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Taliban kills eight soldiers at army HQ in northern Afghanistan

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: At least eight Afghan soldiers were killed and 11 wounded on Friday when Taliban gunmen dressed in uniforms talked their way past checkpoints and attacked a military headquarters in northern Afghanistan, officials said.

The attack occurred near a mosque on the base in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, as soldiers were leaving Friday prayers, said army spokesman Nasratullah Jamshidi.

Six attackers in two military vehicles told guards at the base gates that they were carrying wounded soldiers and urgently needed to get in, he said.

After killing at least eight soldiers and wounding 11 others with rocket-propelled grenades and guns, one attacker was killed and the other five arrested, Jamshidi said.

The Western-backed Afghan government is locked in a prolonged war with Taliban insurgents as well as other militant groups.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the fighters set off an explosion, allowing suicide bombers armed with small arms to breach the base.

“Our fighters have inflicted heavy casualties on the Afghan army stationed there,” he said.

Other army officials confirmed that the attackers entered the base in disguise.

The base is the headquarters for the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps, which covers most of northern Afghanistan, including Kunduz province where there has been heavy fighting.

A number of German and other foreign soldiers are based in Mazar-i-Sharif, including about 70 who advise the corps headquarters as part of a NATO-led multinational mission to advise and train the Afghan security forces.

German military says no German or international troops were involved in the attack.

“To our knowledge, no Germans were affected. Nor were any other soldiers in the multinational force harmed,” said a spokesman for the German Operations Command.

The NATO command in Kabul called the attack “murderous and reprehensible”.

(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Nepali migrants banned from working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria

KATHMANDU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nepal has banned its nationals from working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria after 13 Nepali security guards were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in the Afghan capital earlier this week, Labour Minister Deepak Bohara said on Friday.

The decision comes after a parliamentary panel ordered Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s government to crack down on traffickers who send thousands of migrants each year to conflict-torn countries where they can often face danger or exploitation.

“Our decision is prompted by the security situation in those countries,” Bohara told Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If our nationals already working in those countries want to return home, the government will make arrangements for that.”

Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries.

Political instability since a decade-long civil conflict ended in 2006 has discouraged investment, stunted growth and curtailed job creation – forcing hundreds of thousands of Nepalis to migrate overseas in search of work.

To make matters worse, the Himalayan nation is still recovering from twin quakes in April and May last year which killed more than 8,800 people and left two million homeless.

Most go to the Middle East, India and Malaysia to work as guards, drivers, construction workers or domestic staff – sending home remittances which make up nearly 30 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.

Many however face a labour abuses such as a lack of freedom of movement, long working hours, unsafe working conditions and withholding of their salaries, say activists.

Bohara said Monday’s attack on a bus carrying Nepali guards working at the Canadian embassy in Kabul had forced the government to withdraw issuing work permits for the four nations in the interests of the safety of its citizens.

Analysts however say the ban will not help and will rather prompt human traffickers to transport more Nepalis migrants through India, with which it shares an open border, and then onward to these countries.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma. Editing by Nita Bhalla. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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