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AFGHANISTAN

Afghan soldier faces death for French troop murder

A military court has rejected an appeal by an Afghan soldier sentenced to death for killing five French troops in an insider attack in January, an official said Monday.

So-called green-on-blue attacks have spiralled this year, with a total of 61 NATO troops killed by members of the Afghan security forces, fuelling distrust between the allies in the war against Taliban Islamist insurgents.

The French casualties prompted France to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan earlier than planned.

Afghan army soldier Abdul Sabor was convicted in July of killing the soldiers on January 20 while they were jogging within their base in Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan.

Sabor is the only Afghan convicted of carrying out such an attack to have been sentenced to death.

"The appeal court has confirmed the decision made by the primary court – his appeal was rejected," defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told AFP.

The case will now be automatically reviewed by a higher court, and Sabor, who was 21 at the time of the attack, will have the right to appeal to President Hamid Karzai for clemency.

The decision to put France on a fast-track exit timetable sparked concern among some members of the US-led military coalition, which is not due to end its combat mission until the end of 2014.

France will have pulled 2,000 combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, leaving 1,500 soldiers behind to help with training and logistics.

NATO says about 25 percent of the insider attacks are caused by Taliban infiltrators but the rest stem from personal animosities and cultural differences between Western troops and their Afghan allies.

Efforts to tackle the issue include orders that NATO soldiers working with Afghan forces should be armed and ready to fire at all times, even within their tightly protected bases, and the issuing of cultural guidelines.

The guidelines, drawn up by the Afghan defence ministry, urge their soldiers not to take offence if NATO colleagues exit the shower naked, swear or ask to see pictures of their wives.

The 28-page brochure tells Afghan soldiers these things are normal behaviour and no reason to open fire.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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