Iran arming Taliban, says top Afghan general

Afghan commandos participate in a combat training exercise at Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province. Marines in Helmand say President Donald Trump’s decision to keep boots on the ground indefinitely gives them ‘all the time in the world’ to retake the province, once the symbol of US intervention but now a Taliban stronghold. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2017
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Iran arming Taliban, says top Afghan general

KABUL: Iran provides arms and military equipment to Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan, an army chief has claimed, marking the first confirmation from a high-ranking official of the war-torn country.
President Ashraf Ghani raised the matter with his Iranian counterpart during his recent visit to Tehran, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Sharif Yaftali, chief of general staff for the Afghan National Army, told the BBC Persian Service.
Yaftali said Kabul had documents showing “Iran was providing arms and military equipment to the Taliban in western Afghanistan.” He gave no further details.
Some local officials in western Afghanistan in the past had spoken about Iran’s role in the Afghan war and its backing of the insurgents.
Yaftali’s comments are however the first from a high-ranking Afghan official pointing to Iran’s alleged support for the Taliban.
Taliban spokesmen were unavailable for comment, and the Iranian embassy in Kabul could not immediately be reached. Tehran, which opposes the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, has in the past rejected claims that it backs the Taliban.
Dawlat Waziri, the chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense on Thursday said Yaftali’s comments were “misquoted” and that he expects a correction. He told Arab News that Afghanistan had “reports, not evidence about Iran’s involvement” and that it was verifying the reports.
Others say however that there is firm evidence that Iran is supporting the fundamentalist political group.
“Iranian land mines and weapons are used by the Taliban and it is directly engaged in supporting the Taliban militarily and financially,” analyst Bashir Bezhen told Arab News.
“It has its reservations over water distribution with Afghanistan and secondly is locked in a deep rivalry with the US in Afghanistan. It wants to see the US defeat and ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
Iran has long been at loggerheads with Kabul, often over water disputes.
Much to Kabul’s anguish, Iran has in recent years officially hosted mid-ranking Taliban commanders at gatherings of Islamic scholars. Reports of its military and financial backing of the Taliban have increased ever since Ghani’s government signed a strategic security pact with Washington in 2014.
Former Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan last year, was reportedly en-route there from Iran where, according to media reports, many mid-ranking Taliban commanders have transferred their families to live.
Some Afghan observers say Iran is part of a regional block pushing the withdrawal of US troops that overthrew the Taliban regime 16 years ago in Afghanistan.


Catholic priest stabbed live on TV at Canada's biggest church

Updated 4 min 42 sec ago
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Catholic priest stabbed live on TV at Canada's biggest church

  • The priest was celebrating mass at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory when a tall man approached and stabbed him
  • Security guards and other churchgoers quickly restrained the suspect and was arrested by police

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.

Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”