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Four Killed, 40 Wounded In Kabul Car-Bomb Attack

Afghan health workers carry an injured man to the hospital after a car bomb targeted a foreigners' compound in Kabul on January 14.

KABUL -- At least four people were killed and more than 40 were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a foreign compound in the east of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on January 14, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said the blast had targeted Green Village, where some foreign NGOs and workers used to be based.

Danish said at least 10 children were among the wounded.

Until recently, some UN staff lived and worked at the compound, but Danish said the area was now largely empty and "only a number of guards" were left.

"Residential buildings nearby have sustained heavy damage," Danish said. "Special police force units have been deployed to the site to check if there are more attackers."

The latest attack comes as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is touring the region for meetings aimed at bringing an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Last week, Taliban leaders called off a fourth round of talks with U.S. officials in the Arab Gulf state of Qatar due to an "agenda disagreement," and refused to allow what they called "puppet" Afghan government officials to join the talks.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

Five Killed In Taliban Attack On Afghan Police Station

FILE: An Afghan female police officer stands guard outside a police station in Herat (October 2017).

An attack on a police station in western Afghanistan has left five people dead, officials say.

The assault in Herat city, the capital of the province of the same name, was launched at around 6 p.m. local time on January 12, provincial governor spokesman Jailani Farhad said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yosouf Ahmadi said the group was responsible for the attack.

Jailani said those killed in the two-hour firefight included three police officers, a child, and another civilian. Four policemen were also wounded.

All three attackers were also killed by security forces, provincial police commander Aminullah Amarkhil told RFE/RL.

Police special forces were deployed to the area, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish.

Taliban militants have been carrying out near-daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces, despite stepped-up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to the country's 17-year war.

With reporting by dpa and AFP

At Least 30 Afghan Troops Killed In Taliban Attacks

FILE: An Afghan army operation in the northern province of Takhar.

Officials in four provinces of Afghanistan say a series of Taliban attacks on security checkpoints have killed at least 32 members of the Afghan security forces and pro-government militias.

The attacks took place in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar, and in the western province of Badghis on January 10.

In Kunduz, Qala-e Zal district chief Ahmad Fahim Qarluq said attacks by a large number of Taliban fighters in the early morning hours killed 10 soldiers and police and wounded 11.

Qarluq said 25 Taliban fighters were killed in those clashes.

In neighboring Baghlan and Takhar provinces, local Afghan officials said the Taliban killed 16 members of pro-government militias.

They said the militants also suffered heavy casualties.

Jamshid Shahabi, a spokesman for the governor of Badghis Province, said six members of the security forces were killed and 10 wounded in clashes at checkpoints and other security outposts.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks.

He said in a statement that Taliban fighters killed dozens of Afghan troops and had seized a large amount of ammunition and weapons.

The Taliban has ramped up attacks on security forces and government facilities in recent months, while Afghan and U.S. troops have increased operations against the militants' field commanders.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and Tolo News

U.S. Envoy On Afghanistan Starts Regional Tour After Taliban Talks Cancelled

U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad

KABUL -- The U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has begun a two-week diplomatic tour of Afghanistan and other countries in the region in an attempt to push forward the peace process with the Taliban.

Khalilzad began his latest diplomatic mission on January 8 -- the same day that Taliban representatives announced that they would not attend peace talks in Qatar planned for January 9 and 10 with Khalilzad and other U.S. officials.

Khalilzad’s tour is meant to take him to Kabul as well as China, Pakistan, and India.

The U.S. State Department says his visits will last through January 21.

Khalilzad met Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi in December.

But a Taliban representative in Qatar told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on January 8 that it had "postponed" a January 9-10 meeting with Khalilzad "until further consultations" could resolve an "agenda disagreement."

Another Taliban source said the disagreement focused on Washington's insistence that Afghan government officials must be involved in the talks.

He said there was also disagreement on a possible cease-fire deal and a proposed prisoner exchange.

The Taliban has consistently rejected requests from regional powers to allow Afghan government officials to take part in peace talks, insisting that the United States is their main adversary in Afghanistan.

