Daesh uses Taliban's own tactics to attack Afghanistan's new rulers

A Taliban fighter walks on the side of a road as a Humvee carrying other fighters drives by in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 21, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 23 September 2021

Daesh uses Taliban's own tactics to attack Afghanistan's new rulers

  • Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has downplayed the threat from Daesh
  • Commanders on the ground do not dismiss the threat so lightly

KABUL: A little more than a month after toppling the Western-backed government in Kabul, Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers are facing internal enemies who have adopted many of the tactics of urban warfare that marked their own successful guerrilla campaign.
A deadly attack on Kabul airport last month and a series of bomb blasts in the eastern city of Jalalabad, all claimed by the local affiliate of Daesh, have underlined the threat to stability from violent militant groups who remain unreconciled to the Taliban.
While the movement's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has downplayed the threat, saying this week that Daesh had no effective presence in Afghanistan, commanders on the ground do not dismiss the threat so lightly.
Two members of the movement's intelligence services who investigated some of the recent attacks in Jalalabad said the tactics showed the group remained a danger, even if it did not have enough fighters and resources to seize territory.
Using sticky bombs - magnetic bombs usually stuck to the underside of cars - the attacks targeted Taliban members in exactly the same way the Taliban itself used to hit officials and civil society figures to destabilize the former government.
"We are worried about these sticky bombs that once we used to apply to target our enemies in Kabul. We are concerned about our leadership as they could target them if not controlled them successfully," said one of the Taliban intelligence officials.
Daesh in Khorasan, the name taken from the ancient name for the region that includes modern Afghanistan, first emerged in late 2014 but has declined from its peak around 2018 following a series of heavy losses inflicted by both the Taliban and U.S. forces.
Taliban security forces in Nangarhar said they had killed three members of the movement on Wednesday night and the intelligence officials said the movement still retains the ability to cause trouble through small-scale attacks.
"Their main structure is broken and they are now divided in small groups to carry out attacks," one of them said.
FUNDING DRIED UP
The Taliban have said repeatedly that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for attacks on other countries. But some Western analysts believe the return of the Islamist group to power has invigorated groups like Daesh-K and al Qaeda, which had made Afghanistan their base when the Taliban last ruled the country.
"In Afghanistan, the return of Taliban is a huge victory for the Islamists," said Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "They have celebrated the return of the Taliban, so I think that Afghanistan is the new theatre."
Daesh-K is believed to draw many of its fighters from the ranks of the Taliban or the Pakistani version of the Taliban, known as the TTP, but much of the way it operates remains little understood.
It has fought the Taliban over smuggling routes and other economic interests but it also supports a global Caliphate under Islamic law, in contrast with the Taliban which insists it has no interest in anywhere outside Afghanistan.
Most analysts, as well as the United Nations, peg Daesh-K's strength at under 2,000 fighters, compared to as many as 100,000 at the Taliban's disposal. The ranks of Daesh-K were swollen with prisoners released when Afghanistan's jails were opened by the Taliban as they swept through the country.
According to a June report by the UN security council, Daesh-K's financial and logistic ties to its parent organisation in Syria have weakened, though it does retain some channels of communication.
"Funding support to the Khorasan branch from the core is believed to have effectively dried up," the report said.
However, the report said signs of divisions within the Taliban, which have already started to emerge, could encourage more fighters to defect as the wartime insurgency tries to reshape itself into a peacetime administration.
"It remains active and dangerous, particularly if it is able, by positioning itself as the sole pure rejectionist group in Afghanistan, to recruit disaffected Taliban and other militants to swell its ranks," the UN said.


Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of Omicron variant currently on mainland France

Updated 3 sec ago

Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of Omicron variant currently on mainland France

PARIS: The French Health Ministry said there were currently nine confirmed cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on mainland France, which, according to the government’s top scientific adviser, could become dominant strain of the virus in the country by the end of January.

