Taliban warn US agreement breach could lead to mistrust

Men wearing facemasks as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus walk past a wall painted with images of US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (R), in Kabul April 5, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 April 2020

Taliban warn US agreement breach could lead to mistrust

  • The historic peace deal was signed after nearly a year and a half of intensive talks

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban on Sunday accused the US of violating parts of a historic peace deal, warning that further infringements could damage trust between the two sides.

“The Islamic Emirate so far has remained committed to the agreement and has fully observed it. But there have been flagrant violations from the Americans and their local and foreign colleagues against us,” excerpts from a statement released by the group read.
As part of the deal struck in Doha, Qatar in February of this year, Washington was set to facilitate the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners held by President Ashraf Ghani’s government in early March, before the start of the first intra-Afghan dialogue.
Contrary to the deal, American and Afghan forces have conducted airstrikes against civilian sites, while the Taliban have avoided staging attacks in cities and organizing significant strikes against government forces, the statement read.
“Since we have witnessed repeated violation in this regard, we demand that the American side observe the contents of the agreement and also inform their other colleagues to do so,” it read.
The statement added that before issuing their warning, the Taliban had shared their concerns with the US through a communication channel set up by both sides for the purpose.
“If these violations go on, an atmosphere of mistrust will be created that will not only damage the deal but will also force the Mujahideen to reciprocal reaction, thus increasing the extent of the fighting,” the statement said.
The historic peace deal was signed after nearly a year and a half of intensive talks between the Taliban and Washington, without including Ghani’s government.
One of the top conditions of the agreement was for Washington to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan within 14 months of signing the deal.

BACKGROUND

The accord drew adverse reactions from a few former US generals, even as President Donald Trump insisted that he would put an end to Washington’s endless battles, such as the conflict in Afghanistan, which began in late 2001 by ousting the Taliban from power.

In return, the Taliban pledged to ensure that insurgents would not use their controlled areas to stage attacks against the world or US interests.
The accord drew adverse reactions from a few former US generals, even as President Donald Trump insisted that he would put an end to Washington’s endless battles, such as the conflict in Afghanistan, which began in late 2001 by ousting the Taliban from power. The conflict is considered America’s longest war to date.
The deal also pushed for the start of talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including Ghani’s government, to find a solution to end the war and decide on the future political setup.
Ghani’s officials refused to comment on the Taliban’s statement, arguing that Washington had struck the deal and, therefore, it was the American administration that needed to respond and not Kabul.
It was not immediately possible to get a comment from the US Embassy on the matter.
However, analyst Shafiq Haqpal believes that the Taliban’s statement has been long in the making.
“The Taliban seemed upset privately in recent weeks because America failed to fulfill its pledges based on the deal. The statement now clearly shows the Taliban’s public dissatisfaction, and that will have its impact in the future if not settled,” Haqpal said.

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Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 26 min 24 sec ago

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”