Taliban carry out second known public execution since seizing power in Afghanistan

Taliban carry out second known public execution since seizing power in Afghanistan
A Taliban soldier holds a machine gun at a check point in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 20, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 21 June 2023
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Taliban carry out second known public execution since seizing power in Afghanistan

Taliban carry out second known public execution since seizing power in Afghanistan
  • Supreme Court sentenced man from Kabul to death for murdering five people last year
  • Execution carried out with assault rifle by the son of one of the five men killed by convict

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers Tuesday carried out what is believed to be the second confirmed public execution since the religious group took power in 2021, according to the country's Supreme Court.

The court had sentenced to death a man identified only as Ajmal from the capital Kabul who was found guilty of murdering five people in two separate incidents last year.

The execution was carried out with an assault rifle by the son of Siad Wali, one of five men killed by Ajmal. It took place outside a mosque near the offices of the provincial governor in eastern Laghman province according to Islamic law, the high court said in a statement.

Relatives of the four other men who were killed by Ajmal witnessed the execution.

The latest public execution is likely to draw criticism from the international community. It comes just a month after the United Nations in a report strongly criticized the Taliban for carrying out public executions, lashings and stonings since seizing power, and called on the country’s rulers to halt such practices.

In May, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in the past six months alone, 274 men, 58 women and two boys were publicly flogged in Afghanistan.

The Taliban-run Supreme Court in Kabul said when the case against Ajmal was brought to the government's attention, it thoroughly examined and investigated and said three different courts eventually upheld the death sentence.

The court said the final approval for the execution was ordered by Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada after supervising a separate probe into the murder case.

Akhundzada was named the Taliban leader in 2016 after a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan killed his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. It was the second known public execution since the Taliban takeover, even though rights groups and the international community have opposed such extreme punishments.

The first was in December last year, when Taliban authorities punished an Afghan convicted of murdering another man. The execution was carried out with an assault rifle by the victim’s father in western Farah province before hundreds of spectators and many top Taliban officials.

During the previous Taliban rule of the country in the late 1990s, the group regularly carried out public executions, floggings and stonings of people convicted of crimes in Taliban courts.

After they overran Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban initially promised to allow for women’s and minority rights. Instead, they later restricted rights and freedoms, including imposing a ban on girl’s education beyond the sixth grade.


India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
Updated 12 sec ago
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India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
  • Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase after he was caught by Kolkata Knight Riders Harshit Rana
  • Visuals on social media showed Kohli having discussion with umpire after the match as pundits weighed in on dismissal

NEW DELHI: India star Virat Kohli has been fined half his match fee for an angry outburst in response to his dismissal from an Indian Premier League match, the league said Monday.

Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase on Sunday after he was caught and bowled by Kolkata Knight Riders pace bowler Harshit Rana and his team went on to lose by one run at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.

TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.

“Kohli committed a Level 1 offense under Article 2.8 of the IPL’s Code of Conduct,” an IPL statement said.

“He admitted to the offense and accepted the Match Referee’s sanction.”

Visuals on social media showed Kohli having a long discussion with an umpire after the match ended and pundits weighed in on the dismissal.

Former India batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu slammed the call and asked for the “rules to be changed“

Ex-India quick Irfan Pathan said on X, formerly Twitter, “if Virat Kohli was standing at the popping crease the ball would have been lower than his measured waist height, making it a legal delivery.”

Kohli has been the top run-getter in the T20 tournament so far with 379 runs in eight matches but his team Bengaluru remains bottom of the 10-team table with just one win.


Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
Updated 22 April 2024
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Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
  • More than 16,000 Filipino, American soldiers are involved in the annual exercises this year
  • Beijing, Philippines have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea

MANILA: Filipino and US forces began their annual joint military drills on Monday, segments of which will, for the first time, take place outside of the Philippines’ territorial waters following a string of maritime clashes between Manila and Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The exercises, known as Balikatan — Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder — will run up until May 10 and involve over 16,000 military personnel, along with more than 250 Australian and French forces.

For the first time since the annual drills started over 30 years ago, the Philippines and the US will conduct joint naval drills beyond the 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) of the Philippines’ territorial waters, in parts of the open sea claimed by China.

“This exercise represents the essence of unity, collective responsibility, and enduring partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America and other partners,” Philippines’ military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said during the opening ceremony.

“It is not a partnership of convenience but rather a clear reflection of our shared history, unwavering commitment to democracy and respect for international law in our pursuit of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Throughout the three-week exercise, soldiers from the two militaries will operate out of a joint command center to perform four major activities with a focus on countering maritime, air, land, and cyber attacks.

“It’s the first time that we are going beyond our (12) nautical miles,” Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, Philippines exercise director, told reporters.

