7 more dead in Kabul airport mayhem as thousands try to flee Afghanistan

Afghan evacuees queue before boarding an Italian military aircraft during evacuation at Kabul's airport on August 22, 2021. (Italian Defense Force/Handout via REUTERS)
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Afghan evacuees queue before boarding an Italian military aircraft during evacuation at Kabul's airport on August 22, 2021. (Italian Defense Force/Handout via REUTERS)
 Taliban fighters search a vehicle at a checkpoint on a road in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
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Taliban fighters search a vehicle at a checkpoint on a road in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
People are shown onboard a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021. (Australian Defense Force via AFP)
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People are shown onboard a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021. (Australian Defense Force via AFP)
A US Air Force security forces raven maintains a security cordon around a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul. (File/AFP)
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A US Air Force security forces raven maintains a security cordon around a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul. (File/AFP)
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Updated 23 August 2021

7 more dead in Kabul airport mayhem as thousands try to flee Afghanistan

7 more dead in Kabul airport mayhem as thousands try to flee Afghanistan
  • Taliban blames US military for airport chaos
  • Family tell Arab News of ‘bullets raining down’

KABUL: At least seven Afghans died in a panicked crush of people trying to enter Kabul’s international airport, the British military said Sunday, as thousands were still trying to flee the country a week after the Taliban takeover.
The victims may have been trampled, suffocated or suffered heart attacks as Taliban fighters fired into the air to try to drive back the crowds. Soldiers covered several corpses in white clothing. 
The latest fatalities has brought the death toll from a week of chaos at Kabul airport to more than 20. 
Kabul’s airport, now one of the only routes out of the country, has seen days of chaos since the Taliban entered the capital on Aug. 15. Several Afghans plunged to their deaths after clinging to a US military cargo plane as it took off, some of the seven killed on Aug. 16.
Western troops in full combat gear tried to control the throngs on Sunday. As temperatures rose to 34C, they sprayed water over the crowd, handed out bottled water and removed people who were clearly ill. Other troops stood on concrete barriers, trying to calm the crowd. 

“The situation at Kabul airport remains extremely challenging and unpredictable,” a NATO official said.One family told Arab News of “bullets raining on the tarmac” as they tried to flee. Zarmina, her husband, and their eight-month-old son and five-year-old daughter spent two days trying to get into the airport before giving up and returning home.
“Bullets were landing left and right,” said Zarmina, who works for a Western organization and is eligible to be evacuated.  “They even used tear gas to scatter the crowd, but no use. The baby was screaming, some people got injured before our eyes, we thought to leave before being killed or injured.
“I am too exhausted to speak because of what we went through. It is not worth going this way unless they sort out the growing chaos. You might get killed here at the airport, which is the most violent place in Afghanistan now.”

US military blamed
The Taliban blame the chaotic evacuation on the US military, saying there’s no need for Afghans to fear them, even though their fighters shoot into the air and beat people with batons as they try to control the crowds outside the airport.“The US is responsible for what is going on at the airport,” Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi told Arab News. 
“When it cannot control the situation and the evacuation, why did it create hope for so many people? We have said these people will face no harm as we have announced an amnesty.”

“All Afghanistan is secure, but the airport, which is managed by the Americans, has anarchy,” Amir Khan Motaqi, a senior Taliban official, said Sunday. The US “should not embarrass itself to the world and should not give this mentality to our people that (the Taliban) are a kind of enemy.”
Speaking to an Iranian state television channel Saturday night in a video call, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem also blamed the deaths at the airport on the Americans.
“The Americans announced that ‘we would take you to America with us,’ and people gathered at Kabul airport,” Naeem said. “If it was announced right now in any country in the world, would people not go?”
 

Moderate image
The Taliban have sought to project a more moderate image than when they last ruled the country, from 1996 until the US-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks, which Al-Qaeda carried out while being sheltered by the Taliban. During their earlier rule, women were largely confined to their homes, television and music were banned, and public executions were held — all in accordance with the Taliban’s harsh version of Islamic rule.
This time, the Taliban are holding talks with Afghan officials from previous governments on a political transition and say they will restore peace and security after decades of war. Afghan officials familiar with the talks say the Taliban have said they will not announce a government until after the Aug. 31 deadline for the US troop withdrawal.
But they already face stirrings of resistance.

