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Taliban Suicide Bomber Leaves Seven Dead in Attack in Kabul; University of Hyderabad Cancels Suspensions After Student Suicide; Police Arrest Several School Shooting Suspects in Charsadda

Afghanistan Bonus read: “Five Myths to Dispel about an Afghan Peace,” by Christopher Kolenda (Gandhara RFE/RL) Taliban suicide bomber leaves seven dead in attack in Kabul On Wednesday, seven employees of the TOLO News television network were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber drove a car into a minibus that was carrying them, and detonated ...

Afghan policemen keep watch as firefighters wash a road at the site of suicide attack against a minibus carrying employees of popular Afghan TV channel TOLO, which killed seven, in Kabul on January 20, 2016
A vehicle carrying employees of popular Afghan TV channel TOLO was the target of a deadly bombing in downtown Kabul on January 20, officials and sources within the media organisation told AFP. The bombing near the Russian embassy in downtown Kabul also left 24 people wounded, in the latest in a wave of attacks despite an international push to jumpstart Taliban peace talks. / AFP / SHAH MARAI        (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan policemen keep watch as firefighters wash a road at the site of suicide attack against a minibus carrying employees of popular Afghan TV channel TOLO, which killed seven, in Kabul on January 20, 2016 A vehicle carrying employees of popular Afghan TV channel TOLO was the target of a deadly bombing in downtown Kabul on January 20, officials and sources within the media organisation told AFP. The bombing near the Russian embassy in downtown Kabul also left 24 people wounded, in the latest in a wave of attacks despite an international push to jumpstart Taliban peace talks. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghanistan

Bonus read: “Five Myths to Dispel about an Afghan Peace,” by Christopher Kolenda (Gandhara RFE/RL)

Taliban suicide bomber leaves seven dead in attack in Kabul

On Wednesday, seven employees of the TOLO News television network were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber drove a car into a minibus that was carrying them, and detonated it (TOLO NewsNYTRFE/RLReuters). The group was working principally with Kaboora Production, a unit of Moby Group (the owner of TOLO News) that is backed in part by Rupert Murdoch. The attack occurred near the Russian embassy in west Kabul, though no Russian workers were targeted. Zabihullah Mujahid, claiming the Taliban’s responsibility for the attack, said, “Thanks to Almighty God and his support, and with the prayers of those Muslims who were vexed by spy workers of Tolo, the attack was successful. The vehicle was destroyed and swallowed by fire with all its spies, and its corrupt passengers killed.” The Taliban has been highly critical of Afghan news agencies’ coverage of the ongoing conflict in the country.

District in northern Afghanistan taken by Taliban

On Thursday, the Taliban seized parts of the Darqad district in the northeastern Takhar province that borders Tajikistan (Pajhwok). It is the latest clash between Taliban and Afghan forces in the area, as members of the extremist group had taken parts of Darqad a few months prior, but were subsequently defeated by security forces. According to police spokesman Col. Khalil Aseer, three Taliban fighters and an Afghan Local Police (ALP) member died during the fighting.

First Lady Rula Ghani announces building of first women’s university

Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani, wife of President Ashraf Ghani, announced on Wednesday the government’s plan to construct a women’s university in Kabul (TOLO News). The school, to be named Mawlana Afghan-Turk University, is being built with the help of Turkey, and is a joint effort between the Ministries of Education and Labor and Social Affairs, the latter pledging to employ graduates from the school. “Building a university for girls is one of the promises of Mr. Ghani that he vowed during presidential campaigns and now we are on the eve of its implementation,” the First Lady said.

–Albert Ford

India

University of Hyderabad cancels suspensions after student suicide

The University of Hyderabad in the southern state of Telegana, revoked the suspension of four Dalit students on Thursday, just days after another Dalit student, Rohith Vemula, committed suicide while protesting being suspended by the university (Hindu, HT, CNN-IBN). Dalits are a scheduled caste defined in the Indian constitution and afforded preferential quotas for access to education and jobs, since these “untouchables” were discriminated for centuries. Last year, the University of Hyderabad suspended five Dalit PhD students — members of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) — after reports that on Aug. 3, students from ASA assaulted Susheel Kumar of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), from the ruling party BJP’s student wing. A team of investigators from the university declared these five students innocent, but they were still suspended after BJP Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya wrote a letter describing them as “anti-national and casteist.” Numerous student organizations across the country held protests after Vemula’s suicide, urging University of Hyderabad to reverse the decision on the suspension, and the situation on campus remains tense. Many politicians, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, visited the university demanding resignations of the BJP ministers involved in the incident. Earlier, 13 members of the university staff resigned in solidarity with the protesting students.

Famed classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai dies at 97

Legendary Indian classical dancer, Mrinalini Sarabhai died on Thursday in the western city of Ahmadabad at the age of 97 (BBC, Time, NYT). Sarabhai was considered a master Bharatnatyam and Kathakali dance performer, the most popular of the traditional Indian dances. In 1992, she was awarded one of India’s highest civilian honors, the Padma Bhushan. In 1948, Sarabhai set up the Darpana Academy of Performing Art in Ahmadabad which turned into one of India’s premier dance and music schools and trained thousands of artists over the years.

Goa reclassifies coconut trees as “palms”

Authorities in the Indian state of Goa reclassified the coconut trees as palms and removed them from the official list of trees in the state (Guardian). Officials say the move is aimed at helping farmers remove old, unproductive “palms” which are protected by a 1984 state law which prevents cutting certain trees without permission. Environmentalist are opposing the reclassification, arguing that the state authorities are giving in to commercial interests.

–Shuja Malik

Pakistan

Bonus read: “In Pakistan, a Final Push to Wipe out Polio,” by Bina Shah (NYT)

Police arrest several school shooting suspects in Charsadda

Search operations are continuing on Thursday in the Charsadda district of Peshawar where four unidentified militants attacked Bacha Khan University on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people and wounding many others (Dawn). The four shooters were killed in the attack, and several suspects have been arrested in Charsadda on suspicion of aiding them. Umar Mansoor of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, calling the university “an instrument of the government and army.” Mansoor masterminded the Army Public School Peshawar attack on December 16, 2014.

Militant who claimed responsibility for Indian air base attack warns Pakistan

Syed Salahuddin, chairman of the United Jihad Council (UJC), a militant alliance based in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, condemned on Wednesday the crackdown by the Pakistani government on the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) (Reuters). “We are at a loss to understand whether they (the Pakistan government) are concerned about the interests of the country that feeds them or that of its enemy?” Salahuddin said at a news conference. “Pakistan is not only an advocate but also a party to the longstanding Kashmir dispute and therefore the Pakistani people, government, and media should play the role of a patron rather than of an adversary.” Salahuddin previously claimed responsibility for the attack on India’s Pathankot air base on Jan. 2. His claim was met with skepticism among Indian security officials who blame JeM.

–Alyssa Sims

Edited by Peter Bergen

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

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