Afghan official: Taliban kill 14 troops in western province

Herat provincial council member Najibullah Mohebi says attackers besieged two army outposts late on Thursday in Herat’s Shindand district. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018
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Afghan official: Taliban kill 14 troops in western province

  • The fighting lasted for six hours before reinforcements arrived and repulsed the insurgents early on Friday — but not before they captured 21 troops
  • No group has taken responsibility for the assault, but authorities blame the Taliban, who are active in the area

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban staged a coordinated attack overnight on two Afghan army outposts in western Herat province, killing 14 Afghan soldiers and taking another 21 captive, a provincial official said Friday, the latest in a series of daily attacks by insurgents on the country’s beleaguered national security forces.
Herat provincial council member Najibullah Mohebi said the assault began late on Thursday in Shindand district. Fighting lasted for six hours before reinforcements arrived and repulsed the insurgents — but not before they captured 21 troops.
However, the Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Ghafor Ahmad Jaweed, put the number of army dead and wounded at 10. The different accounts could not immediately be reconciled.
According to Shindand district chief Hekmatullah Hekmat, as many as 200 Taliban fighters took part in the attack, using rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic machine guns.
Hekmat said 30 Taliban were killed in the fighting, which continued sporadically in the area on Friday, mostly about 12 kilometers (7 miles) from the district capital, Shindand, possibly as part of an attempt to disrupt the road linking the district to Herat province, a Taliban heartland.
The area’s remoteness makes it impossible to verify the reports.
The Taliban, who did not claim responsibility for the attack, have been active in the area and have targeted Afghan security forces throughout the country in daily attacks.
The surge in violence comes as the United States is pushing for a peaceful resolution of the 17-year conflict while the Taliban have increasingly asserted control over vast tracts of the country. A US Congress-mandated watchdog estimates that nearly half of Afghanistan is either under Taliban control or the militant group’s influence. Washington has committed $4 billion a year to finance, train and outfit Afghan forces.
The war, America’s longest, has cost the US about $1 trillion since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban and even though most of the funds have gone for security, the security situation continues to deteriorate in much of the country.
The appointment in September of Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad as US special envoy to find a peaceful end to the conflict has accelerated efforts to get both sides to the negotiating table. Khalilzad, who was in Islamabad earlier this week, is currently in Afghanistan on a tour of the region, and will also stop in Moscow and Brussels.


Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

Updated 1 min 18 sec ago
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Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

  • Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications
  • But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for upcoming summer holidays should “exercise a high degree of caution,” the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.
Officials in Canberra told AFP they expected the announcement to come on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinians to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.
Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.
But recognizing Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.
But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield.
The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their Ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP.
Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.
The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.
In the meantime, Australia’s foreign ministry has moved to prepare the ground.
“Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya,” it warned in a public notice Friday.
“Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and the Palestinians.
At least 235 Palestinians and two Israelis have died during violence in Gaza since March, mostly in border clashes.
On Thursday the Israeli army launched raids into the Palestinian city of Ramallah after a Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu vowed to ‘legalize’ thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.