KABUL: A firefight at one of the gates of Kabul’s international airport killed at least one Afghan security officer early Monday, German officials said, the latest chaos to engulf Western efforts to evacuate those fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country.
The shooting near the military side of the airport came as the Taliban sent fighters northward to face a nascent rebellion against the insurgents who seized the country over a week ago in a lightning offensive.
So far, the Taliban said there had been no fighting though the rebels already have seized three rural districts in the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
Though the security forces of Afghanistan’s central government largely collapsed or fled the Taliban advance, some armed Afghans remain at Kabul airport assisting Western countries and others as they struggle to evacuate those gathered there. It remains unclear whether they belong to the Afghan border forces that once guarded the airport or whether they were attached to the Western militaries as private armed guards now providing security there.
The gunfire that killed the Afghan officer early Monday broke out near the airport’s northern gate — the same scene of chaos that on Saturday saw a crush of a panicked crowd kill seven Afghan civilians.
Who opened fire and the circumstances of the shooting around 6:45 a.m. local time remained unclear. However, the German military said in a tweet that one member of the Afghan security forces was killed and three others were wounded by “unknown attackers.”
The US military and NATO did not immediately acknowledge the shooting. The Taliban as well did not acknowledge the incident.
The tragic scenes around the airport have transfixed the world as thousands of Afghans poured into the facility last week. In the chaos, some plunged to their deaths while hanging onto an American C-17 taking off from the runway. At least seven people died that day, in addition to the seven killed Sunday.
The Taliban blame the chaotic evacuation on the US military, saying there’s no need for Afghans to fear them, even though their fighters shoot into the air and beat people with batons as they try to control the crowds outside the airport perimeter.
The Taliban have pledged amnesty to those who worked with the US, NATO and the toppled Afghan government, but many Afghans still fear revenge attacks. There have been reports in recent days of the Taliban hunting down their former enemies. It’s unclear if Taliban leaders are saying one thing and doing another, or if fighters are taking matters into their own hands.
There also have been concerns about a potential attack on the Kabul airport by a local Daesh affiliate, whether through suicide bombers targeting the gathered crowds there or using portable surface-to-air missiles to bring down aircraft. US military planes have been executing corkscrew landings, and other aircraft have fired flares upon takeoff, measures used to, prevent missile attacks.
A breath of fresh air: First smog tower installed in Delhi to fight pollution
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New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown extended as outbreak tops 100 cases
WELLINGTON: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday extended New Zealand’s strict nationwide COVID-19 lockdown saying the current outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus had not yet peaked.
The level 4 national lockdown was extended by three days until midnight on Aug. 27 while Auckland, the epicenter of the outbreak, will have restrictions in place at least until Aug. 31.
“The safest option for all of us right now is to hold the course for longer,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“If the world has taught us anything it is to be cautious with this variant of COVID-19,” she added.
Ardern said contacts in the community by people infected with the Delta variant were reported all over the country. There are more than 320 locations of interest linked to the outbreak and 13,000 contacts have been recorded, far more than in previous outbreaks.
“Delta has changed the rules of the game,” Ardern said.
New Zealand earlier in the day reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 taking the total number of infections in the outbreak to 107.
The health ministry said in a statement that 33 new cases are in Auckland and two are in the capital Wellington.
Vietnam deploys troops to enforce COVID-19 lockdown in largest city
HANOI: Vietnamese soldiers on Monday were deployed on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to help enforce a lockdown in the country’s business hub, which has become the epicenter of its worst coronavirus outbreak so far during the pandemic.
Panic-buying broke out at supermarkets in the city of nine million people over the weekend ahead of the tighter lockdown, which started on Monday and prohibits residents from leaving their homes.
Vietnam’s toughest order yet comes amid a spike in fatalities and infections.
Soldiers on Monday were checking permits of residents on the streets and delivering food, according to witnesses and photographs on state media.
The city began movement restrictions early last month, but infections have continued to surge after authorities said there had not been strict enough enforcement of the curbs.
The city has recorded a total of 176,000 COVID-19 infections and 6,670 deaths, accounting for half of the Southeast Asian country’s overall cases and 80 percent of fatalities, according to the health ministry.
Vietnam has over the recent weeks sent 14,600 additional doctors and nurses to the city and its neighboring provinces to support its overwhelmed medical system, the ministry said.
Patients with mild or no symptoms have been told to self-isolate at home.
People in the city’s Phu Nhuan and Go Vap districts said they had received packages of rice, meat, fish and vegetables.
The government announced on Friday it would send 130,000 tons of rice from state stockpiles to Ho Chi Minh City and 23 other cities and provinces.
After managing to contain COVID-19 for much of last year, Vietnam has so far recorded 348,000 infections and at least 8,277 fatalities, with the majority recorded in the current Delta-driven outbreak since late April.
Around 1.8 million of 98 million people, or 1.8 percent of the country’s population, have been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the region.