Tolo News – Six Civilians killed in Helmand roadside mine blast

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Washir district – Helmand – Afghanistan, 29 June 2020. At least six civilians, including women and children, were killed in a roadside mine blast in southern Helmand province on Sunday afternoon, local officials said on Monday.

The incident took place in Washir district after a civilian vehicle struck a roadside mine, said Mohammad Zaman Hamdard, a spokesman for provincial police chief.

“Two other civilians were wounded in the blast and the victims have been taken to a nearby hospital,” he said.

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Tolo News – MSF Ends Activities and Withdraws from Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul

MSF continues to run medical programs in the Afghan provinces of Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz.

Faridullah Hussainkhail

Kabul – Afghanstan, 15 June 2020. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Monday in a press release officially announced that they were ending their activities in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood in western Kabul where they had run a maternity ward providing care to pregnant mothers and their infants.

In 2019 the program saw the delivery of over 16,000 babies, and it was one of MSF’s largest international programs, according to the statement.

MSF said that the decision was made after the attack on the maternity ward on May 12 in which 24 were killed and 16 others were wounded.

“Following the attack on the maternity wing of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in mid-May, MSF announces their withdrawal and ended activities at the hospital,” read the statement.

According to MSF, while no information has emerged about the perpetrators or motive of the assault, the mothers, babies and health staff were the deliberate targets of the attack, and so the organization has determined that similar attacks could occur in the future.

“While we are looking at ways to provide support, the attack and our withdrawal leaves women in the area without comprehensive maternity care services,” MSF said in the statement.

MSF said that during the attack 16 mothers were “systematically shot dead” as well as an MSF midwife, two children aged 7 and 8, and six other people present.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Taliban denied involvement.

Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF’s director general, said that the organization never expected such an attack against women about to give birth.

“We were aware that our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks, but we just couldn’t believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to murder them and their babies,” says Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF director general. “But it did happen.”

MSF said that the decision has been shared with their staff, the national health authorities and other partners.

Despite the decision to stop activities in the hospital in the west of Kabul but yet MSF said we are looking into ways to support local initiatives aimed at improving access to healthcare.

“By pushing us to close our activity in the hospital, the assailants have also left women and babies without access to essential medical care, in a country where maternal and neo-natal mortality remain high,” read the MSF statement.

MSF said their program had been operating in Dasht-e-Barchi in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health since November 2014, providing free-of-charge maternity and neonatal care in one of the most densely populated areas of Kabul.

According to the MSF, over the past 16 years 70 MSF staff and patients in MSF healthcare programs have been killed in Afghanistan.

MSF continues to run medical programs in the Afghan provinces of Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz, with activities covering a broad range of health issues. MSF first started working in the country in 1980.

Tolo News – Death of Afghans in Iran sparks widespread reaction

Afghan activists said the incident requires a thorough investigation and should not be ignored.

By Tamim Hamid

Kabul – Afghanistan, 07 June 2020. Public outcry in Afghanistan is growing over an incident in Iran in which three Afghan nationals were burned to death after their vehicle crashed into a guardrail in Yazd province after being reportedly shot at by Iranian police.

Five other passengers were wounded, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed.

Afghan activists started a hashtag “bring me some water I am dying,” and called on Afghan and Iranian officials to address the issue.

Other activists criticized a photo shared by Afghan Ambassador Ghafoor Lewal’s office showing him chatting with one of the wounded Afghans who was handcuffed to a bed in an Iranian hospital.

The activists called for justice, saying that illegal migrants should not be treated this way.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to complete its investigation into the incident but vowed that the issue will be handled thoroughly.

The ministry confirmed that the vehicle was shot at by Iranian police, citing Iranian officials.

Speaking during the Mehwar show on TOLOnews, Ghafoor Lewal, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tehran, confirmed that the vehicle was fired at by Iranian police.

“The (Iranian) officials admitted that it (the vehicle) was fired at,” the envoy said.

On the same day, Saturday, some Iranian media outlets aired an interview by the Afghan ambassador in which he called for deepening the ties between Kabul and Tehran.

“The cause of the incident are the driver and the human traffickers. Legislative organizations are aware that the driver should be arrested and punished,” Lewal told Iranian media.

Meanwhile, a group of Helmand civil society activists in a protest on Sunday burned an Iranian flag and called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

“Last time, 50 people were martyred and were drowned in the river. Now, they have torched the Afghans’ vehicle,” said Abdulhaq Zwakman, a civil society activist in Helmand, referring to an incident at the beginning of May when Afghan migrants crossing into Iran were allegedly detained, tortured and thrown into a river by Iranian police, causing many to drown.

“A teenager (from Afghanistan) was saying ‘I am burning, give me water’ and he was not given water,” said Abdulwali Patial, a civil society activist in Helmand.

Former president Hamid Karzai in a statement called for an investigation into the incident by Tehran and said its result should be shared with Kabul. Afghan MP Atiq Ramin, who heads the foreign affairs committee of the parliament, said the incident needs proper investigation.

