Taliban insurgents entered the Afghanistan capital Kabul on Sunday, an interior ministry official said, as the United States evacuated diplomats from its embassy by helicopter.
The senior official told Reuters the Taliban were coming in “from all sides” but gave no further details.
A tweet from the Afghan Presidential palace account said firing had been heard at a number of points around Kabul but that security forces, in coordination with international partners, had control of the city.
U.S. officials said the diplomats were being ferried to the airport from the embassy in the fortified Wazir Akbar Khan district. More American troops were being sent to help in the evacuations after the Taliban’s lightning advances brought the Islamist group to Kabul in a matter of days.
Just last week, a U.S. intelligence estimate said Kabul could hold out for at least three months.
“Core” U.S. team members were working from the Kabul airport, a U.S. official said, while a NATO official said several EU staff had moved to a safer, undisclosed location in the capital.
A Taliban official told Reuters the group did not want any casualties as it took charge but had not declared a ceasefire.
There was no immediate word on the situation from President Ashraf Ghani, who said on Saturday he was in urgent consultations with local leaders and international partners on the situation.
Earlier on Sunday, the insurgents captured the eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, giving them control of one of the main highways into landlocked Afghanistan. They also took over the nearby Torkham border post with Pakistan, leaving Kabul airport the only way out of Afghanistan that is still in government hands.
The capture of Jalalabad followed the Taliban’s seizure of the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif late on Saturday, also with little fighting.
“There are no clashes taking place right now in Jalalabad because the governor has surrendered to the Taliban,” a Jalalabad-based Afghan official told Reuters. “Allowing passage to the Taliban was the only way to save civilian lives.”
A video clip distributed by the Taliban showed people cheering and shout Allahu Akbar – God is greatest – as a convoy of pick-up trucks entered the city with fighters brandishing machine guns and the white Taliban flag.
After U.S.-led forces withdrew the bulk of the their remaining troops in the last month, the Taliban campaign accelerated as the Afghan military’s defences appeared to collapse.
President Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the deployment of 5,000 U.S. troops to help evacuate citizens and ensure an “orderly and safe” drawdown of military personnel. A U.S. defence official said that included 1,000 newly approved troops from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Taliban fighters entered Mazar-i-Sharif virtually unopposed as security forces escaped up the highway to Uzbekistan, about 80 km (50 miles) to the north, provincial officials said. Unverified video on social media showed Afghan army vehicles and men in uniforms crowding the iron bridge between the Afghan town of Hairatan and Uzbekistan.
Two influential militia leaders supporting the government – Atta Mohammad Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum – also fled. Noor said on social media that the Taliban had been handed control of Balkh province, where Mazar-i-Sharif is located, due to a “conspiracy.”
In a statement late on Saturday, the Taliban said its rapid gains showed it was popularly accepted by the Afghan people and reassured both Afghans and foreigners that they would be safe.
The Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban calls itself, “will, as always, protect their life, property and honour, and create a peaceful and secure environment for its beloved nation,” it said, adding that diplomats and aid workers would also face no problems.
Afghans have fled the provinces to enter Kabul in recent days, fearing a return to hardline Islamist rule.
Early on Sunday, refugees from Taliban-controlled provinces were seen unloading belongings from taxis and families stood outside embassy gates, while the city’s downtown was packed with people stocking up on supplies.
Hundreds of people slept huddled in tents or in the open in the city, by roadsides or in car parks, a resident said on Saturday night. “You can see the fear in their faces,” he said.
Biden said his administration had told Taliban officials in talks in Qatar that any action that put U.S. personnel at risk “will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”
He has faced rising domestic criticism as the Taliban have taken city after city far more quickly than predicted. The president has stuck to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31.
Biden said it is up to the Afghan military to hold its own territory. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” Biden said on Saturday.
Qatar, which has been hosting so-far inconclusive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, said it had urged the insurgents to cease fire. Ghani has given no sign of responding to a Taliban demand that he resign as a condition for any ceasefire.
