Taliban claims deadly attack on Afghan stadium celebration

The governor was transported from the area. (AFP/File)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Taliban claims deadly attack on Afghan stadium celebration

  • The governor of Helmand province received minor injuries in the blasts
  • Farmer Day celebrations last a few days and mark the traditional Pakistani new year

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan: An attack claimed by the Taliban killed four people and wounded 31 on Saturday during a celebration in the Afghan city of Lashkar Gah.

Afghanistan’s multi-day celebrations to mark its traditional new year have been marred by several attacks, beginning with explosions claimed by Islamic State in the capital of Kabul on Thursday that killed six people and wounded 23.

Saturday’s blasts in the southern provincial capital appeared to have been caused by explosives planted at the stadium where nearly 1,000 people were celebrating Farmers Day.

Helmand provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan was knocked over but suffered only superficial injuries, a spokesman said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility on Twitter for the explosions.

In Reuters video footage, bursts of gunfire can be heard before and after one of the blasts, causing people to flee. A Reuters witness said the gunfire came from security personnel.

“There was chaos and people were running. Security forces asked them to calm down and then the second explosion happened,” said Najibullah, who was in the stadium for the celebrations.

He said the explosions seemed to originate from where tents were set up for farmers to display their produce.

The Persian new year is widely celebrated in Afghanistan but some hard-line Islamists oppose the festivities, saying they are un-Islamic.

Helmand, source of much of Afghanistan’s opium, is one of several Afghan provinces in which insurgents have the greatest control and influence.

The latest attack came a year after a car bomb killed at least 14 people who had gathered for a wrestling match in Lashkar Gah.

Fighting has been relentless in Afghanistan amid recurring peace talks between US and Taliban negotiators. The latest negotiating round wrapped up this month with both sides saying there was progress toward ending the 17-year war.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction estimated in January that the government controlled or influenced just over half the country, covering nearly two-thirds of the population.


Philippines’ Duterte in war of words over Canada garbage row

Updated 50 min 44 sec ago
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Philippines’ Duterte in war of words over Canada garbage row

  • The Philippines has urged Canada to take back scores of garbage containers shipped to the country in 2013 and 2014, alleging they contain toxic waste
  • Ottawa has said it had no authority to compel a private shipper to return the shipment to Canada

PORAC, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday demanded Canada take back tons of trash it had illegally shipped to Manila or risk “war,” in the latest incident to strain bilateral ties.
The Philippines has urged Canada to take back scores of garbage containers shipped to the country in 2013 and 2014, alleging they contain toxic waste.
But Ottawa has said it had no authority to compel a private shipper to return the shipment to Canada.
Speaking to officials during a visit north of Manila, an area ravaged by an earthquake on Monday, Duterte said he did not care if his stance on the issue turned the two countries into enemies.
“I want a boat prepared. I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out, or I will set sail for Canada and dump their garbage back there,” he said.
“Let’s fight Canada. I will declare war against them,” added the president, who frequently uses coarse language and hyperbole in public speeches about opponents.
The garbage is among several festering issues that have soured ties between the two governments.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been among the most vocal critics of the domestic drug war waged by Duterte, who was elected in 2016.
Philippine police say they have killed nearly 5,000 alleged drug users and pushers who fought against arrest in the crackdown, while rights groups say the true toll is at least triple that and may amount to crimes against humanity.
Last year Duterte angrily canceled the Philippine military’s $235 million contract to buy 16 military helicopters from a Canada-based manufacturer after the Trudeau government put the deal under review because of the president’s human rights record.