Afghan quake survivors dig by hand as aid is delayed; death toll crosses 1K

News Network
June 23, 2022

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Kabul, June 23: Afghan authorities are struggling to reach a remote area hit by an earthquake that killed at least 1,000 people as poor communications and a lack of proper roads hampered their efforts, officials said.

“We can’t reach the area, the networks are too weak, we trying to get updates,” Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in hardest-hit Paktika province, told Reuters news agency on Thursday, referring to telephone networks.

Survivors dug by hand through villages reduced to rubble by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck early on Wednesday about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Kabul, in arid mountains dotted with small settlements near the border with Pakistan.

The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in 20 years, and officials said the toll could rise. An estimated 1,500 others were reported injured.

Access to the affected eastern provinces of Khost and Paktika has been hampered by road blocks due to the earthquake as well as prior landslides from recent heavy rains.

In Paktika’s hard-hit Gayan district, villagers stood atop a pile of mud bricks that once were a home. Others carefully walked through dirt alleyways, gripping onto damaged walls with exposed timber beams to make their way.

Survivors quickly prepared the district’s dead, including children and an infant, for burial.

“We ask the Islamic emirate and the whole country to come forward and help us,” a survivor, who gave his name as Hakimullah, told The Associated Press. “We are with nothing and have nothing, not even a tent to live in.”

Helicopters were used to reach the injured and deliver urgent medical supplies and food provisions. Authorities confirmed 1,800 households have been destroyed.

Sultan Mahmood, Spera district’s chief, told Al Jazeera that 29 people have been killed in the area, 42 injured and 500 homes have been destroyed, with the remote village of Afghan-Dubai being hit the hardest.

The Taliban government has appealed for international aid. Most aid agencies pulled out of the country and many governments imposed sanctions on Afghanistan’s banking sector and cut billions of dollars worth of aid after the Taliban took control in August last year.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the foreign affairs ministry’s spokesperson, told a press conference that “entire villages have been razed to the ground”.

“Despite the sanctions that have been imposed by the international community, the government has done whatever it can in its capacity and the Afghan Red Crescent has immediately dispatched emergency aid to the area, along with the Turkish Red Crescent and other agencies,” Balkhi said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter that eight trucks of food and other necessities from Pakistan arrived in Paktika. He also said on Thursday that two planes of humanitarian aid from Iran and another from Qatar had arrived in the country.

Neil Turner, country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Afghanistan, said in a statement that Taliban authorities had granted humanitarian agencies full access to affected areas.

However, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN deputy special representative to Afghanistan, the Taliban did not formally request that the UN mobilise international search-and-rescue teams or obtain equipment from neighbouring countries.

Many international aid agencies are wary of dealing directly with the Taliban due to sweeping international sanctions, while others have left Afghanistan altogether after the Taliban takeover last August.

Al Jazeera’s Ali Latifi, reporting from the Paktika province, said World Food Programme (WFP) trucks could be seen heading to affected areas as well as convoys from other international organisations, but that poor weather conditions on Wednesday had prevented much of the aid from reaching people in need.

At the Paktika regional hospital, badly injured patients were being turned away. “The Paktika regional hospital still lacks very important resources,” Latifi said. “For instance, they don’t have a helicopter, so patients have to be sent to Kabul by road,” a journey that takes on average five hours.

The United States on Wednesday expressed sorrow and said it would look for ways to help, including through potential talks with Taliban rulers.

“President Biden is monitoring developments and has directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess US response options to help those most affected,” Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said.

The Khost province, one of the most affected by the earthquake, is home to thousands of internally displaced Afghans, returnees, and refugees from Waziristan who had already been displaced.

The death toll reported as of Thursday was equal to that of a quake in 2002 in northern Afghanistan. Those are the deadliest since 1998, when an earthquake of 6.1 in magnitude and subsequent tremors in the remote northeast killed at least 4,500 people.

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News Network
June 19,2022

In the wake of the attack on a gurudwara in Kabul, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of Narendra Modi led government of India has granted e-visas to over 100 Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan on priority, news agency ANI reported. India strongly condemned the "cowardly attack" on the Sikh place of worship.

"Our first and foremost concern is for the welfare of the community," External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said.

