Taliban vows ‘serious revenge’ over Afghan airstrike

The Taliban has vowed to 'take serious revenge' after an Afghan airstrike in an area controlled by the militant group killed or wounded dozens of people, many of them children. (AP)
Updated 05 April 2018

Taliban vows ‘serious revenge’ over Afghan airstrike

  • The government and military have said the Afghan Air Force hit a Taliban base in the northeastern province of Kunduz
  • At least 59 people were killed, including Taliban commanders, according to security sources

KUNDUZ: The Taliban has vowed to “take serious revenge” after an Afghan airstrike in an area controlled by the militant group killed or wounded dozens of people, many of them children.
The government and military have said the Afghan Air Force (AAF) hit a Taliban base in the northeastern province of Kunduz on Monday where senior commanders were meeting to plan attacks.
But Afghan security sources and witnesses have told AFP that AAF helicopters struck a madrassa in Dashte Archi district where a graduation ceremony for religious students was under way.
At least 59 people were killed, including Taliban commanders, according to security sources. Health officials said at least 57 wounded were taken to hospital in the provincial capital Kunduz.
The Taliban issued a statement late Wednesday saying it “condemns in the strongest terms this major crime and vows to take serious revenge against the perpetrators.”
An AFP photographer was among the first journalists to visit the scene of the airstrike on Wednesday after receiving permission from the Taliban. It is deep inside Taliban-controlled territory and normally inaccessible to the media.
The madrassa and mosque appeared to be undamaged. But in a field adjacent to the religious compound, where the graduation ceremony was purportedly held, AFP saw a hole in the ground that locals said was made by a rocket, though that could not be verified.
AFP also saw large piles of hats, turbans and shoes that were said to belong to the victims of the airstrike. At least half a dozen freshly dug graves could be seen nearby.
Abdullah, 40, who lives near the compound housing the madrassa and mosque and was invited to attend as a member of the local community, told AFP that he saw the airstrike happen.
“We were about to finish the ceremony at 1:00 p.m. when (Afghan military) aircraft bombarded innocent children,” he said Wednesday.
“People were panicked. Children and elders were also wounded in the bombardment.”
Government officials in both Kabul and Kunduz have given conflicting figures for the number of casualties, with some denying any civilians had been killed or that a madrassa had been hit.
Afghan officials have been known to minimize civilian casualties.
The Afghan military initially denied civilians were among the dead and wounded, but later blamed the Taliban for shooting them. It said 18 Taliban commanders were killed and 12 were wounded in the airstrike.
But Naim Mangal, a doctor at the hospital where most of the wounded were taken, told AFP that “all the victims” had been “hit by pieces of bomb, shrapnel.”


Riot police on Greek islands as work begins on new migrant camps

Updated 25 February 2020

Riot police on Greek islands as work begins on new migrant camps

  • There are more than 38,000 migrants crowded into camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos
  • The UN’s refugee chief on Friday called for urgent action to address the “shocking and shameful” conditions migrants are forced to live in

ATHENS: Riot police were dispatched to the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios on Tuesday as the government plowed ahead with the construction of controversial new migrant camps, officials said.

At the harbors of both islands, where hundreds of local residents had gathered, police used tear gas to clear the way for security force reinforcements and construction machinery, a police source told AFP.

At Chios harbor on Mesta, some hooded protesters threw stones as scores of riot police disembarked, TV footage showed.

Residents have parked cars and garbage trucks on roads leading to the camp sites, which are to house up to 7,000 people each, in an attempt to hobble their construction.

“There are roadblocks. We will intervene where necessary,” a police source told AFP.

After weeks of fruitless talks with local authorities, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the weekend insisted that the plan would go ahead despite opposition.

“The works will begin immediately and will be completed. There is no turning back,” he told conservative party cadres on Sunday.
Main opposition leftist party Syriza has accused the government of undemocratic behavior.

“We will not allow Mr. Mitsotakis and his government to turn the islands into a battle ground,” said Syriza spokesman Alexis Charitsis.

There are more than 38,000 migrants crowded into camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos despite an official capacity of just 6,200.

Island officials and residents have told the Greek government that after five years on the front lines of the European migration crisis, they are no longer prepared to accept thousands of asylum-seekers.

The conservative government which came to power in July has announced that the camps on Lesbos, Samos and Chios will be shut down this year, to be replaced with new, smaller facilities that are to be operational by mid-2020.

But while the Mitsotakis administration tries to alleviate the problem by relocating thousands of migrants to other parts of Greece, many communities on the mainland have also stonewalled the move.

The UN’s refugee chief on Friday called for urgent action to address the “shocking and shameful” conditions migrants are forced to live in at reception centers on the Greek islands.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said swift measures were needed to reduce overcrowding and improve living conditions on the islands prioritising water, sanitation and health care, as the winter weather was exacerbating the situation.