At least 87 Taliban militants were killed during a joint operation by Afghan Security and Defense Forces in northern Balkh province, the Afghan military said.
In a statement released on Monday, the 209th Shaheen Corps said that the operation was conducted in Chimtal, Chahar Bolak, Balkh and Dawlatabad districts of the province during the last week.
According to the statement, at least 87 insurgents including 22 key Taliban commanders were killed and 77 others including 17 commanders of the group were wounded.
During the operation, Afghan forces have arrested seven Taliban militants, the statement said.
Meanwhile, several villages of Balkh were also cleared of the insurgents during the raids, the statement said.
The Afghan forces have also destroyed a number of Taliban’s strongholds and hideouts in the incident, the statement added.
The Taliban militant group yet to make a comment about the incident.
Balkh residents call on IEA to mark Nowruz festival
Residents of Balkh province on Thursday called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to maintain the tradition of celebrating the new solar year as has been done for years.
Residents said that Nowruz celebrations are a tradition for Afghans and should be celebrated peacefully across Afghanistan.
“The festival was celebrated every year, it should also be celebrated this year. Our grandparents celebrated it every year. I call on Islamic Emirate to celebrate the festival,” said Mohammad Mustafa, a resident of Balkh.
“We call on Islamic Emirate to celebrate the new year. Visitors come from far to participate in the Nowruz festival,” said Mohammad Karim, another resident of Balkh.
Mazar-e-Sharif municipality, however, said that they have made preparations for Nowruz which is on March 21.
“People come for tourism here, it is a green city. No problems will exist, but it will be different,” said Qudratullah Tariq, Mazar-e-Sharif’s mayor.
Cultural experts also called for Nowruz celebrations to go ahead.
However, with only four days to go to Nowruz, few preparations have been made to usher in the new year.
Mazar Municipality prepares for Nowruz festival
Officials from Mazar-e-Sharif Municipality said on Thursday that preparations are underway for the upcoming Nowruz festival, which marks the start of the new Persian Solar Year.
The main Nowruz festival in Afghanistan is traditionally held around March 21 in Mazar in northern Balkh province.
“We are completely prepared,” said Mawlavi Mohammad Nasim Abid, deputy head of Mazar Municipality.
He said the city is currently being cleaned up and that the municipality “ensures our people that we made preparations and there are no problems regarding security.”
Afghans have meanwhile called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to allow Nowruz celebrations to go ahead.
We “urge the government of Islamic Emirate to mark the Nowruz festival as it was marked in the past years,” said Mohammad Asif, a resident of Mazar.
IEA officials meanwhile said that there are two Eids for Muslims, and that Nowruz celebrations are not necessary.
“Our leaders have not talked about the Nowruz celebration so far. Preparation for this big festival is too soon,” said Balil Karimi, deputy spokesman of IEA.
Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) in coordination with Mazar Municipality has meanwhile stepped in again this year to help prepare the city for Nowruz.
The company has helped clean up the Hazrat Ali Shrine in Mazar.
“We work for the city’s greenery every year, and clean corners of Rawza-e-Mubarak. Our preparations are completed,” said Yafiz Saqat, a representative of AWCC in Balkh.
ADB approves APPC’s loan to enhance Afghanistan’s energy security
On 17 June, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Afghan Power Plant Company Limited (APPC) signed a $10 million loan, ADB said in a statement.
According to ADB, this loan is part of a financing package for the Mazar gas-fired power plant, supporting Afghanistan’s efforts to achieve long-term energy security through affordable domestic power sources.
The project is the first private sector gas-fired plant in Afghanistan to be funded by development finance institutions, says ADB.
#ADBNEWS: The project, the first of its kind in Afghanistan to be funded by development institutions, represents a significant engagement by ADB to support essential infrastructure through private sector in a fragile & conflict-affected situation.
— Asian Development Bank (@ADB_HQ) June 18, 2020
ADB says that in line with its long-term corporate strategy, Strategy 2030, the bank supports essential infrastructure through the private sector in a fragile and conflict-affected situation.
“ADB will also administer a $10 million loan for the project provided by Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP),” the statement adds.
The ABD says that the loan provides long-term financing to build and operate a 58.56-megawatt gas-fired power plant located near Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
“The project cost a total of $89 million, will use indigenous gas and is expected to generate 404 gigawatt-hours of power annually,” the statement writes.
Director of Infrastructure Finance Chakraborty, said, “This project is definitive proof that indigenous gas-based power generation is capable of displacing electricity imports in Afghanistan and helping to deliver energy security.”
He added, “Its success will send an important signal to the market that Afghanistan’s power industry is now ready to attract more private sector investment and financing.”
APPC Chairman Ismail Ghazanfar said, “This is the first step in Ghazanfar Group’s vision of helping to develop 5,000 megawatts of energy generation facilities in Afghanistan through partnerships with international development banks, local and international companies, and the Government of Afghanistan.”
It is worth mentioning that Afghanistan imports at least 75% of its energy needs.
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