Taliban claims deadly attack on Afghan stadium celebration

The governor was transported from the area. (AFP/File)
Updated 24 March 2019

Taliban claims deadly attack on Afghan stadium celebration

  • The governor of Helmand province received minor injuries in the blasts
  • Farmer Day celebrations last a few days and mark the traditional Pakistani new year

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan: An attack claimed by the Taliban killed four people and wounded 31 on Saturday during a celebration in the Afghan city of Lashkar Gah.

Afghanistan’s multi-day celebrations to mark its traditional new year have been marred by several attacks, beginning with explosions claimed by Islamic State in the capital of Kabul on Thursday that killed six people and wounded 23.

Saturday’s blasts in the southern provincial capital appeared to have been caused by explosives planted at the stadium where nearly 1,000 people were celebrating Farmers Day.

Helmand provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan was knocked over but suffered only superficial injuries, a spokesman said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility on Twitter for the explosions.

In Reuters video footage, bursts of gunfire can be heard before and after one of the blasts, causing people to flee. A Reuters witness said the gunfire came from security personnel.

“There was chaos and people were running. Security forces asked them to calm down and then the second explosion happened,” said Najibullah, who was in the stadium for the celebrations.

He said the explosions seemed to originate from where tents were set up for farmers to display their produce.

The Persian new year is widely celebrated in Afghanistan but some hard-line Islamists oppose the festivities, saying they are un-Islamic.

Helmand, source of much of Afghanistan’s opium, is one of several Afghan provinces in which insurgents have the greatest control and influence.

The latest attack came a year after a car bomb killed at least 14 people who had gathered for a wrestling match in Lashkar Gah.

Fighting has been relentless in Afghanistan amid recurring peace talks between US and Taliban negotiators. The latest negotiating round wrapped up this month with both sides saying there was progress toward ending the 17-year war.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction estimated in January that the government controlled or influenced just over half the country, covering nearly two-thirds of the population.


World Bank lends Philippines $500 million to counter coronavirus impact

Updated 13 min 9 sec ago

World Bank lends Philippines $500 million to counter coronavirus impact

  • Philippine government will begin easing from June 1 one of the world’s longest lockdowns
  • Loan will support efforts to provide immediate relief to poor Filipinos and small business workers

MANILA: The World Bank Group approved a $500 million loan for the Philippines to help it cope with the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Bank said on Friday.
The Philippine government will begin easing from June 1 one of the world’s toughest and longest lockdowns for residents in the capital and other key cities, restoring much-needed activity to an economy facing its deepest contraction in nearly three decades.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has badly hurt millions of poor and vulnerable Filipino families, particularly daily wage earners,” said Achim Fock, World Bank acting country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.
The loan will support efforts to provide immediate relief to poor Filipinos and small business workers who have lost their jobs during the lockdown since mid-March, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a statement.
The World Bank last month approved two sets of loans totaling $600 million to support the Philippines’ emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 15,000 and killed more than 900 in the Philippines.