Aggregated News about Afghanistan

TOLOnews 6pm News 27 April 2015

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 17:50

Top news in this Bulletin:

President Ashraf Ghani left on an official three-day state visit to India late Monday where he is expected to meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi among other senior officials.

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The promised large-scale military offensive by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) against insurgents in Kunduz has been delayed, reports TOLOnews correspondent Karim Amini from the battlefield. Officials failed to give reasons as to why the offensive has not started, while the provincial governor also refused to comment on the issue.

Farkhunda Murder Prosecution Begins Without Any Charges Against Top Officials

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 17:34

The Attorney General's office filed for prosecution of the Farkhunda murder case on Monday. However, Chief of Kabul's Primary Court Saifullah Mujadidi has claimed that the Attorney General struck a deal that would omit the names of high ranking officials originally thought to bear some culpability for the incident.

"Today, the Farkhunda case was referred to the court for legal processing," Attorney General spokesman Basir Azizi announced on Monday.

According to Safiullah Mujadidi, the head of the Kabul Primary Court, the trial is expected to begin early next week. He was open about the charges filed by the Attorney General's office, which he said conspicuously omitted names of top police officials who have come under fire for their handling of Farkhunda's murder.
"The attorney has considered some comprises regarding the case in so far as the names of those serving in top police posts have not been included," Mujadidi told TOLOnews.

According court documents, 49 individuals, including 19 police officers, have been arrested in relation to the case. The three main culprits identified by cell phone footage of the murder have yet to be arrested.

Meanwhile, calls for the dismissal of Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi for what many see as a failure of leadership in dealing with the murder continue to be made by MPs and women's rights activists. "The police chief who was enjoying a sauna on the day of the incident should be dismissed, we don't want him," Farkhunda Justice Committee member Diana Saqib said on Monday.

The Kabul Police have been heavily criticized for failing to take any action to stop the brutal mob attack on Farkhunda that occurred over 40 days ago. After being falsely accused of burning the Quran, Farkhunda was savagely beaten to death, set on fire and then thrown in the Kabul River, all in broad daylight and in a central part of the capital. In addition, police officials have been accused of trying to cover up the truth of the attack, after it was exposed that police claims that Farkhunda suffered from psychological issues were falsified.

"We wont remain silent unless the perpetrators are brought to justice," women's right activist Munira Yousafi said while attending a demonstration event in Kabul demanding justice for Farkhunda.

Farkhunda's murder made headlines around the world, prompting outrage and condemnations from leaders across Afghanistan as well as the international community. The incident, in some ways, was an embarrassment for those in Afghanistan who have tried to champion the social progress that has been made in the country since the fall of the Taliban regime. It has led to questions about both the continued prevalence of violence against women around the country, as well as the justice system's tendency to punish street-level offenders while steering clear of influential officials.

"We want an open trial of the perpetrators and transparency," an activist named Wida Saghari attending the demonstration on Monday told TOLOnews.
Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi has defended himself, and vowed that if was at all at fault for the murder he would accept punishment. "If I was found guilty of committing negligence in my job, I would handcuff my own hands," he said on Monday. "I have feelings and I have commitment."

Fuel Imports Continue to Forego Customs Tariff Under Old Agreement

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 17:27

Based on an agreement signed between the Afghan ministries of finance, commerce and industries, foreign affairs and the NATO coalition, fuel imported for foreign forces was not charged a customs duty. However, with the NATO combat mission now over, and the number of foreign troops down to 13,000 from a peak of 150,000, questions have been raised over why the same amount of fuel is allowed to be imported without paying customs fees.

According to official documents from 2014, a total of 850,000 tons of fuel was imported for foreign forces that year. In the first four months of 2015, the same documents show up to 200,000 tons of fuel was imported for foreign troops, indicating no decline from the previous year.

Nevertheless, officials from the ministries of finance and commerce and industries have maintained that imports of fuel for foreign forces have in fact declined. Yet they refused to provide any specific numbers.

"Imports of fuel materials has significantly declined after the number of foreign forces declined," Ministry of Finance spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani said on Monday. "No kind of robbery has taken place with the imports of fuels materials for foreign forces," he added.

