US forces intervene in Afghan clash
Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 12:05 GMT BBC News
American troops have intervened, for the first time, in a clash between government forces and a group of gunmen in Afghanistan.
The clashes started when the Kuchis ignored an ultimatum to leave government owned land
Khayal Baaz, Local military commander
A local Afghan official said that American helicopters broke up a gun battle between a group of armed men and local government forces over a land dispute.
The official said that after the two sides had exchanged fire with light machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades for two hours, the American helicopters attacked the gunmen's positions on cliffs surrounding Kikara village, about a kilometre south-east of the city of Khost.
Six gunmen were reported to be wounded in the clash.
Correspondents say it is not clear whether the American forces intervened at the request of the local authorities, or had acted independently.
"The clashes started when the Kuchis (local tribe) ignored an ultimatum (by the local government) to leave government-owned land," Kahayal Baaz, a local military commander, told the BBC Pashto service.
Reports say the Kuchis began to fire on government soldiers, who had gone there after the ultimatum was issued, and wounded two soldiers.
US forces are hunting Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters
Nearly 8,000 US soldiers have been stationed in Afghanistan to hunt members of the ousted Taleban regime and al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden.
Bin Laden is accused by Washington of masterminding the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington last year.
US special forces have several forward bases in the Khost province, where they have been involved in search operations and occasional clashes with suspected Taleban and al- Qaeda sympathisers.
The incident came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai sought to strengthen his grip on outlying regions, where warlords still wield much influence.
Man dies after trying to lay an anti-tank mine in eastern Afghanistan
Sat Nov 9,12:07 PM ET AFP
KHOST, Afghanistan - An anti-tank mine exploded in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing a man who was apparently trying to mine a road used by U.S. Special Forces troops searching for Taliban and al-Qaida militants, an Afghan official said.
The man, whose identity was unknown, was trying to lay the mine on the road about seven kilometers (four miles) southeast of the Afghan city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, said Khost official Gulkhider, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
The mine might have exploded because the man was not familiar with the device and mishandled it, the official said.
Soldiers Abroad Mark Veterans Day
Saturday, November 09, 2002 2:33 PM EST
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) For most U.S. military men and women in the dust-bowl sweep and jagged landscape of eastern Afghanistan, Veterans Day is just another day.
But for Army Maj. Richard Patterson at Bagram air base, it's also a family affair.
Three of his five brothers have served as pilots, intelligence officers or engineers. His father was an Army engineer. His uncle was an Army mortarman killed by a sniper in Vietnam in 1967.
``The United States is . . . the best place to grow up in the world; the freedoms you have, the opportunities you have there just aren't found anywhere else,'' said Patterson, 36, of the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 82nd Airborne Division.
``The reason that is so is all the veterans.''
At Bagram on Monday, pilots will fly, motor pool mechanics will change oil and filters, military police will stand guard and engineers will build roads. In the long slog that is the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, it's hard enough keeping track of the day of the week, never mind holidays. Never mind Veterans Day.
``You don't really have time to think about it,'' said Cpl. Robert Gleba, 20, who assembles weapons for Marine Corps Harrier attack jets with Attack Squadron 513, based in Yuma, Ariz. ``It's all just one continuous day out here.''
Officials at Bagram aren't even planning any ceremonies to mark Veterans Day. Officers and enlisted men and women alike will do what they usually do: Work, rest, fight, build, drive and count the days until they go home.
But while the days may all seem the same in Afghanistan, attitudes back home toward the military and veterans are not.
Soldiers say attitudes changed after the Sept. 11 attacks. Many soldiers said people have a renewed respect for the military, and are more likely to show gratitude to veterans.
Patterson said he can't keep track of how often people have come up to him on the street or in airports since Sept. 11 and thanked him.
Veterans Day ``has a lot more meaning. It's for the whole country, all the people who have died for the cause, not just soldiers, but the civilians too,'' said Spc. Felicia White, 26, with the 18th Personnel Service Battalion, out of Fort Bragg.
Army Sgt. Ted Mays, 55, said he returned home after two tours of duty in Vietnam in 1967 to people jeering and calling him ``baby-killer'' and ``conqueror.'' When he returned from Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, he was hailed as a hero. He expects a similar welcome when he returns this time.