Envoy Considers Establishment Of Chinese Banks In Nigeria To Boost Economy
Mr Cui Jianchun, the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, says he is in talks with Chinese owned Banks to establish operations in Nigeria.
This, the envoy said, is to boost Nigeria’s economy and expand trade relations between the two nations.
Cui made this known on Tuesday in Abuja while addressing Journalists during the commemoration of the 2021 Chinese Moon Festival and China-Nigeria Cultural week.
According to Cui, the establishment of Chinese Banks in Nigeria will also be one of the key areas of discussion during the China-Nigeria Binational Committee meeting, which he is also pushing for the establishment.
He said that an efficient financial institution was a key driver to achieving a strong economy, one Nigeria can learn from China’s experience.
“Before my departure from Beijing to Abuja, I talked to several banks in China. When you list the World’s 10 big banks, six are in China.
“The Banking sector is very important, because, without money, we cannot build our industries.
“What I am thinking here is best to talk to the governor of Central Bank and how we can allow the Chinese Banks to run office here and now, they are doing the feasibility studies on that.
“I am working hard that in the Bi-national meeting, I hope we can make a big decision and give a big push to let the banking industry and insurance industry because financial integration and institutions are key.
“If you go to China, you will find our banking industry is very powerful, not only for business but the change in the way of life.
“Because of the COVID-19, the Banking Industry is a little hesitant, but I told them Nigeria has a lot of human resources and as long as we work together, we can do big things.
“And that is why it is important to invest in the banking industry, to solve this problem,” Cui said.
Extolling the extant China-Nigeria trade relations, Cui noted that the volume of trade between China and Nigeria is nearly 20 billion US Dollars, with an increase from 2020’s 19.2 billion dollars.
Cui said the Chinese economy is restoring to the normal post-COVID-19 pandemic and both governments are working hard on how to expand imports and exports.
Speaking on the event, Cui said the China’s moon festival is a very important and significant one for China as it symbolises family reunion, national peace and social harmony.
The envoy said the 2021 celebration is also a special one as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of China-Nigeria’s bilateral relations.
He said that both countries also share Oct. 1 as their National Days.
He said it is also on that note that the Chinese Embassy is honouring 50 Nigerian employees of Chinese Companies in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contribution to strengthening diplomatic ties.
Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, also lauded the Nigeria-China relations.
She said the relations had recorded great successes over the past five decades.
“The five decades of co-operation had since witnessed several cultural activities and exchanges in the spheres of arts, music, dance, exhibition, cultural administration, training and capacity building of cultural officers.
“And recently, the development of Cultural Industries centres in Nigeria, among others.
“I must add that China, through the youth-oriented programmes such as the photos competition and similar activities in the past is surely a dependable ally.
“In redirecting the energy and mind of our youth to creative ventures, thereby furthering the Nigerian government’s policy of lifting a hundred million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years”, Anyanwukatu said. (NAN)
Lagos Prohibits Open Cattle Grazing, Sanwo-Olu Signs Bill Into Law
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, assented to the bill prohibiting Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land, signing the legislation into law 11 days after it was unanimously passed by the State House of Assembly and transmitted to the Executive arm for authorisation.
By implication, it is now criminal in Lagos for cattle rearers to occupy unapproved public areas and private land with their livestock for grazing. The law also prohibits the act of moving cattle round public places by herders.
The signing of the anti-open grazing law by the Governor followed the decision of Southern Governors’ Forum last August, setting the September deadline to pass the law across member States.
There have been crises witnessed in some States, resulting from alleged open grazing.
Although farmer-herder crisis is not pronounced in Lagos, the anti-open grazing law is expected to prevent the spillover of the menace into the State.
Sanwo-Olu, who assented to the bill during the State’s Executive Council meeting in Alausa, directed the security agencies to swing immediately into action and enforce provisions of the law.
He said: “By the powers vested in me as the Governor of Lagos State, I am signing the bill on Open Cattle Grazing and Trespass of Cattle on Land into law to prohibit issues associated with open grazing of livestock.”
