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Taliban fire in air to disperse protesters, arrest reporters

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban fired into the air Tuesday to disperse protesters and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week the group used heavy-handed tactics to break up a demonstration in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The demonstrators had gathered outside the Pakistan Embassy to accuse Islamabad of aiding the Taliban’s assault on northern Panjshir province. The Taliban said Monday they seized the province — the last not in their control — after their blitz through Afghanistan last month.

Afghanistan’s previous government routinely accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad has denied. Former vice president Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban forces, has long been an outspoken critic of neighboring Pakistan.

Dozens of women were among the protesters Tuesday. Some of them carried signs bemoaning the killing of their sons by Taliban fighters they say were aided by Pakistan. One sign read: “I am a mother when you kill my son you kill a part of me.”

On Saturday, Taliban special forces troops in camouflage fired their weapons into the air to end a protest march in the capital by Afghan women demanding equal rights from the new rulers.

The Taliban again moved quickly and harshly to end Tuesday’s protest when it arrived near the presidential palace. They fired their weapons into the air and arrested several journalists covering the demonstration. In one case, Taliban waving Kalashnikov rifles took a microphone from a journalist and began beating him with it, breaking the microphone. The journalist was later handcuffed and detained for several hours.

“This is the third time i have been beaten by the Taliban covering protests,” he told The Associated Press on condition he not be identified because he was afraid of retaliation. “I won’t go again to cover a demonstration. It’s too difficult for me.”

A journalist from Afghanistan’s popular TOLO News was detained for three hours by the Taliban before being freed along with his equipment and the video of the demonstration still intact.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, four aircraft chartered to evacuate about 2,000 Afghans fleeing Taliban rule were still at the airport.

Mawlawi Abdullah Mansour, the Taliban official in charge of the city’s airport, said any passenger, Afghan or foreigner, with a passport and valid visa would be allowed to leave. Most of the passengers are believed to be Afghans without proper travel documents.

None of the passengers had arrived at the airport. Instead, organizers apparently told evacuees to travel to Mazar-e-Sharif and find accommodation until they were called to come to the airport.

The Taliban say they are trying to find out who among the estimated 2,000 have valid travel documents.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Qatar on Tuesday the Taliban have given assurances of safe passage for all seeking to leave Afghanistan with proper travel documents.

He said the United States would hold the Taliban to that pledge. “It’s my understanding that the Taliban has not denied exit to anyone holding a valid document, but they have said those without valid documents, at this point, can’t leave,” he said.

“Because all of these people are grouped together, that’s meant that flights have not been allowed to go,” he added.

The State Department is also working with the Taliban to facilitate additional charter flights from Kabul for people seeking to leave Afghanistan after the American military and diplomatic departure, Blinken told a joint news conference with Qatar’s top diplomatic and defense officials.

“In recent hours” the U.S. has been in contact with Taliban officials to work out arrangements for additional charter flights from the Afghan capital, he said.

Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were in Qatar to thank the Gulf state for its help with the transit of tens of thousands of people evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug. 15.

___

Associates Press writers Tameem Akhgar in Istanbul and Robert Burns in Qatar contributed to this report.

Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press

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NewsAlert: Canada should align with allies on Olympic diplomatic boycott: Trudeau

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is important for Canada to align with its allies on a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Trudeau says Canada has been talking to allies for “many months” about the issue and an official announcement is expected later today.

The United States was first to announce a diplomatic boycott Monday, meaning American athletes would still compete in Beijing but no U.S. political officials would attend.

Australia and the United Kingdom have both now followed suit.

They cite human rights concerns including allegations of genocide against the Muslim Uyghur minority in China’s Xinjiang province.

China denies those allegations and is accusing the United States of upending the political neutrality of sport.

More Coming.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate on hold

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OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada is keeping its key interest rate target on hold at its rock-bottom level of 0.25 per cent.

In a statement, the central bank also says senior decision makers don’t expect to raise the trendsetting rate until some time between April and September next year, which is unchanged from its previous guidance.

The Bank of Canada also warns that high inflation rates will continue through the first half of next year.

The Bank of Canada says it won’t be until the second half of 2022 that inflation falls back towards the bank’s comfort zone of between one and three per cent.

By the end of next year, the bank is forecasting the annual inflation rate to fall to 2.1 per cent.

The bank says it is keeping a close eye on expectations for price growth and wage growth to make sure they don’t create a spiral of price increases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press


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