Afghan official: Taliban suicide car bombing kills 7 people

(Google Maps)
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.


Traffic-choked Jakarta inaugurates mass rapid transit system

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago
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Traffic-choked Jakarta inaugurates mass rapid transit system

  • Tens of thousands of excited Jakartans were in attendance and eager to try riding on the subway for the first time
  • Environmentalists hope that the new line will cut traffic-linked carbon emissions by about half

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s capital inaugurated its first mass rapid transit system on Sunday, a $1.1 billion project seen as crucial to tackling some of the world’s worst traffic congestion.
President Joko Widodo and other officials joined a ceremony in Jakarta to give a green light for the 16-kilometer (10 mile) line, almost six years after construction began on the Japanese-backed project.
Tens of thousands of excited Jakartans were in attendance and eager to try riding on the subway for the first time, mobbing the president for selfies while music blared and traditional performers danced on a nearby stage.
“Honestly I am so happy,” office worker Mutia Fitrianti said. “Now we don’t have to go abroad just to ride an MRT.”
The train system runs above and below ground and stretches from the central Hotel Indonesia to the southern reaches of the Southeast Asian megalopolis of some 30 million people.
It aims to cut travel times between the two points to just 30 minutes from around two hours, offering some relief to frustrated commuters long used to spending much of their day stuck in traffic.
The new line is set to open to the public on Monday, with tickets free during the first week.
Construction on a second line linking downtown to Jakarta’s northern port is also kicking off Sunday with completion slated for 2024, and more lines are envisioned in the future.
A separate elevated rail network is also being built to link satellite cities with Jakarta, nicknamed the Big Durian after the pungent fruit that bitterly divides fans and its detractors.
The public transit projects are part of a sweeping infrastructure push that Widodo hopes will boost the fortunes of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy — and get him re-elected in national polls next month.
“If we have and integrated transportation system, it will be easier for people to go places and they will leave their cars or motorcycles at home,” Widodo told journalists on Sunday.
Over the past decade, rising incomes in the country of 260 million have created a ballooning middle class and sent vehicle ownership soaring.
But that’s also brought hazardous air pollution and annual economic losses that run into the billions as cars crawl along the capital’s roadways in the steamy tropical heat — alongside an underused bus system.
Environmentalists hope that the new line will cut traffic-linked carbon emissions by about half.
It could also make a dent in annual economic losses of some 65 trillion Rupiah ($4.6 billion) linked to road congestion, according to government figures.
The multi-billion dollar project is funded through a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“We think MRT Jakarta is the project of the century for us,” JICA senior vice president Tanaka Yasushi told reporters.
But transport analysts have cautioned that the new line and cheap prices will not cure the traffic woes of a city infatuated with private vehicles and with few decent sidewalks.
“The MRT won’t immediately ease the traffic because changing the culture and attitudes isn’t easy,” Hendi Bowoputro, a public transit expert at the University of Brawijaya, said before the inauguration.
And the line’s expected 130,000 daily passengers represent only about 10 percent of those who already cram into a decades-old commuter rail network.