Even though he is again thousands of miles from home, Sept. 11 makes the difference, he says.
``The other two times, it was in someone else's backyard. This time, it was in my backyard. This one's for me. I think a lot of people think that way, which is why they support us,'' said Mays, with the 769th Engineering Battalion, based in Baton Rouge, La.
Sgt. Jake Witte's father was an enlisted Air Force man who was forced into retirement and denied the chance to fight in Iraq in 1991. He died an alcoholic, broken and embittered by the rejection. Witte said serving in Afghanistan is a tribute to his father, just as Nov. 11 is a tribute to veterans.
``When this is over, the holiday will actually mean something to me. It didn't mean as much to me then as it does now,'' said Witte, 29, also an engineer with the 769th Battalion.
``Yeah, Veterans Day has a different significance after Sept. 11,'' said Capt. Brian Savage, a A-10 pilot with the 354th Fighter Squadron, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. ``Pretty much, everything, everywhere has a different significance after Sept. 11.''
Pakistan Religious Want U.S. Out
Saturday, November 09, 2002 3:00 PM EST
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) A leader of Pakistan's religious right, coming off the bloc's best election showing in the country's 55-year history, demanded Saturday that the U.S. military leave the country.
``We were opposed to their war in Afghanistan before and we are opposed now. The vote of the people was clear. They want them out of Pakistan,'' Fazl-ur Rahman told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.
Last month's general elections, the first since military rule was imposed here in 1999, gave the religious right 59 seats out of 342 in parliament. The pro-military party won 103 seats, far short of the 172 seats needed to form a government.
Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's party controls 80 seats, and may ally with the religious bloc.
``People want good relations with the United States, but they want their sovereignty,'' he said. ``They will have to respect the will of the people of Pakistan.''
The six-party alliance of religious parties, of which Rahman's party is a dominant partner, campaigned almost exclusively on an anti-American platform. It demanded U.S. soldiers leave Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, criticizing President Pervez Musharraf's support for the war on terror.
His voice soft, his head swathed in his trademark orange turban, Rahman chose his words carefully.
He said he did not want to answer questions about the Taliban and al-Qaida, or about them finding sanctuary here under a government that included the religious right. ``These are issues we will speak about in detail after the government is formed,'' he said.
But his lieutenant, Mir Hussain Gillani, a squat white-bearded cleric who sat at his side, said his party's policies are clear.
``Absolutely the Americans will be told to go. Leave Pakistan. This is our country,'' said Gillani.
He also said that it was the religious duty of every Muslim Pakistani to protect and offer sanctuary to Taliban and al-Qaida. He said Osama bin Laden was not a terrorist, but ``Osama is one of the biggest followers of Islam. And what has he done? What has the United States and the West proven that he has done?''
Gillani is vice president of Rahman's Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, or Party of Islamic Clerics. He said that the Taliban were attacked by the U.S.-led coalition because ``America is an enemy of Islam. It is our duty to give protection to the oppressed Muslims and America is the biggest oppressor.''
Last week the religious bloc and a pro-democracy alliance, which includes Bhutto's party, reached a tentative agreement that would give them enough seats to form the new civilian government in Pakistan.
They then said Rahman would be their likely candidate for prime minister, though negotiations continue.
The pro-military party still says it can form a government. Rahman is talking to them but they don't want him as prime minister. He says that's not negotiable. Some of the parties within the pro-democracy alliance, including Bhutto's party, may break away. Some are questioning Rahman as prime minister and threatening to give their support to the pro-military government.
With all this confusion, the president postponed the convening of Parliament while the politicians wrangle for power.
Analysts say the religious bloc, whether in the government or in opposition, will be a powerful force and that their platform will have to be considered and their supporters accommodated.
That could mean an increasing number of religious right followers in key ministries, like the Interior Ministry, which controls security and police and is the supposed watchdog for fleeing Taliban and al-Qaida.
Rahman's religious right compatriots gained control of the two provinces that border Afghanistan, a region that is strategically crucial to the U.S. campaign.
U.S. intelligence suspects that top Taliban and al-Qaida leaders are hiding in both the North West Frontier Province and southwestern Baluchistan.
Rahman said there are no Taliban hiding there. But most of Rahman's supporters sympathize with the Taliban. At Rahman's election rallies, supporters waved posters of bin Laden.
