Dozens killed by Afghan air strikes in northern Kunduz

An Afghan resident is treated at a hospital following an airstrike in Kunduz on April 2, 2018. An Afghan airstrike on a religious school in a Taliban stronghold on April 2 caused multiple casualties, including civilians, an Afghan security source and witnesses said. / AFP / Bashir KHAN SAFI
Updated 03 April 2018
0

Dozens killed by Afghan air strikes in northern Kunduz

  • Defense Ministry chief spokesman General Mohammad Radmanesh said the army’s helicopters targeted a “concentration Taliban site”.
  • The Taliban also said a madrassa was hit, and that all the victims were civilians.
KABUL: Dozens of people were killed on Monday in a series of air strikes by the Afghan air force in a district of northern Kunduz province.
Several politicians claimed a madrassa was hit during a graduation ceremony for Islamic students.
Defense Ministry chief spokesman General Mohammad Radmanesh said the army’s helicopters targeted a “concentration Taliban site” in Dasht-e-Archi because militants planned to unleash attacks on government institutions in the district, which has been largely controlled by insurgents for several years.
The attacks were carried out at midday local time, without any involvement by the US-led coalition, he said, adding that 21 Taliban members died in the assault, which left dozens wounded.
Radmanesh denied reports from several senators and two provincial officials that a madrassa was targeted.
The lawmakers said several dozen people were killed, while an unconfirmed report from the province put the total number of dead and wounded at more than 150. One senator, Abdullah Qarloq, said civilians were among the victims, along with Taliban militants.
The Taliban also said a madrassa was hit, and that all the victims were civilians.
“Those responsible for killing civilians and insulting religion will be brought to justice,” said spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an email to Arab News.
A senior government official in Kabul denied that a religious school had been hit, and said all of the casualties were militants.
However, Patricia Gossman, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, fears that many of those killed might have been civilians.
“Under laws of war, targeted killings must be carried out in compliance with principle of proportionality,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is latest incident in which airstrikes aimed at killing insurgent leaders may have disproportionately killed civilians.”
The attack comes a week after allegations that a group of civilian students in a seminary were killed in a similar air strike in western Farah province by an Afghan air force attack, and days after reports of civilian casualties in northeastern Badakhshan province.
Since assuming power over three years ago, President Ashraf Ghani’s government has mostly remained silent about civilian deaths in Afghanistan caused by Afghan government forces and the US-led coalition.
More than 40 patients and hospital staff were killed in sustained US air strikes on a French-run hospital in 2015 after the Taliban briefly captured Kunduz city.


Tunisian women hit campaign trail as equals to men

Updated 7 min 25 sec ago
0

Tunisian women hit campaign trail as equals to men

  • The North African country’s 2014 constitution has been praised as a key milestone, paving the way for greater equality
  • Fifty-two percent of Tunisia’s 5.3 million voters are under the age of 35

TEBOURABA, Tunisia: Tunisian women “have the chance to act,” says Ines Boussetta, as she hits the campaign trail in northern Tebourba, listening attentively to the problems of the rural region’s inhabitants.
Boussetta is one of hundreds of Tunisian women heading party lists in May 6 municipal polls — and for the first time, women will be on an equal footing with men, thanks to a new electoral law.
“I have faced many criticisms and commentaries, like ‘you are too young,’ ‘you don’t have political experience,’ ‘how can a woman lead a council?’” Boussetta, a candidate for the ruling Nida Tounes party, she says.
But “women today have the chance to act, to have an opinion that counts,” she added.
Around 100 party lists have been rejected for failing to meet a strict requirement for the candidacy of men and women to alternate in the municipal polls, the first since mass protests forced dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power in 2011.
Boussetta says she was attracted by Nida Tounes because its founder, Tunisia’s 91-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi, has sought to promote the role of women and young people.
The head of state’s 2014 election triumph was “thanks to women,” says the former health volunteer.
The North African country’s 2014 constitution has been praised as a key milestone, paving the way for greater equality.
A law on violence against women, passed last year, came into force in January.
“A new political generation is in the process of appearing,” says Torkia Chebbi, vice president of the League of Tunisian voters, a group set up in 2011 to promote female participation in political life.
Fifty-two percent of Tunisia’s 5.3 million voters are under the age of 35.
Women now sit at the top of more than a quarter of the 2,074 party lists.
Many of the female candidates first dipped their toes into politics with the fall of Ben Ali through their work in civil society, Chebbi says.
But “without the law on parity, we would never have achieved such a figure, because attitudes continue to favor men,” says Chebbi.
The key parties, Nida Tounes and its junior coalition partner the Islamist Ennahda party, were found to have fulfilled the new gender requirement.
For Boussetta, who moves onto her next campaign stop in a modest black car, her experience working in the health sector makes improving infrastructure a big priority.
Many have placed their confidence in her “because she is young and sensitive to the needs of the region,” she says.
Boussetta’s family have a long history in Tebourba, where fresh street protests erupted in January this year against the high cost of living, unemployment and corruption.
And there is a yearning for change at the local level.
With the fall of Ben Ali seven years ago, municipalities collapsed.
While replaced by temporary councils, these are widely perceived as having failed to respond to communities’ needs.
There is hope that the upcoming elections could help improve daily life in the country, cleaning up public spaces, attracting new investment, and helping to develop marginalized regions.
“Tunisian women don’t have experience,” acknowledges Simone Susskind, a Belgian gender politics specialist who recently ran a workshop on female leadership.
“But they have to start somewhere.”