Official: Threatened Afghan journalist wounded by bomb blast

The blast happened in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the Helmand province where Taliban are known to be active. (AFP/File)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Official: Threatened Afghan journalist wounded by bomb blast

  • The journalist was wounded on his way to work
  • He will receive further treatment in Kabul

KABUL: An Afghan journalist who has long received death threats was seriously wounded in a bombing in the country’s south, while in the western province of Farah, the Taliban stormed an army checkpoint and killed 10 soldiers, officials said Wednesday.

Also in Farah, a local official was gunned down outside his home on Wednesday, a councilman said.

The attacks were the latest violence in war-torn Afghanistan even as the Taliban and the US concluded another round of negotiations held in Qatar, with both sides reporting progress in the talks.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials reported a friendly fire incident Wednesday in southern Uruzgan province involving US and Afghan forces and leading to the death of five Afghan troops. The casualties have not been confirmed and there was no immediate comment from the US military in Afghanistan.

Afghan radio and TV journalist Nesar Ahmad Ahmadi was wounded when a sticky bomb attached to his car exploded as he was heading to work in Helmand province. Omar Zwak, the governor’s spokesman, said the attack happened on Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.

Ahmadi had a leg wound and was transferred to Kabul for further treatment, the spokesman said. He runs the Sabahoon radio station and is also a reporter for Sabahoon TV in Helmand.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Helmand, the Taliban heartland.

Afghan journalists are often targeted in attacks. In January, the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee said in its annual report that it had recorded a total of 121 cases of violence against journalists and media workers in 2018. It also said 17 journalists and media workers were killed last year, once again placing Afghanistan as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.

The International Federation of Journalists and its Afghan affiliate condemned the attack on Ahmadi in Helmand and called for an immediate investigation.

In the attack in western Farah province, the Taliban stormed an army checkpoint along the main highway in Gulistan district on Tuesday, killing 10 soldiers, said Abdul Samad Salehi, a member of the provincial council.

Reinforcements were sent and the area was retaken and brought under control but five or six other troops remain missing, Salehi added. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in Farah.

On Wednesday, also in Farah, Mohammad Salim Farahi was shot and killed near his home in the provincial capital, Farah city. He was an engineer and the head of the public works department, said Salehi.

In the incident in Uruzgan, the Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed there was a firefight involving US and Afghan troops but couldn’t provide any details. A ministry spokesman, Col. Qais Mangal, said there was “a report of a misunderstanding between the US and Afghan forces” but that exact details of what happened were not immediately known.

Mohammad Karim Karimi, deputy head of the Uruzgan provincial council, said US forces had mistakenly carried out an airstrike at an Afghan base near Tarin Kot, the provincial capital, followed by a firefight that left the five Afghans dead and 10 wounded.

Despite intensified negotiations between the US and the Taliban to end the 17-year was in Afghanistan, the insurgents have been carrying out near-daily attacks across the country, mainly targeting the government and security forces and causing staggering casualties.

The nearly two weeks of talks in Qatar produced two draft agreements between the Taliban and the US government on a “withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures,” American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban also issued a statement, saying “progress was achieved” on both of those issues. However, the Taliban have consistently refused to talk with the government in Kabul, describing it as a US puppet.

The talks concluded late Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear when the next round of talks would take place.


‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

Updated 56 min 13 sec ago
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‘Huge’ challenges ahead as Cyril Ramaphosa takes presidential oath in South Africa

  • Promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans
  • South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country

PRETORIA: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday urged the country to pursue “an extraordinary feat of human endeavor” as he was sworn in for a five-year term with a delicate fight against government corruption ahead of him.
“The challenges our country face are huge and real. But they are not insurmountable. They can be solved. And I stand here today saying they are going to be solved,” Ramaphosa told some 30,000 people in the capital, Pretoria, with several African leaders in attendance.
He promised a new era in which officials will improve the lives of South Africans instead of enriching themselves. He called for a state free from graft and “resources squandered,” and urged fellow citizens to end poverty in a generation. Both would be immense achievements: Corruption and mismanagement have consumed billions of rand, and South Africa is the world’s most economically unequal country.
Ramaphosa’s inauguration followed his ruling African National Congress party’s 57.5% victory in this month’s election. It was the party’s weakest showing at the ballot box since the ANC took power at the end of the harsh system of racial apartheid in 1994, as voter turnout and confidence fell.
Ramaphosa first took office last year after former president Jacob Zuma was pressured to resign amid corruption scandals that badly damaged public faith in the ANC. A former protege of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa is seen by many as having the potential to clean up both the government and the ruling party’s reputation. Without him the ANC likely would have received just 40% of the vote, one party leader, Fikile Mbalula, has said.

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ROYAL CONGRATULATIONS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Ramaphosa a cable of congratulations on his swearing in. 
The crown prince expressed his sincere congratulations, best wishes for success and further progress for the people of South Africa

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There was no sign at Saturday’s ceremony of Zuma, who has insisted he did nothing wrong and that allegations are politically motivated. His allies within the ANC leadership pose a challenge to Ramaphosa as he pursues reforms.
Ahead of the election Ramaphosa apologized to South Africans for the political turmoil. He also vowed to continue the fight against graft that has hurt the country’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa.
The president’s resolve to impose clean governance will be tested with the appointment of his new Cabinet in the coming days. He faces pressure from opposition parties and civil society to reduce the number of ministers — there are now 34 — and appoint ones who are scandal-free.
In a sign his efforts are working, former deputy president David Mabuza was not sworn in as a member of Parliament due to an incriminating report on him by the ANC’s integrity commission. For now, Ramaphosa is without a deputy.
In his speech on Saturday the president also addressed public frustration with joblessness, patchy delivery of basic services and the legacy of inequality. Unemployment is above 25% and much of the country’s wealth and private levers of power are held by the small white minority.
“Many South Africans still go to bed hungry,” Ramaphosa said. “Many live lives of intolerable deprivation. Too many of our people do not work, especially the youth.”
One challenge for the president in the years ahead is engaging potential voters in South Africa’s “Born Free” generation , who never experienced apartheid and unlike their parents see the ANC not as a party of liberation but one expected to deliver for the future.