News - Afghanistan
Written by Faridullah Sahil   
Thursday, 24 April 2014 11:31

Senior Afghan security official told TOLOnews on Wednesday that Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Waheed, who was abducted, was rescued in the province of Kapisa.

A source from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) told TOLOnews that during an operation ran by the Afghan forces, Minister Waheed was rescued in Kapisa province.

"Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Waheed, who was abducted a week ago, was rescued by Afghan police last night at 8:00 p.m.," MoI source said.

Sediq Sediqqi spokesperson for MoI tweeted on his twitter page confirming the rescue.

This past week on Tuesday, Kabul Special Forces launched an operation in Deh Sabz district of Kabul to save the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Shah Waheed, from the kidnappers who abducted him last Tuesday, but the operation was unsuccessful.

An Afghan police officer was injured during the gunfire battle between the police force and kidnappers. Afghan police officer was shot twice in the leg.

Kabul Police Chief Gen. Zahir Zahir, who led the failed operation, told TOLOnews that before the operation launched residents of Deh Sabz cooperated with the investigation by providing leads to Minister Waheed. Though, before the police force could arrest the kidnappers they had already escaped the premises with the minister in midst of the clash.

"The kidnappers were informed that we detained Fawad, a man who was providing food for the suspects," Zahir said. "Unsuitable land, ups and downs and water-filled holes of Deh Sabz district paved the way for them to runaway."

Deh Sabz is a location known for kidnapping; it's located in northeastern Kabul. Gen. Zahir said that 15 kidnapping cases were filed from this district.

Minister Waheed was kidnapped by four unknown gunmen last Tuesday morning while he had just entered his vehicle in Khair Khana area of Kabul city.

Kabul city has been relatively safe in terms of kidnapping in the past couple of years, while suicide bombings and tactical assaults have remained more common. But the abduction of Minister Waheed alarmed other government officials and business leaders.

Kidnapping Afghan officials is not a tactic not often used by the Taliban. Experts suggest that it might be criminals who seek ransom.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 13:11
News - Afghanistan
Written by   
Thursday, 24 April 2014 10:58

Minister of Public Health Soraya Daleel says two American doctors and one Afghan doctor was killed and one American nurse wounded; the U.S. Embassy of Kabul tweets confirming the death of three Americans.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 13:56
News - Afghanistan
Written by AFP   
Thursday, 24 April 2014 07:06

Russia said it will strike back if its "legitimate interests" in Ukraine are attacked, raising the stakes in the Cold War-like duel with the United States over the former Soviet republic's future.

NATO responded by cautioning against "veiled threats", saying they violated the spirit of an agreement reached in Geneva last week to try to pull the crisis-hit country back from the brink of civil war.

Moscow is insisting that Kiev withdraw forces sent to eastern Ukraine on an "anti-terrorist" mission to dislodge pro-Russian rebels, who have occupied government buildings there.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state-controlled RT television that if Russia or its interests are attacked, "we would certainly respond".

"If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law," he said, referring to Russia's armoured invasion of Georgia in 2008.

Lavrov also said presidential elections planned for May 25 would be "destructive" for Ukraine in the absence of "common ground" with the country's Russian-speaking south and east.

As the war of words between Moscow and Kiev's pro-EU authorities intensified, Ukraine's interior ministry said special forces had liberated one small eastern town, Svyatogorsk, from separatists.

But AFP found no military units there -- only dumbfounded residents who said they had never been under rebel occupation.

Both Kiev and Washington believe the current crisis is being deliberately fuelled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to restore former Soviet glory.

The Kremlin has an estimated 40,000 Russian troops poised on Ukraine's eastern border, prompting Washington on Wednesday to start deploying 600 US troops to boost NATO's defences in eastern European states bordering Ukraine.

The first unit of 150 US soldiers arrived in Poland on Wednesday, with the remainder arriving in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia in the coming days.
- Journalists held -

The detention by the rebels of two journalists -- an American working for VICE News, Simon Ostrovsky, and a Ukrainian activist, Irma Krat -- in Slavyansk have done nothing to ease the mounting tensions.

The rebel leader in the town, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, called Ostrovsky a "journalist provocateur" and promised "we will free him in due course".

The US State Department said it was "deeply concerned about the reports of a kidnapping" of Ostrovsky and called for Russia to organise his immediate release.

Slavyansk was also the source of gunfire that damaged a Ukrainian military reconnaissance plane on Tuesday, and the site of a crime scene where two bodies were found that Kiev's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said had been "brutally tortured".

One of the two victims was believed to be a local politician and member of Turchynov's party, which the president used as justification to relaunch the military operations against the insurgents.

The spiralling violence -- while the US and Russia trade accusations of inflaming the situation through proxies in Ukraine -- has scuppered a Geneva accord agreed last week between Kiev, Russia and the West that was meant to move Ukraine away from the brink of civil war.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned during a trip to Moldova that "each day that passes... makes a solution harder and harder to reach".

Washington has also expressed concern about "the lack of positive Russian steps" and threatened further sanctions if no progress is made soon.

But Lavrov, in his interview with RT, accused the US of orchestrating the new Ukrainian offensive, noting that it was announced immediately after a two-day visit from US Vice President Joe Biden to Kiev.

