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Envoys scuffle at Afghan embassy in Rome

Police were called to Afghanistan’s embassy in Rome this week after a sacked Afghan diplomat claiming ties to the Taliban attacked the ambassador, the mission said.

Many of Afghanistan’s embassies are in diplomatic limbo, with staff still loyal to the Western-backed government toppled by the Taliban last August.

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The Taliban have not appointed new representatives to most missions, however, and their government is not recognized by any nation.

In a statement published on social media Tuesday, the Rome embassy said a diplomat — appointed by the former Afghan government but recently dismissed — returned to the mission earlier that day, claiming he had been named ambassador by the Taliban.

“Later he attacked the ambassador in the presence of an embassy employee but the ambassador defended himself and called the Italian police,” read the statement, written in the Dari language.

It named the dismissed diplomat as Mohammad Fahim Kashaf, saying he lost his job due to “lack of commitment to national values and the values of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”

Police escorted Kashaf — who had been with his child — out of the embassy, while the ambassador was unharmed, it said.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the United Nations-recognized name of the country, which the Taliban call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

An Afghan diplomatic source told AFP Kashaf had “switched loyalty” to the Taliban, and had been “beaten up” by his former colleagues.

The Rome embassy did not return a telephone call and email seeking comment.

Police in Rome told AFP a “misunderstanding” had taken place at the embassy, but provided no further details.

The Taliban’s foreign ministry in Kabul denied Kashaf been appointed ambassador, but also said he had not been dismissed.

It said records showed Kashaf was appointed first secretary at the embassy in December 2020, with a contract valid until December next year.

“Our records show that he continues to be a diplomat and his contract had not been terminated,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi in a statement.

“But the ministry has also not appointed him as ambassador of the Afghan embassy in Rome. Kashaf’s contract is valid and his termination is illegal.”

There has also been a diplomatic standoff at the UN, with representatives of the former and current regime both claiming Afghanistan’s seat.

Late last year the UN Security Council indefinitely postponed making a decision on the matter.

Read more: Ghani blames US deal with Taliban for fall of Afghanistan

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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

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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