Blast outside sports stadium packed with onlookers kills at least 14 Afghans

Afghan men carry a wounded man into a hospital following a car bomb in Lashkar Gah the capital of Helmand province on March 23, 2018. (AFP / NOOR MOHAMMAD)
Updated 23 March 2018

Blast outside sports stadium packed with onlookers kills at least 14 Afghans

KABUL: A major explosion at an entrance of a sports stadium, packed with hundreds of Afghans, killed 14 people on Friday in the southern city of Lashkargah, officials said.
They could not immediately say what caused the blast, some suspected it was triggered by a car bomb.
Hundreds of locals had gathered to watch a wrestling match when the explosion went off in the evening local time, officials and locals said.
A spokesman for Helmand’s governor, Omar Zwak said 14 people had lost their lives and over 40 were wounded.
“It was a heart-wrenching event, with people shouting and yelling as it took a while for the ambulance to arrive to the scene,” Ahmad Shah an eyewitness said by phone from Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand, which is part of the Taliban’s stronghold.
Images on several TV stations showed a giant flame and plume of smoke rising from outside the stadium where some local officials were amongst the onlookers, residents said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack which came a day after the killing of 33 civilians in a suicide attack in Kabul where people celebrated Naw Rouz, the first day of the country’s new year.
Most of the victims in Kabul’s attack, claimed by Daesh, were Shias.
President Ashraf Ghani in a statement condemned the attack, adding “terrorists” can deter Afghans from marking their religious and national events.
The attack in Lashkargah came just as Afghans elsewhere celebrated a rare historical flash news over the country’s cricket players winning a game abroad, allowing them to contest for the first time in an international cricket match set for next year.
“The violence is non-stop here. We can not even enjoy our victories and events,” Fazl Ahmad a Kabul resident told the Arab News.
“How long do we have to suffer like this? What is the responsibility of the government and the foreign troops here?” he asked.


Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shouts “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor,” during the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 50 sec ago

Tradition, modernity mingle at Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement

  • Ritual-bound, centuries-old ceremony takes places at Imperial Palace in Tokyo
  • Heads of state and officials from Japan and 180 countries among the attendees

TOKYO: It was a ceremony similar to coronations used by monarchs worldwide, but combining the historical and the spiritual with modernity. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally completed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22.
Purple curtains were drawn back to reveal Naruhito, 59, and Empress Masako, 55, standing before their imperial thrones as the enthronement ceremony began.
Wearing a dark orange robe, similar to that worn by his father Akihito at his own enthronement in 1990, Naruhito proclaimed his ascension from a 6.5 meter-high, canopied “Takamikura” throne.
Through the centuries-old ceremony, Naruhito declared himself Japan’s 126th emperor and vowed to “stand with the people” before roughly 2,000 guests, including heads of state and officials from Japan and more than 180 countries. Among the attendees were Japanese royal family members also wearing traditional robes.
In his congratulatory message to the emperor, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised that the people of Japan would “respect (his) highness the emperor as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people.” He then stood before Naruhito’s throne, bowed and raised his hands three times, shouting “banzai,” meaning “long live the emperor.”
Saudi Arabia was represented by Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, who conveyed greetings from King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Japanese people.Saudi Ambassador to Japan Naif bin Marzouq Al-Fahadi, and other Saudi officials, were also present.

Japan’s Princess Mako attended the enthronement ceremony. (AFP)


The enthronement ceremony is a part of a succession of rituals that began in May when Naruhito inherited the throne, after Akihito became the first emperor to abdicate in 200 years.
As Naruhito ascended the throne, boxes containing items of imperial regalia, including an imperial sword and jewel, were presented to him.
“Having previously succeeded to the Imperial Throne in accordance with the constitution of Japan and the Special Measures Law on the Imperial House Law, I now … proclaim my enthronement to those at home and abroad,” the Japan Times newspaper quoted Naruhito as declaring.
“I pledge hereby that I shall act according to the constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the state, and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always wishing for the happiness of the people and the peace of the world, turning my thoughts to the people and standing by them.” An imperial procession that was to take place after the ceremony was postponed after Typhoon Hagibis hit Tokyo earlier this month. On Nov. 10, the emperor and empress will take part in a procession through central Tokyo to the Akasaka Imperial Residence.
To mark the enthronement, the government has granted pardons to more than half a million people found guilty of petty crimes such as traffic violations.
In an article for Arab News, Shihoko Goto, deputy director for geoeconomics at the Asia Program of the US think tank the Wilson Center, asked a question she believes will be echoed by many in Japan: “Can the country carry on its historical legacy while embracing the opportunities of the 21st century? “The new imperial couple is likely to want to further Emperor Akihito’s legacy as a conduit for reconciliation.”