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Taliban siege at Afghan airport; 37 killed

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Afghan security forces on Wednesday battled Taliban insurgents wearing military uniforms who stormed the airport complex in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar in an attack that killed 37 civilians as President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday sought to revive peace talks at a regional conference.

The airport serves as a base for U.S. forces and CIA operations in southern Afghanistan, and is also used by Afghan forces.

Nearly 24 hours after the siege began, one of the 11 assailants was still holding out against security forces late on Wednesday, in the most serious attack on the largest military installation in the south of the country in 14 years of war.

Witnesses said the militants had taken families hostage, using them as “human shields” after storming the sprawling complex, and slowing down the military’s clearance operation. “The fighting started around 6:00 PM (on Tuesday) and intensified over the night,” 30-year-old university student Izatullah, who lives inside the complex, said.

“Soldiers were calling on Taliban attackers to let women and children go, but the attackers declined. We could hear children screaming during the fighting.” The Afghan defence ministry on Wednesday evening said nine insurgents had been gunned down, one was injured and another was still holed up inside a building.

“Unfortunately during the battle, 37 innocent Afghans were killed and 35 others injured,” the ministry added. It did not offer any breakdown of the casualties, but a Western official briefed on the matter said that it included a large number of civilians.

“This is the most serious attack we’ve witnessed against the (Kandahar) complex”, which also houses a joint NATO-Afghan base, the official said. The militants managed to breach the first gate of the high-security air field and took up position in an old school building, engaging security forces in fierce firefights.

The Taliban posted a picture on their website of the militants it said were involved in the brazen attack. It shows 10 young men sporting trimmed beards, Kalashnikovs and identical military uniforms. The face of one of them is obscured with blue ink for reasons that were not revealed. “The martyrdom seekers… entered Kandahar airbase undetected… and began thunderous attacks,” the post said.

wefornews bureau

Politics

China must respect norms, use diplomacy to resolve border issue with India: Top US Congressman

Eliot L Engel, who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs, said, “China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law.”

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Washington, June 2 : The US censured China for resorting to aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and not resolving the conflict as per the international law.

In the first comments from Capitol Hill on the ongoing tension along the India-China border, a top US Congressman — who heads the powerful House panel on Foreign affairs — has expressed “concern”, called China a “bully”, and “strongly” urged China to “respect norms and use diplomacy” to resolve its border questions with India.

In a statement late on Monday night, US Congress’ House Committee chair Eliot L Engel said, “I am extremely concerned by the ongoing Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control on the India-China border.”

“China is demonstrating once again that it is willing to bully its neighbours rather than resolve conflicts according to international law. Countries must all abide by the same set of rules so that we don’t live in a world where “might makes right,” he said.

“I strongly urge China to respect norms and use diplomacy and existing mechanisms to resolve its border questions with India.”

Engel, an influential Democrat Congressman, has long been a supporter of India. However, External Affairs minister S Jaishankar had cancelled a meeting with Engel and other Congress members in Washington DC last December, over Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s inclusion into the delegation.

In July last year, after US President Donald Trump had falsely claimed that PM Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on Kashmir, Engel had spoken with then Indian ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

“Engel reiterated his support for the longstanding US position on the Kashmir dispute, saying he supported dialogue between India and Pakistan, but reaffirmed that the dialogue’s pace and scope can only be determined by India and Pakistan,” he had said in a statement.

During the call, Engel “reaffirmed that in order for dialogue to be meaningful, Pakistan must first take concrete and irreversible steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure” on its soil, the statement had said.

Last week, on May 29, Trump had claimed that he spoke to PM Modi about the India-China border, but sources in New Delhi said there has been “no recent contact” between the two leaders and the last conversation took place almost two months ago, on April 4.

Trump had claimed that he had spoken to Modi, who was “not in a good mood” about what’s going on with China. The US President made those remarks in response to questions at the White House.

“They have a big conflict going with India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people. Two countries with very powerful militaries. And India is not happy, and probably China is not happy. But I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He’s not — he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China,” the US President had said.

That had been the only comment so far from the US on the ongoing India-China border tension.

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Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accuses US of ‘double standards’ over protests

According to local lawyers and activists, the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Hong Kong, June 2 : Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday accused the US government of double standards when addressing the pro-democratic protests that occurred in the Asian city and the current protests against racism across American.

“We now see how local authorities are handling the revolts in the US, compared to the position they took last year when almost the same riots occurred in Hong Kong,” Lam said during her weekly press conference.

The controversial Hong Kong leader spread this accusation to other foreign governments, although she did not give names: “They are very concerned about their own national security, but about our national security… They see it through tinted glasses,” Efe news reported.

On Monday, the US was still mired in protests and riots, despite the curfews declared in the major cities, a week since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in the city of Minneapolis.

Last week, US President Donald Trump had ordered to start a process to finalize Hong Kong”s preferred trade status.

In this regard, Lam was of the opinion that it would not benefit either party and proove more harmful to both.

This latest decision by Trump is a response to the approval by the Chinese legislature of a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that aims, very broadly, to eradicate any loophole of “foreign interference” in the former British colony and that was endorsed last Thursday by China.

The law could allow Chinese security forces to operate freely in Hong Kong and carry out enforcement techniques such as those commonly practiced in mainland China.

According to local lawyers and activists, the legislation could curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city.

–IANS

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7 million Afghan kids affected by COVID-19 pandemic

A new report by the National Statistics and Information Authority shows that nearly half of the estimated 32.9 million Afghan population is under 15 years of age.

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Afghan kids

Kabul, June 2 : The coronavirus pandemic has left more than 7 million children in Afghanistan prone to poverty, barring them from their basic rights in a country where half the population is under 15 years of age, a rights group said.

“The COVID-19 crisis exposes more than seven million Afghan children to the threat of hunger. Also, the children who have been deprived of school in the last three months have not had access to their basic right that is education,” TOLO News quoted Maryam Ataee, spokesperson for Save the Children, as saying in the report on Monday.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan stood at 15,750, with 265 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Citing Unicef figures, Ghulam Hairdar Jailani, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said that about six million children were prone to danger.

“We have 3.1 million children that are highly vulnerable and 1.2 million working children,” he said.

Meanwhile, Naeem Nazari, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that despite “big commitments by the government, the situation of children in terms of access to education, child marriages and sexual abuse is critical and unacceptable”.

A new report by the National Statistics and Information Authority shows that nearly half of the estimated 32.9 million Afghan population is under 15 years of age.

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