China-Pakistan corridor going smoothly despite challenges: minister

Ahsan Iqbal Pakistan's Minister of Planning and Development poses for a portrait after an interview in Islamabad

Pakistan has been smoothly implementing an ambitious plan to build an economic corridor with China, despite experiencing some challenges, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Wednesday.

China has promised $57 billion in investment in projects along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of its ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with the Middle East and Europe.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road project in 2013, but it is still short on specifics.

“We are smoothly implementing and we are very satisfied with the speed of the implementation,” Iqbal, the Islamabad lead on the project, told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Chinese city of Dalian.

In addition to the investment pledges from China, Pakistan would invest close to $10 billion, he said.

Reuters

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In Pakistan, scorching Ramadan month highlights chronic water, power shortages

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On May 27, in the date-growing desert town of Turbat in Baluchistan province, the temperature reached 128.3 degrees — the hottest ever reported in Pakistan.

What followed was a month of intense heat and humidity nationwide coinciding with Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting and prayer that ended Sunday. Every day, millions of sweltering Pakistanis struggled to forgo food and water from sunrise to sunset, then roused themselves before dawn to wash, pray, cook and eat.

The Ramadan ordeal has brought into sharp relief the chronic water and power shortages plaguing this arid, Muslim-majority country of 180 million. In cities, families had to fill jugs and bottles from public taps at 3 a.m. In villages, long daily electrical outages stopped fans from whirring and tube wells from pumping water to irrigate parched fields.

The Washington Post

ISIS, Aided by Ex-Taliban Groups, Makes Inroads in Northern Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Two Taliban groups that recently switched allegiance to the Islamic State have overrun an embattled district in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 10 government fighters and a large number of civilians, according to Afghan officials in the area.

In addition, government officials accuse the Islamic State fighters of being responsible for the deaths of 15 medical patients, but it was not immediately clear if they had died from their wounds or if they had been executed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The events represent a new front for the extremist group, which is opposed by the Taliban as well as by the government and has not previously had significant successes in northern Afghanistan.

The attack took place in the district of Darzab, in the southwest of Jowzjan Province, a remote area that has long seesawed between government and Taliban control, with local warlords switching allegiances frequently. Fighters loyal to the country’s exiled vice president and warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, have also played a role.

The New York Times

Vehicle bomb kills at least 20 in Afghanistan

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A auto bombing killed at least 22 people and wounded 50 as they lined up at a bank to collect their pay on Thursday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials.

The blast took place around 12 noon local time (08:00 GMT), according to the governor’s spokesperson Omar Zwak, when civilians and members of the security forces waiting to collect their pay.

In a similar attack in February, at least six people were killed when a Taliban bomber rammed an explosives-laden auto into Afghan soldiers who had queued outside a bank in Lashkar Gah to collect their salaries.

A suicide bomber driving an explosive-packed vehicle targeted the New Kabul Bank branch in Lashkar Gah, said Omar Zwak, a spokesman for Helmand province. “We came here and then there was the explosion”. “They are enemies of humanity”, Ghani said in a statement.

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US MILITARY SERVICE MEMBERS WOUNDED IN INSIDER ATTACK IN AFGHANISTAN

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A solitary Afghan commando was killed after wounding seven us soldiers while training in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the U.S. military confirmed the attack, adding that early reports suggesting that Americans had been killed were incorrect. Two attackers were immediately killed by the Afghan forces while one attacker is absconding.

As many as five militants tried to blow themselves up at the high-security office of the police, shortly after which the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility.

Camp Shaheen, where the 209th Corps is based, was also the site of a large Taliban attack in April that left hundreds of Afghan soldiers dead.

However, the Taliban have claimed credit for the shooting.

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US Sends Fresh Troops to Afghanistan as Policy Debate Continues

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The Army is deploying about 1,500 soldiers to Afghanistan this week, but U.S. officials say the troop movement is not part of any increase in forces in the war zone.

Troops of the 82nd Airborne Division began leaving Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Tuesday. A U.S. military official told VOA the troops will be assigned to duty in Kabul, Kandahar and Helmand provinces, in addition to areas in the east and north of Afghanistan.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been in Afghanistan this week for meetings with Afghan and American officials as well as coalition leaders and troops. The Marine general is said to be working on the final elements of a military strategy that will include expanding the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan by nearly 4,000 soldiers.

Voice of America

Activists say a cluster bomb in Syria has killed 15, including women and children

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Activists say a cluster bomb attack on an Islamic State-held village in eastern Syria has killed at least 15 people, including women and children.

Two Syrian monitoring groups, Deir Ezzor 24 and Justice For Life, say the weapons were dropped by an unidentified jet over Doblan, a village on the Euphrates River. Russian, Syrian, and U.S.-led coalition aircraft are all known to fly sorties in the area.

Cluster bombs are designed to spread small bomblets across a wide area. But many fail to explode, endangering civilians long after the fighting has ended.

Omar Abou Layla, the head of Deir Ezzor 24, says the bodies of 15 victims have been recovered in the village. He said residents expect to find many more killed.

The Los Angeles Times

Airstrike on ISIS Prison in Syria Kills Dozens, Activists Say

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An airstrike in eastern Syria destroyed a house that the Islamic State had turned into a prison, killing dozens of people, Syrian activists said Tuesday, and they blamed the military coalition led by the United States for the attack.

A spokesman for the coalition confirmed that it had bombed buildings controlled by the Islamic State in the area on Monday and said that it was investigating the reports of civilian deaths.

Reports of civilians killed by coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have climbed in recent months, and American officials have attributed the rise to the increasingly urban nature of the battle to defeat the jihadists.

But the total civilian toll remains unclear because of the remoteness of many of the strike sites and the lack of independent sources in territory held by the Islamic State who can verify reports.

The New York Times

Turkey returns fire on YPG in Syria, warplanes hit militants in Iraq

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the Kurdish city of Afrin

Turkish forces retaliated with an artillery barrage overnight and destroyed Kurdish YPG militia targets after the group’s fighters opened fire on Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria, the military said on Wednesday.

It said Turkish warplanes separately struck Kurdish militants in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing seven fighters from the PKK group which Ankara says is closely linked to the YPG.

The strikes came after Turkey’s defense minister warned that Ankara would retaliate against any threatening moves by the YPG and after reports that Turkey was reinforcing its military presence in northern Syria.

The United States supports the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, while NATO ally Turkey regards them as terrorists indistinguishable from militants from the outlawed PKK which is carrying out an insurgency in southeast Turkey.

Reuters

Iraqi forces seize more ground in Mosul from Islamic State, PM sees victory soon

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Iraqi forces on Tuesday pushed towards the river side of Mosul’s Old City, their key target in the eight-month campaign to capture Islamic State’s de-facto capital, and Iraq’s prime minister predicted victory very soon.

Iraqi forces, battling up to 350 militants dug in among civilians in the Old City, said federal police had dislodged IS insurgents from the Ziwani mosque and were only a few days away from ousting militants completely from the Old City.

“The victory announcement will come in a very short time,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on his website on Monday evening.

“The operation is continuing to free the remaining parts of the Old City,” Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) told a Reuters correspondent near the frontline in the heart of the Old City.

Reuters