US envoy arrives in Kabul to brief Afghan leaders ahead of peace talks

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. (AFP)
Updated 01 April 2019
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US envoy arrives in Kabul to brief Afghan leaders ahead of peace talks

  • Khalilzad took to Twitter following initial audiences with members of the government later in the day

KABUL: US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday to brief members of the Afghan government on developments in peace talks between Washington and the Taliban.

Khalilzad’s visit is the first since Hamdullah Mohib, a national security adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, publicly accused the Afghan-born diplomat of using the peace process to become the head of a provisional government, referring to him as a “viceroy.”

The incident led to Mohib being summoned by the US State Department and barred from entering the country.

On Monday, Haroon Chakhansuri, a government spokesman, said Khalilzad would hold talks with Ghani following the conclusion of the fifth round of diplomacy between the Taliban and the US in Doha last month.

The chief executive of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, will also attend the meeting.

“The talks with him (Khalilzad) will be about the peace process, and about what the government of Afghanistan can contribute to it, to bring peace to the country,” Abdullah told ministers on Monday.

Khalilzad took to Twitter following initial audiences with members of the government later in the day.

“Glad to be back in #Kabul. I started my morning by meeting with #Afghan government representatives with responsibility for the #AfghanPeaceProcess, including the President’s Chief of Staff Rahimi & SE Daudzai. We discussed the urgency of making progress on intra-Afghan dialogue,” he said, posting pictures of the talks at the US Embassy.

The previous round of peace talks — described by both the militants and the US as “significant” in terms of progress, focused on the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after more than 17 years of war, in return for Taliban pledges not to interfere in Washington’s interests overseas.

Fresh talks are expected to be announced in Doha soon, where the group has maintained an office for several years.


16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

Updated 26 June 2019
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16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

  • The accident occurred outside Mahamasina Stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark National Day

ANTANANARIVO: At least 16 people were crushed to death and dozens injured in Madagascar on Wednesday at a stadium hosting national independence day celebrations in the capital Antananarivo.
The bodies of sixteen victims, including three children, were stored at the mortuary of HJRA hospital in the city, AFP journalists said.
Hospital director Oliva Alison Rakoto had earlier reported 15 dead and 80 wounded.
According to witnesses at the hospital, the accident occurred in the afternoon outside the Mahamasina stadium, where several thousand people had gathered for a concert following the traditional military parade held to mark the national holiday.
At the end of a military parade, security forces opened the gates to allow spectators to leave the enclosure, causing the crowd to mass outside the stadium, witnesses said.
The police then immediately closed the gates and blocked the crowd, witnesses said, causing a deadly pile up.
“When the organizers opened the gate, we were in the front row, in the queue,” said Jean Claude Etienne Rakotoarimanana, 29, who suffered bruises from the crush.
“Suddenly people ran to get in front of us. They shoved us, some even punched us and pulled us,” he added, saying he then fainted.
In September 2018, a deadly crush killed one person and injured 30 people in similar circumstances at the entrance of the same stadium during a football match between Madagascar and Senegal.