Death toll up to 12 in suicide attack on Afghan security forces

Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad city, Afghanistan July 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2018
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Death toll up to 12 in suicide attack on Afghan security forces

  • Some of the victims were brought to hospital with severe burns, health director Najibullah Kamawal said, confirming the casualty toll
  • Violence is expected to continue ahead of Afghanistan’s long-delayed legislative elections on October 20 that militants have vowed to disrupt

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: A suicide attacker blew himself up near an Afghan security forces vehicle on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people, mostly civilians, officials said, in the latest deadly violence to rock the country.

The explosion in the eastern city of Jalalabad also left at least five people wounded and set a nearby petrol station alight, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.

Some of the victims were brought to hospital with severe burns, health director Najibullah Kamawal said, confirming the casualty toll.

“I saw a big ball of fire that threw people away. The people were burning,” Esmatullah, who witnessed the incident, said.

Tolo News posted a video online purportedly showing several burned-out vehicles and gutted shops at the scene of the attack.

The Daesh group claimed the attack via its Amaq propaganda agency — the latest carried out by the extremists in restive Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan.

Daesh has claimed a series of high-casualty suicide bomb attacks in the province in recent weeks, as US and Afghan forces continue offensive operations against the group.

While the Taliban is Afghanistan’s largest militant group, Daesh has a relatively small but potent presence mainly in the east and north of the country.

Tuesday’s attack comes a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed “hope” for peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, during an unannounced visit to Kabul.

Pompeo’s first trip to Afghanistan since he was sworn in as America’s top diplomat in April came amid renewed optimism for peace in the war-weary country, following last month’s unprecedented cease-fire by the Taliban and Kabul during Eid.

The Islamic holiday was marked by spontaneous street celebrations involving Afghan security forces and Taliban militants, raising hopes peace was possible after 17 years of war.

“An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is now hope,” Pompeo told a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s very deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy,” he said, referring to Trump’s much-vaunted South Asia policy announced last August.

The ceasefire did not extend to the Daesh franchise in Afghanistan, which first emerged in the country in 2014 and established a stronghold in Nangarhar before spreading north.

The most recent major attack in Jalalabad on July 1 saw 19 people killed and 21 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus.

The group had been waiting to meet Ghani, who was visiting the city, when the bomber struck.

That came after two separate suicide attacks in Nangarhar during the cease-fire that were also claimed by Daesh.

Violence is expected to continue ahead of Afghanistan’s long-delayed legislative elections on October 20 that militants have vowed to disrupt.

Afghan security forces, already struggling to beat back the Taliban and Daesh on the battlefield, will be responsible for protecting polling stations, many of which will be located in schools.


India’s Parliament rejects no confidence motion against Modi

Updated 21 July 2018
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India’s Parliament rejects no confidence motion against Modi

  • After a marathon 12 hours of debate more than 60 percent of the lower house voted in the BJP’s favor
  • The opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi crossed the chamber during debate to give an awkward embrace to a seated and clearly surprised Modi

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling party sailed through a confidence vote in a theatrical parliamentary session which saw a startled Prime Minister Narendra Modi embraced by his chief political foe.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in no danger of losing its first confidence motion since taking power four years ago, which was prompted by a minor party walking out of the governing coalition.
After a marathon 12 hours of debate, more than 60 percent of the lower house voted in the BJP’s favor, but the vote was overshadowed by the theatrics of bitter Modi rival Rahul Gandhi.
The opposition Congress party leader crossed the chamber during debate to give an awkward embrace to a seated and clearly surprised Modi.
“You can abuse me and call me names but I don’t have any hatred toward you,” Gandhi said to cheers from Congress lawmakers just before he hugged his rival.
After gathering his wits, Modi called Gandhi again to shake hands and pat his back, and the opposition leader winked mischieviously at Congress colleagues after returning to his seat.
Congress later voted against Modi’s government despite the brief bonhomie on the parliament floor.
The hug has since gone viral on social media and endlessly dissected non-stop on India’s cable TV channels and went viral on social media, with some praising Gandhi’s apparent gesture of goodwill.
“Earlier opposition parties... always managed to transcend rivalry at certain crucial moments,” said independent analyst Shiv Vishwanathan in comments to the Hindustan.
“Today, Rahul Gandhi captured that history.”
But Modi was less convinced of Gandhi’s sincerity, later telling parliament he was confused by Gandhi’s “childish” behavior.
Modi and Gandhi’s running war of words has escalated since polls showed a decline in the BJP’s popularity, fanning hopes of an opposition comeback in next year’s elections after a Congress rout in 2014.