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Taliban Attacks Kill At Least 14 Troops, Police

FILE: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Badghis in December 2017.

Two near-simultaneous Taliban attacks in Afghanistan's western Badghis province have killed at least 14 troops and police officers, Afghan officials say.

Deputy provincial police chief Ghulam Sarwar Haidari said a large number of insurgents attacked Afghan Army troops in the Ab Kamari district, killing nine soldiers in that attack on April 23.

At the same time, another attack by insurgents on police in the Qadis district killed five police officers, Haidari said.

Sharafuddin Majidi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed the death toll.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.

Haidari blamed the Taliban who have stepped up their attacks on Afghan security forces across Badghis.

On April 22, an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a voter registration center in the capital, Kabul, killing 57 people.

Based on reporting by AP and tolonews.com

Afghan Army: Dozens Of Militants Killed In Operations

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers march during a training exercise of a graduation ceremony at a training center in the western Herat province on April 15.

Dozens of suspected Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants were killed by Afghan security forces in the past 24 hours across the country, Afghan authorities said on April 21.

The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that 21 suspected Taliban militants, including a local commander, were killed in raids in various parts of the country, including Balkh, Helmand, Kapisa, and Khost.

The local commander, Mullah Jalal, was killed in the northern province of Faryab, the statement said. According to the ministry, 17 insurgents were wounded in the army operations.

It said at least 27 suspected IS fighters have been killed in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where the extremist group has control over some small pockets.

Military operations were conducted in Nangarhar’s Batikot, Deh Bala, Dur Baba, and Rodat districts, local military commanders said.

In a separate development, at least six police officers were killed when a group of Taliban fighters attacked and overran a police checkpoint in northern Sari Pul Province.

Zabi Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said two other police officers were wounded in the attack, which took place in Sayad district late on April 20.

Reinforcements arrived and a sporadic gunbattle is still under way in Sayad district, Amani said on April 21.

The spokesman added that three Taliban fighters were killed and two others were wounded in the battle.

With reporting by tolonews.com and AP

Afghanistan Returns Five Bodies, Captured Pakistani Soldier

Afghan authorities have returned the bodies of five Pakistani soldiers killed during a weekend clash along a disputed sector of the two countries' border, and also released a sixth soldier captured by the Afghans, Pakistan's Foreign Office says.

Islamabad had described the clash as an attack on a Pakistani border post in the Kurram tribal region, saying it was carried out by Afghan forces and tribesmen.

Muhammad Faisal, a spokesman for the Foreign Office, said the two sides resolved the issue of the incident through "diplomatic and military channels."

Initial reports had said the Pakistani Frontier Corps troops were carrying out "routine surveillance" when they were "fired upon from the Afghanistan side," leaving two dead and five wounded.

The Afghan police said the clashes erupted after Pakistani forces crossed into Afghanistan.

Separately, three Afghan election workers and two police officers, who were kidnapped in Ghor Province on April 17 by militants, were freed, police said.

With reporting by AP

Six Afghan Civilians Said Killed In Attack In Western Province

FILE: Members of Afghan Hazara community rally to demand the government bring security in Herat in September 2017.

At least six civilians have been shot dead by gunmen in Afghanistan's western Ghor Province, an Afghan official says.

Iqbal Nezami, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said four other civilians were wounded after their car was fired upon near Faroz Koh, the provincial capital, early on April 17.

The victims were all ethnic Hazaras, a Shi'ite minority that is frequently targeted by Sunni extremists in different parts of Afghanistan.

Nezami said the Hazaras were traveling from the province of Herat to Ghor when they came under attack.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban and Islamic State militants are both active in Ghor and have previously claimed attacks in the province.

Based on reporting by AP and Tolo News

Afghanistan Launches Voter Registration For Parliamentary Elections

Gulajan Sayad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan

Afghanistan has launched its voter registration drive for long-delayed parliamentary and provincial council elections that are scheduled for October.

