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Afghan Lawmakers: Russian Support to Taliban No Secret

Amid controversy in Washington over reports that a Russian intelligence unit paid bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, some Afghan lawmakers say it is no secret Russia has cultivated close contacts with the Taliban and it is likely Russia has financially supported Taliban violence.Shinkai Karokhail, a member of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament, told VOA, "It is thought that Russia has been supporting the Taliban, and it has provided the Taliban with the means so that the war, the U.S. engagement, in Afghanistan continues.”Karokhail said media reports about the Russian bounties needed to be investigated. She added, however, it is plausible that the Taliban receive financial support from other countries in the region.FILE- Afghan security forces take position during a gunbattle between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017.“To continue fighting, the Taliban need money, and for sure, countries such as Russia, Pakistan, Iran and others would be providing them money,” she said.Gulalai Sapi, an Afghan senator, said Russia and some other regional powers do not see their interests in the peace process in Afghanistan.“Some countries may not want this process to be implemented as soon as possible because war in Afghanistan is in their interest,” she said.Last week, The New York Times, citing anonymous U.S. intelligence sources, reported that a Russian intelligence unit offered bounties to the Taliban for killing American and coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. The newspaper said U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed on the issue.Senior U.S. intelligence officials briefed a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers Thursday after members of Congress called for additional information on the issue.Russia and the Taliban have rejected the allegations, and the Afghan government has declined to comment despite several requests to the country’s presidential office and the national security council.Russia-Taliban relationsSim Tack, a military analyst with the Stratfor global intelligence firm, told VOA he was not surprised that Russian intelligence would be “trying to encourage them [the Taliban] to target coalition forces in any way.”Tack said Russia’s interest is in building relations with the Taliban “as a way to ensure Russian influence in a post-U.S. Afghanistan.”He added that “if Russia is able to build a cooperative relationship with the Taliban at this point, then that definitely will help them carry a greater role in Afghanistan in the future.”FILE - Participants attend a conference on Afghanistan bringing ...

Turkish Drone Strike Leaves Civilian Casualties

Ceiling and concrete walls are all that is left of a grocery store owned by a young Kurdish couple here in this riverside, tourist village in northern Iraq.The store was hit last week by a Turkish drone attack, wounding the owners and their two small children.“At the time of the incident, I immediately lost one of my legs,” said Peyman Talib, the 31-year-old wife, from her hospital bed, with one leg missing from the knee down.“My other leg is also broken. It requires further surgery,” she told VOA.Talib’s husband, Keywan Kawa, 30, and their two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, were also injured in the attack.“There are about 20 shrapnel pieces in my body,” Kawa told VOA at the hospital where his wife and children were receiving medical treatment. He wore a medical neck brace.“I have left my son in the hands of God. There is shrapnel stuck in his head and the doctors here say it too risky for them to take it out,” he said.Kurdish rebelsThe drone strike appeared to have chased a Toyota truck carrying several fighters allegedly affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was left badly damaged.The PKK is an armed group that has engaged in a three-decade-long insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. The Kurdish group maintains bases inside the autonomous northern Kurdistan region of Iraq.Kawa said the truck stopped near his store, a man got off and entered the shop to purchase some goods. Then the Turkish strike hit, killing the man and injuring Kawa and his family.FILE - Recruits of the Kurdistan Free Life Party, a splinter group of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, take defensive positions near their training camp in the Qandil mountain range, northern Iraq.The Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), an armed offshoot of the PKK that fights for more political and cultural rights for the Kurds in Iran, said the man was a party member named Rebwar Gholizadeh, better known by his nom de guerre, Ariwan the Revolutionary.The group also said three additional fighters, who apparently stayed behind in the vehicle, were wounded, but it did not list their injuries.Both the PKK and PJAK are designated as terrorist groups by Washington, Ankara and Tehran.Iraqi condemnationA day after the strike, Iraqi President Barham Salih’s office issued a statement, condemning the airstrike and calling on Turkey to stop “its repeated violations of Iraq’s airspace that ...

110-Year-Old Palestinian Man Has Lived in Refugee Camps for 72 Years

Suleiman Abu-Namous is a 110-year-old Palestinian who has been living in different refugee camps since 1948. Currently settled in the Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip, Abu-Namous fears he could lose his home due to funding cuts by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
Camera: Safi Mahmoud, Ibrahim  Produced by: Nawid Orokzai

Death of Young Kurdish Man Sparks Hate Crime Debate in Turkey

Outrage has spread across social media in Turkey over the killing of a 20-year-old Kurdish man in an alleged hate crime in Ankara. Pro-Kurdish activists and politicians say Baris Cakan was stabbed to death for listening to Kurdish music, a claim rejected by the Turkish government. VOA Kurdish Service's Eyyup Demir filed this story from Ankara.Camera: Eyyup Demir  Produced by: Nawid Ookzai 

Diplomatic Efforts Under Way to Start Intra-Afghan Peace Talks

U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan met with the Taliban in Doha and Pakistani officials in Islamabad this week. He is expected to meet Afghan officials in Kabul to talk about steps to start intra-Afghan negotiations. Meanwhile, Qatar said Wednesday that it is ready to host the talks. VOA’s Rahim Gul Sarwan reports from Kabul.

Displaced Yazidi Woman Paints Life After IS Genocide

Hayat Dakhil Murad — a young Yazidi woman who fled the Islamic State (IS) attack on Sinjar in 2014 to the Sharya Refugee Camp in the Kurdistan Region's Dohuk province — has found solace in painting the realities of her people's ordeal in Iraq. VOA's Salam Balay filed this report from the Sharya Refugee Camp in Duhok, Kurdistan Region, Iraq.Camera: Salam Balay  Produced by: Nawid Orokzai 

COVID-19 Complicates Relief Efforts in Restive Northern Mozambique

Civilians who are bearing the brunt of militant attacks in northern Mozambique say they feel safe in the town of Pemba but aid groups that are helping them say the coronavirus is posing challenges because of overcrowding. VOA’s Andre Baptista has this report, narrated by Sirwan Kajjo.Produced by: Nawid Orokzai 

Afghan Government to Expedite Taliban Prisoners Release

The Afghan government has announced Sunday that it will speed up the release of the Taliban prisoners. The announcement came a day after the Taliban declared a 3-day cease-fire during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. VOA’s Hikmat Sorosh reports from Kabul.

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