Taliban chief takes charge as militants vow ‘no revenge, respect for women’

Taliban chief takes charge as militants vow ‘no revenge, respect for women’
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses his first news conference in Kabul on Tuesday when he said the insurgents sought no revenge and that everyone is forgiven (AP)
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Updated 18 August 2021

Taliban chief takes charge as militants vow ‘no revenge, respect for women’

Taliban chief takes charge as militants vow ‘no revenge, respect for women’
  • Women would be allowed to work and study and "will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam" Taliban’s spokesman said
  • Taliban would not seek retribution against former soldiers and members of the Western-backed government

KABUL: The Taliban’s co-founder and political leader made a triumphant return to Afghanistan on Tuesday as the militants pledged peaceful relations with other countries and respect for the rights of women.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who has been widely tipped to be the country’s next president, flew from Qatar to Kandahar — the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace and Afghanistan’s capital when they ruled from 1996 to 2001.

Baradar was in prison in Pakistan from 2010 to 2018, when he was released at the request of the US. He led the Taliban delegation at talks in Doha, and signed the peace agreement with the US in February.

As Baradar’s plane touched down, the US and Western allies resumed evacuation flights for diplomats and civilians from Kabul airport the day after scenes of chaos when Afghans thronged the tarmac.

About a dozen flights left on Tuesday, although French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Taliban roadblocks at the airport were making access difficult.

After taking control of Kabul, the Taliban held a news briefing in the capital on Tuesday in which they sought to allay fears of a return to their previous harsh rule.

“We don’t want any internal or external enemies,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. Women could work and study, and would be “active in society but within the framework of Islam,” he said.

Mujahid said the Taliban would not seek retribution against former soldiers and members of the Western-backed government, and the movement was granting an amnesty for former Afghan government soldiers, and for contractors and translators who worked for international forces.

“Nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to knock on your doors,” he said, and there was a “huge difference” between the Taliban now and 20 years ago.

He said private media could continue to be free and independent in Afghanistan, and the Taliban were committed to the media within their cultural framework.

He also said families trying to flee the country at Kabul airport should return home, and no harm would come to them.

After the briefing, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We will need to see what actually happens and I think we will need to see acts on the ground in terms of promises kept.”

In Kabul, Taliban officials visited the city’s main Sikh and Hindu temples to pledge protection for religious minorities, and others encouraged female health workers to continue with their jobs.

On the streets of the capital, women ventured outdoors, many without a male guardian or face covering, while shops and markets reopened.

In an upmarket area of the city, as armed Taliban fighters watched from a distance, a group of women held a rally urging the Taliban “not to silence women’s voices.”


Austria to lift lockdown for unvaccinated residents

Austria to lift lockdown for unvaccinated residents
Updated 57 min 11 sec ago

Austria to lift lockdown for unvaccinated residents

Austria to lift lockdown for unvaccinated residents
  • Once the mandate goes into effect, authorities will write to every household to inform them of the new rules

BERLIN: Austria will end its lockdown for unvaccinated residents next Monday — one day before a COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect in the country, the government announced Wednesday, according to Austrian news agency APA.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said the measure, which was introduced in November, was no longer needed because there was no threat of hospital intensive care units being overstretched, APA reported.
For weeks, the lockdown for the unvaccinated has been “a measure that many people complained about, but that was unavoidable for health policy reasons,” Nehammer said.
On Feb. 1, a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for adults — the first of its kind in Europe — will take effect in the small Alpine country. Officials have said the mandate is necessary because vaccination rates remain too low. They say it will ensure that Austria’s hospitals are not overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. So far, 75.4 percent of the country’s residents have been fully vaccinated.
Once the mandate goes into effect, authorities will write to every household to inform them of the new rules.
From mid-March, police will start checking people’s vaccination status during routine checks; people who can’t produce proof of vaccination will be asked to do so in writing, and will be fined up to 600 euros ($676) if they don’t.
If authorities judge the country’s vaccination progress still to be insufficient, Nehammer said earlier this month, they would then send reminders to people who remain unvaccinated. If even that doesn’t work, people would be sent a vaccination appointment and fined if they don’t keep it. Officials hope they won’t need to use the last measure. Fines could reach 3,600 euros if people contest their punishment and full proceedings are opened.


