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Taliban move to capture Kabul; Of the 34 provinces, 18 were seized

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KABUL — The Taliban completed their sweep of Afghanistan’s south on Friday, taking four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that brought them closer to Kabul just weeks before the U.S. is set to officially end its two-decade war.

In the last 24 hours, the country’s second- and third-largest cities — Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south — have fallen to the insurgents, as has the capital of the southern province of Helmand, where American, British and NATO forces fought some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict.

The blitz through the Taliban’s southern heartland means the insurgents now hold half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the country. The Western-backed government in the capital, Kabul, still holds a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

While Kabul is not directly under threat yet, the resurgent Taliban were battling government forces in Logar province, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the capital. The U.S. military has estimated that Kabul could come under insurgent pressure within 30 days and that the Taliban could overrun the rest of the country within a few months. They have already taken over much of the north and west of the country.In the south, insurgents swept through three provincial capitals on Friday.

The Taliban captured Lashkar Gah following weeks of heavy fighting and raised their white flag over governmental buildings, said Attaullah Afghan, the head of the provincial council in Helmand. He said that three army bases outside of the city remain under government control.

In Tirin Kot, the capital of the southern Uruzgan province, Taliban fighters paraded through a main square, driving a Humvee and a pickup seized from Afghan forces. Local officials confirmed that the Taliban also captured the capitals of Zabul province in the south and Ghor in the west.

With security rapidly deteriorating, the United States planned to send in 3,000 troops to help evacuate some personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Britain and Canada are also sending forces to aid their evacuations. Denmark said it will temporarily close its embassy, while Germany is reducing its embassy staff to the “absolute minimum.”

The United Nations chief urged the Taliban to immediately halt the offensive and negotiate “in good faith” to avert a prolonged civil war. In his strongest appeal to the Islamic militant group, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by indications that the Taliban were “imposing severe restrictions in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists.”

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban will return the country to the sort of brutal, repressive rule it imposed when it was last in power at the turn of the millennium. At that time, the group all but eliminated women’s rights and conducted public executions as it imposed an unsparing version of Islamic law. An early sign of such tactics came in Herat, where insurgents paraded two alleged looters through the streets on Friday with black makeup smeared on their faces.

There are also concerns that the fighting could plunge the country into civil war, which is what happened after the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

“We are worried. There is fighting everywhere in Afghanistan. The provinces are falling day by day,” said Ahmad Sakhi, a resident of Kabul. “The government should do something. The people are facing lots of problems.”

The U.N. refugee agency said nearly 250,000 Afghans have been forced to flee their homes since the end of May, and 80% of those displaced are women and children. In all, the agency said, some 400,000 civilians have been displaced since the beginning of the year, joining millions who have fled previous rounds of fighting in recent decades.

Peace talks in Qatar between the Taliban and the government remain stalled, though diplomats are still meeting, as the U.S., European and Asian nations warned that battlefield gains would not lead to political recognition.

“We demand an immediate end to attacks against cities, urge a political settlement, and warn that a government imposed by force will be a pariah state,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy to the talks.

But the Taliban advance continued.

Fighting was still underway inside Puli-e Alim, with government forces holding the police headquarters and other security facilities, said Hasibullah Stanikzai, the head of the Logar provincial council. He spoke by phone from his office, and gunfire could be heard in the background. The Taliban, however, said they had captured the police headquarters and a nearby prison.

The onslaught represents a stunning collapse of Afghan forces after the United States spent nearly two decades and $830 billion trying to establish a functioning state. U.S. forces toppled the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which al-Qaida planned and executed while being sheltered by the Taliban government.

With only weeks remaining before the U.S. plans to withdraw its last troops, the fighters now advancing across the country ride on American-made Humvees and carry M-16s pilfered from Afghan forces.

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Afghan army has rotted from within due to corruption and mismanagement, leaving troops in the field poorly equipped and with little motivation to fight. The Taliban, meanwhile, have spent a decade taking control of large swaths of the countryside.

That allowed them to rapidly seize key infrastructure and urban areas once President Joe Biden announced the timeline for the U.S. withdrawal, saying he was determined to end America’s longest war.

“Whatever forces are left or remaining that are in the Kabul area and the provinces around them, they’re going to be used for the defense of Kabul,” Roggio said. “Unless something dramatically changes, and I don’t see how that’s possible, these provinces that have fallen will remain under Taliban control.”

A day earlier, in Herat, Taliban fighters rushed past the Great Mosque in the historic city — a structure that dates to 500 BC and was once a spoil of Alexander the Great — and seized government buildings. Herat had been under militant attack for two weeks.

In Kandahar, insurgents seized the governor’s office and other buildings, and officials fled, witnesses said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the defeat has yet to be acknowledged by the government, which has not commented on the latest advances.

Civilians were likely wounded and killed in airstrikes, Nasima Niazi, a lawmaker from Helmand, said Thursday. U.S. Central Command has acknowledged carrying out several strikes in recent days, without providing details.

Meanwhile in neighboring Pakistan, the country’s national security adviser urged Afghan leaders to seek a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to avoid further violence. Moeed Yusuf made the appeal Friday while speaking to reporters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

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Elderly Eritrean Pastors Continue to Suffer in Prison

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Eritrea – Two pastors who were arrested and imprisoned by the Eritrean government in July are still being held in prison, sources with knowledge of the situation told ICC. Both in their mid-seventies, Pastor Girmay Araya and Pastor Samuel Okbamichael were arrested in the middle of the night before being taken to the Wengel Mermera interrogation center run by the Ministry of Justice in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.

