Eight killed in Afghan suicide attack as violence surges

Eight killed in Afghan suicide attack as violence surges
Afghan security forces inspect the site of a car bomb attack that targeted Laghman provincial governor’s convoy in Mihtarlam, Laghman province on October 5, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 06 October 2020

Eight killed in Afghan suicide attack as violence surges

Eight killed in Afghan suicide attack as violence surges
  • No group has claimed responsibility for the strike but officials blame Taliban

KABUL: Eight people were killed and more than 30, including children, were injured on Monday after a suicide bomber targeted a provincial governor’s convoy in eastern Afghanistan, officials told Arab News.

The attack took place while Gov. Rahmatullah Yarmal, accompanied by heavily armed guards, was on his way to work in Laghman province’s capital, Mehtarlam, with his spokesman Assadullah Dawlatzai confirming that eight people, four of them bodyguards, had been killed.
“The governor was the target. A suicide bomber used a car full of explosives and rammed it into the governor’s convoy. He has been hurt slightly, but he is in a good condition,” Mohammad Rafi Mamozai, a lawmaker from Laghman province, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Laghman’s health director, Samad Ali, said several children were among the injured who were rushed to the province’s main hospital for treatment.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike, which is similar to others that have taken place across the country recently.
It follows two deadly bombings in Kabul on Sunday and another one in eastern Nangarhar province a day earlier, where 16 people, including school children, lost their lives.
The increased violence in various parts of the country comes despite the ongoing peace talks between Taliban and government negotiators in Doha, Qatar, which began on Sept. 12.

BACKGROUND

Government officials have accused the Taliban of staging the majority of the attacks, arguing that the group was using the strikes as a tactic to seek political concessions at the negotiating table in Doha.

Government officials have accused the Taliban of staging the majority of the attacks, arguing that the group was using the strikes as a tactic to seek political concessions at the negotiating table in Doha.  Besides the Taliban, Daesh sympathizers have also used car bombs in recent years. 
The Taliban have remained reticent about the government’s accusations, but blames Kabul for a spike in attacks since the start of the peace talks three weeks ago.
Negotiators from both sides have met on various occasions in Qatar since, but have yet to end a stalemate to begin real discussions or set the agenda for negotiations.
After his trip to Kuwait on Monday, President Ashraf Ghani is expected to travel to Qatar to discuss “bilateral relations with Qatari authorities,” Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, told reporters. Experts, however, argue that the Taliban has a lot to lose if responsible for the attacks.
“The increase of attacks could be the work of the Taliban, but it does not want openly to take responsibility for it as it would damage the militants’ credibility in the eyes of Afghans and the international community while the talks are going in Qatar,” Nasratullah Haqpal, a regional analyst, told Arab News.
He did not rule out the possibility of the “involvement of Afghan intelligence or regional spy agencies for derailing the Qatar talks,” which are aimed at ending nearly four decades of war and paving the ground for a complete withdrawal of US-led foreign troops from Afghanistan by next spring.
Ghani’s trip to Qatar, where a high-ranking government delegation is accompanying him, is thus “very important” because he is keen to be a “part of any future political setup that will be decided on during the Qatar talks,” Haqpal added.


Russia reports 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, 368 deaths

Russia reports 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, 368 deaths
Updated 07 March 2021

Russia reports 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, 368 deaths

Russia reports 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, 368 deaths
  • The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 368 people had died in the last 24 hours

MOSCOW: Russia on Sunday reported 10,595 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,534 in Moscow, taking the national case tally to 4,322,776 since the pandemic began.
The government’s coronavirus taskforce said that 368 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 89,094.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan
Updated 07 March 2021

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan
  • It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment
  • Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts
MULTAN, Pakistan: Eight cars of a Lahore bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.
The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.
Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.
Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.
Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.