Gulajan Sayyad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), told reporters on April 14 that voters could register in some 7,300 polling centers across the country.

As part of electoral reforms after the fraud-marred presidential election in 2014, voters must register again and will receive new voting identification cards.

In early April, the IEC announced that parliamentary and provincial council elections, originally slated for July, would be pushed back to October 20.

Mohammad Yousuf Rashed, the head of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, an independent organization, said that of 7,300 polling stations due to be set up for the elections, 948 were in areas "out of government control."

Parliamentary elections should have been held in 2015 but were postponed after the 2014 presidential vote and unresolved disputes about election reforms.

Based on reporting by dpa and Tolo News

At Least 13 Afghan Troops Killed In Taliban Attacks

Afghan soldiers at the site of a bomb explosion in Shindand district of western Herat province on April 10.

At least 13 Afghan security forces have been killed in suspected Taliban attacks in western Herat Province, officials say.

Ten police were killed and four wounded in the Shindad district, where fighting with the militants lasted for hours, Shukrullah Shaker, the district governor, said on April 13.

An unspecified number of militants were also killed, according to Shaker.

He blamed the Taliban for the attack, although no militant group has so far claimed responsibility.

Also overnight, suspected Taliban militants attacked several police posts in eastern Paktia Province, leaving at least three police dead, according to Gul Agha Roohani, the province's police chief.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack in Paktia in a text message sent to the media.

The violence comes a day after the UN said more than 700 civilians had been killed and nearly 1,500 wounded in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2018.

"Afghan civilians continue to suffer, caught in the conflict, in ways that are preventable; this must stop now," said Ingrid Hayden, the UN secretary-general's deputy special representative for Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

UN: Over 700 Civilians Killed In Afghanistan In First Three Months Of 2018

UNAMA said it was concerned by a 6 percent increase in civilian casualties caused by antigovernment groups.

The United Nations says more than 700 civilians were killed in the first three months of 2018 in Afghanistan.

In its quarterly report issued on April 12, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said 763 civilians were killed and 1,495 others injured between January 1 and March 31, a similar figure to the same period in 2017.

UNAMA said it was concerned by a 6 percent increase in civilian casualties caused by antigovernment groups.

It said pro-government forces, including Afghan security forces, government-sponsored militias, and international troops, reduced civilian casualties by 13 percent compared to the previous year, killing and injuring 407 civilians.

"Afghan civilians continue to suffer, caught in the conflict, in ways that are preventable; this must stop now," said Ingrid Hayden, the UN secretary-general's deputy special representative for Afghanistan.

For the whole of 2017, the UN said 3,438 civilians were killed and 7,015 others injured. It was the fourth year in a row with more than 10,000 civilian casualties.

The UN figures are considered a conservative estimate because they need at least three independent sources to officially register a case.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Afghan District Governor Among Those Killed In Taliban Attack

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at the check post in Khawaja Omari district of Ghazni province on April 12.

Taliban militants have launched an attack on a district government compound in southeastern Afghanistan, killing more than a dozen people including the local governor, officials say.

Provincial officials said on April 12 that the governor, police, and intelligence officers were among those killed in the overnight raid on the Khwaja Omari district headquarters in Ghazni Province.

Deputy provincial police chief Ramazan Ali Mohsini said 25 Taliban fighters were also killed in the gunbattle that started late on April 11 and lasted into the morning.

"The attack is over and the district is under the control of Afghan security forces after reinforcement forces rushed to the scene," Mohsini said.

A member of the provincial council, Ghulam Sakhi Amar, said the attackers torched the district governor's office building after removing weapons and other equipment.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the raid, saying more than 20 members of Afghan security forces were killed and several others wounded. It said three militants also died and four others were wounded.

The assault comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Bomb Attack Kills At Least Six In Western Afghanistan

FILE: An Afghan police officer stands guard outside a Shi'ite mosque after a suicide bomb attack in Herat on March 25

Reports from Afghanistan say at least six civilians have been killed by a bomb attack near a mosque and a bazaar in western Herat Province.

Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for Herat’s provincial governor, said the dead included four children – two girls and two boys.

Farhad said nine other children were injured by the attack in the town of Shindand at the northern end of the Zerkoh Valley.

He said explosives were placed in an unattended motorbike and detonated by remote control.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The town of Shindand is about 11 kilometers southwest of Shindand air base, a strategic facility used by Afghanistan’s air force and troops from NATO’s training and assistance mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support.

The town is about 110 kilometers from the border with Iran.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

Turkey Deports Hundreds Of Afghan Migrants

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (left) speaks next to Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah during a press conference at Sapedar palace in Kabul on April 8.

Turkey says it is deporting hundreds of Afghans back to Afghanistan, in a major operation after thousands of them allegedly illegally entered the country in recent weeks.

On April 8, 227 Afghan migrants boarded a charter flight from the northeastern city of Erzurum to Kabul, Turkish news agencies reported.

They said an additional more than 400 Afghans were set for deportation in the coming days.

Migration officials in Erzurum were quoted as saying that the authorities planned to deport all 3,000 Afghan migrants who are currently in the city.

In Kabul, a spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations insisted that they were coming back home of their own will.

"They are the ones who wanted to use Turkey as a transit route to other countries, but when they failed they decided to come back," Islamuddin Jurat said.

During a visit to Kabul for talks with Afghan leaders, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on April 8 that Ankara was grateful for Afghanistan's cooperation over the matter.

"There is no problem here," Turkish state media quoted Yildirim as saying at a news conference with Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

Turkey is a key transit route for migrants from Afghanistan and other countries in Asia and the Middle East seeking to reach Europe in search of better lives and work.

Turkish media have reported that several thousand migrants from war-plagued Afghanistan had crossed into Turkey in recent weeks. They were believed to have crossed from Iran into Turkey and then walked for days from the border to reach Erzurum.

Rights groups have criticized Ankara for deporting migrants back to conflict-torn countries such as Afghanistan, saying it was putting their lives at risk.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, and Reuters

Islamic State Local Commander 'Killed In Afghan Air Strikes'

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) troops keep watch at a check point in Aqcha district of Jawzjan province.

A local commander of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has been killed by Afghan security forces in the northern province of Jawzjan, Afghan officials say.

Provincial police chief Faqeer Mohammad Jawzjani said on April 7 that the IS commander, Qari Hekmat, was killed by Afghan forces’ air strikes on April 5.

The official told RFE/RL that Hekmat was killed along with his bodyguard and two other militants in Jawzjan’s Darzab district.

Jawzjani said the government forces continue a military operation to clear out the area from IS militants.

Afghan officials earlier said that IS militants in Jawzjan appointed Mawlawi Habib-ur-Rehman, an IS fighter from the northern province of Balkh, as the extremist group’s new local commander.

IS militants have a presence in several Afghan districts, mostly in the country’s east near the Pakistani border, but also in some northern provinces, like Jawzjan and Kunduz.

IS doesn’t fully control any Afghan district, and it fights both the Afghan government forces and the Taliban for territorial control.

IS has claimed responsibility for several deadly suicide attacks in the capital, Kabul, and other cities, including Herat and Jalalabad.

Schools To Reopen In Afghan District After Deal Reached With Taliban

FILE: A girls school in Afghanistan's Logar province.

Dozens of public schools that were shut down by the Taliban in an area under its control south of Kabul are set to reopen after a deal was reached with the militant group, an Afghan official says.

Salim Saleh, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Logar, said that classes “are expected to resume in the afternoon on April 7 or April 8” in at least 30 schools in the province’s Charkh district after a week-long interruption.

The Taliban closed the schools on March 31 after several militants and one of their commanders were killed in a night raid by government forces.

Afghan media earlier reported that Mualvi Mohammad, a Taliban commander, was killed in the Afghan army operation in the area late on March 30.

