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Four Pakistani soldiers, two militants killed in raids on former Taliban hideouts

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Pakistani security forces raided two militant hideouts in a former Taliban stronghold near Afghanistan, triggering shootings that killed four soldiers and two insurgents, the military said on Friday.

The first raid was carried out in the Tank district in the northwest, killing two militants, the statement said.

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The other strike was carried out in the North Waziristan district, capturing a militant before four soldiers died in the fighting. The military said troops seized a cache of weapons during both raids.

The military provided no further details about the slain soldiers and detained militants.

North Waziristan served as a militant stronghold for decades. The military carried out a full-fledged offensive in the region after an army-run school was attacked in December 2014 in the Peshawar city.

The attack, claimed by Pakistani Taliban, killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren.

The latest violence in the northwest comes a day after a roadside bomb exploded outside a college in southwestern city of Quetta, killing six people and wounding at least 13 others.

Read more: Afghan Taliban stop Pakistan army from fencing international border

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Kazakhstan holding hundreds for terrorism and disorder following mass unrest

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Kazakhstan said Saturday it was holding more than 460 people on terrorism and disorder charges in the wake of mass unrest that saw Russian-led forces called in to restore calm.

The former Soviet republic has been roiled by clashes that escalated from peaceful protests against a car fuel price increase.

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Authorities have blamed bandits and international terror cells, despite evidence of a struggle at the top of the authoritarian leadership.

Eldos Kilymzhanov, a representative of the state prosecutor, said Saturday that 464 suspects were facing charges related to terrorism and mass disorder.

A total of 970 suspects were in custody he said including on charges of theft, disorderly behavior and possession of weapons.

Kilymzhanov said 73 suspects had sustained bodily injuries and among them “29 people with gunshot wounds were hospitalized to city hospitals on our instructions.”

Although protests began in the country’s west where the price of a popular car fuel, Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) spiked at the New Year, former capital Almaty — a financial hub of 1.8 million people — became the epicenter of the violence that followed.

The foreign ministry on Friday pushed back angrily against a European Parliament resolution that flagged violations of fundamental rights in the government’s handling of the crisis.

The ministry called the resolution from earlier in the week “not only biased but also based on prejudiced opinions and assumptions.”

Multiple former detainees have alleged torture in detention since they were released.

Over 2,000 troops from the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) completed a withdrawal from Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

The clashes that peaked in the firt week of January sparked speculation of a rift between President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 68 and his long-ruling predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81. Prominent relatives of the former strongman were dismissed from corporate and government posts as Tokayev appeared to cement control over the situation.

But Nazarbayev, widely viewed as Kazakhstan’s de facto decider prior to the clashes, this week made his first appearance of the year to deny any conflict with the man he hand-picked as his replacement when stepping down from the presidency in 2019.

Read more:

Kazakh ex-leader’s in-laws leave key energy sector jobs after violent unrest

Kazakhstan president says he has weathered attempted coup d’etat

Kazakhstan detains almost 10,000 over deadly unrest

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UAE official Gargash meets US special envoy to Yemen

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The diplomatic adviser to the UAE President Anwar Gargash met with the US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking on Saturday, the official WAM news agency reported.

The officials met five days after Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis attacked the country’s capital city, Abu Dhabi.

Lenderking reiterated that the US stands with the UAE in the face of “the Houthi terrorist attack,” WAM reported.

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The UAE official also held a phone call with Hans Grundberg, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Yemen on Friday, where the duo reviewed the nature of the Iran-backed Houthi attack in Abu Dhabi that led to a fuel tanker explosion killing three.

In both these instances, Gargash stressed the need for the international community to take a “firm stance against these hostile and terrorist acts that threaten international peace and security.”

He stated that the group repeatedly violated international laws and agreements, primarily, the Stockholm Agreement, which Gargash says is evident in the port of Hodeida which is reportedly being used for “maritime piracy and war financing.”

According to the WAM report, Gargash renewed his appreciation for the US’ position which condemned and denounced the attack and called for working with the US and the international community to stop the Houthi disregard for the security and stability of the region.

Referring to the position of the UN Security Council, which unanimously condemned the attacks, Gargash says that the Iran-backed militia requires a “serious international position towards the encroachment on the security of the countries of the region and the Yemeni people, and their continuous threat to international maritime navigation.”

The UAE official also reiterated that “appropriate international pressure” may help reach a ceasefire agreement and aid in finding a political solution to the Yemeni crisis.

“The Houthis have never committed to any agreements and pledges, and will not do so without clear international pressure,” WAM quoted Gargash as saying.

The Iran-backed militia frequently target civilian areas and energy facilities in Saudi Arabia with explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles.

The Arab Coalition has been carrying out attacks against legitimate military Houthi targets in Yemen in recent months, warning civilians to not approach or gather around the targeted sites beforehand.

However, the recent drone attack in Abu Dhabi marks the first reported Iran-backed Houthi incident on UAE soil.

Lenderking's Gulf visit

It was announced earlier this week that Lenderking is heading to the Gulf and London to “reinvigorate peace efforts,” the US State Department said announced.

“The Special Envoy and his team will press the parties to de-escalate militarily and seize the new year to participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process,” the State Department said ahead of his visit.

He will focus on the “urgent need to mitigate the dire humanitarian and economic crises facing Yemenis.”

Read more:

Arab Coalition strikes in Yemen kill 40 Houthi ‘terrorists,’ destroy five vehicles

Arab League to host extraordinary meeting to discuss Iran-backed Houthi attack on UAE

Arab Coalition says reports of casualties at Yemen Houthi-run prison ‘baseless’

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Germany ‘encouraging Putin’ by refusing to supply weapons: Ukraine

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday slammed Germany for its refusal to supply weapons to Kyiv, urging Berlin to stop “undermining unity” and “encouraging Vladimir Putin” amid fears of a Russian invasion.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, fears are mounting that a major conflict could break out in Europe.

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Ukraine’s calls to Western allies to bolster its defense capabilities have seen the United States, Britain and Baltic states agreed to send to Kyiv weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

Kuleba said on Twitter that Germany’s statements “about the impossibility of supplying defense weapons to Ukraine” did not match “the current security situation.”

Ukraine’s minister stressed that “today the unity of the West in relation to Russia is more important than ever.”

“The German partners must stop undermining unity with such words and actions and encouraging (Russian President) Vladimir Putin to launch a new attack on Ukraine,” Kuleba said.

Ukraine is “grateful” to Germany for the support it has already provided, but its “current statements are disappointing,” he added.

Earlier on Saturday German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said that Berlin will send a field hospital to Ukraine, while once again rejecting Kyiv’s calls for weapons.

Berlin has already delivered respirators to Ukraine and severely injured Ukrainian soldiers are currently being treated in Bundeswehr hospitals, she told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“Weapons deliveries would not be helpful at the moment – that is the consensus within the government,” Lambrecht said.

Moscow insists it has no plans to invade Ukraine but has at the same time laid down a series of security demands – including a ban on Ukraine joining NATO – in exchange for de-escalation.

Read more:

US, Russia work to lower friction in Ukraine issue as invasion fears loom

US weighs evacuating diplomats’ family members from Ukraine

US, Russia kick off critical talks on Ukraine war fears

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