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Taliban storms Kabul, demands unconditional surrender of government; US scrambles to pull out embassy workers

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Sunday and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government, officials said, as Afghans and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.

The beleaguered central government, meanwhile, hoped for an interim administration, but increasingly had few cards to play. Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.

Helicopters buzzed overhead as part of an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy. Several other Western missions were also preparing to get staff out.

In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.

Instead, the Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted, or sent Afghan security forces fleeing from wide swaths of the country, even though they had some air support from the U.S. military.

On Sunday, the insurgents entered the outskirts of Kabul but apparently remained outside of the city’s downtown. Sporadic gunfire echoed at times though the streets were largely quiet.

Workers fled government offices, and smoke rose over the city as embassy staff burned important documents.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Qatar’s Al-Jazeera English satellite news channel that the insurgents are “awaiting a peaceful transfer of Kabul city.” He declined to offer specifics on any possible negotiations between his forces and the government.

But when pressed on what kind of agreement the Taliban wanted, Shaheen acknowledged that they were seeking an unconditional surrender by the central government.

Taliban negotiators headed to the presidential palace Sunday to discuss the transfer, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. It remained unclear when that transfer would take place.

The negotiators on the government side included former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan National Reconciliation Council, an official said. Abdullah long has been a vocal critic of President Ashraf Ghani, who long refused giving up power to get a deal with the Taliban. The president appeared increasingly isolated. Warlords he negotiated with just days earlier have surrendered to the Taliban or fled, leaving him without a military option.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the closed-doors negotiations, described them as “tense.”

Acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan sought to reassure the public that Kabul would remain “secure.” The insurgents also tried to calm residents of the capital, insisting their fighters wouldn’t enter people’s homes or interfere with businesses. They also said they’d offer an “amnesty” to those who worked with the Afghan government or foreign forces.

“No one’s life, property and dignity will be harmed and the lives of the citizens of Kabul will not be at risk,” the insurgents said in a statement. But they also warned no one to enter the area around the capital.

Despite the pledges, panic set in as many rushed to leave the country through the Kabul airport, the last route out of the country as the Taliban now hold every border crossing. Rapid shuttle flights of helicopters near the U.S. Embassy began a few hours after the militants seized the nearby city of Jalalabad — which had been the last major city besides the capital not in Taliban hands.

The U.S. decided a few days ago to send in thousands of troops to help evacuate some personnel, and an official said Sunday that American diplomats were being moved from the embassy to the airport.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss diplomatic movements and spoke on condition of anonymity, said military helicopters are shuttling between the embassy compound and the airport, where a core presence will remain for as long as possible given security conditions.

Meanwhile, wisps of smoke could be seen near the embassy’s roof as diplomats urgently destroyed sensitive documents, according to two American military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation. The smoke grew heavier over time in the area, home to other nation’s embassies as well.

At Kabul International Airport, Afghan forces abandoned the field to Western militaries, said a pilot who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss security matters.

Earlier in the day, militants posted photos online showing them in the governor’s office in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.

Abrarullah Murad, a lawmaker from the province told The Associated Press that the insurgents seized the city after elders negotiated the fall of the government there. Murad said there was no fighting as the city surrendered.

The militants also took Maidan Shar, the capital of Maidan Wardak, on Sunday, Afghan lawmaker Hamida Akbari and the Taliban said. Another provincial capital in Khost also fell to the insurgents, said a provincial council member who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. Afghan officials said the capitals of Kapisa and Parwan provinces also fell.

The militants also took the land border at Torkham, the last not in their control, on Sunday. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told local broadcaster Geo TV that Pakistan halted cross-border traffic there after the militants seized it.

Later, Afghan forces at Bagram air base, home to a prison housing 5,000 inmates, surrendered to the Taliban, according to Bagram district chief Darwaish Raufi. The prison at the former U.S. base held both Taliban and Islamic State group fighters.

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A Colorado hiker lost for 24 hours ignored rescuers’ attempts to reach them because they didn’t recognize the phone number

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A stock image of a cable car in the mountains. Getty Images

  • A hiker set out to trek Colorado’s highest peak for 24 hours on October 18.

  • They were reported missing, and a search-and-rescue operation was carried out through the night.

  • While the search was underway, the person ignored calls; they didn’t recognize the phone number.