Saleh told RFE/RL on April 7 that the deal to reopen the school was reached after negotiations between the Taliban and tribal elders in the area.

The official had previously said that authorities were in contact with influential tribal elders and religious scholars in Charkh in an attempt to secure the schools’ reopening.

Saleh said the Taliban’s move left some 12,000 students out of school in Charkh, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital.

With reporting by tolonews.com and pajwok.com

Afghan Taliban Closes 30 Schools After Militant Commander Killed

FILE: Girls students in a school in Afghanistan's Logar province

The Taliban has closed at least 30 schools in an area under its control south of Kabul after a local militant commander was killed by government forces, Afghan officials say.

Salim Saleh, a spokesman for Logar Province's governor, said on April 6 that the Taliban closed the schools in the province's Charkh district after several militants and one of their commanders were killed in a night raid by government forces earlier this week.

Afghan media earlier reported that Mualvi Mohammad, a Taliban commander, was killed in the Afghan National Army operation in the area late on March 30.

Saleh said the Taliban move had left some 12,000 students out of school in Charkh, which is about 60 kilometers south of the Afghan capital.

Saleh said that the authorities were in contact with influential tribal elders and religious scholars in the area in an attempt to secure the schools' reopening in the coming days.

Hasibullah Stanekzai, the head of the Logar Provincial Council, said that the militants had warned Charkh elders to avoid meeting government officials to discuss reopening schools.

The schools have been closed since March 31.

Based on reporting by Tolo News and Pajhwok

Six Afghan Soldiers Wounded In Kabul Bomb Attack

According to a Kabul police spokesperson, the blast was caused by a roadside bomb.

KABUL -- Six Afghan soldiers have been slightly wounded in a bomb attack in the capital, the Defense Ministry says.

The ministry said in a statement that two magnetic bombs placed on a power transmission tower exploded in Kabul on April 4 when members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) were passing by.

Earlier, officials at the Ministry of Public Health said three people had been transferred to hospital for treatment following the attack, which took place near a Defense Ministry building.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, which comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

On March 21, a suicide attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul killed at least 29 people, as people in the capital celebrated the new year holiday Norouz.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

With reporting by Khaama Press

More Than 50 Afghan Schoolgirls Hospitalized For Suspected Poisoning

An Afghan school girl receives medical treatment at a local hospital after being admitted for symptoms of poisoning. (illustrative photo from a previous Afghan poisoning incident in May 2017), in Herat, September 3, 2015

Dozens of schoolgirls have been sickened at a high school in the southern Afghan province of Helmand in what officials suspect is a case of group poisoning.

Dawood Shah Safari, head of the provincial education department, told RFE/RL that a total of 52 girls were transferred on April 2 to a hospital in Helmand Province’s capital, Lashkar Gah.

Dr. Nisar Ahmad Barak said the girls were admitted at his hospital with headaches and vomiting, adding that they were now in stable condition and receiving treatment.

It was not clear what type of poisoning may have been involved in the incident.

The girls were said to be from 10th and 11th grade at Lashkar Gah's Central Girls School.

Police said officers and experts had been dispatched to the area to investigate the incident.

Most of Helmand Province is under the control of the Taliban who oppose the education of girls.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

With reporting by AP and Pajhwok

High-Level Conference On Afghanistan Opens In Uzbekistan

A general view of a multilateral meeting conference aiming to lay the ground for direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on March 27.

Uzbekistan on March 27 is hosting a multilateral meeting on Afghanistan aiming to lay the ground for direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini are taking part in the talks in Tashkent.

The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey are due to give speeches on March 27, while the United States is to be represented by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon.

The parties at the conference were expected to sign a declaration on Afghanistan before the end of the conference (EDS; arounf 1500 Prague time).

The Taliban are staying away from the event held in Tashkent.

Representatives of both Washington and NATO have in the past raised concerns that Moscow is supplying military aid to the militant group that ruled over much of Afghanistan from 1996 until it was toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001.

