Bamiyan gov. claims Soleimani successor used false identity to visit Afghanistan

Ismail Qaani, left, the newly appointed commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ in a meeting with the governor of Bamiyan in the province of Bamiyan on July 11, 2018. (Source: Bamyan Province Facebook official page)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Bamiyan gov. claims Soleimani successor used false identity to visit Afghanistan

  • Governor: Introduced himself as deputy ambassador of Iran using last name Ismail
  • Afghan Foreign Ministry investigating the visit

KABUL: The newly appointed commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, General Ismail Qaani, travelled to Afghanistan’s central province of Bamiyan using a false identity last year, the governor of the province said on Thursday.

Qaani, 62, was appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who issued a statement praising his role as a prominent commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. As a key branch of the military organization, the country’s most powerful security organ, the Quds Force carries out the Iranian military’s special operations abroad.

Qaani takes over from Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Tehran’s overseas clandestine and military operations, who was killed on Friday in a US air strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport.

Tahir Zaheer, the governor of Afghanistan’s rugged central province of Bamiyan said last year that Qaani and eight other Iranians travelled to Bamiyan in a small airplane. The general introduced himself as deputy ambassador of Iran to Kabul and used the last name Ismaili, Zaheer said.

“The esteemed (Afghan) foreign ministry needs to find out as to how he was given visa, under what name and what sort of passport,” Zaheer told Arab News.

Zaheer said Qaani visited Bamiyan to restart construction work on an Iran-funded 120-bed hospital, where work had come to a halt in recent months.

Afghanistan and Iran share a border. Afghanistan has a sizeable Shia population and many followers of the sect have reportedly been recruited by the Quds Force in recent years to fight in Iraq and Syria.

On Tuesday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said Qaani had never served as a diplomat in Afghanistan.

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Idrees Zaman said Qaani’s visit was being investigated but it was clear that he “never served as deputy ambassador.”


UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

Updated 39 min 42 sec ago

UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

  • The prime minister also confirmed that schools will start reopening from Monday, initially for some younger students
  • Outdoor-based shops, such as car showrooms, can also reopen

LONDON: Outdoor gatherings of six people from different households will be allowed from next week as part of another easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.
But the government's chief scientific adviser cautioned that Britain was at a “fragile" point in its fight against the virus, with some 2,000 new infections still being reported each day.
Johnson, who has faced days of scorn for keeping his top aide Dominic Cummings in post following his controversial travels during the lockdown, said families and friends in groups of up to six can meet from Monday in outdoor spaces, including public parks and private gardens.
Johnson said at a news conference that this was potentially a “long awaited and joyful moment” for parents and grandparents but stressed that people must remain 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart.
The prime minister also confirmed that schools will start reopening from Monday, initially for some younger students. Outdoor-based shops, such as car showrooms, can also reopen.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also easing lockdowns, in slightly different ways.
Johnson said the “limited and cautious” changes were possible because five government-imposed tests have been met. These include “sustained and consistent” falls in virus infections and the daily death rate.
Though the number of people dying after testing positive for COVID-19 has fallen since the peak in early April. The UK still recorded another 377 deaths in all settings including hospitals and care homes, taking the total to 37,837.
“This is not a time to say ‘Everything’s OK, we’re relaxing measures, everything’s going to be rosy," said the government's chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. "We are at a fragile state.”
Johnson continued to brush aside questions about Cummings, and said that the issue was now closed after police will not take any action on the matter
Johnson has been urged to sack Cummings by political opponents as well as a number of his own Conservative lawmakers after his adviser drove 250 miles (400 km) to his parents’ house in Durham, northeast England, at the end of March while the country was under a “stay-at-home” order. Cummings made a later journey to a scenic town 30 miles (50 km) away.
Following an investigation, Durham Constabulary said the drive to Durham did not breach the rules but the second trip, to the town of Barnard Castle, might have been “a minor breach” of lockdown rules “that would have warranted police intervention." But the force said “there is no intention to take retrospective action" because no one else has been fined retrospectively.