Afghan Taliban announce three-day cease-fire starting Sunday: spokesman

Afghan Taliban militants and villagers attend a gathering as they celebrate the peace deal and their victory in the Afghan conflict on US in Afghanistan, in Alingar district of Laghman Province on March 2, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Afghan Taliban announce three-day cease-fire starting Sunday: spokesman

KABUL: The Taliban announced a three-day cease-fire during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday starting Sunday in a surprise move following months of bloody fighting with Afghan forces after the group signed a landmark agreement with the US.
“The leadership instructs all the mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate to take special measures for security for the countrymen, and conduct no offensive operation against the enemy anywhere,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement posted on social media.
The Taliban statement also instructed its fighters to refrain from entering government areas and also said that Kabul forces were not allowed to enter territories under their control.
Since the US invasion in 2001 there has only been one other pause in the fighting — a surprise three-day cease-fire between the Taliban and Kabul marking the religious festival of Eid in 2018.
During the brief lull in fighting, Afghans responded joyfully, with Taliban fighters, security forces and civilians hugging, sharing ice creams and posing for selfies in previously unimaginable scenes.
Saturday’s announcement comes just days after the Taliban’s leader Haibatullah Akhundzada urged Washington “not to waste” the opportunity offered by the deal the militants signed with the United States that set the stage for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
The US-Taliban deal is also aimed at paving the way for the insurgents to hold direct peace talks with Kabul.
“The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement... and urges the other side to honor its own commitments and not allow this critical opportunity to go to waste,” Akhundzada said in a statement, using the Taliban’s name for Afghanistan.
Analysts however say the Taliban have been emboldened by the deal with the US, and Afghan government officials have reported more than 3,800 attacks since it was signed, killing 420 civilians and wounding 906.


Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

Updated 3 min 38 sec ago

Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

LYON: Global police body Interpol warned Monday of an “alarming” rate of cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions.
An assessment by the Lyon-based organization found a “significant target shift” by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
“The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyberdefenses are up to date,” he added.
The report said cybercriminals were sending COVID-19 themed phishing emails — which seek to obtain confidential data from users — often impersonating government and health authorities.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions, it added.
In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again.
There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, said Interpol.
From January to April, some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all related to COVID-19 were detected by one of Interpol’s private sector partners, it said.
The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a “further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future.”
“Vulnerabilities related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit will see cybercriminals continue to ramp up their activities and develop more advanced and sophisticated” methods, it said.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, “it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data.”