Afghanistan Theater

Afghanistan: terror targets Hazara —again

Militants opened fire on Shi'ite worshipers celebrating Ashura at the Imam Ali shrine in the Karte Sakhi district of the Afghan capital Kabul Oct. 11, leaving at least 14 dead and 36 others wounded. According to eyewitnesses, at least one of the gunmen detonated a suicide vest after shooting into the crowd. Shi'ites make up about 15% of Afghanistan's population, mostly members of the Hazara ethnic group. They have been increasingly targetted for terror in recent months. Although no group has yet taken responsibility for the Karte Sakhi terror, previous attacks on the Hazara have been claimed by the Afghan franchise of ISIS.

Germany: no compensation in Afghan air-strike

Germany's Federal Court of Justice on Oct. 6 ruled that relatives of the victims of a 2009 air-strike in Afghanistan are not entitled to compensation. The court held that international law does not award damages or compensation for violations of international humanitarian law. Additionally, there is no legal basis for damages under German law because the scope of public liability does not extend to military missions abroad. The lawsuit concerned an air-strike ordered by Brig. Gen. Georg Klein near Kunduz, on Sept. 4, 2009. The air-strike killed 91, including many civilians. Germany has paid $5,000 to relatives of each civilian that died in the attack, but the victims' relatives were seeking additional compensation.

UN condemns US drone strike in Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Sept. 29 condemned an air-strike launched by an unmanned aerial vehicle that struck a civilian home, killing 15 and injuring 13, including one child. The strike, apparently targeting Islamic State (ISIS) militants, was conducted during the early morning hours of that day in the eastern district of Achin where civilians had gathered in a village to celebrate the return of a tribal leader from the pilgrimage to Mecca. The US has admitted conducting the strike, and said it is under investigation. Expressing condolences to the families of those killed, UNAMA reiterated the need for all parties involved in the conflict to comply with international humanitarian law. UNAMA called on the government and international military forces to launch "a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into this incident."

Hekmatyar: Afghanistan's ultra-ironic peacemaker

Afghanistan's government signed a peace agreement Sept. 22 with Hezb-e-Islami, the militant group of Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Representatives of the movement and Afghan officials signed the accord in a ceremony broadcast on live TV. The deal of course grants impunity to Hekmatyar, who is accused of countless atrocities. Hekmatyar was not present at the signing, which is intended to pave the way for him to return from hiding to Kabul. He must still personally sign the accord with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for it to come into force. Mohammad Amin Karim, head of the insurgent delegation, was present at the ceremony. He said: "This is not just a peace deal between Hezb-e-Islami and the government of Afghanistan, it is a beginning of a new era of peace all around the country." Another Hezb-e-Islami leader, Qarib-ur-Rehman Syed, assured the US State Department's Voice of America Afghanistan service: "Hezb-e-Islami considers itself of the people... we apologize from those who were hurt."  (Khaama PressBBC News, Sept. 22)

Civil society responds to Pakistan hospital blast

Hardline Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for an Aug. 8 suicide bombing that killed at least 70 at a hospital in Quetta, capital of restive Balochistan province. The attacker targeted a crowd that had gathered as the body was brought in of Bilal Kasi, a prominent lawyer who had just been assassinated. Several lawyers and journalists were among the dead. (BBC News) Lawyers across the country will boycott court proceedings for three days to protest the attack, the Pakistan Bar Council announced. (Pakistan Express-Tribune) Journalists have also staged demonstrations in various cities, chanting slogans against terrorism and the Balochistan government over a lack of security measures taken despite imminent threat. (Dunya News)

Afghanistan: civilian casualties reach record high

Civilian casualties have reached a record high in the first half of 2016, with 5,166 civilians recorded killed or maimed, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported (PDF) July 25. More than a third of those have been children, according to the report, and the total number of civilian casualties since 2009 has now climbed to 63,934, including 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injured. Remarking on the latest figures, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said:

Afghanistan: ISIS claims massacre of Hazaras

ISIS claimed responsibility for twin suicide blasts that killed at least 80 and wounded 230 Shi'ite Hazaras who were gathered in Kabul for a protest demonstration July 23—the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since 2001. The attack represents a major escalation for ISIS in Afghanistan, which so has largely been largely confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar. The attakc was claimed in a short statement posted by Amaq Agency, the ISIS media arm. The Taliban issued a statement rejeccting the attack, saying it was aimed at sowing divisions among Afghanistan's communitie. The Talibam waged a campaign of genocide against the Hazaras during their time in power in the 1990s.

What was behind Af-Pak border clashes?

Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed June 20 to peacefully resolve a border dispute after clashes and a tense stand-off over Islamabad's plan to build a barbed-wire separation barrier at its Torkham border crossing. Fighting broke out on June 12, leading to fatalities on both sides—including two children on the Afghan side of the line. The crossing, in Pakistan's Khyber Agency, was re-opened afrter both sides agreed to de-escalate following a high-level meeting in Islamabad. Tensions began in April, when Pakistani authorities demolished the homes of some 300 Afghan families living in Torkham to clear way for the "gate," as the barrier is being called. The houses were bulldozed after a number of Afghan nationals refused to comply with a four-day deadline to vacate the area and cross into Afghanistan. The families protested that they had legal residency, and that the expulsions were being carried out improperly.

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