With additional reporting by Reuters

Dozens Killed, Injured In Afghanistan Gold-Mine Collapse

FILE: Afghan miners work at a gold mine in northern Afghanistan.

At least 30 people have been killed in the collapse of a gold mine in northeastern Afghanistan, officials say.

A police spokesman for Badakhshan Province, Sanaullah Rohani, said that at least seven people were also injured in the January 6 incident.

Kohistan district Governor Mohammad Rustam said that locals were using an excavator to search for gold near a local river when the makeshift mine collapsed.

The victims were villagers who were mining for gold illegally, according to provincial government spokesman Nik Mohammad Nazari.

"The villagers have been involved in this business for decades with no government control over them," Nazari said.

At least 50 people were reportedly on the scene at the time of the collapse and two rescue teams were dispatched to assist.

President Ashraf Ghani ordered emergency aid for the victims and told authorities to immediately assist those who may still be under the rubble.

The AFP news agency quoted a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority as saying that the families of the wounded will receive 10,000 afghanis ($133) in compensation, while those of the dead will get 50,000 afghanis ($664).

The spokesman, Hashmat Bahaduri, said defense ministry helicopters had already been dispatched to deliver cash to the families and airlift the wounded to hospitals.

Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province bordering Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China.

Illegal mining is common in resource-rich Afghanistan.

Most of the country’s minerals remain untapped due to the conflict with the Taliban.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, AP, and Reuters

Afghan Forces Free Hostages As Taliban Kidnap Government Employees

FILE: Afghan soldiers during an operation against Taliban militants in Helmand Province (September 2018).

Afghan special forces have rescued 12 people from a Taliban prison in the country's south on the same day that the militants kidnapped a group of 15 government employees in the west, officials said.

The National Directorate of Security (NDS), the country's main intelligence agency, said in a statement that special forces stormed a Taliban prison in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province and rescued 12 people who had been held hostage.

The NDS did not provide any further details on the raid in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold that is the center of the country's opium production.

The statement came as officials in the western province of Farah said Taliban militants kidnapped a group of government employees.

Provincial council members Khair Mohammad Norzai and Dadullah Qaneh told the dpa news agency that the workers were kidnapped as they were heading to their offices on the outskirts of Farah city, the provincial capital.

Farah, located along the border with Iran, has been the scene of fierce clashes between government forces and the Taliban in recent months.

Based on reporting by dpa and Khaama

Turkey To Host Afghanistan, Pakistan For Taliban Peace Talks

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on January 2019.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will host the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of efforts to end the Afghan Taliban's 17-year insurgency.

Erdogan, speaking at a joint news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on January 4, said the trilateral meeting would take place in Istanbul after local elections in March.

Khan told reporters he hoped the meeting would bring "badly needed peace" to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is already helping dialogue between Taliban and [the] Americans," said Khan, who was making his first visit to Turkey since he came to power in August. "I look forward to the summit meeting in Istanbul, where we hope that Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey will be able to help in this peace process."

The announcement of a trilateral meeting comes amid U.S. attempts to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held at least three rounds of talks with Taliban officials in recent months in the Middle East, although the militants have refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.

Based on reporting by AP and Daily Sabah

Seven Afghan Border Guards Killed In Militant Attack In Kandahar

FILE: The aftermath of a suicide attack in Suicide attack in a rural region of Kandahar.

Militants have attacked a checkpoint in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar Province, killing seven border guards, officials said on January 5.

Four others were wounded in the attack on January 4 in the Spin Bolduk district, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.

In an later gun battle on the same day, 16 insurgents were killed and 11 wounded, the spokesman, Aziz Ahmad Azizi, added.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

It comes amid nearly daily attacks by the Taliban targeting Afghan forces.

The uptick in violence has occurred despite increased efforts by the United States to negotiate an end to Afghanistan’s 17-year war.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP

Kabul Fire Kills Three, Injures Dozens

Afghan firefighters work at a site after a building caught fire late last night at a petrol station in Charahi Abdul Haq in Kabul on January 4.