Rahman accused the United States of trying to keep the religious right out of power in the frontier provinces.
``We are getting the impression that America is trying to prevent us from forming the government, putting hurdles in our way. This would be a mistake, a lost opportunity,'' he said.
``We should learn about each other, so that they can understand us and we can understand them,'' Rahman said, sitting in a modest government-operated housing unit. ``We should not waste this chance.''
Attackers in Pakistan Fire Rockets
Saturday, November 09, 2002 10:51 AM EST
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) Two rockets were fired at a building where U.S. personnel are believed to be helping hunt for Taliban in a remote tribal area, residents and officials said Saturday.
There were no reports of casualties.
Residents of Pakistan's Miran Shah area near the Afghanistan border said the first rocket landed late Friday, about 250 yards from the guarded government building. The second rocket, fired minutes later, also missed its target, but damaged an unoccupied house.
Such attacks are common in the tribal regions. Last May, U.S. Special Forces tracking Taliban and al-Qaida fighters dodged a rocket aimed at the government building.
Officials in Miran Shah said by telephone that they have made no arrests, and they did not know who was behind the attacks. No group or individual has claimed responsibility.
Pakistan is a key supporter of the U.S.-led war against terrorism, but there have been several demonstrations by tribesmen threatening violence if American forces don't leave the area.
Pakistan says the Americans are providing only communications and intelligence assistance, but tribesmen say they have seen American soldiers with Pakistani troops.
Iranian police seize over 3,710 kg of opium, poppy
Saturday, November 09, 2002 1:52 PM EST
TEHRAN, Nov 9, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) Iranian police on Saturday seized 3, 710 kg of illegal drugs from eight traffickers in the northeastern city of Qaen, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The consignment includes 210 kg of opium and 3,500 kg of poppy. Some 30 million rials (about 3,750 US dollars) and three vehicles were also confiscated from the drug dealers.
The arrested traffickers and distributors have been handed over to judicial authorities to undergo the legal proceedings, the report said.
It is reported that some 90 percent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan, which shares a border with Iran, thus explaining the severe strain imposed on the country from the illegal drug trade.
According to the International Narcotics Control Board, the country's anti-drug efforts have been credited with 80 percent of the opium and 90 percent of the morphine confiscated in the world.
About 3,300 of Iranian military personnel and policemen have lost their lives in anti-drug campaign since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and it costs Iran an annual 800 million dollars to curtail the drug trade.
Mohammad Reza Rahchamani, head of Iran's State Welfare Organization, recently disclosed that 3 percent of Iran's near 70 million people are drug addicts who consume a total of four tons of narcotics each day.
Iran to Hold First Exclusive Trade Fair in Kabul
TEHRAN The Islamic Republic of Iran will hold its first exclusive trade fair in Afghanistan called 'Kabul 2003', officials in charge of Export Department for Foodstuff Mohammad Bisotouni said on Friday.
In an exclusive interview with IRNA, he said the agreement to the effect was signed between the Iranian private sector and the Afghan Commerce Ministry following a year of market survey and negotiations.
The first exclusive trade fair 'Kabul 2003' is slated for January 30 for a ten-day period in which foodstuff and industrial products will be put on display, he said.
The second exclusive trade fair dubbed as 'Norouz-e Kabul' is to be held on March 1 for a ten-day period in which foodstuff as well as industrial products will be put on public display, he said.
The fairs will prepare grounds for about 1,000 Iranian companies to present their products and services in four phases at the fairs, he pointed out, reported IRNA.
UN representatives in Afghanistan, active non-governmental organizations (NGO's) as well as foreign embassies in Afghanistan have cooperated in organizing such events, he said.
Afghanistan yet to decide on SAFF soccer
The Independent Bangladesh Sports Reporter
The football association of Afghanistan has yet to ensure their participation in the 3rd SAFF Football Championships after they were invited to join seven SAARC nations for the biennial football competition.
Afghanistan for participating in the SAFF Football tournament to be held in Dhaka in January.
The acting general secretary of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) and the secretary of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Sirajul Islam Bachchu said that he had sent an invitation by e-mail to the Afghanistan football authority.
In reply, the Afghans conveyed their thanks but did not send any confirmation letter to the BFF about, Bachchu informed.
