Attack Near Ex-Afghan PM Hekmatyar’s Office Injures Two, His Party Says

Two people were injured Friday in an attack in Kabul near the office of the Hezb-e-Islami party associated with former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, but all the senior leaders were safe, the party said in a statement.

Multiple attackers were killed and several guards injured in the incident, according to three Hezb-e-Islami sources and one source with the ruling Taliban.

Kabul police and the interior ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

The incident took place on the same day as Pakistan Prime Minister condemned what he said was an assassination attempt on the country’s Head of Mission in Kabul. Taliban authorities did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The attack on the Hezb-e-Islami party office occurred near a mosque where senior party leaders were present, but all – including Hekmatyar – were unscathed, according to the party statement and his grandson, Obaidullah Baheer.

“All respected authorities, including the respected leader, are safe and sound … two senior guards from the leader’s support unit were superficially injured and no one else was injured,” the statement said.

One Taliban and one party source said a vehicle belonging to the attackers and packed with explosives had detonated near the office. Firing took place and two attackers were killed while trying to enter the mosque, they said.

Several bombing and shooting attacks have taken place in Afghanistan in recent months, some of which have been claimed by Islamic State militants. A blast at a madrassa on Wednesday in northern Afghanistan killed at least 15 people.

The hardline Islamist Taliban, which seized power after U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew in August 2021, have said they are focused on securing the country.

Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e-Islami in the mid-1970s as one of the main mujahideen groups fighting the 1980s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from its base in Pakistan. He held the office of prime minister twice during the 1990s.

your ad here

India Cannot Ditch Coal Despite Ramping Up Green Energy

India is increasing the pace of green energy projects to cut carbon emissions, but coal use has also been rising this year. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, that could set back efforts to reach India’s target net zero carbon emissions by 2070 seen as critical to deal with global climate change.

your ad here

Health Care Access Difficult for HIV Patients in Flood-Ravaged Areas of Pakistan

In the highly conservative country of Pakistan, AIDS patients often face discrimination that keeps them from disclosing their diagnosis. Hundreds of HIV cases reported in Sindh Province in 2019 included children. That region was recently devastated by floods, making access to health care for HIV patients even more difficult. VOA’s Sidra Dar reports from Sindh Province, in this report narrated by Asadullah Khalid.
Camera: Muhammad Khalil

your ad here

Messi Fans from Asia Cheer on Argentina at World Cup

On their way to Argentina’s decisive game against Poland, Mohit Daga and Aayush Verma approached the stadium carrying a massive painting of their heroes Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona with the World Cup trophy.

Daga had spent 17 days painting it. It weighed 5 kilograms (11 pounds). An offering. Anything for Messi, whom he described as a “god.”

“He is the epitome of everything. He is the source of inspiration and happiness,” said Daga, who is from Kolkata, India. “He brings happiness to our life.”

Argentina is finding a legion of passionate superfans from India, Bangladesh and other Asian countries at the World Cup in Qatar.

Thousands have traveled to the Gulf nation specifically to see Messi and his team with their own eyes, while many others are among migrant workers that make up about 90% of the emirate’s population of 3 million.

Other fans cheered from afar. In Indonesia, social media showed hundreds of people celebrating Argentina’s team’s 2-0 win over Poland after watching the game on large screens. They paraded on motorbikes waving flags after Argentina secured progress to the knockout stages. A newsreader wore an Argentina shirt during a broadcast.

Smitha Issac, originally from India, now living in Qatar, was attending the game with her family, including two sons who were “too excited” to see Messi.

“He is something like Messiah,” Isaac said. “We are expecting that he will just make something like magic today.”

Outside Stadium 974 shortly before kickoff on Wednesday, Argentina fans were still scrambling for any spare tickets to see the game. Demand far outstripped supply for the 44,000-capacity stadium.

Mohammed Haque from Bangladesh, now living in Australia, was one of the lucky ticket holders. He waved a large Argentina flag as he walked toward the flood-lit stadium made of shipping containers, approaching it like a holy shrine.

“It’s unbelievable,” Haque said of seeing Messi for the first time.

“I’ve actually been preparing for the last two or three weeks for this. I had a sleepless night last night.”

Argentina has had a big following in Bangladesh since the days of Maradona, one of the greatest to play the game, and an icon to fans around the world.

“Diego Maradona, he was exceptional. And from then I just loved this country and especially the soccer every time,” Haque said. “Then later, [Gabriel] Batistuta, [Hernan] Crespo, every Argentine player, and now Messi is the legend.”

Bangladesh, India and Pakistan — where cricket is king — have never played a World Cup. So, when the tournament comes along, many soccer fans typically root for Argentina or Brazil, soccer powerhouses admired for their attacking style of play and a long line of international stars, including Messi, Maradona and Pele.

Fans who had traveled from Argentina to support their team in Qatar were delighted with the support from non-Argentines.

“We love to see other countries showing their love for Messi and Maradona,” said Mauricio Neraj from Mendoza, Argentina. He posed for pictures next to the painting of Messi and Maradona by Daga outside the stadium.

Argentina’s soccer federation praised the support from Bangladeshis on social media on Thursday.

“Thank you for supporting our team. You are as crazy as we are!” the federation said in a Twitter post with photos showing Bangladeshi fans wearing Argentina’s sky blue and white jersey.

Some of the South Asian fans in Qatar said they were deeply hurt by speculation on social media and in some Western media before the tournament that they were hired actors, paid by Qatar to fill the stadiums. The World Cup organizing committee rejected the reports as false.