An Afghan official says an overnight fire that began at a gas station in the Afghan capital and spread to a nearby apartment complex has killed three people and injured 44 others.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayer said six people were in critical condition in hospital.

The Interior Ministry said the fire started at the gas station around 23:00 on January 3 and spread to a nearby apartment building in Kabul's Macroyan neighborhood.

The ministry said police were investigating the cause of the fire.

Mohammad Salam Almas, a Kabul police official, said 43 apartments and seven vehicles were burnt in the fire.

In November, a massive fire destroyed hundreds of stores at a big electronics market in the center of Kabul.

Despite incinerating entire businesses and leaving a scene of destruction, no casualties were reported from the fire.

But the damage to property was in the millions of dollars.

With reporting by AP

Trump 'Evaluating' Whether To Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan

FILE: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to the press as leaves the White House (October 2018).

U.S. President Donald Trump is in the "process of evaluating" whether to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan, said Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence's remarks came amid reports that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, about half of the U.S. contingent in the country.

"Well, the president is in the process of evaluating that, as we speak," Pence told Fox News during an interview broadcast on January 3.

His remarks came a day after Trump urged other countries, specifically Russia, Pakistan, and India, to become more involved in the fighting in Afghanistan as he argued against continued long-term presence of U.S. troops in the war-torn country.

“Why isn’t Russia there? Why isn’t India there? Why isn’t Pakistan there?” Trump said in televised comments to reporters during a cabinet meeting on January 2. “Why are we there and we’re 6,000 miles away?”

Many observers have warned that the partial withdrawal could further degrade security and jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its 17-year insurgency.

U.S. forces make up the bulk of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that is training and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants.

The U.S. military also has some 7,000 troops deployed in a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission.

Based on reporting by Fox News

U.S. Army Chief Of Staff Visits Kabul For Talks With Afghan Leaders

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley (file photo)

U.S. General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the army, visited Kabul for talks with Afghan leaders, according to the Afghan president's office.

A statement released by President Ashraf Ghani's office said the two sides met on January 3 and discussed U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and U.S. support for an Afghan-led peace process with Taliban militants.

Interior Minister Amrullah Saleh and Defense Minister Asadullah Khaled attended the meeting.

General Scott Miller, the top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was also present.

The meeting came amid U.S. attempts to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government to end the 17-year war.

U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held at least three rounds of talks with Taliban officials in recent months, although the militants have refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.

The peace efforts come amid reports of a possible drawdown in the estimated 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan currently leading a NATO effort to train and advise local troops.

With reporting by AP

At Least 11 Afghan Police Officers Killed In Taliban Attacks

FILE: Afghan soldiers patrolling a rural region in Baghlan Province.

Afghan officials say at least 11 police officers were killed after Taliban militants attacked two security checkpoints in the country's north.

The attacks occurred on the outskirts of Pul-e Khumri, the capital of Baghlan Province, late on January 2.

Baghlan Governor Abdulhai Nemati said the two checkpoints were destroyed in the hours-long clashes that lasted until early on January 3.

The attack also wounded two other police officers, said Safdar Mooseni, the head of the provincial council.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Taliban controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan, where it is waging a deadly insurgency against the Western-backed Kabul government and government security forces.

The attacks came amid reports of a possible drawdown in the estimated 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan currently leading a NATO effort to train and advise local troops.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and Khaama

Afghan Court Sentences Three Men In BBC Journalist Murder Case

Ahmad Shah was killed last April.

An Afghan court has convicted three men for their alleged involvement in the murder of a BBC journalist last year, officials say.

A primary court in the Bagram district of the central Parwan Province, where the accused are imprisoned, sentenced one of the men to death, the Attorney General's Office said on January 3.

The two other defendants were handed jail terms of 30 and six years.

Afghan journalist Ahmad Shah was shot dead on April 30, 2018, while he was on his way home in Khost Province, south of Kabul.

The Taliban at the time denied responsibility for the attack.

No details on those convicted or the motive for the crime were immediately available.