According to Jailani, the only vehicles allowed to bring imported fuel in without paying a customs duty are those registered with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Yet, again, no specific figures could be provided regarding the rate or volume of the fuel imports.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Commerce and Industries spokesman Musafir Qoqandi said the Finance Ministry is the authority responsible for monitoring the imports. "Imports of fuel to foreign forces have declined, but there is no exact figure about the scale of the fuel imported," Qoqandi said. "It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance to monitor the imports of fuel for foreign forces."

The Oil Importers Association has disputed the official claims, arguing that fuel is still imported without being charged a customs duty on the same scale as previous years. "Unfortunately, the lack of government monitoring on the contracts and customs revenues have paved the way for profiteers to take advantage of the opportunity," association head Azarakhsh Hafizi told TOLOnews. "We shared the issue with the government several times, but if the government doesn't take the necessary steps to prevent the corruption, the corruption will grow."

The Afghan government continues to face budgeting issues in large part because of its inability to effectively collect revenue. Corruption in customs offices around the country has been pointed to as a major reason behind revenue deficiencies, yet without adequate oversight, it can be no wonder why such corruption is able to proliferate.

New Governors Appointed for Herat and Kandahar

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 17:12

The Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) announced on Monday that Mohammad Asif Rahimi has been appointed governor of Herat province and Homayoun Azizi as governor of Kandahar province.

The new appointments, which were recommended by the IDLG and then approved by President Ashraf Ghani, come at a crucial time. Around the country, worsening security and economic conditions have given way to heavy criticisms of the National Unity Government (NUG), which many blame for the deteriorating situation on account of its failure to replace acting officials with new appointments more promptly.

Asif Rahimi will take over leadership of Herat at a time when the province is seeing high rates of militant activity as well as administrative corruption. He was educated in civil engineering at Kabul University and in public administration and management at Nebraska University in the United States.

Rahimi also previously served as the Deputy Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Urban Development and then as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

The newly appointed governor of Kandahar province received his education in medicine while in France. He previously served as head of the Provincial Council and State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs.

While the two appointments, which are for two of Afghanistan's largest provinces, come at an important time, still the majority of provinces remain under the leadership of officials originally appointed by former president Hamid Karzai. Many of these officials, both acting governors and district chiefs, have been accused of corruption and collusion with militant groups in recent months.

ANSF Anti-Insurgent Operation in Kunduz Delayed

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 17:03

The promised large-scale military offensive by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) against insurgents in Kunduz has been delayed, reports TOLOnews correspondent Karim Amini from the battlefield.

Officials failed to give reasons as to why the offensive has not started, while the provincial governor also refused to comment on the issue.

Security officials in the area have however confirmed that the battle is intensifying and that Taliban fighters launched a fresh offensive on Imam Sahib district and that they have taken control of several areas.

Heavy fighting between security force members and the Taliban has raged for more than three days. However, reinforcement troops were sent in on Monday.

Meanwhile, commanders of the Afghan local police have said that they retreated from the frontline after necessary equipment failed to reach them.

According to TOLOnews reporter, widespread battles continued across Kunduz Monday and militants have succeeding in capturing control of some regions – especially in the Imam Sahib district.

"We were under siege for four days and contacted the officials through various means, however no one bothered to think about us," a commander of the Afghan local police told TOLOnews.

The Governor of Kunduz province Omar Safi expressed his views regarding the battle. "So far 20 militants, majority of them foreigners, have been killed including three Uzbek women and Turkish nationals, Chechens and Kyrgyz nationals," Safi said.

In a question regarding the ANSF casualties Safi said that so far at least 17 security personnel have been killed and wounded in the battle.

President Ashraf Ghani's advisor for good governance Ahmadzia Massoud who is also in Kunduz is optimistic that Kunduz province will not collapse into the hands of the Taliban.

"Kunduz will never collapse, the faithful people of Kunduz have defended their motherland over the course of time and government has also launched counterattacks," Massoud said.

