More than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, most belonging to the outlawed Pakistani Taliban group responsible for attacking Pakistani military and civilian targets, according to a UN report.
The report released this week said the group, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), has linked up with the Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State group.
Some of TTP's members have even joined the IS affiliate, which has its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.
The Afghan government did not respond Sunday to requests by The Associated Press for comment.
The report said IS in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan province, has been hit hard by Afghan security forces as well as U.S. and NATO forces, and even on occasion by the Afghan Taliban.
The report was prepared by the U.N. analytical and sanctions monitoring team, which tracks terrorist groups around the world.
The report estimated the membership of IS in Afghanistan at 2,200, and while its leadership has been depleted, IS still counts among its leaders a Syrian national Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani.
The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior Islamic State commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.
“Although in territorial retreat, (the Islamic State) remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul. It also aims to attract Taliban fighters who oppose the agreement with the United States,” the report said, referring to a U.S. peace deal signed with the Taliban in February.
That deal was struck to allow the U.S. to end its 19-year involvement in Afghanistan, and calls on the Taliban to guarantee its territory will not be used by terrorist groups. The deal is also expected to guarantee the Taliban's all-out participation in the fight against IS.
The second and perhaps most critical part of the agreement calls for talks between the Taliban and Kabul's political leadership.
A big worry for Pakistan is the presence in Afghanistan of militants, particularly linked to the TTP or Jamaat-ul-Ahrar or Lashkar-e-Islam, as well as those with the Baluchistan Liberation Army, which has taken responsibility for high-profile attacks this month in the southern Sindh province as well as in southwestern Baluchistan Province. Several Pakistan military personnel have been killed this month in southwestern Baluchistan province in battle with insurgents.
The TTP took responsibility for one of the most horrific attacks in Pakistan in 2014, when a Pakistani army school was attacked and 140 were killed. Most were students, and some were as young as 5.
“The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP," the report said.
Malaysian authorities said Sunday that they were searching for two dozens Rohingya refugees who are feared to have drowned after jumping off their boat off the northern resort island of Langkawi.
Zawawi Abdullah, a senior official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, said initial police information showed that only one of 25 Rohingya men who jumped off the boat had managed to swim ashore.
The lone survivor sought help from police late Saturday and has been detained for further investigation, Zawawi said.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar due to a military crackdown, and many live in densely crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination of boats arranged by traffickers who promise the refugees a better life abroad.
Zawawi said two vessels and an aircraft were deployed in the search. He said the agency will also alert local fishermen and authorities in neighboring Thailand to assist in the search. He didn't provide further details on the boat.
Last month, Malaysian authorities detained 269 Rohingya refugees and found a body on board a suspected smuggling boat off Langkawi that they said had been intentionally damaged so it couldn’t be turned back to sea.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency later said that the 269 were transferred from a larger vessel on which dozens of people were believed to have died and their bodies thrown into the sea.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Malaysia cannot accept any more Rohingya refugees as it struggles with an economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he said those already in the country will not be sent back out to sea.
Malaysia is home to over 2 million illegal immigrants as well as some 180,000 refugees and asylum seekers — including 101,000 Rohingya — who are registered with the U.N. refugee agency.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to join a groundbreaking ceremony of bhoomi pujan for the Ram temple on a disputed site in northern India next month, reports AP.
The 16th century mosque was torn down by Hindu hard-liners in 1999. The ceremony is set for August 5, a date organisers said was astrologically auspicious for Hindus.
However, the date also marks a year since the Indian Parliament revoked the semi-autonomous status of its only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir.
The symbolism was impossible to miss for both supporters and opponents of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, whose manifesto had for decades included pledges to strip restive Kashmir’s autonomy and to build a temple to Hindu god Ram where the Mughal-era mosque once stood, a site in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state that devotees believe to be Ram's birthplace.
As the coronavirus is still increasing across India, which has reported the world's third-highest caseload, the ceremony will be broadcast live on state television and the number of participants and spectators will be limited, according to Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or the World Hindu Organization, a Hindu nationalist group allied with the BJP.
The temple will serve as “an enduring and immortal beaming center of social harmony, national unity and integration and awakening of the feeling of Hindutva,” or Hindu way of life, the organization's spokesperson Vinod Bansal said in a news release Saturday.
A century-long dispute over the site was resolved last year following the BJP's landslide election victory.
In November, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the temple trust, saying that Muslim petitions would be given five acres at an alternative site.
Hindus hard-liners have long contended that Mughal Muslim invaders built a mosque on top of a preexisting temple in the ancient city of Ayodya.
A December 1992 riot following the destruction of the mosque sparked communal violence in which about 2,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims.
Meanwhile, the trial in the demolition court case continues to be heard in a special court.
An architect from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Modi's home state, has proposed a towering sandstone structure 161 feet (49 meters) high with five domes.
Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister and a Hindu monk, requested that Ayodhya hold a special cleaning and purification ceremony and for all of the city's temples to light oil lamps ahead of Modi's visit, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Adityanath said the occasion marked the end of a “500-year struggle,” PTI reported.
The United States will hold talks with Russia next week in Vienna on nuclear arms control and space security, U.S. State Department said on Friday, reports Xinhua.
A U.S. delegation of staff members from the departments of State, Defense, Energy, and the National Security Council will hold a U.S.-Russia Space Security Exchange in the Austrian capital on July 27, U.S. State Department said in a statement.
The upcoming meeting would be the first formal bilateral talks between the United States and Russia on space security since 2013.
U.S. Space Command said Thursday that Russia had conducted a non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon on July 15, but Moscow rejected the allegation.
U.S. and Russian representatives would also gather in Vienna for nuclear arms control working group meetings next week.
The United States and Russia had consultations on arms control and strategic stability in Vienna last month, with no tangible progress made on the extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
In 2010, Washington and Moscow signed the New START, which stipulates the limits to the numbers of deployed nuclear warheads and strategic delivery systems by both. The New START, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty in force between the two nuclear superpowers, will expire on Feb. 5, 2021.
The agreement can be extended for at most five years with the consent of the two countries. Russia has expressed willingness to extend the treaty, while the Trump administration has yet to officially reply.
Moscow’s Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced on Friday that vaccination against Covid-19 in Moscow will be free of charge, reports TASS.
"As soon as it is available, we will launch an inoculation campaign," he said in an interview with the Vesti news program on the Rossiya-1 television channel.
"Vaccination will be free at all out-patient medical establishments."
He also called for vaccinating against season flu to avoid two autumn-time epidemics simultaneously.
"A lot of work is to be done. We are getting prepared for that," he added.