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 Slain Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Ladens successor Ayman Al Zawahiri was assassinated in "an over-the-horizon operation" involving a "secret weapon" by the US in downtown Kabul on July 31, more than 11 years after the terror groups founding chief was killed in a US Navy SEALs operation in Abbottabad, a media report said.

Speculation abounds on how the US might have found and killed Zawahiri.

According to the report in The Express Tribune, the targeted compound is just a few minutes' drive from the Indian Embassy in Kabul where technical staff is currently based.

Interestingly, Zawahiri's second last video message was about Muskan Khan, a burqa-clad Indian Muslim girl who dared a group of young saffronites and shouted "Allah-O-Akbar" in front of them in Karnataka state in February 2022, The Express Tribune reported.

Eighty-two per cent of officials of Afghanistan's former spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), have been allowed by the IEA to work in various ministries due to a lack of technically qualified resources in their ranks.

They could have been a source of information for the Indian Embassy because the NDS and RAW worked hand in hand during Ghani's rule.

There is a possibility that the Indians might have got the information from NDS and shared it with the Americans, The Express Tribune reported.

There are questions around which airbase was used to launch the MQ9 drone. Pakistan has denied any role in the strike. Military spokesperson Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar categorically stated that there was "no question of Pakistani soil being used for this purpose".

The Foreign Office went a step further to even rule out the use of Pakistan's airspace.

A US media report claimed that the pilot-less aircraft was possibly launched from Ganci airbase, the US transit facility at Manas in northern Kyrgyzstan.

There were also media reports of some US air activity in Farkhor in Tajikistan, near the border with northern Afghanistan, 15 to 20 days ago. Other than that, Ayani airbase, in Tajikistan operated by US's Quad partner India, and the CIA-operated K-2 Base in Uzbekistan could also be potentially used to carry out such a strike, The Express Tribune reported.

The neighbourhood where the Zawahiri lived, located just 1.5 kilometres away from the Afghan Presidential Palace, is off-limits to most people, which rules out an outside sneak peek at Zawahiri's safehouse.

Since the US has zero on-ground presence in Afghanistan after their pullout a year ago, rumours swirl that it might have been an inside job. America's former point-man for the region Zalmay Khalilzad has hinted that the US may have been tipped off by the Taliban due to an internal power struggle between the Haqqani Network and the Kandahari Group, The Express Tribune reported.

Michael Barak, a researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), doesn't rule out the possibility that the Kandahari Group might have shared intelligence with the US because they perceive the Haqqanis' alliance with Al Qaeda as a threat to their efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.

Mullah Yaqoob, the Taliban Defence Minister who represents the Kandahari Group, is said to be trying to carve out a larger space for himself. He has also tried to become relevant to Doha, Qatar. He embarked upon an unannounced visit to Qatar in the last week of July in an unprecedented move.

Mullah Yaqoob reportedly met with some US officials in Doha. Speculations are rife that he might have leaked information on Zawahiri as a tradeoff for the release of Afghanistan's $3.5 billion funds seized by the US, The Express Tribune reported.

Moreover, since he leads the Kandahari Group, he might have done so to increase his credibility with the US and also to neutralise the rival Haqqanis.

Al Qaeda is a shadow of its former self and hence Zawahiri was virtually of no value to the Taliban; therefore he could have easily been given up in a quid pro quo.

A pro-Taliban channel on Telegram, �Anfal Afghan Agency', claimed the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), in collaboration with Iran, might have helped the CIA track down Zawahiri.

Sharing what it called "exclusive details", the channel claimed that IS-K's chief Shahab al Muhajir sent a "contaminated" letter of allegiance to Zawahiri that revealed his location to the Americans, The Express Tribune reported.

The Taliban claim to have found corroborating evidence at the site including the "letter of allegiance" and a flash drive.

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Iran has denied any involvement in the attack on Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie in the US last week.

"There is no connection between Iran and the perpetrator," Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday.

"Rushdie himself is responsible for the attack," dpa news agency quoted Kanaani as saying, noting that the author's work not only offended Iran, but Muslims worldwide.

Rushdie was stabbed onstage as he was about to deliver a lecture in New York State on August 12.