“The drowning of 57 Afghans and the shooting at the vehicle of our dear countrymen who were martyred in Yazd city in Iran should not be ignored,” he said.

“We call on the Afghan government to summon its ambassador because such ‘incapable’ people cannot represent Afghans in other countries,” said Hekmatullah Shahbaz, a university professor.

Tolo News – Taliban Continues to Back Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: UN

The UN report says, “the Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the US.”

A UN report released on Friday states that the Taliban has failed to fulfill one of the core parts of the US-Taliban agreement, namely that it would break ties with al-Qaeda.

The agreement was signed in February in Doha, Qatar, after months of negotiations.

Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country, according to the report.

“The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties,” the report states.

Al-Qaeda has “reacted positively” to the agreement, with statements from its adherents “celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy,” the UN report said.

The US-Taliban agreement stated that the Taliban “will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies,” and would not “cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies” and would prevent such groups “from recruiting, training, and fundraising.”

The senior leadership of al-Qaeda remains present in Afghanistan, the report says, as well as hundreds of armed operatives, al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, and groups of foreign terrorist fighters aligned with the Taliban.

A number of significant al-Qaeda figures were killed in Afghanistan during the reporting period, the report says.

Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage,” said the report.

The report also highlights Daesh’s subversive activities in the country, saying that the UN monitoring team now estimates that Daesh numbers are as low as 2,200 in Afghanistan.

The report says that Daesh “remains capable of mounting attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul,” but some of those attacks claimed “may have arisen wholly or partly from a tactical accommodation with the Haqqani network.”

The authors of the report argue that the Taliban’s credibility as a counter-terrorism partner for the international community will “rest on their success in countering the threat from Daesh’s Khorasan branch,” in addition to their handling of any threat posed by al-Qaeda, the report says.

According to the report, the number of foreign terrorist fighters “in search of a purpose and livelihood” in Afghanistan, including “up to 6,500 Pakistanis,” will “render this a complex challenge,” which will require careful monitoring.

The report come as the Afghan government has expedited its efforts for peace by continuing to release Taliban prisoners from its prisons to move forward towards the intra-Afghan negotiations that Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said he hopes will begin in the next week.

Tolo News – Daesh, affiliated groups on rise in Badakhshan: Officials

Military officials in Badakhshan say that the Khastak valley has been an important strategic area for domestic and foreign militants.

Gulabuddin Ghubar

Kabul – Afghanistan, 21 April 2020. Local officials in the northern province of Badakhshan on Tuesday said that Daesh and affiliate groups are moving to establish a stronger military presence in the province so they can continue the war against the Afghan security forces.

According to the local officials, there are around 400 fighters linked with various ‘terrorist groups’ such as Daesh, the Tajikistan-based Ansarullah militant group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Harkat-i-Islami Uzbekistan and the Uighur jihadists, and these fighters are operating in various parts of the province, but especially in the Khastak valley of Juram district.

Badakhshan province has borders with China, Pakistan and Tajikistan. But Khastak valley of Juram, which is adjacent to Pakistan, is an important point from a military perspective.

Military officials in Badakhshan say that the Khastak valley has been an important strategic area for domestic and foreign militants in the north and northeastern parts of the country over the recent years.

“They (militants) want to reinforce their third base in Badakhshan so that they can operate with more strength,” said Zakaria Sawda, the governor of Badakshan province.

“They have been deployed in Warduj, Yamgan and Khastak valley, they want to fuel the war. International terrorists are undertaking the management of the war in Badakhshan,” said Jawed Mojajdedi, the head of Badakhshan provincial council.

“Over 600 domestic and international terrorists who are associated with Al Qaeda, Daesh and other terrorists have deployed there,” said Lotufullah Alizai, the commander of the second battalion of 217 Pamir Army Corps.

“We need air support to determine the areas where we are trying to move forward,” said Assadullah Mohammadi, the commander of Badakhshan police headquarters. Violence in Khastak valley has forced local people to flee their homes.

Amanullah, 70, is a resident of Khastak valley and he says that foreign fighters took his house and many families fled the area to save their lives. “I had two houses there and we escaped to Baharak,” said Amanullah.

“600 families fled Khastak valley,” said Ainuddin, a resident of Khastak. Badakhshan has 450 kilometers of border area with Pakistan, 100 kilometers with China and more than 800 kilometers with Tajikistan.

Tolo News – Afghanistan-Pakistan crossings opened for transit of goods

The Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings that connect Afghanistan with Pakistan by land were opened on Friday for the transit of goods, as announced earlier this week, an official said.

Kabul – Afghanistan, 12 April 2020. Nangarhar governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said the crossings will remain open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The transit of goods was stopped for the past 25 days due to the spread of the corona-virus.

According to Afghanistan-Pakistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at least 10,000 containers of food supplies will be transported to Afghanistan following the opening of the crossings.

The closure of transit and trade roadways has impacted groceries and other supplies prices in local markets as the coronavirus spreads.

