US, Australian hostages appear in Afghan Taliban video

This image made from a video released by the Taliban on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 shows an Australian identified as Timothy Weekes (L) and an American identified as Kevin King (R) making a statement on camera while in captivity. (AP)
Updated 12 January 2017
0

US, Australian hostages appear in Afghan Taliban video

KABUL: An American and an Australian have appeared in a Taliban hostage video, five months after they were kidnapped from Kabul.
Gunmen wearing police uniforms abducted the two professors at the American University of Afghanistan in the heart of the Afghan capital on August 7, seizing them from their vehicle after smashing the passenger window.
The 13-minute, 35-second video circulated by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Wednesday offers the first apparent proof that they were still alive.
Australia said Thursday it “has been working closely with other governments to secure the release” of the hostage, but would not elaborate citing his family’s wishes and safety concerns. 
The video comes after US Special Operations forces conducted a failed secret raid in August to rescue them.
President Barack Obama authorized the raid in an unspecified area of Afghanistan but the hostages were not there, the Pentagon said in September.
The elite American University of Afghanistan, which opened in 2006 and enrols more than 1,700 students, could not be reached for comment. It has attracted a number of visiting faculty members from Western countries.
The abductions highlighted the growing dangers faced by foreigners in Afghanistan.
The Afghan capital is infested with organized criminal gangs who stage kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and wealthy Afghans, and sometimes handing them over to insurgent groups.


Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

Pro-government forces stand in the destroyed Thalateen Street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 24, 2018, as civilians return to see their homes after the regime seized the camp and adjacent neighborhoods of Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad earlier in the week from the Daesh group. (AFP / LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 22 min 48 sec ago
0

Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

  • he so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property in which to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.
  • Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or may not learn of the legal requirements in time.

JEDDAH: The Assad regime in Syria was accused on Saturday of using a new law on urban development to rid the country of all political opposition.

The so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.

However property rights are in a state of confusion after a seven-year war that has created more than 5 million refugees and 6 million internally displaced people. Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or not aware of the legal requirements in time.

The Assad regime is using the confusion to create a suitable environment for demographic change, Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News. 

“The regime has a two-fold goal,” he said. “First, terrorize the opposition and supporters of the Syrian revolution so that they lose the right to their properties.

“Second, there is talk of reconstruction in Syria now. This law sends out a message to investors that their interests lie with the regime. It is an attempt to tempt companies and business people to support the regime, because the regime is the only party that approves bids and gives grants and contracts. All this merely adds to the Syrians’ plight and misery.”

Al-Aridi said the attempted land grab was being resisted by European countries, especially France and Germany. “The Syrian Negotiating Committee is also exerting a very important effort so that such an evil act will not happen,” he said. 

Also on Saturday, the US warned Damascus it would take “firm action” if the regime violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province in advance of an expected offensive.

Al-Aridi said any such offensive would be a breach of agreements between Russia and the US on de-escalation zones, and he warned the regime and Iran against “playing games” with the US. “Such threats are part of a response to the two unanswered Israeli attacks on Iran’s military positions in Syria,” he said.

“They area also meant to divert attention from the American-Israeli intent to kick Iranian militias and forces out of Syria.”

He said the regime and Iran could do nothing without Russian support. “We don’t think the Russians are willing to provide such support, or to mess with the US or Israel. Parallel to such threats, Assad is trying to make certain reconciliation agreements with what they call ‘Syrians in liberated areas.’ We believe that they cannot do anything of the sort.”