Tehran fanning regional instability by backing Taliban, says US envoy

New US Ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass, said Tehran’s backing of the Taliban could “destabilize Iran’s eastern borders”. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 27 March 2018
0

Tehran fanning regional instability by backing Taliban, says US envoy

KABUL: Tehran’s backing of the Taliban could “destabilize Iran’s eastern borders,” said the new US ambassador to Afghanistan, John Bass.
“Iran is providing logistical support to the Taliban,” he told the BBC in an interview aired on Tuesday, adding that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is involved in the backing. “It is tough to know why Iran sees fanning the war in Afghanistan as in its interest.”
Tehran has been fanning regional instability and sectarian conflict for the past five years, Bass said.
At the time of writing, it was not possible to reach Iran’s embassy in Kabul for comment. But a Taliban spokesman told Arab News that the US ambassador’s comments are baseless propaganda aimed at “covering America’s failure in Afghanistan and remaining here.”
The comments by Bass come days after Washington’s top general in Afghanistan, John Nicholson, who heads the NATO-led force in the country, said Moscow is arming the Taliban.
The group has waged an insurgency against the Afghan government and the US-led coalition since its ouster in late 2001.
Russia’s Embassy in Kabul said Nicholson’s comments were “idle gossip.” Last month, Bass denied Iranian and Russian claims that Washington is backing Daesh.
Tehran and Moscow were enemies of the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan for five years, but in recent years they have forged ties with the group, which is active in vast parts of the country.
Iran and Russia say the ties are merely to protect their nationals in Afghanistan and to persuade the Taliban to join the peace process.
Najib Mahmoud, a political science professor, told Arab News that the allegations by Nicholson and Bass are part of “big US rivalries with Iran and Russia in other parts of the world, such as Syria and Ukraine.”
Mahmoud added: “Countries in the region and beyond are directly and indirectly involved in the Afghan war, with each pursuing their interests and seeking to crush their rivals.”
He said: “It would be very wise for the Afghan government to not allow the country to be further trampled on by taking sides in this war.”


4 shot, 2 arrested at Raptors rally in Toronto: Police

Updated 34 min 26 sec ago
0

4 shot, 2 arrested at Raptors rally in Toronto: Police

TORONTO: Four people were shot and wounded at a rally Monday for the NBA champion Raptors, and two people were arrested “with firearms,” police said.
Droves of Raptors fans ran from the shooting in a stampede from the City Hall square, which was packed with tens of thousands of people. A million or more fans earlier packed downtown Toronto for a parade for the Raptors, raising concerns about safety and overcrowding.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said four people suffered gunshot wounds but said none of the injuries were life-threatening. Others suffered minor injuries as they tried to get away from the shooting, said Saunders, who asked for witnesses and people who might have video to come forward and help investigators.
“We do have people arrested with firearms and that’s the start of the investigation,” Saunders said.
Asked if it was a targeted shooting or terrorism-related, police spokeswoman Allison Sparkes said the investigation was ongoing.
During a speech from one of the team owners, the host of the rally interrupted the proceedings to alert the crowd to an emergency and asked for calm. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto Mayor John Tory, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and other players were among those on stage at the time.
“I want to make sure everyone stays calm,” said the host, sportscaster Matt Devlin. “This is serious. Everyone stay calm ... There is an emergency being dealt with.”
Those on stage remained in place and speeches resumed shortly after.
Andrew Singh said he heard what appeared to be gunshots and that a woman was wounded before people started scrambling.
“We just saw the girl drop to the floor and the guy running off,” the 29-year-old said. “All I heard was, ‘bop bop bop.’“
Mike Mudidi said he was enjoying the celebrations when he heard screams behind him that someone had pulled out a gun. He said he froze as people started running in all directions.
“I just grabbed my buddies’ hands and ran,” he said.
Raptors fan Phil D’Souza said the violence left a bad taste in his mouth, and he questioned whether he would attend a similar event in the future.
“You couldn’t see the shooter but it was that kind of chaos where you’re just expecting to see somebody coming around the corner. It was that kind of vibe,” D’Souza said.
Another fan said the stampede was scary.
“When you see a bunch of people coming at you, you don’t know what to do, whether to run or not. You don’t want to get stampeded over,” Sam Sunday said.
Trudeau’s spokeswoman declined to comment on the shooting near the prime minister.
“We never comment on matters relating to the PM’s security,” Eleanore Catenaro said.
Tory, the mayor, thanked police for their quick response and said he was angered by the shooting.
“It is disappointing and I’m sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge it at what was otherwise a joyous celebration,” Tory said in a statement. “I hope those found responsible will be held to account to the full extent that the law permits. I want to commend and thank the millions of other people who happily and peacefully celebrated our beloved Toronto Raptors.”
Tory previously urged every city resident to come celebrate the Raptors’ first championship and declared Monday as “We The North Day,” after the franchise’s slogan.
“Toronto, more than a million of us flooded the streets today to celebrate our Raptors,” city councilman Joe Cressy tweeted. “People of all every age, every race, every religion — our City. As awful as the shooting was and terrifying for many in the crowd afterwards, don’t let it take away from our moment.”
Some 1.5 million fans withstood packed conditions to attend the parade. Nicolas Caramanna, 21, said the crowd started to get rowdy shortly after he arrived at 9 a.m.
Many others chose to miss school or work. Cypher Sabanal, 15, said his mom let him skip class to attend the celebration.
John Moreira called in sick to work so he could be part of Toronto’s first celebration of this magnitude since the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993.
“I told my boss I wanted to be at the parade and he said there wasn’t much he could do if I called in sick, so that’s exactly what I did,” the 31-year-old said.
As the parade inched forward — discernibly behind schedule — a number of Raptors could not help but marvel at the fan response.
“It’s been amazing,” Leonard said. “Thank you Toronto, thank you Canada for the support. We did it.”
Several fans were seen carrying signs imploring Leonard to re-sign with the Raptors. He will be a free agent this summer.
Kyle Lowry, the team’s longest-tenured player, hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy while his teammates smoked cigars.
“This is unbelievable,” he said.