Moscow has rejected the claims.


Based on reporting by AFP and TASS

Afghanistan Peace Conference Set To Convene In Tashkent

Representatives from more than 20 countries are expected to take part in the event in Uzbekistan.

An international conference on Afghanistan is set to convene in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, on March 26.

Representatives from more than 20 countries are expected to take part in the event in Uzbekistan, including from the United States, the European Union, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, and the five Central Asian nations.

The conference will discuss the Afghan peace process, as well as counterterrorism, counternarcotics, and regional cooperation.

The Tashkent conference comes on the heels of the so-called Kabul Process event held in the Afghan capital on February 28 in which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed peace talks with the Taliban, without preconditions.

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will attend the Tashkent conference on Afghanistan on March 26 and is also scheduled to meet with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulaziz Kamilov during his three-day trip.

The State Department has said the Tashkent conference "will build on progress made at the February 28 Kabul Process Conference in a continued demonstration of international support for a peaceful political settlement in Afghanistan."

Afghanistan Wins Cricket World Cup Qualifying Tournament

Ireland batsman Gary Wilson, right, plays a shot during their Cricket World Cup qualifier match against Afghanistan at Harare Sports Club on March 23.

Afghanistan captured a seven-wicket victory over the West Indies to win the cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Afghanistan on March 25 bowled out the West Indies for 204 in 46.5 overs and then reached its target score with just under 10 overs to spare.

Afghanistan and West Indies both secured their places in the 2019 World Cup by finishing atop the 10-team qualifying tournament.

The World Cup, the biggest event in the sport, will be held in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14, 2019.

Ten teams will participate in the 12th edition of the event. England is an automatic qualifier, and Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Sir Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan have also earned spots.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters

Bomb Blast Hits Western Afghan City

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack on a Shi'ite mosque in the western city of Herat on March 25.

Afghan police say two suicide bombers struck a Shi'ite mosque in the western city of Herat, killing at least one person and wounding seven others.

Police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the suicide bombers tried to enter the Nabi Akram Mosque on March 25, but one was shot dead by security guards and the other blew himself up before reaching the hall where worshippers were praying.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The area around the mosque was cordoned off by police and ambulances were seen rushing victims to hospitals in the city.

The Sunni extremists have frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi'ite minority, which they view as apostates.

The group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul on March 21 that killed 33 people and wounded dozens as people in the capital celebrated Norouz, the Persian new year holiday.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 161 people were killed and 257 others were wounded in 2017 in targeted sectarian attacks against Shi'ite places of worship or worshippers.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Tolo News

Suicide Car Bomber Kills 13 At Afghan Wrestling Match

Men carry a wounded man onto a stretcher outside a hospital following a car bomb in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province on March 23.

A car bomb has exploded at the entrance of a sports stadium in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's southwestern province of Helmand, killing at least 13 people and injuring dozens as they were leaving a wrestling match.

Aminullah Abed, the head of the province's public health department, said at least 40 were injured -- with six in critical condition. He said the bodies of many of those who were killed had been burnt beyond recognition.

Omar Zawak, a spokesman for Helmand's provincial governor, told RFE/RL that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove an explosives-laden car into a crowd of people as they were passing through the entrance gate of the sports facility on March 23.

Zawak said at least 14 people were killed and 45 were injured.

Provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi said the target of the attack was civilians. He said no high-ranking officials were present or hurt at the stadium.

The attack occurred after Afghan New Year celebrations were winding down.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

With reporting by AFP and AP

German Lawmakers Approve Troop Increase For Afghanistan

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen

The German parliament has approved plans to extend the country's military mission in Afghanistan.

A majority of lawmakers voted to approve a bill raising the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.

The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that the German troop increase should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.

She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, "We need patience and a long breath, without question."

Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.

The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.

