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UN urges all parties to prioritize protection of civilians and start talks 

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2022)

The first half of 2020 witnessed fluctuating levels of violence impacting civilians in Afghanistan, with the United Nations documenting 3,458 civilian casualties (1,282 killed and 2,176 injured), according to a new report released Monday.

According to UNAMA’s 2020 Protection of Civilians Midyear Report, released on Monday, even though the civilian casualty figures represent a 13 percent decrease as compared to the first six months of 2019, Afghanistan remains one of the deadliest conflicts in the world for civilians. 

“But it must be noted that there has been no reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and Afghan national security forces. The main reason for the lower number of civilian casualties is due to a reduction in operations by international military forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant–Khorasan Province (Daesh),” according to the report issued Monday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

“At a time when the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues inflicting terrible harm to civilians every day,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“I urge the parties to pause, to reflect on the chilling incidents and the harm that they are causing to the Afghan people as documented in this report, and to take decisive action to stop the carnage and get to the negotiating table,” said Lyons, who is also the head of UNAMA.

The report stated that Anti-Government Elements (AGE’s) continued to be responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, with UNAMA documenting a disturbing increase in civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban from pressure-plate improvised explosive devices, as well as from abductions that led to ill-treatment and summary executions. 

“A total of 58 percent of civilian casualties were caused by AGE’s, with the Taliban responsible for 1,473 (580 killed and 893 injured) representing 43 percent of the total number of civilian casualties in the 1 January-30 June 2020 period,” read the UN statement. 

Civilian casualties attributed to Afghan national security forces increased by nine percent, mainly due to airstrikes and the use of indirect fire during ground engagements. 

“Civilian casualties from airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force during the first six months of 2020 have tripled as compared to the same time period in 2019,” the UN stated.

Afghan national security forces were responsible for 23 percent of the total number of civilian casualties in the first half of the year, 789 people (281 killed and 508 injured). Pro-Government Forces remained responsible for most child deaths.

“UNAMA did not document any civilian casualties attributed to international military forces from active hostilities during the second quarter of 2020,” the statement read.

Ground engagements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties with the majority – two-thirds – caused by the use of indirect fire, particularly in civilian-populated areas. 

The use of improvised explosive devices (suicide and non-suicide) was the second leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by targeted killings. 

“UNAMA is especially concerned about the deliberate targeting of civilians, including religious leaders, healthcare workers, members of the judiciary, civil society activists, non-governmental organization workers and journalists,” the statement noted. 

The report stated that 1,067 child casualties (340 killed and 727 injured) were reported during this period and the UN noted that “children in Afghanistan are especially vulnerable to recruitment and use by parties to the conflict, including for combat functions, during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The report also underscored the lasting impact of the armed conflict on civilians.

New monitoring by UNAMA shows that victims suffer incalculable harm weeks and months after an incident occurs, including physically, emotionally and psychologically, financially and otherwise, affecting their ability to enjoy a broad range of human rights. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the ability of victims to recover, making it even more imperative for the parties to the conflict to reduce the violence now and acknowledge and address the needs and rights of the victims,” UNAMA stated.

“The experiences, rights and needs of individuals and communities who have been affected by violence must be a central consideration in the upcoming peace talks,” said Fiona Frazer, the Chief of Human Rights at UNAMA.

CLICK HERE for the full report. 

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Elon Musk begins Twitter poll on reinstating Trump’s account

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(Last Updated On: November 19, 2022)

Twitter owner Elon Musk launched a poll Friday on the social media platform asking if former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform.

“Reinstate former President Trump,” Musk wrote in a post which garnered more than 4.4 million impressions at the time of publication, Anadolu Agency reported.

More than 55% of users voted “yes,” while 44% said “no.”

Hours earlier, the American billionaire implied that he was mulling whether to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account.

“Trump decision has not yet been made,” tweeted Musk, as he announced three high-profile reinstatements of accounts that were banned by the social media giant.

“Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated,” said Musk.

Trump had about 88.8 million followers when Twitter permanently suspended the former US president’s account in January 2021, citing his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and the potential for more violence.

Musk had forecast a Trump return in May when he called the expulsion “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

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IEA says it has eradicated war and corruption in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: November 17, 2022)

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, said at a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war and administrative corruption in the country and pave the ground for progress and development.

He said that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has created an aid fund for Afghanistan and they will help Afghanistan in health, education, and other fields in addition to humanitarian aid.

An OIC official meanwhile said it will stand by Afghanistan and we will continue its cooperation with Afghanistan in the areas of prosperity, stability, and development.

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, meanwhile welcomed the delegation of the OIC, and said, “You will see the real facts and the efforts of the Islamic Emirate in various sectors.”

He said that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war, insecurity, murder, destruction, and corruption in the country.

In conclusion, the IEA will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan soil against other countries, he said. 

 

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Explosion in busy Istanbul street leaves at least 4 dead

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(Last Updated On: November 13, 2022)

An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue on Sunday afternoon has left at least four people dead and a number of people injured, a senior official told Associated Press.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweeted that the explosion occurred at about 4:20 p.m. Istanbul time and that there were deaths and injuries, but he did not say how many. The cause of the explosion was not clear.

Al Jazeera also reported at least four people were killed and 38 others injured.

However, according to the Associated Press, Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary media ban on reporting of the explosion, which means broadcasters cannot show videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. 

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks, accidents and some political issues.

Footage on social media showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

Broadcaster CNN Turk meanwhile reported 11 people were injured. 

The avenue is a crowded thoroughfare popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIS (Daesh) and outlawed Kurdish groups.

 

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