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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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Human Interest

Wolf missing from Vancouver zoo found safe, returned to pack

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ALDERGROVE, B.C. — A wolf missing from a British Columbia zoo has been found safe and returned to its pack.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo says in a statement the discovery of the one-year-old female canine known as Tempest puts an end to a three-day search and rescue operation.

It does not say where the wolf was found or elaborate on her condition, but it says the zoo in Aldergrove, B.C., will re-open Saturday.

Menita Prasad, the zoo’s deputy general manager, said Thursday that nine wolves escaped after a perimeter fence and their enclosure were deliberately “compromised.”

Workers and conservation officers began searching for the wolves after the escape was discovered Tuesday morning, while the RCMP is investigating the incident as a suspected case of unlawful entry and vandalism.

A three-year-old female wolf called Chia was found dead on a roadside, while all others have now been accounted for.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Justice

Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet denies sex assault allegations, says he is being defamed

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MONTREAL — A prominent Quebec cardinal is denying sexual assault allegations against him contained in a class-action lawsuit that was formally filed this week in Quebec Superior Court.

According to Vatican News, the official news portal of the Holy See, Cardinal Marc Ouellet says that the allegations are false and that it is defamatory to interpret his alleged actions as sexual assault.

A woman identified in court documents as “F.” has accused Ouellet of several incidents of sexual assault between 2008 and 2010, including sliding his hand down her back and touching her buttocks at an event in Quebec City.

Ouellet, who currently heads the organization that advises the pope on the appointment of bishops, was archbishop of Quebec at the time of the alleged events. The allegations against him have not been proven in court.

The cardinal adds that he will “actively participate” in a civil investigation so that his innocence is recognized.

The Holy See press office said Thursday that Pope Francis has ruled out further investigation into the allegations against Ouellet due to a lack of evidence.

Ouellet, who was once considered a front-runner to become pope, says he “has learned of the false accusations” and “firmly denies any inappropriate gestures on her person.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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