Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Special Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced plans for the formation of new armed forces for Afghanistan to include former regime troops. (AFP)
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Updated 26 October 2021

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops

Taliban to form new armed forces including former regime troops
  • So far unclear if military set up would win support from international community

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government on Monday announced it is to form new armed forces for the country including soldiers from the previous regime’s military.

The former Afghan military and Western-backed government collapsed on Aug. 15 when President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan as the Taliban took control in a lightning offensive while the US and its allies were withdrawing troops after 20 years on the ground.

In September, the Taliban appointed an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an Islamic emirate.

Defense Minister Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, announced the formation of new armed forces on Sunday, in an audio message released by the defense ministry.

He said the ministry intended
to create a national and independent army, with ground and airspace capabilities to “defend the country with high values,” and would try to equip it with modern weapons.

Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News: “Army is a priority and urgent need of the country. The Islamic emirate would work on forming an empowered army that would be responsible for protecting Afghans and would have the ability to defend the peace of Afghanistan at any cost.”

He said that the new army would be comprised of Taliban fighters and soldiers of the former regime.

“This army would be formed from new forces and also those forces who served the Afghanistan National Army. We would work together to form a powerful army from both forces that are serving and have served Afghanistan,” Mujahid added.

However, there was no comment on whether the formation of the new armed forces would be supported by other countries.

Kabul-based economist, Hamayoon Frotan, said: “Forming a new army needs money and human resources, as billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s central bank assets held abroad have been frozen following the Taliban takeover.

“I believe that the Taliban have human resources, also part of the equipment that the army needs the Taliban have got from the Americans.”

He pointed out that support might come from China and Russia, as Russia’s state-owned news agency TASS last week quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying the removal of the Taliban movement — outlawed in Russia — from the list of terrorist organizations was possible.

But during a plenary meeting of the international Valdai Discussion Club on Thursday, Putin said such a move would have to take place at the UN level.


Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
Updated 09 August 2022

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger

Life sentences for Georgia father, son for murder of Black jogger
  • Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery

WASHINGTON: A Georgia man and his father convicted of federal hate crimes for the murder of a Black man who was shot dead while jogging were sentenced to life in prison on Monday.
Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, are already serving life sentences after being found guilty in a state trial for the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced both men to life in prison on separate hate crimes charges and denied their requests that they be allowed to serve out their sentences in a federal prison instead of a state facility.
The McMichaels, who are white, chased Arbery in a pickup truck on February 23, 2020 as he jogged through their neighborhood near the town of Brunswick, Georgia.
Travis McMichael confronted the 25-year-old Arbery as he passed by their truck and shot and killed him.
The racially-charged case added fuel to nationwide protests over police killings of African Americans sparked initially by the murder in May 2020 of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A third man who was involved in the chase, William Bryan, who had a less direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole on the state charges.
He received a sentence of 35 years in prison on the federal charges.
During the federal hate crimes trial, prosecutors recounted the three men’s alleged use of vulgar racial slurs and history of racism.
“The Justice Department’s prosecution of this case and the court’s sentences today make clear that hate crimes have no place in our country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“Protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”
FBI director Christopher Wray said that hate crimes strike “at the very heart of our society.”
“This is why combatting hate crimes and protecting civil rights are top priorities for the FBI,” he said in the statement.


Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home

Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home
Updated 12 min 58 sec ago

Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home

Trump says FBI agents raided his Florida home

Former President Donald Trump said FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday and broke into his safe, coming amid a US Justice Department investigation of Trump’s removal of official presidential records to the Palm Beach, Florida, club.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the raid, which Trump in a statement said involved a “large group of FBI agents.” The FBI’s headquarters in Washington and its field office in Miami both declined comment.

The search appeared to concern boxes of documents that Trump brought with him from the White House to the Florida club, the New York Times reported, citing two unnamed people familiar with the investigation.

Trump said the estate “is currently under siege, raided, and occupied.” He did not say why the raid took place.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump said, adding: “They even broke into my safe!“

CNN reported that Trump was not at the estate at the time of the raid and that the FBI had executed a search warrant to enter the premises. CNN said the search was tied to classified documents, citing unnamed sources.

Trump, who has made his club in Palm Beach his home since leaving the White House in January 2021, has generally spent summers at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because Mar-a-Lago typically closes in May for the summer.

The Justice Department launched an early-stage investigation into Trump’s removal of records to the Florida estate, a source familiar with the matter said in April.

The investigation comes after the US National Archives and Records Administration in February notified Congress that it had recovered about 15 boxes of White House documents from Trump’s Florida home, some of which contained classified materials.

