Turkey, Oct 31 (AP/UNB) — Turkish media reports say Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor, who is in Istanbul for discussions on the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, has met with Turkish intelligence officials.
Private DHA news agency said Wednesday the prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, paid a midnight visit to the Turkish intelligence agency's Istanbul headquarters. Officials were not immediately available to comment.
Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 Saudi suspects detained in Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate after he entered the building on Oct. 2. It is also pressing Saudi Arabia for information concerning Khashoggi's remains, which still haven't been found, as well as who ordered the journalist's slaying.
Saudi officials have said the kingdom will try the 18 and bring them to justice after the investigation is complete.
Afghanistan, Oct 31 (AP/UNB) — Five members of the Afghan Taliban who were freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl have joined the insurgent group's political office in Qatar, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
They will now be among Taliban representatives negotiating for peace in Afghanistan, a sign some negotiators in Kabul say indicates the Taliban's desire for a peace pact.
Others fear the five, all of whom were close to the insurgent group's founder and hard-line leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, bring with them the same ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam that characterized the group's five-year rule that ended in 2001 with the U.S.-led invasion.
"The Taliban are bringing back their old generation, which means the Taliban have not changed their thinking or their leadership," said Haroun Mir, a political analyst in the Afghan capital. "What we are more worried about is if tomorrow the Taliban say 'we are ready to negotiate,' who will represent Kabul? That is the big challenge because the government is so divided, not just ideologically but on ethnic lines."
Efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan's protracted war have accelerated since Washington appointed Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad as envoy to find a peaceful end to America's longest war, which has already cost the U.S. more than $900 billion.
But Mohammed Ismail Qasimyar, a member of a government peace council, warned Washington against negotiating peace terms with the Taliban, saying Khalilzad's only job is to set the stage for direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, something the insurgents have so far refused calling the government a U.S. puppet.
Taliban officials reported meeting with Khalilzad in Qatar earlier this month, calling the exchange preliminary but pivotal. Washington neither confirmed nor denied the meeting, but Khalilzad was in Qatar at the time.
A Taliban official familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press that talks ended with an agreement to meet again. Key among the Taliban's requests was recognition of their Qatar office, said the official, who spoke on condition he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
In an unexpected development, Pakistan also bowed to a long-standing Afghan Taliban demand that it release its senior leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had been in jail in Pakistan since 2010. At the time, Baradar was reportedly jailed after bypassing Pakistan to open independent peace talks with Hamid Karzai, who was then Afghanistan's president.
Baradar's release followed Khalilzad's first visit to Pakistan since being appointed Washington's peace envoy.
Baradar issued an audio message after his release to the Taliban. The Pashto-language message, heard by an Associated Press reporter, seemed to indicate he was preparing for a role in the insurgent movement moving forward.
Hakim Mujahed, a former Taliban member who is now also a member of the Afghan government peace council, said the presence of the five former Guantanamo prisoners in the Taliban's Qatar office is indicative of the Taliban's resolve to find a peace deal. He said the stature of the five within the insurgent movement will make a peace deal palatable to the rank and file, many of whom have resisted talks believing a military victory was within their grasp.
"These people are respected among all the Taliban," said Mujahed. "Their word carries weight with the Taliban leadership and the mujahedeen."
But there are some among the five who have a disturbing past.
Human Rights Watch accused Mohammed Fazl, the former Taliban army chief arrested in 2002, of overseeing the deaths of thousands of minority Shiites in 2000. The massacre outraged the world and followed the killing in 1997 of an estimated 2,000 young ethnic Pashtuns in northern Afghanistan by Taliban rivals.
Another of the five is Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former governor of Herat province, who was close to both Taliban founder Mullah Omar and al- Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Khairkhwa also had a friendship with former president Hamid Karzai.
The others include Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy intelligence minister, Mullah Norullah Nori, once described as the most significant Taliban leader held at Guantanamo Bay because of his particularly close relationship with Mullah Omar, who fought U.S.-led coalition forces in northern Afghanistan's Mazar-e-Sharif and Mohammad Nabi, a Taliban communications officer.
All five are from southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's heartland.
The five Taliban were released in 2014 in exchange for Bergdahl, who had been held in Taliban custody since 2009 when he wandered off a U.S. army base. Last year he was given a dishonorable discharge last year and fined $1,000 on charges of desertion and misbehavior.
Ramallah, Oct 30(AP/UNB) — The Palestine Liberation Organization's mini-parliament has called for ending security coordination with Israeli forces in the West Bank, but says implementation is up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Late on Monday, at the end of a two-day gathering, the Palestinian Central Council also called for suspending recognition of Israel. Abbas, who controls the council, has not implemented such decisions in the past.
Security cooperation, largely aimed at Abbas' rival, the Islamic militant Hamas, is unpopular among Palestinians, but has survived repeated crises and years of deadlock in talks with Israel on setting up a Palestinian state. Abbas' self-rule government in parts of the West Bank would likely collapse if he cuts ties with Israel.
The central council cited what it says are ongoing Israeli violations of past agreements for its decision.
Ramallah, Oct 29 (AP/UNB) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is accusing his Hamas rivals of serving U.S. interests by refusing to relinquish control of the Gaza Strip.
Abbas fears the U.S. is planning a proposal that would offer the Palestinians limited statehood in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and some autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Abbas demands full independence in both territories.
In a speech Monday, Abbas said that Hamas' refusal to give up control of Gaza is "accepting the thoughts of the enemy, who plans to have a mini state in Gaza and autonomy in West Bank."
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas' forces in 2007, and reconciliation efforts have repeatedly failed.
Abbas cut off ties with the U.S. after President Donald Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital last year.
Dubai, Oct 28 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia's attorney general is scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Sunday to hold talks with investigators looking into the slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate earlier this month.
Turkey has said Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, is expected to discuss the latest findings of the investigation with Turkish investigators. There has been no announcement by the Saudis about the visit, which comes just days after CIA director Gina Haspel was in Turkey to review evidence before briefing the U.S. president.
Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 Saudi suspects detained in the kingdom in connection with the Oct. 2 killing. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister appeared to reject that notion in remarks on Saturday, saying the kingdom would try the perpetrators and bring them to justice after the investigation is completed.
Some of those implicated in the killing are close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose condemnation of the killing has failed to ease suspicions that he was involved.
Khashoggi, a onetime Saudi insider and U.S. resident who lived in self-imposed exile for almost a year before his death, had written critically of the crown prince in columns for the Washington Post.
Under mounting international pressure, the kingdom again changed its narrative about Khashoggi's killing, acknowledging in recent days that it was "premeditated," citing information from Turkey as part of a joint investigation. Saudi officials, however, continue to characterize the killing as a rogue operation carried out by agents who exceeded their authority.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Saturday said the global outcry and media focus on the killing had become "fairly hysterical." He urged the public to wait for the results of the investigation before ascribing blame to the kingdom's top leadership.
Turkey is pressing Saudi Arabia for a full disclosure about the killing. Turkey alleges a 15-member hit squad was sent to Istanbul to kill the journalist.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country would reveal more evidence about the killing but was not in any rush to do so, indicating that Turkish authorities will keep methodically increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia.