Afghan govt seeks Pakistan’s help to extend truce with Taliban

Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak, left, and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security Director (NDS) Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai attend a joint news conference in Kabul. (Reuters)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Afghan govt seeks Pakistan’s help to extend truce with Taliban

  • The Taliban’s leader offered to hold direct talks with the US to resolve the conflict through dialogue.
  • Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring and sheltering the Taliban and other militant groups, which Islamabad denies.

KABUL: The Afghan government is seeking Pakistan’s cooperation in extending a temporary truce that it recently announced with the Taliban, hoping that the move will pave the way for direct talks with the group, Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak said on Thursday.

The request was made on Tuesday during the visit of a Pakistani military delegation that coincided with Kabul’s declaration of the truce, Barmak added.

“There is hope that with the talks that we had with the Pakistani delegation, the truce will prolong,” he said.

“We asked them to cooperate in the extension of the truce between us and the Taliban and other groups, and provide the means for talks.”

Barmak did not comment on Pakistan’s response to the request. Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring and sheltering the Taliban and other militant groups, which Islamabad denies.

Kabul hopes that the Taliban will abide by its pledge of a three-day truce, which will start on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr and came in response to the government’s truce, Barmak said.

There were a number of Taliban attacks against government forces in various parts of the country in the past three days since Kabul announced its unilateral truce, he added.

While conceding government losses in those attacks, he denied reports that the toll stood at nearly 100.

Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, who was ambassador to Pakistan under the Taliban government, said the truce is the start of a “big process,” and expressed hope that it will be extended.

In an Eid message, Taliban leader Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada said the group’s fight is to end the US military presence in Afghanistan.

The only way to save the country is for the US military and “other occupying forces” to leave Afghanistan so an independent, Islamic government “can take root,” he added.

The Taliban has “kept the doors of understanding and negotiations open,” he said, urging the US to hold direct talks with the group.

If the US believes in a peaceful resolution, it must resolve the crisis through dialogue, Akhundzada added.


Israeli student murdered in Australia while on phone with sister

Updated 29 min 57 sec ago
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Israeli student murdered in Australia while on phone with sister

  • Police appealed to the public for help tracking down the killer of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, whose body was found near Melbourne University
  • Police are still investigating the case

SYDNEY: An Israeli student has been killed in a late-night attack in Australia while she was speaking on the phone with her sister, police said Thursday.
Police appealed to the public for help tracking down the killer of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, whose body was found early Wednesday near the campus of the Melbourne university where she was studying.
“This was an horrendous, horrific attack inflicted on a completely innocent young woman who was a visitor to our city,” Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper told reporters in Melbourne Thursday.
Maasarwe, who was reportedly five months into a year-long exchange at Melbourne’s LaTrobe University, was riding a tram home from a comedy club to the suburb of Bundoora before she was met by her attacker around midnight.
She was talking on the phone with her sister, who was overseas and raised the alarm after something went awry mid-conversation, police said.
“(Her sister) heard the sound of the phone falling to the ground and heard some voices,” Stamper said.
Her body was found Wednesday morning by passers-by at 7:00am about 50 meters (165 feet) from the stop where she exited the tram.
Stamper said the report from her sister came in at about the same time.
Police would not confirm reports they were investigating a sexual assault but said known sex offenders are an “active line of enquiry.”
Officers retrieved a black baseball cap and a grey t-shirt they believe were worn by the perpetrator from the crime scene, which they described as “very distressing.”
The victim’s family, who are on their way to Australia, described Maasarwe as “happy,” “adventurous” and “smart.”
“I was in shock, I couldn’t believe it... the day before my wife had said to me, ‘We’ll have to go to Australia, Australia’s very safe, very nice’,” the victim’s uncle Rame Maasarwe told national broadcaster ABC from the United States.
“We cannot believe that something like this happened in Australia, we think it’s very safe there.”
Maasarwe was reportedly planning to go to China to work with her father’s business after her studies.
Police said they were “confident” of finding the perpetrator.