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Taliban Justifies ‘Suicide Attacks’ In Afghanistan; Call It A Revenge Against Ashraf Ghani

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Three gunmen stormed in the maternity ward of a hospital in Kabul on May 12 killing at least 24 people including newborn babies and mothers. This attack on the Kabul hospital came after a suicide bomber blew himself at a funeral of a local commander in Nangarhar province that also killed at least 24 people.

Attack on Maternity Ward of Kabul Hospital

On Tuesday morning, locals in Kabul reported hearing two blasts, gunfire and smoke coming out of the maternity ward of the hospital run by international medical charity Médecins sans Frontières (MSF).

A local said – The attackers were shooting at anyone in this hospital without any reason. The Afghan special forces reached the spot and rescued about 100 women and children, as told by an official. All three terrorists were killed by the security forces. 

Similar incidents have jolted Kabul in the past where Shia Muslims have been attacked by the Islamic State (IS) and Taliban, who are predominantly are Sunni Muslims.

In 2017, a similar attack took place in Kabul’s diplomatic area on the main military hospital in the city. The hospital attack for which the ISIS claimed responsibility was heavily guarded and was in the vicinity of the US embassy and NATO headquarters. The attack on the hospital was furiously debated in the Afghan Parliament.

The Taliban has also attacked hospitals before. In 2019, about 20 people were killed and 90 injured when a truck stuffed with explosives was detonated outside a hospital in southern Zabul province. Many of the victims killed in the attack were doctors and patients.

Responsibility of the Kabul Hospital Attack

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted that Taliban was not involved in the attack.  The ISIS has taken responsibility for the funeral attack but there is no immediate responsibility for the Kabul hospital attack. 

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Nonetheless, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani in an address to the nation, said that he has shifted the response from the “active defence” position adopted after the US tried to broker a peace deal.

“In order to provide security TO public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I’m ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defence mode to an offensive one and to resume their operations against the enemies,” said Ghani.

He further added that The Taliban have not given up fighting and killing Afghans, instead, they have increased their attacks on our countrymen and public places. 

World Response

This double tragedy in Afghanistan has shaken not just the war-torn country but the whole world. At a time when the world is fighting a pandemic, such ghastly attacks are inhumane in every possible way. The attacks were widely condemned by various countries and human rights groups around the world. 

India “strongly condemned” the terror attack. “Such reprehensible attacks, including on mothers, newly born children, nurses and mourning families are appalling and constitute crimes against humanity,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in an official response.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “any attack on innocents is unforgivable, but to attack infants and women in labour… is an act of sheer evil. Terrorists who attack mourners lining up for prayer at a funeral are only seeking to tear apart the bonds that hold families and communities together, but they will never succeed.”

Amnesty International South Asia wrote, “The unconscionable war crimes in Afghanistan today, targeting a maternity hospital and a funeral, must awaken the world to the horrors civilians continue to face. There must be accountability for these grave crimes, and civilians must be protected.”

US-Taliban Peace Treaty

Despite the Taliban’s denial, President Ghani’s proscription of the Taliban is reflective of the anger of many Afghans. The troop withdrawal agreement signed between the US and Taliban which was aimed at ending the 18-year-old conflict seems to be breaking apart.

The peace treaty intended to pave way for cooperation between the Taliban the Afghan government are becoming even slimmer.

“If the Taliban cannot control the violence, or their sponsors have now subcontracted their terror to other entities, which was one of our primary concerns from the beginning, then there is little point in continuing to engage Taliban in ‘peace talks’,” said Hamdullah Mobib, President Ghani’s national security adviser. 

The Pentagon declined to comment on Ghani’s statement on restarting the offensive, saying only that the U.S. military continued to reserve the right to defend Afghan security forces if they are attacked by the Taliban.

Meanwhile, after the ghastly Kabul hospital attacks, a suicide bombing in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province that aimed to target a military compound, exploded before its target and killed five civilians and wounded at least 29 others.

The Taliban took responsibility for the bombing, calling it an act of revenge for statements by President Ashraf Ghani for blaming them for an attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul.

Written By Smriti Chaudhary. Edited By Xavier Francis 

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Amitabh Bachchan – Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan tests positive for COVID-19

Amitabh Bachchan tweeted – I have tested COVID positive, shifted to hospital, hospital informing authorities, family and staff undergone tests , results awaited. All that have been in close proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested,” he wrote.

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Amitabh Bachchan – Bollywood superstar has tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday evening and was admitted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai. Bachchan confirmed the same in a tweet.

“I have tested covid positive, shifted to hospital, hospital informing authorities, family and staff undergone tests , results awaited. All that have been in close proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested,” he wrote.

Bachchan was last seen in Shoojit Sarkar’s Gulabo Sitabo that released on Amazon Prime Video. Two films, Jhund and Chehre are ready for release while he is yet to complete Ayan Mukherji’s Brahmastra along with Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.

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US threatens Russia with consequences for paying bounties to Taliban in Afghanistan

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The US has threatened to respond if the Pentagon confirms reports of Russian bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan. While Russia denies its involvement in any such operation, US-Russia relations could further deteriorate if the reports are confirmed.

The Pentagon is investigating reports of Russian bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan and if found to be true, the US has promised to retaliate. Moscow on the hand has denied involvement in any such operation.

Speaking in front of the House armed services committee, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said that the Pentagon was committed to discovering whether Russian military intelligence had paid the Taliban for attacks on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of this bounty thing. If there are bounties, I’m an outraged general, just like every one of us in uniform is,” Milley said. “That’s a real big deal. We don’t have that level of fidelity yet, but we’re still looking.”

