Far-right group attacks migrants on Greek island

Migrants link their hands and hold blankets to protect their families as riot police try to keep away local protesters at the town of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos late on April 22, 2018. A far-right group launched a violent attack overnight on migrants staging a sit-in protest on the Greek island of Lesbos, injuring around a dozen people, police said on April 23. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2018
0

Far-right group attacks migrants on Greek island

MYTILENE, Greece: A far-right group launched a violent attack overnight on migrants staging a sit-in protest on the Greek island of Lesbos, injuring around a dozen people, police said Monday.
The violence erupted late Sunday after members of the radical “Patriotic Movement” gathered on the central square of the island’s main city Mytilene, where some 200 Afghan asylum-seekers launched a sit-in protest last week against their miserable living conditions.
Despite police presence, the situation soon escalated as the extremists started throwing bottles and lighting flares, shouting slogans like “Burn them alive” and “Throw them in the sea.”
Tensions spiralled further when leftwing activists arrived in support of the migrants and started fighting with the far-right supporters.
The clashes raged all night until security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowd and evacuate the square, forcing the Afghans to return to the island’s overcrowded migrant camps.
A dozen migrants were lightly hurt and had to be taken to hospital, police said.
Over 6,500 migrants are currently stranded on Lesbos, far exceeding the 3,000 spots available in the camps.
More than one million people, mainly fleeing war in Syria, crossed to Greece from Turkey in 2015 after the onset of the bloc’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
The influx has been sharply cut since the European Union signed a controversial deal with Turkey in 2016 to send back migrants.
However, more than 13,000 migrants are still languishing in camps on five Greek islands until their asylum claims can be processed. This has fueled despair and sparked protests and outbreaks of violence.
Greece, a country of 11 million people, recorded 58,661 applications last year, making it the member state with the highest number of asylum seekers per capita, according to official data.


US, Taliban aim to firm up date for foreign force exit from Afghanistan

Updated 24 June 2019
0

US, Taliban aim to firm up date for foreign force exit from Afghanistan

  • A seventh round of talks between the warring sides begins on Saturday in Qatar’s capital of Doha
  • US and Taliban negotiators have been trying to hammer out a deal to end to the 18-year-long war

KABUL: Upcoming peace talks between the United States and the Taliban will focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee militants won’t plot attacks from Afghan soil, sources said on Monday.
A seventh round of talks between the warring sides begins on Saturday in Qatar’s capital of Doha, where US and Taliban negotiators have been trying to hammer out a deal to end to the 18-year-long war since October.
“Once the timetable for foreign force withdrawal is announced, then talks will automatically enter the next stage,” said Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha.
“We don’t need to wait for the completion of the withdrawal, both withdrawal and talks can move forward simultaneously.”
The focus of the talks has been a Taliban demand for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces and a US demand the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for militant attacks.
Two other main issues in the process are a cease-fire and talks between the rival Afghan sides — the insurgents and the Western-backed government.
But the Taliban have long refused to talk to the Afghan government, denouncing it as foreign “puppet,” and fighting has seen no let-up.
Two other sources with knowledge of the talks said the sixth round in May ended with unease on both sides, but since then informal meeting had taken place to work out what can be agreed on.
The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has also held informal meetings with the Taliban leadership in Doha.
“Based on my recent visits to Afghanistan and Qatar, I believe all sides want rapid progress,” Khalilzad said on Twitter.
Khalilzad, an Afghan-born American diplomat has been leading the talks to secure a political settlement with the hard-line Islamist group that now controls more Afghan territory than at any time since being toppled in 2001 by US-led forces.
About 20,000 foreign troops, most of them American, are in Afghanistan as part of a US-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces. Some US forces carry out counter-terrorism operations.
At least 3,804 civilians were killed in the war last year, according to the United Nations. Thousands of Afghan soldiers, police and Taliban were also killed.
Nevertheless, the Taliban leader vowed this month to sustain the fight until their objectives were reached.
In March, a draft agreement was reached on the withdrawal of foreign forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.
A Taliban source said both sides were expecting some clarity and results on the prime issues in the new round talks.
“A cease-fire and intra-Afghan talks will not be discussed during the seventh round,” said the Taliban source, who declined to be identified.
Some Afghan government officials side fear the United States and the Taliban will strike a deal on the withdrawal of foreign forces, enabling the United States to get out of an unpopular war but leaving government forces to battle on alone.