Bomb kills 12 in Ghazni as key Afghan talks begin in Doha

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Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of a car bomb attack that targeted an intelligence unit in Ghazni on Sunday. (AFP)
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Taliban members arrive to attend the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on Sunday. (AFP)
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From left: The Taliban’s former culture and information minister Amir Khan Mutaqi, former deputy education minister Abdul Salam Hanafi and Taliban negotiator Abbas Stanikzai attend the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in Doha on Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AFP)
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Members of the Taliban arrive to attend the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in Doha on Sunday, July 7, 2019. (AFP)
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Qatari officials (C) taking part in a meeting between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (2nd-L) accompanied by his delegation, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai (6th-R) accompanied by the Taliban delegation, in the Qatari capital Doha. (File/AFP/HO/Qatar's MOFA)
Updated 08 July 2019
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Bomb kills 12 in Ghazni as key Afghan talks begin in Doha

  • Attack on Ghazni wounds more than 180, including scores of children
  • Meeting in Qatar was aimed at preparing the ground for peace talks

KABUL: At least 12 people were killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Sunday, as Taliban and government representatives met in Qatar to end the ongoing conflict.
The attack happened at an intelligence base in Ghazni, 120 km southwest of Kabul.
A spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, Wahidullah Mayar, said 179 people, most of them civilians, had been wounded in the incident.
The Taliban, who have lost ground in recent weeks in the area, claimed responsibility. Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, condemned the attack, calling it a “crime against humanity.”

Both the government, backed by US troops, and the Taliban have intensified operations in recent months against the backdrop of a series of peace negotiations between US diplomats and Taliban delegates in Doha.
Senior Afghan political leaders, including several government representatives, attended a two-day intra-Afghan peace meeting in Doha on Sunday, the first time senior figures of the two sides have met under Ghani's administration.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Arab News the conference did not constitute “formal negotiations” and that participants would speak in a personal capacity. “Every participant will share views as to how peace could return to Afghanistan,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

The Taliban, who have lost ground in recent weeks in the area, claimed responsibility of the attack.

Shaheen added that the Taliban would represent its political office and explain its official stance on the peace process, with Sher Abbas Stanekzai leading the delegation.
Representatives from the Taliban and the US started the seventh round of talks last week, aiming to hammer out a time-frame for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country in exchange for nonaggression from the group against US interests.
Afghan-born US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been tasked by the US government to secure a political settlement with the militants, who now control more territory than at any time since being toppled in 2001 by US-led forces.
In a tweet on Saturday, Khalilzad said the latest round of talks were the “most productive session” to date, adding that significant progress had been made on troop withdrawal, counter-terrorism assurances, participation in intra-Afghan negotiations, and a permanent ceasefire.


Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

Updated 19 September 2019

Malaysia to push Southeast Asian nations for long-term solution to smog

  • Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations
  • The situation forced schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will push its Southeast Asian neighbors to strengthen cooperation in finding a long-term solution for smog wafted across the region from forest fires in Indonesia, its environment minister said on Thursday.
In the past few weeks, Malaysia and neighboring Singapore have been choked by smoky air blown in from forest fires started to clear land for plantations, forcing schools to shut and many people to wear masks so as to avoid inhaling smog particles.
“I will have a conference call with the ASEAN secretary-general to raise our views and also express our hope for a more effective mechanism at the ASEAN level for a long-term solution,” Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin told a news conference, but did not elaborate on other participants.
All three countries belong to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which set up a regional haze action plan in 1997, but Malaysia thinks the grouping has not done enough to evolve a long-term solution.
Among its efforts to tackle the hazard, Malaysia could pass a new law to punish any of its companies responsible for starting fires, but only international cooperation could yield a lasting solution, Yeo added.
“Cloud seeding is only temporary. A law here would only deal with Malaysian companies. What we need is international cooperation for a long-term solution.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said Malaysia was considering a new law to compel its companies to tackle fires on land they control abroad.
Yeo said Malaysia will keep up cloud seeding efforts to bring temporary relief in badly-hit areas. This involves spraying chemicals, such as sodium chloride and magnesium oxide, from aircraft in order to spur rainfall.
Malaysia will also consider deploying drones to help in cloud seeding, Mahathir told a separate news conference.
Malaysia’s Islamic Development Department issued the text of a special plea for divine intervention to disperse the smog, to be recited after weekly prayers on Friday by mosque congregations nationwide.