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Tue
21
Feb

Pak for politically-negotiated settlement of Afghan conflict

Pakistan today said a politically-negotiated settlement is the most viable solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz during a meeting with UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said the issue of Afghanistan should be resolved through talks.

In the meeting, the two sides discussed the emerging situation in the war-torn country and the need for strengthening efforts for enduring peace and stability.

"The Adviser stressed the importance of reaching a politically negotiated settlement as the most viable solution to Afghan conflict," Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Nafees Zakaria said after the talks.

Yamamoto shared the UN's vision of making meaningful contribution towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Both sides agreed on the need of continued and constructive efforts for Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, Zakaria said.

Tue
21
Feb

4 militants killed by Pak army

Four "high-profile" Pakistani Taliban militants were killed today by the army in Pakistan's northwestern city here.

The media wing of the military released a statement in this regard, saying the operation was reportedly carried out against Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani Group of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The Inter-Services Public Relations claimed that the suspects killed in the military operation were allegedly "high-profile" terrorists.

The group was allegedly involved in target killings, extortion and kidnapping for ransom in Dera Ismail Khan, Tank and surrounding areas, the ISPR statement said.

Cache of weapons and ammunitions also recovered from the possession of the deceased suspects, it added.

PTI

Tue
21
Feb

11 family members dead in rebel push on IS Syria bastion

Eleven members of the same family were killed today as Turkey-backed Syrian rebels advanced on the town of Al-Bab held by Islamic State jihadists, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four couples and three children were killed in their homes in the centre of town as it came under heavy bombardment and Turkish air strikes aimed at clearing the way for a rebel advance.

The rebels gained ground, dodging snipers and deadly roadside bombs planted across the jihadist bastion.

With help from Turkish soldiers, artillery fire and air strikes, the "Euphrates Shield" rebel alliance launched a major push into the northern town.

"Euphrates Shield fighters gathered last night and divided up the town into three axes to facilitate the storming of Al-Bab," said local field commander Abu Jaafar, speaking to AFP inside the town.

Tue
21
Feb

Gaza mother reunited with baby amid Israel entry row

A Palestinian baby was reunited with her mother after more than six months today after Israel granted Jumana Daoud a permit to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem to fetch her.

Daoud and rights groups said she had submitted an application several months ago to reenter Israel to retrieve baby Maryam from a hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, but received no reply.

The Israeli defence ministry body responsible denied that any application had been received.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip need to apply for individual permits to enter or transit Israel, but do so through the Palestinian Authority.

The PA circulated a document allegedly showing that the request had been submitted.

AFP was not able to independently verify the cause for the delay.

Tiny Maryam smiled as she was picked up by her mother for the first time since her premature birth on August 1.

Tue
21
Feb

Iraqi troops advance on western Mosul as Mattis holds talks

Iraqi forces advanced today into the southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a push to drive Islamic State militants from the city's western half, as the visiting US defense secretary met with officials to discuss the fight against the extremists.

With aerial support from the US-led coalition, Iraqi police and army troops launched the offensive Sunday, part of a 100-day-old campaign that has already driven the militants from the eastern half of the city.

Iraqi helicopters fired rockets at the village of Abu Saif early yesterday, targeting a hill that overlooks the city's airport. By noon, the forces entered the village and gained control over much of the strategic hill as fighting was still raging.

Separately, militarised police in armored vehicles were moving toward the sprawling Ghazlani military base on the southwestern outskirts of the city.

Mon
20
Feb

Iran bans drones in Tehran after device shot down

Iranian officials have banned the flying of all private drones over Tehran after two recent incidents led to one of the devices being shot down near the supreme leader's office.

"Based on a recent order regarding prevention of unlicensed flight by private drones, we have stopped these planes which had created security... Problems," said Revolutionary Guards official General Alireza Rabii, whose department is in charge of the capital's security.

The order comes after two separate incidents of security forces opening fire on small camera drones flying over central Tehran.

The first one, owned by Iranian state television, was shot down in December for entering "the no-fly zone" over Enghelab square, which is near the offices of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president and several other state institutions.

Mon
20
Feb

UN special envoy in Pak to reduce tension with Afghanistan

A special UN envoy for Afghanistan today met a top aide of Pakistan Prime Minister and discussed ways to reduce the tension between the two neighbours after Islamabad blamed Afghan-based militants for a series of deadly attacks in the country.

United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi here, amid reports that Pakistan has moved heavy artillery towards Chaman and Torkham districts close to the Afghan border.

Their discussion focused on the situation in Afghanistan and efforts to promote peace and stability in that country, Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said in a statement.

Fatemi reiterated Pakistan's resolve for effective border management "underlining the need for cooperation by the Afghan side".

Mon
20
Feb

10 civilians killed in Afghanistan grenade attack

At least 10 civilians were killed and four wounded in a grenade attack in Laghman province of Afghanistan, an official said on Monday.

"Unknown men hurled two hand-grenades into a house in Badpakh district on Sunday evening," the official said, according to Xinhua news agency.

The motive behind the attack remained unknown.

No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

More than 3,490 civilians were killed and over 7,920 injured in conflict-related incidents across Afghanistan last year, said the UN mission in Afghanistan.

