Kabul aid groups reel after nine killed in Taliban attack

Taliban militants exploded a car in the area, which caused windows of nearby buildings to collapse. (AFP/File)
Updated 09 May 2019
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Kabul aid groups reel after nine killed in Taliban attack

  • Three workers from an anti-poverty group died in the attack
  • Afghan forces and Taliban militia engaged in a fight that lasted hours

KABUL: Humanitarian groups were reeling Thursday from yet another attack targeting aid workers in Afghanistan, as officials confirmed nine people had been killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul a day earlier.
Wednesday’s attack outside Counterpart International, a non-profit group working with marginalized people in Afghanistan, began with an immense blast from a car bomb in a busy commercial area in central Kabul.
Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the death toll had risen to nine, including five members of the Afghan security forces, a guard at Counterpoint and three civilians.
Anti-poverty group CARE, which has offices close to Counterpart International, said three of its workers — a driver, a watchman and a technical adviser — were killed in the blast.
“This attack reflects the increasing dangers of humanitarian work in conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan and the unfortunate daily reality of violence for many Afghan families,” CARE said in a statement.
In addition, 20 civilians were wounded in the attack, which saw several Taliban gunmen storm the Counterpoint compound after the blast. They were all killed after Afghan commandos led an hours-long clearance operation.
Wednesday’s massive explosion felled trees and toppled dense concrete blast walls on the street outside Counterpart.
The blast radius extended hundreds of meters (yards) in all directions, blowing out windows in nearby homes and businesses.
Dozens of workers could be seen sweeping debris and broken glass from streets in the popular Shahr-e-Naw neighborhood in central Kabul, which is home to shops, restaurants and hotels.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Counterpart International was targeted because it promoted the “inter-mixing” of men and women.
Insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter the aid group had mentored “Kabul admin workers in various aspects of brutality, oppression, terror, anti-Islamic ideology & promotion of western culture.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 aid workers were killed last year in Afghanistan — one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarians.
Afghanistan was once a hub of foreign aid but deteriorating security has seen international groups downgrade their presence, making it even more difficult to deliver crucial help to the war-torn country’s most vulnerable citizens.
Several aid groups, including Save the Children, have been the target of terror attacks and have suspended operations in the wake of the assaults.
Wednesday’s attack came even as US and Taliban officials were meeting in Qatar for peace talks.


UK core pay growth strongest in nearly 11 years, but jobs growth slows

Data showed the unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent as expected. (Shutterstock)
Updated 42 min 12 sec ago
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UK core pay growth strongest in nearly 11 years, but jobs growth slows

  • Core earnings have increased by 3.6 percent annually, beating the median forecast of 3.5 percent
  • The unemployment rate fell by 51,000 to just under 1.3 million

LONDON: British wages, excluding bonuses, rose at their fastest pace in more than a decade in the three months to May, official data showed, but there were some signs that the labor market might be weakening. Core earnings rose by an annual 3.6 percent, beating the median forecast of 3.5 percent in a Reuters poll of economists. Including bonuses, pay growth also picked up to 3.4 percent from 3.2 percent, stronger than the 3.1 percent forecast in the poll. Britain’s labor market has been a silver lining for the economy since the Brexit vote in June 2016, something many economists attribute to employers preferring to hire workers that they can later lay off over making longer-term commitments to investment. The pick-up in pay has been noted by the Bank of England which says it might need to raise interest rates in response, assuming Britain can avoid a no-deal Brexit. Tuesday’s data showed the unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent as expected, its joint-lowest since the three months to January 1975. The number of people out of work fell by 51,000 to just under 1.3 million. But the growth in employment slowed to 28,000, the weakest increase since the three months to August last year and vacancies fell to their lowest level in more than a year. Some recent surveys of companies have suggested employers are turning more cautious about hiring as Britain approaches its new Brexit deadline of Oct. 31. Both the contenders to be prime minister say they would leave the EU without a transition deal if necessary. A survey published last week showed that companies were more worried about Brexit than at any time since the decision to leave the European Union and they planned to reduce investment and hiring. “The labor market continues to be strong,” ONS statistician Matt Hughes said. “Regular pay is growing at its fastest rate for nearly 11 years in cash terms and its quickest for over three years after taking account of inflation.” The BoE said in May it expected wage growth of 3 percent at the end of this year.