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Rockets Fired near Diplomatic Area in Kabul

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Kabul
Downtown are in Kabul. Wikimedia

Kabul, October 21: Three rockets were fired onto a diplomatic area in Kabul on Saturday, Afghan police and witnesses said.

“The attack occurred at around 6.10 a.m., and the rockets struck localities in Police District 10 and Police District 9,” a witness told Xinhua news agency.

However, there were reports of any casualties or injuries.

One rocket reportedly hit a wall at an embassy and two others exploded close to Resolute Support headquarters, Tolo News quoted the police as saying.

Saturday’s incident comes after two suicide attacks took place on Friday in Kabul and Ghor province resulting in the deaths of at least 70 people.

In Kabul, a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside the Imam Zamam mosque in a neighborhood predominantly populated by the Shia Hazara minority, reports Efe news.

The bomber was standing among the congregation. The attack killed 39 people and injured 45 others, according to the Interior Ministry.

About an hour before the blast in Kabul, a suicide attacker detonated explosives at the Khwajagan mosque in the Du-Layna district of Ghor province.

The attack occurred as an important anti-Taliban militiaman, Fazal Hayat Khan, and his men were praying inside, provincial authorities said. At least 31 people were killed.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the three incidents.(IANS)

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Will Pakistan listen to USA and Stop Harboring Taliban and other terrorist groups?

Pakistan said that Afghan Terror groups don't need hideouts or sanctuaries in Pakistan

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A Pakistani border security guard stands alert at Pakistan-Afghanistan border post
A Pakistani border security guard stands alert at Pakistan-Afghanistan border post. VOA
  • America have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time Pakistan is housing the very terrorists they are fighting
  • Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye on the issue of safe havens to Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network
  • Top leaders of both groups-Taliban and the Haqqani network enjoy the ability to live freely in certain parts of Pakistan

Washington, USA, September 2, 2017: In his South Asia strategy speech last week, President Donald Trump publicly puts Pakistan on notice that it must stop providing sanctuaries to armed groups that are fighting in Afghanistan.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” said Trump, laying out his “condition-based approach” to defeating terrorism in Afghanistan.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately,” he vowed.

Washington and Kabul have long accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye on the issue of safe havens to Afghan Taliban and the notorious Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Analysts charge that sanctuaries in Pakistan have helped the militants sustain a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan against the Western-backed Afghan government.

“Top leaders of both groups [Taliban and the Haqqani network] enjoy the ability to live freely in certain parts of Pakistan — mainly Baluchistan province, but also some of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” Michel Kugelman, a South Asia analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told VOA.

“It is not just the leaderships of these groups that enjoy Pakistani largesse; it’s the fighters, too,” he added.

Also Read: The US Designates Hizbul Mujahideen as Foreign Terrorist Organization

Where are the sanctuaries?

Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, is reportedly based in the Pakistani southwestern city of Quetta, which shares a border with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, the traditional stronghold of the Afghan Taliban.

The Haqqani network, one of the most notorious terror groups in the region, is reportedly based in Miram Shah, a town in the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northern Pakistan. The group, which has been blamed for numerous deadly attacks inside Afghanistan against U.S.-led NATO forces and the Afghan government, is reportedly operating with impunity from across the border.

The Afghan government charges that militant sanctuaries are the main reason behind the country’s instability.

“Neighbor countries have been a major part of the problem in Afghanistan. Terrorists’ safe havens and sanctuaries are out of Afghanistan, where they get support, training, and equipment,” Ahmad Shah Katawazai, a defense liaison at the Afghan embassy in Washington, told VOA.

Pakistan’s response

Pakistan maintains that the Afghan Taliban controls large swaths of territory inside Afghanistan and does not need to have sanctuaries inside Pakistan.

“They don’t need hideouts or sanctuaries in Pakistan. They have vast territory [under their control], which is beyond Kabul’s writ, at their disposal. Why would they come to Pakistan for sanctuaries?” Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said over the weekend.

Following Trump’s speech, Pakistan denied the allegations that it harbors militants and cited its sacrifices in the ongoing war against terror as an example of how the country itself has been a victim of terrorism.

In an effort to illustrate its displeasure at the U.S president’s speech, Pakistan postponed Asif’s planned trip to Washington and also delayed a planned visit to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to Islamabad.

Could the U.S. take unilateral action?

As the administration is weighing its options to deal with the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan, some analysts doubt Pakistan will take action against militants operating from its soil unless more rigorous pressure is applied on the country.

“The Trump administration will need to deploy new forms of pressure. Previous forms of pressure — threats, aid conditionalities and aid cuts — have not worked. The administration will need to step up its actions and make them much more draconian — and this is clearly already under consideration,” Kugelman, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, told VOA.

