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37 killed in Taliban attack on Kandahar airport

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Kabul: At least 37 people, including children, were killed in a Taliban attack on a heavily fortified civilian and military airfield in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

BBC quoted Afghan defense ministry while confirming the casualties here on Wednesday, At least nine militants were also killed, the minister added.

A number of hostages were seized in the 26-hour attack before Afghan forces retook the airport.

Final “mopping up operations” was under way, military officials said.

The Taliban said a number of suicide fighters managed to enter the base with weapons. They said “martyrdom seekers” launched “thunderous attacks on foreign and hireling personnel”.

The defense ministry statement said that a total of 11 insurgents took part in the attack. At least nine were killed and another was injured. Reports said the final gunman held out on his own for several hours before being killed late Wednesday.

At least 37 people were injured in the attack, the defense ministry said.

The raid was the latest in a series of battlefield victories by the Taliban, who briefly seized the northern city of Kunduz in September.

The airport compound houses Afghan military and civilian sections as well as a NATO base.

Officials said the attackers initially managed to breach the first gate of the complex.

Kandahar army commander Sher Shah told reporters that radio intercepts had found that some militants were speaking in Urdu – a language more commonly used in neighboring Pakistan.

Afghan officials frequently blame Pakistan for unrest.

The statement by the Taliban claimed that they killed up to 80 soldiers. However, this figure could not be verified.

The latest violence came as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for help to defeat terrorism, at a regional conference in Pakistan.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, speaking at the conference, called on Pakistan to help restart stalled peace talks with the Taliban.

(IANS)

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Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Hold Meeting To Counter Trafficking of Opiate

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts.

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Opium
An Afghan man works on a poppy field in Jalalabad province. VOA

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have pledged to increase cooperation and information-sharing for effectively combating the trafficking of Afghan opiates.

War-shattered Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium, though the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted in its latest survey the opium cultivation decreased by 20 percent in 2018 due to a severe drought and reduced prices.

The illegal opiates are largely smuggled to international markets through Pakistan and Iran.

Need for more initiatives 

Afghan, Pakistan and Iranian counternarcotics officials concluded their two-day UNODC-facilitated interaction Wednesday in Islamabad, where delegates underscored the need for more efforts against the massive flow of illicit drugs.

Participants at the “Triangular Initiative” meeting called for timely sharing of information and conducting simultaneously interdiction operations along their shared largely porous borders.

oPIUM CULTIVATION
In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

The forum was established in 2007 with a mission to promote regional cooperation to reduce the poppy cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs in the region and beyond.

Officials acknowledged that despite Afghanistan’s political tensions with Pakistan and Iran anti-drugs cooperation largely continues.

Renewed attitude 

Cesar Guedes, UNODC representative in Pakistan, noted the three countries attended the Islamabad meeting with “a revived attitude and role”, raising prospects for more effective counternarcotics efforts in 2019.

“More needs to be done because the level of [Afghan opium] production has also increased. They need really to coordinate closer in their joint efforts,” he told VOA

Guedes also called for increased international assistance, saying Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran alone cannot curb the menace of drugs.

opium
FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

“This has to be done in the framework of shared responsibility. All the countries, producers, consumers and transit need to join the effort,” he said.

Despite many challenges facing the government, the head of the Afghan delegation said authorities have taken significant steps to eradicate drug trafficking.

US assistance 
Director General for Policy Planing at the Afghan Ministry of Narcotics, Mohammad Osman Frotan, said 89 percent of poppy cultivation this year has taken place in the Afghan provinces most hit by insurgent activities. He said counternarcotics authorities during 2018 have seized more than 433 tons of different types of drugs, and arrested and prosecuted almost 4,000 suspects.

Also Read: Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts. But the effort has failed to stop opium production, which increased to record highs and stood at an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017. Critics blamed insecurity, rampant corruption and patronage by influential Afghans for the unprecedented growth. (VOA)