Afghan president vows to crush Daesh after deadly Kabul wedding strike

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attends a state ceremony for the Afghan Independence Day in Kabul on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 20 August 2019

Afghan president vows to crush Daesh after deadly Kabul wedding strike

  • ‘We have collapsed from the inside,’ says attack survivor

KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani vowed to wipe out Daesh, after a deadly attack on a wedding party in Kabul killed more than 60 people. The suicide bombing also injured 200 others late on Saturday evening.
Ghani, whose government is facing intense criticism for failing to deter attacks by sympathizers of Daesh and the Taliban, also announced the postponement of 100th anniversary celebrations of the country’s independence from Britain that were due to take place.
“We will eliminate Daesh hideouts all around the country … the fight against Daesh will be intensified,” Ghani said during a brief state ceremony to mark independence, even though formal festivities were put on hold.
The government had allocated millions of dollars and set aside two years for planning the event. “We postponed celebrations to honor the victims, but we will take the revenge of our people,” he added.
Daesh claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which happened while guests and family members of the bride and groom were in segregated halls for men and women.
Most of the victims were Shiite and ethnic Hazaras. Daesh considers them to be heretics and has targeted them in recent years.
“I think many of us are merely alive by appearance and physically. Mentally, we are all dead. We have collapsed from the inside,” Zaman Shah, a 25-year-old survivor who lost three brothers in the attack, told Arab News.
The bomber blew himself up in the men’s hall. The groom was with the bride in the women’s section and survived, but both lost at least 25 family members.
Six children from one family perished. Other families lost loved ones too.
“I lost two of my brothers and four nephews, life has no meaning for me anymore,” Ahmad Fawad told reporters. “Postponing the independence anniversary will not cure our grief, this government is weak and useless and cannot protect people.”
Hasmat Hussien, another survivor, lost eight close members of his family and relatives in the attack. “We do not know why this calamity has befallen us. You cannot understand or comprehend our grief, misery and pain. We have not managed to sleep or eat for nearly two days now,” he said.
Amir Mohammad a 50-year-old man whose son died and had two others wounded in the attack, said: “Life has become meaningless for my family. These people who were targeted were poor, ordinary civilians, not government authorities or generals.”
The suicide bombing took place even as the US and the Taliban near a peace deal that could eventually lead to the complete withdrawal of foreign troops and end decades of conflict.
The Taliban, for its part, has pledged not to allow any group to use Afghanistan for attacks against any country.
“The US is making a peace deal with the Taliban, but we fear Daesh will be the next group that will expand its activities and there will be fighting for an uncertain future,” Kabul shopkeeper Rahim Dad said. “There will be peace with one group, but war with another. That means we won’t have peace, even if America and the Taliban make peace,” he added.
Ghani blamed the Taliban for the attack, saying it had given rise to extremist networks such as Daesh.
The Taliban, whose fighters have battled Daesh in some parts of the country, condemned the attack and showed sympathy with the victims.
US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has led the US side in peace talks with the Taliban since last year, tweeted Sunday that it was time to step up efforts to end fighting.
But the peace talks have faltered, mostly because the Taliban refuses to engage with Ghani’s government.
“We condemn Daesh (Daesh) and yesterday’s heinous attack on a Kabul wedding hall that killed scores of innocent Afghan families,” Khalilzad tweeted. “We must accelerate the #AfghanPeaceProcess including intra-Afghan negotiations. Success here will put Afghans in a much stronger position to defeat Daesh.”
There was tight security in major cities as thousands of Afghans poured onto the streets to mark the 100th independence anniversary.
But blasts in the eastern city of Jalalabad disrupted the day. Officials said at least 50 people were wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts in the city, parts of which have been a Daesh bastion.

Police on alert as Taiwan’s flag lowered in the Solomons

The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, becoming the latest country to leave the dwindling Taiwanese camp. (AP)
Updated 4 min 23 sec ago

Police on alert as Taiwan’s flag lowered in the Solomons

  • The move prompted a peaceful pro-Taiwan protest on the island of Malaita
  • Chinese-owned shops were largely closed Tuesday as news sank in that 36 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan had ended

Honiara: Police maintained a strong presence on the streets of the Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara Tuesday but reported no unrest following the troubled Pacific nation’s decision to switch diplomatic allegiance to China from Taiwan.

The move, revealed late Monday when officials in Taipei pre-emptively severed ties with Honiara, prompted a peaceful pro-Taiwan protest on the island of Malaita.

“We’ve spoken to the police chief there and there were no incidents,” a police spokesman told AFP. In Honiara, a group of bystanders — some waving Taiwanese flags — watched as Taipei’s embassy lowered its flag for the final time.

The issue has stirred passionate debate in a country long mired in corruption, with many viewing diplomatic manoeuvring as an attempt by the political elite to feather their own nests.

“This switch has been pushed by a few members of parliament, backed by foreign influences,” one man, who did not want to be named, told AFP on the streets of Honiara on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t reflect what we the people of this country would have chosen.” Honiara’s Chinatown has borne the brunt of mob violence in the past, most recently when Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare was elected in April this year.

Its prosperous Chinese population — some who have been resident for generations — has long been a target for lingering resentment, exacerbated by increasing numbers of more recent migrants who locals feel are taking a stranglehold on the capital’s economy.

Chinese-owned shops were largely closed Tuesday as news sank in that 36 years of diplomatic ties with Taiwan had ended. Police said they had extra officers on patrol to keep the peace and meetings were underway with community groups.

“We’re reminding people not to take the law into their own hands and reminding them what’s happened in the past when protests have happened,” a police spokesman told AFP.

As well as closing its embassy, Taipei will also scrap aid programs focused on agriculture and health, while the Solomon Star Times reported 125 students currently on scholarships in Taiwan will have to return home.

“It is indeed regrettable that their unfinished cooperative projects must come to an end, and it is a loss for Solomon Islands people,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement that expressed “strong regret and condemnation” over the decision.

The Solomons’ government has not made any official statement on its decision and Sogavare canceled a planned media conference Tuesday, citing a busy schedule.

Local media reported that the lawmakers voted 27-0 in favor of recognizing China, with six abstentions. Parliamentarian John Moffat Fugui, who headed a task force which examined the issue, said last week that Sogavare wants to formally announce the change to the UN General Assembly meeting in New York later this month.

It leaves Taiwan with just 16 nations left that recognize it, further isolating the island nation that Beijing sees as a rogue province resisting unification.
Australia’s former high commissioner to the Solomons, James Batley, said it was not a foregone conclusion that other Taiwanese allies would follow Honiara’s lead.

“I don’t think any of the Solomon Islands’ neighbors, and that includes Australia, will really be surprised by this decision,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“I don’t necessarily think that... it marks the beginning of a snowball effect, but there’s no doubt the Solomon Islands is a big prize for China in the diplomatic battle between China and Taiwan in the Pacific.”

US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a vocal critic of China, vowed the switch would have repercussions. “Now I will begin exploring ways to cut off ties with Solomon Islands, including potentially ending financial assistance and restricting access to US dollars and banking,” he tweeted.

Washington itself normalized diplomatic relations with China in 1979 and downgraded official links with Taiwan.