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Blinken names former US adviser Amiri as special envoy for Afghan women

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday named Rina Amiri, a former US government adviser who criticized the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, as a special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights.

“We desire a peaceful, stable, and secure Afghanistan, where all Afghans can live and thrive in political, economic, and social inclusivity. Special Envoy Amiri will work closely with me toward that goal,” Blinken said in a statement.

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Amiri has spent two decades advising governments, the United Nations and think tanks on Afghanistan-related issues. Under former President Barack Obama, she served as a senior adviser to the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Blinken named Stephenie Foster, a State Department veteran, as a new senior adviser for women and girls to US operations to evacuate and resettle Afghans at risk of retaliation from the Taliban after it took over the country.

The Taliban overran Afghanistan in August as the former Western-backed government collapsed and the last US troops withdrew after 20 years of war.

Since then, the Taliban have curbed the rights of women and girls, banning most of the former from working and most of the latter from attending schools in what US officials decry as back-tracking by the Islamist extremists from assurances they would observe human rights.

The Biden administration has come under fire from women’s rights groups for failing to ensure safe passage for activists and others that had long been targeted by the Taliban.

Amiri told Reuters earlier this year that the process of evacuating women at risk had been a disaster.

Biden had made clear early on in high-level policy discussions that concerns about women’s rights would not sway his decision to exit Afghanistan, despite promising during the campaign to forge a gender-sensitive foreign policy, she said.

The Taliban earlier this week decreed that women traveling more than 45 miles (72 km) should be accompanied by a close male family member. They also banned the playing of music in vehicles.

The United States and other governments have accused the Taliban of failing to establish an “inclusive” government and they have expressed concern over reports of summary executions and the disappearances of former Afghan security force members.

Read more: Pilots detail chaotic collapse of the Afghan Air Force

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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