Ukraine says Russian troop build-up ‘insufficient’ for major attack

Ukraine says Russian troop build-up ‘insufficient’ for major attack
Updated 26 January 2022

Ukraine says Russian troop build-up ‘insufficient’ for major attack

Ukraine says Russian troop build-up ‘insufficient’ for major attack
  • ‘At the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive against Ukraine along the entire Ukrainian border’
KIEV: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday that the number of Russian troops deployed along his country’s border was not enough for a major attack.
“The number of Russian troops amassed along the border of Ukraine and occupied territories of Ukraine is large, it poses a threat to Ukraine, a direct threat to Ukraine,” Kuleba told reporters.
“However, at the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive against Ukraine along the entire Ukrainian border.”

UK police arrest two more men over Texas synagogue attack

UK police arrest two more men over Texas synagogue attack
Updated 26 January 2022

UK police arrest two more men over Texas synagogue attack

UK police arrest two more men over Texas synagogue attack
  • The day-long siege occurred on Jan. 15 when a British man took four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville

LONDON: British police said on Wednesday they had arrested two men in the northern English city of Manchester as part of a US investigation into a hostage taking at a synagogue in Texas earlier in January.
British police had previously said they had arrested four people over the incident: two teenagers in Manchester plus one man in Birmingham and another man in Manchester. The teenagers have been released without charge.
The day-long siege occurred on Jan. 15 when a British man took four people hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, about 16 miles northeast of Fort Worth, Texas. The gunman died as federal agents stormed the temple while the four hostages were released unharmed.


Denmark aims to scrap all COVID-19 curbs by February

Denmark aims to scrap all COVID-19 curbs by February
Updated 26 January 2022

Denmark aims to scrap all COVID-19 curbs by February

Denmark aims to scrap all COVID-19 curbs by February
  • The move is the most far-reaching easing of curbs yet seen among the Nordic countries

COPENHAGEN: Denmark aims to scrap all remaining COVID-19 restrictions next week, the most far-reaching easing of curbs yet seen among the Nordic countries.
In a letter addressed to parliament, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said the government intends to follow recommendations issued by an expert panel on Tuesday to scrap all restrictions.
The proposal is still subject to parliamentary approval.


Russia puts jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s brother on wanted list

Russia puts jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s brother on wanted list
Updated 26 January 2022

Russia puts jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s brother on wanted list

Russia puts jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s brother on wanted list
  • Oleg Navalny, whose whereabouts are unknown, was last year held under house arrest between January and April
  • He was handed a one-year suspended sentence for violating safety regulations linked to the COVID-19 pandemic

MOSCOW: Russia has put the brother of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on a wanted list, according to interior ministry records, as he faces a summons for a court hearing that could convert a suspended sentence against him into a prison term.
Oleg Navalny, whose whereabouts are unknown, was last year held under house arrest between January and April and handed a one-year suspended sentence for violating safety regulations linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those charges were filed after he took part in a Moscow rally against his brother Alexei’s arrest.
The Federal Penitentiary Service will petition a Moscow court on Feb. 18 to sentence Oleg Navalny to jail time for failing to comply with restrictions imposed against him for violating safety regulations, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
The 38-year-old was released from prison in 2018 after serving three-and-a-half years for an embezzlement conviction that critics say was designed to pressure his brother and smother dissent.
Alexei Navalny was given a suspended sentence in the same case, converted into a prison term last year because of alleged parole violations. He says the charges against him are politically motivated.
An anti-corruption campaigner and high-profile critic of President Vladimir Putin for the past decade, he survived being poisoned with a nerve agent in 2020 and his political network was banned as “extremist” last year.