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Gerasim Filatov
Gerasim Filatov

Insurgent DUAL AUDIO

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that the group has issued an audio message from its newly-appointed emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Reports of the audio appeared in Reuters, AFP, Dawn, and other news outlets. The Reuters report below corrects the record:

Insurgent DUAL AUDIO

The official spokesman for the Afghan Taliban said on Wednesday that an audio tape purporting to be from newly named leader Haibatullah Akhundzada rejecting peace talks was not issued by him and was not from the new insurgent chief.

ROTH: You know, officially, officials haven't discussed discussing any leads. Because past attacks of this nature in Russia have often been tied to the insurgency in the Caucasus and Chechnya, I would assume that one of the main sort of suspicions would be that it's an attack by insurgents from that region, but there hasn't been any sort of conclusion of that. Russia's also involved in the conflicts in Syria, and that's also considered a possible motive behind the attack. But in terms of an actual suspect or a person that investigators say that they're looking for, we haven't seen anything in particular yet.

ROTH: So there have been attacks like this before, although this is the largest attack of this kind on Russian soil since 2013. That was several bombings in the city of Volgograd, which is in southern Russia. There's also been bombing attacks on the metro in particular before, like dual bombing attacks in 2010 in Moscow. Those killed several dozen. The main difference between those and this was that those were suicide attacks carried out by women from the North Caucasus.

"I have no doubt that she will apply that energy to these negotiations and we will continue pushing and pushing and pushing until we get our British dual nationals home," he told British broadcaster Sky News.

Jordan had for years supported mainstream Western-backed rebels who controlled southern Syria until a campaign by the Syrian army in 2018 aided by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias retook the province. Some insurgents remained in Deraa but left the area with Russian mediation after Iranian-backed forces began an assault in August.

Travelling along the road leading to the Swat valley is a memorable experience. As the narrow dual carriageway snakes around impossibly steep mountain ranges, the breathtaking vista of snow-capped peaks come into view as they loom over an emerald green valley pierced by the Swat River. It looks too perfect to be natural.

The government has responded with its own brand of ruthlessness. Taliban fighters are not the only ones targeted. Family members, even those who played no part in the conflict, and others forced by circumstance to support the insurgents, have been killed. Key Taliban commanders who surrendered to authorities have only days later been found dead, with officials claiming they had never been in their custody in the first place. Corpses have been discovered floating down the rivers while others dangle from electricity poles with notes warning of dire consequences for the Taliban and its supporters. Some villagers claim that state security forces have even warned them against giving a Muslim burial to fallen Taliban fighters (in Islam the dead are supposed to be buried immediately). Others say that family members have been kidnapped by security forces and threatened with death if their militant relatives, currently in hiding, do not turn themselves over to the authorities.

And the threat of a return to violence is ever present. Although the army has physically reclaimed most of the Swat valley and either killed or captured senior insurgent leaders, many remain at large while huge pockets of remote mountainous terrain make a possible future return a real threat. There is also sporadic terrorism, like the suicide bombing of an army convoy in a busy market place in early October that claimed 27 lives.


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