18 killed as Taliban strike near historic minaret

Afghan men working at a site near the Minaret of Jam following floodwaters in the Shahrak District of Ghor Province. The minaret of Jam, a revered Afghan historical treasure, has been saved from imminent danger after hundreds of workers diverted surging floodwaters that were gnawing at the 12th-century tower, officials said on May 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 29 May 2019
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18 killed as Taliban strike near historic minaret

  • Militants capture some checkpoints around the heritage site
  • It is situated on the frontier of Ghor and Herat provinces

HERAT: Taliban fighters have stormed several security posts providing protection to Afghanistan’s historic minaret of Jam, cutting access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and killing 18 security forces, officials said on Wednesday.

The attack comes less than a week after the revered 12th-century minaret, located in a remote part of the western province of Ghor, was threatened by surging floodwaters.

“The Taliban have captured some checkpoints around the minaret. We had to retreat because more fighting would cause damage to the minaret,” Sayed Zia Hussaini, the deputy police chief of Ghor, said.

Abdul Hai Khatebi, the provincial governor spokesman, said 15 pro-government militias and three policemen had been killed in the attacks, which started on Monday.

“The Taliban have shut off telecommunication towers and have cut any access to the area,” Fakhruddin Ariapur, the Ghor province director of information and culture, said.

“The cleaning-up work (from the flood) has stopped and we don’t know what is happening there.”

Dramatic video footage from late last week showed brown torrents crashing up against the base of the brick minaret, which was built in about 1190. 

FASTFACT

The Jam minaret is the world’s second tallest made of bricks, reaching a height of 65 meters.

On Monday, the government said it had hired about 300 local workers to channel floodwaters away from the tower. The work appeared to have saved the minaret from imminent danger.

Located in an area largely under Taliban control, the Jam minaret is the world’s second tallest made of bricks, reaching a height of 65 meters (213 feet). It is situated on the frontier of Ghor and Herat provinces, at the heart of the former Ghorid Empire, which dominated Afghanistan and parts of India in the 12th-13th centuries.

On Tuesday, a Taliban delegation met a group of senior Afghan politicians in Moscow, insisting that international forces must leave Afghanistan for peace to be agreed, amid gathering diplomatic efforts to end the 18-year war. The delegation, led by chief Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund, met politicians, including senior regional leaders and candidates challenging President Ashraf Ghani in this year’s presidential election.

“The Islamic Emirate wants peace but the first step is to remove obstacles to peace and end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar said.

The Taliban, ousted by US-backed forces weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate.


Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

Updated 10 min 48 sec ago

Greta Thunberg to US Congress: ‘Don’t listen to me, listen to the scientists’

WASHINGTON: Teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a global movement for climate change, delivered a pointed message before a US congressional hearing on Wednesday: “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
The 16-year old founder of the “Fridays For Future” weekly school walkouts to demand government climate-change action submitted a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the hearing in lieu of testimony. It urged rapid, unprecedented changes to the way people live in order to keep temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by 2030.
“People in general don’t seem to be aware of how severe the crisis” is, Thunberg said, urging lawmakers to “unite behind the science” and take action, pleading that people treat climate change “like the existential crisis it is.”
Thunberg was one of four students invited to a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to provide the next generation’s views on climate change.
She has been in Washington since last week to join US and indigenous activists to build up support for a global climate strike on Friday and pressure lawmakers to take action on climate change.
At the hearing on Wednesday was also 21-year-old conservative climate-change advocate Benji Backer. He told lawmakers that young conservatives also favor climate change action, but through an approach focused on technology and allowing the continued use of fossil fuels.
“As a proud American, as a life-long conservative and as a young person, I urge you to accept climate change for the reality it is and respond accordingly. We need your leadership,” he said.
While he praised Thunberg and other climate activists for putting the issue at the forefront of politics, he said there was time to take more measured action.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, Thunberg met former President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Obama described the teenager on Twitter as “already one of the planet’s greatest advocates.”
Later on Wednesday, she will join seven young Americans who have sued the US government for failing to take action on climate change on the steps of the Supreme Court. They will urge political leaders and lawmakers to support their legal fight and take action to phase out the use of fossil fuels.
At the panel, Republican representatives praised the students for raising awareness about climate change but disagreed over what action the US should take.
Representative Garret Graves from Louisiana, said his state was affected by rising sea levels and that he supported the US emission reduction target enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, but he criticized the pact for allowing emerging economies like China to continue to emit greenhouse gases.
“I think that signing on to an agreement...that allows for China to have a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2030 is inappropriate,” he said.
Thunberg responded that in her home country, Sweden, people similarly criticize the United States for not taking enough action.
Another activist on the panel, 17-year-old Jamie Margolin from Seattle, called out lawmakers for taking too long to enact climate change policies.
“The fact that you are staring at a panel of young people testifying before you today pleading for a livable earth should not fill you with pride; it should fill you with shame,” she said.