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In Baghlan province, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Kabul, fighters calling themselves the “People’s Uprising” claimed to have seized three districts in the Andarab Valley, nestled in the towering Hindu Kush mountains.
Khair Mohammad Khairkhwa, the former provincial head of intelligence, and Abdul Ahmad Dadgar, another leader in the uprising, said Taliban fighters had burned down homes and kidnapped children. Two other officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, made similar allegations. The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the nearby Panjshir province — the only one yet to fall under Taliban control — a group of militia leaders and officials from the ousted government have pledged to defend it against the Taliban, who circulated video showing their fighters heading toward the region.
The province is a stronghold of the Northern Alliance fighters who joined with the US to topple the Taliban in 2001, and Ahmad Massoud, the son of a famous Northern Alliance commander assassinated days before the 9/11 attacks, has appeared in videos from there.
But it appears unlikely a few thousand guerrilla fighters will soon succeed where the Afghan national security forces failed despite 20 years of Western aid, assistance and training.
“If Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face staunch resistance from us,” Massoud said in an interview with the Al-Arabiya news network. But he also expressed openness to dialogue with the Taliban.

Continuing evacuation
The US Embassy, which has relocated to the military side of the airport, has told American citizens and others not to come to the airport until they receive precise instructions.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN that 3,900 people had been airlifted out of Kabul on US military flights in the past 24 hours, up from 1,600 the previous day. That’s in addition to about 3,900 people airlifted on non-US military flights over the past 24 hours. It remains far below the 5,000 to 9,000 that the military says it has the capacity to airlift daily.
Britain said it had airlifted more than 5,000 people, including 1,000 in the last 14 hours.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, requesting 18 aircraft from US carriers to assist in transporting Afghan refugees after they are evacuated to other countries. The voluntary program, born in the wake of the Berlin airlift, adds to the military’s capabilities during crises.
President Joe Biden has vowed to bring home all Americans from Afghanistan and to evacuate Afghans who aided the US war effort. US military helicopters have been used to collect 169 Americans from outside the airport. Tens of thousands of Americans and others are still hoping to fly out.
In Riyadh, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said it would seek to help achieve peace in Afghanistan and to facilitate evacuation operations.
During an emergency meeting called by Saudi Arabia, Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen called on the Taliban to respect international humanitarian law and the right to life and security.


 


Entry of Iranian apples sours Kashmiri fruit industry

A Kashmiri farmer transports apples on a wheelbarrow inside his orchard in Wuyan, south of Srinagar Indian controlled Kashmir. (AP file photo)
A Kashmiri farmer transports apples on a wheelbarrow inside his orchard in Wuyan, south of Srinagar Indian controlled Kashmir. (AP file photo)
Updated 24 January 2022

Entry of Iranian apples sours Kashmiri fruit industry

A Kashmiri farmer transports apples on a wheelbarrow inside his orchard in Wuyan, south of Srinagar Indian controlled Kashmir. (AP file photo)
  • The new apples on the Indian market have devalued Kashmir’s fruit sector
  • Worth $1.34 billion, the apple industry contributes up to 10 percent of Kashmir’s GDP

NEW DELHI: Tajamul Habib Makroo was hoping a bumper crop of apples this year would help him recover from huge losses due to early snowfalls in the previous harvest season, but now he says a new crisis is looming: The arrival of cheap Iranian fruits, which growers like Makroo fear could upend horticulture in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Concentrated in the southern Shopian district, the state’s apple industry contributes 1.8 million tons of the fruit, or 80 percent of India’s annual production, and involves over 5 million workers in the region.

With annual production worth about $1.34 billion, it saw a sudden drop in value last year, when cheap Iranian apples entered the Indian market via Afghanistan, which boasts a free trade agreement with New Delhi.

“Today’s market is very down, rates are down because the apples coming from Iran have brought the apple prices in India down,” Makroo, who has orchards in Sugan village, Shopian, told Arab News.

He said the Iranian apples have slashed the price of local produce in half.

“Earlier, I used to get 1,200 rupees ($16) per box, today the rate is 600,” Makroo added. “The rate we are getting is not able to cover production costs.” In early January, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers Union, an apex body representing Kashmiri fruit growers, wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to save the industry.

Bashir Ahmad Bashir, the union’s president, said Iranian apples were cheap due to international sanctions imposed on Tehran.

