Truck bomb kills at least 80 in Afghan capital city center

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Truck bomb kills at least 80 in Afghan capital city center

By | October 16, 2018

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In what Afghan president Ashraf Ghani called “a crime against humanity,” earlier this morning, local time, a septic tanker truck filled with explosives detonated not far from the German embassy in Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan area, during the city’s morning commute. According to the country’s health ministry, at least 83 bodies have been found and over 450 have been wounded. The ministry’s spokesperson, Ismail Kawasi, said most of the victims were civilians, including children.

It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is

“The attack demonstrates a complete disregard for civilians and reveals the barbaric nature of the enemy faced by the Afghan people,” Ghani said in an official statement. “The terrorists, even in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of goodness, blessing and prayer, are not stopping the killing of our innocent people,” he said. General John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan congratulated city security forces for preventing the truck from coming any closer to important government buildings and embassies.

This attack was unusual, though not unheard of, because of the sheer volume of the bomb involved. According to Kabul’s police chief, General Hassan Shah Frogh, “The blast was so huge that it dug a big crater as deep as four meters” (13 feet) and it damaged buildings as far as one mile (1.2 km) away.

Though an initial report by Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish claimed the site of the detonation as near one of the gates to the Afghan Presidential Palace, it was actually closer to the German embassy, which sustained considerable damage, according to NBC. Germany currently has more than 950 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and helped the Afghan security personnel in their training. “It was a car bomb near the German embassy, but there are several other important compounds and offices near there too. It is hard to say what the exact target is,” said police spokesperson Basir Mujahid.

The Taliban has denied any association with this attack. Western countries have been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for about 15 years, including the U.S., Germany, and Britain, but many of these countries withdrew much of their forces before 2015. Since then, the Taliban has come to control about 40% of Afghanistan, per U.S. estimates.

New York Times reporter rescued in Afghanistan

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New York Times reporter rescued in Afghanistan

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

This past week, British Commandos saved a British journalist, Stephen Farrell from what could have been a very dangerous situation as he had been abducted by Taliban insurgents in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan last weekend. During the raid, one of the rescuers and the journalist’s translator were killed in addition to about three others according to conflicting reports.

Farrell, a journalist from The New York Times and dual British-Irish citizen, and his Afghan interpreter, Sultan Munadi, were taken captive by the Taliban while covering a September 4th bombing by coalition aircraft not far from Konduz City, Afghanistan. A local Afghan reported that while Farrell was interviewing individuals that witnessed the bombing, he received a warning from another Afghan that he should leave the area. Soon after, gun-shots were heard and the Taliban was said to be approaching. Reportedly, police warned journalists covering the strike that insurgents controlled the area surrounding the tanker and that they should take precautions for their personal safety.

“We feared that media attention would raise the temperature and increase the risk to the captives.”

When Farrell was taken, few major news outlets reported his capture for security reasons. NY Times Executive Editor Bill Keller earlier said “We feared that media attention would raise the temperature and increase the risk to the captives.”

According to Farrell, while he was treated well — given food, water, and other provisions — his captors taunted Munadi. During their captivity, Farrell commented that his captors would drive within 1500 feet of NATO and Afghan outposts with weapons displayed to prove their daring. Six to eight guards took turns monitoring the captives.

Farrell is the second NY Times journalist to be taken captive in Afghanistan in less than a year. In November 2008, reporter David S. Rohde and his colleague Tahir Ludin were taken captive south of Kabul and moved to Pakistan before they managed to escape in June of this year. Farrell was also kidnapped in April 2004 while on-assignment in Fallujah, Iraq.

Kidnappings are done for ideological reasons by some Taliban members but are also conducted by local insurgents for ransom. At least 16 journalists have been kidnapped since the beginning of the Afghan war.

“The tragedy that took place this morning in northern Afghanistan raises many questions.”

According to Keller, the possibility had arisen that Farrell and Munadi would be moved, possibly to Pakistan, which may have caused the military to act much sooner. On the morning of September 9th, Mohammad Sami Yowar, a spokesman for the Konduz Governor’s Office, briefed that British Commandos conducted a helicopter assault on the house in which the captives were held and subsequently a gun-battle erupted. A Taliban commander inside the house where Farrell and Munadi were being held was reportedly killed during the raid. Munadi was killed during the firefight and British officials said that they could not rule out the possibility he was killed by one of the Commandos. The Konduz Governor, Abdel Wahid Omar Khil, indicated that a woman and child probably caught in the crossfire were also killed during the raid. Farrell indicated that he was not harmed.

Reporters Without Borders has called for an investigation of the Munadi killing stating that “The tragedy that took place this morning in northern Afghanistan raises many questions.” U.S. military officials confirmed the raid was carried out by NATO and Afghan soldiers; no further details were provided.

Seeds placed in Norwegian vault as agricultural ‘insurance policy’

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Seeds placed in Norwegian vault as agricultural ‘insurance policy’

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a vault containing millions of seeds from all over the world, saw its first deposits on Tuesday. Located 800 kilometers from the North Pole on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the vault has been referred to by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso as a “frozen Garden of Eden“. It is intended to preserve crop supplies and secure biological diversity in the event of a worldwide disaster.

“The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world’s crop diversity,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which is in charge of collecting the seed samples. The Norwegian government, who owns the bank, built it at a cost of $9.1 million.

At the opening ceremony, 100 million seeds from 268,000 samples were placed inside the vault, where there is room for over 2 billion seeds. Each of the samples originated from a different farm or field, in order to best ensure biological diversity. These crop seeds included such staples as rice, potatoes, barley, lettuce, maize, sorghum, and wheat. No genetically modified crops were included. (Beyond politics they are generally sterile so of no use.)

It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks.

Constructed deep inside a mountain and protected by concrete walls, the “doomsday vault” is designed to withstand earthquakes, nuclear warfare, and floods resulting from global warming. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg called it an “insurance policy” against such threats.

With air-conditioned temperatures of -18 degrees Celsius, experts say the seeds could last for an entire millennium. Some crops will be able to last longer, like sorghum, which the Global Crop Diversity Trust says can last almost 20 millenniums. Even if the refrigeration system fails, the vaults are expected to stay frozen for 200 years.

The Prime Minister said, “With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilization.” Stoltenberg, along with Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, made the first deposit of rice to the vault.

“It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks,” Maathai said. The vault will operate as a bank, allowing countries to use their deposited seeds free of charge. It will also serve as a backup to the thousands of other seed banks around the world.

“Crop diversity will soon prove to be our most potent and indispensable resource for addressing climate change, water and energy supply constraints and for meeting the food needs of a growing population,” Cary Fowler said.