Meanwhile, David Des Roches, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington, believes that while it is unlikely that the Pakistanis would back down publicly, it “is quite possible that they will facilitate enhanced American action against militants in Pakistan.”

What seems unclear so far is to what lengths the U.S. is willing to go as far as tackling the issue of safe havens in Pakistan.

While talking to reporters at the State Department last week, U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that the U.S. would target terrorists “wherever they live” without elaborating further.

“There’s been an erosion of trust because we have witnessed terrorist organizations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen, U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.

Also Read: ‘Blood Stained Hands’ Plan to Take Over Pakistan’s Political Reigns as Terrorist Organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Prepares to Enter Politics

Sanctions

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, told VOA that the U.S. should target Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries inside Pakistan and push Islamabad “out of its comfort zone.”

“Pakistan has become comfortable with its dual policy; receives U.S. assistance and works to defeat the U.S. in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad said.

He advocated for sanctions against senior military and intelligence officers who support extremist groups.

“Take Pakistan off the list of the major non-NATO ally, which provides the opportunity to receive significant security assistance; suspend assistance program; push IMF, World Bank, and Asian and European allies to suspend assistance programs,” Khalilzad added.

“If America imposes sanctions, Pakistan will probably be unable to receive assistance from IMF and the World Bank, and international companies will not be willing to invest in Pakistan,” Saad Mohammad Khan, a retired Pakistani military leader, told VOA. (VOA)

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Martial Arts in Afghanistan is a welcome distraction to the Violence besetting the Country

Presently, only men have competed in the handful of competitions, but organizers say they are training women fighters. The walls of the club feature posters of American martial arts competitor Ronda Rousey.

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Afghan competitors fight during a mixed martial arts match in Kabul, Afghanistan, VOA

In a custom-built arena in Kabul, crowds cheered as young Afghan men punched, kicked and wrestled in the country’s first professional mixed martial arts league, a welcome distraction to the violence besetting the country.

While cricket and football more commonly grab public attention in Afghanistan, fighters and fans see martial arts not just as entertainment but as a constructive pastime for youths in a country torn by war and economic malaise.

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Against a soundtrack of booming music and shouts of encouragement, sweat, and blood mixed inside the cage. Each match, however, ended in a hug.

Fighters and team members prepare backstage before matches of a mixed martial arts competition in Kabul, Afghanistan, VOA

Outlet for frustration

“I think it provides a very good platform for the social frustrations that we have here in Afghanistan,” said Kakal Noristani, who a year and a half ago helped found the Snow Leopard Fighting Championship.

To date, only men have competed in the handful of competitions, but organizers say they are training women fighters. The walls of the club feature posters of American martial arts competitor Ronda Rousey.

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Noristani and his partners want to develop mixed martial arts as a professional sport in Afghanistan, hoping to host foreign fighters and send Afghan competitors abroad.

“We’ve just begun here in Afghanistan,” Noristani said. “The professional structure was nonexistent before this.”

That’s helped some fighters dream of national and international glory.

“This is the wish of every fighter: To reach the highest level and be able to fight abroad,” said Mir Baba Nadery, who won his match that night.

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Diversion from the war

Outside the cage, spectators expressed gratitude for a diversion from the country’s woes.

“Coming to these kinds of events takes your mind off of our problems,” said Nadia Sina. “We are happy to see such an organization encouraging sportsmen and improving the sport in the country.” (VOA)

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Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens in Afghan Shi’ite Mosque in Kabul

The Middle Eastern-based terrorist group in July this year struck a peaceful demonstration in Kabul in which more than 80 people were killed while many more were wounded

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Afghan security forces keep watch in front of a mosque where an explosion happened in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2016.VOA

Islamabad, November 22, 2016: Authorities in Afghanistan say a suicide blast at a Shi’ite mosque in Kabul Monday killed at least 33 people and wounded scores more.

The bomber entered the crowded Baqir ul Olum Mosque during a ceremony and detonated the explosives strapped to his body among the worshipers.

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General Faridoon Obaidi, head of Kabul’s Criminal Investigation Department, told reporters the powerful explosion wounded more than 50 people. He added that the dead and wounded were all civilians.

Authorities in Afghanistan say the suicide blast killed at least 33 people and wounded scores more Click To Tweet

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah condemned the attack, saying it targeted “innocent civilians – including children – in a holy place. It is a war crime and an act against Islam.”

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There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bloodshed.

A Taliban spokesman in a brief statement sent to reporters denied involved in the bombing, saying the Taliban had nothing to do with it.

Attacks on Shi’ite worship places in Afghanistan have lately been claimed by Islamic State.

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The Middle Eastern-based terrorist group in July this year struck a peaceful demonstration in Kabul in which more than 80 people, mostly members of the Shi’ite Hazara community, were killed while many more were wounded. (VOA)