“We have taken up the matter with the Indian government when we came to know about it and warned the government that if the products come to India from Iran, (the) Indian horticulture industry will suffer a lot,” Bashir told Arab News, adding that imposing duties on Iranian fruits could help save the domestic industry.

Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a lack of intervention would deal a major blow to the local economy. “It’s 8 percent to 10 percent of our GDP of Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “When unemployment is a big challenge for Jammu and Kashmir in this situation the government should take strong notice of it and should defend our people.”

 

Related


Muslims second ‘least-liked’ group in UK: Survey

Muslim worshippers gather for Friday prayer on the streets outside the mosque of the Muslim centre in east London. (AFP/File Photo)
Muslim worshippers gather for Friday prayer on the streets outside the mosque of the Muslim centre in east London. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 24 January 2022

Muslims second ‘least-liked’ group in UK: Survey

Muslim worshippers gather for Friday prayer on the streets outside the mosque of the Muslim centre in east London. (AFP/File Photo)
  • 25.9% of Britons feel negatively toward them, 18.1% support banning Muslim immigration
  • ‘Islamophobia remains one of the most acceptable forms of racism,’ expert tells Arab News

LONDON: Muslims are the second “least-liked” group in the UK, according to a new study that reveals the shocking extent of Islamophobia in the country.

The study, by researchers at the University of Birmingham, found that roughly one in four Britons hold negative views of Muslims and Islam — the highest of any group apart from gypsies and Irish travelers.

Over a quarter of people — 25.9 percent — feel negatively toward Muslims, and just under 10 percent feel “very negative.”

Significantly more Britons hold negative views of Islam in the survey of 1,667 people than they do of other religions.

That translates into much higher support for a hypothetical policy that bars all Muslim migration to Britain.

Nearly one in five people — 18.1 percent — support banning all Muslim migration to the UK, and 9.5 percent “strongly support” that idea.

The study found that Britons are very willing to pass judgment on Islam, but are extremely unlikely to have any real knowledge of the religion.

“British people acknowledge their ignorance of most non-Christian religions, with a majority stating they are ‘not sure’ how Jewish (50.8 percent) and Sikh (62.7 percent) scriptures are taught,” said the study.

“In the case of Islam, however, people feel more confident making a judgment, with only 40.7 percent being unsure. This is despite the fact that people are much more likely to make the incorrect assumption that Islam is ‘totally’ literalistic.”

This finding — that Britons know less about Islam but are more willing to pass judgment on the faith — “says something about how prejudice works,” Dr. Stephen Jones, author of the study and a researcher focusing on British Muslims, told Arab News.

“We tend to associate prejudice with ignorance, but that’s too simple. Instead, prejudice is a kind of miseducation: Many people in this country think they know what Islam is about, and what Muslims believe, in a way that they admit they don’t for other non-Christian religions.”

Islamophobia is so widespread in Britain, Jones said, that it has become socially acceptable. That is why the report dubs it “the dinner table prejudice” — because people will openly and freely admit to their anti-Muslim prejudice, in a way that they are unlikely to with other religious or ethnic groups.

Jones said: “What I think surveys like this into public attitudes tell us is that not only do Muslims suffer discrimination, but that public hostility toward Muslims is on some level publicly accepted. It’s not just that Muslims suffer from Islamophobia, but that this discrimination isn’t publicly recognized.”

The research makes a series of policy recommendations to address the prevalence of Islamophobia in the UK, including acknowledging that “systemic miseducation about Islam is common in British society and forms an important element of Islamophobia.”

It added: “Government and other public figures should publicly acknowledge and address the lack of public criticism that Islamophobic discourses and practices trigger.”

The report lands at a sensitive time for the ruling Conservative Party, with former Cabinet Minister Nusrat Ghani announcing that she was removed from her position because her “Muslimness” made her colleagues uncomfortable.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered an inquiry into her removal, but he has himself previously faced accusations of Islamophobia, including by comparing women who wear the niqab to “letterboxes.” 

Shaista Aziz, an anti-racism and equalities campaigner, told Arab News: “Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism and it has deep-seated and historic roots in the UK. Yet Islamophobia continues to be denied as a form of racism by many across all spheres of society, including in politics, the media and academia.”

She added: “This report provides further nuanced evidence of how pernicious and mainstream Islamophobia is, and how those in power are refusing to recognize this racism.

