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Death toll from Afghanistan suicide blast rises to 68, over 160 injured

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Kabul: The death toll from a suicide bomb attack at a protest gathering in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar on Tuesday has risen to 68, with 165 wounded, a government official said.
The bombing on Tuesday in the eastern province of Nangarhar was the latest in a wave of deadly insurgent attacks which has claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians and security forces across Afghanistan.
The blast wounded another 165 people, provincial governor spokesman Ataullah Khogyani said.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the massacre, but the Islamic State group, which has carried out most of the recent suicide bombings in Afghanistan, is active in the province.
The Nangarhar health department confirmed the toll.
Scores of demonstrators had blocked the highway between the provincial capital of Jalalabad and a major Pakistan border crossing in protest over the appointment of a local police chief when the suicide bomber blew himself up.
The dead and wounded were rushed to several hospitals in the back of pickup trucks and ambulances, overwhelming doctors and nurses as they struggled to cope with the huge number of casualties.
Zar Khan, one of the injured, told AFP he saw a young man get out of a car and run towards the protesters shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest).
“Then the explosion happened and I found myself surrounded by blood and flesh,” Khan said from his hospital bed.
It was the deadliest attack since an ambulance packed with explosives detonated in a crowded street in the heart of Kabul in January, killing more than 100 people, mostly civilians. That bombing was claimed by the Taliban.
Violence across the country has intensified in recent weeks as the Taliban make gains on the battlefield and IS launches deadly urban attacks.
It comes as Afghanistan enters a typically violent period of the year — the holy month of Muharram, which began on Tuesday.
Ashura, the most important Shiite observance, falls on the 10th day of Muharram and is often marred by deadly attacks.
The fighting has tempered optimism that had been tentatively growing as Afghan and international players ratchet up efforts to convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the 17-year conflict.
An unprecedented ceasefire in June followed by talks between US officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July raised hopes that peace negotiations could bring an end to the fighting.
There has been speculation the two sides will meet again this month.
The Taliban have long insisted on direct talks with Washington and refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, which they see as illegitimate.
The intensified fighting has also fuelled speculation over whether Afghanistan’s long-delayed parliamentary elections will go ahead on October 20.
The country’s stretched security forces will be tasked with protecting thousands of polling stations around the country at a time when they are already struggling to beat back insurgents.
Delivering ballot papers and monitoring the vote, which is seen as a test run for next year’s presidential election, will be challenging, officials have warned.
There are already concerns about widespread fraud.
In recent days, Taliban fighters killed nearly 60 members of the security forces in a spate of attacks in the country’s north, and threatened a provincial capital for the second time in as many months.


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International

Trump will suffer same fate as Saddam: Iran’s Rouhani

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Tehran :President Hassan Rouhani says Iranians will defeat US President Donald Trump like what they did to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
He made the remarks in a military parade in Tehran on Saturday to mark the beginning of the week that commemorates Iran’s eight-year resistance against Iraq’s 1980-88 invasion.
About 600 vessels took part in the Persian Gulf naval drill, a day after Iran held aerial exercises in the waterway, vowing that a “pounding reply” awaited the country’s enemies.
Trump withdrew from a landmark multilateral nuclear deal in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic last month.
“The same will happen to Trump. America will suffer the same fate as Saddam Hussein,” Rouhani said.
The president also said Iran will not abandon its defensive weapons, including its missiles “that make America so angry”.

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Guterres to make first India visit as UN chief on Oct 1, to open UN House

Press Trust of India

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United Nations:UN chief Antonio Guterres will travel to India early next month, his first trip to the country as head of the world body that coincides with the commencement of events marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Secretary-General will arrive in New Delhi on October 1. His visit coincides with the beginning of events to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2 next year, Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Farhan Haq told reporters here on Friday.
On October 1, Guterres will formally open the new UN House in New Delhi and on October 2, the Secretary-General will participate in the closing session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention.
During the visit, he will meet President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on October 3.
He will also meet with Speaker of the Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan before giving a lecture at the India Habitat Centre on Global Affairs on the theme ‘Global challenges, global solutions’.
The Secretary-General will also take part in the General Assembly of the International Solar Alliance. In the afternoon of October 3, he will visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar and will return to New York on October 4.
Guterres had visited India in July 2016, just months ahead of the election for Secretary General. During his visit then, he had met Swaraj.
Replying to a question on Guterres’ trip to the Golden Temple, Haq said that the visit is essentially a personal one as the UN chief wanted to see the holy Sikh pilgrimage site.
When asked if Guterres will be asked questions about the 1984 Sikh riots, Haq said it was a bit “premature” to mention the topics he will bring up.
Haq also expressed the world body’s gratitude to the Indian government for its contribution of $1 million to install solar panels and a green roof on the Conference Building of the United Nations Secretariat.
The contribution was received by Under-Secretary-General for Management Jan Beagle, who said that “India’s generous contribution sends a strong message promoting innovation for action on climate change, and to enable greater efficiencies”.
The initiative will help the Secretariat reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable energy, Haq added.

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Rouhani vows to boost Iran missiles despite western concerns

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Tehran: President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Saturday to boost Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities despite Western concerns that were cited by his US counterpart Donald Trump in May when he abandoned a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran.
“We will never decrease our defensive capabilities… we will increase them day by day,” Rouhani said at a military parade.
“The fact that the missiles anger you shows they are our most effective weapons,” he said, referring to the West. Iran has ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles), enough to reach both Israel and US bases in the Middle East.

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