MPs Allege Acting Governors, District Chiefs Involved in Security Threats

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 16:40

Lawmakers in Parliament on Monday voiced concerns over the alleged collusion of acting governors and district chiefs with militants in various parts of the country, warning that if the government doesn't act on the issue soon, security conditions could further deteriorate.

As attacks and insurgent offensives rage around Afghanistan, anxieties about the present situation were accompanied by harsh criticisms of National Unity Government (NUG) leaders, who were portrayed as being wrapped-up in self-serving politics while neglecting important issues like security.

According to the Administrative Board of the Lower House, President Ashraf Ghani had previously promised MPs that he would address the country's emerging security threats. Nevertheless, chief among the factors attributed for mounting insecurity around the country is the lack of new leadership at the provincial and district levels, a result of the NUG's inability to complete the appointment process promptly.

"I swear upon God that the acting governors and district chiefs are involved in insecurities and I have enough documents to prove it," Balkh MP Abdul Rahman Rahmani said on Monday. "These acting governors and district chiefs deliberately support insecurity in their respective provinces to make the situation look fragile in order to continue their jobs," he added.

Khost MP Kamal Nasir Usoli echoed comments previously made by others in Parliament, as well as independent commentators, maintaining that acting officials on the provincial level have elected to try and reap as much money from their authority as they can before it is taken away. "The acting chiefs are also involved in corruption, because their posts are temporary, therefore, they are trying to use corruption to fill their pockets," Usoli said.

The Second Deputy of House of Representatives, Mohammad Nazir Ahmadzai, expressed frustration with Ghani's lack of action on the provincial governance crisis despite the fact that he had vowed to address the issue. "The president promised to put an end to the jobs of acting chiefs as soon as possible," Ahmadzai said.

Pressure to deal with deteriorating security situation has built up on the NUG ever since an Afghan National Army (ANA) outpost in Badakhshan province was ambushed last month due to negligence and possible corruption among local officials. That incident was shortly followed by a deadly Daesh-claimed suicide bombing in Nangarhar province that left well over 100 civilians wounded.

The Presidential Palace sent out a press release on Monday calling on the country's religious scholars, civil society institutions and general public to announce full support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). But it was clear on Monday that, for representatives in Parliament, much more than words will be needed to quell anxieties.

"Faryab has slipped into an ocean of security threats, and government employees are unable to go to their offices and the same is true for school students," Faryab MP Naqibullah Fayeq said.

"Honorable president, I swear upon God that a few moments back a wounded soldier called me to say that his intestine was coming out of his body and he asked me to reach out to support him," Kunduz MP Shukria Palkan told the chamber. "He said that many soldiers were wounded and killed and the remaining numbers were hiding in wheat fields, but that the enemy was mobilizing to capture them," she added.

A brief dispute between Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi and some MPs ensued after Ibrahimi criticized Palkan for her description of the soldier's suffering.

"Stay seated Ms Paikan and don't exaggerate," Ibrahimi said. "By sharing such comments you want to show that you are feeling pain for the people of Kunduz, but we have summoned the security officials on Saturday to inquire about the growing waves of security threats," he added.

A number of MPs came to Palkan's defense. "Honorable speaker! Your behavior toward our sister Shukria Paikan is uncivilized, as you are serving as a chairman and should recognize your position," MP Ramazan Bashardost said.

"I completely agree with Mr. Bashardost, you are chairman of the house and also you both belong to the same province and shouldn't come with your regional issues," MP Farkhunda Zahra Naderi said.

Ex-Commander Warns Of Kunduz Collapse If Crisis Not Managed Properly

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 15:13

A former military commander has warned that if the Kunduz crisis is not managed properly – along with that of other northern provinces – these provinces could fall into the control of the Taliban.

Former army general Zalmai Weesa, who was previously the commander of 209 Shaheen battalion, blames the current surge of violence on Pakistan and says that if the National Unity Government does not take decisive steps to stamp out the insurgents the country will face serious problems.

Weesa, who retired four months ago, lead forces in nine northern and north eastern provinces for five years. His philosophy is that the fight against insurgents needs to be managed better.

