Biden warns Kabul airport attackers: ‘We will hunt you down’

Biden warns Kabul airport attackers: ‘We will hunt you down’
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded, in the East Room of the White House, Washington, DC on August 26, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 27 August 2021

Biden warns Kabul airport attackers: ‘We will hunt you down’

Biden warns Kabul airport attackers: ‘We will hunt you down’

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden, his voice breaking with emotion, vowed on Thursday the United States would hunt down those responsible for twin explosions at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan and said he had asked the Pentagon to develop plans to strike back at them.

Biden spoke hours after the blasts American troops and scores of civilians, the worst day of casualties for US forces there in a decade.

Daesh Khorasan (Daesh-K), an affiliate of militants who previously battled US forces in Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

He promised US evacuations would continue.

“We will not be deterred by terrorists, we will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuations,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris canceled her plan to campaign for California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election on Sept. 14, on her way home from a trip to Asia, and will instead return to Washington, her staff said.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Biden was sticking to his Tuesday pullout target for withdrawing US forces, saying he was doing so on the advice of military advisers concerned about more attacks.

She said Biden was working to get out every American who wanted out by the deadline. “Our commitment to them does not end,” she said.

Biden said he had ordered US military commanders to develop operational plans to strike Daesh-K assets, leadership, and facilities. “We will find ways of our choosing, without large military operations, to get them,” he said.

He appeared to be fighting back tears and his voice cracked with emotion as he talked about the American “heroes” who died. He ordered flags at the White House and public buildings around the country to be lowered to half staff.

“It’s been a tough day,” he said.

The president said he had told the US military: “Whatever they need, if they need additional force, I will grant it.”

Biden defended his handling of his most serious foreign policy crisis, saying ultimately it is his responsibility, while assigning some blame to his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, for the 2020 agreement Trump negotiated with the Taliban.

He said he did not trust the Taliban but believed it was in the group’s interest to let the evacuations continue.

Psaki said the United States also had “an enormous amount of leverage” — including economic leverage — over the Taliban, which are subject to US and UN sanctions.

The Afghan government has also long relied on transfers of dollars from their central bank assets, many of which are held in the United States. An administration official said any such assets would not be made available to the Taliban.


Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 
Updated 03 December 2021

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 
  • Local reports claim Taliban fighters seized Iranian border checkpoints 

KABUL: Taliban authorities said on Thursday that Iranian forces had suffered at least nine casualties during clashes on the Afghanistan-Iran border after fuel smuggling attempts from the Iranian side.

Fighting between the two countries’ respective security forces broke out in Konjak, Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan on Wednesday at around midday, and continued until the late evening. Local authorities and witnesses said the Taliban seized three Iranian check posts.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the clashes were triggered by “a misunderstanding at the local level” and that “the situation is now under control with the understanding of both sides.”

The spokesperson for the governor of Nimroz, Salahudin Ayobi, told Arab News tensions had been resolved and the “misunderstanding” had been over fuel smuggling.

“The main issue of this misunderstanding was smuggling fuel to Afghanistan. During this battle at least nine Iranian border forces were killed and injured,” he said, adding that one Taliban fighter was wounded. 

Iranian authorities did not confirm the numbers.

FASTFACT

Nimroz governor spokesperson says clashes erupted over fuel smuggling from Iranian side.

Qiam Mawlawi, a Taliban commander in the Konjak district of Nimroz, said the clash was prompted by the Iranians.

“We responded to their misbehavior,” he said. “Currently the situation has turned back to normal, but we are on standby.”

While Iranian media reported the fighting started following a dispute among residents and denied the capture of border check posts, locals said Taliban forces had crossed the border into Iran.

“The Taliban were able to capture Borjak, Melak and Shah Balak check posts from Iranian forces, and heavy (gun)fire (took place) between both sides,” Abdul Satar, Konjak resident, told Arab News.

Sabrina Zory, a civil activist in Nimroz, said the clashes started when Taliban forces stopped a fuel tanker crossing through Borjak. “

After the fighting began, (the) Taliban entered Iranian soil, and the Taliban fighters were able to capture three (Iranian) check posts,” she said. “According to the reports from the local Taliban who participated in this cross-border fighting, five Iranian border police were killed.”

Iran was among the few countries to keep its embassy in Kabul open after the Western-backed administration collapsed in mid-August, leading to the Taliban seizing control of the country.

Tension on the border between the two, an active smuggling and human trafficking route, has been a long-standing issue.


Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword -police

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword -police
Updated 02 December 2021

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword -police

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword -police
  • A police spokeswoman said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related

PARIS: A man dressed like a ninja attacked and wounded two policewomen with a sword in Cherbourg in northwestern France on Thursday before being shot and captured, a police spokeswoman said.
She said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related.
She said the attacker had stolen a vehicle and caused an accident, after which he assaulted two policewomen who had been called to the scene, wounding one in the face and the other in the chin.
The assailant — dressed in black in the style of traditional Japanese ninja fighters — was shot three times by the officers and was flown to hospital by helicopter in serious condition.
The attack happened around 3:45 p.m. (1445 GMT) near a gas station of the Leclerc supermarket chain.
The name and nationality of the attacker were not immediately known.


Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown
Updated 03 December 2021

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown
  • During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm
  • The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident

NEW YORK: The United Nations headquarters in New York City was locked down for several hours Thursday after a man was seen pacing outside one of its main gates with what police said appeared to be a shotgun.
The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident at around 1:30 p.m., about three hours after police said he was first spotted outside a security checkpoint on Manhattan’s First Avenue.
During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm. The gates on the fence that rings the UN complex were closed, and the man didn’t appear to be trying to breach the security perimeter. Police said there was no danger to the public.
People inside UN headquarters were initially told to shelter in place, but were later allowed to move about the complex and come and go from other entrances. The UN General Assembly and Security Council were both in session Thursday.
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement, “We thank the NYPD for their quick response to the incident and we remain in contact with them as they conduct their investigation.” Dujarric said earlier there was “zero indication” the man was a current or former UN employee.
Details including criminal charges weren’t immediately available.


‘No cause for optimism’ on Iran nuclear deal: US

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference during a ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm. (Reuters)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference during a ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm. (Reuters)
Updated 03 December 2021

‘No cause for optimism’ on Iran nuclear deal: US

Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference during a ministerial council meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm. (Reuters)
  • ‘We’re going to know very, very quickly, I think in the next day or two, whether Iran is serious or not,’ Blinken says
  • In a phone call with Blinken, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett had called for the ‘immediate cessation’ of talks

STOCKHOLM: The United States appeared Thursday to play down the possibility of reviving a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, even as Tehran tabled draft proposals following the resumption of talks in Vienna.
“We’re going to know very, very quickly, I think in the next day or two, whether Iran is serious or not,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Stockholm on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“In the very near future, the next day or so, we will be in a position to judge whether Iran actually intends now to engage in good faith.”
But he cautioned: “I have to tell you, recent moves, recent rhetoric, don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism.”
In a phone call with Blinken on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had called for the “immediate cessation” of talks, which resumed on Monday.
Blinken declined to comment directly on the request.
“But even though the hour is getting very late, it is not too late for Iran to reverse course,” Blinken said.
“What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks. That... will not happen.”
“That’s also not our view alone. It’s very clearly the view of our European partners. I have to say I had a good conversation as well” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“I think Russia shares our basic perspective on this.”
The 2015 agreement — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA — offered Iran a lifting of economic sanctions in return for strict curbs on its nuclear activities.
The goal was to make it practically impossible for Iran to build an atomic bomb, while allowing it to pursue a civilian nuclear program.
But the deal started to unravel in 2018 when then US president Donald Trump pulled out and began imposing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
In turn, Iran, which denies it wants to acquire a nuclear arsenal, has gradually abandoned its commitments since 2019.
US President Joe Biden has said he is willing to return to the deal as long as Iran also resumes the original terms.
Iran said on Thursday it had handed European powers two draft proposals to try to revive the JCPOA.
Lead negotiator Ali Bagheri told Iranian state television the proposals — submitted on Wednesday, the third day of the talks in Vienna — concerned two main issues facing the pact: the lifting of sanctions and Iran’s nuclear commitments
“The first document sums up the Islamic republic’s point of view concerning the lifting of sanctions, while the second is about Iran’s nuclear actions,” Bagheri told IRIB TV.
“Now the other side must examine these documents and prepare itself to hold negotiations with Iran based on these documents,” said Bagheri.
Bagheri, echoing Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said Iran was in Vienna to resume talks but said it was up to the West.
“We have told the other side that we are in Vienna to pursue the talks... If they are ready to pursue the talks, we agree to pursue them,” he told journalists in Vienna.
He said a timetable for the resumption of negotiations would be set up on Thursday.


Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms
Updated 02 December 2021

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms
  • Measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded
  • “The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity”

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential stores, cultural and recreational venues.
And parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections that again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period.
Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity.”
She said officials also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee.
If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Merkel said, adding that she would have voted in favor of the measure if she were still a member of parliament.
About 68.7 percent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 percent the government is aiming for.
There have been large protests against pandemic measures in the past in Germany and the vaccine mandate is likely to be opposed by a minority, though opinion polls show most Germans are in favor.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a center-left coalition next week, has also backed a general vaccine mandate, but favors letting lawmakers vote on the issue according to their personal conscience rather than party lines.
“If we had a higher vaccination rate, we wouldn’t be discussing this now,”he said.
The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that medical services in the country could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Agreeing what measures to take has been complicated by Germany’s political structure — with the 16 states responsible for many of the regulations — and the ongoing transition at the federal level.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.
To reduce the pressure on hospitals over the festive period, the sale of fireworks traditionally set off during New Year’s in Germany will be banned. Each year, hospitals treat hundreds of people with serious injuries because of mishandled fireworks.
The new measures will take effect once Germany’s 16 states incorporate them into existing rules, likely in the coming days.