Militants storm Kabul spy training center

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of complex attack at an intelligence training center in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (AP)
Updated 18 December 2017
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Militants storm Kabul spy training center

KABUL: Militants stormed an intelligence agency training facility in Kabul on Monday, officials said, triggering intense fighting with police in the latest Daesh group attack to hit the Afghan capital.
“Around 10:10 am, a group of armed attackers entered an under-construction building in (the) NDS training center in (the) Afshar area of Kabul,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP, referring to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s spy agency.
“The fighting is ongoing and we have also launched our operation.”
Nasrat Rahim, a deputy interior ministry spokesman, said the sound of large and small arms fire could be heard from the fighting.
“There are three attackers involved... the clearance operation is ongoing,” said the spokesman, adding there were no immediate reports of any casualties.
Roads to the area were closed and dozens of police and intelligence officers were blocking access to the public. AFP reporters, who were held more than a kilometer away from the scene, saw ambulances and reinforcements headed toward the site.
“I was going toward my school. It (the attack) happened suddenly... the police arrived in the area fast and blocked the roads, not allowing anyone to get to their homes,” Naweed, a student, told AFP.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack through its propaganda arm.
“Two IS attackers raid the Afghan intelligence center in Kabul,” the jihadists’ Amaq outlet reported.
The Afghan capital has become one of the deadliest places in the war-torn country for civilians in recent months, as the resurgent Taliban and increasingly Daesh both step up their attacks, targeting security installations and mosques.
Security in Kabul has been ramped up since May 31 when a massive truck bomb ripped through the city’s diplomatic quarter, killing about 150 and wounding around 400 people, mostly civilians.
No group has officially claimed responsibility for that attack, which the government has blamed on the Taliban-allied Haqqani Network.
Monday’s attack represents another blow to beleaguered Afghan forces.
The Taliban have targeted military installations in recent months, including a spate of attacks in October that killed around 150 people.
Afghan forces, already beset by desertions and corruption, have seen casualties soar to what a US watchdog has described as “shockingly high” levels since NATO forces officially ended their combat mission in 2014.
Morale has been further eroded by long-running fears that the militants have insider help — everything from infiltrators in the ranks to corrupt Afghan forces selling equipment to the Taliban.
But Daesh, which has expanded its presence in Afghanistan since it first appeared in the region in 2015, has also dramatically scaled up its attacks in Kabul, including on the country’s Shiite minority.
In November, a suicide attacker blew himself up outside a political gathering in Kabul, killing at least 14 people in an attack claimed by Daesh.


Flynn, Manafort to make arguments in Russia probe

Updated 2 min 5 sec ago
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Flynn, Manafort to make arguments in Russia probe

  • The defendants represent starkly different paths in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation
  • Flynn has stayed largely out of the public eye and refrained from discussing the Russia investigation despite encouragement from his supporters to take an aggressive stance.

WASHINGTON: Their fortunes sliding in divergent directions, two former Trump aides are pleading their case to judges Tuesday in hopes of easing the punishment they could face for their crimes.
Lawyers for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn will make a sentencing recommendation in a court filing due by the end of the day, while Paul Manafort’s defense team is expected to argue that the ex-Trump campaign chairman never intentionally lied to prosecutors.
The defendants represent starkly different paths in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — a model cooperator on one end, and, prosecutors say, a dishonest and resistant witness on the other.
Both men could be a potential threat to President Donald Trump as Mueller examines whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign.
Prosecutors with Mueller said last week that Flynn had been so cooperative in their investigation, meeting with them 19 times, that he was entitled to no prison time. Flynn’s attorneys are also expected to make the same recommendation for their client, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his conversations during the presidential transition period with the-then Russian ambassador to the United States.
Since his guilty plea a year ago, Flynn has stayed largely out of the public eye and refrained from discussing the Russia investigation despite encouragement from his supporters to take an aggressive stance.
Tuesday’s filing will be the first opportunity where Flynn’s attorneys, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, will lay out his side of the story. The memo is expected to emphasize the retired US Army lieutenant general’s more than 30 years in the military, including five years in combat, and his acceptance of responsibility for his actions early on in the Russia investigation.
The memo could also reflect the toll the investigation has taken on Flynn and his family over the past two years. In a public statement after his plea, Flynn has said he cooperated with prosecutors because it was in “the best interests of my family and our country.”
Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced next week.
In Manafort’s case, prosecutors have accused him of repeatedly lying to them even after he agreed to cooperate. They say Manafort lied about his interactions with a longtime associate they say has ties to Russian intelligence, his contacts with Trump administration officials and other matters under investigation by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors have left open the door to filing additional charges against Manafort, who already faces years in prison.
Manafort’s attorneys have denied the allegations and are expected to present more detailed arguments at a court hearing Tuesday in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in September.
Manafort faces sentencing in a separate case in Virginia, where he was convicted of eight felony counts related to his efforts to hide millions of dollars he earned from Ukrainian political consulting from the IRS.