Afghan Security Forces Suffer Losses in Helmand, But Progress in Key District Continues; Gunmen Shoot Polio Worker in Lahore; Student Held on Sedition Charge Beaten at the Courthouse
Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Afghanistan: Child Soldier Recruitment Surges” (HRW) Afghan security forces suffer losses in Helmand, but progress in key district continues Since Sunday, 25 Afghan soldiers and 27 policemen have died in clashes with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, according to three officials speaking anonymously (Reuters). Recent fighting in Sangin, a district ...
Bonus Read: “Afghanistan: Child Soldier Recruitment Surges” (HRW)
Afghan security forces suffer losses in Helmand, but progress in key district continues
Since Sunday, 25 Afghan soldiers and 27 policemen have died in clashes with the Taliban in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, according to three officials speaking anonymously (Reuters). Recent fighting in Sangin, a district in Helmand that has been on the verge of a Taliban takeover, has claimed 16 of the 25 soldiers and 15 of the 27 policemen – many of whom were killed in a Taliban-operated Humvee suicide attack at a security checkpoint on Sunday.
However, the overall situation in Sangin might be improving. As of Wednesday, Helmand’s governor Mirza Khan Rahimi reported that Sangin could soon be cleared of the Taliban militants, and the road to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, will reportedly also be cleared (TOLO News). According to Rahimi, “The security forces are mobilized in Helmand and have equipment and now they are fighting very well against the insurgents. The forces are moving forward in Sangin and the Taliban has suffered heavy casualties.”
45 Islamic State fighters killed in Nangarhar
According to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), 45 Islamic State (IS) fighters have died in Nangarhar’s Achin district over the last 48 hours (TOLO News, Pajhwok). MoI spokesman Seddiq Seddiqi confirmed the deaths to reporters on Wednesday. Seddiqi also reported 12 other militant deaths and the seizure of five Kalashnikov rifles and one RPG in the northeastern provinces of Baghlan, Kapisa, Kunduz, and Badakhshan and the southeastern province of Kandahar over the past week.
Gunmen shoot polio worker in Lahore
On Wednesday, a polio worker in Lahore was shot and wounded by two gunmen on a motorcycle, according to police spokesman Hammad Haider, who spoke to Reuters (Reuters). Haider said that each of the teams totaling 4,000 polio vaccination workers in Lahore are assigned two police officers to ensure their security, though the team attacked was without a security detail at the time they were targeted. Militants attack polio workers due to their belief that the vaccine is used to sterilize children and that the health workers administering them are western spies. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two remaining countries where polio is endemic.
Pakistani military court convicts Indian citizen of espionage
Authorities in Pakistan convicted an Indian national, Hamid Nehal Ansari, for espionage on Tuesday. Ansari is reported to have confessed to spying and was jailed for three years by a military court (BBC, HT). Details about Ansari’s trial are not public and the military refused to comment on the issue. Media reports say that Ansari entered Pakistan’s Kohat region illegally through Afghanistan in 2012, and was held by the army since 2013. His family was unaware of his whereabouts until this year and told Indian media they believe he entered Pakistan to search for a woman he had befriended online.
–Albert Ford and Shuja Malik
Student held on sedition charge beaten at the courthouse
On Wednesday morning a group of lawyers outside New Delhi’s Patalia House court severely beat the student leader Kanhaiya Kumar from Jawahalal Nehru University (JNU) who is under arrest for sedition charges and was due to be presented at the court. (BBC, Guardian, Reuters). There are reports of media personnel also being attacked as well. A reporter for the newspaper First Post told the BBC he was beaten when he attempted to photograph the violence and forced to delete the captured images. Kumar was later remanded into custody and will be presented in court on March 2.
Kumar was arrested on Friday last week, for allegedly organizing a rally against the 2013 hanging of a Kashmiri man, Afzal Guru, where anti-India slogans were used. Kumar has denied all charges. Guru was convicted for his involvement in a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament when a suicide squad of five attackers stormed India’s parliament complex killing seven people but were shot before they could enter the main chamber. Guru was convicted of helping organize arms for the gunmen. On Tuesday police in New Delhi also arrested a former Delhi University professor SAR Geelani on sedition charges after authorities claimed that the request for the space for the rally against Guru’s hanging came through Geelani’s email address (BBC). Geelani was a co-accused in the parliament attack case, but the Supreme Court cleared him in 2003.
Indian company to introduce “world’s cheapest smartphone”
A telecom company in India, Ringing Bells, announced that they will be introducing the “world’s cheapest smartphone” called the Freedom 251, priced at approximately $7 (BBC, BI). Reports say the phone will have 8GB storage and cameras in the front and back. Ringing Bells was set up just a few months ago and already has one of the cheapest 4G phones on the market in India. Currently they import cell phone parts and assemble them in India but they hope to start manufacturing in India this year. India is the world’s second-largest mobile market and has one billion mobile phone subscribers.
Edited by Peter Bergen
NOOR MOHAMMAD/AFP/Getty Images
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