Despite vowing to retaliate, Milley suggested that the US may not be responding to the reports as robustly as necessary in non-military ways. The 62-year old admitted that the US was perhaps not doing enough.

The issue is at the strategic level,” he said. “Is there diplomatic, and informational and economic … sanctions, are there démarches, are there phone calls, is there pressure, those sorts of things. And I can tell you that some of that is done.’’

Mark Esper, the defence secretary, was also testifying to the House armed services committee. Esper said that the reports did not come from any of the nine of the total of 17 US intelligence agencies under Pentagon’s authority, implying the information leaked to the press in recent weeks came from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or another civilian agency.

The reports first came to notice in January and were ignored because they lacked credibility. It was only in February that Gen Kenneth McKenzie and the defence secretary became aware of them in February.

Milley confirmed that the investigation is not over and promised to get to the bottom of the situation. President Donald Trump has insisted he was not briefed on the Russian bounties.

Russia Denies Involvement

While American intelligence agencies work to confirm reports, Russia denies the existence or its involvement in any such operation. Moscow says the U.S. is trying to portray Moscow as an all-purpose bogeyman.

“I would like to say officially that these allegations, distributed by the media, are downright lies. No concrete evidence has been presented,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said this week in an online forum with the Center for the National Interest.

Other Russian officials point out that Moscow would have little incentive to establish such a program given the high risk of getting caught.

According to NPR, the Russian military intelligence known as the GRU is believed to be behind the suspected Russian bounty program in Afghanistan. The GRU has an aggressive and high-risk culture and is hence preferred by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The New York Times was the media outlet to report about Russia secretly offering money to the Taliban in exchange for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan.

If confirmed, it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops and could have a severe impact on Washington-Moscow relations.

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Srebrenica genocide: Pakistan draws similarity between 1995 Srebrenica massacre with Kashmir

Drawing a parallel between Srebrenica genocide, and the current situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, Khan said he feared a massacre similar to that in Srebrenica could happen in the disputed Himalayan valley.

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Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan on Saturday urged the world community to “learn a lesson” from 1995 Srebrenica genocide, and “not let such massacre happen again.”

“Today, we are observing the 25th memorial anniversary of the genocide that took place in Srebrenica. I still remember the day very well along with most people who have humanity in their hearts. I remember when it happened. we were shocked. We were appalled how in a what was a safe haven of United Nations peacekeeping forces, this massive massacre was allowed to happen.

“I still feel the shock how such a thing could have been allowed by the world community, Khan said in a video message aired by state-run Pakistan Television. “I think, It is important that we learn lessons from that, the world community must never let such things to happen again,” he went on to say.

Drawing a parallel between Srebrenica genocide, and the current situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, Khan said he feared a massacre similar to that in Srebrenica could happen in the disputed Himalayan valley.

“Today, 800,000 Indian troops have besieged 8 million people of Kashmir. And we all fear a similar sort of massacre might follow there,” he said, adding: “So the world community must take notice, and never allow such acts to take place there.”

Kashmir and Palestine

In a Twitter post, in connection with the 25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “July 2020 marks 25 years since the Srebrenica Massacre, the murder of over 8000 Bosnian Muslims & ethnic cleansing of over 20’000 people. The world has a collective responsibility to ensure history is not repeated.”

“What is happening in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine is chillingly similar,” he added, referring to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and New Delhi’s scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s longstanding special status in August 2019.

Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the genocide are buried in a memorial cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thousands of visitors from various countries attend the funeral services and burials.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will participate in this year’s memorial program via video link. During a two-day visit to Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo last year for a similar event, Erdogan attended a procession to commemorate thousands of innocents who fell victim to the genocide.

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed when Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.

Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.

The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a “safe area” in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic — later found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide — overran the UN zone.

The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica residents fled into the surrounding mountains, but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.

UK ‘stands with’ all feeling Srebrenica genocide pain

British administration on Saturday “reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting reconciliation across the Western Balkans,” on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Today (11 July) marks twenty-five years since the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of the Second World War,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) statement said.

“Today I stand with all who continue to feel unimaginable pain from the genocide 25 years ago at Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter.

“The United Kingdom has worked to support justice for the victims, find the missing & promote reconciliation,” he added.

Underlining that more than 8,000, mostly Muslim men and boys, were murdered and over 20,000 women and children were forcibly expelled from their homes, the UK urged “all parties to reject hate speech and the glorification of the perpetrators of genocide and war crimes.”

The statement also said the “verdicts from international and domestic courts must be respected.” Raab said: “On the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, we remember the victims and the anguish of their families.

“During my time in the Hague between 2003 and 2006, pursuing those responsible for this dark chapter in European history, I was reminded daily of the heinous cruelty perpetrated against the innocent.

“The UK is determined to end impunity and help rebuild those countries affected – as our commitment to the ICC, and UK investment and support for Bosnia demonstrates.”

Turkey pays homage

he Turkish president on Saturday remembered the Srebrenica martyrs on the 25th anniversary of the genocide. “We will always stand by our Bosnian brothers in their search for justice. The Srebrenica Genocide will never be forgotten,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video message.

As part of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, Erdogan spoke via video link at the memorial ceremony held at the former accumulator factory used by the United Nations troops as a base in the war in Bosnia.

Erdogan stressed that despite all tragedy and tears, European politicians have learned no lessons from Srebrenica Genocide, adding that free use of words that “fuel enmity towards Islam and support xenophobia is a source of concern for our future.”

“Even though it has been a quarter of a century since the genocide, our pain is still fresh. Our hearts wrenched with every mass grave unearthed,” he said. Erdogan wished God’s mercy on Srebrenica martyrs and patience to their families, their loved ones and to all who feel pain in their hearts.

 

By Aamir Latif, Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

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