The Taliban ambushed and killed the director of Afghanistan’s government media centre on Friday in the capital of Kabul, the latest killing of a government official just days after an assassination attempt on the country’s acting defence minister.
The slaying comes amid Taliban advances and battles for more territory as U.S. and NATO forces complete their final pullout from Afghanistan by the end of the month. The Taliban have been waging fierce battles for months across Afghanistan, laying siege to provincial capitals in the south and west of the country after capturing district after district and even seizing several key border crossings.
Also Friday, in southern Nimroz province, the capital of Zaranj appeared to be the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban though the government claimed there was still fierce fighting around key infrastructure in the city. But the Taliban posted images on social media showing insurgents inside the local airport and posing for photographs at the entrance to the city.
Nimroz is sparsely populated in a region that’s mainly desert and Zaranj, the provincial capital, has about 50,000 residents. Its fall to the Taliban, if confirmed, would be a mostly symbolic victory for the insurgents.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that the groups’ fighters had killed Dawa Khan Menapal, who ran the government’s operations for the local and foreign media. Menapal had previously been a deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
In a statement Mujahid put out later, he said Menapal “was killed in a special attack of Mujahideen” and was “punished for his deeds.”
Mujahid did not give any more details. The killing of government officials by the Taliban are not uncommon, and several recent attacks against civilians have been claimed by the Islamic State. The government most often holds the Taliban responsible.
The war between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government forces has intensified over the past few months as U.S. and NATO troops complete their pullout from the war-torn country.
The Taliban are now trying to seize provincial capitals after taking smaller administrative districts.
The killing of Menapal occurred as weekly Friday prayers were being held, Interior Ministry deputy spokesman Said Hamid Rushan said.
Bombing targeted acting minister
Late Tuesday, a Taliban bombing attack targeting Afghanistan’s acting defence minister killed at least eight people and wounded 20 in a heavily guarded upscale neighborhood of Kabul. The deputy minister was unharmed.
The blast was followed by a gun battle that also left four Taliban fighters dead. The Taliban said it was to avenge its fighters killed during government offensives in rural provinces.
Meanwhile, Afghan and U.S. aircraft pounded Taliban positions in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province Friday, as the insurgent force closed a major border crossing with neighbouring Pakistan.
Residents in Helmand’s contested provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, said airstrikes destroyed a market in the centre of the city — an area controlled by the Taliban. Afghan officials say the Taliban now control nine out of 10 police districts in the city.
Afghanistan’s elite commandos have deployed to Lashkar Gah, backed up by airstrikes by the Afghan and U.S. air forces. The provincial capital of Nimroz in the southwest of the country was also on the verge of collapse, according to local officials.
The Taliban began sweeping through territory at an unexpected speed after the U.S. and NATO began their final withdrawal from Afghanistan in late April.
The bitter fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of Afghans, now living in miserable conditions in improvised shelters and makeshift camps in the southern, desert-like environment — enduring brutally hot days and cold nights. Inside the cities where fighting is underway, thousands are trapped and unable to move from their homes.
In the southern city of Kandahar, the capital of the province with the same name, hundreds are sheltering in makeshift camps, wondering where they will get food for their children. In the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah, the shuttered office of Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization, was hit in an air strike on Thursday, the group said in a statement. Fighting had forced the organization to close its office last week.
More than half of Afghanistan’s 421 districts and district centres are now in Taliban hands.
While many of the districts are in remote regions, some are deeply strategic, giving the Taliban control of lucrative border crossings with Iran, Tajikistan and Pakistan.
In southeastern Afghanistan, the Taliban last month took control of the border town of Spin Boldak, opposite Pakistan. The crossing is one of Afghanistan’s busiest and most valuable. Thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis cross daily and a steady stream of trucks passes through, bringing goods to land-locked Afghanistan from the Pakistani Arabian port city of Karachi.