"It's not only Kunduz that can fall - but everywhere else where the armed forces are not professional - and most importantly – where they don't have the support of local people," Weesa said.
He says it is still unclear on who is responsible for the recent upsurge in violence in the north but says the matter is not being investigated closely enough by government.

"Since the creation of Pakistan, their aim has been to not let us live in peace. We must never be deceived by what Pakistan says. We must always be prepared, and stand up to those who want to spread terror," said Weesa.

Security forces have been embroiled in ongoing clashes with the Taliban for three days. On Monday, over 2,000 reinforcement troops were sent in to the area to bring it under control.

"All the troops that were needed in Kunduz, have been acquired from battalion 111, and have started an expanded operation," says Dawlat Waziri, Deputy Spokesman for the MoD.

Sources who have spoken on condition of anonymity have said that during the battle in Badakhshan, many troops were sent from Kunduz – leaving the area vulnerable to attack. People have criticized this move and claim it is such actions on the part of government that point towards poor management.

Ghani To Meet With Indian President and PM During 3-Day State Visit

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 14:56

President Ashraf Ghani left on an official three-day state visit to India late Monday where he is expected to meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi among other senior officials.

Included on his agenda will be discussions on matters of security, economic ties and regional issues.

Meanwhile, members of parliament and analysts have hailed the president's trip to India as a good opportunity to expand Kabul-New Delhi relations and to remove any concerns regarding the Kabul-Islamabad relations.

During the first seven months in office, Ghani has been to Iran, Pakistan and China but this is his first visit to India.

Some analysts however, believe that Afghanistan relations with Pakistan, which is supposed to bring the Taliban to the peace talks tables, has cast a shadow over Kabul-New Delhi relations. But a number of MPs have called this trip an important one that will help balance Afghanistan's foreign policy.

"Indians have their own understanding of President Ghani ... that he puts too much effort into Pakistan, which has cast a shadow over their (Kabul-New Delhi) relations. I don't think even one trip is enough. The government of Afghanistan must have a clear foreign policy on the countries in the region," says Baktash Siawash, MP from Kabul.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that close relations between Kabul and Islamabad has had no impact on Kabul-New Delhi relations and that the president's trip to India will result in further expansion of political and trade relations between the two countries.

"We have always had good relations with India, which has been stable during all our ups and downs. There is no reason for Afghanistan's relations with any other country to weaken the relation between India and Afghanistan. Our relationship with India is so close that we cannot compare it with any other relation that we have with other countries," says Faramarz Tamana, Director of Strategic Studies Center, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ghani's first trip to India is seen as crucial as it aims to expand trade and economic relations between the two countries and to specifically encourage investment in Afghanistan and to secure the continuation of aid to Afghanistan.

"With India's good technology, Afghanistan can use its help for the development of its economy and industries. In the meantime, Afghanistan can also serve as a transit route for connecting India to Central and Western Asia," says Azrakhsh Hafezi, Director of Global Relations at the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

In the past 14 years, after the United States, Britain, Japan and Germany, Indian has been the fifth major donor to Afghanistan and has donated over $2 billion USD towards reconstruction projects.

First deputy of CEO, Muhammad Khan; Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, National Security Advisor Muhammad Haneef Atmar, Minister of Finance Ikleel Hakimi, Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud Shah Sabah, Minister of Public Health Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, Minister of Commerce and Industries Muhammad Homayoon Rasa, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Asad Zamir, Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled Nasreen Oryakhail, Afghanistan Chief of Army Staff Sher Muhammad Karimi, Office of Administrative Affairs & Council of Ministers Secretariat Director Abdul Salam Rahimi and Presidential spokesman Ajmal Abedi and a number of Afghan traders and media representatives are accompanying the president in this trip.

AFF Signs MoU with Alakozai Group of Companies

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 13:06

The Alakozai Group of Companies on Monday pledged support to the Afghan Football Federation over the next 15 years.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two parties at a press conference where it was stated that Alakozai will sponsor the team to the amount of $850 000 USD every year. This money will go towards improving the national teams and for the purpose of meeting their expenses, said Keramuddin Keram, Chairman of Afghanistan Football Federation.

