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13 killed in US drone strike in Kabul

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WASHINGTON- American forces launched a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday that killed a suicide car bomber suspected of preparing to attack the airport, U.S. officials said, as the United States nears the end of its military presence in the Afghan capital.

The strike, first reported by Reuters, was the second carried out by U.S. forces in Afghanistan since an Islamic State suicide bomber struck the airport on Thursday, killing 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians trying to flee the country.

One U.S. official said Sunday’s strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft and that secondary explosions following the strike showed the vehicle had been carrying a “substantial amount of explosive material.”

Witnesses reported a large blast shaking a neighborhood north of Hamid Karzai International Airport, and television footage showed black smoke rising into the sky.

U.S. Central Command confirmed the strike and said it was investigating reports of civilian casualties.

“We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties,” it said.

“It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further,” Central Command added.

President Joe Biden warned on Saturday that the situation on the ground in Kabul remained extremely dangerous, and that his military chiefs had told him another militant attack was highly likely within the next 24-36 hours.

U.S. officials had said they were particularly concerned about the local affiliate of Islamic State (ISIS-K) attacking the airport as American troops depart, in particular the threat from rockets and vehicle-borne explosives.

Sunday’s drone strike took place as Biden headed to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to honor the U.S. service members killed in Thursday’s suicide bombing.

On Friday, the U.S. military launched a drone strike that it said targeted ISIS-K militants in Nangarhar Province, east of Kabul, killing two of the group’s planners and wounding a third.

With the United States continuing to withdraw troops, officials say concerns about another Islamic State attack will mount.

As the Taliban swept across Afghanistan earlier this month, Biden sent thousands of troops to Kabul airport to help evacuate American citizens, at-risk Afghans and other foreigners who wanted to escape the country’s new rulers.

At the peak of the deployment, there were 5,800 U.S. troops securing the airport, where the unprecedented airlift operation is set to end by Tuesday.

Despite Biden’s vow to go after the perpetrators of Thursday’s attack, U.S. officials have cautioned that the United States could do little to degrade ISIS-K beyond a symbolic act or limited operation.

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Taliban are carrying out mass executions, says Christian missionary helping Afghans

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Less than a month after the U.S. troops withdrew troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have started arresting, and in some instances executing, people they perceive as their enemies. Recent photos and video suggest they’re killing as many as 30 to 40 at a time, Christian missionary David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces and Ranger officer, said in a media interview.

The way the United States pulled out is “dishonorable, and a horrible breaking of promises … and leaving thousands of people behind that we promised we’d take out with us including American citizens,” Eubank, who is from Free Burma Rangers and provides humanitarian services in war-torn areas, told CBN News.

In some instances, the pull-out has been “cowardly,” he continued, speaking from Tajikistan, which neighbors Afghanistan and where many Afghans are arriving after fleeing the Taliban.

“Taliban are hunting down people right now, trying to get all the names of anyone they perceive as an enemy,” Eubank said, adding that the enemies include “people who work with the U.S. government, people who are with other governments, people who work with non-governmental organizations they don’t agree with.”

Eubank, who is in Tajikistan to help Afghans, also said that “many have been executed. … I’ve seen recent photos of 30 to 40 people [being executed].”

Eubank clarified that he doesn’t know the scale of the killings or the arrests, “but I believe it’s countrywide now.”

The Taliban are allowing American citizens who have identity cards to escape, he continued, adding that “anyone who doesn’t have papers, anyone they perceive as an enemy, they are going to arrest them, and, in many cases, execute them.”

The people in Afghanistan “are in terror,” Eubank added.

According to its website, Free Burma Rangers have helped 1.5 million displaced persons to date who would have otherwise died.

In an interview with The Christian Post last year, Eubank shared: “I am motivated by what Jesus does for me and want to share His love and encourage people to follow Him. We are not to be led by comfort, fear or pride, but go in the love God gives us. We go into areas of direct combat to save lives and share love.”

Following the drawing down of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban quickly seized control of much of the country, taking the capital Kabul last month and forcing the government to flee.

The U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern warned last week that as the Taliban is cracking down on protests and journalists, concerns are also being raised among religious minorities of increased oppression and persecution because the Taliban have promised strict enforcement of Sharia law.

Almost all Afghan Christians — estimated to be between 8,000 and 12,000 — are converts from Islam and remain largely closeted and hidden from the public eye due to severe persecution.

“Their status as converts makes Afghan Christians direct targets for persecution by both extremist groups and society in general,” ICC reports. “In Afghanistan, leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered.”
Sources:Christian Post

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ICC report on religious persecution of Christians in China over the past year

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International Christian Concern (ICC) has just published a new report on persecution in China. In it, ICC lists and analyzes over 100 incidents of Christian persecution between July 2020 and June 2021, a period marked by a significant campaign by the Chinese government to forcefully convert independent religious organizations into mechanisms of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This forceful assimilation—also called Sinicization—has continued to intensify since it was introduced as part of the Four Requirements campaign launched in 2018. Since then, the government has only increased its attempts to use the Church for political purposes. It has gone as far as converting church buildings into propaganda centers and even regulating the content of sermons in order to promote communist party values.

Three-Self churches are part of the legal framework the CCP uses to systemically curb Christianity, including Catholicism. If a church is not registered as a state-sanctioned church, it is violating the law and the CCP can step in at any time to shut it down, prosecute individuals, and put enormous social pressure on attendees. As described in last year’s report, registered churches are at the mercy of laws that were passed entirely in contradiction to the constitution and enforced by multiple departments, bureaus, and agencies using them to suppress house church activity.

A significant trend throughout the past year was church raids. In them, not only were churches shut down or demolished, but pastors and church attendees were often arrested. One example of a church raid was in September 2020, in Sichuan province, when China’s Public Security Bureau of Nanbu deployed over 30 police officers to raid an underground Protestant house church, known as Sola Fide. When police arrived on the scene, they arrested 50 Sola Fide members. Throughout this process, the police tore down crosses and other Christian symbols and destroyed hymnals and Bibles.

With the intensified crackdown against churches, both state-vetted and underground, there is no longer a safe place to be a Christian in China. Almost every province in China has seen an increase in Christian persecution over the last year.

The Religious Affairs Bureau and the CCP have a single goal: to prevent religious influence from threatening their communist control.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “China tightening down on people of faith comes as no surprise to observers. What is concerning is the depth and width of persecution and that it continues to expand. From Xinjiang to Sichuan, from state-sanctioned groups to underground churches, from verbal threats to imprisonment, believers in China are constantly watched and persecuted, as documented in ICC’s latest incident report. The international community should not appease Beijing and let it get away with its blatant disregard for human rights.”

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