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UN Chief Antonio Guterres condemns Afghan terror attack on Sikhs, Hindus

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UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned the suicide attack in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad that killed 19 people, mostly Sikhs and Hindus, asserting that any attack targeting civilians is “unjustifiable” and in clear violation of international law.
Mr Guterres expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and urged all parties to uphold their obligation to protect civilians, including minority communities.
“The majority of victims belong to Afghanistan’s small Sikh and Hindu community. The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured,” the UN chief said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
“The Secretary-General urges all parties to uphold their obligation to protect civilians, including minority communities, and cease targeting civilians and civilian facilities,” he said.
An ISIS suicide bomber targeted a convoy of Sikhs and Hindus on their way to meet the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday.
Some reports said 19 people were killed in the attack and 17 of them were from the minority Sikh and Hindu communities.
Avtar Singh Khalsa, a longtime leader of the Sikh community who had planned to run in the parliamentary elections set for October, was also killed in the attack.
The UN Security Council joined in condemning the “heinous and cowardly” terrorist attack for which terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility.
The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constituted one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
“The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice and urged all States…to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities in this regard,” the statement said.
The 15-nation council also reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan condemned the July 1 attack and expressed its concern over the recent spate of such incidents in which civilians have been killed in attacks on schools and medical centres.
“The architects of this appalling crime must be brought to justice,” said Ingrid Hayden, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.
The United Nations in Afghanistan expressed its condolences to the loved ones of those killed and wishes a full and speedy recovery to the injured.
Elsewhere in Nangarhar, in Afghanistan’s Khogyani district, three civilian night watchmen were killed, at least two of them beheaded, and a school torched on Saturday in the latest instance of an ISIS in Khorasan Province (ISKP) campaign against schools and educational workers.
Today, one of several missiles fired into Jalalabad hit the Najmuljihad high school with other projectiles landing nearby. There were no reports of casualties.
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is also concerned by recent incidents impacting health facilities.
Last month a mortar hit the Andar district hospital in Ghazni province killing a doctor and a vaccination worker.


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Trump’s 2016 campaign didn’t conspire with Russia, finds Mueller report

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Washington: US Attorney General William Barr has said Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find proof that Donald Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, following which the US president claimed “complete and total exoneration”.

In his four-page letter to the Congress, which was later made public, Brar however said that “while this (Mueller’s) report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” and sets out evidence on “both sides of the question”.

The investigation had cast a shadow over the Trump presidency for nearly two years with the Democratic leadership alleging that Russian interference helped him in the 2016 polls.

 

Barr said that Mueller found no proof of such a conspiracy “despite multiple offers from Russia-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign”.

“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” the attorney general said.

Mueller, in his report, “did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction”, Barr told the lawmakers.

“For each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the president’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction,” Barr said, adding Mueller “ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment”.

In the letter, he also said the Department of Justice has determined that there is not sufficient evidence to establish that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

“After reviewing the special counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the special counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” the letter read.

“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election,” it said, adding, “the report identifies no actions that, in our judgement, constitute obstructive conduct.”

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Pak PM orders probe into alleged forced conversion, underage marriages of two Hindu girls

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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered a probe into reports of alleged abduction, forced conversion and underage marriages of two teenage Hindu girls in Sindh province and to take immediate steps for their recovery, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday.

The two girls, Raveena (13) and Reena (15), were allegedly kidnapped by a group of “influential” men from their home in Ghotki district in Sindh on the eve of Holi.

Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls. In a separate video, the minor girls can be seen saying that they accepted Islam of their own free will.

 

In a Twitter post in Urdu on Sunday, Information Minister Chaudhry said that the prime minister has asked the Sindh chief minister to look into reports that the girls in question have been taken to Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab.

Chaudhry said the prime minister has also ordered the Sindh and Punjab governments to devise a joint action plan in light of the incident, and to take concrete steps to prevent such incidents from happening again.

“The minorities in Pakistan make up the white of our flag and all of our flag’s colours are precious to us. Protection of our flag is our duty,” he said.

On Saturday, Chaudhry said that the government had taken notice of reports of the forced conversion and underage marriages of the two girls.

The Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible, while reminding Prime Minister Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country.

Last year, Khan during his election campaign had said his party’s agenda was to uplift the various religious groups across Pakistan and said they would take effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls.

Sanjesh Dhanja, President of Pakistan Hindu Sewa Welfare Trust, an NGO, earlier urged Prime Minister Khan to take note of the incident and prove to everyone that minorities were indeed safe and secure in Pakistan.

“The truth is minorities suffer from different sorts of persecution and the problem of young Hindu girls being kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to convert to Islam or get married to much older men is widespread in Sindh,” he said.

Dhanja said the Hindu community had staged several sit-ins in Ghotki district after which police reluctantly registered FIR against the accused persons. The Hindu community leaders have claimed that the accused belonged to the Kohbar and Malik tribes in the area.

Following the incident, an FIR was filed by the girls’ brother, alleging that their father had an altercation with the accused sometime ago and on the eve of Holi they armed with pistols forcibly entered their home and took the sisters away.

A Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who had initially moved a bill against forced conversions, urged the government to get the law passed immediately.

Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country. Majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim fellows.

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ISIS terrorists emerge from tunnels to surrender to US forces after Caliphate fails

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Baghouz: Dozens of ISIS group militants emerged from tunnels to surrender to US-backed forces in eastern Syria , a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Syria’s Kurds warned that despite the demise of the proto-state, the thousands of foreign militants they have detained are a time-bomb the world urgently needs to defuse.

An AFP reporter saw dozens of people — mostly men — file out of the battered encampment in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks.

 

“They are IS fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Kurdish spokesman Jiaker Amed said.

Some sported thick beards and wore long woollen kaftans over their dark-coloured robes, or a chequered scarf around their faces, as they trudged out of their final hideout under the drizzle.

“Some others could still be hiding inside,” said Amed.

World leaders were quick to hail Saturday’s announcement by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that the last shred of land controlled by ISIS in Syria had been conquered.

But the top foreign affairs official for the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region warned the members captured during the assault still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar told AFP.

“Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation,” he said.

He also warned of the continuing danger posed by ISIS sleeper cells.

The SDF is continuing to carry out operations to rout out any remaining terrorists in the area and uncover possible weapons caches.

“This back-clearance operation will be deliberate and thorough and help ensure the long-term security for the area,” the US-led coalition backing the SDF wrote on Twitter.

As the SDF’s months-long assault closed in against the last ISIS strongholds in the Euphrates Valley, terrorists and their families gradually gathered in Baghouz.


While some managed to escape, many foreigners stayed behind, either surrendering or fighting to the death.

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