The Taliban shuttered the crossing Friday over a visa dispute, claiming Pakistan was abiding by Kabul government requirements for Afghans travelling into Pakistan to have a passport and a Pakistan visa. Previously, travel documents were rarely demanded and Afghans with local ID card could cross into Pakistan.
“The border will stay closed until Pakistan allows all Afghans to cross on the bases of our old procedure,” said the Taliban in a statement.
At the border, traders said about 1,500 people were waiting on both sides Friday to pass through. More than 600 trucks, many loaded with perishable fresh foods, were backed up in both countries.
Islamabad’s relationship with Kabul has been deeply troubled with both sides accusing each other of harbouring militants. Afghan Taliban leaders live in Pakistan and Kabul is bitterly critical of Pakistan for aiding them and treating their fighters in hospitals in Pakistan. Islamabad, meanwhile, charges that Kabul provides a safe haven to the Pakistani Taliban, a separate militant group that regularly stages attacks in Pakistan.
In one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history, a white 18-year-old has been accused of shooting and killing 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday. Authorities said Payton Gendron of Conklin, New York, shot 11 Black people and two white people in a rampage that he broadcast live.
A 180-page manifesto believed to have been posted on the internet by Gendron before the attacks focused on “replacement theory,” a white-supremacist belief that non-whites will eventually replace white people because they have higher birth rates, according to a copy viewed by ABC News.
“This individual came here with the express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he could,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference Sunday.
Since taking office in August, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has faced several natural and man-made disasters, ranging from deadly Hurricane Ida to the recent subway shootings in Brooklyn. But for the Buffalo native, the racial-motivated mass shooting in her hometown is personal.
In an interview on ABC News on Sunday morning, Hochul expressed her grief and outrage: “Our hearts re broken—and I am angry. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. I will leave no stone unturned to protect the people of this community.”
Democrats lashed out against Republicans who are traditionally strong advocates of the Second Amendment, including the GOP’s third-highest ranking member in the House, upstate New York Rep. Elise Stefanik.
“Did you know: @EliseStefanik pushes white replacement theory?” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted on Saturday, referring to criticism of her congressional campaign’s Facebook ads hyping fears of a “permanent election insurrection.”
Stefanik, known as a moderate Republican turned Trump acolyte, tweeted a message of condolence upon hearing the news but has not commented on Kinzinger’s allegation.
“We pray for their families. But after we pray—after we get up off of our knees—we’ve got to demand change. We’ve got to demand justice,” New York State Attorney General Letitia James said while attending church services in Buffalo on Sunday morning. “This was domestic terrorism, plain and simple.”
For Hochul, the massacre reflected a failure not just to limit access to guns but to curb the ability to openly share and distribute hate speech.
The governor told ABC that the heads of technology companies “need to be held accountable and assure all of us that they’re taking every step humanly possible to be able to monitor this information.”
“How these depraved ideas are fermenting on social media–it’s spreading like a virus now,” she said, adding that a lack of oversight could lead to others emulating the shooter.
The Buffalo shooting prompted the New York Police Department to provide increased security at Black churches around New York City “in the event of any copycat,” the NYPD said in a statement.
“While we assess there is no threat to New York City stemming from this incident,” the NYPD said in its statement, “out of an abundance of caution, we have shifted counterterrorism and patrol resources to give special attention to a number of locations and areas including major houses of worship in communities of color.”
This past week, Elon Musk declared that he would allow Donald Trump back on Twitter, then wavered over his planned purchase of the social-media behemoth. As billionaire tech magnates dominate the public square and transform how we consume information, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about social-media disrupters and their impact.
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In “Plugged In,” from 2009, Tad Friend profiles an earlier incarnation of Musk, when the Tesla C.E.O. was focussed primarily on pitching his vision for electric cars and colonizing Mars. In “Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy?,” Evan Osnos writes about the social-media platform’s evolution (or devolution) from a networking site to one of the leading disseminators of extremist rhetoric and propaganda. In “Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet,” Andrew Marantz examines the destructive impact of rampant online conspiracy theories and hate speech. Finally, in “What Is It About Peter Thiel?,” Anna Wiener considers the influence of the first outside investor in Facebook—who, after serving as one of Trump’s biggest donors in 2016, continues to make forays into Republican politics, recently backing two Trumpian Senate candidates, J. D. Vance, in Ohio, and Blake Masters, in Arizona. For Thiel, Wiener writes, “the processes of liberal democratic life are either an obstacle or a distraction. . . . What’s on offer is a fantasy of a future shaped purely by technology.”