A Colorado hiker who got lost on a trail ignored calls from search-and-rescue officials who tried to locate him for 24 hours, because they didn’t recognize the number repeatedly calling them, according to the New York Post.

In a Facebook post, Lake County Search and Rescue officials described the ordeal, which happened on Mount Ebert, Colorado’s highest peak.

According to the officials, the hiker set out at 9:00 a.m. on October 18, and by 8 p.m. that evening, they began searching for him when an individual reported that he had not returned from his hike.

“Multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful,” the post said.

The officials said that first, a team of five set out at 11 p.m. to search for the missing hiker and stayed out until 3 a.m. on October 19. A team of three picked up the search a few hours later, at 7 a.m., looking in areas that hikers typically get lost.

But by 9:30 a.m. the following day, the search was called off.

“At approximately 0930 the reporting party reported the subject had returned to their place of lodging. All personnel were out of the field by 1000,” the post said.

The officials said the individual “lost the trail around nightfall and spent the night searching for the trail, and once on the trail, bounced around onto different trails trying to locate the proper trailhead.”

The missing hiker reached their car the next morning and 24 hours after they set out for the day hike, and had no idea a search and rescue operation was underway because they declined calls coming in from the officials.

“One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number,” the officials said. “If you’re overdue according to your itinerary, and you start getting repeated calls from an unknown number, please answer the phone; it may be a SAR team trying to confirm you’re safe!”

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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting

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Police: 2 dead, 4 injured in Boise, Idaho, mall shooting



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When Should You Drink Your Last Coffee of the Day?

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ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Replay official Carl Madsen died at 71 on Sunday

The NFL announced that replay official Carl Madsen died on Sunday at the age of 71. Madsen died on his way home after working the Week Seven game between the Titans and Chiefs. He had spent the last 12 years as a replay official and had previously spent 12 years as an on-field official. “Carl [more]



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A fire broke out on a cargo ship after about 40 shipping containers fell overboard due to rough seas off the coast of Vancouver Island

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Imagery captured of located containers from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles helicopter. US Coast Guard

  • Around 40 shipping containers went overboard when a cargo ship hit rough seas on Friday.

  • A fire broke out Saturday on the same ship, the Zim Kingston, while anchored near Vancouver Island.

  • US and Canadian officials are monitoring the situation, including some containers with “hazardous materials.”

A fire broke out Saturday on a cargo ship, known as the Zim Kingston, that had lost around 40 shipping containers off the coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island the day before, officials said.

The US Coast Guard said in a tweet Friday they were monitoring adrift shipping containers that went overboard after an inbound vessel en route to Canada encountered rough seas. Photos shared by the coast guard showed some of the shipping containers afloat in the open ocean.

The US Coast Guard said Friday 35 floating containers had been located. As of Saturday, five had still not been located, and officials were warning other vessels to be extremely cautious in the area as the containers “may be partially submerged and not visible,” the Vancouver Sun reported.

The Canadian Coast Guard told the outlet some of the containers that fell held hazardous materials, and that the agency would assess for any “pollution threats and hazards.”

A day after the containers fell from the Zim Kingston, a fire broke out on the ship while it was anchored near Victoria, according to the Canadian Coast Guard. The agency told CHEK News reporter Jasmine Bala the fire started in damaged containers that were still onboard.

The Canadian Coast Guard told Bala two of the six containers that are on fire contain “hazardous material.” They also said 10 crew members were evacuated while 11 remain on the ship, with no reports of injuries.

In a warning to other vessels, the Canadian Coast Guard established an emergency zone around the Zim Kingston, saying: “The ship is on fire and expelling toxic gas. Two fallen containers are floating in the vicinity of the vessel. Caution.”

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Obama criticizes Youngkin in Va. governor’s race

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Reuters

Obama fires up Virginia crowd for governor’s race he calls a U.S. “turning point”

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Barack Obama urged Virginians to re-elect Terry McAuliffe as governor at a rally on Saturday, emphasizing the race’s significance as an indicator of the country’s political direction and a reflection of its values. Obama and McAuliffe, who served as the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018, spoke before a cheering crowd at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with just 10 days to go before the closely watched, tight Nov. 2 election. Obama told the crowd the Virginia election represented a national “turning point,” where Americans could either become more embattled in the divisive politics that characterized Republican Donald Trump’s presidency and which culminated in an attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, or “pull together” to “solve big problems.”



