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The bodies of some of the Afghans who reportedly drowned in the Harirud River as they attempted to cross into Iran.

Afghan officials on May 3 launched an operation to locate and retrieve bodies of migrants from a river in western Herat Province after reports that Iranian border guards had thrown Afghans into the river to prevent their entry into Iran.

In a statement on May 2, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said a probe had been launched into the reports.

It was not immediately clear how many migrants had been involved in the alleged incident, which was denied by the Iranian consulate in the region.

Gulran
Gulran

A senior official in the presidential administration said initial assessments suggested at least 70 Afghans who were trying to enter Iran from Herat were beaten and pushed into the Harirud River.

Doctors at Herat District Hospital said they had received the bodies of five Afghan migrants, some of whom had drowned.

"Of these bodies, it's clear that four died due to drowning," said Aref Jalali, head of Herat District Hospital.

Provincial council member Ahmad Karokhi said that 12 people were able to swim to safety, adding that seven bodies have been recovered from the river in the Gulran district of Herat.

Afghan citizen Noor Muhammad told Reuters he was one of 57 Afghan citizens who were caught by Iranian border guards on May 2 when they were trying to cross into Iran from the Gulran district.

"After being tortured, the Iranian soldiers threw all of us in the Harirud River," Mohammad told Reuters, adding that the group was in search of work.

Another man from the group, Shir Agha, said he also survived but that at least 23 of the 57 people thrown by Iranian soldiers into the river were dead.

The Iranian Consulate in Herat denied the allegations.

"Iranian border guards have not arrested any Afghan citizens," the consulate said in a statement on May 2.

Iranian Embassy officials in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were not immediately available for comment.

Afghan officials in the area say this was not the first time that Afghans had been tortured and killed by Iranian security forces guarding the 920-kilometer border.

The incident comes as the coronavirus outbreak has seen a mass return of Afghan migrants from Iran, one of the global pandemic hotspots, with many returnees testing positive for the virus.

Decades of conflict, extreme poverty, and high rates of unemployment force thousands of Afghans to illegally cross the border to Iran every year.

There are currently up to 1 million registered Afghan refugees in Iran, while the country hosts another 2 million undocumented Afghans, according to UN reports.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
Director Nikita Mikhalkov

Russian state television canceled the reruns of a program by one of its most famous directors after he criticized the head of the nation’s largest bank.

During his show that aired May 1 on Rossia-24, Nikita Mikhalkov, who has close ties to the Kremlin, slammed Sberbank Chief Executive Officer German Gref for not having bank branches in Crimea. The same program also accused American billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates of seeking to insert microchips into people.

The state channel canceled the traditional replays of his show on May 2 and May 3, causing Mikhalkov to accuse state TV of censorship in a video statement. Rossia-24 did not give a reason for the cancelations.

RIA Novosti, a state-run news agency, called the nearly 50-minute show a “conspiracy extravaganza” in which the topics of Gates’ supposed plans to microchip people, Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and the absence of Sberbank branches in Crimea were included.

Russian state television had previously aired programs containing baseless accusations that Gates was seeking to install microchips containing a coronavirus vaccine in people:

Russian State TV Repeats Bizarre, Baseless Claims About Bill Gates And COVID-19
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The author of the Telegram channel Katarsis said the reason the state withdrew the show is because of the bad light it sheds on Gref, who has led Sberbank for 13 years. Gref has been credited with revamping the once stodgy lender, turning it into a Russian leader in online and mobile banking.

No major Russian banks operate in Crimea, which the Kremlin forcibly annexed in 2014, due to the threat of U.S. sanctions.

The Katarsis author said Mikhalkov is a figure whom many Russians respect and pointed out that two officials he previously attacked -- Emergency Minister Vladimir Puchkov and Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky -- lost their posts.

“Let’s see how the fate of German Oskarovich [Gref] develops,” the author said.

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