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Baby handed to US soldiers in Kabul evacuation chaos still missing

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: November 6, 2021)

A two-month old baby handed over to US soldiers during the chaotic withdrawal process in Kabul in August is still missing.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters, the baby’s father Mirza Ali Ahmadi said it was a split second decision to hand baby Sohail to the soldier over a high fence near the gates of the airport as he feared the infant might get crushed in the chaos.

After handing over Sohail, it took the rest of the family more than a half hour to get to the other side of the airport fence.

Once they were inside, Sohail was nowhere to be found.

Mirza Ali, who said he worked as a security guard at the U.S embassy for 10 years, began desperately asking every official he encountered about his baby’s whereabouts, Reuters reported.

He said a military commander told him the airport was too dangerous for a baby and that he might have been taken to a special area for children. But when they got there it was empty.

“He walked with me all around the airport to search everywhere,” Mirza Ali said in an interview through a translator. He said he never got the commander’s name, as he didn’t speak English and was relying on Afghan colleagues from the embassy to help communicate.

Three days went by.

“I spoke to maybe more than 20 people,” he said. “Every officer – military or civilian – I came across I was asking about my baby.”

He said one of the civilian officials he spoke to told him Sohail might have been evacuated by himself. “They said ‘we don’t have resources to keep the baby here.'”

Mirza Ali, 35, Suraya, 32, and their four other children, were put on an evacuation flight to Qatar and then to Germany and eventually landed in the United States.

The family is now at Fort Bliss in Texas with other Afghan refugees waiting to be resettled somewhere in the United States.

Mirza Ali said he saw other families handing their babies over the Kabul airport fence to soldiers at the same time.

Mirza Ali said every person he comes across – aid workers, U.S. officials – he tells them about Sohail. “Everyone promises they will do their best, but they are just promises,” he said.

An Afghan refugee support group created a “Missing Baby” sign with Sohail’s picture on it and are circulating it among their networks in the hopes that someone will recognize him, Reuters reported.

A U.S. government official familiar with the situation said the case had been flagged for all the agencies involved, including the U.S. bases and overseas locations. The child was last seen being handed to a U.S. soldier during the chaos at the Kabul airport but “unfortunately no one can find the child,” the official said.

A State Department spokesperson said the government is working with international partners and the international community “to explore every avenue to locate the child, which includes an international amber alert that was issued through the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

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India calls for enhancing Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism capability

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

A top Indian official on Friday called for enhancing the capability of Afghanistan to counter terrorism and terrorist groups which pose a threat to regional peace and security.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval made the remarks while addressing the 4th Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.

The two-day meeting was attended by the national security advisers and secretaries of security councils of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.

The officials highlighted the need to find constructive ways to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan and combating risks from terrorism emanating from the region.

“There is a need for all present at the Dialogue to enhance capability of Afghanistan to counter terrorism and terrorist groups which pose a threat to regional peace and security,” Doval said.

He said the foremost priority should be the right to life and a dignified living as well as protection of human rights of all the people in Afghanistan.

“Assistance should be accessible to all, respect for all obligations under international humanitarian law should be ensured,” he added.

In a meeting with his Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of the event, Doval expressed concern over the massive volume of American weapons left in Afghanistan, saying part of it has fallen into the hands of terrorist groups and it poses threats to Afghanistan’s neighbors.

He said that the terrorists are operating freely in Afghanistan, stressing the need for the formation of an inclusive government in the country.

For his part, Shamkhani said that the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of different ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan is a prerequisite for the creation of lasting stability in Afghanistan.

The Security Dialogue on Afghanistan is aimed at firming up a common approach for practical cooperation in confronting increasing threats of terrorism, radicalization and drug trafficking.

Enamullah Samangani, deputy spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said that overall security prevails in Afghanistan. He called on the neighboring and regional countries to cooperate with the Afghan government to further improve security situation, saying it would benefit the region as well.

“IEA is committed to not allow any evil circle to disrupt security of neighboring and regional countries by using Afghanistan soil,” Samangani said.

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IEA reacts to UNSC remarks, says concerns about women’s rights ‘unfounded’

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

The Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), has reacted to remarks by the UN Security Council that women’s rights are being violated and said in a statement the comments were “unfounded”.

The statement, issued on Friday also welcomed the UNSC’s decision to revive banking and financial systems and humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. The IEA once again called on the US to unconditionally release Afghanistan’s assets and lift all economic sanctions.

“Since the people of Afghanistan are predominantly Muslim, the Afghan government considers the observance of Islamic Hijab to be in line with the religious and cultural practices of society and aspirations of majority of Afghan women, and stresses that nothing has been imposed on the Afghan people that runs counter to the religious and cultural beliefs of the Islamic society,” the statement read.

“Whilst the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan respects freedom of religion of people and believes in resolving problems through dialogue, it also expects world countries to discern objective realities of Afghan society, show respect towards the religious and cultural values of the Afghan people and not pass verdicts based on malicious and antagonist reporting of some media outlets or propaganda by opposition to the Islamic Emirate.”

The statement comes after Tuesday’s request by the UNSC for the IEA to “swiftly reverse” policies and practices that are restricting the human rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls.

The 15-member council expressed “deep concern regarding the increasing erosion of respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan by the Taliban (IEA).”

This came after the IEA ordered women to cover their faces in public. They also asked television broadcasters to ensure that female presenters on local stations cover their faces when on air.

“The members of the Security Council called on the Taliban (IEA) to swiftly reverse the policies and practices which are currently restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls,” read a Security Council statement.

The Security Council also “reiterated their call on the Taliban (IEA) to adhere to their commitments to reopen schools for all female students without further delay.”

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United Nations Chief condemns recent attacks in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: May 27, 2022)

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned this week’s attacks in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, in Balkh province, that left at least 16 people dead and dozens wounded.

In a statement issued on Friday, Guterres expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery. He also reiterated that civilians are not targets.

“I condemn the recent attacks in Afghanistan, which claimed many civilian lives, including members of the Hazara Shia community,” Guterres tweeted.

He also said: “I repeat; Attacks against civilians are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law. Civilians are not a target.”

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General says attacks on civilians and public places, including mosques, are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Guterres also reiterated his call on all parties to consider the protection of civilians and to ensure the protection of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as their right to freedom of religion and expression.

This comes after Wednesday’s explosions in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif in which 16 people were killed and 37 others wounded.

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