The case has been now been sent to a higher court to validate the tribunal's ruling, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest place for journalists in 2018, with 13 reporters and two media workers killed in the country over the year, according to Reporters Without Borders.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

New Acting Defense Chief Takes Over At Pentagon

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, sits next to Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on January 2.

Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.

Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on January 2 as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on December 20, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.

Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.

Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.

In televised remarks on January 2, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. "I'm not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan -- and I shouldn't be happy," said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.

"I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results."

A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.

Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.

"While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China," a Pentagon official said.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

Five Afghan Soldiers Killed In Taliban Attack

An Afghan official says at least five government soldiers were killed after Taliban militants attacked a military base in the country's south.

Mohammad Ashraf Watandost, the police spokesman for Kandahar Province, said six soldiers were also wounded in the January 2 attack in the Maiwand district.

Watandost said the militants entered the base through an underground tunnel.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.

Separately, Afghan border security forces foiled an attack on Italian military advisers at a base in the western province of Herat on January 2.

Noorullah Qadri, the commander of 207 Zafar military corps, said two attackers who had infiltrated the border security forces fired on the Italian advisers.

Qadri said the advisers escaped uninjured and one attacker was gunned down immediately while the other was arrested.

Nearly 900 Italian soldiers are part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission focused on training, advising, and assisting the Afghan forces in four western provinces.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Tolo News

Taliban Holds Talks In Tehran On Ending Afghan War

FILE: Members of the Taliban delegation take their seats during the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow.

Iran says a Taliban delegation has made a rare visit to Tehran for talks with a senior Iranian official on efforts to end Afghanistan's 17-year-long war.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on December 31 that the Taliban delegation arrived on December 30 and met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.

Qassemi said talks focused on "security issues aimed at driving the peace process in Afghanistan." He said Kabul was informed about the meeting.

It was not the first such meeting between the Taliban and Iranian officials.

Ali Shamkhani of Iran's Supreme National Security Council confirmed last week in Kabul that such talks have taken place in the past and would continue.

The Taliban have recently held talks in several regional countries amid Washington's plans to withdraw up to half the 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

IS Spokesman In Afghanistan Killed In Drone Strike

FILE: Alleged militants of the Islamic state (IS) Sediqullah (L) and Sajjad are pictured after they surrendered to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) in September.

The Afghan National Army says a leading spokesman for the affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan has been killed in a drone strike.

An army statement on December 27 said Sultan Aziz Azam was killed the day before in an "IS hideout" in the Pachiragam district of the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The statement said that "acting upon intelligence reports, unnamed planes targeted" Azam, "the mouthpiece of the hard-liner group for Afghanistan."

Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Azam was also in charge of recruiting militants for high-profile attacks in urban areas.

There was no immediate statement from IS or from U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Nangarhar is the stronghold of IS militants, who are active on Afghanistan's porous eastern border with Pakistan.

The U.S. military estimates that there are about 2,000 IS militants in Afghanistan.

The hard-line Sunni group has targeted minority Shi'ite civilians and government security forces in deadly attacks since it emerged around 2015.

Based on reporting by 1TV, Khaama, and Xinhua

Key Taliban Commander Killed In Eastern Afghanistan

A key Taliban commander has been killed in an operation conducted by Afghan government forces in the country's east, the Defense Ministry says.

A ministry spokesman said Bilal Zadran was killed in the eastern province of Paktika late on December 18.

Zadran was the head of the Taliban's special forces, also known as the Red Unit, for the provinces of Ghazni, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, and Logar, according to the spokesman, Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed.

Jawed said Zadran had played a major role in destabilizing the five eastern provinces.

The targeting of top Taliban commanders in Afghanistan is part of a strategy to apply heavier battlefield pressure on the extremist group and to eliminate militant field commanders seen as major obstacles to possible peace talks.

Abdul Manan, the shadow Taliban governor of the province of Helmand and the militants' top military commander in southern Afghanistan, was killed in a joint operation by U.S. and Afghan special forces on December 2.

Over the following days, the Taliban shadow governors of Ghor and Paktika Provinces were also killed in separate operations.

Based on reporting by Khaama and 1TV

Taliban Says It Is Meeting U.S. Officials On December 17

U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul in November.

