducting an investigation and the men left Faryab province happily," Barez said.

Referring to the movements of foreign nationals in some regions across the country, President Ashraf Ghani's national security advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar has said that the security forces are closely monitoring the movements of foreign nationals in northern parts of Afghanistan.

"With regard to foreign nationals who can't talk in local languages I must say that the security institutions have completed their investigations and their findings will be shared with the people of Afghanistan very soon," Atmar said.

This comes at a time when the northern provinces used to be the safest in terms of security, but over the past year, security issues have increased and people are quite distressed about the deteriorating security environment in the northern regions of the country.

One Dead, Three Injured in Kandahar Shooting and Explosion

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 12:32

At least one person has died and three injured after unknown gunmen placed an explosive device in a shop Tuesday in Kandahar city.

According to Samim Khpalwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, an unknown number of gunmen entered the shop and opened fire, killing the shopkeeper. They then placed an explosive device at the scene and fled.

When police arrived to investigate the device was detonated – injuring two police officers and a civilian, said Khpalwak.

He said police are investigating the matter but no arrests have yet been made.

No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the incident.

Afghan Football Team to Host World Cup Qualifier Matches in Iran

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 12:09

The Afghan National Football Team announced Tuesday it will host its 2018 World Cup qualifier matches in Iran.

Afghanistan is set to host Japan at the Azadi stadium in Tehran and will host Syria, Cambodia and Singapore at the Samen Al-Aeme Stadium in Mashhad. Afghanistan is in Group E.

Afghanistan is unable to host teams on home ground due to security issues and instead selected to host its matches in Iran – rather than the other three possible host countries, India, Tajikistan or the UAE, said Secretary General of the Afghan Football Federation (AFF), Sayed Ali Reza Aqazada.

"We selected Iran due to the similar climate as Afghanistan and also because of our friendly relations with Iran. Also we will have a strong support base with all the Afghans that live there," he said.

This development comes after more than 85,000 Afghans attended the in U-23 football matches against Iran recently.

The officials said that an agreement has been signed by AFF and Iran's Football Federation in which Afghanistan will host its matches at the Azadi and Samen Al-Aeme Stadiums – both have the capacity to hold 100,000 people.

"We have an agreement with the Embassy and Football Federation of Iran to help with facilities for Afghans who want to go to Iran and for Afghans living in Iran who want to attend matches in support of their team. We have reached a positive result. Iran and Afghanistan's football federation is united in its bid to improve football," Aqazada said.

This is first time that Afghanistan will participate in a World Cup qualifier. The actual event will take place in 2018 in Russia.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan will face Syria in its first match on June 11.

In addition, 40 teams for the second round of the Asian World Cup qualifiers have been divided into eight groups with five teams per group.

The eight group winners and the four best second-placed teams will advance to Asia's final FIFA World Cup qualifying round. These teams will also qualify directly for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.

According to the AFC Afghanistan's entry into this qualifier is the first time the home team has had a chance to participate in either the World Cup or AFC Cup qualifiers.

FARAKHABAR: MPs Summon Key Security Officials

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 10:57

The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) on Monday summoned the National Security Advisor, the acting Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and National Directorate of Security Director to discuss growing insecurity in northern Afghanistan.

To watch the program, click here:

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The closed door meeting lasted almost five hours. Following the session, the First Deputy Speaker told media that the security officials suggested Pakistan was behind the recent uptick in militant activity.

"We want the security officials to clarify what are the main aspects of the growing security threats," house speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said on Monday. "God is aware that the security threats are unprecedented."

A few minutes after the security officials entered the chamber, the Speaker said media representatives would be shut out. Lawmakers shared their responses to the session after it was over.

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Fawad Aman discusses the topic with the following guest,

• Abdul Wali Neyazee, MP from Badakhshan
• Dawlat Waziri, Deputy Spokesman for the Ministry of Defence

Kankash: MPs Summon Top Security Official Over Increasing Insecurity

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 10:34

On Monday, the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) summoned security officials including President Ashraf Ghani's National Security Advisor, Acting Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Chairman of National Directorate of Security (NDS) over the recent spate of security threats.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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The Wolesi Jirga's session continued for almost five hours behind closed doors. Later on deputy of house speaker - quoting the security officials -revealed that so far Pakistan hasn't been sincere in promoting the peace process in Afghanistan.

