20 September 2018

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A French journalist was among eight people killed in a grenade or mortar attack in Syria's central city of Homs on Wednesday, the first Western reporter to have died in 10 months of unrest in the country.

France 2 television confirmed one of its journalists had been killed. Syria's Addounia TV, which gave a total death toll of eight, said a Dutch journalist was among 25 people wounded.

"France 2 television has just learned with a great deal of sorrow the death of reporter Gilles Jacquier in Homs," France 2 said in a statement, adding it did not have details of the circumstances of his death.

Jacquier - a war correspondent who had previously reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other hotspots - had been invited to Syria by the government and was in Homs with other journalists reporting on the situation in the city, the television station said.

Syria barred most foreign media from the country soon after demonstrations against President Bashar Assad's rule began in March, but more journalists have been admitted since the Arab League sent a monitoring mission last month to check if authorities were complying with an Arab plan to halt the bloodshed.

"Gilles Jacquier was just doing his journalist job by covering the violent events in Syria as a result of the unacceptable repression of the regime against the population," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

A Belgian journalist in Homs, who asked not to be named, said a group of reporters had been visiting a pro-Assad neighbourhood of the city when several grenades or mortar rounds landed. One fell on a school that was empty at the time.

People were tending a small girl who was bleeding heavily when another explosion struck nearby. "I saw three bodies," the journalist told Reuters by telephone. "There was a lot of chaos, blood, hysteria."

He said a Dutch freelance journalist had suffered a shrapnel wound in the face, but was not seriously hurt.

Syria's Addounia TV showed footage it said was filmed during the attack. In the video, an explosion is heard and then a man tells the camera in Arabic "this is terrorism". Then the camera shows a group of journalists filming on the roof of a building. Another explosion is heard close to that building.

Footage then shows a man lying on the pavement, bleeding. A group of men rush to the scene and put the casualties in the back seat of several taxis.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe condemned the attack and demanded the authorities carry out an immediate investigation.

"It is up to the Syrian authorities to ensure the safety of international journalists on its territory and to protect the fundamental freedom which is freedom of the press," Juppe said in a statement. He said Paris' ambassador had been sent to Homs.

France 2 had a two-man team in Homs as part of an organized trip by the government with other international media, France 2 spokesman Thierry Thuillier told i-Tele television

(BNA) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Afghan and Taliban statements show there is support for a Taliban political office in Qatar, but said nothing has been concluded yet.

"Positive statements" from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban demonstrate "there is support for such discussions, for the (Taliban) political office to open in Qatar," Clinton said.

"Nothing has been concluded. We are still in the preliminary stages of testing whether this can be successful," Clinton said in a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani.

The Taliban announced last week that it planned to set up a political office in Qatar, a move seen as a precursor to peace talks with Washington.

At the same time they  demanded the release of prisoners from the US military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Clinton said: "We have not made any decisions about releasing any Taliban from Guantanamo."

The chief US diplomat said Washington is prepared to back Afghan-led reconciliation talks.

She added that reconciliation can only occur if the Taliban renounces violence, breaks with Al-Qaeda and supports the Afghan constitution, which protects the rights of women and minorities.

"I have made it clear to President Karzai that we will work with him, under his leadership," she said.

She said she has dispatched US special regional envoy Marc Grossman to travel to Afghanistan next week to continue US consultations with the Afghans and also to visit Qatar to continue "consultations" there.

Sheikh Hamad, when discussing the proposal to open a Taliban office in his Gulf emirate, said "Qatar is trying to be peaceful messengers or peaceful ambassadors, and we are trying to do this with all our capacity.

"That's part of our policy how to defuse the tension in our region," said Sheikh Hamad, who is also Qatar's prime minister.

"And any opportunity we can help our friends to try to find a mutual ground to start a negotiation and dialogue, we think this is the best opportunity to solve the tension in our region," he added

PESHAWAR (BNA) A bomb explosion killed at least twenty nine people and wounded several others in Jamrud Market of Khyber Agency Tuesday.
According to sources, a remote-controlled bomb was fixed near a pick-up van at a bus stop.
The injured were shifted to Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar and Lady Reading Hospital where some are in critical condition.

Monday, January 09, 2012
Kabul (BNA) China is planning a military base in Pakistan, India Today reported, citing "a secret report prepared by the government's joint intelligence committee."

According to the report:
China is keen to build military bases in FATA, or the Northern areas, while Pakistan wants to counterbalance Indian naval forces by having a naval base in Gwadar. But it does not spell out the exact location of these bases.
At a time when Pakistan-US relations are strained-chiefly over drone missile attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the covert Navy SEAL operation attack that took out Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil- China has made no secret of its interest in strengthening its own ties with the nuclear-armed nation.
Last Thursday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao hosted Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Beijing and vowed to support closer military exchanges between the countries.
“China and Pakistan pledged to strengthen military ties and bring existing cooperation to a new level," Xinhua quoted China's Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie as saying.
“China values its traditional friendship with Pakistan,” Liang reportedly said, adding that Beijing hopes to develop “pragmatic and effective cooperation with Pakistan in national defense arena."
The Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Kayani as echoing Liang's comments, saying that Pakistan "would continue to provide firm support to China on all issues concerning its core interests," without specifying those interests.
Kayani said, however, that the relationship had been strengthened by frequent high-level visits, joint exercises and enhanced technological cooperation.
India Today, meantime, wrote that:
China's deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and joint plans to set up oil pipelines/ rail/ roads and naval and military bases are a matter of concern.
The paper acknowledged that: "China's desire for a military presence in Pakistan has been discussed by the political and military leadership of that country in recent months."
It noted that the issue of Chinese bases in Pakistan was discussed during the visits of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to China and during a visit late last year of the ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, to Beijing.

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