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Ten Chinese caught spying in Kabul allowed to fly home

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, January 6: The ten Chinese nationals who were arrested for spying in Kabul last month were allowed by Afghanistan to fly back to China on Saturday in a special aircraft arranged by the Chinese authorities, the Hindustan Times reported on its website today.

The Chinese Government is reported to have put diplomatic pressure on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to procure the release of its nationals.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) had busted a Chinese spy ring last month, but kept the case a closely-guarded secret. On Tuesday, the NDS confirmed for the first time that the security agency did detain Chinese nationals for espionage.

At least two of the 10 spies were learnt to have been in touch with the Haqqani Network, the terrorist group that is blamed for many bloody attacks and doubles as the sword arm of the Taliban. The Haqqani Network is backed by Pakistan’s spy network, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

The NDS had initially declined comment on the detentions to the media in Afghanistan.

The official confirmation about the Chinese spy ring came on Tuesday after members of Wolesi Jirga, the Afghan House of Representatives, demanded answers from the NDS Chief Ahmad Zia Saraj to the news about the Chinese spy ring’s arrest, first reported by the Hindustan Times, an Indian newspaper published from here.

Saraj confirmed that a group of Chinese nationals had been arrested on charges of espionage in Kabul, the Afghan private news channel Ariana News reported. But he declined to give any more details.

“Yes, a group of Chinese has been arrested. But, due to it being a sensitive issue, I cannot share details,” the NDS chief told the lawmakers, according to the news channel.

The official confirmation, however, comes after Afghanistan came under pressure from President Xi Jinping’s Government, and allowed the 10 Chinese nationals to leave the country on Saturday.

Diplomats and security officials in Afghanistan believe that the 10 were linked to the Chinese intelligence agency, Ministry of State Security.

President Ashraf Ghani was briefed about the detentions right in the beginning in view of the sensitivities involved. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a former NDS chief who is credited with rebuilding the intelligence agency, was tasked to oversee the investigation and engage the Chinese.

Amrullah Saleh met the Chinese envoy to Kabul Wang Yu, and had initially conditioned their release on an official apology from Beijing.

The terms of the arrangement between the two countries are not known.

A diplomat in Kabul said President Ashraf Ghani may have been keen to wrap up the case as soon as possible before it lands in a position where Beijing’s adversaries, such as the US, use it to fire at China from his shoulders.



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Avishka and Sadeera power Jaffna Kings to nine wicket win

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Half tons by Avishka Fernando and Sadeera Samarawickrema powered Jaffna Kings to a nine wicket win over Dambulla Aura in the 3rd match of the LPL2022  at MRICS Hambanthota on Wednesday (07)

Dambulla Aura 121/9 in 20 overs (Jordan Cox 43; Maheesh Theekshana 3/20, Vijayakanth Vijaskanth 3/24, James Fuller 2/16, Zaman Khan 1/28)

Jaffna Kings 122/1 in 15.4 overs (Avishka Fernando 51 , Sadeera Samarawickrema 62 not out; Noor Ahamed 1/28)

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Govt. says selling state assets only way to build reserves and prevent crippling shortages

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardena yesterday (06) said Sri Lanka wouldn’t be in a position to be part of the international trading system unless it boosted its foreign reserves by selling some of its assets. Gunawardena, who also holds media and transport portfolios said so at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Responding to a query about the government’s decision to divest vital national assets, the Minister said that if Sri Lanka did not shore up its reserves to the tune of over three billion dollars, international companies would not accept the letters of credit given by Sri Lankan banks.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister, has proposed privatising of several state enterprises including Sri Lanka Insurance and Sri Lanka Telecom.

“Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sold a number of state owned enterprises. If we don’t increase our reserves, to over three billion USD soon, we will have problems importing fuel, and other essential items. Last week, Fitch again reduced our rating. No matter who governs Sri Lanka, they will all face the same problem. We need to build our reserves,” the Minister said.

Minister Gunawardane said that the need of the hour was to sell some assets and boost Sri Lanka’s reserves.

“China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia are attracting a lot of investors. Only we have failed to do so, and we need to think why this is. Even our entrepreneurs are leaving for other countries. We need to change the way we think, if we want to attract investors to Sri Lanka,” he said.

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Ven Siridhamma, Mudalige granted bail; latter re-arrested

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Convenor of Bhikku Balamandalaya affiliated Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) Ven. Galwewa Siridhamma Thera leaving Court yesterday (06) after Kaduwela Magistrate Chanima Wijebandara granted him bail. The Thera was held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for causing damages to public property during a protest opposite the Education Ministry, over three months back. The Magistrate ordered the Thera released after the police failed to identify the monk at an identification parade. However, IUSF Convenor Wasanatha Mudalige, who was also released by the Magistrate, after the police couldn’t identify him, was taken into custody in connection with some other case.

Pics by Kamal Bogoda

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