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Fans can’t get over Will Poulter’s transformation as he prepares for Marvel role

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Will Poulter is surprising fans with his buff new look.

The former child star is preparing for his role as Marvel superhero Adam Warlock in director James Gunn’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” — and it’s no exaggeration to say Poulter is looking muscled up in his latest Instagram video.

The “Dopesick” actor’s fans are taking notice of his physical transformation, with one admirer posting a video on TikTok featuring before-and-after shots of Poulter. “I can’t believe this glow-up,” the fan wrote.

More fans responded to celebrate Poulter’s new chiseled look on Twitter, with one wondering, “sorry when did will poulter get sexy????”

“Holy moly. It *is* true. Will Poulter got jacked,” gushed another.

“omg he looks like hemsworth, someone else chimed in.

Poulter found fame at age 15 after playing Lee Carter in the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow.” After appearing alongside Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston in the 2013 comedy “We’re the Millers,” the London-born actor went on to star in the sci-fi flick “The Maze Runner” (2014). He also turned in notable performances in “The Revenant” (2015), “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” (2018), and the critically acclaimed horror movie “Midsommar” (2019).

Gunn confirmed on Twitter that Poulter had won the role of Adam Warlock in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” writing on Oct. 11, “As you guys know I often strike down false rumors, so … um … Welcome to the Guardians family, Will Poulter. He’s an amazing actor and wonderful guy.”

Poulter responded to say he was thrilled to appear in the movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in May 2023. “Thank you, James. It’s a genuine honour to play this role and to work with you. I’m very excited to get to work,” the English actor wrote.

Just one week later, a reporter for the movie and entertainment blog Flip Your Wig asked Poulter if he was ready to “flex” some serious superhero muscle.

“I better get ready, I guess,” he responded, adding, “Working on it, working on it.”

CORRECTION (Oct. 23, 2021, 1:15 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the age Poulter found fame. He was 15 when the 2008 movie “Son of Rambow” was released.

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Video emerges of Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ co-star Jensen Ackles speaking about the production’s firearm training days before fatal set shooting

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Actor Jensen Ackles. Leon Bennett/WireImage

  • “Rust” actor Jensen Ackles discussed firearms training days before a fatal on-set shooting.

  • In a video, Ackles said he was asked by a prop master to fire “off a couple of rounds” on the set.

  • Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the “Rust” set on Thursday.

A video depicting Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” co-star Jensen Ackles discussing the firearms training he received on the film’s set days before the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot during filming has surfaced online.

In the video, which has now been deleted in many places but remains available on Youtube and TikTok, Ackles describes a brief training session he had with the film’s armorer – the technical crew member responsible for prop firearms.

The clip was filmed between Oct. 15-17 when Ackles’ appeared at a fan event in Denver for his show Supernatural, according to Deadline.

“They had me pick my gun, they were like, ‘Alright, what gun would you like?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know,'” Ackles can be seen saying in the view.

He continued: “The armorer was like, ‘Do you have gun experience?’ I was like, ‘A little.’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, well, this is how you load it, this is how we check it and make sure it’s safe.'”

Ackles added that the armorer said she was “going to put some blanks” into the gun. He was then instructed to practice for his scene by firing “off a couple of rounds” into the distance.

“I walk out, and she’s like, ‘Just make sure you pull the hammer all the way back and aim at your target,’ I was like, ‘All right, I got it,'” he said.

No information has been released by authorities that links Jensen to the fatal shooting on the film’s set. It is also not clear whether the same armorer Jensen referenced in the video had worked with Alec Baldwin, who discharged the prop gun that killed 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Multiple reports have confirmed that the gun Alec Baldwin discharged on the film’s set held “live rounds.” According to an affidavit, Baldwin was handed the gun by an assistant director, who said “cold gun,” The New York Times and the Associated Press reported. The term refers to a gun that is not loaded with live rounds.

In a statement given to Insider on Friday, Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, reacted to his wife’s death.

“I don’t think there are words to communicate the situation,” Matthew Hutchins, 38, said. “I am not going to be able to comment about the facts or the process of what we’re going through right now, but I appreciate that everyone has been very sympathetic.”

He added, “I think that we will need a little bit of time before we can really encapsulate her life in a way that is easy to communicate.”

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