Afghan interior minister resigns to join President Ghani’s election team

Resigned Afghan Interior Minister Amrullah Saleh will run for the vice-presidency alongside President Ashraf Ghani, who plans to bid for a second term in July’s election. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Afghan interior minister resigns to join President Ghani’s election team

  • Under Afghanistan’s electoral system, all members of government except the president and vice president must step down in order to run for office
  • The political landscape is dominated by ethnic loyalties, personal alliances and often-unstable coalitions between powerful regional leaders

KABUL: Afghan Interior Minister Amrullah Saleh stepped down from his post on Saturday in order to run for the vice-presidency alongside President Ashraf Ghani who plans to bid for a second term in July’s election.
The former top security official told Reuters by phone that he had resigned and two political sources said he would join Ghani’s team.
“He wants to contest for the post of vice president,” said a source from the presidential palace in Kabul.
Saleh, who commands strong support among Afghanistan’s minority ethnic Tajiks, had been expected to oppose Ghani in the election, which has been pushed back from April to July.
Under Afghanistan’s electoral system, all members of government except the president and vice president must step down in order to run for office.
In December, Ghani appointed Saleh, a former security official and an uncompromising opponent of the Taliban, to his government in a bid to secure the support of former opponents for a second term.
Afghan forces have been dying in record numbers in the face of a resurgent Taliban. US President Donald Trump is considering slashing the number of American troops in the country in half. However the White House says there has been no official order.
Afghanistan’s presidential race is now in full swing, with several former officials and politicians lining up to challenge Ghani who is expected to register his candidacy for a second term on Sunday.
Former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose fighters killed thousands in Kabul during the bloody civil war of the 1990s, joined the presidential race on Saturday.
The political landscape is dominated by ethnic loyalties, personal alliances and often-unstable coalitions between powerful regional leaders.
“Ghani’s decision to include Saleh in his presidential bid reflects how alliances are being formed quickly and ideological differences are being ignored,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul.


Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

Updated 1 min 55 sec ago
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Priest in stable condition after stabbing at Montreal church

MONTREAL: A Canadian Catholic priest was stabbed in front of dozens of stunned worshippers as he was celebrating mass Friday morning at Montreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory.
Montreal police said a 911 call was placed at around 8:40 a.m. local time. When officers arrived at the landmark church, a male suspect was already detained by security guards.
Philip Barrett, who was sitting near the front of the church, said he saw a tall man, who appeared to be a Caucasian in his 30s, rise from a pew and quickly walk to attack Rev. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector.
“He walked over behind the altar and he seemed to strike the priest’s body,” Barrett said. “I think the priest fell down at that time. I do remember the priest was moving away from the man but it happened so quickly there was almost no time to react.”
The service was live-streamed on a Catholic channel. Video shows a tall man in a dark jacket and white baseball cap rounding the altar and charging at Grou as he thrusts his right arm toward the priest. Grou runs backward a few steps before the assailant pushes him into a banner.
As screams are heard in the background, a group of people run forward, surrounding and blocking the suspect.
Barrett said people quickly restrained the suspect, who did not struggle. He said the suspect didn’t speak or call out during the attack.
There was no other information immediately available about why the priest may have been attacked.
Police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils says the victim suffered minor injuries to his upper body and was taken to the hospital.
The suspect was to be questioned by police Friday morning.
Barrett said Grou crumpled to the ground after the attack, but he appeared to be conscious and alert about 15 minutes later when paramedics wheeled him to an ambulance.
He said members of the congregation immediately began praying.
“We’re reassured, because when he left the oratory he was conscious and could talk, which we see as a good sign,” said Celine Barbeau, a spokeswoman for the church.
St. Joseph’s Oratory is among Canada’s largest churches, and pilgrims from all over the world are drawn to its domed roof and stunning architecture.
Barrett said that he, like the rest of the roughly 60 people present, was shocked that an attack would happen in a place he has come to see as a haven.
“I really find it’s a welcoming place,” he said. “I just hope that as a result of this, I mean, I can imagine they’re going to need more security, but I hope they can still keep that welcoming spirit.”