Both pastors were largely retired from the ministry when they were arrested, raising questions about why they were targeted. Eritrea has a long history of targeting religious figures and is currently detaining many others pastors.

Called “Africa’s North Korea” by some, Eritrea is a one-party state ruled by an oppressive, totalitarian government that is openly hostile to religion. Religious prisoners are often subjected to long or indefinite terms in prisons where they suffer unimaginably inhumane conditions.

Former prisoners at Mai Serwa, another prison in Asmara, report being held in shipping containers, each holding 8-22 detainees and extremely susceptible to the extreme weather swings of the desert around them. According to the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR), “inmates are subjected to total darkness, which increases their suffering. A torture chamber made of concrete is reportedly located at the back of the containers. [One] detainee… was interrogated and tortured four nights per week for two months.”

“Individuals who are arrested for religious reasons are systematically subjected to ill-treatment and torture,” the OHCR said. “It is common practice to coerce renunciation of faith.”

Despite its similarities to North Korea, Eritrea seems to have largely managed to escape that country’s penchant for attracting sanctions. In fact, the U.S. is actually lifting sanctions off of the country. However commendable this may be from a diplomatic or economic perspective, it is important that the U.S. not lose sight of the real, systematic abuses at play in Eritrea. It should continue to pressure Eritrea, including through targeted sanctions designed to force behavior change at every level of the abusive system.

“If it does decide to improve relations with Eritrea, the U.S. must use that closeness to pressure the country to begin respecting human rights,” said Jay Church, ICC’s Advocacy Manager for Africa. “A thorough rehauling of its judicial system, the abolishment of its horrendous penal system and the creation of a professional one in its place, and respect for religious freedom would be a good place to start.”
Sources:persecution

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ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോകറന്‍സികള്‍ക്ക് സമ്പൂർണ വിലക്ക്,ലോകത്തെ ഞെട്ടിച്ച് ചൈന

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ബീജിങ്: ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോ കറന്‍സികള്‍ക്ക് സമ്പൂര്‍ണ നിരോധനവുമായി ചൈന രംഗത്ത്. ലോകത്ത് ആദ്യമായാണ് ഒരു രാജ്യം ഇക്കാര്യത്തില്‍ ഇത്രയും കടുത്ത തീരുമാനവുമായി രംഗത്ത് വരുന്നത്. ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോകറന്‍സികളും അവയുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട എല്ലാ ഇടപാടുകളും നിയമവിരുദ്ധമായി പ്രഖ്യാപിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തിട്ടുണ്ട് ചൈന.

ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോകറന്‍സികളുടെ കാര്യത്തില്‍ തീരെ ഉദാരമല്ലാത്ത സമീപനം ആണ് ചൈന സ്വീകരിച്ചുവരുന്നത്. ഇതുസംബന്ധിച്ച് ചൈനയുടെ പല നിയന്ത്രണങ്ങളും നേരത്തേ തന്നെ ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോ വിപണിയെ വലിയ തോതില്‍ ബാധിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തിരുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍, ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ നീക്കം ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോവിപണികളുടെ അടിത്തറ തന്നെ ഇളക്കിയേക്കും. ചൈനീസ് തീരുമാനം വന്നതിന് പിറകെ ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോകറന്‍സികളുടെ മൂല്യത്തില്‍ വലിയ ഇടിവും സംഭവിച്ചു.

ചൈനയുടെ കേന്ദ്ര ബാങ്ക് ആയ പീപ്പിള്‍സ് ബാങ്ക് ഓഫ് ചൈനയാണ് ഇക്കാര്യത്തില്‍ കൃത്യമായ നിര്‍ദ്ദേശങ്ങള്‍ പുറപ്പെടുവിച്ചിട്ടുള്ളത്. ക്രിപറ്റോകറന്‍സികളുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട് എല്ലാ ഇടപാടുകളും നിയമവിരുദ്ധമായിരിക്കുമെന്നും നിര്‍ബന്ധമായും നിരോധിക്കപ്പെടേണ്ടതാണെന്നും ബാങ്ക് അവരുടെ വെബ്‌സൈറ്റ് മുഖേന വ്യക്തമാക്കിക്കഴിഞ്ഞു. ബിറ്റ്‌കോയിന്‍ എന്നോ, എഥേറിയം എന്നോ ടെഥര്‍ എന്നോ വ്യത്യാസമില്ലാത്തെ എല്ലാ ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോ കറന്‍സികള്‍ക്കും ഇത് ബാധകമായിരിക്കും.

ചൈനക്കാരുടെ കൈവശമുള്ളവരുടെ ബിറ്റ്‌കോയിനുകള്‍ക്ക് ഇനി എന്ത് സംഭവിക്കും എന്നത് സംബന്ധിച്ച ചര്‍ച്ചകളും പുരോഗമിച്ചുകൊണ്ടിരിക്കുകയാണ്. ചൈനയിലെ താമസക്കാര്‍ക്ക് ഓഫ്‌ഷോര്‍ എക്‌സ്‌ചേഞ്ചുകള്‍ വഴി നല്ഡകപ്പെട്ടിരുന്ന ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോ സേവനങ്ങള്‍ കൂടി നിരോധനത്തിന്റെ പരിധിയില്‍ വരുന്ന സാഹചര്യത്തിലാണ് ഇത്തരം ഒരു ആശങ്ക ഉയര്‍ന്നിരിക്കുന്നത്.
Sources:globalindiannews

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ക്രിപ്‌റ്റോകറന്‍സികള്‍ക്ക് സമ്പൂർണ വിലക്ക്,ലോകത്തെ ഞെട്ടിച്ച് ചൈന

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