Taliban release several British citizens held in Afghanistan

Taliban release several British citizens held in Afghanistan
Taliban fighter stands guard along a road in Kabul on June 18, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Taliban release several British citizens held in Afghanistan

Taliban release several British citizens held in Afghanistan
  • Mujahid didn’t say what laws the UK citizens had broken or elaborate on why they had been detained
  • The identities of the released British citizens were not released by either government

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban have released several British citizens who were detained in Afghanistan after an agreement was reached between the two countries, Taliban and UK officials said Monday.
The detainees were released Sunday following a series of meetings between Afghan and British officials, said Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban government, in a statement.
“A number of British nationals were released, who were arrested about six months ago for violating the laws and traditions of the Afghan people,” he said.
Mujahid didn’t say what laws the UK citizens had broken or elaborate on why they had been detained. The statement said all of them pledged to respect the laws of Afghanistan, the traditions and culture of the Afghan people and not to violate them again.
The identities of the released British citizens were not released by either government and it wasn’t yet known if former BBC cameraman Peter Jouvenal was among them.
A statement from the British government in February had said there were a number of British nationals in Taliban custody. Although the government refused to release their identities, Hassina Syed, Jouvenal’s wife, told The Associated Press that the former freelance cameraman turned businessman was taken on Dec. 13.
“We welcome and appreciate the release by the current administration of Afghanistan of five British nationals who were detained in Afghanistan,” said a statement Monday from Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
There was no report on the fate of an American citizen who was also detained by the Taliban. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” earlier this year that Washington was “actively working” to get the American released from Taliban custody. He refused to say more at the time, citing the “sensitivity of it.”
The British statement said British nationals had no role in the UK government’s work in Afghanistan and traveled to the country against the UK government’s travel advice. “This was a mistake” it said.
“On behalf of the families of the British nationals, we express their apologies for any breach of Afghan culture, customs or laws, and offer their assurance of future good conduct,” the statement by the UK government added.
Jouvenal’s wife, Syed, an Afghan, had said her husband was in Afghanistan investigating business opportunities, including investment in lithium mining. Afghanistan is rich in lithium, a key component of energy-storage batteries. He was traveling alone and not associated with the other detainees, she said.
Jouvenal had worked as a freelance cameraman during the 1980s Soviet invasion in Afghanistan and followed the country through its many wars. He married Syed and they have three daughters.
Jouvenal, who speaks both Pashto and Dari, Afghanistan’s two official languages, had held several meetings with the Taliban’s mining ministry before being detained in December, Syed said, including with the minister. Until his detention, Syed said, Jouvenal had been careful to stay in regular contact with the Taliban authorities to ensure that they were aware of his activities and movements.
In the mid 2000s, Jouvenal owned and operated the Gandamak Restaurant and guest house in the Afghan capital, which had become well known among the many journalists who traveled to Afghanistan during the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
Since seizing power in mid-August last year, the Taliban have imposed harsh edicts in Afghanistan, harking back to their repressive rule during the late 1990s. They have restricted freedoms and rights of women, who are now barred from going to school beyond the sixth grade, and minorities. The country has plunged into an unprecedented crisis, hurtling toward an economic meltdown as famine and hunger loom.
According to people with direct knowledge of the men who were held in Taliban custody, at least two of the detainees were apparently in Afghanistan to secretly evacuate Afghan nationals. The people with direct knowledge spoke to the AP earlier this year on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
The Taliban have made it clear that Afghans without proper documents would not be allowed to leave the country.
Syed said she feared her husband may have gotten caught up in a Taliban investigation into attempts to secretly transfer Afghan nationals out of the country.


King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions
Updated 03 October 2022

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions

King Charles III, Queen Consort host members of UK’s South Asian community in recognition of contributions
  • The king has been involved with British Asian communities for many years through his work with the British Asian Trust
  • He founded the trust in 2007 with a group of British Asian business leaders

LONDON: King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, hosted guests of South Asian heritage in Edinburgh on Monday in recognition of their contributions to British society.

The royals welcomed around 300 people at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh to recognise the contribution that South Asian communities in the UK have made to the National Health Service, arts, media, education, business and the armed forces.

The king has been involved with British Asian communities for many years through his work with the British Asian Trust which he founded in 2007 with a group of British Asian business leaders.

The royal couple are visiting Scotland as part of their first joint public engagement since the end of the royal mourning period to remember Queen Elizabeth II.

They were visiting to formally give city status to Dunfermline, the birthplace of King Charles I.

Dunfermline was among eight towns that won city status as part of Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this year to mark Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.


Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines
Updated 03 October 2022

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines
  • Typhoon Noru was the most powerful cyclone to hit the country this year
  • Climate-related disasters have been battering the Philippines with growing intensity

MANILA: When a massive typhoon barreled through the Philippines last month, it left behind casualties and destruction, triggering calls for urgent climate action in the cyclone-prone country, where extreme weather events are on the rise.

Super Typhoon Noru, locally named Karding, made landfall on the evening of Sept. 25, sweeping the densely populated island of Luzon and plunging communities in the country’s north underwater.

At least 12 people were killed and over 1 million affected by Noru, according to disaster response officials, who estimate that the landfall caused damages of nearly $51 million, leaving farmland flattened just before the harvest season.

Poor rural communities have increasingly borne the brunt of climate-related disasters, which have battered the Philippines with growing frequency over recent years.

“The stormy season is far from over. We expect our farmers and fisherfolk to face more problems this year from climate change-intensified typhoons,” the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said in a statement.

“We need to improve climate change adaptation mechanisms,” the network’s national coordinator Jon Bonifacio told Arab News. “Typhoon Noru is another wake-up call that we really need to act on the climate crisis.”

With winds of up to 240 kph and heavy rainfall, Noru quickly turned into the most powerful cyclone to hit the Philippines this year.

Emily Padilla, former agriculture undersecretary, who shared on social media photos from devastated areas, wrote after the landfall that it had brought flashbacks of the deadly Typhoon Santi, which struck Luzon in 2013.

“Trembling in fear last night, we had to cling on to God, and work on defending our only sanctuary, when it was being pounded by roaring Karding,” she said on Facebook. “Climate change is real. We must collectively work to reverse the impending death of earth, and so humankind.”

The typhoon had evolved from a tropical storm into a Category 5 typhoon over two days, which was one of the fastest such rapid intensifications ever recorded in the Pacific basin.

“This trend is caused by the effects of climate change, specifically the rising temperatures of the sea surface,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia consultant Jefferson Chua told Arab News.

“More extreme weather events will be coming our way. We are one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, and that won’t stop.”

An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to cyclones. Each year, about 20 typhoons, equivalent to 25 percent of the global occurrence, enter the country and about half of them wreak havoc in its northern parts.

With the changing climate and global warming, the intensity of devastating incidents has increased. Seven of the 11 strongest landfalls in recorded history have occurred since 2006.

Addressing climate change has been high on the agenda of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, who during the UN General Assembly in New York last week said that developing countries had suffered the most from climate change effects.

“This injustice must be corrected and those who need to do more must act now,” he said. “Those who are least responsible suffer the most. The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb (more) carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change.”

But as Marcos addressed UNGA, Greenpeace criticized him for not doing enough on the national level to help avert the disastrous effects of the changing climate, which it said will “heavily impact food security, as well as other fundamental issues such as water, energy, health and poverty alleviation.”

Mitigating the impacts of the changing climate should, according to Greenpeace, start with energy transition efforts in the country, which derives most of its electricity generation from coal.

“The introduction of renewable energy into our energy mix, and the gradual and eventual phaseout from fossil fuels, is one of the biggest solutions that governments can implement in the incoming climate crisis. What’s important here to note is that these are not being done at the level of urgency that we need,” Chua said.


Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede

Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede
Updated 03 October 2022

Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede

Indonesia sets up team to probe deadly football stampede
  • At least 125 people were killed in stampede after weekend match
  • Human rights commission questions use of tear gas to control crowd

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has set up an independent team to investigate the deadly crush at a football stadium that killed at least 125 people over the weekend, the country’s chief security minister said on Monday.

The stampede in Malang, East Java, on Saturday occurred after frustrated fans from the losing home team, Arema football club, ran onto the pitch at the end of the match. Authorities said anarchy ensued, prompting officers to fire tear gas in an attempt to control the crowd.

Footage circulated on social media showed scuffling between football fans and officers in riot gear, while others rushed toward an exit gate and scaled a fence to flee the clouds of tear gas.

Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, announced on Monday the formation of a 13-member independent fact-finding team to probe the disaster.

“The team will work within two weeks to one month at the latest, and the result of the team’s investigation and its recommendations will be handed over to the president,” Mahfud told a news conference.

Mahfud will lead the team that also includes Sports Minister Zainudin Amali, journalist Anton Sanjoyo from news daily Kompas, sports expert Akmal Marhali, and former commissioner of the Indonesia Anti-Corruption Commission Laode M. Syarif.

President Joko Widodo also instructed the Indonesian police and army to launch an internal probe into their officers’ conduct in Malang, Mahfud added, with legal actions expected against those who had “acted excessively and beyond their authority.”

