Afghanistan’s Taliban announce annual spring offensive

People offer funeral prayers behind the body of a civilian killed in Sunday’s Taliban suicide attack at a voter registration center in Kabul. The Taliban have announced their annual spring offensive in Afghanistan, focused on capturing and killing Americans and their supporters. (AP)
Updated 25 April 2018
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Afghanistan’s Taliban announce annual spring offensive

KABUL: The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive on Wednesday, in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.
Operation Al-Khandaq — named after a famous seventh century battle in Medina in which Muslim fighters defeated “infidel” invaders — will target US forces and “their intelligence agents” as well as their “internal supporters,” a Taliban statement said.
The Taliban said the offensive was partly a response to US President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan announced last August, which gave US forces more leeway to go after insurgents.
The annual spring offensive traditionally marks the start of the so-called fighting season, though this winter the Taliban continued to battle Afghan and US forces.
The group also launched a series of devastating attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians.
Al-Khandaq will mainly focus on “crushing, killing and capturing American invaders and their supporters,” the Taliban said.
It added the presence of American bases “sabotages all chances of peace” and were key to “prolonging the ongoing war,” which began with the US-led intervention in 2001 that overthrew the Taliban regime.
Afghanistan’s largest militant group has been under pressure to accept Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s February offer of peace talks, but the statement made no mention of the proposal.
Western and Afghan experts said the Taliban announcement was an apparent rejection of the offer and heralded more intense fighting in the drawn-out war.
“We’re in for a hot and busy summer,” a foreign diplomat in Kabul said.
Afghan political analyst Ahmad Saeedi said the Taliban appeared to consider America’s rejection of the group’s own request for direct peace talks with the US in February as leaving them with “no other choice but to fight.”
“This year they will try to weaken the (Afghan) government even further. They will try to derail the election process,” the Kabul University professor said.
“A weak government would eventually mean forcing the US to talk to them.”
Defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish dismissed the Taliban announcement as “propaganda.”
The US-backed Afghan government is under pressure on multiple fronts this year as it prepares to hold long-delayed legislative elections even as its security forces struggle to get the upper hand on the battlefield and prevent civilian casualties.
On Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd outside a voter registration center in Kabul, killing 60 people and wounding 129, according to the latest figures from the health ministry.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for the bomb, but Western and Afghan officials suspect Daesh receives assistance from other groups, including the Taliban’s Haqqani Network, to carry out attacks.


13 young miners feared dead in India’s remote northeast

Updated 14 December 2018
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13 young miners feared dead in India’s remote northeast

  • Digging in the mine was banned four years ago, but illegal and unsafe activity by private landowners and the local community is rife
  • Rescuers would be able to reach those missing only after the water has been pumped out of the mine

GAUHATI, India: Police say 13 young miners are missing and feared dead following the collapse of a shaft and flooding of a coal mine they were illegally digging in India’s remote northeast.
The police control room says that efforts are being made to pump out water from the mine in Meghalaya state where the flooding took place two days ago.
Police said the digging in the mine was banned four years ago, but illegal and unsafe activity by private landowners and the local community is rife.
The police said rescuers would be able to reach those missing only after the water has been pumped out of the mine.
Demand for coal has increased in energy-hungry India. Coal mafia operations in mining areas have led to accidents.
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