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Afghanistan: War is Over, Taliban Declares, Takes over Kabul

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The Taliban declared the war in Afghanistan over, after taking control of the presidential palace in Kabul while Western countries scrambled on Monday to evacuate their citizens amid chaos at the airport as frantic Afghans searched for a way out.

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the Islamist militants entered the capital virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed, while hundreds of Afghans desperate to leave flooded Kabul airport.

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday.

“Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen.

“They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,” Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV.

“Thanks to God, the war is over in the country,” he added.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces trained for years and equipped by the U.S. and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.

Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

“We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,” he said, adding: “We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.”

A Taliban leader told Reuters the insurgents were regrouping from different provinces, and would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

The leader, who requested anonymity, said Taliban fighters had been “ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians”.

“Normal life will continue in a much better way, that’s all I can say for now,” he told Reuters in a message.

Central Kabul streets were largely deserted early on a sunny Monday as waking residents pondered their future.

“I’m in a complete state of shock,” said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it.

“I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.”

The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the Taliban to uphold human rights and said the world was watching: “It’s going to be all about the actions, not the words.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said early on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.

Hundreds of Afghans invaded the airport’s runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before U.S. forces took over air traffic control on Sunday.

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” said Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, told Reuters in a message from the airport.

U.S. forces managing the airport fired into the air to stop Afghans surging onto the tarmac to try to board a military flight, a U.S. official said.

Dozens of men tried to clamber up onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.

The Pentagon on Sunday authorised another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops within the next 48 hours.

More than 60 western countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, and Japan, issued a joint statement saying all Afghans and international citizens who wanted to leave must be allowed to do so.

Western nations, including France, Germany, and New Zealand said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out.

Russia said it saw no need to evacuate its embassy for the time being while Turkey said its embassy would continue operations.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents.

Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law.

During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping, and hanging were administered.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged all parties to exercise the utmost restraint, and expressed particular concern about the future of women and girls.

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.

Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission by Aug. 31.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell blamed Biden for what he called a “shameful failure of American leadership”.

“Terrorists and major competitors like China are watching the embarrassment of a superpower laid low,” McConnell said.

Naeem said the Taliban would adopt an international policy of two-way non-interference.

“We do not think that foreign forces will repeat their failed experience,” he said.

Reuters/NAN

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Travel Agent Scams Cristiano Ronaldo of £250,000, Jailed

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A travel agent, named Maria Silvia scammed Manchester United striker, Cristiano Ronaldo, out of £250,000 (about N140 million) after the football star entrusted her with his credit cards and pin.

The 53-year-old travel agent also scammed Ronaldo’s super-agent Jorge Mendes of £14,000 and Manchester United winger, Nani, of over £1,500.

Due to her wrongdoing, Silvia got a four-year suspended prison sentence on Sunday after being earlier convicted by a Porto criminal court in 2017.

It was also revealed that Ronaldo was targeted for three years between February 2007 and July 2010.

The paper read, “Afterwards the travel agent had to plug the hole in the firm’s accounts. She, therefore, began to bill those trips to Cristiano Ronaldo, who had an account at Geostar and for practical reasons, handed the agent a virtual credit card and pin code. It was a green route to taking money out.”

Quoting a renowned Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias, Sun Sports reported that the 36-year-old Ronaldo submitted a statement to the police after flying to the court to meet up with his lawyer.

The travel agent, who currently works as a cleaner, was first interrogated in 2011 before her eventual sentence on Sunday, September 19, 2021.

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I am Getting Better, Says Hospitalised Pele

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Brazilian football legend Pele said Sunday he is “punching the air” to celebrate “every better day” after the 80-year-old suffered his latest health scare.

“As you can see, I’m punching the air in celebration of every better day,” Pele wrote on Instagram beside a photograph of him sitting in a hospital chair, watched over by two medical staff.

The three-time World Cup winner was Friday briefly transferred back to an intensive care unit at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, where he underwent surgery earlier this month, after suffering breathing difficulties.

“A good mood is the best medicine and I have plenty of that. It couldn’t be different,” he added Sunday.

“I have received so much affection that my heart is full of gratitude. Thanks to all the amazing staff at Albert Einstein Hospital!”

His condition had been described as stable.

Pele’s daughter Kely Nascimento also posted a photo of herself next to her father in the hospital on Friday, seeking to cheer up his fans.

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We Won’t Accept Second Position in 2023 – NEF

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The Northern Elders Forum has said the north was in the process of rebuilding itself and was not prepared to play second fiddle in a nation where it clearly enjoys numerical strength.

Director of Publicity and Advocacy of the NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said this while delivering a keynote address at the maiden Maitama Sule Lecture Series organized by the students’ wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups, held at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on Saturday.

He said, “We will lead Nigeria the way we have led Nigeria before whether we are President or Vice President, we will lead Nigeria. We have the majority of the votes and democracy says vote whom you want.

“Why should we accept a second class position when we know we can buy a form and contest for first class and we will win?

“Why does anybody need to threaten us and intimidate us? We will get that power but be humble because power comes from God. We inherited leadership and being honest is not being stupid.

“The North has pride; we are humble enough to know that we are going to run Nigeria with other people but we are not going to pay a second fiddle to anybody. We may not have the most robust economy, there are people who are trying to strangulate us even more than we are being strangled.

“We are ready for this. We will consider every economic adversity, challenge. We will fix the Northern economy and we are the only one who can fix this Northern economy. For that reason, we are not for sale. We are in the process of rebuilding the North and we will rebuild the North from 2023.

“Whether the North holds power in 2023 or not anybody who wants to break up in this country will say so, they are just looking for excuses. This is democracy. If they don’t like what Nigeria is, they will say they want to break up from this country, we don’t pay attention to those people, we are focused on the fact that we are running a democratic system.

The NEF’s spokesman added, “If the majority of Nigeria voters vote for a candidate from the North and he becomes the President and somebody doesn’t want to live under the Nigeria President, the person can leave.”

The Punch

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