The Football Association of Indonesia has suspended all games in the Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 until the investigation has been completed.

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, has also launched its own probe into the tragedy.

“To look into whatever happened in Kanjuruhan, including the use of tear gas, that’s our agenda in Malang,” Komnas HAM commissioner, Choirul Anam, told a press briefing. “This incident must not happen again.”

The Indonesian stadium disaster was one of the worst in the history of football and the deadliest in more than half a century. In 1964, 328 people were left dead after violence broke out at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru.

More than 30 children, whose ages range from three to 17, were among the 125 Indonesian victims, according to a Reuters report quoting an official at the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry.

Arema FC president, Gilang Widya Pramana, apologized to the victims of the stampede on Monday, and said he was ready to take “full responsibility” for the disaster. “Lives are more precious than soccer,” he said at a news conference.

Mohamad Kusnaeni, an Indonesian sports expert, said the tragedy should serve as a uniting moment for the country’s football community.

“We should unite to improve all our shortcomings in organizing the national football competition,” he told Arab News.

Saturday’s incident cast a spotlight on Indonesia’s troubled football history, which in the past had involved violent rivalries. Previous incidents, however, have not been anywhere near as deadly. And with no visiting fans allowed in the stadium on the weekend, many Indonesians are questioning the security approach that day.

The world’s governing body of football, FIFA, has asked Indonesian football authorities for a report on the incident. According to its safety regulations, firearms or “crowd control gas” should not be used at matches.

With Indonesia set to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next year, Kusnaeni said the issue of tear gas use must be “seriously anticipated.”

“When it comes to the use of tear gas, it is regrettable that it occurred at a sports competition. Especially when it is strictly prohibited for football games,” he added.


Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England

Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England
Updated 03 October 2022

Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England

Two arrested after fatal stabbing outside mosque in central England
  • Armed police detained a 56-year-old man near the scene

LONDON: Two men were arrested on suspicion of murder after a stabbing outside a mosque in the English city of Coventry on Sunday.

Armed police detained a 56-year-old man near the scene, and a 27-year-old second suspect was arrested early on Monday.

West Midlands Police responded to reports of a large group of men fighting, some armed with knives outside the Jamiah Masjid and Institute in the city, where they found two people injured.

One of the wounded, a 52-year-old man, died from his injuries a few hours later.

“We’ve made some really good early progress in this investigation, but there is still a lot of work to be done in identifying all of those involved in what happened last night,” Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards told the media.

“Officers are speaking with residents and community leaders to offer reassurance, and patrols in the area will be stepped up.”

A police statement said the force was treating the murder as an “isolated incident,” and have ruled out the killing being linked to wider sectarian unrest which has rocked English cities across the Midlands in recent weeks.

Following violence and arrests in Leicester and Smethwick last month, faith leaders in the UK warned that clashes between groups of Hindus and Muslims could spread across the country.


Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front

Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front
Updated 03 October 2022

Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front

Chechnya’s Kadyrov says sending teenage sons to Ukraine front
  • Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord who leads the Muslim-majority Chechnya republic, has been one of the most vocal supporters of Putin’s Ukraine offensive
  • Kadyrov’s post on Telegram concering his sons came as the Kremlin dismissed his call to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after a series of military defeats

MOSCOW: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Monday he was sending three of his teenage sons — aged 14, 15 and 16 — to the Ukraine front.
“It’s time to prove themselves in a real fight, I can only welcome this desire,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram, posting a video of the young boys firing missiles in a shooting range.
“Soon they will go to the front line and will be on the most difficult sections of the contact line.”
He said Akhmat (16), Eli (15) and Adam (14) have been trained for combat “almost from their youngest years” and insisted he was “not joking.”
The video showed the boys in camouflage clothing and dark glasses, on tanks, guns strapped to their waists, shooting rocket launchers and machine guns.
At times the teenagers smile while shooting or made a thumbs-up gesture.
Kadyrov, a former warlord who leads the Muslim-majority Chechnya republic, has been one of the most vocal supporters of Putin’s Ukraine offensive.
The post came as the Kremlin on Monday dismissed his call to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after a series of military defeats.
“This is a very emotional moment,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a daily briefing with journalists, referring to his statements.
“In our country, the use of nuclear weapons happens only on the basis of what is stated in the relevant doctrine,” Peskov said.
Peskov nevertheless hailed the “heroic contributions” of the Chechen leader to the military operation in Ukraine.
Kadyrov called on the nuclear option after Moscow withdrew from the town of Lyman, which took weeks to gain control of earlier this year.
“In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel.
He also criticized Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, who is in charge of Russia’s forces fighting in the region, calling him “mediocre.”