Microphone bomb kills Afghan governor at Eid prayers

Updated 13 November 2013

Microphone bomb kills Afghan governor at Eid prayers

PULI ALAM, Afghanistan: A bomb hidden in a microphone killed an Afghan provincial governor Tuesday as he made a speech at a mosque after Eid prayers in Logar, close to the capital Kabul.
Arsala Jamal was appointed by President Hamid Karzai, like all 34 provincial governors, and he was seen as a close ally of the president, acting as one of his campaign managers in the 2009 election.
“This morning, governor Jamal was delivering a speech after Eid prayers when he was killed by a bomb planted in the microphone,” Logar provincial governor spokesman Din Mohammad Darwish told AFP.
“The governor wanted to speak and congratulate everyone on the occasion of Eid. At least 18 other people have been wounded, including civilians and government employees.”
Jamal only took up the Logar job in April after serving as governor of Khost, on the border with Pakistan.
No group claimed immediate responsibility for the blast, though Taleban militants often target provincial government officials as well as Afghan soldiers and police.
Karzai condemned Jamal’s killing, saying the attack inside the mosque showed the Taleban had no respect for Islam.
Earlier in his presidential Eid address on Tuesday, he again appealed for peace.
“Hamid Karzai called on the Taleban to work for the development of their country, and to spare Afghan security forces who are working to protect their soil, national dignity, and to stop carrying out attacks,” his office said.
“(The president) once again called on the Taleban and their leaders not to throw the youth of this country into destruction.”
Mohammad Jan Abid, head of the criminal investigative department in Logar, confirmed the mosque bombing and said a probe would be launched.
Volatile Logar, which lies to the south of the Afghan capital, is seen as a key strategic region, often described as a “gateway to Kabul” for Taleban militants based in strongholds across the south and east.
Security in the province has deteriorated in recent years, with the Taleban holding sway in some areas despite sustained Afghan and US military pressure.
Village-based Afghan Local Police (ALP) forces have also been active trying to wrestle back control of Taleban-held territory.
The Taleban have vowed to step up attacks as Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections in April and the withdrawal of 87,000 NATO troops by the end of next year.
Taleban supremo Mullah Omar on Sunday said he “rejected” the elections, which he alleged were being manipulated by foreign powers, and called on Afghans not to participate.
The hard-line Islamist Taleban regime was driven from power by a US-led coalition in 2001 for sheltering the Al-Qaeda leaders behind the 9/11 attacks.
The US and Afghanistan are currently in the last stages of talks on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would see several thousand US troops remain in the country to aid stability and continue training of local security forces.
Omar warned any US bases remaining on Afghan soil “will never be accepted,” and that “armed jihad will continue against them with more momentum.”
Eid ul Adha is a major public holiday across the Muslim world, with mosques packed with devotees marking the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to.
Sheep and goats are sacrificed in many households and the meat distributed among family, friends and the poor.


UK cuts overseas aid after worst recession in over 300 years

Updated 1 min 9 sec ago

UK cuts overseas aid after worst recession in over 300 years

LONDON: The British government faced fury Wednesday over its decision to ditch its long-standing target for overseas aid in the wake of what it described as the deepest recession in over three centuries.
In a statement to lawmakers, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the target to allocate 0.7% of national income to overseas aid will be cut to 0.5%. The move is expected to free up 4 billion pounds ($5.3 billion) for the Conservative government to use elsewhere, money that critics say could be used to save tens of thousands of lives in the poorest parts of the world.
While expressing “great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target,” Sunak said “sticking rigidly” to it “is difficult to justify” to people at a time when the economy has been so battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“At a time of unprecedented crisis, government must make tough choices,” he said.
Without giving a timetable, he said that the government aims to return to the target first laid out by the Labour government of Tony Blair in 2004. And he said that even with the new target, the UK will still be the second biggest aid spender among the Group of Seven leading industrial nations.
The decision goes against the government’s promise last year to maintain the aid target and drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum, including within Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own Conservative Party.
Liz Sugg, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, has quit, arguing that the decision “will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right.”
The UK has for years been considered one of the world’s leaders in development and aid so the government’s decision to lower the target was met with anger and dismay from poverty campaigners.
“Cutting the UK’s lifeline to the world’s poorest communities in the midst of a global pandemic will lead to tens of thousands of otherwise preventable deaths,” said Oxfam Chief Executive Danny Sriskandarajah.
Save the Children Chief Executive Kevin Watkins also said the decision had “broken Britain’s reputation for leadership on the world stage” ahead of its hosting of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference next year.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined the chorus of disapproval, describing the cut as “shameful and wrong” and urging lawmakers “to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.”
In a sobering assessment that provided the backdrop to the cut, Sunak sought to balance ongoing support for the economy with a longer-term commitment to heal public finances after a stark deterioration.
“Our health emergency is not yet over and our economic emergency has only just begun,” he said.
Sunak said the government’s independent economic forecasters are predicting that the British economy will shrink 11.3% this year, the “largest fall in output for more than 300 years.”
The Office for Budget Responsibility expects the economy to grow again next year as coronavirus restrictions are eased and hoped-for vaccines come on stream. The agency is predicting growth of 5.5% in 2021 and 6.6% the following year. As a result the output lost during the pandemic won’t have been recouped until the final quarter of 2022.
Sunak warned that the pandemic’s cost will create long-term “scarring,” with the economy 3% smaller in 2025 than predicted in March, before the spring lockdown.
The massive fall in output this year has led to a huge increase in public borrowing as the government sought to cushion the blow and tax revenues fell. Sunak said the government has pumped 280 billion pounds into the economy to get through the pandemic. Public borrowing this fiscal year is set to hit 394 billion pounds, or 19% of national income, “the highest recorded level of borrowing in our peacetime history.”
He warned that underlying public debt is rising toward 100% of annual GDP.
“High as these costs are, the costs of inaction would have been far higher,” he said. “But this situation is clearly unsustainable over the medium term.”
Sunak said the 1 million doctors and nurses in the National Health Service will get a pay rise next year, as will 2.1 million of the lowest paid workers in the public sector. However, he said pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be “paused” next year.
Sunak also announced extra money to support Johnson’s program of investments in infrastructure across the UK, particularly in the north of England, where the Conservatives won seats during the last general election. A new infrastructure bank will also be headquartered in the north of England.