Daesh attack on Afghan university leaves at least 25 dead, 22 wounded

Daesh attack on Afghan university leaves at least 25 dead, 22 wounded
Afghan police arrive at the site of an attack at Kabul University in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 03 November 2020

Daesh attack on Afghan university leaves at least 25 dead, 22 wounded

Daesh attack on Afghan university leaves at least 25 dead, 22 wounded
  • A book exhibition was being held at the university and attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting

KABUL: Daesh militants in Afghanistan stormed Kabul University on Monday as it hosted a book fair attended by the Iranian ambassador, sparking an hours-long gun battle and leaving at least 22 dead and 22 wounded at the war-torn country's largest school.
Most of the casualties were students and there were fears the death toll could climb further with some of the wounded said to be in critical condition.
It was the second attack on an educational institution in Kabul in as many weeks.
The Taliban promptly issued a statement denying they took part in the assault, which came as the insurgents continue peace talks with representatives of Kabul's U.S.-backed government, with the aim to help the United States finally withdraw from Afghanistan. Later in the day, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.
As the attack unfolded, students and teachers were seen fleeing the part of the campus where law and journalism schools are located, while hand grenades exploded and automatic rifle fire could be heard. Scores of Afghan special forces surrounded the campus, shepherding teachers and students to safety.
The chaos subsided as the sun set over the Afghan capital and the Interior Ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian, said all three attackers involved in the assault were killed.
The Daesh group said it targeted newly graduated “judges and investigators belonging to the apostate Afghan government" gathered at the campus, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors terror online messaging.
The Daesh statement claimed only two of its fighters were involved, and posted their photographs, which conflicted with the Afghan authorities' report of three attackers. The claim did not indicate Daesh intended to target the Iranian envoy or the book fair.
Last week, Daesh also claimed a brutal assault on a tutoring center in the Afghan capital's mostly Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi that killed at least 24 students and wounded more than 100 others on Oct. 24.
The peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government, known as intra-Afghan talks, were part of a deal Washington signed with the insurgents in February. They are taking place in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, and are seen as Afghanistan's best chance at peace — though daily bloodshed has continued.
Five hours into the fighting on Monday, sporadic grenade explosions and automatic weapons fire still echoed down the empty streets surrounding the university's fenced compound. Afghan troops stood guard.
Ahmad Samim, a university student, told journalists he saw militants armed with pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles firing at the school, the country's oldest with some 17,000 students. He said the attack happened at the university's eastern side, where its law and journalism faculty teach.
Afghan media reported that a book exhibition was being held at the university and attended by a number of dignitaries at the time of the shooting. None of the dignitaries were reported hurt.
While Afghan officials declined to discuss the bookfair, Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Sunday that Iranian Ambassador Bahador Aminian and cultural attaché Mojtaba Noroozi were to inaugurate the fair, which was hosting some 40 Iranian publishers. Iranian state television reported that the attack occurred, but did not offer information on its officials.
Iranian diplomats have been targeted previously in Afghanistan, incidents that dangerously escalated tensions between the two countries. In 1998, Iran held the Taliban responsible for the deaths of nine Iranian diplomats working in its consulate in northern Afghanistan, and sent reinforcements to the 950-kilometer- (580-mile-) long Iran-Afghan border.
The Daesh affiliate in Afghanistan has declared war on the country's minority Shiite Muslims and staged dozens of attacks since emerging in the region in 2014. A horrific attack earlier this year on a Kabul maternity hospital — also in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood — was blamed on the Islamic State group. In that attack, militants killed 25 people, many of them newborn babies and mothers.
Schools have also been targeted in past attacks. Last year, a bomb outside of the Kabul University's gates killed eight people. In 2016, gunmen attacked the American University in Kabul, killing 13.
Violence has been relentless even as the talks in Qatar to end more than four decades of war in Afghanistan have been painfully slow and despite repeated demands for a reduction in violence.
The US-Taliban deal in February allowed for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan and set the stage for the talks underway in Doha.
The architect of Washington’s agreement with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, returned last week to the region, citing deep disappointment at the escalating violence in Afghanistan. On Monday, Khalilzad was in neighboring Pakistan, where he met with the powerful army chief. Few details of the meeting have been released but it is widely believed Khalilzad was pressing for Pakistan’s help to push the Taliban to agree to a reduction in violence.
Even though their political office is based in Qatar, Taliban leadership councils are located in Pakistan, with Islamabad being critical to pressing the insurgents into peace talks.
Though Khalilzad and the Afghan government have been calling for a cease-fire or at the very least a reduction in violence, the Taliban have refused a truce, saying a permanent end to fighting would be part of the negotiations.
Pakistan's foreign ministry condemned Monday's attack in Kabul, calling it an “act of terrorism” that was particularly “despicable as it targeted an institution of learning." Last week, a suicide bomber attacked a religious school in Pakistan’s northwest on the border with Afghanistan, killing eight students and wounding more than 120.
Also on Monday, a vehicle hit a roadside mine in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, killing at least seven civilians, most of them women and children, provincial governor spokesman Omer Zwak said.


Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
Updated 11 May 2021

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants

Italian PM’s office denies Rome wants EU to pay Libya to block migrants
  • Italy’s PM favors EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official told Reuters
  • Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy's coast this year

ROME: Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office denied a media report on Tuesday that Italy was proposing that the European Union should pay Libya to stop migrants leaving its shores for Europe.
Draghi favors the EU offering financial assistance to all African countries involved in migration to Europe, an official in Draghi’s office told Reuters.
But the official denied a report by La Repubblica newspaper that Draghi wanted to propose at a May 24 summit that the EU make a deal similar to one reached with Ankara in 2016, under which Turkey is entitled to financial aid in exchange for hosting refugees who try to reach Europe via the Balkans.
“At the moment there is no initiative regarding creating a similar deal to what was done with Turkey,” the official said.
“The government’s position is that the EU must pay more attention to the situation in the southern Mediterranean and be ready to offer financial help to all African countries involved in migrant flows.”
Some 13,000 migrants have landed on Italy’s coast this year, about three times as many as in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.
More than 2,000 have since Sunday reached the island of Lampedusa, the initial arrival point for many people trying to get to Europe from Africa.
The migrants, arriving on small and perilous boats run by people-traffickers, are being transferred elsewhere in Italy.
The vast majority of African migrants heading for Europe by sea depart from Libya.
In 2019, Rome agreed a plan with other European states to redistribute migrants after they arrived, but the scheme was voluntary and has not provided a stable solution.
On Tuesday, the executive European Commission said it had received no offers from member states to accept migrants from Italy.
The migration issue has fueled the rise of anti-immigration parties across Europe. In Italy, the right-wing League is part of Draghi’s national unity government and wants action.


Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
Updated 11 May 2021

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid

Spanish rally outside Israeli Embassy in Madrid
  • Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags and shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people”
  • Protestors wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight pandemic

MADRID: A few dozen people have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in the Spanish capital to protest Israel’s use of force against the Palestinians.
Most of the crowd on Tuesday in Madrid waved Palestinian flags. They shouted “Israel, assassin of the Palestinian people” and “it’s Palestine, not Israel” in Spanish.
Some held up photos of Palestinians being arrested by Israeli forces. All wore face masks as stipulated by Spanish health laws to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The escalation in the conflict was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.


Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
Updated 11 May 2021

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program

Greek islands to get accelerated vaccination program
  • Priority for age groups and medical vulnerability waived in favour of permanent residents of nearly 100 islands
  • Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million

NAXOS, Greece: A vaccination program for Greek islands is being accelerated to cover all local residents by the end of June, the government announced Tuesday ahead of the launch of the tourism season.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said a nationwide priority system for age groups and medical vulnerability was being waived for permanent residents of nearly 100 islands.
“This initiative is aimed at supporting local island communities and their economy and it also aspires to send a positive overall message for our tourism,” Mitsotakis said.
Greece is fighting to revive its key tourism sector that was battered by the pandemic in 2020 but its vaccination rates remain below the European Union average and the country has only recently stabilized a surge in cases.
Islanders make up around 1.5 million of Greece’s population of 10.7 million. Many holiday islands have a year-round population of under 10,000, while Crete has the largest with more than 600,000 residents, followed by Evia, Rhodes, Corfu, Lesbos, and Chios. The tourism season will officially start Friday.


Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
Updated 11 May 2021

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday

Sweden reports 13,812 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths since Friday
  • Sweden of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217
  • The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks

STOCKHOLM: Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 13,812 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.
The figure compared with 14,950 cases during the corresponding period last week.
The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 44 new deaths, taking the total to 14,217.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors’ but lower than in most European countries that opted for lockdowns.


At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
Updated 11 May 2021

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting

At least 9 dead in Russian high school shooting
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained
  • Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building

MOSCOW: A school shooting erupted Tuesday in the Russian city of Kazan, leaving eight students and one teacher dead, Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing local emergency services.
According to the Interfax news agency, two gunmen opened fire in the school, and one of them — a 17-year-old — has already been apprehended.

“According to preliminary information, the second attacker in the school in Kazan who remained in the building was killed,” the TASS state news agency reported, citing a law enforcement source.
Local officials said some children were evacuated from the school but others still remained in the building. Authorities said additional security measures have been put into place in all schools in Kazan, the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, roughly 700 kilometers (430 miles) east of Moscow.
While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.