Taliban vow to attack Afghanistan elections

The US and the Taliban are currently meeting in Doha for an eighth round of talks aimed at striking a peace deal. (AP)
Updated 07 August 2019

Taliban vow to attack Afghanistan elections

  • The latest Taliban warning may hinder the already slow pace of campaigning

KABUL: The Taliban on Tuesday said it will target Afghanistan’s crucial presidential election due on Sept. 28, warning Afghans to “stay away from gatherings and rallies or risk becoming targets.”

The threat of extremist violence follows US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s claims of major progress in talks with the militants.

Security has been regarded as the main obstacle to the poll, which has been delayed twice because of divisions in the government and mismanagement.

The latest Taliban warning may hinder the already slow pace of campaigning, though lack of enthusiasm for the poll has been linked mainly to a possible further postponement because of talks between the Taliban and the US government. 

Militants have targeted elections in the country since their ouster in late 2001. In its latest statement, the Taliban said the poll will have no legitimacy while the country is “under occupation” of US-led troops.

The Taliban threatened to “exert utmost efforts” to halt the election.

“To prevent losses, God forbid, from being incurred by our fellow compatriots, they must stay away from gatherings and rallies that could become potential targets,” it warned.

“This election process is nothing more than a ploy to deceive the common people because all understand that ultimate decision-making power lies with those (foreigners) funding and managing this process, and not with the public,” the statement said.

“Negotiations are underway to bring an end to the occupation and arrangements for intra-Afghan understanding are being put into place.”

The Taliban described the Sept. 28 elections as an attempt to “satisfy the ego of a limited number of sham politicians, wasting time, money and resources.”

Fazel Fazly, an adviser for President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted on Tuesday: “Like previous elections, we are confident millions of Afghans will line up at the polling stations on Sept. 28 despite threats issued by Taliban.”

On Monday, a rally for one of the 18 candidates was canceled on the outskirts of Kabul after government warnings of a possible attack.

After the launch of the election campaign last week, the Kabul office of Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh, was attacked, leaving 20 people, including some of Saleh’s bodyguards, dead.

Saleh, a former spy chief and leading critic of the Taliban, blamed the militants for the attack.

The presidential palace has yet to comment on the latest Taliban warning, but a spokesman for the interior ministry said the government will use all its “resources for the protection of the candidates and the election process.”

Amnesty International criticized the militants, saying: “The Taliban’s threats to attack campaign rallies demonstrates a chilling disregard for human life. The targeting of civilians is a war crime.”

Zakia Wardak, a politician and women’s rights activist, said that the warning showed that the “Taliban have not changed.”

“Just because the US engages with them does not mean they will alter their actions,” she said.

While some Afghan and US officials have spoken out against the hasty departure of US troops, Taliban delegates in talks in Qatar have insisted on a timetable for the withdrawal of troops before the group takes part in direct talks with Ghani’s government.

Ahead of his visit to India to build a regional consensus on Afghan peace, Khalilzad spoke about progress in talks with the Taliban.

“I’ve spent the past few days in Doha focused on the remaining issues in completing a potential deal with the Taliban that would allow for a conditions-based troop withdrawal. We have made excellent progress,” he said in a tweet.


Thai official dismisses Muslim insurgent demand on detainees

Updated 19 August 2019

Thai official dismisses Muslim insurgent demand on detainees

  • Officials of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional met a Thai delegation and demanded the release of detainees
  • The insurgency in the Malay-speaking region of the predominantly Buddhist country has killed some 7,000 people over the past 15 years

BANGKOK: A Thai deputy prime minister dismissed on Monday a demand made by a Malay Muslim group to free those detained over alleged links to the long-running insurgency in Thailand’s mainly Muslim south as a pre-condition for formal talks.
Officials of the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) met a Thai delegation at an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia on Friday and demanded the release of detainees, a leader of the group told Reuters in a rare interview.
The insurgency in the Malay-speaking region of the predominantly Buddhist country has killed some 7,000 people over the past 15 years and has flared on and off for decades.
“How can you say that? Everything must follow the justice procedure,” Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters on Monday when he was asked about the BRN’s demand.
The BRN also demanded that the Thai government conduct a transparent investigation into alleged abuses by security forces after allegations that a man from the south, Abdullah Isamusa, 32, fell into a coma after being interrogated by the military.
The army said authorities were investigating and that there was no proof so far of torture.
The BRN, the most active insurgent group in the south, has opted to stay out of peace talks between the Thai government and other insurgent groups, although it said it held two previous meetings in recent years.
Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat provinces were part of an independent Malay Muslim sultanate before Thailand annexed them in 1909.