“It is coming from the bottom of our hearts. It is not coming from any outside forcing or anything like that,” said Binoy John, and Indian worker in Qatar who has been an Argentina fan since childhood when he saw Maradona lead Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup. “All the fans are true fans. There is nothing like fake fans out here.”

Argentina has a following among Arab soccer fans, too. Messi devotion brought Ahmed Qassim Nasher from Yemen to see his favorite player as Argentina advanced.

“Football is a festival, joy, celebrations. It connects people from different nationalities, different languages, and different ethnicities,” Nasher said. “You will find Arabs and non-Arabs coming to cheer for Messi. It’s common sense that he will have the best audience and fans, because he is the best player throughout history.”

your ad here

Pakistan Questions Anti-Terror Pledges by Afghanistan’s Taliban

Pakistan warned Thursday that cross-border terrorism emanating from Afghanistan “is both alarming and dangerous” for regional peace, calling on the neighboring country’s ruling Taliban to honor their anti-terror pledges.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah issued the warning amid a new wave of deadly terrorist attacks in Pakistan that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, mostly security forces.

Outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), known as the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed credit for plotting much of the violence. Leaders and commanders of the group, an offshoot and ally of the Afghan Taliban, have largely taken refuge in Afghanistan.

“If the TTP is claiming responsibility for terrorist activities in Pakistan, it should be a matter of serious concern for the government of Afghanistan because their soil is being used for terrorism,” Sanaullah told reporters in Islamabad.

“[The Taliban] have given assurances to the world that they would not allow the use of Afghanistan’s soil by terrorist outfits, and they should deliver on their pledges.”

The Afghan Taliban deny they allow TTP or any other group to use Afghan territory for plotting cross-border terrorist attacks, promising they will try for treason anyone found guilty of such crimes.

Suicide bombing

Sanaullah spoke a day after TTP claimed credit for a suicide bombing of a truck transporting policeman on their way to protect medical workers administering polio vaccines in southwestern Baluchistan province.

The blast in the provincial capital, Quetta, killed at least four people and wounded more than two dozen, mostly policemen.

TTP is listed as a global terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations. It has carried out hundreds of suicide attacks and other terrorist strikes in Pakistan, killing tens of thousands of people since 2007 when the group emerged in volatile districts along the Afghan border.

Pakistan sustained years of counterterrorism military operations, which forced TTP members to flee to Afghanistan and establish sanctuaries there. But the return to power in Kabul of the Taliban in August 2021 has emboldened TTP members, and they enjoy greater operational freedom on the other side of the border, Pakistani officials maintain.

Sanaullah noted up to 7,000 combatants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and their families are currently sheltering on Afghan soil, saying the government is ready to talk with them to facilitate their repatriation if they agree to surrender and hand over their weapons in compliance with Pakistani laws.

TTP announces end to unilateral “cease-fire”

On Wednesday, the TTP said it was ending a unilateral “cease-fire” with the government and resuming attacks across Pakistan in retaliation for the government’s military operations against the group.

Pakistani officials rejected the claims as “lame excuses” and said the operations were launched to prevent TTP fighters from regrouping or reorganizing in the country.

The militant truce stemmed from several rounds of talks the Taliban government in Afghanistan recently brokered and hosted between Pakistani and TTP representatives.

your ad here

India Dismisses Chinese Objections to India-US Military Drills Near Border

India has dismissed Beijing’s objections to U.S.-India military exercises being held close to India’s disputed border with China.

The drills between Indian and U.S. soldiers began in mid-November and are due to conclude Friday. Part of annual exercises held by the two sides, this year’s maneuvers are taking place in the Himalayan mountains in Auli in Uttarakhand state, about 100 kilometers from the border area, known as the Line of Actual Control.   

China said on Wednesday that the joint exercises “violated the spirit of relevant agreements” between Beijing and New Delhi. “It does not serve the mutual trust between China and India. China has expressed concerns to the Indian side over the military exercise,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing. 

Responding to China’s comments, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said Thursday that “India exercises with whomsoever it chooses to, and it does not give a veto to third countries on this issue.” 

Bagchi said the exercises had nothing to do with the agreements China had referred to. “But since these were raised, the Chinese side needs to reflect upon and think upon its own breach of these agreements,” according to Bagchi.  

Tensions between India and China have escalated since a bloody border clash in 2020 killed 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in the Ladakh area. As a result, both sides continue to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along the disputed border and are rapidly building infrastructure in the Himalayan mountains.   

Following several rounds of talks between the military commanders of the two countries, soldiers have pulled back from some so-called “friction points” along the border where they were posted close to each other, but heavy deployments continue at other points that are of strategic significance to both sides.  

The U.S. Department of Defense said in a report this week that China “warned” U.S. officials not to interfere in its relations with India following the border skirmishes. “The PRC (People’s Republic of China) seeks to prevent border tensions from causing India to partner more closely with the United States,” stated the report on “Military and Security Developments involving China” that was submitted to U.S. lawmakers.  

This year’s drills in Auli were the 18th edition of joint exercises known as “Yudh Abhyas” or “War Practice” that are held alternately in the U.S. and India with the aim of exchanging best practices, tactics and techniques. Last year’s exercises were held in Alaska.  

Before the drills commenced, India’s Ministry of Defense said the exercises will focus on surveillance, mountain-warfare skills, casualty evacuation and combat medical aid in adverse terrain and climatic conditions.   

The exercises are part of deepening military cooperation between New Delhi and Washington, driven by mutual concerns over Beijing’s growing assertiveness. India is part of the Quad alliance, with the U.S, Australia and Japan, that aims to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.   

India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, has reiterated on several forums that New Delhi’s relationship with Beijing cannot be normal without peace in the border areas.

your ad here