In this episode of Kankash, host Haris Jalamzada discusses the topic with the following guests,

• Farida Hamidi, MP
• Helai Ershad, MP
• Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, military analyst
• Basher Ahmad Tayyanj, MP

27 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Nationwide ANSF Operations

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 08:46

At least 27 insurgents have been killed in a series of coordinated operations over the past 24 hours by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said in a statement on Tuesday.

In addition, 35 insurgents were injured.

The operations were conducted in Kandahar, Uruzgan, Nangarhar, Helmand, Badghis, Farah, Paktiya and Zabul provinces, the statement said.

"During the same 24 hour period, Afghan National Police discovered and defused four different types of IEDs placed by enemies of Afghanistan for destructive activities in Arghistan district of southern Kandahar province," it said.

The MoI, however, did not comment on whether any security force members were injured during the operations.

Saudi Considers Pause in Yemen Bombing to Deliver Aid

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 08:12

Saudi Arabia is considering temporary halts in coalition air strikes against rebels in Yemen to allow for aid deliveries, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Monday.

The announcement came as clashes raged in southern Yemen between rebels and fighters allied with exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, killing at least 30 people.

The kingdom will consult members of the coalition on "finding specific areas inside Yemen... where all air operations will be paused at specific times to allow for the delivery of aid," Jubeir said in a statement.

The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab countries launched air strikes in Yemen in late March against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies after they seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa.

Hadi fled Yemen as the rebels advanced on his southern refuge of Aden, and anti-government forces have refused to concede territory or down arms despite international pressure.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that impoverished Yemen faces a major humanitarian crisis and calls have been growing for efforts to increase aid deliveries.

Jubeir said Saudi Arabia "plans to establish a centre on its territory to be in charge of coordinating all humanitarian aid efforts" with the UN, donors and other relevant agencies.

He warned the rebels against "taking advantage" of any pause in the bombing.

Saudi Arabia "will deal with any violations in connection with the suspension of air strikes or movements that hinder humanitarian efforts," he said.

The United Nations has called for a humanitarian pause in the conflict, as relief agencies say they desperately need supplies, including fuel to run infrastructure such as hospitals.

It warned that key infrastructure in the war-torn country, including water supplies, health services and telecommunications, are on the verge of breaking down due to a major fuel shortage.

UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klaauw said on Saturday that an arms embargo was affecting delivery of supplies, urging a humanitarian pause "at least for a couple of days".

- Clashes rage -

Russia proposed last week a draft statement at the UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire or at least humanitarian pauses, and an urgent return to political negotiations, but it failed to win endorsement.

Russia's diplomacy has been greeted with some suspicion given the country's close ties to Iran, which is supporting the Huthis.

A US diplomat said Washington supports humanitarian pauses and was urging Saudi Arabia to take measures to ensure aid deliveries reach civilians trapped in the fighting.

At least 1,200 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March 19 and thousands more have been wounded, according to the UN. It estimates that at least 300,000 people have been displaced by the conflict.

On Monday, clashes between Huthis and southern fighters intensified in the city of Loder, the second larges city of the province of Abyan, witnesses said.

Five civilians and six southern fighters were killed in the fighting and intensive shelling, while dozens others were wounded, according to medics at Mahnaf hospital.

Sources among the southern fighters said that coalition airplanes dropped Monday military supplies to the local militia, including machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

In Lahj provincial capital Huta, heavy clashes left 19 people dead, including a three-year-old girl, as well as 13 rebels, according to a local official.

17 Taliban Insurgents Killed in US Drone Attack in Nangarhar

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 06:49

At least 17 Taliban insurgents, including their commander, were killed in a U.S drone attack in eastern Nangarhar province late Monday, local officials said.

The strike took place in Mohmand Dara district of the province where a group of insurgents had gathered, head of the Media Office of the Police in Nangarhar, Hazrat Hussian Mashriqiwal said.

"A Taliban commander named Mullah Daoud is among the dead," he said.

This comes a day after another U.S drone attack targeted two Taliban vehicles – 12 Taliban insurgents were killed.

The Taliban has not yet commented on the attacks.

Mohmand Dara is considered an insecure area – where insurgents frequently target security forces.

