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AFGHANISTAN

Prof likens Afghanistan snipers to July killer

Norway’s role in Afghanistan is comparable to the slaughter of innocents on July 22nd at the hands of Anders Behring Breivik, a peace researcher being honoured in Norway has said.

Prof likens Afghanistan snipers to July killer
Jarle Vines (CC Attribution Sharealike 3.0)

“Norway is in the very difficult role of, on the one hand being a victim, and on the other the gunman,” the acclaimed professor Johan Galthung, 80, was recorded by Norwegian broadcaster NRK as saying on the occasion of accepting the Erik Bye prize in Kristiansand for uncompromising research in the field of social justice.

“Norwegian snipers with cold blood kill those they call Taliban — just like another person in cold blood killed (Young Labour aspirants) and was at hand to kill my own grandchild who hid behind a rock while from the other side he shot her friends,” Galthung said.

In the recorded interview, the world-renowned academic said Norway had to put itself under the spotlight and stop acting like a monster that had to have his way. In Afghanistan, Oslo should switch over to negotiation rather than striving to show its combat prowess, he said.

Galthung, who as a boy in German-occupied Norway saw his father arrested by the Nazis, founded the first Peace Research Institute in Oslo in 1959. He has published 95 books and 1,000 articles, according to Canadian Web site Peace.ca.

The professor is recognized as having made a decisive contribution to bringing an end to the war between Ecuador and Peru. His suggestion that a disputed zone become a jointly governed nature preserve was written into a treaty between the two countries in 1999.

The former journalist turned sociologist holds a mathematics degree and a dozen honorary degrees and has largely been honoured for research that yielded faculties of peace studies in several worldwide universities. He held expert roles for the United Nations in Bosnia, The Caucusus, Northern Ireland, the Palestinian territories, Sri Lanka, and Tibet, among other hot spots.

Much of his work has compared humans' inner conflicts with the conflicts between races, the sexes and regions.

He is a member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters who still teaches at California’s Saybrook University in San Francisco.

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AFGHANISTAN

Norwegian troops battle Taliban gunman in siege at luxury Kabul hotel

Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul and killed at least six people including a Ukrainian, sparking a 12-hour battle with Afghan forces backed by Norwegian troops that left terrified guests scrambling to escape.

Norwegian troops battle Taliban gunman in siege at luxury Kabul hotel
An Afghan security personnel stands guard as smoke billows from the Intercontinental Hotel during a fight between gunmen and Afghan security forces in Kabul on Sunday. PHOTO: WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP
Officials said the death toll from the attack on the six-storey Intercontinental Hotel, claimed by the Taliban, could rise as staff were still checking rooms.
 
The overnight assault on the hilltop hotel overlooking the Afghan capital, which ended Sunday, sparked dramatic scenes as guests climbed down bedsheets tied to balconies to escape. One lost his grip and fell in television footage by Afghanistan's Tolo News station, which also showed black smoke and flames billowing from the hotel.
 
Special forces were lowered by helicopters during the night onto the roof of the landmark 1960s building. Afghan security forces killed all six attackers, the interior ministry said. Earlier the ministry had put the number of attackers at four.
 
They were aided by Norwegian troops, Norwegian military officials told public broadcaster NRK. Norway has helped train Afghan elite forces since 2007.
 
“Five Afghans and one foreigner have been killed,” interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told AFP Sunday, adding around 150 people were rescued.
 
“The body of the foreigner, a woman, was recovered from the sixth floor as the last attacker was being killed,” he added.
 
Ukrainian foreign ministry official Vasyl Kyrylych confirmed that one of its citizens was among the dead and said the Ukrainian consul was flying to Kabul.
 
Najib Danish, another interior ministry spokesman, said 41 foreigners had been rescued and warned the death toll could rise as authorities were still checking each room. At least six people were wounded, the interior ministry has said.
 
It was not clear how many people had been inside the hotel. The CEO of Afghan airline Kam Air, Captain Samad Usman Samadi, said 42 of its personnel had been there — at least 16 of whom are still missing.
 
“We fear for their lives,” he told AFP.
 
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault via email. The attack followed security warnings in recent days to avoid hotels and other locations frequented by foreigners in war-torn Kabul, one of the deadliest places in Afghanistan for civilians.
 
“We are hiding in our rooms. I beg the security forces to rescue us as soon as possible before they reach and kill us,” one guest, who did not want to be named, told AFP by telephone during the siege.
 
His phone has been switched off since then.
 
'Fleeing like crazy'
 
Officials said four gunmen burst into the hotel, which is not part of the global InterContinental chain, on Saturday night, opening fire and taking dozens of people hostage.
 
Afghan Telecom regional director Aziz Tayeb, who was one of dozens of people at the hotel attending an IT conference, said he saw the attackers enter.
 
“Everything became chaotic in a moment. I hid behind a pillar and I saw people who were enjoying themselves a second ago screaming and fleeing like crazy, and some of them falling down, hit by bullets,” Tayeb told AFP.
 
Local resident Abdul Sattar said he had spoken by phone to friends who are hotel staff and had been trapped inside.
 
“Suddenly (militants) attacked the dinner gathering… (then) they broke into the rooms, took some people hostage and they opened fire on some of them,” he told AFP.
 
Rahimi said the attackers were armed with light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades when they stormed the hotel, a popular venue for weddings, conferences and political gatherings.
 
Security in Kabul has been ramped up since May 31 when a massive truck bomb killed some 150 people and wounded around 400 — mostly civilians.
 
 Devastating attacks
 
But the resurgent Taliban and Islamic State are both scaling up their assaults on the city, with multiple devastating attacks in recent weeks.
 
The attack on the Intercontinental was just one of several bloody assaults on Sunday. In a village in the northern province of Balkh, Taliban militants went from house to house in the middle of the night, pulling police from their homes and shooting them dead. At least 18 officers were killed, deputy police chief Abdul Raziq Qaderi told AFP. In Herat in the west at least eight civilians were killed when a car hit a Taliban-planted roadside mine, officials there said.
 
The last major attack on a high-end hotel in Kabul was in March 2014 when four teenage gunmen raided the Serena, killing nine people including AFP journalist Sardar Ahmad.
 
The overnight siege is not the first time the Intercontinental has been targeted: in 2011 a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban killed 21 people there, including 10 civilians.
 
Danish said authorities were questioning how the attackers got past the hotel's security, which was taken over by a private company three weeks ago.
 
“We will investigate it,” he said.
 
A hotel employee told AFP that as he fled the hotel he saw the new security guards running for their lives.
 
“They didn't do anything, they didn't attack. They had no experience,” the man said on condition of anonymity.