The Taliban say it will be holding "another" meeting on December 17 with U.S. officials, this time in the United Arab Emirates in the latest attempt to negotiate an end to Afghanistan's 17-year war.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the meeting would also involve Saudi, Pakistani, and Emirati representatives but offered no further details.

While Washington has neither denied nor confirmed previous meetings with the Taliban, U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad previously said he held several meetings with all Afghans involved in the conflict -- a reference that would include the Taliban, who control or have influence in nearly half of Afghanistan.

In a statement last month, the Taliban said it held three consecutive days of talks with Khalilzad in Qatar, a Mideast country where the insurgent group maintains a political office.

Afterward, Khalilzad went to Kabul where he urged Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to put together a team that could hold talks with the Taliban.

The United States has spent $1 trillion on the war in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001. The conflict there has become America's longest war.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa

Afghanistan Hosts Pakistan, China For Talks

FILE: Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani

Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China are meeting on December 15 in the Afghan capital to discuss trade, development, and security.

Shahussain Murtazawi, the deputy spokesman for the Afghan president, said the foreign ministers of the three countries will discuss everything from regional economic development to counterterrorism.

It is the second such meeting of the three neighboring countries.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is attending the meeting on his second visit to Kabul since assuming office.

“Both Pakistan and China desire peace, prosperity, and development in Afghanistan,” Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad before his departure.

"We are carrying the message of friendship and peace to Afghanistan,” Qureshi was quoted as saying by broadcaster Geo TV.

Afghanistan and the United States accuse Islamabad of providing support to Taliban militants fighting Afghan and international forces in the country.

Pakistan rejects the accusations.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, TOLO, and Geo TV

Father Who Fled Afghan Violence Buried After Dying In Strasbourg Shooting

Four people were killed on December 11 in a shooting at the Strasbourg Christmas market.

Kamal Naghchband, who fled violence in Afghanistan two decades ago but was shot down in the December 11 Strasbourg Christmas market attack, was buried on December 14.

The 45-year-old father of three who wanted to build a new life in France was one of four people killed when a man shouting “God is great” in Arabic opened fire at the city’s famed Christmas market.

"He was going to see the Christmas market and -- in front of his children -- he took a bullet," one of his cousins told AFP.

Naghchband was rushed to the hospital after the shooting, but he died a day later from his wounds.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral at the Strasbourg mosque where he would go to pray. He was the joint manager of a garage near the mosque.

"Our brother martyr Kamal tells us 'enjoy the moments you have in this world to do good,'" Imam Eyup Sahin said.

"The best human being," he added, is not "the one who is most helpful for Muslims, for Jews, Christians or atheists, but for all humanity."

Naghchband's Facebook page indicated he was from Kabul and studied in the northern city Mazar-e Sharif.

"He was charismatic, kind, and joked with everyone. People didn't go to his garage just to have their car repaired but to have coffee with him," a relative said.

The suspect in the mass shooting was identified as 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt. He was shot dead by police after a massive manhunt on December 13.

The Islamic State (IS) militant group said one of its followers carried out the attack.

Based on reporting by AFP and the BBC

U.S. Army Green Beret Charged With Murder Of Afghan Man

A U.S. Army Green Beret major has been charged with murder in the death of an Afghan man during his 2010 deployment to the war-torn country, the U.S. military says.

A spokesman said on December 13 that Major Matthew Golsteyn's commander had determined that "sufficient evidence exists" to warrant the charges.

Golsteyn has allegedly admitted to shooting and killing a man in Afghanistan, saying he suspected him of being a Taliban bomb maker.

The major’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, told the Army Times that Golsteyn was a "humble servant-leader who saved countless lives, both American and Afghan, and has been recognized repeatedly for his valorous actions."

He said he would be "relentless" in defending Golsteyn against the charges.

An intermediary commander will review the warrant and decide whether the Green Beret, who was a captain at the time of the incident, will face a hearing that could lead to a court-martial.