Myanmar junta forces make night raids after breaking up protests; number of detained people rise to 1,700

Myanmar junta forces make night raids after breaking up protests; number of detained people rise to 1,700
Updated 07 March 2021

Myanmar junta forces make night raids after breaking up protests; number of detained people rise to 1,700

Myanmar junta forces make night raids after breaking up protests; number of detained people rise to 1,700
  • Protests erupted last month after the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Security forces have already killed more than 50 people protesting to restore democracy, United Nations says

YANGON: Myanmar security forces fired gunshots as they carried out overnight raids in the main city Yangon after breaking up the latest protests against last month’s coup with teargas and stun grenades.
The Southeast Asian country has been plunged into turmoil since the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1. Daily demonstrations and strikes have choked business and paralyzed administration.
More protests were planned on Sunday after local media reported that police fired tear gas shells and stun grenades to break up a protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, on Saturday. There were no reports of casualties.
The General Strike Committee of Nationalities protest group said protests would be held in Yangon, the second city of Mandalay and Monywa, also centers for protests in which the United Nations says security forces have killed more than 50 people.
Into the early hours of Sunday, residents said soldiers and police moved into several districts of Yangon, firing shots. They arrested at least three in Kyauktada Township, residents there said. They did not know the reason for the arrests.
“They are asking to take out my father and brother. Is no one going to help us? Don’t you even touch my father and brother. Take us too if you want to take them,” one woman screamed as two of them, an actor and his son, were led off.
Soldiers also came looking for a lawyer who worked for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy but were unable to find him, a member of the now dissolved parliament, Sithu Maung, said in a Facebook post.
Reuters was unable to reach police for comment. A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

Punched and kicked"
Well over 1,700 people had been detained under the junta by Saturday, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group. It did not give a figure for overnight detentions.
“Detainees were punched and kicked with military boots, beaten with police batons, and then dragged into police vehicles,” AAPP said in a statement. “Security forces entered residential areas and tried to arrest further protesters, and shot at the homes, destroying many.”
Myanmar authorities said on Saturday they had exhumed the body of 19-year-old Kyal Sin, who has become an icon of the protest movement after she was shot dead in Mandalay on Wednesday wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK.”
State-run MRTV said a surgical investigation showed she could not have been killed by police because the wrong sort of projectile was found in her head and she had been shot from behind, whereas police were in front.
Photographs on the day showed her head turned away from security forces moments before she was killed. Opponents of the coup accused authorities of an attempted cover-up.
The killings have drawn anger in the West and have been condemned by most democracies in Asia. The United States and some other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the junta. China, meanwhile, has said the priority should be stability and that other countries should not interfere.
Protesters demand the release of Suu Kyi and the respect of November’s election — which her party won in landslide but which the army rejected. The army has said it will hold democratic elections at an unspecified date.
Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe, hired by Myanmar’s junta, told Reuters the generals are keen to leave politics and seek to improve relations with the United States and distance themselves from China.
He said Suu Kyi had grown too close to China for the generals’ liking.
Ben-Menashe said he also had been tasked with seeking Arab support for a plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom were driven from Myanmar in 2017 in an army crackdown after rebel attacks.
Junta leader and army chief Min Aung Hlaing had been under Western sanctions even before the coup for his role in the operation, which UN investigators said had been carried out with “genocidal intent.”


Rioters ransack police stations and buildings as Senegal opposition steps up protests

Rioters ransack police stations and buildings as Senegal opposition steps up protests
Updated 07 March 2021

Rioters ransack police stations and buildings as Senegal opposition steps up protests

Rioters ransack police stations and buildings as Senegal opposition steps up protests
  • At least five people have died in protests sparked by Wednesday’s arrest of Ousmane Sonko
  • The most prominent opposition leader was arrested on rape charges, which he said was a fabrication

