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Head of Sikh Community Lala Del Souz shot dead in Afghanistan due to issues related to Minority Community

The incident occurred at 9am in the Haji Gulistan Kochi Haman area of the city

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Taliban fighters pose with weapons in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan October 30, 2009. VOA

Afghanistan, Dec 29, 2016: The head of the Sikh community of the Kunduz city of Afghanistan, Lala Del Souz, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Thursday in Haji Gulistan Kochi Haman area of Kunduz.

These incidents targeted against the minority community have forced them to leave the country.

According to the PTI report, Souz, a naturopath, surrendered to his injuries on the way to the hospital.

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Masoum Stanikzai, Security Chief of Kunduz, confirmed the incident and told media that 3 suspects have been arrested. He said that investigation will continue.

Del Souz’s uncle said that his nephew had no enemies. Five years ago, Del Souz was shot, but he survived. He said that the few remaining Sikhs of the Kunduz province will leave the place if the responsible are not brought to justice.

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In October, another Sikh, Sardar Rawail Singh, was abducted from his house and gunned down in the Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan.

Del Souz’s killing has produced an outcry in the social media. Hundreds of people have condemned the incident and many have sent condolences to his family.

After the collapse of Kunduz province to the Taliban, many Sikhs have left the area. Del Souz had moved his family to India. He was staying in a Dharamshala with his Uncle.

Once, there were about 40 Sikh families in the Kunduz province. Now, only 3 families live there.

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According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, after Taliban launched an offensive to take over the region in October, more than 30,000 civilians have left the Kunduz province.

According to PTI, about 99 percent of Hindus and Sikhs have left Afghanistan in the past three decades. In the 1980s, the population of Hindus and Sikhs was numbered 220,000. Now, only 1,350 Hindus and Sikhs are left.

Prepared by Diksha Arya of NewsGram. Twitter: @diksha_arya53

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Taliban Seeking Recognition of Qatar Office Ahead of Fresh Talks With US

No government envoys attended the Moscow meeting because the Taliban refuses to talk to Afghan officials.

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FILE - In this photo released by the Afghan Presidential Palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The Taliban says it hopes ongoing negotiations with the United States would bring a long-demanded formal recognition for the insurgent group’s “political office” in Qatar, insisting it would help accelerate consultations over the endgame in the Afghan war.

The Taliban has been informally running the office in Doha, the Qatari capital, since 2013, but the host country has not allowed it to use the facility for any public dealings under objections from the Afghan government.

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team in recent months have held several meetings with Taliban envoys mostly in Doha. The two sides are set to meet there again on Feb. 25 to build on “significant progress” they made in six days of marathon talks in January.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, in an interview told VOA that all their meetings with U.S. interlocutors and other foreign delegations take place in different hotels, making it difficult for his group to timely share details or progress with media.

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FILE – Suhail Shaheen, then-deputy ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, gives an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 14, 2001. VOA

“We have raised this issue the U.S. delegation,” he said.

Shaheen noted that the Taliban last week held its first formal “intra-Afghan” dialogue in Moscow with a large group of prominent opposition leaders from Afghanistan, and a follow-up meeting of those consultations is scheduled for next month in Doha.

“The delegation from Afghanistan, of course, would come to the office (if it is recognized) and we will have a meeting with them and exchange views about the current peace process and how the Afghan issue can be resolved,” he observed.

No government envoys attended the Moscow meeting because the Taliban refuses to talk to Afghan officials, declaring the Kabul administration an illegal entity or American “puppets.” The rigid insurgent stance has also forced the U.S. to exclude President Ashraf Ghani from the dialogue process.

Ghani slammed the gathering in the Russian capital as an unauthorized dialogue and an attempt by his political opponents to gain power.

On Monday, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, while addressing a weekly meeting of cabinet ministers, blamed “stubbornness of the Taliban” for being the main and only reason behind the war. He criticized the insurgent group for indulging in “propaganda” instead of joining “real talks” with the government. He did not elaborate.

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FILE – Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 4, 2019. VOA

Abdullah’s remarks came a day after President Ghani made an offer to the Taliban to open an office in Afghanistan for conducting talks with his government.

Shaheen dismissed the offer and criticism as an attempt to “harm and derail” the current peace process. “Afghanistan is our own country and we don’t need permission from anyone to open an office there. By making such offers at this stage, they [Ghani government] are trying to harm the peace efforts,” Shaheen said.

The Taliban controls or influences nearly half of Afghanistan, but its leaders and fighters remain under attack from U.S.-backed Afghan ground and air forces. The insurgent group is opposed to ceasing its battlefield attacks until all foreign forces withdraw from the country.

Khalilzad, while delivering a public talk in Washington last week, said that after many conversations, the U.S. has reached “an agreement in principle” with the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees that no terrorist group or individuals would be able to use Afghan soil for attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

“Similarly, we have agreed in principle on a framework for possible U.S. [troop] withdrawal as part of a package deal,” he noted.

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Taliban spokesman Shaheen said that both sides also agreed to appoint two working groups to flesh out these undertakings and bring them to the table for the meeting scheduled for this month in Doha. He anticipated further progress in the upcoming round of talks and vowed to again raise with U.S. delegates the issue of granting formal recognition to the Taliban’s office, because his group is determined to carry forward Afghan peace talks in Doha.

There was no U.S. response available to the Taliban’s demand. (VOA)