"We will spend this money on our men and women teams, their air tickets, hotel expenses, food and hosting of teams that will be playing here. This is a long-term contract and if needed, the monthly amount can be changed as well," said Keram.

"Football has an important role in bringing together nations, ethnicities and making national unity stronger. The football achievements of our country has enabled us to support our team members and hopefully they will achieve more in future. We will try to sign a MoU with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in the future as well," says Nooryalai Rahmani, Marketing Manager Alakozai Group of Companies.

Afghanistan football federation has said that with the signing of this MoU, the budget challenges for hosting 2018 world cup qualifiers has been eliminated.

Ghani Leaves For India After Meeting With RS Commander

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 10:17

President Ashraf Ghani has left for a three-day state visit to India after postponing his departure for a few hours due to the Kunduz crisis. 

Before leaving Afghanistan, Ghani met with Resolute Support Mission US Gen. John Campbell and with Afghan security officials over the issue. 

The deteriorating security issue in the province is of major concern to Ghani who was due to leave for India Monday at 13:00 local time. By early afternoon, sources said that due to Kunduz he had delayed his departure. He finally left late Monday afternoon. 

Earlier, local officials said they had seen members of Ghani's security unit in the province on Monday. The Presidential Palace has not however confirmed this. 

Kunduz has been the scene of bloody clashes between Taliban and Afghan security forces over the past three days.

More than 2,000 reinforcement troops have been deployed to the province in the past 24 hours.

Clashes continued Monday in three parts of northern Kunduz province, the Provincial Governor Mohammad Omar Safi said.

Fighting is underway in Aliabad, Imam Sahib districts and Gor Tepa area in eight districts of the city.

So far 40 insurgents have been killed and more than 20 injured, Safi said.

Six foreign militants were among those killed. Four were allegedly from Tajikistan and two were Chechens, according to officials.

Officials said that so far 12 Afghan security forces were killed and injured in the attack, but no further details about the casualties were provided.

Ghani meanwhile left late Wednesday for his three-day state visit to India. He is expected to meet with India's President Pranab Mukherjee; Prime Minister Narendra Modi; the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Ministers of Defense, Interior and other officials, a statement issued by the president's office stated.

Ghani is accompanied by Mohammad Khan, Chief Excutive’s First Deputy; Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani; National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar; Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi; Mines and Petroleum Minister Dawood Shah Saba; National Army Chief of Staff Shier Mohammad Karimi and other governmental officials.

32 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Nationwide ANSF Operations

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 08:07

At least 32 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 Monday.

In addition, 16 insurgents were injured.

The operations were conducted in Kunar, Nangarhar, Takhar, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab, Jowzjan, Kandahar, Zabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Farah and Helmand provinces, the statement said.

"During the same 24 hour period, Afghan National Police discovered and defused 10 different types of IEDs ... in Panjwaei District of southern Kandahar province," it said.

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

The military operations launched against insurgents have resulted in increased militant attacks across the country especially in northern provinces with insurgents frequently targeting the security forces.

TAWDE KHABARE: MPs and Senators Criticize Govt. Over Increasing Insecurity

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 07:45

The MPs and Senators have criticized the National Unity Government over issue of increasing insecurity and warn of the worsening situation especially in the northern parts of Afghanistan.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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

• Zabihullah Zemarai, member of the Provincial Council of Nangarhar
• Ghulaam Rabbani Rabbani, member of the Provincial Council of Kunduz
• Abdul Rahim Ayoubi, MP
• Ahmad Shah Ramazan, MP

FARAKHABAR: Concerns Mount Over Insecurity in North of Afghanistan

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 06:58

MPs have warned government that northern Afghanistan will become another Waziristan if the government does not take action.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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On Saturday, Taliban insurgents attacked Gor Tepa area in Kunduz city, Qala-e-Zal and Imam Sahib districts of the province. Heavy fighting with security forces ensued.

In addition, insecurity has also increased in Badakhshan, Takhar, Sar-e-Pul, Faryab, Samangan, Badghis, Ghazni, Helmand, Nangarhar and Zabul provinces.

But what is really happening and what is government's plan in dealing with this?

