Taliban kill 30 policemen in west Afghan province

Afghan families fleeing conflict between Taliban and Afghan forces arrive in Ghazni on Wednesday, November 14. (Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Taliban kill 30 policemen in west Afghan province

  • It is the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on the military and police forces
  • The attacks have been so relentless that authorities no longer regularly provide casualty figures

KABUL: A blistering overnight attack by the Taliban on an Afghan police outpost in western Farah province killed 30 policemen, Afghan officials said Thursday.
It was the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on the military and police forces, government and other installations throughout the country. The resurgent Taliban, who in recent years have taken over nearly half of Afghanistan, did not comment on the attack in Farah.
The attacks have been so relentless that authorities no longer regularly provide casualty figures, but unofficial estimates say that about 45 Afghan policemen or soldiers are killed or wounded on a daily basis.
According to provincial council member Dadullah Qani, the overnight onslaught on the outpost in Farah’s district of Khaki Safed began late on Wednesday and continued for more than four hours.
In Kabul, lawmaker Samiullah Samim told The Associated Press that the Taliban killed all 30 policemen — members of both the national and local police force — who were deployed at the outpost, including the district police commander, Abdul Jabhar.
Retaliatory airstrikes killed 17 Taliban fighters but the insurgents still managed to get away with a large amount of weapons and ammunition, he said.
Meanwhile, fighting with the Taliban in two districts of central Ghazni province has displaced thousands of people in the past two weeks, most of them minority ethnic Hazaras, who are Shiites, said Mohammad Arif Rahmani, a lawmaker from Ghazni.
Also, about 100 Afghan policemen, local pro-government militiamen and soldiers have been killed in the bitter clashes there, Rahmani told the AP. Currently, Afghan security forces are battling insurgents in 22 of the country’s 34 provinces, he added.
Afghanistan’s protracted war has also become increasingly deadly for civilians. A United Nations report issued earlier this year said more civilians died in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when the UN mission first began monitoring civilian casualties.
“Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict in Afghanistan,” said the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network in its own report.
Security forces at outposts throughout the country routinely face shortages of weapons, ammunition and even food supplies, said military analyst Javed Kohistani, blaming government mismanagement.
More senior and experienced generals have been replaced with younger officers whose inexperience is compromising the strength of the security forces.
There are fewer and fewer recruits and in some areas, a battalion which should have 400 to 600 troops barely has 100 to 200 soldiers, he said.
“Nobody is joining the army,” he said.
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami was grilled by lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday about Taliban onslaughts in Wardak and Ghazni provinces where entire districts are under siege.
Bahrami acknowledged the security forces have a “problem” and said that reinforcements have been sent.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.