Afghan Taliban calls for direct talks with the US

Afghan Taliban fighters listen to Mullah Mohammed Rasool, who was elected leader of a breakaway faction of the Taliban, in Farah province, Afghanistan in November, 2017. (AP, File)
Updated 27 February 2018
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Afghan Taliban calls for direct talks with the US

KABUL: The Taliban has called for direct talks with the US to find a “peaceful solution” to the conflict in Afghanistan, in an apparent policy reversal after months of escalating attacks.
Civilian casualties surged in recent months as militants from the Taliban, as well as Daesh group, unleashed a wave of bloodshed in urban areas and on security forces in response to a new open-ended military policy by US President Donald Trump.
In a statement posted late Monday, the Taliban said it “calls on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary,” using its official name.
There has been no response to the offer from US officials, who have historically insisted any talks must include the Afghan government in Kabul.
The call for talks comes a day before the second round of a regional peace conference in Kabul, where representatives from 25 countries will discuss counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies.
The Taliban published an open letter to the American people and the US Congress earlier February, suggesting the insurgents may be ready for talks.
The apparent openness to negotiations is unusual for the militant group, which has repeatedly stated that it will not enter talks until foreign troops leave the country.
Unveiling his new Afghan strategy last August, Trump said the US presence in Afghanistan would remain open-ended, as Washington stepped up strikes on militant strongholds.
In January, Trump ruled out holding talks with the Taliban, after a spate of assaults in Kabul.
The attacks included an assault on the capital’s luxury Intercontinental Hotel, an ambulance bomb in a crowded street and a raid on a military compound, that killed more than 130 people.
As violence intensifies nationwide, the Afghan capital will host the Kabul Process Wednesday, focusing on rebooting peace talks and uniting regional countries in the fight against terrorism.
“At the Kabul conference, we will present a comprehensive peace plan for Taliban and Pakistan,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday.
The conference follows an earlier meeting held in June last year.


Knox accuses media of having built false story around her

US journalist Amanda Knox cries as she addresses a panel discussion titled "Trial by Media" during the Criminal Justice Festival at the Law University of Modena, northern Italy on June 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 52 sec ago
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Knox accuses media of having built false story around her

  • Knox said she came back to Italy despite the fact that she was afraid of being “molested, derided, framed, that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth”

ROME: Taking the stage Saturday at an Italian conference on justice, Amanda Knox accused the media of having built a false narrative around her during her yearslong murder trial and appeals process, depicting her as guilty even though she was eventually acquitted.
The former exchange student from the United States who became the focus of a sensational murder case returned to Italy this week for the first time since an appeals court acquitted her in 2011 in the slaying of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
Knox, speaking in Italian on a panel discussion at the Criminal Justice Festival in Modena titled “Trial by media,” said she was depicted “on the global scene as cunning, psychopath, drug-addicted, whore. Guilty.”
Speaking through tears, she said the media that labelled her “Foxy Knoxy” invented a “false and baseless story, which fueled people’s fantasies and talked to their fears.”
Knox’s 2011 acquittal was part of a long legal process that saw multiple flip-flop rulings before she was definitively acquitted in 2015 by Italy’s highest court.
Knox said she came back to Italy despite the fact that she was afraid of being “molested, derided, framed, that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth.”
She also criticized Italian prosecutors, who described a scenario made up of “orgies and sex toys” during her first trial, even though that version of the story was toned down in the appeal.
Knox acknowledged that despite her final acquittal “I remain a controversial figure in the public opinion, especially here in Italy.”
She had been accused with her Italian boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, and Ivorian-born Rudy Guede of killing Kercher on Nov. 1, 2007, in the university town of Perugia. After multiple rulings, Italy’s highest court definitively acquitted Knox and Sollecito in 2015. Guede is still serving a 16-year sentence.
During her speech, which was followed by a standing ovation, Knox recalled Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini as the one who accused her in his search for justice.
“One day I’d like to meet the real Mignini, and I hope that when he comes, he will also see that I am not a monster, I simply am Amanda,” Knox said.
On Friday, the lawyer for Kercher’s family described Knox’s invitation to speak at the Criminal Justice Festival as “inappropriate.”
“Inviting her to a technical panel on justice was a mistake,” Francesco Maresca told The Associated Press, adding that “lawyers for both parts should have been involved.”