The sobering 18th anniversary for the 9-11 attacks had barely begun, when a loud explosion rocked the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A plume of smoke rose over central Kabul shortly after midnight, and sirens could be heard. Inside the embassy, employees heard this message over the loudspeaker, “An explosion caused by a rocket has occurred on compound.”
Officials gave the all-clear about an hour after the blast and reported no injuries. The NATO mission, which is nearby, also said no personnel had been injured.
The attack was the first major action in Kabul since President Trump announced Monday that peace talks with the Taliban to end America’s longest war are “dead.” Over the weekend, Trump abruptly canceled planned meetings with Afghan and Taliban leaders at Camp David. The Taliban had claimed responsibility for two car bombings last week, one of which killed an American soldier.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Al Jazeera that Trump would regret turning his back on peace talks. “We had two ways to end the occupation in Afghanistan. One was jihad and fighting, the other was talks and negotiations,” said Mujahid. “If Trump wants to stop talks, we will take the first way and they will soon regret it.”
White House insiders have said that Trump initiating the meeting in the first place was instrumental in his firing of John Bolton as his National Security Adviser. Bolton had opposed the meeting.
The War in Afghanistan Always Had Ties to 9-11
The 9/11 anniversary is a sensitive day in Afghanistan’s capital and one on which attacks have occurred. A U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan shortly after the 2001 attack toppled the Taliban, who had harbored Usama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader and attacks’ mastermind.
In the nearly 18 years of fighting since then, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan soared to 100,000 and dropped dramatically after bin Laden was killed in neighboring Pakistan in 2011.
In addition to the rocket attack on the Embassy on 9-11, last week there were several Taliban ordered bombings including an attack which killed 16 and injured 100, mostly civilians, and an attack Thursday which killed two soldiers and ten civilians.
The Taliban had said they issued the attacks to gain leverage in their negotiations with the US, demanding that all of the approximately 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan as soon as possible.
The Afghani government had been critical of any sort of peace agreement, largely because the Taliban had demanded Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani be shut out of the negotiations. “Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless,” said Ghani last week. “Afghans have been bitten by this snake before,” added his advisor Waheed Omer.
Authorities have charged a previously deported illegal immigrant from Mexico with 16 counts of child sex crimes, including molestation and rape.
33-year-old Alejandro Alcala-Avala, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was charged with 16 separate counts of child sex crimes after law enforcement officials in Pettis County, Missouri arrested him.
Alcala-Avala is charged with 10 counts of child molestation, two counts of statutory sodomy, first-degree statutory rape, one count of first-degree statutory sodomy, child abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Two of Alcala-Avala’s victims allegedly told police that they were repeatedly raped regularly by the 33-year-old Mexican immigrant, Sedalia Democrat reports. One of his victims reportedly told police that the rapes took place about two to three times a month, whereas the other victim said the rapes “happened all the time”.
The two 14-year-old victims also told authorities that Alcala-Aval – in addition to raping them regularly – would constantly sexually touch them while their clothes were on.
According to a law enforcement official, Alcala-Avala had been operating under the alias “Hermelindo Lorenzo Guapillo-Chavarria” had been deported from the United States in 2014 following an 87-month federal prison sentence for distributing methamphetamine.
Alcala-Avala was somehow able to re-enter the country illegally after he was removed from the country five years earlier. How he did it exactly is still unknown to authorities.
Currently, Alcala-Avala is in police custody at the Pettis County Jail without bond. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has requested that in the case that he is released from custody, he is turned over to them for arrest and eventual deportation.
Though he denies any wrong-doing, a leading professor at MIT has been linked to convicted sex trafficker and pedophile, Jeffery Epstein. According to reporting by USA today, the head of the prestigious university’s Media Lab has resigned and the school has opened an investigation into “deeply disturbing” links between the lab and disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, MIT’s president has announced.
The fallout comes three weeks after another senior lab employee said he would resign in protest over revelations lab director Joi Ito took money from Epstein, who apparently committed suicide in jail last month.
Ito, who also taught at MIT, resigned Saturday, hours after an article in The New Yorker detailed how the lab accepted gifts from Epstein despite being listed as “disqualified” in MIT’s official donor database. The article said the lab listed Epstein’s contributions as anonymous and avoided disclosing to the school the full extent of his involvement.
According to the New Yorker, Ito disclosed last week that he had received $1.2 million from Epstein for investment funds Ito controlled, in addition to a $525,000 donation directly to the Media Lab. The New Yorker said Epstein also secured at least $7.5 million in donations, including $2 million from Microsoft founder Bill Gates and $5.5 million from Leon Black, a wealthy equities manager and chairman of the Museum of Modern Art.
Upon hearing of the allegations, MIT President L. Rafael Reif issued a statement to the press calling the accusations “extremely serious” and said MIT’s general counsel was hiring a prominent law firm to conduct an investigation “as swiftly as possible.”
“The New Yorker published an article that contains deeply disturbing allegations about the engagement between individuals at the Media Lab and Jeffrey Epstein,” Reif said. “The acceptance of the Epstein gifts involved a mistake of judgment.”
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the lab’s Center for Civic Media, last month announced that he would resign in protest of the lab’s involvement with Epstein.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell at the federal lockup in Manhattan of what an autopsy report classified as a suicide. An indictment unsealed in July accused him of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of underage girls at his mansions in Manhattan; Palm Beach, Florida; and elsewhere from 2002 to 2005.
The MIT Media Lab is a research an educational program with an annual budget of about $80 million. The lab includes a graduate enrollment of almost 200 students, and more than 200 undergraduates and grad students from other departments conduct research through the lab each year.