--IANS

Mon
20
Feb

`Erdogan assassination plot` suspects go on trial in Turkey

Mugla: The trial opened on Monday of almost 50 suspects accused of plotting to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a luxury Aegean hotel on the night of the botched July 15 coup.

Forty-four suspects, mainly soldiers, are under arrest, while three others still on the run are being tried in absentia at the court in the southern city of Mugla.

The suspects, several smartly dressed in suits and ties, were led into the court by security forces in front of television cameras, AFP correspondents said.

Onlookers heckled them as they stepped out of the buses that took them from prison, shouting "we want the death penalty!" and "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest").

Erdogan, who was holidaying at a hotel in the upmarket Aegean resort of Marmaris with his family on the night of the coup, has said the plot left him 15 minutes from death.

Mon
20
Feb

Iraqi Forces Converge On ISIS Occupied Mosul Airport

OREIJ: Iraqi forces,backed by jets and helicopters, battled their way to Mosul airport on Monday as they prepared to take on the ISIS' stronghold in the city's west bank. The fresh push in the four-month-old operation to retake Mosul has sparked fears for 750,000 trapped civilians who risk getting killed trying to flee and face starvation if they stay.

"The federal police has resumed its advance... Our cannons are targeting ISIS defence lines with heavy fire," federal police chief Raed Shaker Jawdat said in a statement.

Federal police forces, as well as elite units from the interior ministry, army soldiers and Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary fighters, launched a major assault on Sunday.

On the second day of the renewed offensive, they pushed northwards towards Mosul airport, which lies on the southern approach to the city, on the east bank of the Tigris.

Sun
19
Feb

7 killed in avalanche in northern Pakistan

At least seven people were killed and another seven injured today after an avalanche hit their residence in northwest Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The accident happened near the 8.5-km-long Lowari Tunnel in Chitral district, officials said.

The avalanche, triggered by heavy snowfall, hit the temporary residence of the workers of a construction firm and buried 14 of them, Chitral Deputy Commissioner Shahab Hameed said.

Rescue officials managed to pull out seven people alive from under the debris with injuries, while others died, he added. The injured have been admitted to a hospitals.

Heavy snowfall in the area have blocked several roads.

Earlier this month, 13 people were killed and 20 homes destroyed by avalanches and heavy rain in the region.

PTI

Sun
19
Feb

350,000 children trapped in west Mosul: Save the Children

Some 350,000 children are trapped in western Mosul, Save the Children warned today as Iraqi forces launched an offensive on jihadists in the city.

"Iraqi forces and their allies, including the US and UK, must do everything in their power to protect children and their families from harm, and avoid civilian buildings like schools and hospitals as they push deeper into the city," said the London-based charity's Iraq country director, Maurizio Crivallero.

AFP

Sun
19
Feb

Mosul civilians divided over Iraqi army advice to stay at home

The first four months of the Iraqi offensive on Mosul were marked by relatively low displacement but the civilians who remain in the city's west face more dangers than ever.

In the east, the Iraqi forces adopted a strategy of protecting civilians by keeping them at home, and the mass exodus expected by humanitarian organisations did not occur.

Since the Mosul offensive against the Islamic State group was launched in October, around 200,000 civilians are estimated to have fled their homes, and some 50,000 have already returned, according to the United Nations.

In the early stages of the offensive, the army dropped tens of thousands of leaflets into Mosul, some bearing safety instructions for residents, most of whom remained in the city.

This prevented both sides from resorting to heavier weapons, avoiding large-scale destruction, as was the case in the battles of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Sun
19
Feb

Pak police arrests 300 suspects in Lahore bombing

Over 300 people, mostly Afghans, have been arrested in Pakistan's Punjab province as part of heightened security measures following a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine that killed 88 worshippers.

"More than 350 suspects have been taken into custody mostly Afghans since the Lahore blast last Monday on the Mall Road," Punjab police spokesman Niyab Haider told PTI today.

He said the search operation of the law enforcement agencies will continue across the province and the Afghan nationals living here must keep their identification papers.

At least 88 people were killed and over 200 injured in the deadly suicide attack claimed by the ISIS in the famed Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan area of southern Sindh province.

"During Saturday and Sunday the police have arrested more than 200 people mostly Afghans and Pashtoon as they did not have identification papers. Police have also arrested those who had given them their houses on rent," he said.

Sun
19
Feb

Iraq launches operation to regain control of western Mosul

Iraq has launched an operation to regain control of western Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) terror group, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday.

al-Abadi described the operation, which comes after Iraq recaptured eastern Mosul, a "new dawn" in the liberation of the last IS stronghold in the country, CNN reported.

"Go forward with my blessing, heroic forces of Iraq," he said on state television.

The Iraqi air force dropped millions of leaflets over western Mosul late Saturday, warning residents of an offensive by ground forces on the IS-held part of the city.

The leaflets say Iraqi forces are making advancements to the western side and "provide guidance and recommendations" for citizens ahead of the offensive.

The leaflets also warn IS members to turn in their weapons and surrender "before they face their inevitable fate at the hands of our heroic forces".

The area has been targeted only by airstrikes in the past.

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