South Sudan violence blocking food aid, says UN’s WFP

A United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) plane releases sacks of food during an airdrop near the town of Nyal, in South Sudan August 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 29 October 2018
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South Sudan violence blocking food aid, says UN’s WFP

NAIROBI: Violence in South Sudan is blocking deliveries of food aid needed to stave off severe hunger in some areas, the World Food Programme said, adding to evidence that a peace deal signed last month is not holding.
The deal signed last month is meant to end a war that began in 2013 and has, according to a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study, killed nearly 400,000.
It commits the warring parties — forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebel groups fighting them — to power-sharing. Analysts and aid groups say it is unclear how the structure will work.
Fighting was continuing in the Western Bahr el Ghazal and Central Equatoria regions, said WFP. Nationwide “tens of thousands of people (are) in need,” the group’s Country Director Adnan Khan told Reuters by email.
WFP singled out Baggari, an area southwest of the city of Wau, in Bahr el Ghazal, where the severity and spread of hunger was alarming.
“Food distributions were briefly provided in September, after four months without access, but insecurity is again preventing us from accessing the area,” it said.
When it was able to briefly access Baggari last month, WFP found acute malnutrition rates had risen to above 25 percent from 4 percent earlier this year.
In Wau, government soldiers have been accused by Human Rights Watch of attacking civilians and their homes.
“Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee into the bush or United Nations protection sites,” HRW said last week in a report on violence that began in June. .”..Government forces are committing new abuses against civilians.”
Military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied the HRW report’s findings.
The East African nation gained independence in 2011 but has been torn apart by an ethnically charged civil war since late 2013.
On Wednesday, rebel leader Riek Machar is due to fly from Sudan’s capital Khartoum to Juba for a “Peace Celebration” hosted by Kiir and that the presidents of Sudan, Uganda and Kenya are expected to attend.
It is unclear if Machar will be there. On Friday a spokesman for his group said: “We are still waiting for the release of political detainees and prisoners of war.”
Machar was last in South Sudan was in 2016, after he was reinstated vice president under a short-lived peace deal agreed in 2015.


Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

Updated 1 min 56 sec ago
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Suicide bombers in deadly attack on Afghan ministry

  • At least 7 people were killed in the attack on the Afghan communications ministry in Kabul
  • The area around the building was sealed off by police as at least 3 attackers battled security forces for several hours

KABUL: Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the communications ministry in central Kabul on Saturday, officials said, in a deadly, hours-long assault that destroyed weeks of relative calm in the capital.
The Taliban said it had “nothing to do” with the attack, which left some 2,000 people stranded in the tall office building for hours at the start of the Afghan work week.
No other group claimed immediate responsibility, but the Afghan branch of Daesh has previously carried out multiple deadly attacks in the capital.
“As a result of today’s explosion/attack in Kabul city, two people have been martyred (killed) and 6 others are wounded,” the health ministry spokesman wrote in a tweet, adding 3 of the injured were women.
In a statement, the interior ministry said four civilians and three soldiers had been killed, though unverified social media posts suggested the final toll could be higher.
AFP journalists heard one big blast around 11:40 am (0710 GMT), followed by sporadic gunfire for hours afterwards.
“The information that we have is four attackers have placed themselves near the communication ministry and are engaged in gunbattles with the Afghan security forces,” Amanduddin Shariati, a security official in Kabul told AFP.
By about 5:00 p.m. (1230 GMT), the interior ministry declared the assault over.
“Operations finished. All suicide bombers killed & more than 2000 civilians staff rescued,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Panicked workers inside the 18-story building, believed to be Kabul’s tallest, moved up to the top floor as gunmen and Afghan security officials battled lower down.
One woman said she had been in a group of about 30 people on the 10th floor when the assault started, then was told to move up to the 18th floor as gunfire increased. They were all eventually rescued by commandos.
“Women were screaming and children of the kindergarten were the first to be evacuated,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Afghan authorities gave conflicting reports during the incident. The information ministry initially said three suicide bombers had attacked a post office building at the ministry.
General Sayed Mohammad Roshan Dil, the Kabul police chief, said four attackers had been wearing police uniforms and had targeted a shrine near the ministry.
Footage on local television showed a small plume at the building, and people climbing out windows on a lower level.
The presidential palace said in a statement “the enemies of Afghanistan have conducted a terrorist attack.”
“Once again they have created fear and have killed or wounded a number of innocent countrymen,” the statement read.
The communication ministry is located in downtown Kabul, about two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the green zone, a heavily fortified compound for foreign embassies.
The area is the city’s main commercial zone and is home to a large hotel.
Aside from a grenade attack on a military vehicle last week and persistent crime, the capital has in recent weeks enjoyed a period of relative calm.
Last year however saw a string of attacks including one where a massive bomb concealed in an ambulance killed more than 100 people.
The attack comes a week after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive and amid ongoing fighting across Afghanistan.
It illustrates the sprawling nature of Afghanistan’s conflict, and the obstacles to peace even if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
This week in the Qatari capital Doha, a summit planned between the Taliban and officials from across Afghanistan was scrapped at the last minute due to bickering over who should attend the conference.
The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed in Afghanistan, where the Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a UN tally.
Taliban officials are separately negotiating with the United States, which wants to forge a peace deal with the militants.