"The Americans are running the show," he said.

In response, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called Lavrov's claims "ludicrous" adding they were not based on "what is happening on the ground".

Russia has dismissed the threat of further Western sanctions and insists it has the right to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine.

- Gas cut-off threat -

Russia's gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe have become another source of tensions between the sides.

The vice president of Russia's state-owned Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, at a Paris news conference late on Wednesday said Ukraine's gas debt, which he calculated would be $3.5 billion by the beginning of May, is "intolerable".

Russia's energy ministry is proposing three-way talks with Ukraine and the European Union on the debt issue, to be held on April 28 in Moscow or another city, the Interfax news agency reported.

Putin has warned in a letter to the EU that Moscow could cut gas supplies in a month's time if Ukraine's bill was not paid in full.

Significantly, that cut-off would come just before a May 25 election Ukraine is scheduled to hold to choose a new president -- a poll Biden this week described as "maybe the most important election in Ukrainian history".

The hardening positions and the flurry of threats and counter-threats has many countries concerned, not least ones in the European Union dependent on Russian gas.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 11:07
News - Afghanistan
Written by Saleha Sadat   
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 18:40

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Wednesday said the decision to delay announcing the preliminary results of the presidential election would impact the work of the ECC and ultimately when final results can be announced.

The preliminary results delay was announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Tuesday night. According to officials, there will be a third partial result announcement on Thursday, and then the preliminary results will be announced on Saturday.

"The delay in announcing preliminary results will make us start our work with a one or two day delay, this will impact the initial timetable of the elections," ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni said on Wednesday. "Again, I want to stress that what was important for us is the transparency and fairness of the elections."

The ECC was scheduled to start a twenty days complaints investigation process once the preliminary results are announced, but that has now been pushed back two days.

The ECC was initially expected to dispatch the outcomes of its investigations to the IEC on May 8, for a final announcement of election results to be made by May 14, but now it is likely that will all be delayed a few days.

The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), one of the country's largest election monitoring groups, has called on the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to explain exactly why the delay has occurred.

"People deserve to have access to adequate information, if they get access to information, I am confident that people will not have a problem with the two day delay," FEFA chief Nadir Naderi said.

In response, IEC Commissioner Sarir Ahamd Barmak said that the delay was only intended to better ensure the transparency of the elections and that there was no political motive behind the move. He said vote recounting and fraud investigations were taking longer than expected.

Former IEC chief Fazel Ahmad Manavi confirmed that the recounting process was as time-demanding as it was meticulous, and would only be good for the elections.

"The election commission is trying to separate fake and valid votes, this is part of IEC's responsibilities, but more responsibility should be on the shoulders of the ECC," Manavi added.

In a press release on Wednesday, the United Nations' special envoy for Afghanistan, Yan Kubis, expressed confidence in the efforts of the election commissions and said he hoped that process continues to be as transparent and credible as it has been. He also added that he hopes the needs of observers and candidates are met.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 April 2014 09:13
News - Afghanistan
Written by Shakeela Abrahimkhil   
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 18:28

With the provincial complaints investigation process coming to a close, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) on Wednesday said that votes from 74 polling have been voided.

ECC spokesman Nadir Mohseni said the completion of the provincial investigation process marked just the first stage in the commission's efforts to get to the bottom of all the complaints it has received. The ECC has issued 1,311 decisions since Election Day, after which it was said to have received over 3,000 complaints.

"Considering that these inspections and decisions are appealable [by candidates], so far the voided votes from 74 centers were not included in the IEC results," Mohseni told TOLOnews on Wednesday.

The ECC's open investigation process will begin at its headquarters in Kabul a day after the preliminary results of the presidential election are announced by the Independent Elections Commission (IEC). However, the final results of the investigations, which are not expected to be established until May 8, will be confidential and can only be made public by the IEC.

The IEC was forced to push back its announcement of preliminary results to Saturday, two days later than originally planned, because the recounting and vote verification processes were taking so long. ECC officials said on Wednesday that the IEC's delay could cause further delay in the complaints investigations.

ECC officials said that 920 Grade A complaints - directly pertaining to election results - have been investigated.

The ECC has received 38 appeals by candidates regarding decisions to invalidate certain votes. Complaints and appeals are allowed to be submitted to the ECC up until just 24 hours after the preliminary results announcement.

Candidates have emphasized the importance of fair treatment from the election commissions.

"The candidates, the people and civil society expect ECC to perform its jobs fairly and transparently, it should be according to the law, and if this is the case, everyone will accept the results," Abdullah Abdullah's campaign representative Sayed Aqa Fazl Sancharaki said.

Hamidullah Farooqi, a member of Ashraf Ghani's team, said the twenty days of investigation by the ECC should effectively separate clean votes from fraudulent ones.

Partial result announcements made by the IEC so far have put Abdullah in the lead, with Ashraf Ghani not far behind. Although no one has received a majority of votes yet, most experts went into the election expecting a runoff round between the two men.

Ashraf Ghani and his supporters have raised a good deal of concern about the sifting of votes, and whether or not corrupted results were being mistakenly included in the partial figures.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 19:33
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