Children evacuated from schools as violence breaks out in Beirut
Children were evacuated from schools and the military was deployed to the streets of Beirut on Thursday afternoon as violence broke out during a protest rally in the Lebanese capital.
By late Thursday afternoon the death toll climbed to four, including a woman who died from a bullet wound in her house, a military source said.
Lebanese Shi’ite parties Hezbollah and Amal said armed groups had fired at protesters from rooftops in Beirut on Thursday, aiming at their heads in an attack they said aimed to drag the country to strife.
In a statement, the parties called on the army to intervene quickly to detain the perpetrators and called on their supporters to remain calm, Reuters reported.
Bursts of gunfire were heard for several hours, along with several explosions which appeared to be rocket propelled-grenades fired into the air, Reuters witnesses said.
Video footage from Lebanese TV station Al Jadeed showed plumes of smoke rising from the streets, as flames burned in the aftermath of an explosion.
The Lebanese army said in a statement the gunfire had targeted protesters as they passed through a traffic circle located in an area dividing Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighborhoods.
As Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm, a military source told Reuters two people had been killed and seven more wounded.
The shooting began from the Christian neighborhood of Ain el-Remmaneh before spiraling into an exchange of fire, the source added.
Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said “two martyrs” and a number of wounded had been taken to a hospital in the Shi’ite southern suburbs, indicating that the casualties were Shi’ites.
The Lebanese army deployed heavily in the area and said it would open fire against any armed person on the road.
Political tensions over the probe into the port explosion have been building, with the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah leading calls for Bitar’s removal, accusing him of bias.
The explosion, in August last year, killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut.
Afghanistan makes history after beating Pakistan in T20I series
Afghanistan made history on Sunday night when they beat long-time rival Pakistan in their second successive T20I match in Sharjah to win the series.
Sunday’s match saw Afghanistan beat Pakistan by 7 wickets with one ball remaining.
This is the first time in Afghanistan’s cricketing history that they have beaten Pakistan in an international series and as fans back home and across the world erupted with joy after a nail-biting last two overs, congratulations started pouring in.
Afghanistan Cricket Board said it was a “momentous occasion for Afghanistan cricket!”
The board said in a tweet that the team had “created history by securing their first-ever T20I series win over traditional rivals Pakistan. It’s a triumph of grit, courage, and teamwork.”
Rashid Khan’s squad did indeed show grit, courage and teamwork and after winning the toss and opting to bat first, Pakistan faced an early blow from Fazalhaq Farooqi who dismissed Saim Ayub for a duck on the second ball of the innings.
He then trapped Abdullah Shafique LBW on the very next delivery to take Afghanistan to a dream start. Pakistan kept on losing wickets at regular intervals but Imad Wasim’s 64 not out off 57 and Shadab’s 32 off 25 took them to a respectable total.
Chasing a target of 131 runs, Afghanistan were calm and focused throughout the second innings but needing 30 runs off the last three overs, and 22 from the last two overs.
However Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi hit a six each off pace bowler Naseem Shah in the penultimate over to reduce the target to five runs. Zadran then hit the winning boundary off Zaman Khan’s last over to chase down the 131-run target with one ball to spare.
This was Afghanistan’s first bilateral T20I series against any of the top six teams — India, England, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
They have previously won a T20I series each against the West Indies and Bangladesh and five in five against Zimbabwe.
Khalilzad slams ‘brutal’ but ‘failed’ regime in Iran
Former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on Sunday called the Iranian regime a “political and economic failure at home and a growing threat to the region and the world”.
In an interview with UK-based Iran International, Khalilzad said the Tehran regime has lost the support of the Iranian people.
Following up with a detailed tweet after the interview, the former envoy said the Iranian “regime rules through brutal suppression of those who back the Zan (women), Zendagi (life), and Azadi (freedom) movements.
Referring to the ongoing poisoning mystery, he said “many female students have been poisoned at school.”
He also lashed out and said: “Iran has become the capital of al-Qaeda, is determined to acquire nuclear weapons, and provides military support to Russia in its aggression in Ukraine.”
Khalilzad also stated that the Iranian regime “might well use al-Qaeda to target regime opponents abroad and former US officials it has declared it wants to kill.”
He said the Biden administration and US Congress needs to increase support for Iran’s democratic opposition, isolate Iran internationally, press allies to declare Iran’s special military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization, and downgrade relations with the regime by withdrawing their Ambassadors.
“We must increase sanctions, especially stopping the import of Iranian oil. We must also strengthen deterrence against potential Iranian aggression,” he said.
Mohammad Sadiq resigns as Pakistan’s special envoy to Afghanistan
Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special representative to Afghanistan, resigned from his post on Wednesday.
“After serving close to three years as Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, I have requested the government that the time had come for me to move on and focus on my personal pursuits — family, books and agriculture/environment,” he said in a series of tweets.
Sadiq said that he was grateful to the prime minister and all the other stakeholders for their “wholehearted support” to him as the special envoy.
“I deeply appreciate the hard work of many of my colleagues who spent long hours to make the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship work,” he added.
Sadiq was appointed to the Afghan position in June 2020 and had worked closely with other envoys during the peace talks process between the US and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in the lead up to the signing of the Doha Agreement on February 29, 2020.
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