Several blasts tore through a gurdwara in Kabul on Saturday, killing two persons, including a Sikh, and injuring seven others, while Afghan security personnel thwarted a bigger tragedy by stopping an explosive-laden vehicle from reaching the place of worship of the minority community in the war-torn country.

In the latest targeted assault on a place of worship of the Sikh community in Afghanistan, Gurdwara Karte Parwan in Kabul's Bagh-e Bala neighbourhood was attacked early Saturday morning and a gun battle lasting several hours between the terrorists and Taliban fighters ensued, said Abdul Nafi Takor, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry.

Three attackers were killed by the Taliban forces, the Pajhwok news agency reported.

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News Network
June 28,2022

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Mangaluru, June 28: Karnataka Home minister Araga Jnanendra has directed the Dakshina Kannada district police and the Mangaluru city police, to conduct station-level surveys of foreign nationals, who have overstayed their visas, and foreigners who have intruded, and are staying in the district without any valid documents.

He directed that the survey report should be submitted at the earliest. “It will take some time for the police to complete the survey. Recently in Bengaluru, illegal foreigners were arrested, and sent to the detention centre. A few have even obtained ration cards and voters’ identity cards,” he said.

Araga said that the law and order situation under the DK police and Mangaluru city police was satisfactory.

Since the conviction rate is low in DK, and the city police limits, the minister held a meeting with public prosecutors and assistant public prosecutors, to ascertain the reasons for the low percentage of convictions.

“There are issues related to the shortage of staff, and cases coming for trial after two to three years. There are several instances of witnesses turning hostile, and sometimes issues are solved through compromise. In some cases, the conviction rate is 12% to 13 % only,” he said.

“A similar meeting was held in Chikkamagaluru recently, and I have directed the SP and commissioner of police to work in coordination with the public prosecutors,” Araga said.

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News Network
June 20,2022

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New Delhi: With the government standing its ground on the 'Agnipath' military recruitment scheme, some organisations called for 'Bharat Bandh' on Monday amid the ongoing protests demanding a rollback of the plan.

Here are the latest developments:

>> Even as the protests continued over the centre's 'Agnipath' short-term recruitment plan for armed forces, the Army today issued a notification for the induction of soldiers under the scheme. The online registration begins from July, said the notification.

>> Over 600 trains have been cancelled today in view of the Bharat Bandh call in parts of the country over the centre's 'Agnipath' scheme. The railways has suffered a major loss of property due to arson and rioting by the protesters over the last five days.

>> Congress leaders have sat on a 'Satyagraha' at Jantar Mantar in the national capital to express solidarity with the armed forces aspirants protesting against the 'Agnipath' scheme. Some Youth Congress workers were detained after they blocked a train at the Shivaji Bridge railway station near Connaught Place. Parts of Delhi witnessed traffic jams as the police have tightened security across the city and its bordering areas. 

>> In Haryana, a group of job aspirants blocked the Lal Batti Chowk in Fatehabad, while several others staged a protest on roads in Rohtak district. Security has been stepped up at several locations in Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal and Rajasthan also to avoid any untoward incident.

>> Uttar Pradesh Police said strict action will be taken against those found involved in jeopardising peace. In Punjab, the police have been asked to monitor the activities of social media groups which are allegedly mobilising or spreading instigating information about the scheme.

>> The Bihar government has increased security at party offices considered vulnerable. As of now, internet services remain shut in 20 districts. In Jharkhand, all schools will remain closed today amid protests over the 'Agnipath' scheme.

>> The three services of the military on Sunday came out with a broad schedule of enrolment under the 'Agnipath' scheme and warned those who indulged in violence and arson will not be inducted.

>> The Home and Defence ministries on Saturday promised new 10 per cent quotas each in jobs for 'Agnipath' recruits after their four-year tenure in the armed forces. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the PSUs under his housing and petroleum ministries are also working on plans to induct 'Agniveers'.

>> The Home Ministry has further decided to give 3 years of age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit to Agniveers for recruitment in Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles. 

>> Protests erupted in several states after June 14 when the centre unveiled the 'Agnipath' recruitment plan. Under the scheme, people between 17.5 and 21 years will be recruited in the armed forces for a four-year period, followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.

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