Blast in Kabul targets aid organization

Police confirmed the explosion. (AFP/File)
Updated 08 May 2019
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Blast in Kabul targets aid organization

  • Afghan officials say at least nine people were injured in the attacks
  • People from nearby offices and buildings said they felt the explosion as the structures shook and windows broke

KABUL: Taliban militants Wednesday overran a central Kabul compound housing an international aid organization, Afghan officials said, the latest assault to rock the war-torn city.

The attack comes as the US and Taliban representatives continue negotiations in Qatar aimed at bringing an end to the nearly 18-year-old conflict, while fighting continues to rage across Afghanistan.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the latest attack began with an explosion near the offices of Counterpart International, an NGO with operations in Afghanistan.

Officials earlier wrongly identified the target as the nearby CARE International.

“Some attackers have entered the NGO’s compound. The police have surrounded the area and a clearing operation is ongoing,” Rahimi said.

In a tweet, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Counterpart was involved in “harmful” activities in Afghanistan, and was linked to USAID.

Wahidullah Mayar, the spokesman for the ministry of public health, said at least nine people had been wounded.

Witnesses said the explosion shook nearby buildings and shattered windows.

“We started running out of the building and while running outside I heard small gunfire and the sound of grenades going off nearby,” said Akbar Khan Sahadat, a prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office which was close to the scene of the blast.

Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP earlier this week that the latest round of peace talks had been bogged down over the issue of when foreign forces might withdraw in return for the Taliban security guarantees.

The two foes are hammering out a deal that could see foreign forces leave Afghanistan in return for a cease-fire, talks between the government and the Taliban, and a guarantee the country will not be used as a safe haven for terror groups.

The talks follow a massive peace summit in Kabul last week where President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a cease-fire to begin on the first day of Ramadan, but the insurgents refused.

The Taliban have rebuffed repeated calls to halt fighting over the last year as they seek to gain leverage at the negotiating table by pressing the fight on the battlefield.

Last year the Taliban announced a three-day cease-fire at the end of Ramadan after Ghani declared a unilateral truce for eight days earlier in the month.

It was first formal nationwide cease-fire since the US-led invasion of 2001 and saw unprecedented scenes of reconciliation and jubilation across the country.

Since then the insurgents have steadfastly refused to talk to Ghani, who they view as a US puppet, and talks thus far have cut out his government.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s war rages on, with thousands of civilians and fighters being killed each year.

US forces continue to train Afghan partners on the ground and strike the Taliban from the air in a bid to push the war to a political settlement.


US imposes sanctions on Myanmar commander in chief over Rohingya abuses

This file photo taken on July 19, 2018, shows Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting to pay his respects to Myanmar independence hero General Aung San and eight others assassinated in 1947, during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon. (AFP)
Updated 52 min 50 sec ago
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US imposes sanctions on Myanmar commander in chief over Rohingya abuses

  • A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh
  • A United Nations investigator said this month that Myanmar security forces and insurgents were committing human rights violations against civilians that may amount to fresh war crimes

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions on the Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders it said were responsible for extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims, barring them from entry to the United States.
The steps, which also covered Min Aung Hlaing’s deputy, Soe Win, and two other senior commanders and their families, are the strongest the United States has taken in response to massacres of minority Rohingyas in Myanmar, also known as Burma. It named the two others as Brig. Generals Than Oo and Aung Aung.
“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said a recent disclosure that Min Aung Hlaing ordered the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at the village of Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017 was “one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.”
“The Commander-in-Chief released these criminals after only months in prison, while the journalists who told the world about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days,” Pompeo said.
The Inn Din massacre was uncovered by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.
The US announcement came on the first day of an international ministerial conference on religious freedom hosted by Pompeo at the State Department that was attended by Rohingya representatives.
“With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military,” said Pompeo, who has been a strong advocate of religious freedom.

“GROSS VIOLATIONS“
“We designated these individuals based on credible information of these commanders’ involvement in gross violations of human rights.”
A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. UN investigators have said that Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with “genocidal intent.”
The State Department has so far stopped short of calling the abuses genocide, referring instead to ethic cleansing and a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities.
“He (Pompeo) has not come to the point at which he has decided to make a further determination. Generally our policies are focused on changing behavior, promoting accountability, and we have taken today’s actions with those goals in mind,” a senior State Department official told reporters, asking not to be named.
The military in Myanmar, where Buddhism is the main religion, has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.
A declaration of genocide by the US government could require Washington to impose even stronger sanctions on Myanmar, a country with which it has competed for influence with regional rival China.
The senior State Department official said Washington hoped the latest steps would strengthen the hand of the civilian government in Myanmar in its effort to amend the constitution to reduce military influence in politics.
“Our hope is that these actions ... will help to further delegitimize the current military leadership, and can help the civilian government gain control of the military,” he said.
The Trump administration had thus far imposed sanctions on four military and police commanders and two army units involved in the abuses against the Rohingya and had been under pressure from US Congress to take tougher steps.
A United Nations investigator said this month that Myanmar security forces and insurgents were committing human rights violations against civilians that may amount to fresh war crimes.