Arab Times

Afghan guards open fire at Kabul rally

Seven people wounded

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KABUL, Afghanista­n, Nov 11, (AP): Afghan presidenti­al guards opened fire on Wednesday to disperse thousands of protesters marching outside the palace compound in Kabul to denounce recent abductions and killings of seven members of the Hazara Shiite minority.

The shooting, which the Public Health Ministry said wounded seven people, occurred as some of the demonstrat­ors tried to scale the walls of the palace at Pashtunist­an Square. It was not immediatel­y clear if President Ashraf Ghani was inside the heavily fortified palace at the time.

Ghani was due to make a live television address to the nation later on Wednesday, his deputy spokesman Zafar Hashemi tweeted.

Earlier in the day, about 10,000 rallied in the center of the Afghan capital, carrying coffins of seven Hazaras whose beheaded bodies were found this week and calling for a new government that could ensure security in the country.

“About 100 people were trying to get into the

In the town of Silvan, rocked by days of clashes, a soldier was killed, and one child was wounded, they said. Hundreds of people have been killed in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since a two-year ceasefire by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants broke down in July.

Security sources said separate, large-scale operations against the PKK were launched after the attack late on Tuesday.

Areas of the southeast have been intermitte­ntly subject to round-the-clock curfews due to the conflict. Officials said six people had died in clashes in Silvan, located in Diyarbakir province, since a curfew was imposed there eight days ago.

The PKK on Nov 5 ended a month-old truce it had declared before a Nov 1 general election. That vote was won by the AK Party of President Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to fight the PKK until all of its militants are “liquidated”.

Erdogan had overseen talks with the PKK’s jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in late 2012 but that effort to end the longrunnin­g war was frozen in April ahead of another poll.

The PKK, which wants autonomy for Turkey’s large Kurdish minority, is listed as a terrorist organisati­on by Ankara, the United States and European Union. It took up arms against the state in 1984, and more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurdish militants, have died in the conflict.

The EU accused Ankara Tuesday of backslidin­g on rule of law, rights and the media and urged it to react swiftly, in a sensitive report on Turkey’s candicacy for the bloc that Brussels had delayed until after elections.

Turkey rejected the observatio­ns as “unfair” and bristled in particular at criticism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s hard-charging president, whose party returned to power in the November 1 vote.

In a report likely to further strain EU-Turkish relations, Brussels said that under Erdogan there had been “serious backslidin­g” on freedom of expression and that the judiciary had been undermined.

“Over the past year, significan­t shortcomin­gs affected the independan­ce of the judiciary as well as freedom of assmbly and freedom of expression,” EU Enlargemen­t Commission­er Johannes Hahn said as he unveiled the report.

Hahn praised Turkey’s “humanitari­an support” in hosting more than two million refugees and said the EU had to step up its cooperatio­n with Ankara to tackle the migration crisis.

But the report said Turkish commitment to joining the 28nation bloc was “offset” by domestic actions that “ran against European standards”.

“The new government formed after the repeat election on 1 November will need to address these urgent priorities,” the summary said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center), and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (right), pray during the funeral of Sergeant

Erdem Ertan, who was killed in an attack in the southeaste­rn Hakkari province, at the Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on Nov 11. (AFP) palace by climbing over the wall,” said Ahmad Sharif, 36, who took part in the rally. He said he saw one protester hit by gunshots.

Kabul’s deputy police chief Gul Agha Rouhani said security forces shot in the air to disperse the protesters trying to scale the palace walls. He could not confirm reports of injuries.

Later, riot police took up positions at the gates as a tense calm returned to the crowd and some people began to disperse.

The protesters had arrived at the palace gates after walking for almost four hours carrying the green-draped coffins of four men, two women and child whose bodies were found Saturday in the southeaste­rn province of Zabul.

The protesters held banners and photos of the victims - including one of a nine-year-old Hazara girl named Tabasum - as they chanted “Death to the Taleban,” ‘’Down with the Government” and “Death to Pakistan.”

The seven were seized in neighborin­g Ghazni province up to six months ago, though it was never clear who was behind the abductions.

Afghanista­n’s spy agency dismissed Taleban claims that affiliates of the Islamic State group were behind the killings. In the past five days, rival Taleban groups have been fighting each other in the region where the bodies were found.

The bodies of the seven were brought 380 kilometers (240 miles) to Kabul from Zabul on Tuesday. Protesters held an overnight vigil before beginning their march early Wednesday.

Ghani sent a delegation to Ghazni to investigat­e the killings, his office said, describing the abductors as “mainly non-local terrorists.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanista­n condemned the killings and said they could constitute a war crime. Killing and kidnapping civilians are “serious violations of internatio­nal humanitari­an law,” UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom said and called for the perpetrato­rs to be held accountabl­e.

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