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

Updated 03 December 2021

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

  • The 19-year-old woman was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated
  • Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has detected its first case of the omicron coronavirus variant in a foreign student who was quarantined after arrival from South Africa two weeks ago, its health minister said on Friday.
Authorities had re-tested earlier positive samples after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced omicron as a variant of concern on Nov. 24, minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
The 19-year-old woman, who was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated, had tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Malaysia, via Singapore, and was quarantined for 10 days before being released on Nov. 29, Khairy said.
Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative.
Authorities, however, have asked the student along with eight close contacts to undergo further testing after her earlier test samples were confirmed to be the new variant, Khairy added.
An increasing number of countries are reporting cases of the omicron variant, which the WHO has said carries a very high risk of causing surges of infection.
Neighbouring Singapore confirmed two imported cases on Thursday.
This week, Malaysia temporarily banned the entry of travelers from eight southern African countries that have reported the presence of the variant or are considered high-risk.
On Friday, Khairy said Malaysia would immediately imposed further restrictions, including additional tests for vaccinated travelers from Singapore, who are allowed to enter Malaysia without quarantine.


Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

Updated 03 December 2021

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

  • A police spokeswoman said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related

PARIS: A man dressed like a ninja attacked and wounded two policewomen with a sword in Cherbourg in northwestern France on Thursday before being shot and captured, a police spokeswoman said.
She said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related.
She said the attacker had stolen a vehicle and caused an accident, after which he assaulted two policewomen who had been called to the scene, wounding one in the face and the other in the chin.
The assailant — dressed in black in the style of traditional Japanese ninja fighters — was shot three times by the officers and was flown to hospital by helicopter in serious condition.
The attack happened around 3:45 p.m. (1445 GMT) near a gas station of the Leclerc supermarket chain.
The name and nationality of the attacker were not immediately known.


Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

Updated 02 December 2021

Germany backs restrictions for unvaccinated as mandate looms

  • Measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded
  • “The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity”

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential stores, cultural and recreational venues.
And parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections that again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period.
Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity.”
She said officials also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee.
If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Merkel said, adding that she would have voted in favor of the measure if she were still a member of parliament.
About 68.7 percent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 percent the government is aiming for.
There have been large protests against pandemic measures in the past in Germany and the vaccine mandate is likely to be opposed by a minority, though opinion polls show most Germans are in favor.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a center-left coalition next week, has also backed a general vaccine mandate, but favors letting lawmakers vote on the issue according to their personal conscience rather than party lines.
“If we had a higher vaccination rate, we wouldn’t be discussing this now,”he said.
The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that medical services in the country could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Agreeing what measures to take has been complicated by Germany’s political structure — with the 16 states responsible for many of the regulations — and the ongoing transition at the federal level.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.
To reduce the pressure on hospitals over the festive period, the sale of fireworks traditionally set off during New Year’s in Germany will be banned. Each year, hospitals treat hundreds of people with serious injuries because of mishandled fireworks.
The new measures will take effect once Germany’s 16 states incorporate them into existing rules, likely in the coming days.


Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections

Updated 02 December 2021

Norway reports large outbreak of omicron variant infections

  • “More cases are expected. Effective tracing is being done to limit transmission routes and prevent major outbreaks,” said Oslo Municipality
  • The government agency said that there was “a high vaccination coverage” in the group

COPENHAGEN: At least 50 people in and around Norway’s capital have been infected with the omicron coronavirus variant and the cases are connected to a Norwegian company’s Christmas party in an Oslo restaurant, officials said Thursday.
“More cases are expected. Effective tracing is being done to limit transmission routes and prevent major outbreaks,” the Oslo Municipality said in a statement.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that those affected live in Oslo and surrounding municipalities, and “the infection detection team in Oslo has contacted the municipalities concerned to start infection detection.”
The government agency said that there was “a high vaccination coverage” in the group, adding that overall “more than 50 cases” have been recorded in Norway. The country’s first two cases were announced Monday.
On Wednesday the city of Oslo urged people who visited two restaurants in the capital to be tested. One reportedly was where the Christmas party was held.
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.
It is customary in Scandinavia for companies, associations and individuals to hold Christmas parties in the weeks leading up to Christmas eve.