The Governor also signed legislation transforming the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) into a full-blown agency.
The development coincided with the commemorative month dedicated to raising awareness on gender-based violence in the State. The Governor and members of the State’s cabinet wore attire with purple shades to support the campaign against sexual violence.
The DSVRT legislation provides for the establishment of Sexual Offenders’ Register that would help the State efficiently tackle violations in the communities.
After signing the law, Sanwo-Olu said: “Raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence is an important piece of working to end the cycle of violence. It is important to reiterate the State Government’s zero tolerance to all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. We will not rest on our oars until the menace is reduced to the barest minimum in Lagos.”
The Governor appointed Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi as the Executive Secretary of the new agency.
Vivour-Adeniyi was the coordinator of the response team before the legislation was signed into law.
ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Guinea Junta Over Coups
West African leaders have decided to impose travel bans and freeze the financial assets of members of Guinea’s ruling junta and their families after a coup more than a week ago.
The decisions were announced Thursday after an Extraordinary Summit on Guinea in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Mediators with the regional group had traveled to Guinea to meet with junta leaders and check on the condition of deposed President Alpha Conde.
ECOWAS president Jean Claude Brou said the West African leaders have also insisted that there should be no “need for very long transition for the country to return to democratic order.”
The targeted sanctions come after Guinea’s coup leaders set a number of conditions for releasing Conde, according to the foreign minister of Ghana.
ECOWAS had already warned it will impose penalties on the junta in Guinea unless it immediately releases Conde, who has been held at an undisclosed location since being detained during the Sept. 5 coup in Conakry.
“We are coming to address a burning issue in the region,” said Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current chair of the regional bloc, ahead of the summit. He was joined by presidents or high-ranking officials from eight of the other 15 ECOWAS countries.
Members of the ECOWAS delegation that visited Conakry after the coup presented their reports at Thursday’s meeting, said Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway. The junta has set a number of conditions for complying with the demands of regional mediators, she said but declined to disclose what they are.
The delegation has spoken with Conde’s doctor “who ascertained that indeed physically, he’s very well,” she said. However, she said, the ex-president is still coming to terms with the fact that his government has been toppled after more than a decade in power.
“For anybody who has gone through such a traumatic experience like he did, mentally, it’s not the best, not to say that mentally we found anything wrong, but he was quite shocked; he’s still in a state of shock,” she added.
Meanwhile, in Conakry, junta leaders were also set to meet with mining company representatives on the third day of a special summit to chart Guinea’s political future. Junta leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya has sought to reassure the country’s most vital economic sector that the political changes will not impact existing mining projects in the country, which has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite.
Guinea’s coup leaders have yet to make public their proposed timeframe for handing over power to a civilian transitional government, nor have they outlined how quickly new elections can be organized.
Conde had sparked violent street demonstrations last year after he pushed for a constitutional referendum that he used to justify running for a third term, saying term limits no longer applied to him. He ultimately won another five years in office last October, only to be toppled by the coup 10 months later.
At the time he came to power in 2010, he was Guinea’s first democratically elected leader since independence from France in 1958.
The regional bloc also planned to tackle concerns over whether a second member state, Mali, is making enough progress toward a return to democracy more than a year after a military takeover there.
In Mali, the ruling junta led by Col. Assimi Goita has committed to holding new elections by February 2022, though mediators who recently visited have expressed concern about whether that deadline now can be met.
Goita overthrew Mali’s president in August 2020 and then agreed to a civilian transitional government and an 18-month timeframe for holding a vote. However, only nine months after the first coup he effectively staged a second one, firing the civilian interim leaders and ultimately naming himself as president of the transition.
ECOWAS has not reinstated Mali’s membership in the bloc, marking the first time since 2012 that two of the 15 member states are suspended concurrently.
ECOWAS President Brou said there was the need to revisit the organization’s 2001 protocol on good governance “because a lot of things have changed or improved.”
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