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Taliban storm Afghanistan’s Ghazni, seize parts of city

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South China Morning Post

Kabul, Aug 10 : The Taliban launched a massive offensive in Afghanistan’s Ghazni city on Friday amid reports of multiple casualties even as heavy fighting continued between the government forces and militants.

Afghan soldiers fought back as militants converged from four sides of the city, resulting in several deaths on all sides, Ghazni provincial government spokesman Mohammad Arif Noori said.

Sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the provincial city as Afghan forces exchanged fire with militants. The spokesperson said that a group of Taliban fighters who had made their way into the city were holed up near the provincial police headquarters and were firing on the building, CNN reported.

Noori claimed that Ghazni security forces managed to drive out most of the Taliban forces from the city centre but as per reports, residents in several neighbourhoods said that heavy fighting was ongoing around them.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement to the media that the Taliban entered Ghazni city around 1 a.m. and captured a number of strategic sites within the city.

“Hundreds of Mujahedeen entered the city, captured the police headquarters and all six police districts and an important military base, Bala Hesar,” he said.

“Attacks were underway on the governor’s office, the National Directorate for Security (Afghan intelligence agency) headquarters and other government offices,” he said, adding that more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed.

One resident Nasir Ahmad Faqiri told the New York Times that the militants were fighting with “their whole power”.

“There are Taliban militants in all roads and streets of the city, but they are facing strong resistance from government forces,” he said.

The Ghazni attack was the second assault on an Afghan city this year. In May, insurgents overran the western city of Farah, but they left a day later amid counterattacks from the Afghan government and American airstrikes.

The Afghan government had unilaterally called off a ceasefire with the militant group that it had in place for Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In a tweet, US Forces Afghanistan called the attack a “failed attempt to seize terrain”, saying that Afghan forces were able to maintain control of government buildings.

“US Forces responded with close-air support this morning in #Ghazni. Afghan forces held their ground and maintain control of all (government) centres. Another failed attempt by Taliban to seize terrain, while creating strategically inconsequential headlines,” it read.

IANS

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Anna Burns wins 50th Man Booker Prize for ‘Milkman’

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London, Oct 17: Anna Burns from Northern Ireland has won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her third novel “Milkman”. She won the much coveted 50,000 pound award for her timely, troubles-set novel about a young woman being sexually harassed by a powerful man.

Burns, 56, became the first Northern Irish winner of the award and accepted the prize at a ceremony at Guildhall here late on Tuesday.

She is also the first female winner since 2012, when Hilary Mantel took the award with “Bring Up the Bodies”.

Booker’s chair of judges, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said that the novel is “incredibly original”.

“Milkman” is narrated by an unnamed 18-year-old girl, known as “middle sister”, who is being pursued by a much older paramilitary figure, the milkman.

“None of us has ever read anything like this before,” said Appiah, announcing the prize.

“Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in a surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour.”

Written in lengthy blocks of paragraphs, eschewing character names for descriptions, Appiah admitted that “Milkman” could be seen as “challenging, but in the way a walk up Snowdon is challenging. It is definitely worth it because the view is terrific when you get to the top,” he said.

Previous Irish winners, including John Banville, Anne Enright and Roddy Doyle, all come from the Irish Republic.

Burns beat writers including American literary heavyweight Richard Powers, Canadian Esi Edugyan and Daisy Johnson, at 27 the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the award.

According to Appiah, the judges, picking from a shortlist that delved into some dark themes, were “unanimous” in their choice of winner — and not influenced by concerns that picking a third American winner in a row could cause controversy.

Burns, who was born in Belfast and now lives in East Sussex, drew on her own experiences growing up in what she called “a place that was rife with violence, distrust and paranoia”.

As the milkman presses his advances on the reluctant middle sister, rumours begin that she is having an affair with him.

Milkman also spoke to the concerns of today, Appiah said. “I think this novel will help people think about #MeToo … It is to be commended for giving us a deep and subtle and morally and intellectually challenging picture of what #MeToo is about.”

First awarded in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is recognised as the leading award for quality literary fiction written in English.

Its list of winners includes many of the giants of the last five decades, from Salman Rushdie to Margaret Atwood, Iris Murdoch to J.M. Coetzee.

The prize has also recognised many authors early in their careers, including Eleanor Catton, Aravind Adiga and Ben Okri.

No Indian authors were longlisted or shortlisted for the 50th edition of the prize.

IANS

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Pakistan hangs 6-year-old Zainab’s killer

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Policemen escort Imran Ali as the suspect leaves an anti terrorism court. (File Photo- AFP)

Islamabad, Oct 17: Pakistan early on Wednesday hanged a man convicted for the rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab Ansari in January.

Imran Ali, who was arrested after her body was found in a garbage dump, was executed in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison, police said.

Zainab’s father and other relatives were present. Zainab’s father, Amin Ansari told the BBC after the execution that he was “satisfied”.

“I have seen his awe-inspiring end with my own eyes. They dropped him on the gallows, and let his body hang for half an hour,” he told reporters.

The case, the most heinous in a string of similar child murders in the city of Kasur, had sparked outrage and protests in the country.

Zainab disappeared on January 4 and her body was found five days later in a rubbish dump. She would have been 7 years and 2 months old if she was alive, said Ansari, who expressed regret that authorities did not televise the hanging.

Ansari’s earlier appeal for Ali to face a public hanging was dismissed by the Lahore High court.

Police said there had been several similar child murders in the past two years in Kasur but her killing proved to be a tipping point.

It triggered widespread outrage, including protests complaining of police incompetence. Two people were killed in the ensuing clashes.

Zainab’s family had said the police did not take action during the five days from when she was reported missing until her body was found.

Relatives, not police, had recovered CCTV footage of her last movements.
It showed a girl being led away by a man. Widely circulated on social media with the hashtag #JusticeForZainab later went viral, with many Pakistanis calling for action.

On January 23, 24-year-old Imran Ali was arrested using a DNA match. He was sentenced to death in February for Zainab’s rape and murder.

His appeals against the verdict failed and earlier in October President Arif Alvi rejected a plea for clemency.

IANS

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US strike in Somalia killed 60 militants, Pentagon says

This was the deadliest air strike since November 2017 when 100 militants were killed, the statement added.

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The US military says it believes some 60 al-Shabab militants were killed by one of its air strikes in central Somalia on Friday.

The “precision” strike around Harardere did not injure or kill civilians, it added in a statement.

The US said the attack was carried out as part of a joint effort with Somali forces to hit the al-Shabab group.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has not yet commented.

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