Afghanistan orders frontier forces to retaliate to Pakistani shelling

A view of the border fence outside the Kitton outpost on the border with Afghanistan in North Waziristan, Pakistan on October 18, 2017. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2017
0

Afghanistan orders frontier forces to retaliate to Pakistani shelling

KABUL/ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s government said on Monday that it has ordered its border forces to respond to the wave of shelling on its eastern areas by Pakistan, which Kabul says has displaced over 300 families since last week.
Afghanistan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri said Kabul was also pushing through diplomatic channels, including the UN and the US-led coalition force in Afghanistan, to halt the shelling.
“People’s houses have been destroyed, their livestock killed, and over 300 families have been displaced since Pakistan resumed the shelling, this shameless act, last week. Some people have been hurt and the shelling continues. We have instructed the frontier force to fire on any target that (fires) shells,” Waziri told Arab News.
Pakistan has been repeatedly accused by locals and government officials of firing rockets at targets in Afghanistan over the past several years. This latest wave of attacks has taken place in several districts situated on the disputed border area of the Durand Line in eastern Kunar province.
“People face a lot of difficulties in the extreme winter weather conditions, and the central government has not taken any action so far,” Saleh Mohammed Saleh, an MP from Kunar, told Arab News.
He said the government is consumed by its internal divisions, adding that the focus of President Ashraf Ghani’s administration is on the parliamentary elections slated for next year and the 2019 presidential poll when he is expected to run for office again.
The US-reliant Afghan government has mostly tried to exercise restraint as it lacks the resources for retaliation and fears any tit-for-tat move could result in a humiliating and drawn-out war with its nuclear-armed neighbor with which it has a long-running border dispute.
Afghan forces have clashed with Pakistani troops on numerous occasions along the ill-defined and disputed border region, with both sides suffering losses.
Some Afghans have demanded the cancelation of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) which Ghani signed with Washington when he assumed power in 2014.
The BSA allows US troops an indefinite presence in Afghanistan in return for a guarantee that the coalition will respond to any act of aggression from outside in consultation with the Afghan government. Both the Afghan government and the US and its allies have accused Pakistan of harboring militants who pose a threat to Afghanistan.
Pakistan claims the shelling is aimed at Pakistani insurgents living in Afghan villages.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr. Muhammad Faisal told Arab News: “Pakistani troops never initiate fire and only respond when they are fired upon; more than 43 percent of Afghan territory remains ungoverned.
“Terrorist sanctuaries are there (in ungoverned areas of Afghanistan) from where they fired on Pakistani posts. It’s important to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan soil.”
Last week, Capt. Junaid Hafeez and Sepoy Raham were killed by terrorists firing from the Afghan side of the border in Bajaur tribal region.
After the attack Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Afghan charge d’affaires and lodged a formal protest over the “use of Afghan soil” by terrorists.
However, Waziri said the reason behind the latest wave of shelling by Pakistan is to avoid pressure from the US and NATO over its continued alleged backing of Afghan insurgents


Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

Updated 15 August 2018
0

Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

  • The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province
  • The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups

BENI, Congo: Congo’s latest deadly Ebola outbreak has spread into a neighboring province, the health ministry said Tuesday, as health workers began using an experimental treatment for the disease.
Health officials are hoping the mAb114 therapy, isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in 1995, will be effective in this outbreak that so far has 30 confirmed cases including 14 deaths.
Five patients have been given the treatment, said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Four other experimental treatments have been approved for use, he said.
The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province in Congo’s turbulent northeast when a man who had been treated for heart problems in Mangina, where the outbreak was declared Aug. 1, returned home, the health ministry said. He has since died and tests confirmed he had Ebola.
Vaccinations began last week in Mangina and Beni, the major town about 30 kilometers (18 miles) away where Ebola treatment centers have been set up. Health authorities are using what is called a ring vaccination technique in which health workers are vaccinated first, along with contacts of Ebola patients and their contacts.
Seven of the nearly 75 health workers in Mangina have been infected, Tedros said. More than 200 health workers have been vaccinated, along with 20 residents in the Beni region, he said. There are 3,000 vaccine doses in Congo.
The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups in the densely populated region close to the Ugandan border. WHO has called for secure access to all affected populations and for the cessation of hostilities.
“The virus is dangerous to us all,” Tedros said.
There are designated “red zones” where health workers cannot go because of the insecurity, raising concerns that cases could easily spread there, he said.
“We are on an epidemiological precipice,” WHO’s emergency preparedness chief, Dr. Peter Salama, said in a Twitter post, with a limited window of opportunity to stop the outbreak from spreading into those areas.
For now the epicenter of the outbreak is in and around Beni so aid workers have been able to move with relative safety, said Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Congo country director for Mercy Corps.
The area around Mangina and Beni, however, is “almost completely surrounded by armed groups,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.
North Kivu is densely populated with more than 1 million displaced people, and while this is Congo’s tenth Ebola outbreak health officials have said the local population is not familiar with the disease. That makes outreach more challenging.
“The unknown can create more fear,” Marcoux said.
The WHO chief said the risk of international spread is low. He said officials have been in contact with neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.