DAKAR: A 17-year-old boy was killed by gunfire in southern Senegal on Saturday, a government official said, and several police stations were ransacked as opponents of President Macky Sall called for more protests next week.
The boy was killed during clashes in the southern town of Diaobe, said the official, who asked not to be named. Protesters also burned down a military police station and ransacked several government buildings, the official said.
At least five people have died in protests sparked by Wednesday’s arrest of Ousmane Sonko, Senegal’s most prominent opposition leader. It is the worst political unrest in years for a country widely seen as one of West Africa’s most stable.
A spokesman for Senegal’s military police confirmed one person had died during clashes in Diaobe but did not say under what circumstances. He said protesters ransacked six police stations across the country on Saturday.
Sonko, who finished third in the 2019 presidential election, was arrested after an employee of a beauty salon accused him of raping her. Sonko denies the allegation and says it is an attempt by Sall to kneecap a political rival.
The government denies this.
The mostly young protesters cited a range of other grievances too, including high unemployment and strict measures to control the coronavirus that have inflicted economic pain, especially on informal workers.
Many are especially dubious about the accusation against Sonko because two other top rivals of Sall were previously targeted by criminal charges that prevented them from running for president in 2019.
In a statement, the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) coalition called for three days of nationwide protests beginning on Monday.
“M2D ... calls on the Senegalese people to pursue its mobilization and peaceful struggle by using all of its constitutional rights to reject the dictatorship of Macky Sall,” it said.


UAE to develop $500 million tourism resort in Indonesia’s Aceh

UAE to develop $500 million tourism resort in Indonesia’s Aceh
Updated 06 March 2021

UAE to develop $500 million tourism resort in Indonesia’s Aceh

UAE to develop $500 million tourism resort in Indonesia’s Aceh
  • Series of business agreements were signed during a Jakarta visit of UAE Energy and Infrastructure Minister Suhail Al-Mazroui
  • They are part of a $22.9 billion investment deal inked during Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s Abu Dhabi visit in January last year

JAKARTA: The UAE is to develop several major infrastructure projects in Indonesia, including a multimillion-dollar tourism resort in its westernmost Aceh province, top Emirati and Indonesian ministers have confirmed.

A series of business agreements were signed by the two nations during a Jakarta visit of UAE Energy and Infrastructure Minister Suhail Al-Mazroui on Friday. The agreements are a part of a $22.9 billion deal signed during Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s Abu Dhabi visit in January last year. The investment deal, also covering energy, infrastructure and mining, is seen as the biggest in Indonesia’s history.

The tourism resort development project, which according to Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan is valued at between $300 million and $500 million, is expected to start in Aceh Singkil district in May.

Aceh, a semi-autonomous province on the northwest tip of Sumatra Island, is the only region in Muslim-majority Indonesia that imposes Shariah.

“I think within two months’ time, we can see the progress of this project in the Singkil area,” Pandjaitan said during a joint conference with Al-Mazroui.

While authorities have not revealed more details, in response to a question by Arab News, Al-Mazroui said that some islands off the main coast of Aceh have been identified for the resort.

“Hopefully the team will finalize (it) and then we will be moving to the next stage of having some definitive agreements,” he said.

The project agreement was signed by Aceh Governor Nova Iriansyah and Amine Abide, executive director of Murban Energy, a UAE company whose investment portfolio includes the development of luxury resorts in the Maldives and Seychelles.

According to a statement by the Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE, Husin Bagis, one of the considerations for developing the project in Aceh is that it is only five hours away from the UAE by plane. He said that Abide had visited nine islands in the Aceh Singkil district that were shortlisted for the project.

Among the agreements inked in Jakarta, which Al-Mazroui said are follow-ups to those signed in Abu Dhabi last year, is a $1.2 billion deal between UAE’s logistics company Dubai Port (DP) World and Indonesia’s Maspion group to develop a port and an industrial zone in Gresik, East Java.

Other deals signed on Friday, Panjaitan said, included an agreement between Indonesia’s state-owned weapons manufacturer Pindad and UAE’s small-arms manufacturer Caracal to develop assault rifles, drones and defense system technologies.

LuLu Group International is also expected to enter the Southeast Asian country, as its president director also signed a property lease agreement on Friday to open a hypermarket on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Minister Al-Mazroui hinted that other deals may also follow in the wake of the newly forged economic ties between the UAE and Indonesia. 

“Some new deals have been considered, which was not discussed before, and this is the nature of the relationship,” he said.

Al-Mazroui is the first high-level government official from the UAE to visit Indonesia since the signing of a bilateral safe travel corridor agreement in July last year.

He and members of his delegation are in Indonesia to attend a series of events during Indonesia-Emirati Amazing Week, held in Jakarta, Solo, Bandung and Surabaya on March 1-8.