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Taliban attack Kabul diplomatic quarter:Spaniard among five killed

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At least four Afghan policemen and one Spaniard were killed in an hours-long Taliban siege near the Spanish embassy in Kabul, the latest high-profile insurgent attack.

Multiple blasts and gunfire rocked Kabul’s diplomatic quarter after the brazen raid began yesterday, just hours after President Ashraf Ghani voiced optimism that a peace process with the Taliban would resume within weeks.

“Afghan special forces have killed four attackers who were involved in the terrorist attack in Kabul,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told

“Unfortunately four policemen were also martyred in the attack.” The government in Madrid had earlier confirmed that a Spanish policemen was also killed in the assault, which began when a huge car bomb struck during rush hour yesterday.

The powerful blast, which sent a thick plume of smoke into the sky, was followed by multiple explosions through the night along with sporadic bursts of gunfire.

Security men near the embassy ducked from gunshots as they hauled away a limp body and two wounded men through the dark to a waiting ambulance — one bleeding from the head, the other a policeman with a gunshot wound to his leg — an AFP photographer saw.

Sediqqi told  the last of the four assailants was killed in the early hours today. The attack follows a deadly 27-hour Taliban siege of Kandahar airport this week as the militants ramp up attacks despite the onset of the harsh winter season, when the fighting usually calms down.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack, saying the target was a foreign guest house.

The Spanish embassy was earlier reported to be the target of the attack, but Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy clarified that the assault was nearby and not on the compound.

“It was an attack against some guesthouses very near the embassy,” Rajoy said, confirming a Spanish policeman had been killed and all embassy staff had been evacuated as Afghan special forces cordoned off the area in Sherpur district in central Kabul.

Sherpur is home to several foreign NGOs and the residences of senior government officials, including controversial former warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghanistan’s first vice-president.

The attack comes just days after president Ghani’s high-profile visit to Pakistan, where he shored up international support to restart peace talks with the Taliban.

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Prachanda faction expels Prime Minister Oli from party

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Discord and division continue inside the Nepal Communist Party, which has not split formally but has virtually fallen apart after Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli unilaterally decided to dissolve the House of Representatives on December 20 without the party’s consent.

Since then, the Nepal Communist Party is acting like two parties — one headed by Oli himself and the other led by former Prime Ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal. Both sides are running separate programmes across the country under the same banner as they await official recognition from the Election Commission.

Amid this row, the Prachanda-Nepal faction has taken disciplinary action against Oli.

A Standing Committee meeting of the faction held on Sunday decided to expel Oli from the party, its spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha told the media.

The dissident faction has alleged Oli breached the party discipline and is liable to expulsion from the party. It had earlier relieved him from the post of party Chairman.

According to Pampha Bhusal, leader of the dissident faction, Sunday’s meeting decided to expel Oli even from the general membership, accusing him of violating the party statutes.

“He (Oli) is not even an ordinary member of the party now,” Bhusal said.

The faction had earlier asked Oli to furnish, within three days, an explanation why not action should be not taken against him for anti-party activities.

The faction had handed over this notice to the Prime Minister’s residence. However, Oli did not respond to the letter. Sunday’s meeting also reviewed the protest programme and discussed a new protest plan.

The faction had taken to the streets against the dissolution of the House of Representatives, terming the move unconstitutional and undemocratic.

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Pak okays Russian vaccine for ’emergency use’

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The Sputnik V has become the third vaccine to be approved for emergency use in the country — the first one being the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and the second one by Chinese state-owned firm Sinopharm. 

“In a meeting conducted by the registration board of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), another vaccine has also been given EUA which was developed with the backing of Russian Develop­ment Investment Fund,” Dawn news reported on Sunday citing the official as saying. 
“Russia’s state-owned Sputnik-V has developed a double-dose vaccine, which is administered by syringes,” said the official. 

A local pharmaceutical AGP, he said, had been authorised as the sole importer and distributor of the Russian vaccine. 
The development comes as Pakistan’s overall coronavirus caseload has increased to 532,412 as of Sunday, while the death toll stood at 11,295.

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Twitter locks account of Chinese Embassy in US over Uyghur tweet

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Twitter has locked the official account of China’s Embassy in the US over a controversial post that referred to Muslim Uyghur women as “baby-making machines” prior to government intervention.

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