Afghan security forces clash with Taliban for third day in Ghazni

The attack was the largest tactical operation launched by the Taliban since an unprecedented truce in June brought fighting between security forces and the Taliban to a temporary pause. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 12 August 2018
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Afghan security forces clash with Taliban for third day in Ghazni

  • The push by the Taliban on Ghazni is the main one on the town since the ouster of the militants in a US-led war in late 2001
  • The Taliban, in messages to reporters, said the group had seized the prison and freed fellow comrades held by the government

KABUL: Afghan troops clashed with Taliban guerrillas on Sunday in Ghazni, three days after the militants overran parts of the historical and strategic town in a major push, a lawmaker and a security source said.
Scores of fighters from both sides and at least two dozen civilians have been killed in the fighting, which also involves US air support since the Taliban began their four-pronged offensive on the town early Friday, the two men said.
The main hospital in Ghazni town is overwhelmed with casualties, with a shortage of medicine, and the entire town is reported to be shut because of the fighting.
Telephone towers and communication systems have been badly affected in the fighting and the main highway that runs through the province linking Kabul with the southern and southwestern region has remained closed, Mohammad Ali Alizada, a lawmaker representing Ghazni, told Arab News.
He said government reinforcements bound for the town have been stuck near a pass outside the town which lies some 120 km to the southwest of the capital.
“Unfortunately, the reports from Ghazni are not good. There are continued skirmishes inside the town and its surrounding areas. We do not have first-hand information because of poor communication, but one thing is clear: The Taliban have presence in many parts of the town.”
He said government authorities were confined to three main areas where the compound for the governor, the headquarters for the police and intelligence are located.
He said there were conflicting reports about the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners after the militants captured the town’s main prison.
The Taliban, in messages to reporters, said the group had seized the prison and freed fellow comrades held by the government.
One government spokesman refused to speak, while others could not be reached to discuss the situation. But a security source said the Taliban were still inside the town and fighting had intensified in its various areas on Sunday.
The country’s army chief Sharif Yaftali promised in a news conference to reopen the highway in two days’ time and blamed the Taliban for sheltering in residential areas.
“Considering the capabilities of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANSDF), we hope to bring significant changes in Ghazni’s security and open the highway in two days.
“Strategic and key areas of Ghazni are under the government control of the ANSDF. The reason for ANSDF’s slow clearance is preventing civilian casualties. The Taliban have hidden in houses and stores.”
Later on Sunday there were reports that the Taliban had even captured the main police headquarters, but that could not be immediately confirmed independently.
And before evening, a local TV channel reported that a convoy of government reinforcement from neighboring areas came under a Taliban ambush, causing casualties. 
A video posted on social media showed a group of apparent government soldiers surrendering to the militants with their military equipment, while another showed Taliban armed fighters strolling on a main street of the town.
Residents late Friday reported that the Taliban had shot down a government military helicopter, but officials said the chopper went down for technical reasons.
The push by the Taliban on Ghazni is the main one on the town since the ouster of the militants in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
The developments in Ghazni come weeks after Taliban emissaries and US officials held direct talks for finding a way to end the 17-year US war in Afghanistan.
Both sides are expected to hold a similar meeting in the future too, and some observers believe the attack on Ghazni is part of the Taliban’s effort to gain the upper hand in the talks.
The attack comes amid escalation of violence elsewhere by the insurgents against the embattled government in recent months ahead of the long-delayed parliamentary polls set for October and the presidential polls six months later.
While the two sides fight for control of Ghazni, reports emerged from northwestern Faryab about the loss of more than 25 government soldiers in a Taliban attack early Sunday after a long siege.


