Russia rejects reports Daesh behind New Year’s Eve blast

The New Year’s Eve blast killed 39 people. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019

Russia rejects reports Daesh behind New Year’s Eve blast

  • Investigation on the explosion that ripped through an apartment block in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk, killing 39 people
  • Daesh claimed the operation was carried out by members of its Caucasus branch

MOSCOW: Russian investigators said Friday that a New Year’s Eve blast that killed 39 people was likely the result of a gas explosion, dismissing reports that the Daesh group was behind it.
The Investigate Committee said it was still investigating the explosion that ripped through an apartment block in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk, killing 39 people.
On New Year’s Day, three more people died when a minibus exploded not far from the affected building in the city.
On Thursday, an article in Deash’s weekly Arabic-language newspaper Al-Naba said the group was behind the blasts.
It said the Daesh group did not claim responsibility earlier for “security reasons.”
Daesh claimed the operation was carried out by members of its Caucasus branch, the media outlet said.
The Investigative Committee said it was too early to draw any conclusions as a probe was still under way.
“Conclusions about the circumstances of the tragedy in Magnitogorsk will be made following a set of investigative measures,” spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said in a statement.
She said a gas explosion was still the investigators’ main line of inquiry, even though they were considering all possibilities.
She said media should not trust “reports of terrorist organizations which — as we know — take credit for all high-profile accidents in various countries.”
A spokesman for the FSB said the security service would not comment. “All information will be published shortly,” he told AFP.
Immediately after the apartment blast, President Vladimir Putin and top ministers rushed to the scene of the tragedy, while the FSB quickly ruled out foul play.
Shortly after the explosions two local media outlets, citing law enforcement sources, said the apartment block blast was likely the result of a terror attack.


Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Updated 22 August 2019

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

  • The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday
  • Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.