“Islamophobia remains one of the most acceptable forms of racism, and one that overwhelmingly remains overlooked, denied and unchallenged.”


Several wounded in shooting in German city; gunman dead

Several wounded in shooting in German city; gunman dead
Updated 24 January 2022

Several wounded in shooting in German city; gunman dead

Several wounded in shooting in German city; gunman dead
  • Police didn’t specify how many people were wounded, or how seriously

BERLIN: A lone gunman wounded several people at a lecture theater in the southwestern German city of Heidelberg on Monday, police said.
Police said in a brief statement that the perpetrator was dead, but didn’t give details of how that happened. They had earlier asked people on Twitter to avoid the Neuenheimer Feld area of Heidelberg, where the city’s university campus is located.
Police didn’t specify how many people were wounded, or how seriously. The university’s press office declined to give any details on the shooting and referred all inquiries to police.
Police said the weapon used in the shooting was a long-barreled firearm.
Heidelberg is located south of Frankfurt and has about 160,000 inhabitants. Its university is one of Germany’s best-known.


Thousands protest in Sudan against military rule

Thousands protest in Sudan against military rule
Updated 24 January 2022

Thousands protest in Sudan against military rule

Thousands protest in Sudan against military rule
  • Crowds in the capital Khartoum were heading toward the presidential palace

KHARTOUM: Thousands of Sudanese protesters rallied Monday calling for civilian rule and demanding justice for those killed in crackdowns since a military coup nearly three months ago, an AFP correspondent said.
Crowds in the capital Khartoum were heading toward the presidential palace, an area which security forces had sealed off ahead of the march.
Anti-coup demonstrations since the October 25 military power grab have left at least 73 people killed and hundreds wounded, according to medics.


Liverpool hospital bomber was rejected for asylum 6 years before attack

Liverpool hospital bomber was rejected for asylum 6 years before attack
Updated 24 January 2022

Liverpool hospital bomber was rejected for asylum 6 years before attack

Liverpool hospital bomber was rejected for asylum 6 years before attack
  • Iraqi-born Emad Al-Swealmeen tried to pose as Syrian refugee to gain entry to UK
  • He had 2 asylum claims rejected before blowing himself up in November 2021

LONDON: A man who blew himself up in an attempted attack on a women’s hospital in England was rejected for an asylum application six years before the failed bombing, it has emerged.

Iraqi-born Emad Al-Swealmeen died after his homemade bomb detonated in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital in November 2021. He was the only person killed or harmed.

A series of papers obtained by the BBC and other news outlets reveal new information about the years leading up to his failed attack, and raise questions about the UK’s asylum system.

Al-Swealmeen, 32, first visited Britain in 2013, when he entered on a visitor’s visa and was fingerprinted — a crucial step that later helped authorities uncover a string of lies he told as he sought asylum.

He returned to the UK in May 2014 with a Jordanian passport, but falsely claimed to be of Syrian heritage in his asylum applications, according to the papers.

A judge heard at the time that an Arabic-language expert identified his speech patterns to be Iraqi, and that his story of oppression and suffering in Syria was unlikely to be a retelling of his own experience.

“His account of his time in Syria gives the impression of someone quoting information that is in the public domain rather than having first-hand experience,” ruled the judge when rejecting his application for asylum. 

“The appellant did not identify himself with any particular faction or indicate that he would be at risk other than in a general sense.”

An appeal against the decision was then dismissed in 2015. Al-Swealmeen applied again in 2017 under a new name, and was once again rejected in 2020.

He appealed that rejection last year, but a decision on that appeal was never made because months later he was killed in his attack on the hospital.

It is not clear why he was not removed from Britain after his asylum claims were rejected and his falsehoods exposed.

The documents also detailed a slew of mental health issues he was struggling with, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It also emerged that Al-Swealmeen had been imprisoned in Iraq for a serious assault, and had previous convictions in Liverpool for possession of an offensive weapon. 

He was caught waving a knife at passers-by in a Liverpool underpass, and was detained under the Mental Health Act.

The Home Office did not comment on the specific circumstances of Al-Swealmeen’s case, but told the BBC that it is “fixing the broken asylum system” in its current legislation.

A spokesperson said: “The new plan for immigration will require people to raise all protection-related issues up front, to tackle the practice of making multiple and sequential claims and enable the removal of those with no right to be in our country more quickly.”