TAWDE KHABARE: Ghani's Popularity Dips Over Past Few Months: Survey

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 05:53

A joint survey by the Afghan firm ATR Consulting and TOLOnews has found that President Ashraf Ghani has dipped in popularity in the past three months, with 43.5 percent of those surveyed stating they are "not satisfied at all" with his performance.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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This comes after a similar survey in January found only 32 percent of people surveyed were not satisfied.

A total of 2,669 people from 34 provinces participated in the survey - which took place between 22nd and 29th April 2015.

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Hayatullah Hayat, Head of the Coordination of Civil Society Organizations
• Ajmal Hodman, Head of Afghan Lawyers Network
• Sediqullah Patman, political analyst
• Tofan Waziri, political analyst

Some Progress Is Reported in Informal Afghan-Taliban Talks

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 05:00
While not binding, agreements on matters such as the Constitution and the presence of foreign troops raised hopes about the long deadlocked process.

TOLOnews' Special Edition on the 28th Anniversary of Ustad Khalilullah Khalil‎'s Death

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 04:18

TOLOnews Special edition on occasion of 28th anniversary of the death of prominent poet, writer and politician Ustad Khalilullah Khalil.

Click here to watch the whole program:

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Khalil was one of the major and great poets of Afghanistan who played great roles in politics through his poems and writings.

In this program host Fawad Aman discusses his legacy with his son Massoud Khalili.

 

Doha Talks Could Pave Way For Peace Negotiations

TOLO News - Tue, 05/05/2015 - 03:31

The recent talks behind closed doors in Doha between High Peace Council representatives and the Taliban could spell the start of peace tallks as the "environment of the meeting was that eveyone wanted to move towards peace", said Ismael Qasimyar, the global affairs adviser for the High Peace Council.

The meeting was characterized from the start as a non-official meeting where all participants were free to express their personal opinions on a non- attributive basis, said international peace initiative Pugwash in a statement Monday. The organization said that the meeting was not supposed to be any sort of negotiation.

According to them, there were several presentations and interventions by people linked to the various parties and groups of Afghanistan, to civil society people (including a few women), and to people from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Thus, the discussion represented a wide range of opinions.

Their statement read: "Let us stress again that everybody in this meeting represented only him/herself and not any Institution or group. Despite the differences of opinions, the climate of the meeting was cooperative, constructive and friendly."

Among those present were Afghan representatives including Atta Ludin deputy chairman of High Peace Counil, Shahzada Shahed, Attaul Rahman Saleem, Asadullah Saadati, Malalai Shinwari, Waheedullah Shinwari, Faheem Hakim, Ishaq Geelani, Anwarul Haq Ahadi, Qayoum Kochi, deputy head and acting head of human rights at UNAMA, the Swedish ambassador along with a few other political figures.

From the Taliban were Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai deputy head of Taliban political committee and other Taliban representatives including Shahabuddin Delawar, Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, Qari Din Muhammad Haneef, Abdul Salam Hanafi, Jan Muhammad Madani, Said Rasool Haleem and Hafez Aziz-ul-Rahman.

"After the start of peace talks, our people wrote their demands and conditions on paper and distributed it to all the participants. The talks started after that, where the Afghan representatives and Qayoum Kochi, uncle of President Ghani asked the Taliban to stop the war and agree on a cease fire. They called us brothers and advised us to come to Afghanistan and accept the constitution," a Taliban official told Reuters.

But this Taliban official said that they would continue to wage war until all foreign troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan.

In response, an Afghan representative said that the foreign troops had left Afghanistan and only their instructors remained. He said if the Taliban agrees to ending the war, these instructors will also leave.

"The environment of the meeting was that everyone wanted to move towards peace. There were also discussions over girls education and their rights," says Ismael Qasimyar, Global Affairs Adviser for High Peace Council.

But Presidential Palace spokesman Ajmal Abedi said: "This is just a conference, it is not peace talks and the representatives are not representing the government and the High Peace Council and have been invited individually," Ajmal Abedi.

Although the talks ended without any agreement, but both parties agreed to another meeting in the United Arab Emirates in the next few months.

The peace talks are among the National Unity Government's priorities. In line with this Ghani has already visited Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with regards to the issue.

TOLOnews 6pm News 04 May 2015

TOLO News - Mon, 05/04/2015 - 17:49

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