The US House of Representatives Oversight Committee at that time announced it was expanding an investigation into Trump’s actions and asked the Archives to turn over additional information.

Trump previously confirmed that he had agreed to return certain records to the Archives, calling it “an ordinary and routine process.”

The alleged raid would add to the former president’s legal woes, which include a congressional probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, assault by Trump supporters on the US Capitol and accusations that Trump tried to influence Georgia’s 2020 election results.

In addition, the US Attorney in Washington, D.C., is probing a scheme by Trump’s allies to submit slates of fake electors in a failed bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.


Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm

Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm
Updated 09 August 2022

Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm

Ukraine, Russia trade blame for nuclear plant shelling amid global alarm
  • Ukraine blamed Russia for weekend attacks around the complex, which is still being run by Ukrainian technicians. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers injured by shrapnel

KYIV: Kyiv and Moscow traded blame on Monday for the weekend shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex amid international alarm that their battle for control of the plant could trigger catastrophe.
Calling any attack on a nuclear plant “suicidal,” United Nations chief Antonio Guterres demanded UN nuclear inspectors be given access to Zaporizhzhia, the largest complex of its kind in Europe.
Russia’s invading forces seized the southern Ukrainian region containing Zaporizhzhia in March, when the site was struck without damage to its reactors. The area, including the city of Kherson, is now the target of a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Ukraine appealed for the area around the complex to be demilitarised and for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to be let in. Russia said it too favored an IAEA visit, which it accused Ukraine of blocking while trying to “take Europe hostage” by shelling the plant.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Kyiv warns of Chornobyl-style disaster unless area secured

• Both sides say in favour of visit by nuclear inspectors

• UN's Guterres says any attack on a nuclear plant is 'suicidal'

• UK scientist says risk of major nuclear incident is small

Ukraine blamed Russia for weekend attacks around the complex, which is still being run by Ukrainian technicians. It said three radiation sensors were damaged and two workers injured by shrapnel.
As of Monday morning, the plant appeared to still be running, said Petro Kotin, head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom. He said 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy machinery, including tanks, trucks and armored infantry vehicles were at the site.
The Ukrainian staff at the plant had nowhere to shelter, he added.
Reuters could not independently verify either side’s account.
Kotin called for peacekeepers to run the Zaporizhzhia site, flagging the risk of shells hitting its six containers of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel. In an evening video shared online, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for new Western sanctions on Russia’s nuclear industry “for creating the threat of a nuclear disaster.”
Dr. Mark Wenman, a nuclear expert at Imperial College London, played down the risk of a major incident, saying the Zaporizhzhia reactors were relatively robust and the spent fuel well protected.
“Although it may seem worrying, and any fighting on a nuclear site would be illegal ...the likelihood of a serious nuclear release is still small,” he said in a statement.

WORKING UNDER ‘RUSSIAN GUNS’
Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the IAEA, said Zaporizhzhia staff were “working under the barrels of Russian guns.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry said Ukrainian attacks had damaged power lines servicing the plant and forced it to reduce output by two of its six reactors to “prevent disruption.”
The UN’s Guterres said IAEA personnel needed access to “create conditions for stabilization.”
“Any attack (on) a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” he told a news conference in Japan, where he attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on Saturday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing.
The world’s worst civil nuclear disaster occurred in 1986 when a reactor at the Chornobyl complex in northwest Ukraine exploded. Soon after this year’s Feb. 24 invasion, Russian troops occupied that site, withdrawing in late March.
Ukraine has said it is planning to conduct a major counter-offensive around Kherson and that it has already retaken dozens of villages.
Its forces are also fighting to retake areas near Kharkiv in the north, where Russian forces launched artillery strikes on Monday, Ukraine’s general staff said.
In Ukraine’s Donetsk region, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014, Russia was “using all available fire power...to try and inflict maximum losses on Ukrainian units to prevent them from reinforcing other areas,” the general staff added.
Stepping up its fiscal aid and military spending on Ukraine, Washington announced it will send $4.5 billion in budgetary support and $1 billion in weapons, including long-range rocket munitions and armored medical transport vehicles. Overall, the United States has contributed more than $18 billion to Ukraine this year.
Russia’s foreign ministry meanwhile told the United States it was suspending inspection activities under their START nuclear arms control treaty, though it said Moscow remained committed to the treaty’s provisions.

