Taliban revoke ban on Red Cross in Afghanistan, provide security guarantees

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been providing medical support in Afghanistan for more than 30 years. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2019

Taliban revoke ban on Red Cross in Afghanistan, provide security guarantees

  • Taliban leaders imposed a ban on the ICRC and the WHO in April saying the organizations were carrying out ‘suspicious’ activities
  • ICRC has been providing medical support in Afghanistan for more than 30 years

KABUL: The Taliban on Sunday revoked their ban on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan and gave a guarantee of security for its staff doing humanitarian work in areas under their control.
Taliban leaders imposed a ban on the ICRC and the World Health Organization (WHO) in April saying the organizations were carrying out “suspicious” activities during vaccinations campaigns and not sticking to their declared missions.
“The Islamic Emirate restores the former security guarantees to ICRC in Afghanistan and instructs all mujahideen to pave the way for ICRC activities and be mindful of security to this committee’s workers and equipment,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement.
The Taliban refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The spokesman did not refer to the WHO in his statement.
Officials at ICRC and WHO in Kabul were not immediately available for comment.
The WHO has been carrying out a vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, one of the last countries in the world where polio is endemic. The ICRC has been providing medical support for more than 30 years.
Aid groups operating in Afghanistan stress that they do not take sides.
The ICRC in particular is known for its strict neutrality in conflicts.
It operates in Taliban-controlled areas with a guarantee of safety and helps to repatriate bodies from both sides after fighting between the militants and the Afghan army.
The Taliban control or contest more than half of Afghanistan’s 410 Afghan districts.


India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

Updated 15 October 2019

India blocks SMS services in Kashmir after trucker killed

  • Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate
  • Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones

SRINAGAR: Text messaging services were blocked in Indian Kashmir just hours after being restored when a truck driver was killed by suspected militants and his vehicle set ablaze, authorities said Tuesday.
Separately Indian officials said that a 24-year-old woman died in the latest exchange of artillery fire with Pakistan over their de-facto border dividing the blood-soaked Himalayan region.
Security sources said the decision to cut text messaging services was taken to reduce the ability of militants to communicate.
Indian authorities had only restored call and text services for mobile phones on Monday, following a 72-day blackout in the restive northern territory imposed after New Delhi scrapped the region's semi-autonomous status.
The seven million-plus people of the Kashmir Valley — the main hotbed of resistance to Indian rule — are still cut off from the Internet, however.
Authorities said SMS services were cut again on Monday night following the attack on the driver of a truck carrying apples in Shopian.
Residents said two masked gunmen told the driver to use his truck to block the road, but it skidded and got stuck.
“The gunmen then fired at the truck and set it on fire,” a witness told AFP.
Apples are a sensitive issue in Kashmir, which exports vast quantities of the fruit to markets across India.
Many orchard owners say they are refusing to harvest this year to protest against the government’s move to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy.
Indian authorities say that militants — backed by arch-rival Pakistan — have been intimidating farmers and businessmen.
The latest death from Pakistani artillery fire over the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir brings the number of fatalities on the Indian side to three in the past four days, the Press Trust of India reported.
Two Indian soldiers were killed in two separate incidents on Friday and Sunday, PTI said. It was unclear if there were any fatalities from Indian fire on the Pakistani side.
Also on Tuesday, police arrested 13 women activists in Srinagar after they staged a protest calling for civil liberties and the release of detainees.
The women, wearing black armbands, were arrested for “breaching the peace” and for a contravening a ban in place since early August on public gatherings of more than four people, police said.
They included the sister and daughter of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, one of several hundred local politicians, lawyers and others in custody since early August, mostly without charge.
Abdullah, 81, was formally arrested in mid-September under the highly contentious Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows someone to be held for up to two years without charge, and which has been used widely in Kashmir in recent years.
Rebels have been fighting for three decades some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or to join Pakistan which also controls part of the region and, like India, claims it in full.