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.


UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 28 sec ago
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UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

  • Jeremy Hunt: “The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive”

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Iran for the first time on Monday for talks with the Iranian government on issues including the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, his office said in a statement.
In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, negotiated with five other world powers during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and earlier this month the United States restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation sectors.
Hunt’s office said he would meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and would stress that the UK is committed to the nuclear deal as long as Iran sticks to its terms. He will also discuss European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief.
“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive,” Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.
“We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces.”
Hunt will also discuss Iran’s role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, his office said, and press Iran on its human rights record, calling for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.
“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” he said.