Gunmen attack intelligence training center in Kabul

Staff and officials at the center took shelter in a protected area of the compound as gunfire came from a half-finished building near the site. (Reuters)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Gunmen attack intelligence training center in Kabul

  • The attack on the training facility was the latest incident in a blood-soaked week
  • Commandos were deployed to the scene to help contain the fighting

KABUL: Gunmen attacked an intelligence training center in Kabul on Thursday, officials said, as families buried loved ones killed by a suicide bomber a day earlier in the war-weary Afghan capital.

The attack on the training facility was the latest incident in a blood-soaked week that saw militants deliver crippling blows to government forces across Afghanistan.

“Clashes are ongoing and the area is cordoned off by the Afghan security forces,” said Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai.

The firefight erupted near a training center overseen by the National Security Directorate — Afghanistan’s intelligence agency — with the gunmen holed up in a construction site near residential buildings, an official at the scene said.

Live television footage showed the area cordoned off with gunfire echoing through the empty streets, while humvees patrolled and a helicopter circled above.

Commandos were also deployed to the scene to help contain the fighting, according to another security official.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incident.

The attack comes just hours after a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside an education center in a predominantly Shiite area of western Kabul, where students were studying for college entrance exams, killing at least 37 people.

Loved ones and families of the dead held a mass funeral Thursday where mourners wept and clutched the wooden coffins.

An industrial-sized digger helped soften the arid ground for the fresh graves as men removed rocks from the soil with pickaxes.

Mourners decried the unrelenting bloodshed, while others dismissed murmurings of possible ceasefires and peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban.

“Death to your ceasefire and death to your ghost peace talks,” cried one of the funeral attendees. “They are killing our educated people and everyday they are killing us.”

The surge in violence comes just weeks after Afghans marked an unprecedented country-wide ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces in June, giving some temporary relief to civilians.

The brief respite sparked hopes the truce could clear the way for talks to end the nearly 17-year-old conflict.

However, the devastating attacks across the country in recent days have led many to question how such negotiations could move ahead amid the bloodshed.

“Everyday we are witnessing deadly attacks in Kabul and other major cities. So, I believe the Taliban do not believe in peace talks,” said shopkeeper Shahenshah Shahin in Kabul.

Analysts have suggested the Taliban may be trying to shore up its position before any potential negotiations by proving they can hit government installations at will.

“The Taliban will try to have an upper hand during talks, so we can’t rule out more attacks until a ceasefire,” said Taliban expert Rahimullah Yusufzai.

“It’s the fighting season and the Taliban will want to rack up victories before winter.”

While it has been months since The Taliban have claimed a major attack in Kabul, the group has been conducting blistering attacks on security forces across Afghanistan, including a massive, days-long onslaught on the eastern city of Ghazni during the past week.

Afghan forces appeared to have finally pushed Taliban fighters from the strategic provincial capital, as the UN warned that reports suggested up to 150 civilians might have been killed in the fighting.

Militant attacks and suicide bombings were the leading causes of civilian deaths in the first half of 2018, a recent UN report showed.

Small pockets of Ghazni began opening up to humanitarian aid Thursday, while partial mobile service returned after telecommunications infrastructure and government buildings were destroyed during the onslaught.


US judge blocks Trump asylum restrictions

Updated 6 min 44 sec ago
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US judge blocks Trump asylum restrictions

  • Tigar’s order takes effect immediately, applies nationwide, and lasts until at least Dec. 19
  • Trump earlier said officials will only process asylum claims for migrants who present themselves at an official entry point

SAN FRANCISCO: A US judge on Monday temporarily blocked an order by President Donald Trump that barred asylum for immigrants who enter the country illegally from Mexico, the latest courtroom defeat for Trump on immigration policy.
US District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order against the asylum rules. Tigar’s order takes effect immediately, applies nationwide, and lasts until at least Dec. 19 when the judge scheduled a hearing to consider a more long-lasting injunction.
Representatives for the US Department of Justice could not immediately be reached for comment.
Trump cited an overwhelmed immigration system for his recent proclamation that officials will only process asylum claims for migrants who present themselves at an official entry point. Civil rights groups sued, arguing that Trump’s Nov. 9 order violated administrative and immigration law.
In his ruling, Tigar said Congress clearly mandated that immigrants can apply for asylum regardless of how they entered the country. The judge called the latest rules an “extreme departure” from prior practice.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote.
Tigar was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama.
Previous Trump immigration policies, including measures targeting sanctuary cities, have also been blocked by the courts.
The asylum ruling came as thousands of Central Americans, including a large number of children, are traveling in caravans toward the US border to escape violence and poverty at home. Some have already arrived at Tijuana, a Mexican city on the border with California.
“It is too much“
Rights groups have said immigrants are being forced to wait days or weeks at the border before they can present themselves for asylum, and the administration has been sued for deliberately slowing processing times at official ports.
At a hearing earlier on Monday, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt said the order clearly conflicted with the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows any person present in the United States to seek asylum, regardless of how they entered the country.
Gelernt said the ACLU had recently learned Mexican authorities have begun barring unaccompanied minors from applying at US ports of entry.
Mexico’s migration institute said in a statement to Reuters that there was “no basis” for the ACLU’s claims, noting that there had been no such reports from the United Nations or human rights groups that are monitoring the situation at the border.
Uriel Gonzalez, the head of a YMCA shelter for young migrants in Tijuana, said he had not heard of any new measures directed at unaccompanied minors. He noted there were already long lines to get a turn with US authorities.
“This can take a while because the number of migrants has overwhelmed capacity. It is too much,” he said.
The judge on Monday wrote that Trump’s refugee rule would force people with legitimate asylum claims “to choose between violence at the border, violence at home, or giving up a pathway to refugee status.”
Caravan participants began to arrive last week in Tijuana on the Mexican side of the US border, which has put a strain on shelters where many will wait to seek asylum. Their presence has also strained Tijuana’s reputation as a welcoming city, with some residents screaming at the migrants, “Get out!“
Trump sent more than 5,000 soldiers to the 2,000-mile (3,100 km) frontier with Mexico to harden the border, although critics dismissed the move as a political stunt ahead of congressional elections on Nov. 6.