US says airstrike kills 2 militants in Somalia

A Kenya Defense Force soldier in action while confronting Al-Shabab attackers at a campus in Garissa. (Reuters/file)
Updated 03 January 2018
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US says airstrike kills 2 militants in Somalia

MOGADISHU/NAIROBI: The US military said on Wednesday it had killed two militants in Somalia in an airstrike targeting Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group that is fighting to topple the UN-backed government.
The military’s Africa Command said the strike took place around 50km west of the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, and that a “vehicle-borne improvised explosive device” had also been destroyed in the early morning attack.
Last month Washington warned of a threat to its diplomatic staff in Mogadishu and directed all non-essential staff to leave the city.
Al-Shabab was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 and has lost control of most of Somalia’s major towns. But the group retains a strong presence in the south and center and can still carry out major attacks. It was blamed for twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu in October that killed more than 500 people.
5 policemen killed
Meanwhile, five Kenyan policemen were killed in an attack on their vehicle in the northeast county of Mandera near the border with Somalia late on Tuesday, a government official in the area said.
Dozens of Kenyan security personnel have been killed in recent months in the remote lands near the border with Somalia, in raids by the Al-Shabab militants from Somalia. The group claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
Daniel Bundotich, the deputy county commissioner for Mandera South, said those killed included three police reservists, local civilians who usually assist the police and are assigned uniforms and arms.
“The militants also set on fire a police lorry ... The police officers were on patrol along Elwak-Kutolo when they were ambushed,” he told Reuters.
Al-Shabab has also launched other attacks in Kenya targeting civilians, in revenge for Kenya moving its troops into Somalia in late 2011.
The militants aim to topple Somalia’s government, and to drive out African Union peacekeeping troops.


Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

Updated 15 December 2018
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Pakistan and China push for peace in Afghanistan

  • Trilateral talks also focused on boosting trust and security between the three countries
  • FM Qureshi extends the olive branch for a new chapter with Kabul

KABUL: Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China held a trilateral meeting in Kabul on Saturday where they discussed measures to boost political trust and join hands for a regional war against militancy which would facilitate the Afghan peace process, even as Taliban insurgents stepped up their attacks.

The meeting was the second one to take place after Beijing had initiated the talks in December last year in order to ease the rising tension between Kabul and Islamabad whose relationship is highly critical for Beijing’s growing economic and political clout in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In recent years, China has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan and is actively using its influence to bring the two South Asian neighbors closer.

Pakistan has long been accused by Afghanistan and the US of providing safe havens for Afghan Taliban leaders, by funding and arming them since their ouster in late 2001.

Islamabad has denied the allegations.

After the meeting on Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi pushed for a new chapter with Afghanistan, adding that the ongoing blame game would not help in achieving peace or building trust between Islamabad and Kabul.

He said that the Daesh and militants from Central Asia and eastern China were against the peace process in Afghanistan, urging for joint efforts to tackle the extremism.

“I am here to engage with Afghanistan. Let us not stick to the past and stop pointing a finger on Pakistan… I came here to build trust and bridges and reach peace and stability. Any improvement in Afghanistan will benefit Pakistan,” Qureshi told a news conference.

The three countries signed an agreement pushing for joint efforts in the war against militancy with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister, Salahuddin Rabbani, saying that the coming weeks and months will be highly crucial in evaluating Pakistan’s intentions and its role in supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Officials from both Afghanistan and Pakistan have held a number of meetings in recent years to mend bilateral ties and work towards measures to fight militancy. However, those talks were an exercise in futility as they were followed by the two countries trading accusations and resorting to the blame game. Rabbani said that “the time has come (for Pakistan) to practically show with genuine steps” that it will fulfill its pledges.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described both Afghanistan and Pakistan as its strategic partners, adding that China had great political trust in the two. He asked both the countries to resolve their problems in a peaceful manner and backed the US’ efforts to engage in peace talks with the Taliban, urging the militant group to get involved in the process. 

“We support Afghanistan and Pakistan’s efforts for peace and we call on the Taliban to join the peace process. Cooperation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China is important to bring peace to Afghanistan.” 

The three sides emphasized the importance of regional connectivity and economic development between them. 

Saturday’s meeting took place at a time when Washington is stepping up its efforts to hold talks with the Taliban by meeting with regional powers on how to end the US war in Afghanistan which began more than 17 years ago.

Mohammad Nateqi, a former Afghan diplomat, said that a deciding factor for Saturday’s agreement to work depended on building mutual trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan given the fact that similar conversations have taken place between Kabul and Islamabad earlier as well, without bearing any fruit.

However, at the same time, he was optimistic about positive results, reasoning that the situation had changed when compared to the past with the US increasing its efforts for talks with the Taliban.

“Such meetings can be helpful in mending ties between the countries and in helping them come closer to achieving a peace plan,” he told Arab News.