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ABU DHABI, June 17, 2018 (MENA) – The UAE welcomed the announcement by the Afghan government to extend ceasefire with Taliban, WAM reported on Sunday.

The announcement was made on Saturday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“The UAE supports Ghani’s announcement to extend ceasefire with Taliban as well as his proposal to begin peace talks,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Government said in a statement.

The ministry added that the ceasefire with the Taliban is a fundamental step to consolidate security and stability in Afghanistan.

It praised the Afghan president’s initiative, describing it as a brave decision that would pave the way for peace negotiations between the two sides.

BRUSSELS, June 8, 2018 (News Wires) - A one-week ceasefire with the Taliban announced by the Afghan government will allow the fight against the Islamic State group to be stepped up, the top US general in the country said on Friday.

Afghan commandos backed by US special forces and air support are tackling IS and Al-Qaeda fighters who hold pockets of territory in the northern and eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and JowzJanuary

“We are in the middle of a new offensive against ISIS in Nangahar. This will continue and in fact will be intensified during the period of ceasefire,” General John Nicholson, who commands US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Nato defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Nicholson said US forces would respect the apparently unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban announced by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Thursday.

But Nicholson said his troops would not hesitate to respond if the Taliban broke the ceasefire.

“We will act in self defence of coalition and Afghan forces,” Nicholson said.

“This means that we will be watching and prepared to respond to any threat that occurs or appears imminent to affect our forces.”

The Taliban, ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001, have not yet confirmed if they will respect the ceasefire, which was called to coincide with Eid-al-Fitr, the holiday that caps the holy month of Ramadan.

Ghani’s surprise declaration came on the heels of a fatwa issued by Afghanistan’s top clerics branding suicide attacks “haram”, or forbidden, and a Pentagon announcement that senior Taliban officials had been negotiating with Afghan authorities on a possible ceasefire.

 

KABUL, April 30, 2018 (MENA) - An Afghan security source said at least 26 people were killed and nearly 40 others sustained injuries in the coordinated suicide attacks in Kabul.

The incident took place in Shash Darak area of the city earlier Monday with the initial blast taking place close to a security compound after a suicide
bomber riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives.

The second blast took place several minutes after the first blast with the Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzi confirming that the incident took place after a suicide bomber detonated explosives packed in a camera among the reporters and other people who had gathered in the area to help the victims of the first blast.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks.

SULTANPUR, Afghanistan (AFP) April 23, 2018 - Sitara Wafadar yearns for long hair like other girls. Instead, the Afghan teenager has disguised herself as a boy for more than a decade, forced by her parents to be the “son” they never had.

With five sisters and no brothers, Sitara lives by the gender-twisting custom known as “bacha poshi”, which in Dari refers to a girl “dressed as a boy”, enabling her to safely perform the duties of a son in the patriarchal country.

The 18-year-old, who resides with her impoverished family in a mud-brick house in a village in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, has pretended to be a boy for most of her life.

Every morning she puts on the baggy shirt and trousers and flip flops typically worn by Afghan males. Sometimes she covers her short brown hair with a scarf and deepens her voice to conceal her real gender.

“I never think that I am a girl,” Sitara tells AFP at the brick factory where she and her elderly father work six days a week as bonded labourers to repay money they borrowed from the owner and feed the family.

“My father always says ‘Sitara is like my eldest son’. Sometimes... I attend funerals as his eldest son” — something she would never be allowed to do as a girl.

Bacha poshi has a long history in deeply conservative Afghanistan, where boys are valued more highly than girls and women are often confined to the home.

Normally it is families with no male heirs who make a daughter dress as a boy so she can carry out the duties of a son without getting harassed, or worse.

But some girls choose to pose as boys so they can enjoy the freedom their male counterparts take for granted in a country that treats women as second-class citizens.

While most bacha posh, as they are known, stop dressing as a boy after reaching puberty, Sitara says she keeps wearing male clothing “to protect myself” at the brick kiln.

“When I go to work most people do not realise that I am a girl,” Sitara says.

“If they realised that an 18-year-old girl was working morning to evening in a brick factory then I would encounter many problems. I could even be kidnapped.”

Sitara started working at the factory when she was eight, following in the footsteps of her four older sisters, who also made bricks instead of going to school — until they married, after which they stayed home.

She makes 500 bricks a day in return for 160 Afghanis (just over US$2 or RM7.80).

