Afghanistan launches offensive against Taliban after Kabul attacks

Afghan military soldiers stand stand alert at the entrance gate of the new parliament building after a rocket attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Afghanistan launches offensive against Taliban after Kabul attacks

KABUL: Afghan security forces, backed by US troops, have increased assaults on Taliban militants following a series of deadly attacks by the insurgents in the Afghan capital.
The Defense Ministry claimed on Sunday that more than 100 militants had been killed in the previous 24 hours.
Gen. Dawlat Waziri, chief spokesperson for the Defense Ministry, said the offensive will continue until the militants surrender.
“We will keep up the offensives because the terrorists have crossed the red line. These attacks are different from their usual ones. We will force the insurgents to either come to the negotiation table or we will kill them,” Waziri told Arab News.
Afghanistan has launched air and ground offensives in Helmand, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces in the south; Faryab and Baghlan in the north; and Ghazni and Logar provinces in the east, while the Taliban suffered its heaviest losses in Kandahar, the Defense Ministry statement said.
However, while conceding it had suffered some casualties in other parts of the country, the Taliban said the victims in Kandahar were civilians, not militants.
The offensives involve Afghan Special Forces and some have also been supported by US air strikes, according to Waziri. He said the crackdown was in response to the wave of terror attacks in urban areas, mostly in Kabul, where over 150 people lost their lives in three separate attacks in recent days.
President Ashraf Ghani described last Tuesday’s horrific Taliban attack in Kabul as “Afghanistan’s 9/11” and has since ordered countrywide offensives against militants who are not interested in engaging with the peace process.
“The important point of the president’s message was that the government will not negotiate with those who take responsibility for the attacks, but will embrace those who condemn them,” chief presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazavi told Arab News.
The Taliban ramped up its attacks following months of strikes by US-led troops and Afghan forces as part of US President Donald Trump’s new Afghan strategy, which focuses on rural areas, mostly in the south, the traditional Taliban stronghold.
Security analyst Abdul Jabar Qahraman, a former general, said the surge in military offensives has been “productive” and has inflicted “heavy losses” on the enemy.
“The war in Afghanistan has two factors: Local and foreign,” he explained. “The main factor is foreign, where the roots of the war lay. You can win the war when you dry up the foreign factor.”
Afghanistan has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Haqqani network, blamed for a number of terror attacks on Afghan soil. Islamabad denies the claims.
“Under pressure because of past offensives, the Taliban have changed their tactics by conducting suicide attacks …. in urban areas,” Qahraman said. “The government and foreign troops may continue to hit the Taliban in rural areas, but the Taliban in return will try to attack cities. This is not the solution. The real solution is to finish the external element.”


Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

Updated 57 min 36 sec ago
0

Devotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

  • India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala
  • Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented, when the temple reopned

PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged one of Hinduism’s holiest temples in southern India Saturday as it reopened amid high security, but women aged between 10 and 50 were absent despite a court order allowing them to enter.
Hindu activists meanwhile imposed a strike to protest that the security measures were impeding their ability to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, closing shops and reducing traffic to a trickle.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala.
But when the temple reopened for several days last month, Hindu hard-liners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented.
With thousands of extra riot police on duty and police barricades set up, the hilltop temple reopened late on Friday a day ahead of the start of a Hindu festival period.
Among the several hundred thousand people who have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks are around 700 women, setting the stage for a major showdown.
However, no women have yet tried to approach the site ahead of a hearing next week at the Supreme Court of a motion announced late Friday by the board managing the temple site.
It aims to ask the court, likely on Monday, to allow more time to admit women, citing the lack of infrastructure following major floods in August, a spokesman told AFP.
On January 22 the Supreme Court will also hear challenges to its original September ruling, one of a series of recent liberal decisions including the decriminalization of gay sex and of adultery.

One woman who did want to get to Sabarimala on Friday was activist Trupti Desai.
But a crowd of around 500 people staged a sit-in and prevented her from leaving Kochi airport and late Friday she and several women companions flew back to Mumbai, Indian media reported.
“We tried to hire taxis several times but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do,” Desai told Indian television.
Separately late Friday police arrested another woman, K.P Sasikala, a local community leader, for seeking to defy a ban on spending the night at the temple site.
Sasikala is over 50 so Hindu organizations are not opposed to her entering the site.
Instead they were incensed that restrictions were being imposed on pilgrims and called the local strike for Saturday.
“Hindu community leaders called for the strike and we support it,” P.S Sreedharan Pillai, the local president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told AFP.
“The police are putting restrictions on devotees who want to go there and pray,” Pillai added.
A few protesters pelted stones at public buses on the roads in some parts of the state, a Kerala police official told AFP.
Local media reports said about 2,000 protesters gathered around a police station in Pathanamthitta district, 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the temple, where Sasikala was being held.
“Sasikala was detained as the police had instructed that devotees will be not allowed to stay around the temple at night, which she insisted,” Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.
Women activists say the ban on women between 10 and 50 at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity.
They argue that women are allowed in most Hindu temples and the practice at Sabarimala is part of their tradition, and not anti-women.