18 killed as Taliban strike near historic minaret

Afghan men working at a site near the Minaret of Jam following floodwaters in the Shahrak District of Ghor Province. The minaret of Jam, a revered Afghan historical treasure, has been saved from imminent danger after hundreds of workers diverted surging floodwaters that were gnawing at the 12th-century tower, officials said on May 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 May 2019
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18 killed as Taliban strike near historic minaret

  • Militants capture some checkpoints around the heritage site
  • It is situated on the frontier of Ghor and Herat provinces

HERAT: Taliban fighters have stormed several security posts providing protection to Afghanistan’s historic minaret of Jam, cutting access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and killing 18 security forces, officials said on Wednesday.

The attack comes less than a week after the revered 12th-century minaret, located in a remote part of the western province of Ghor, was threatened by surging floodwaters.

“The Taliban have captured some checkpoints around the minaret. We had to retreat because more fighting would cause damage to the minaret,” Sayed Zia Hussaini, the deputy police chief of Ghor, said.

Abdul Hai Khatebi, the provincial governor spokesman, said 15 pro-government militias and three policemen had been killed in the attacks, which started on Monday.

“The Taliban have shut off telecommunication towers and have cut any access to the area,” Fakhruddin Ariapur, the Ghor province director of information and culture, said.

“The cleaning-up work (from the flood) has stopped and we don’t know what is happening there.”

Dramatic video footage from late last week showed brown torrents crashing up against the base of the brick minaret, which was built in about 1190. 

FASTFACT

The Jam minaret is the world’s second tallest made of bricks, reaching a height of 65 meters.

On Monday, the government said it had hired about 300 local workers to channel floodwaters away from the tower. The work appeared to have saved the minaret from imminent danger.

Located in an area largely under Taliban control, the Jam minaret is the world’s second tallest made of bricks, reaching a height of 65 meters (213 feet). It is situated on the frontier of Ghor and Herat provinces, at the heart of the former Ghorid Empire, which dominated Afghanistan and parts of India in the 12th-13th centuries.

On Tuesday, a Taliban delegation met a group of senior Afghan politicians in Moscow, insisting that international forces must leave Afghanistan for peace to be agreed, amid gathering diplomatic efforts to end the 18-year war. The delegation, led by chief Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund, met politicians, including senior regional leaders and candidates challenging President Ashraf Ghani in this year’s presidential election.

“The Islamic Emirate wants peace but the first step is to remove obstacles to peace and end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar said.

The Taliban, ousted by US-backed forces weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate.


16 dead in crush at Madagascar independence day rally

Updated 30 min 52 sec ago
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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.