Taliban Increase Efforts To Target Enemies as Airport Evacuations Continue
Conditions in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate days after the Taliban effectively gained control over most of the country, with a U.N. assessment from Friday warning that the Taliban are targeting what they call “collaborators” in major cities.
Amnesty for Some
Conditions in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate days after the Taliban effectively gained control over most of the country, with an assessment from the United Nations warning on Friday that the Taliban are targeting what the Taliban call “collaborators” in major cities.
The Norwegian Center for Global Analysis, a U.N.-linked intelligence support center, said Taliban fighters are going door-to-door in major cities looking to arrest or kill their alleged enemies and/or their family members. There are also reports of checkpoints that have been set up throughout the country in an effort to stop and identify potential enemies of the Taliban, although it’s unclear at this time just how many have been affected by the practices. The move comes just two days after the Taliban promised a general amnesty.
One of the most prominent people targeted despite the amnesty pledge was Haji Mullah Achakzai, the police chief for Baghdis province near Herat. Achakzai’s execution was captured on camera and shared online, drawing concerns that the Taliban’s claims to not engage in acts of vengeance or reprisals against former enemies may not be true.
Doubts Over Media Commitments
Adding to this fear are reports of Taliban efforts to target journalists. Like other groups, the Taliban promised to respect journalists and promote a free press in Afghanistan so long as they follow Islamic rules. However, German outlet DW reported that several of its journalists, translators, and their families have all been hunted down by the Taliban.
In one instance, the Taliban went door-to-door looking for a DW journalist who has already left the country and is working in Germany. Regardless, his family was targeted, with at least one member being killed and another seriously injured. Peter Limboiurg, DW‘s Director-General issued a statement about the slaying, condemning the attack and calling on the German government to take action.
“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” Limbourg said. “It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!”
DW has had at least three journalists targeted in total. Nematullah Hemat of the private television station Ghargasht TV is believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and Toofan Omar, who ran Paktia Ghag Radio, was shot dead by Taliban fighters. Additionally, a translator for Die Zeit was shot dead by two Taliban members this week.
Panjshir Valley and the National Resistance Front
While the Taliban continue to try and consolidate their rule, there are still some efforts to push back against the group. Hundreds attended protests throughout major cities in the country on Wednesday and Thursday saw to defend the Afghan National Flag, which the Taliban have largely replaced with their own. These protests were most often met with brutal reprisals, including beatings and shootings.
Beyond that, Amrullah Saleh, the former Vice President of the now-defunct Afghan National Government, continues to fight the Taliban from the Panjshir Valley. The region is infamous for having never been conquered during the Soviet invasion of the country in the ’80s, and for being home to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The latter was a group that allied with the United States to bring down the Taliban in 2001, although it remained largely autonomous from the control of the National Afghan Government.
Panjshir Valley now hosts some of the most senior members of the ousted Afghan government, with Saleh declaring himself caretaker president after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country with over $160 million.
“I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to the Taliban terrorists,” Saleh wrote on Twitter. “I will never betray the soul and legacy of my hero Ahmad Shah Mas[s]oud, the commander, the legend, and the guide.”
Massoud was a commander of the Northern Alliance and remains a venerated figure for many Afghans. His son, alongside Saleh, is hoping that a second alliance can topple the Taliban.
In an op-ed he wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Ahmad Massoud said the regions have prepared for a Taliban takeover for twenty years, adding that “we also have the weapons carried by the Afghans who, over the past 72 hours, have responded to my appeal to join the resistance in Panjshir.”
“But that is not enough. If Taliban warlords launch an assault, they will of course face staunch resistance from us,” he said, adding, “The flag of the National Resistance Front will fly over every position that they attempt to take, as the National United Front flag flew 20 years ago.”
He ended with a plea for the U.S. to remain “a ‘great arsenal of democracy,'” and arm the so-called National Resistance Front.
Lifeline at the Kabul Airport
While many Afghans continue to lay low in their homes or flee into Panjshir Valley in preparation to fight the Taliban, evacuations from the Kabul Airport have continued to be a tense affair. Throughout the week, flights were required to intermittently pause as the situation on the ground worsened, leading to chaos over boarding the flights.
Outside of the airport, the scenes are chaos. Crowds of thousands have waited outside in attempts to enter the airport. The Taliban claimed they had no interest in anyone seeking to leave the country but have since set up checkpoints at the two entrances to the airport.
In footage from Thursday, Taliban fighters can be seen beating crowds of would-be refugees back, or according to some reports, even firing at the crowd.
Thousands of American troops continue to guard the airport and direct evacuation flights; however, Britain and France also maintain troops at airport facilities and have sent ore over the last week. Unlike the American mission, which is limited to the airport at this point in time, French and British forces have conducted raids throughout Kabul in an effort to extract their citizens. According to The Telegraph, at least 200 British Nationals have been successfully extracted so far.
As evacuations continue, the U.S. and U.N. are asking more and more nations to accept Afghan Refugees as common destinations, such as Qatar, are reaching their capacity to successfully take care of them.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (DW) (Military Times)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.