Mon, 20 Jan 2020

U.S. troops slain and injured, journalist killed, in Afghanistan

By Jay Jackson, New York State News.Net
12 Jan 2020, 05:50 GMT+10

KABUL, Afghanistan - Two U.S. soldiers were killed, and another 2 wounded, when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the southern part of Afghanistan on Saturday.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

The soldiers were conducting operations as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission, which says the incident is under investigation.

The soldiers killed were:

Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia.

Prive First Class. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois.

Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman confirmed his group had planted the explosive device.

Unlike with Iran, which has paid a heavy price following the alleged killing of a U.S. private contractor by a pro-Iranian militia group, there will unlikely be any retaliation against the Taliban which is involved in peace talks with U.S.

Ahmadi said the attack had occurred in the Kandahar province. An Afghan military official said it was in the Dand district, which is part of the Kandahar province.

A Nato spokesman on Saturday said officials were still "assessing the situation and will provide more information as it became available."

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Aghanistan in late 2001, more than 2,400 U.S. service members have died in hostilities, most of them as a result of roadside bombs.

The attack comes as U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is trying to finalise a ceasefire. The Taliban has agreed to a truce subject to the United States committing to withdraw its troops. The two partties are believed to be close to an agreement.

Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Sans Frontires (RSF) meantime has condemned the killing of a journalist by Taliban militants in the Western Farah province of Afghanistan.

The local journalist, Javid Noori, 27, (pictured) was reportedly singled out by the Taliban militants after several people were abducted on a highway in Farah province last Sunday and was later executed.

Noori, who worked for the Farah regional government and Radio Neshat, was travelling on a bus with around 30 other passengers when it was stopped and searched at a Taliban roadblock, RSF said in a statement.

The Taliban shot and killed him after finishing their search, RSF said.

"He was killed after being checked and then moved to one side," RSF said quoting a witness to the slaying. The Taliban later issued a formal statement announcing "the execution of an enemy officer during a control."

"This summary execution is the first death of a journalist in 2019 to be registered on RSF's barometer," Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Afghanistan-Iran desk said. "There is an urgent need to end such practices. We reiterate our appeal to the international community to condition the start of any talks with the Taliban on their giving an explicit undertaking to respect international humanitarian law's basic treaties, starting with the Geneva Conventions."

"The world's deadliest country for the media in 2018, with a total of 15 journalists killed, Afghanistan is ranked 118th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index," the statement added.

Another two journalists were killed this week in another country invaded by the U.S. - Iraq. Hundreds of Iraqis on Saturday mourned the pair who were shot dead on Friday night in the country's southern city of Basra, where they had been covering the anti-government protests.

Ahmad Abdessamad, a 37-year-old correspondent for local television station Al-Dijla, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 26, were killed late Friday, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) said Saturday.

Hundreds marched through the streets of Basra carrying symbolic coffins, their pictures and Iraqi flags.

One mourner said: "What happened was an attempt to scare people. But now, everyone in Basra has come out to mourn Ahmad and his colleague Safaa. It was clearly an attempt to silence people."

The two reporters were in a car near a police station in Basra when armed men in a SUV confronted them and opened fire.

"Armed men attacked them and sprayed them with bullets on Friday night, which killed Abdessamad. His cameraman was taken to the city hospital, where he died," the JFO said in a statement.

It said that two weeks before he died, Abdessamad had sent the JFO video testimony about "threats he received from militias because of his criticism of Iran in his coverage."

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