Afghan commandos killed four at medical clinic: human rights group

Afghan National Army commandos take part in a military exercise at a training center in Herat in this November 11, 2017 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2019
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Afghan commandos killed four at medical clinic: human rights group

  • Doctors and hospitals have been frequently targeted during the Afghanistan’s decades-long conflict
  • Afghan special operations forces entered the clinic, the only one operating in Wardak province west of Kabul, on the night of July 8-9

KABUL: Afghan commandos must be prosecuted after they “executed” four civilians during a night raid on a medical clinic in central Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
Doctors and hospitals have been frequently targeted during the country’s decades-long conflict, with 2019 already proving far deadlier than last year for aid workers.
Several witnesses told the US-based non-governmental organization that Afghan special operations forces entered the clinic, the only one operating in Wardak province west of Kabul, on the night of July 8-9.
“They killed a family caregiver and then detained and bound staff and family members accompanying patients,” HRW said in a statement.
Three other people — a lab worker, a guard and another person caring for a patient — were later found dead from gunshots. HRW said they had been “executed.”
“Attacks on medical facilities challenge the very foundations of the laws of war, and will persist if those responsible go unpunished,” HRW’s associate Asia director Patricia Gossman said.
“It’s imperative for the Afghan government to prosecute the commanders who ordered the killings as well as the soldiers who pulled the trigger.”
Neither the Afghan defense ministry nor US forces in Afghanistan immediately commented. It was not clear whether the US military had supported Afghan troops in the raid.
HRW said deliberate attacks on medical facilities and the summary killing of civilians or incapacitated combatants are war crimes.
The clinic — run by the non-governmental Swedish Committee for Afghanistan — was attacked in 2016, allegedly by both international and Afghan army troops. Three people were killed in that incident.
On Wednesday, Toby Lanzer, deputy head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said 2019 has been a deadly year for health and aid workers. So far this year, 77 aid workers have been killed, injured or abducted compared with 76 in all of 2018, he said.
The raid came only hours after a team of Afghan representatives had met with Taliban officials at a historic summit in Doha where parties pledged to reduce civilian casualties to “zero.”


US lawmakers demand Puerto Rico governor resign as protests roil island

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago
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US lawmakers demand Puerto Rico governor resign as protests roil island

  • The protests have also tapped into simmering resentment over Rossello’s handling of devastating hurricanes in 2017
  • Banging pots and pans and chanting “Ricky Resign!,” Puerto Ricans streamed into San Juan’s old city on Friday night and called on Rossello to quit over the misogynistic and homophobic messages
Several US Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers on Friday demanded Puerto Rico’s governor step down over offensive chat messages, as thousands on the Caribbean island staged a seventh day of protests to seek his resignation.

Banging pots and pans and chanting “Ricky Resign!,” Puerto Ricans streamed into San Juan’s old city on Friday night and called on Ricardo Rossello to quit over the misogynistic and homophobic messages.

The chats, from a Telegram message group and referring mainly to politicians and officials, were published on Saturday.
The leak, running to 889 pages, added to Rossello’s woes after two former officials were arrested by the FBI last week as part of a federal corruption probe in the US territory.

The protests have also tapped into simmering resentment over Rossello’s handling of devastating hurricanes in 2017 and alleged corruption as Puerto Rico’s fragile economy struggles to recover from the island’s bankruptcy.

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard joined the protests in San Juan, saying she wanted to “stand up to corruption,” as other Democratic presidential candidates including Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren also called for Rossello to quit.

“We must stand with la isla. Rossello must resign,” tweeted US Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, whose mother was born in Puerto Rico.

The island’s nonvoting representative in the US Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez, earlier called for his resignation, while Rossello’s press secretary Dennize Perez resigned, saying she could no longer hold the position after she was called corrupt in front of her son.

“It’s your turn, Ricky,” protesters chanted on the street after word spread that Perez had stepped aside.
Rossello, who is affiliated with the US Democratic Party, has refused to step down but said he would hold an emergency meeting with leaders of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party, which he leads.

Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos Mendez on Friday announced the creation of an independent committee to determine whether the center-right politician engaged in illegal activity in the chats. The group has ten days to deliver its findings.

The island’s bar association published a report citing clear grounds to impeach the 40-year-old former scientist, based on the “depravity” of his messages.

The chats, revealed by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, showed how Rossello and allies exchanged vulgar memes and comments as well as privileged information. While opposition legislators back impeachment, the process has yet to gain critical support from lawmakers in Rossello’s ruling party.

But politicians like Gonzalez are increasingly concerned about Puerto Rico’s “anarchic” image after clashes in San Juan this week and allegations the two administration officials arrested by the FBI stole government funds.

The violence and political turmoil comes at a critical stage in the US territory’s bankruptcy process. It has also raised concerns with US lawmakers who are weighing the island’s requests for billions of federal dollars for health care and hurricane recovery efforts.

“The island cannot afford to lose already approved federal resources, nor the ones we are working to obtain,” Gonzalez said in her letter to Rossello urging him to step aside.