From 7am to 5pm she crouches on the ground preparing mud and clay and then pushing it into brick moulds under the hot sun that has turned her skin brown.

“I don’t feel ashamed about what I am doing but people my age tell me ‘you have reached puberty and now you don’t have to work at a brick factory’,” Sitara says.

“But what should I do? I don’t have any other choice.”

Sitara’s father, Noor, says “almighty Allah” did not give him a son, leaving him with no choice but to force his daughter to dress as a boy and work.

The family says they owe 25,000 Afghanis to the factory owner and relatives that they borrowed to cover the medical expenses of Sitara’s diabetic mother.

“If I had a son I would not have faced all these problems and my daughter’s life would be peaceful and prosperous,” Noor tells AFP.

“All the responsibility is on my and Sitara’s shoulders — we have to provide for the family and pay back the loans.”

‘I wish I had a brother’

Bacha poshi tends to be followed in “particularly conservative areas” of Afghanistan, Kabul University sociology professor Baryalai Fetrat tells AFP.

But after years of dressing as a boy, the girls can be left feeling confused about their gender identity and status in the male-dominated society.

“Girls find it difficult to go back to their normal self or act as a submissive wife to their husbands, which can lead to depression and also domestic violence,” Fetrat says.

Sitara’s mother, Fatima, wishes Sitara could wear female clothes and stay at home, but she needs her to “bring groceries, take me to the doctor and do other work because my husband is old”.

While Sitara recognises that her situation is “unfair and unjust”, she is resigned to it, mainly because her younger sister, who is 13, would “face the same fate as me” if she stopped.

“I will do the hard work because I don’t want my younger sister dressing as a boy and working at the factory,” Sitara says.

“If I don’t work we will face a lot of hardship and problems.”

But even after so many years acting as a boy, Sitara still finds herself imagining what it would be like if she had a brother and could be free to have long hair and go to school.

“When I put on boy’s clothes I wish I had a brother, then my dreams would have been fulfilled,” she says.

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 23, 2018 (AP) —UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the attack on a voter registration centre in Afghanistan.

The suicide bombing in Kabul on Sunday killed at least 57 people with more than 100 wounded. Daesh (Islamic State)  claimed responsibility, saying it targeted Shi'ite "apostates."

Guterres said the culprits must be brought to justice. "They must not be allowed to succeed in deterring Afghan citizens from carrying out their constitutional right to take part in forthcoming elections."

He extended condolences to the families and expressed solidarity with the Afghan government in the statement issued in New York by spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 23, 2018 (AP) — Taliban attacks in western Afghanistan killed 14 soldiers and policemen on Monday as Kabul residents prepared to bury their loved ones slain in a horrific bombing by Daesh (Islamic State)  that targeted a voter registration centre the day before, killing 57.

Prayer services were held for the Kabul victims as families of those killed in Sunday's bombing carried the bodies of their kin and dug the graves at a cemetery in the hills above the Afghan capital.

The first of Monday's near-simultaneous attacks in western Badghis province hit army units in the district of Ab Kamari, killing nine soldiers, said Ghulam Sarwar Haidari, the deputy provincial police chief.

Moments later, another large group of insurgents struck police in Qadis district, killing five policemen.

Sharafuddin Majidi, spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed the casualty tolls. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the Badghis attacks in a statement to the media.

The attacks came on the heels of Sunday's suicide blast in Kabul. The staggering casualty toll — 57 dead and 119 wounded — underscored the struggles the government faces to rein in terrorist assaults even in large and well-protected urban centres.

The explosion shook the city around 10am, shattering windows miles from the site of the attack, leaving the pavement covered with bodies and blood stains and destroying nearby vehicles.

The bomber targeted civilians who were registering for national identification cards, Kabul police said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, saying it had targeted Shi'ite "apostates."

Afghan security forces have struggled to prevent a recent surge in attacks both by the local Islamic State affiliate as well as the more firmly established Taliban. The attacks increased after the United States and NATO concluded their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

Both groups regularly carry out attacks, with the Taliban usually targeting the government and security forces and IS targeting the country's Shi'ite minority.

In violence elsewhere in Afghanistan, four policemen were killed and three were wounded on Monday in a Taliban attack in western Farah province, in Bala Buluk district, according to Mohammad Naser Mehri, spokesman for the provincial governor.

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