The writer is recovering in hospital and a 24-year-old suspect is in custody.

The Indian-born Briton's novel "The Satanic Verses" led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s.

Iran is increasingly coming in for criticism in the international community over a death sentence issued against the respected author in the 1980s.

Late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a religious edict, or fatwa, sentencing Rushdie to death more than 30 years ago because of the "The Satanic Verses", published in 1988.

Khomeini accused Rushdie of insulting Islam, the prophet Mohammed and the Quran in his novel.

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 As Russia seeks to consolidate its hold on parts of the country seized by its troops, planning to hold a referendum in Ukraine's separatist Donetsk region where it is seeking to gain control is at an advanced stage, according to an assessment by the UK's Ministry of Defence.

In the Donetsk region, "it is likely that Russia is in the advanced planning stages to hold a referendum, though it is unclear if the final decision to go ahead with a vote has yet been taken", the Ministry said.

Russia initially said it aimed to take control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine when it invaded the country in February, reports dpa news agency.

Together, the two areas make up the Donbas, an area previously controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

However, while Moscow's troops have so far gained control of Luhansk, they have not yet taken Donetsk, where battles continue.

"The Kremlin will likely see the military's failure to occupy the entirety of Donetsk Oblast thus far as a setback for its maximalist objectives in Ukraine," the Ministry said.

Meanwhile as Kiev's fighters seek to repel the invasion, New Zealand will send 120 defence staff to Britain to help train Ukrainian soldiers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Ardern said two teams will train Ukrainian infantry with core skills for frontline combat including weapon handling, combat first aid, operational law and more.

Soldier training was now one of the highest priorities for Ukraine, she said.

"New Zealand is proud to stand in solidarity alongside a number of other countries to answer that call," she said.

Training would only be carried out at four locations in Britain, with New Zealand personnel not entering Ukraine.

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 Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are planning to deepen their diplomatic ties, state media reported on Monday.

Putin sent his greetings to Kim as Monday marks the day of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, writing that the two nations share a tradition of bilateral friendship and cooperation, dpa news agency quoted the state media report as saying.

It is in the interest of the people of both countries to expand relations, which would also help "strengthen security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the whole Northeast Asian region", Putin was reported as saying.

Largely isolated North Korea has pledged its support for Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February, a move that has largely triggered outrage in the West.

Pyongyang followed Russia and Syria in recognizing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent republics in July, a step most countries have refused, prompting Ukraine to sever diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Russia recognised Donetsk and Luhansk as independent on February 24, the day it invaded Ukraine.

According to reports from North Korea, Kim also sent a message of greeting to Putin, saying friendly relations "will become stronger in all areas", based on agreements the two countries reached at their April 2019 summit in Vladivostok, Russia.


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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will investigate reports that his predecessor, Scott Morrison, secretly assumed three roles in the Ministry.

Morrison became joint minister for the health, finance and resources portfolios in the two years before he lost power in May, the BBC quoted a local media report as saying.

Albanese said he would seek legal advice about the decisions, calling them "unacceptable" and "just weird". The former Prime Minister has declined to comment.

On Monday, Governor-General David Hurley confirmed he had signed an "administrative instrument" that had allowed Morrison to secretly take on the portfolios.

It was "consistent with section 64 of the constitution", a spokesperson said.

But Albanese, law experts and Morrison's former colleagues have criticised the secrecy surrounding it.

Even some ministers were reportedly not aware they were sharing portfolios with the former prime minister.

"This is the sort of 'tin pot' activity that we would ridicule if it was in a non-democratic country," Albanese told reporters on Monday.

Local media reported that former Health Minister Greg Hunt agreed in 2020 to share his portfolio in the event he became incapacitated from Covid, the BBC reported.

But then-Finance Minister Mathias Cormann only learned last week that his role had been jointly held, said a report by local outlet News.com.au.

Morrison was sworn in as a second resources minister, joining Keith Pitt, last year. Morrison used his powers to block a gas exploration licence in New South Wales, a decision opposed by Pitt.

Albanese said he would not speculate on forthcoming legal advice but accused his predecessor of having governed "in the shadows", the BBC reported.

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