The Balikatan training operations are not directed at a particular country, he said, but are more focused on the “development of interoperability,” with an increased complexity of the drills and scenarios to let soldiers learn more from one another.

The joint exercises take place as Philippine and Chinese coast guard and other vessels have featured in a series of increasingly tense territorial face-offs since last year, including Chinese use of water cannons against a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea last month, causing damage and injuries.

After the incident, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said his government would take countermeasures against “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks” by the Chinese Coast Guard.

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos had said in a statement.

The Philippines and China, along with several other countries, have overlapping claims in the resource-rich waterway, where a bulk of the world’s commerce and oil transits.

Beijing has been increasing its military activity over the past few years, with the Chinese Coast Guard regularly encroaching on the Philippine part of the waters, the West Philippine Sea, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague dismissing China’s expansive claims.

Don McLain Gill, an international studies lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, said the scope of this year’s Balikatan is a “clear reflection of Manila’s commitment to exercise its sovereignty and sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone.

“This year ’s exercise will also involve complex maritime security issues such as simulations of recovering islands from hostile forces, which add a practical dimension to collective self defense efforts by the like-minded partners,” he told Arab News.

“Clearly, securing the WPS based on international law will not bode well for China’s expansionist interests. While the Balikatan is aimed at improving joint preparedness amidst emerging challenges in the region, the challenge posed by China's expansionism is clearly one of the critical factors that provoke regional security.”


Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources
Updated 22 April 2024
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Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

DAKAR: Suspected extremists in central Mali are holding more than 110 civilians whom they abducted six days ago, local sources told AFP on Monday.
Three buses carrying the civilians were stopped on April 16 by “jihadists,” who forced the vehicles and the passengers to head toward a forest between Bandiagara and Bankass, a local group of associations and an elected official said.’

“We demand the release of more than 110 passengers of three buses abducted on Tuesday by jihadists,” a member of the group, Oumar Ongoiba, told AFP.

An elected official from Bandiagara, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said, “The three buses and the passengers, more than 120, are still being held by jihadists.”

Mali has since 2012 been ravaged by different factions affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group, as well as by self-declared, self-defense forces and bandits.

The worsening security situation has been compounded by a humanitarian and political crisis.

The violence spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, with all three countries seeing military regimes seize power.


With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors
Updated 22 April 2024
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With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

With homelessness on the rise, US Supreme Court will weigh bans on sleeping outdoors

WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court will consider Monday whether banning homeless people from sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
The case is considered the most significant to come before the high court in decades on homelessness, which is reaching record levels in the United States.
In California and other Western states, courts have ruled that it’s unconstitutional to fine and arrest people sleeping in homeless encampments if shelter space is lacking.
A cross-section of Democratic and Republican officials contend that makes it difficult for them to manage encampments, which can have dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.
But hundreds of advocacy groups argue that allowing cities to punish people who need a place to sleep will criminalize homelessness and ultimately make the crisis worse.
The Justice Department has also weighed in. It argues people shouldn’t be punished just for sleeping outside, but only if there’s a determination they truly have nowhere else to go.
The case comes from the rural Oregon town of Grants Pass, which started fining people $295 for sleeping outside to manage homeless encampments that sprung up in the city’s public parks as the cost of housing escalated.
The measure was largely struck down by the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also found in 2018 that such bans violated the 8th Amendment by punishing people for something they don’t have control over.
The case comes after homelessness in the United States grew a dramatic 12 percent, to its highest reported level as soaring rents and a decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more Americans, according to federal data.


UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks

UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks
Updated 22 April 2024
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UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks

UK’s Sunak says first migrant flight to Rwanda will leave in 10-12 weeks
  • Prime minister ‘confident’ that the plan complies with all of Britain’s international obligations

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday the first flight carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda would leave in 10-12 weeks, as he set out plans for for his flagship policy to tackle illegal migration.
Speaking at a press conference, Sunak said he would not outline the exact operational details of the plan, but said the government had made specific preparations.
“I can confirm that we’ve put an airfield on standby, booked commercial charter planes for specific slots, and we have 500 highly trained individuals ready to escort illegal migrants all the way to Rwanda with 300 more trained in the coming weeks,” Sunak said.
“We are ready. Plans are in place. And these flights will go come what may.”
Under the timeline Sunak set out, the first flight would leave in July.
Sunak also said he was “confident” that the plan complied with all of Britain’s international obligations, responding to a question about its membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“If it ever comes to a choice between our national security — securing our borders — and membership of a foreign court, I’m, of course, always going to prioritize our national security,” he said, referring to the European Court of Human Rights.