In this episode of FaraKhabar, host Yama Siawash discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Abdul Wodoud Payman, MP from Kunduz
• Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior

Clashes Continue in Kunduz As More Troops Deployed

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 06:00

Clashes continued Monday in three parts of northern Kunduz province as more security forces were deployed to fight insurgents, the Provincial Governor Mohammad Omar Safi said on Monday.

Fighting is underway in Aliabad, Imam Sahib districts and Gor Tepa area in eight districts of the city. So far 40 insurgents have been killed and more than 20 injured, Safi said.

The six foreign militants who were killed in the attack come from the northwestern Faryab province, four of them were from Tajikistan and two were Chechens, according to officials.

"The government and the residents of Kunduz won't let insurgents take control of this province. The security forces have high morals and we have our equipment," he said.

The operation comes after Taliban insurgents attacked Imam Sahib, Qala-e-Zal districts and Gor Tepa on Saturday night and clashed with security forces.

However the battle in Qala-e-Zal has ended and the situation there is under control, according to officials.

Officials said that so far 12 Afghan security forces were killed and injured in the attack, but no further details about the casualties were provided.

There are reports that the Taliban insurgents have stolen a number of security force vehicles but officials have not confirmed this.

More than 1,800 families have been displaced following the attacks and moved to Kunduz city and other parts of the northern of Afghanistan, officials added.

Officials of the provincial council of Kunduz have also said that there are civilian casualties but details have not been disclosed.

It's expected that on Monday top security officials will visit the province and launch a large-scale military operation.

Nepal Quake Rescue Effort Ramps Up As Toll Hits 3,600

TOLO News - Mon, 04/27/2015 - 04:50

International rescue teams and relief supplies began arriving in Nepal's devastated capital Monday to help terrified and homeless survivors of a quake that has killed more than 3,600 people in the impoverished nation.

Equipped with heavy cutting gear and accompanied by sniffer dogs, rescue teams were landing round-the-clock at the country's only international airport on the outskirts of Kathmandu, the normally vibrant capital which has been devastated by Saturday's 7.8 magnitude quake.

Officials say more than 3,300 people are now known to have died, including 3,218 in Nepal -- making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation's deadliest disaster in more than 80 years.

Around 90 people have been killed in neighbouring countries, including at least 67 in India and 20 in China.

The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest which buried part of base camp and killed at least 18 people.

Aftershocks triggered fresh avalanches there on Sunday even as helicopters evacuated some of those worst injured the day before.

Hundreds of foreign mountaineers had gathered at the world's highest mountain at the start of the annual climbing season, and the real scale of the disaster there has been impossible to evaluate with communications all but cut off.

- 'Why do we suffer?' -

With much of Kathmandu lying in ruins, tens of thousands of residents spent the night slept out on the streets, in makeshift tents fashioned from plastic sheeting that did little to protect them from heavy overnight rains.

With the ground still regular shaking from nerve-shredding aftershocks, many endured a sleepless and miserable night.

"We don't have a choice, our house is shaky. The rain is seeping in but what can we do?," said 34-year-old shopkeeper Rabi Shrestha as he camped out on the roadside.

"I don't know why the gods want us to suffer like this."

The situation has been exacerbated by power cuts and the country's cell phone network is at breaking point.

The Nepalese government said it was stepping up efforts to help remote areas closer to the epicentre of the quake.

"Our focus is on rescue," home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told AFP. "In far-flung areas, a larger helicopter will be stationed in the regional headquarters and smaller ones will shuttle with survivors."

Announcing the latest death toll in Nepal, a top disaster official said that emergency crews would also step up their efforts to rescue those trapped in high-rise buildings which pancaked on Saturday.

"Our efforts today will also be focused on finding survivors in areas where big buildings have collapsed," Rameshwor Dangal, who heads the home ministry's national disaster management division, told AFP.

The historic nine-storey Dharahara tower, a major tourist attraction, was among the buildings brought down in Kathmandu Saturday.

Police said around 150 people were thought to have been in the tower at the time of the disaster, based on ticket sales.