A Brandon, Man., woman who was a psychiatric nurse is being sued by her former employer over posts on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram calling fellow employees “idiots” and accusing the health authority of killing its patients.
The case comes at a time when legal experts say the number of lawsuits filed over social media posts is growing rapidly.
In its lawsuit filed April 12, the Prairie Mountain Health authority is seeking a court injunction to prohibit the nurse from publishing defamatory statements about her former employer and make her remove existing posts.
Ten employees of the western Manitoba regional health authority are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They allege the nurse made false, malicious and defamatory social media posts about them, as well as the employer.
The psychiatric nurse’s Manitoba registration to practise was suspended on Jan. 12. The regulatory college’s website shows she then voluntarily surrendered her registration, effective Jan. 17.
The reason for the suspension is not stated on the Brandon woman’s listing on the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Manitoba website. The college’s registrar, Laura Panteluk, said she cannot talk about a specific case.
CBC News is not naming the people in the lawsuit due to allegations in it about mental health. The defendant has not filed a statement of defence and the allegations have not been proven in court.
Staff called ‘lazy, incompetent’: lawsuit
The psychiatric nurse worked at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, according to the statement of claim filed in Court of Queen’s Bench at Winnipeg.
The lawsuit refers to the content of four videos the defendant posted on her social media accounts.
In January, she posted a video on her TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram accounts that refers to some of the plaintiffs as “idiots, horrible nurses” who do not care about patients, the claim says.
It alleges the nurse used defamatory words to say some of the other employees were “lazy, incompetent, unintelligent, and do not care about the [Brandon Regional Health Centre] patients.”
The claim alleges that in the video, the nurse said she was bullied at work and that a manager — who is one of the plaintiffs — questioned her mental health in a disciplinary meeting, causing her to go on sick leave.
The claim also alleges that in another video the nurse posted, she said Brandon health centre staff “were making fun of homeless people,” and that the health centre “protects abusers” and “kills its patients.”
The court document alleges the nurse said in a video that she intended to determine the identities of staff members working on a particular day, and then publish their names in a video on her TikTok account in an attempt to cause them to lose their jobs.
“As a result of the publication of the defamatory words, the plaintiffs have been subjected to ridicule, alienation, and contempt and have suffered damages to their reputation,” both personally and professionally, the claim alleges.
It says they’ve suffered “embarrassment, humiliation, fear, and anxiety.”
The nurse has refused to remove two of the videos from her social media accounts, the claim says, further aggravating the damage to the plaintiffs.
Attempts by CBC to contact the defendant were not successful.
Prairie Mountain Health communications co-ordinator Blaine Kraushaar said the health authority has no comment on the case.
Social media suits becoming more common: lawyer
Toronto lawyer Howard Winkler, who specializes in defamation law, says the number of lawsuits about social media posts has grown “exponentially.”
“It’s becoming more and more common as people are becoming more comfortable with their use of social media,” said Winkler, who is not involved with the Manitoba case.
The unrestrained expressions of opinions and anger found on social media can be very harmful, he said.
But social media users should be aware that ordinary laws of defamation apply to those kinds of posts, said Winkler, meaning they can face financial damages in court.
“So people have to be very careful when they’re posting these kinds of messages.”
A person’s social media footprint can also affect future employment prospects, regardless of whether or not their criticisms were valid.
“If someone’s applying for a job and the employer does a social media search and they see that a person’s had an earlier dispute with an employer, that may be a red flag to an employer that there’s some risk associated with hiring that person,” Winkler said.
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