GRAIN EXPORTS PICK UP
Adding weight to a rare diplomatic success since the war began, a deal to unblock Ukraine’s food exports and ease global shortages gathered pace as two grain ships carrying almost 59,000 tons of corn and soybeans sailed out of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
That raised the total to 12 since the first vessel left a week ago.
The July 22 grain export pact, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, was further underpinned as the parties issued procedures for merchant ships carrying Ukrainian grain, including a 10-nautical-mile military exclusion zone, according to a document seen by Reuters.
Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and the West describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked war of aggression.
The conflict has displaced millions, killed thousands of civilians and left cities, towns and villages in ruins.


France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave

France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave
Updated 08 August 2022

France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave

France tweaks rules to keep nuclear plants running during heatwave
  • High river temperatures have in recent weeks threatened to reduce France’s already low nuclear output at a time when nearly half its reactors are offline because of corrosion problems and maintenance

PARIS: France’s nuclear power regulator has extended temporary waivers allowing five power stations to continue discharging hot water into rivers as the country contends with a fourth heat wave of the summer and an energy crisis.

High river temperatures have in recent weeks threatened to reduce France’s already low nuclear output at a time when nearly half its reactors are offline because of corrosion problems and maintenance.

The ASN watchdog said on Monday it had approved a government request for the waivers introduced in mid July to be prolonged at the Bugey, Saint Alban, Tricastin, Blayais and Golfech power plants.

“The government considers that it is a public necessity to ... maintain the production of these five power stations until Sept. 11 despite the exceptional weather conditions,” ASN said in a statement.

Air temperatures are expected to climb into the mid to high 30s Celsius this week across much of France, further warming rivers that nuclear operator EDF uses to cool reactors.

Regulations typically require nuclear production be limited during times of high heat to prevent the hot discharge waters re-entering the rivers from endangering wildlife.

French nuclear availability has been at its lowest in at least four years this summer, forcing France to import power when usually it would be exporting to neighboring countries.

On some of the hottest days, France has bought 8 to 10 gigawatts, equivalent to the output from about 8 nuclear reactors.

EDF late on Sunday said it was lifting output restriction warnings at the Saint Alban and Bugey nuclear plants on the Rhone river.

River temperatures at both are expected to peak on Aug. 14.


Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games
Updated 08 August 2022

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games

Pakistan celebrates Arshad Nadeem’s historic javelin victory at Commonwealth Games
  • Poor boy from Punjab wins country’s first-ever gold medal in event
  • Throw of 90.18 meters was longest at the Games by a South Asian athlete

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis celebrated on Monday a historic win by javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem as he nabbed a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, becoming the first from the South Asian country to achieve the feat.

Nadeem snatched the title in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters, breaking a new record at the event, where he now holds the title of the longest throw recorded by a South Asian athlete.

The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver on Sunday evening with a throw of 88.64 meters, while Kenya’s Julius Yego took the bronze with an 85.70 meter throw.

Nadeem’s victory reverberated throughout Pakistan on Monday, as people took to social media to congratulate the athlete and celebrate his win.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Nadeem’s gold win was “amazing news” that brought pride to the country.

“Arshad Nadeem has done Pakistan proud,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “His consistency, passion and hard work hold lessons for our youth. Congratulations, Arshad, on your brilliant achievement.”

Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Nadeem had given an exceptional performance and was the “pride of the nation and our national hero.”

Nadeem, once a poor boy from Khanewal in Punjab, had beaten all odds to become the first Pakistani in history to win javelin gold at the Commonwealth Games. He is one of nine children of a daily wage laborer and had shown great versatility as an athlete from a young age while dabbling in all kinds of sports at school, from cricket to football and badminton.

Though his family lacked the financial means to encourage Nadeem’s enthusiasm for sports, the boy’s spirit earned him the support he needed, with his elder brothers working to help him build a career in sports. He caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi when he was only 12 years old. Saqi eventually became Nadeem’s first coach and mentor, and trained him for javelin throw.

Nadeem won his first bronze medal representing Pakistan at the 2016 South Asian Games in India with a best throw of 78.33 meters. In 2019, at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 meter-games record throw.

Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, a Pakistani YouTuber and comedian, called Nadeem an “absolute legend.”

He said on Twitter: “With hardly any support or resources, this man has done the impossible.”

Pakistani athletes have long complained of a lack of official support in training and infrastructure, but this year’s delegation at the ongoing Commonwealth Games has so far won eight medals.

Pakistani musician Zuliqar Khan said that Nadeem’s victory is “a story of a champion.”

He added: “A champion from Pakistan. I don’t remember a better example of perseverance in Pakistan sports.”