During his deployment, Golsteyn was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor, after he helped track down a sniper targeting U.S. and Afghan troops, assisted a wounded Afghan soldier, and helped coordinate air strikes, the Army Times reported.

An initial investigation in 2014 was closed without any charges. But the Army reopened the investigation in 2016 after Golsteyn allegedly described in an interview how he and another soldier took the alleged bomb maker off of a base, shot him, and buried his remains.

U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (Republican-California) has spoken on behalf of Golsteyn, describing him as a "distinguished and well-regarded Green Beret" and calling on the Army to "fix this stupidity."

Based on reporting by Reuters and The Army Times

At Least Eight Afghan Soldiers Killed, Nine Captured In Taliban Attack

FILE: An Afghan soldier stands guard at the entrance gate of the government compound in Farah, the provincial capital of the province with the same name (May).

The Taliban has attacked an army post in Afghanistan’s western province of Farah, killing at least eight Afghan soldiers, officials say.

The overnight assault lasted nearly three hours before the militants overran the outpost and took nine other soldiers hostage, council members Dadullah Qani and Gul Ahmad Faqiri said on December 9.

They said the attackers took all of the post's equipment with them.

Provincial police spokesman Mohibullah Mohib said three militants were also killed and four others were wounded in the battle.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi posted a video on Twitter showing what he said were the captured soldiers.

The Taliban has ramped up attacks on Afghan security forces and government facilities in recent months.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

Three Civilians Killed In Afghan Roadside Bombing

FILE: A wounded Afghan man is brought to a hospital after roadside bomb hit a passenger bus, in the western province of Herat in July.

Three civilians have been killed after their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's western Herat Province, officials said.

A spokesman for the provincial governor said the December 8 attack occurred in the Guzra district.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the spokesman, Gelani Farhad, blamed Taliban insurgents, who are active in the area.

In eastern Nangarhar Province, three members of the Islamic State (IS) group were arrested during a military operation in Bahsud district, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Khogyani said one of them is a member of the group's press department who was responsible for IS propaganda in Nangarhar.

Both Taliban and IS militants are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially in Nangarhar Province.

There was no immediate statement from the IS group.

In northern Kunduz Province, at least four Taliban insurgents were killed by their own bomb, according to a statement released by the Afghan National Army on December 8.

The blast reportedly took place in the Qala-e Zal district as they tried to plant it and it detonated.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP

Family Of Afghan Boy Of 'Messi' Fame Live In Fear

FILE: FC Barcelona Lionel Messi (L) holds the hands of Afghan boy Murtaza Ahmadi on the pitch before the start of a friendly football match against Saudi Arabia's Al-Ahli FC in Doha (December 2016).

The family of a young Afghan boy photographed in a shirt improvised from a plastic bag of his Argentine soccer idol, Lionel Messi, has been forced to flee their home.

Murtaza Ahmadi, now 7, grabbed world headlines two years ago when his brother made him a shirt out of a blue-and-white plastic bag, with Messi's name and number 10 shirt number. He met his hero in December 2017.

His mother, Shafiqa Ahmedi, said the fame "has created a big problem for us and for him," in comments to the AP news agency on December 8.

"For the last two years we have not been able to send him to school. I wish none of this had ever happened."

Criminals, she said, tried to extort money from the family, assuming the brief bit of fame had made them all rich. The Taliban also tried to track them down in their home district of Jorguri in the restive Ghazni Province.​

In November 2017, when Taliban militants launched attacks in Jorguri, the family fled to relative safety in Bamiyan Province in central Afghanistan.

But the threats continued, forcing the family to again move, this time to the Afghan capital.

The family says the move to Kabul three weeks ago has been painful.

Murtaza is the youngest of five children and the family is paying the equivalent of about $90 a month for a room.

Murtaza's uncle, Asif Ahmedi, said the family received at least 10 letters and several phone calls from a variety of criminal gangs threatening to kill Murtaza or kidnap him if they didn't give them money.

"Everyone thinks that because he became famous that we now have lots of money, but we are poor people," he said.

Despite the hardships, Murtaza continues to dream. "I want to become a footballer like Messi and I want to be able to go to school," he says.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

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