Taliban, Daesh jointly massacred 50 civilians: Afghan officials

Smoke rises from the site of a blast in Kabul in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 08 August 2017

Taliban, Daesh jointly massacred 50 civilians: Afghan officials

KABUL: The Taliban and Daesh jointly massacred dozens of civilians in an Afghan village, officials said Monday, highlighting rare cooperation between the insurgents that could increase the strain on Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces.
The fighters killed more than 50 men, women and children in the remote Sayad district of northern Sar-e-Pul province on Saturday after overrunning the Afghan Local Police (ALP) — a government-backed militia — in a 48-hour battle, according to local officials.
“It was a joint operation by Daesh and Taliban fighters. They had recruited forces from other provinces of the country and attacked Mirzawalang village,” Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told AFP.
The spokesman alleged that dozens of Taliban and Daesh fighters under the command of Sher Mohammad Ghazanfar, a local Taliban commander who Amani claims pledged allegiance to Daesh, launched a coordinated attack on the area on Thursday.
“The fighters overran the area and it led to the massacre of innocent and defenseless civilians,” he said.
The majority of those killed were Shiites. Most were shot but some were beheaded, Amani added.
Verifying information from poor, mountainous areas of Afghanistan made inaccessible by fighting and with patchy communications is difficult, and AFP was not able to access the village.
Mohammad Noor Rahmani, head of Sar-e-Pul’s provincial council, said 44 of the 50 victims were believed to be civilians, with the ALP militia also suffering casualties.
“This is not the final toll. It might change because the area is inaccessible and no telephone networks are working to get an update,” he told AFP.
The Taliban and Daesh fighters have regularly clashed since the latter gained a foothold in eastern Afghanistan in 2015, as the two vie for supremacy in the war-torn country.
An Afghan security source told AFP there had been around three incidents in the past where fighters from both groups had teamed up to strike Afghan forces in certain areas.
“This is not the first time that they have cooperated. There are no strict ideological distinctions between them so they build bridges when it helps them both. It’s very opportunistic,” the source said.
Daesh has been adding a sectarian twist to the Afghan conflict, with a number of deadly attacks on Shiites in the past year.
Last week two suicide bombers throwing grenades killed more than 33 worshippers at a mosque in Afghanistan’s western city of Herat, in an attack claimed by Daesh.
A resurgent Taliban, whose ranks are mostly made up of Sunni Muslim ethnic Pashtuns, is at the peak of its summer fighting season.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, confirmed to AFP that it had captured Mirzawalang village but said it had done so alone. It also denied allegations it had killed civilians.
“It was an independent operation by our mujahideen forces. There is no cooperation with the Islamic State (Daesh) on the operation,” said the spokesman.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday President Donald Trump has asked his advisers “tough questions” about American strategy in Afghanistan and is not willing to continue on as before.
The White House has launched a review of the US plan for Afghanistan after 16 years of war, and reports suggest that Trump’s national security team is divided on whether to send more troops or to pull out.
Speaking in Manila on the sidelines of a regional security forum, Tillerson did not reveal his own advice to the president — but said Trump would not be content with continuing the fight as before.
“The president is not willing to accept that, so he is asking some tough questions,” Tillerson told reporters.
Tillerson said the president’s National Security Council has met three times on the issue and that Vice President Mike Pence has joined Trump in taking a close interest in the strategy review.


Pakistan mulls taking Kashmir dispute to ICJ

Updated 4 min 54 sec ago

Pakistan mulls taking Kashmir dispute to ICJ

  • Senate committee chairman says several options being considered

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday said Islamabad is considering taking its dispute with India over Kashmir to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

“No final decision has been taken,” said Dr. Muhammad Faisal. “The media will be apprised once a decision is taken in this regard.”

Sajid Mir, chairman of the Senate committee on Kashmir, told Arab News that Pakistan is considering the ICJ as one of several options.

“Going to the ICJ is one of them, but it’s still under deliberation and no final decision has been taken,” Mir said, adding that Faisal had briefed senators about the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir.

“Around a million people are under house arrest in Kashmir, where the curfew has entered its 16th day,” Mir said.

“There are reports that around 4,000 Kashmiri people have been detained by occupation forces due to fear of a strong reaction,” he said, adding that Pakistan will “raise the issue at the (UN) Human Rights Council.”

FASTFACT

The decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status means the revocation of a bar on property purchases by people from outside the state, and government jobs and some college spots in Kashmir will no longer be reserved for its residents.

Political leaders in Kashmir had warned that repealing Article 370 of India’s constitution, and thereby changing the state’s special status, could trigger major unrest.

Indian authorities immediately launched a clampdown in Kashmir by suspending telephone and internet services and putting some leaders under house arrest.

The decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status means the revocation of a bar on property purchases by people from outside the state, and government jobs and some college spots in Kashmir will no longer be reserved for its residents.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity, since the partition of the British colony of India into the separate countries of Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. Kashmir is divided between India, Pakistan and China.

Any decision by the ICJ would be an advisory opinion only. “Although an advisory opinion will not be binding, it will support Pakistan’s position that Kashmir is an international issue, and is likely to put pressure on India to act in accordance with the previous resolutions of the UN Security Council,” said international law expert and barrister Taimur Malik.