"At least 30 dead bodies have been pulled out. We don't have a number on the rescued but over 20 injured were helped out," local police official Bishwa Raj Pokharel told AFP.

"We haven't finished our work there, rescue work is still continuing. Right now, we are not in a position to estimate how many might be trapped."

- Food and blankets -

The Nepalese rescuers were being joined by hundreds of foreign aid workers from countries such as China, India and the United States.

Around 70 US aid workers, along with rescue dogs, headed to Nepal aboard a military transport plane which flew from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The European Commission released three million euros ($3.25 million) in emergency aid for Nepal which will help fund clean water, medicine, emergency shelter and telecommunications in the worst-affected areas.

India meanwhile flew in 13 military transport planes loaded with tonnes of food, blankets and other aid.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the disaster, with morgues overflowing and medics having to work through the night to cope with an endless stream of victims suffering trauma or multiple fractures.

Some surgeons have been operating from makeshift theatres set up in parking lots with the aftershocks making patients too scared to stay inside.

At the city's oldest Bir Hospital, around a dozen dead bodies had to be placed on the floor, while stricken relatives stood vigil, trying to swat away the flies.

Nepal and the rest of the Himalayas, where the Indian and Eurasia tectonic plates collide, are particularly prone to earthquakes.

An 6.8 magnitude quake hit eastern Nepal in August 1988 killing 721 people, and a magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and India in 1934.

TOLOnews 6pm News 26 April 2015

TOLO News - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 19:25



Taliban insurgents that have attacked northern Kunduz have come from other provinces, the governor Mohammad Omar Safi said, adding 33 Taliban militants have been killed and wounded so far as a result of operations by security forces.

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He told TOLOnews that several villages in Kunduz has been under the control of Taliban. However, he promised to push back the insurgents as he said additional troops had been deployed to the area.

Insurgents From Northern Provinces Converge On Kunduz: Governor

TOLO News - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 17:09



Taliban insurgents that have attacked northern Kunduz have come from other provinces, the governor Mohammad Omar Safi said, adding 33 Taliban militants have been killed and wounded so far as a result of operations by security forces.

He told TOLOnews that several villages in Kunduz has been under the control of Taliban.

However, he promised to push back the insurgents as he said additional troops had been deployed to the area.

"The enemies are engaged in the battle with security forces in nine northern provinces. Taliban insurgents have come from different northern provinces to Kunduz," Safi said. "Our forces have retreated from three posts in Gor Tepa district."

According to Safi, the insurgents were taking advantage of forests.

"We also had casualties. Around 16 security forces were killed and wounded."

In addition, Interior Minister Noor-ul-Haq Olomi declared that the enemies would never reach their goal by spreading violence.

"The enemies are trying to show their presence in the north. But they will achieve nothing except spreading terror," Olomi told TOLOnews.

He declared that the purpose of Taliban's fighting in northern Afghanistan was to stop the revival of the strategic Silk Road in Badakhshan.

"The enemies do not want us to reach economic stability."

He noted that senior interior ministry officials have been sent to northern Afghanistan to closely monitor the situation.

When asked about Daesh presence in the country, Olomi said, "Anyone who creates terror in Afghanistan under any name or flag is the real enemy of Afghanistan."

The insurgents have increased their attacks across the country since Friday when they announced the beginning of their spring offensive.

Earlier in the day, the senators also blasted the government for what they called failure to prevent flow of Chechen and other Central Asian insurgents to Afghanistan.

They claimed that about 400 Chechen families were sheltering along the borders between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.

Crime Stirs Trouble in Capital Amid Police Assurances

TOLO News - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 16:59

While Kabul Police officials maintain criminal activities in Kabul are stable, residents of the capital have reported increased criminal activity and ineffectiveness on the part of law enforcement authorities.

Taimani roundabout witnessed an armed conflict three days ago, one that took place just shortly away from a police checkpoint. "In the beginning, two people got out of their cars and only stopped firing on each other when police showed up and caught them," Kabul resident Ghulam Ali said.

Baktash, another resident of the capital, suggested conditions are so bad they are out of the hands of police officials. "Terror surrounds here, everyone ran away, and when the condition in the capital is like this, and police cannot prevent it, what are the police for then?" he asked.