Tolo News – Afghan clerics ban religious, political gatherings amid COVID-19

The religious scholars issued a fatwa calling on the people to avoid going to mosques for prayers.

Kabul – Afghanistan, 05 April 2020. The Ulema’s high commission for fighting the corona-virus on Sunday imposed a ban on all religious, political and cultural gatherings until the full eradication of COVID-19 in the country in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus in Afghanistan.

The decision was made as last week the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs announced restrictions on Friday prayers and regular prayers in mosques.

The commission members, joined by officials of the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, in the fatwa also called on the people to stay at home and avoid going to mosques for five-time prayers.

The clerics called on the people to pay attention to health advice, saying that their decision was based on the Quran and Hadith.

The fatwa also mentions that the funeral of a person who dies of the corona-virus should be carried out in accordance with special measures, and with fewer relatives.

The Ministry of Public Health has reported 337 positive cases of the corona-virus in the country.

The head of the commission, Abdul Salam Abid, called on the government to exempt people from taxes until the situation gets back to normal. He also called on businessmen to help the vulnerable people. “We also call on dignified businessmen to exempt shopkeepers from the rent in order to help the people and ease concerns,” he added.

This also comes as at least 500 mosques were closed in Herat late last week in an attempt by the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs to slow the spread of the corona-virus in the province.

Tolo News – 25 Killed in attack at Dharamshala, Sikh Temple (Gurdwara) in Kabul

The attack ended after nearly six hours and the special forces and foreign troops were involved.

Kabul – Afghanistan, 25 March 2020, At least 25 people were killed and more than eight others were wounded during an attack on a Sikh place of worship in the Shorbazar area of Kabul*, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The incident began around 7:45 am local time in PD1 of Kabul city, and 80 people including women and children were rescued, according to the statement.

TOLO news reporter Sharif Amiry said that explosions were heard in the area.

The security forces transferred victims of the attack by ambulance to hospitals.

Foreign troops have also responded to the attack, Amiry says.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sikhs and Hindus citizens have accused the government of being reckless and said that today’s bloody attack is the result of government failure.

Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Taliban have denied involvement in it, but sources in the government blamed the Haqqani group for the attack.

Two years ago, Sikh citizens in Jalalabad were also targeted by a suicide attack.

*Gurdwara Guru Har Rai, Shor Bazar Kabul

Tolo News – Four security force members killed in Kapisa province

The attack happened at an outpost of local police and public uprising forces in Kapisa.

Nijrab district – Kapisa province – Afghanistan. Four members of local police and public uprising forces were killed in a Taliban attack in Nijrab district, Kapisa province, on Friday evening, the provincial police spokesman Shayiq Shorish said.

Other sources said seven members of local police and public uprising forces were killed in the attack. The incident took place in Afghania village in Nijrab district, Shorish said.

The area has been embattled for the past 10 years. It was cleared of the Taliban last year and this is the first battle in the district after the US-Taliban deal and the weeklong reduction in violence back in February. Shorish said three Taliban militants were killed in the attack.

The Taliban has not commented on the attack. This comes a day after the Taliban attacked an outpost in Zabul province in the south of Afghanistan with the help of infiltrators, killing at least 17 members of the Afghan army and Afghan police.

The Ministry of Defense vowed to “avenge” the Zabul attack.

The fighting between government forces and the Taliban intensified after acting Defense Minister Assadullah Khalid last week announced a shift in the Afghan forces’ status from “defensive” to “active defensive.”

The Defense Ministry, in two statements on Friday, said that at least 19 Taliban fighters were killed in government forces operations, responding to Taliban attacks, in Faryab and Balkh provinces.

Tolo News – Pakistan Bars PTM Leaders’ Trip to Kabul for Inauguration: PTM

“We are going back as we were not allowed to fly to Kabul. FIA told us quite explicitly that the military has barred us from leaving the country”

Kabul – Afghanistan, 09 March 2020. On Sunday, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders Ali Wazir and Mohsen Dawar, who were “invited formally by President Ghani for the oath-taking ceremony,” were “stopped from leaving for Kabul at the Islamabad airport,” PTM members tweeted.

Later in the day, Mohsin Dawar tweeted: “We are going back as we were not allowed to fly to Kabul. FIA told us quite explicitly that the military has barred us from leaving the country. This is what elected Pashtun MNAs have to go through in Pakistan. This is the fate of an elected Pashtun representative in Pakistan.”

He also tweeted: “Sending best wishes to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on his reelection and thanks to all the Afghans who invited us and those who were waiting to welcome.

Also thanks to the Afghan Ambassador in Pakistan, Mashal Atif, for his efforts to resolve this issue.”

The PTM held a large, peaceful protest in January and demanded their ethnic and territorial rights from the Pakistani government, and called for a broader international movement. Pakistan responded with the arrests of PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen, who is now released on bail but still facing charges, as well as others.

PTM is a Pashtun-rights group that has called for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement within tribal areas. It has called for an end to “extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions,” according to reports.

According to PTM members, almost 30,000 people from the two provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, have gone missing over the past 10 years.