Kabul, Jan 21 (AP/UNB) — A coordinated Taliban assault on a military base and police training center in eastern Afghanistan on Monday morning killed at least 12 and wounded over 30 people, provincial officials said.
Salem Asgherkhail, head of the area's public health department, said that most of those killed in the attack in Maidan Wardak province were military personnel. Some of the wounded were taken to provincial hospitals for treatment while the more serious cases were sent to the capital, Kabul.
Nasrat Rahimi, deputy spokesman for the interior minister, said a suicide car bomber struck the base first, followed by insurgents who opened fire at the Afghan forces. At least two Taliban fighters were killed by Afghan troops, he added.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement to the media.
The attack was the latest in near-daily assaults by the Taliban who now hold sway in almost half of Afghanistan. The violence comes despite stepped-up efforts by the United States to find a negotiated end to the country's 17-year war.
Berlin, Jan 21 (AP/UNB) — The German government says that in a first, more asylum-seekers were transferred to other European Union countries than Germany took in last year.
Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said Germany relocated 9,209 people in 2018 under the EU regulation that requires asylum applications to be handled in the first country a person seeking protection reached in Europe.
Germany took in 7,580 people from other EU countries under the same rule last year.
The sending-receiving was disproportionately reversed in 2016, when Germany assigned 3,968 asylum-seekers elsewhere in the EU but accepted 12,091 from other countries.
More than 1 million migrants have applied for asylum in Germany since 2015, but the country has toughened its asylum laws and tried to deport more people than it did previously.
Baghdad, Jan 21(AP/UNB) — Iraq on Monday mourned the loss of Lamia al-Gailani, a beloved archaeologist who helped rebuild the Baghdad museum after it was looted following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Al-Gailani, who died in Amman, Jordan, on Friday at the age of 80, was one of Iraq's first women to excavate the country's archaeological heritage.
Relatives, colleagues, and cultural officials on Monday gathered at Baghdad's National Museum, the country's leading museum, to pay their respects before moving her remains to the Qadiriyyah mosque for prayers and later interment.
A devotee of her country's heritage, al-Gailani lent her expertise to restore relics stolen from the museum for its reopening in 2015. She also championed a new antiquities museum for the city of Basra, which opened in 2016.
"She was very keen to communicate on the popular level and make archaeology accessible to ordinary people," said her daughter, Noorah al-Gailani, who curates the Islamic civilizations collection at the Glasgow Museum in Scotland.
"It is a big loss, the passing of Dr. Lamia al-Gailaini, who played a great role in the field of archaeology, even before 2003," said the deputy minister of culture, Qais Hussein Rashid.
The restored collection at the National Museum included hundreds of cylinder seals, the subject of al-Gailani's 1977 dissertation at the University of London. These were engraved surfaces used to print cuneiform impressions and pictographic lore onto documents and surfaces in ancient Mesopotamia, now present-day Iraq.
Still, thousands of artefacts remain missing from the museum's collection, and al-Gailani bore the grief of watching her country's rich heritage suffer unfathomable levels of looting and destruction in the years after Saddam's ouster.
"I wish it was a nightmare and I could wake up," she told the BBC in 2015, when Islamic State militants bulldozed relics at the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud near present-day Mosul.
Born in Baghdad in 1938, al-Gailani studied at the University of Cambridge in Britain before finding work as a curator at the National Museum in 1960. It was her first job in archaeology, her daughter said.
She returned to Britain in 1970 to pursue advanced studies, and she made her home there. Still, she kept returning to her native country, connecting foreign academics with an Iraqi archaeological community that was struggling under the isolation of Saddam Hussein's autocratic rule and the U.N. sanctions against him.
In 1999, she published "The First Arabs," in Arabic, with the Iraqi archaeologist Salim al-Alusi, on the earliest traces of Arab culture in Mesopotamia, in the 6th through 9th centuries.
She would bring copies of the book with her to Baghdad and sell them through a vendor on Mutanabbi Street, the literary heart of the capital, according to her daughter.
After the U.S.-led invasion, al-Gailani continued to travel to Iraq, determined to rescue its heritage even as the country convulsed with war.
At the time of her death, she was working with the Basra Museum to curate a new exhibit set to open in March, said Qahtan al-Abeed, the museum director.
"She hand-picked the cylinder seals to display at the museum," said al-Abeed.
Jerusalem, Jan 21(AP/UNB) — Israeli jets struck a series of Iranian military targets in Syria early on Monday, the military said in a rare departure from its years-long policy of ambiguity regarding activities in neighboring war-torn Syria.
The military said the targets included munition storage facilities, an intelligence site and a military training camp. The strikes were in response to a surface-to-surface rocket that Iranian forces fired toward Israel on Sunday that was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system over a ski resort in the Golan Heights. That followed a rare Israeli daylight air raid near the Damascus International Airport.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday's strikes lasted for nearly an hour and were the most intense Israeli attacks since May. It said 11 were killed in the strikes. The Russian military said four Syrian troops were among those killed. There were no further details on the casualties or their nationalities.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the Iranian missile attack that prompted the strong Israeli response was "premeditated." Iranian forces in Syria fired the mid-range surface-to-surface missile toward Israel from the Damascus area — a missile that had been smuggled into Syria specifically for that purpose, he said. Conricus declined to further identify the type of missile, but said it hadn't been used in any of the internal fighting of the civil war and had "no business" being in Syria.
Israel only recently acknowledged carrying out hundreds of strikes in Syria in recent years. It previously typically offered only general warnings against allowing Iran to establish a military foothold in Syria and refrained from commenting directly for fear of triggering a reaction and being drawn into the deadly fighting.
Monday's announcement went a step further, reporting the strikes in real time and detailing the targets.
Conricus would not confirm whether the measures marked an official abandonment of the policy of ambiguity, merely saying that it was a "retaliatory strike against active aggression by Iran."
He said Israel had sent warnings to Syria ahead of the attack to refrain from attacking Israeli warplanes, but that Syria ignored those warnings and fired anti-aircraft missiles. He said Israel responded by destroying Syrian anti-aircraft batteries. The Russian military said that the Syrian air defenses shot down over 30 Israeli cruise missiles, a claim that was doubted in Israel.
The military said the Mount Hermon ski site has been closed.
Israel holds Syria responsible for allowing the Iranian forces to use Syrian territory as a base of operations against Israel. "Syria yesterday paid the price for allowing Iran to conduct attacks and to plan attacks from its soil," he said.
Beirut, Jan 21(AP/UNB) — Qatar has announced that it will invest $500 million in Lebanese government bonds to support the Mediterranean country's struggling economy.
Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani made the announcement in comments to Qatar's state news agency.
Monday's announcement came a day after Qatar's ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani made a short rare visit to Lebanon where he met President Michel Aoun and took part in an Arab economic summit.
Lebanon's economy has been struggling from massive debt, little growth and high unemployment.
Earlier this month, Lebanon's Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that the country may restructure its debt, leading to sell-off in Lebanese bonds.
He later clarified that Lebanon is committed to paying back all maturing debt.