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US drone kills 14 IS militants in Afghanistan: officials

Updated October 15, 2017


KABUL: A US drone strike killed 14 members of the militant Islamic State (IS) group in a remote area in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, Afghan officials said on Saturday.

Abdul Ghani Musamim, spokesman for the provincial governor, said on Saturday that the strike took place on Thursday afternoon in the Chawkay district.

He said it targeted a meeting of IS commanders planning for a terrorist attack. The government has no control of the remote area where Afghanistan’s IS affiliate has managed to establish a presence.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Dawlat Waziri, also confirmed the report. There was no immediate comment from the US-led forces in Afghanistan. However, lawmaker Shazada Shaheed rejected the report, claiming the victims of the strike were civilians.

The IS affiliate has grown in Afghanistan over the last few years.

Jury ‘near consensus’ in NYC bombing

Separately in New York, a jury said on Friday it was near consensus but won’t deliver a verdict before Monday on charges that a man planted bombs on New York City streets, including one that detonated and injured 30 people last year.

The Manhattan federal jury deliberated just over two hours before telling Judge Richard M. Berman that it wants to return on Monday.

The jurors are deciding the fate of Afghanistan-born Ahmad Khan Rahimi, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who is charged with the use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destroying property with an explosive and using a destructive device to further a crime of violence, among other charges.

Prosecutors say Rahimi, 29, placed a bomb in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood that went off, injuring 30 people. He also is accused of planting bombs in New Jersey that didn’t hurt anyone.

Rahimi did not testify. He was arrested two days after the September 2016 attacks following a shootout with police.

In closing arguments, Rahimi’s attorney, Sabrina Shroff, urged jurors to acquit Rahimi of three charges that could lead to a mandatory life prison term.

Shroff said there was no proof Rahimi intended for a bomb to explode that was left four blocks away from the bomb that detonated. She said “there are many reasons to doubt the government’s case”. Shroff, an assistant federal defender, noted that no one from the defence team cross-examined any of the dozen or so victims who testified during the two-week trial.

“This is a difficult case for all of us because we are all New Yorkers,” she said.

Shroff’s surprise approach to focus on only a few charges in her closing seemed to catch prosecutors off guard, leaving them scribbling and whispering behind her as they seemed to realize the rebuttal summation they were about to deliver might need tweaking.

Assistant US Attorney Andrew DeFilippis said the fact that the second bomb never went off should not spare Rahimi from conviction on all eight counts of the indictment.

The prosecutor said Rahimi, inspired by the Islamic State group and al-Qaida, launched a “cold and calculating attack” when he left his home shortly after 5am on Sept 17, 2016, with nine bombs, including seven in a backpack that were small enough to use like grenades if he wished. Defence lawyers later objected to the grenade reference.

Prosecutors said a pipe bomb from the backpack was placed along a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, while the rest were left the following day in the backpack near the Elizabeth, New Jersey, train station.

A delay in the start of the race prevented anyone from being injured when that bomb went off. The others were discovered and did not explode, except for one that went off in safe conditions as bomb technicians worked to disable it.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2017