Death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe floods exceeds 300 as UN boosts aid

A picture taken on March 18, 2019, shows a man taking pictures of a large crack in the ground as a Zimbabwean soldier helps guide pedestrians across a bridge on the Risitu River during search and rescue operations in the wake of devastating floods and mudslides caused when Cyclone Idai struck Zimbabwe in Chimanimani, Manicaland Province. (AFP)
Updated 43 min 39 sec ago
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Death toll from Mozambique, Zimbabwe floods exceeds 300 as UN boosts aid

  • Worst hit was Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique

BEIRA, Mozambique: The death toll from a cyclone that smashed into Mozambique and Zimbabwe rose to more than 300 on Tuesday as rescuers raced against the clock to help survivors and the UN led the charge to provide aid.
“We already have more than 200 dead, and nearly 350,000 people are at risk,” Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi announced, while the government in Zimbabwe said around 100 people had died but the toll could be triple that figure.
The UN, meanwhile, said that one of the worst storms to hit southern Africa in decades had also unleashed a humanitarian crisis in Malawi, affecting nearly a million people and forcing more than 80,000 from their homes.
Four days after Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall, emergency teams in central Mozambique fanned out in boats and helicopters, seeking to pluck survivors from roofs and treetops in an inland sea of floodwater, sometimes in the dead of night.
Air force personnel from Mozambique and South Africa were drafted in to fly rescue missions, while an NGO called Rescue South Africa said it had picked up 34 people since Friday night, using three helicopters.
“It is the only way to access the people that are stranded,” Rescue SA’s Abrie Senekal told AFP, saying the NGO was trying to hire more helicopters.

Ian Scher, who heads Rescue SA, said the helicopter teams were having to make difficult decisions.
“Sometimes we can only save two out of five, sometimes we drop food and go to someone else who’s in bigger danger,” he said.
“We just save what we can save and the others will perish.”
In Nhamatanda, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Beira, 27-year-old Jose Batio and his wife and children survived by climbing onto a roof.
But a lot of their neighbors “were swept by the water,” he said.
“Water came like a tsunami and destroyed most things. We were prisoners on the roof,” he told AFP after they were rescued by boat.
The city of Beira, Mozambique’s second largest city and a major port, was immediately cut off after the storm. According to the Red Cross, the cyclone damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the city of half a million people.
President Nyusi, speaking on Tuesday after attending a cabinet meeting in the ravaged city, said the confirmed death toll stood at 202 and nearly 350,000 were “at risk.”
The government declared a national emergency and ordered three days of national mourning, he said.
“We are in an extremely difficult situation,” Nyusi said, warning of high tides and waves of around eight meters (26 feet) in the coming days.
On Monday, Nyusi had said he feared more than 1,000 had died and more than 100,000 people were in danger.

The storm also lashed eastern Zimbabwe, leaving around 100 dead, a toll that could be as much as 300, local government minister July Moyo said after a cabinet briefing.
“I understand there are bodies which are floating, some have floated all the way to Mozambique,” he said.
“The total number, we were told they could be 100, some are saying there could be 300. But we cannot confirm this situation,” he said.
At least 217 others are missing and 44 stranded, officials said.
Worst hit was Chimanimani in Manicaland, an eastern province which borders Mozambique.
Families started burying their dead in damp graves on Monday, as injured survivors filled up the hospitals, an AFP correspondent said.
Military helicopters were airlifting people to Mutare, the largest city near Chimanimani.
The storm swept away homes and bridges, devastating huge areas in what Defense Minister Perrance Shiri said “resembles the aftermath of a full-scale war.”
Some roads were swallowed by massive sinkholes, while bridges were ripped to pieces by flash floods.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was mobilizing aid for some 600,000 people, saying the world did not yet appreciate the scale of the “massive disaster.”
So far, it has dispatched more than five tons of emergency provisions to the affected areas.
“WFP aims to support 500,000 to 600,000 people in the coming weeks,” spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.
“I don’t think that the world (has) realized yet the scale of the problem,” he said.
In Malawi, 920,000 people have been affected by the cyclone and 82,000 people have been displaced, the UN said.
“OCHA (the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) has deployed resources to support assessments and information management, and UNICEF is deploying additional supplies to affected areas including tents, water and sanitation supplies and learning materials to affected children,” it said.