Taliban attack army base, kill 26 troops

Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all the weapons and ammunition from the security before reinforcements arrived. (File/AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019

Taliban attack army base, kill 26 troops

  • Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all the weapons and ammunition from the security before reinforcements arrived
  • Earlier on Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman

KABUL, Afghanistan: The Taliban launched a pre-dawn attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 26 members of the security forces, a provincial official said, the latest brazen assault by insurgents to defy stepped-up efforts to resolve the country’s protracted war.

The raid on the base in northern Kunduz province came as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders — but not Kabul government officials.

The insurgents have refused to negotiate with Ghani’s government, calling it a US puppet. The Taliban have been staging near-daily attacks, inflicting heavy casualties on the embattled Afghan army and security forces.

In the Kunduz attack, the Taliban stormed the base, located on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Kunduz city, around 2 a.m., said Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council. There were at least 23 soldiers and three members of the local police force among those slain.

According to Ayubi, 12 troops were wounded in the Taliban onslaught, which lasted for over two hours until reinforcements arrived at the besieged base and the attackers were repelled.

“Day by day, the security situation is getting worse in and around Kunduz city,” said Ayubi, adding there are fears the city could again fall into the hands of the Taliban as it did briefly on two occasions in recent years — in September 2015 and in October 2016.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement to the media saying the Taliban were behind the Kunduz attack, claiming the insurgents had overrun three police checkpoints as the attack unfolded.

Earlier Tuesday, Afghan officials reported two more Taliban attacks that left 21 people dead, including 11 policemen killed when the insurgents stormed a checkpoint in northern Baghlan province’s Baghlani Markazi district.

The checkpoint attack in Baghlan took place on Monday night and triggered a firefight that lasted for almost two hours, said Safder Mohsini, head of the provincial council. Five policemen were also wounded and the Taliban seized all weapons and ammunition from the checkpoint before reinforcements arrived, he said.

“They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control,” he added.

Earlier Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people there, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, the provincial governor’s spokesman. Four people were also wounded in that attack, in Dara-I Suf district, he said.

According to Azizi, the Taliban targeted local villagers, including women and children. As the area is very remote, the villagers have their own militia to defend their homes from the insurgents.

The Taliban claimed both Baghlan and Samangan attacks.

Far from the Afghan warzone, the two-day meeting in the Russian capital between the Taliban and Afghan figures, which starts Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving the 17-year war. That process has accelerated since the appointment last September of US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has criticized the gathering.

Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, said Monday that the Afghan government should be at the center of any peace talks, adding that Kabul “would prefer the Moscow meeting had a different shape.”

Abdullah said that Taliban were the biggest obstacle to peace, but that if the Moscow meeting creates “an opening for real peace talks, it would still be a step forward.”


Russia launches floating nuclear reactor in Arctic despite warnings

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

Russia launches floating nuclear reactor in Arctic despite warnings

MOSCOW: Russia will launch the world’s first floating nuclear reactor and send it on an epic journey across the Arctic on Friday, despite environmentalists warning of serious risks to the region.
Loaded with nuclear fuel, the Akademik Lomonosov will leave the Arctic port of Murmansk to begin its 5,000 kilometer (3,000-mile) voyage to northeastern Siberia.
Nuclear agency Rosatom says the reactor is a simpler alternative to building a conventional plant on ground that is frozen all year round, and it intends to sell such reactors abroad.
But environmental groups have long warned of the dangers of the project, dubbing it a potential “Chernobyl on ice” and a “nuclear Titanic.”
A deadly explosion this month at a military testing site in Russia’s far north, causing a radioactive surge, has prompted further concerns.
The reactor’s trip is expected to last between four and six weeks, depending on the weather conditions and the amount of ice on the way.
Work began on the 144-meter (472-foot) Akademik Lomonosov in Saint Petersburg in 2006.

An employee looks on inside machinery compartment at floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov on August 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)


When it arrives in Pevek, a town of 5,000 in the Siberian region of Chukotka, it will replace a local nuclear plant and a closed coal plant.
It is due to go into operation by the end of year, mainly serving the region’s oil platforms as Russia develops the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.
Rashid Alimov, the head of the energy sector of Greenpeace Russia, said environmental groups had been critical of the idea of a floating reactor since the 1990s.
“Any nuclear power plant produces radioactive waste and can have an accident, but Akademik Lomonosov is additionally vulnerable to storms,” he told AFP.
The float is towed by other vessels, making a collision during a storm more likely, he said.
Because Rosatom plans to store spent fuel onboard, Alimov said “any accident involving this fuel might have a serious impact on the fragile environment of the Arctic.”
He added that there is “no infrastructure for a nuclear clean up” in the region.

Rosenergoatom employees work in master control room of the floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov on August 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)

Global warming and melting ice has made the Northeast Passage — which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific along Russia’s northern coast — more accessible.
When AFP visited the Akademik Lomonosov in May 2018, it was a shabby brown color. It has since been repainted in the red, white and blue of the Russian flag.
The vessel weighs 21,000 tons and has two reactors with a capacity of 35 megawatts each, close to that of those used by nuclear icebreakers.
It has a crew of 69 and travels at a speed of 3.5 to 4.5 knots.
Alimov said the project was a missed opportunity as Chukotka, a region larger than Texas populated by only 50,000 people, “has a huge potential for the development of wind energy.”
“A floating nuclear power plant is a too risky and too expensive way of producing electricity,” he said.
The nuclear industry, seeking to reinvent itself in a gloomy market, is developing smaller, cheaper reactors to attract new customers.
They follow the examples of submarines, icebreakers and aircraft carriers, which have long used nuclear power, and are intended for isolated areas with little infrastructure.