Blast in Kabul targets aid organization

Police confirmed the explosion. (AFP/File)
Updated 08 May 2019

Blast in Kabul targets aid organization

  • Afghan officials say at least nine people were injured in the attacks
  • People from nearby offices and buildings said they felt the explosion as the structures shook and windows broke

KABUL: Taliban militants Wednesday overran a central Kabul compound housing an international aid organization, Afghan officials said, the latest assault to rock the war-torn city.

The attack comes as the US and Taliban representatives continue negotiations in Qatar aimed at bringing an end to the nearly 18-year-old conflict, while fighting continues to rage across Afghanistan.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the latest attack began with an explosion near the offices of Counterpart International, an NGO with operations in Afghanistan.

Officials earlier wrongly identified the target as the nearby CARE International.

“Some attackers have entered the NGO’s compound. The police have surrounded the area and a clearing operation is ongoing,” Rahimi said.

In a tweet, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Counterpart was involved in “harmful” activities in Afghanistan, and was linked to USAID.

Wahidullah Mayar, the spokesman for the ministry of public health, said at least nine people had been wounded.

Witnesses said the explosion shook nearby buildings and shattered windows.

“We started running out of the building and while running outside I heard small gunfire and the sound of grenades going off nearby,” said Akbar Khan Sahadat, a prosecutor in the Attorney General’s office which was close to the scene of the blast.

Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP earlier this week that the latest round of peace talks had been bogged down over the issue of when foreign forces might withdraw in return for the Taliban security guarantees.

The two foes are hammering out a deal that could see foreign forces leave Afghanistan in return for a cease-fire, talks between the government and the Taliban, and a guarantee the country will not be used as a safe haven for terror groups.

The talks follow a massive peace summit in Kabul last week where President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a cease-fire to begin on the first day of Ramadan, but the insurgents refused.

The Taliban have rebuffed repeated calls to halt fighting over the last year as they seek to gain leverage at the negotiating table by pressing the fight on the battlefield.

Last year the Taliban announced a three-day cease-fire at the end of Ramadan after Ghani declared a unilateral truce for eight days earlier in the month.

It was first formal nationwide cease-fire since the US-led invasion of 2001 and saw unprecedented scenes of reconciliation and jubilation across the country.

Since then the insurgents have steadfastly refused to talk to Ghani, who they view as a US puppet, and talks thus far have cut out his government.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s war rages on, with thousands of civilians and fighters being killed each year.

US forces continue to train Afghan partners on the ground and strike the Taliban from the air in a bid to push the war to a political settlement.


Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

Updated 8 min 10 sec ago

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting

  • Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney

FORT WORTH, TEXAS: A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.