Bachchu said that he invited Afghanistan to comply with the request of the AFC vice-president Monilal Fernando who visited the country recently for the purpose of FIFA development project.
The SAFF secretary informed that Fernando advised him to include the Afghans in the tournament.
India or other countries of the region have no objection about the inclusion.
The draw of the tournament was held last month at the AFC Congress in Malaysia. If Afghanistan decide to join, they will be placed in the group along with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Prime suspect in Bali blasts visited Afghanistan, met with regional terror group in Malaysia, say sources
Sat Nov 9, 1:12 PM ET By MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press Writer
JAKARTA, Indonesia - The prime suspect in the Bali blasts visited Afghanistan and may have met up with members of an al-Qaida linked Southeast Asian terrorist group while in Malaysia, Indonesian intelligence officials said Saturday.
Also on Saturday, police declared the owner of a chemical shop detained Friday in connection with the Oct. 12 blasts a suspect for selling bomb-making materials. But it was not immediately clear whether those materials were connected to the Bali bombings.
The developments marked another harried day in the fast-moving investigation. Police across Indonesia were looking for as many as 10 other suspects. And for a second day, they raided homes in the village of Tenggulun in East Java province where the top suspect, identified only as Amrozi, lived.
Officials said Amrozi has admitted he owned the L300 Mitsubishi minivan laden with at least 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of explosives that blew up outside a packed nightclub on the resort island of Bali.
He also said he was a field commander of the group that planted the bombs outside the Sari Club and inside Paddy's bar that killed nearly 200 people.
Since his arrest on Tuesday, police said Amrozi confessed to involvement in a string of terror attacks in Indonesia including the Jakarta Stock Exchange bombing in 2000 that killed 15 people.
He also acknowledged meeting the alleged leaders of a Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked terror network whose alleged aim is to form a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia.
Jemaah Islamiyah has been increasingly blamed for the Bali blasts.
Intelligence officials in Bali said on condition of anonymity that Amrozi said he visited a number of Asian countries including Afghanistan. It was not immediately clear when or why Amrozi visited Afghanistan.
But Maj. Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika, the top investigator, said last week he thought Indonesians trained in Afghanistan or Libya were behind the bombings, noting the planning and expertise required to carry out the attacks.
Pastika has not said who Amrozi was working for. But he has said his younger brother, identified as Mukhlas, was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah.
On Friday, police spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang said Amrozi admitted that he knows the terror group's alleged leaders: Riduan Isamudin — also known as Hambali — and Abu Bakar Bashir.
Police arrested the 64-year-old Bashir, Jemaah Islamiyah's alleged spiritual leader, on charges of involvement in a string of church bombings three years ago. So far, police have not listed him as a suspect in the Bali attacks.
The intelligence officials said Amrozi admitted under interrogation that he met personally with the two clerics but they did not say when or where he met them.
Neighbors of Amrozi said he went to Malaysia in the late 1980s to work in construction and tourism. But the intelligence sources said they believe he met Jemaah Islamiyah members while he was there.
In their investigation, police have detained more than two dozen people for questioning, including the principal of Tenggulun's Al Islam school, where Amrozi was a frequent visitor, and the owner of a shop in Surabaya, East Java's capital, where Amrozi allegedly bought chemicals.
East Java police have now named the shop owner, Silvestor Tendean, a suspect for selling explosives — some of which may have been used on Bali, Aritonang said.
But Aritonang said the explosives have not been definitely linked to the bombs in Bali, and Tendean has not been named a suspect in the bombings.
Among the chemicals possibly used in the blasts were TNT, RDX, HMX, nitrate, titrate and chlorate, police said.
Pastika said detectives believe that six to 10 people were involved in the two simultaneous bombs that turned one of Asia's most frequented tourist destinations into an inferno. He said police have the names and identities of the suspects.
Police on Friday raided three homes of Amrozi's friends and relatives in Tenggulun and raided at least two more on Saturday. Officers said they were looking for explosives as well as two of Amrozi's brothers whom they believe played a part in the bombings.
They found neither, with villagers saying the brothers have fled.
In Bali, police searched a third-floor apartment in a residential neighborhood in Denpasar that Amrozi supposedly rented for two days. They said they found fingerprints that matched Amrozi's and residue of explosives they believed were used in the blasts.
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