Based on reporting by dpa

Asylum Seeker Claiming Afghan Origin Sentenced For Rape, Murder In Germany

The case triggered protests in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

An asylum seeker who claims to be from Afghanistan was sentenced by a German court on March 22 to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman.

Hussein Khavari, who arrived in Germany without identification in 2015, had admitted to attacking 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger in the southwestern city of Freiburg in October 2016.

Prosecutors said Khavari pushed the woman off her bicycle, then bit, choked, and raped her. She was left alive on the bank of a river, where she subsequently drowned.

Khavari was arrested seven weeks later after a manhunt.

Khavari had previously received a 10-year sentence for attempted murder in Greece, only to be freed in 2015 because of overcrowded prisons.

German authorities have not been able to confirm Khavari’s age and nation of origin. He originally claimed to be a teenager, but after examining dental records and X-rays, experts said they believe him to be 22 to 29 years old.

The case triggered protests in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

Under German law, a life sentence means 15 years in prison with no chance of parole and the possibility of "security detention" after release.

Based on reporting by AFP and the BBC

Women From Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan Among 2018 Courage Award Honorees

Kazakh lawyer Aiman Omarova is among those who who has been honored with an International Women of Courage Award. (file photo)

Ten women from countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kosovo are being honored with the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award (IWOC) for 2018.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will host the annual IWOC ceremony on March 23. First Lady Melania Trump is to deliver remarks at the ceremony.

The award is presented annually to women from around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in promoting women's rights.

The 2018 awardees include:

Roya Sadat of Afghanistan is a well-known rights defender who uses television and cinema to tell stories of Afghan women and girls despite enormous personal risks linked to cultural, bureaucratic, and financial obstacles.

Aiman Omarova of Kazakhstan is a prominent lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse crimes committed against women and children, and works with political and rights detainees.

Feride Rushiti of Kosovo is the founder and executive director of the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, whose activism led to a landmark government ruling on awarding pensions to victims of Kosovo wartime sexual violence.

The other seven are Aura Elena Farfan of Guatemala, Julissa Villlanueva of Honduras, Aliyah Khalaf Saleh of Iraq, Maria Elena Berini of Italy, L'Malouma Said of Mauritania, Godelive Mukasarasi of Rwanda, and Sirikan Charoensiri of Thailand.

CORRECTION: This article has been amended to reflect the fact that the 10 women in question are awardees, not finalists.

Top U.S. Military Officer Visits Afghanistan To Review Campaign

U.S. General Joseph Dunford said he wanted to understand the goals for the coming months so the U.S.-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

U.S. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has visited Afghanistan to evaluate the military campaign there.

The visit by Dunford, the top U.S. military officer, follows a two-day stop in the country by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last week amid a renewed effort to get the Taliban militants to open talks with the Afghan government.

Bolstering that effort is an increased U.S. military campaign aimed at ensuring Afghan troops make progress against the Taliban and other insurgents in the fighting season this spring.

Dunford said on March 19 he wanted to understand the goals for the coming months so the U.S.-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

Dunford is traveling with a large team, including senior officials who specialize in intelligence, strategy, and logistics.

With reporting by AP and Tolo News

Three Killed In Blast Outside Hekmatyar Rally In Afghanistan

Afghan policemen inspect the scene after a deadly blast in Jalalabad on March 19.

Three people were killed when a motorcycle bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 outside a rally being held by a veteran warlord who made peace with the government last year, officials said.

At least eight more people were wounded in the explosion.

The former commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was not hurt in the blast that came 10 minutes after his rally ended, in the city of Jalalabad, as people were leaving the site, Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor told the media.

Hekmatyar, who served as prime minister for a period during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, was in recent years allied with the Taliban.

He returned to Kabul last year under a peace deal with the government, as head of his Hizb-i-Islami party.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is capital, has in recent years become a hotbed of militants affiliated to both Islamic State and the Taliban.

The attack in Jalalabad came after at least eight people were killed in separate incidents in the capital, Kabul, and southeastern Ghazni province on March 18.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

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