Afghan official: Taliban suicide car bombing kills 7 people

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Updated 23 August 2017
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Afghan official: Taliban suicide car bombing kills 7 people

KABUL: A Taliban suicide car bomber targeted a military convoy in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Wednesday, killing at least seven people, a provincial official said.
The attack comes just days after President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, which involves maintaining a US military presence in the country and upending a campaign vow to end America’s longest war.
According to Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor, Wednesday’s explosion in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, also wounded 42 people, mostly civilians.
Initial reports show that those killed included a small girl, two women and four soldiers, Zwak said, expressing fears that the death toll could rise further.
“This is from our initial reports, I am afraid the casualty tolls might change once we get a final report form the attack,” he added.
The bombing took place near the police chief’s headquarters. Local TV broadcast footage showing several military Humvees, which the Afghan army also uses, destroyed as a result of the attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a posting on his twitter account.
Senior Afghan government officials on Tuesday welcomed Trump’s strategy announcement from Monday. Senior US officials said Trump may send up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately.
Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of giving extremists a safe haven, while next door in Afghanistan they kill US troops. He said he wanted “immediate” results without saying what actions the United States might take against Pakistan if it ignored his warning.
The United States and Afghanistan have routinely accused Pakistan — and particularly its powerful intelligence agency — of harboring insurgents and of waging a selective war, attacking those militants Islamabad considers its enemy and allowing those it has been known to use as proxies, either against hostile neighbors India or Afghanistan, to flourish.
Taliban attacks have stepped up all across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of foreign combat forces from the war-torn nation at the end of 2014, and the insurgents have lately been constantly expanding their footprint.
Earlier this month, the Taliban in an “open letter” to Trump, reiterated their calls for the withdrawal of all remaining US troops. The United States has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, who support local forces and carry out counterterrorism operations.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 2 min 16 sec ago
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.