Meanwhile, representatives on the Domestic Security Commission in the House of Representatives have said that increased criminal activity as of late has been on account of replacements within the police structure and the reactivation of some criminal groups.

"We have witnessed an increase in the crime rate of Kabul in recent days, which police have not been able to prevent," MP Iqbal Safi said on Sunday. "In our belief, recent changes in the Kabul police has resulted in these incidents happening and increasing."

Although Kabul Police officials have acknowledged criminal groups operate inside the city, Criminal Investigation Department Director Farid Afzali on Sunday denied that crime rates had risen. "On a weekly basis, we face 52 to 53 criminal incidents in Kabul, but in the past 20 days, there have not been any kidnapping incidents in Kabul," Afzali said. "I must say that there are still some criminal groups in Kabul."

US Looks to Support Return of Afghan Refugees

TOLO News - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 16:52

On his recent trip to Kabul, Simon Henshaw, the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration said the Afghan government is committed to the return of Afghan immigrants from abroad, but must first ensure employment opportunities and a better quality of life for them.

With the return of many immigrants from Iran and Pakistan, concerns have grown around these immigrants facing unemployment and poverty upon their return.

On Sunday, Henshaw said the U.S. government is providing $107 million USD for employment programs for repatriated Afghan refugees and expressed optimism about the commitment of the national unity government to providing opportunities for Afghan refugees. But he also said Afghanistan's neighbors would need to practice healthy policies toward the refugees as well.

"I am concerned about some anecdotal reports of abuse of some of some of the migrants being returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan and I think that we have to make it clear that sort of incidents are not acceptable" says Henshaw.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), every month, 400,000 Afghan immigrants return to Afghanistan, and 18,500 immigrants have returned from Iran and Pakistan in the past four months.

"They must be provided with jobs in the environment that they live in, so they don't have to leave Afghanistan anymore," UNHCR spokesman Nader Farhad said. "I know that finding employment is a challenge and there is a need for budget to create employment opportunities; it should be noted that people inside the country are facing the same challenges as well."

The Afghan Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled has echoed the UN's understanding of the current situation. "Those who immigrate, especially from Pakistan and Iran, are unemployed; in other words, when they get here, there are no employment opportunities for them," ministry spokesman Ali Iftekhari said.

Joint Commission Questions National Unity Government's Strategy for Combating Corruption

TOLO News - Sun, 04/26/2015 - 16:48



While the national unity government has spoken of its commitment to combating corruption, its efforts to do so have progressed with confusion over the past six months, according to a new report from the Independent Joint Commission for Overseeing and Evaluating Fight Against Corruption

The committee made the point of highlighting that in the major corruption case prosecuted by the current administration, the Kabul Bank case, over $900 million USD belonging to the bank was lost, and that, so far, only $178 million USD has been recovered.

The committee's findings show government institutions, especially the ones responsible for fighting corruption in Afghanistan, have taken steps without cooperation and a clear strategy, resulting in no significant impact.

"So far, there is no specific agenda for fighting corruption, and all the work in this area is moving ahead in confusion," said Rashed Behroz, Executive Chairman of the Independent Joint Commission.

In addition to the lost money that has not been recovered, the committee pointed out that the "New Kabul Bank" is currently operating at a loss, and in order to prevent it from going bankrupt, money from the government budget is being spent.

"As far as we know, the Ministry of Finance provided New Kabul Bank with $7.5 million USD last year, in order for the bank to be able to continue its operations," Behroz said. However, the Ministry of Finance did not offer a comment when asked about the financial support for the New Kabul Bank.

The committee's findings also include reports that the High Court and the Attorney General's office, in addition to not giving information regarding corruption files, have also misinterpreted the laws governing them as institutions.

"The Attorney General's office has been cooperative to an extent with us, but the High Court has not been cooperative at all and they think that providing information to other institutions is an interference in their work," joint committee advisor Hameedullah Tawab said.

The committee's report identifies the ongoing administration of government offices around the country by acting officials as a major impediment to anti-corruprtion efforts and reform.

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