Flags in Afghan capital fly at half staff to honor minister and seven others who died in Pakistan plane crash
Tue Feb 25,12:31 AM ET AP
KABUL, Afghanistan - Flags flew at half staff in the Afghan capital on Tuesday to honor this country's minister of mines and industry, who was among eight people who died Monday in a plane crash off the coast of Pakistan.
Juma Mohammed Mohammedi, four other Afghan officials, a Chinese businessman and two crew members were on their way to a copper mine in northwestern Pakistan when their plane plunged into the Arabian Sea.
Afghanistan's Cabinet met Monday and expressed condolences to the victim's families. It also called for a joint investigation with Pakistan to determine what caused the crash.
Mohammedi, who was appointed to his ministerial post in June 2002, had returned home to help rebuild his country after spending 20 years abroad.
The minister was in Pakistan on an official visit, partly to participate in talks on a US$3.2-billion project to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan.
Aircraft in 'no fly zone' when it crashed with Afghan minister, 7 others aboard: official
By AFZAL NADEEM, Associated Press Writer
KARACHI, Pakistan - A small plane that crashed into the Arabian Sea, killing an Afghan government minister and seven others aboard, was crossing a Pakistani military "no-fly zone" when it went down, a Pakistan civil aviation official said Tuesday.
The air force and navy used the area to test weapons from the Sonmyan firing range, but no weapons were being tested when the crash occurred Monday, said the official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
He said the pilot of the Cessna 402 was told his flight path was over a restricted area. However, the pilot sought permission from the control tower at the Karachi International Airport to cross the area because "he said he had VIPs on board."
It was not clear whether the pilot was granted permission.
An inquiry into the crash has been ordered and the Afghan government in Kabul has sent several people to participate in the investigation.
Rescuers resumed the search on Tuesday for the body of Afghan Minister for Mines and Industry Juma Mohammed Mohammedi, who died with four other Afghan officials, a Chinese businessman and two crew members when the plane crashed soon after taking off from the port city of Karachi.
Mohammedi was on his way to inspect a copper mine in southwestern Pakistan when his chartered plane suddenly lost contact with the control tower and crashed into the sea. The plane was heading for Jazak, a town near the Iranian border in southwestern Baluchistan province, when it crashed.
Rescue teams have recovered and identified six bodies, but the bodies of the Afghan minister and one other victim were still missing.
Investigators warn it may take some time to understand what happened in the crash because the aircraft was not equipped with a flight recorder.
"In the absence of the black box, we will rely on examination of the wreckage, any eyewitness available and autopsy reports of the bodies. This process could take months or even a year," the senior investigator, Air Commodore Shadab Husnain, told The AP. "We are starting in complete dark."
Chinese FM expresses condolences over death of Afghan minister
Monday, February 24, 2003 7:51 PM EST
BEIJING, Feb 25, 2003 (Xinhua via COMTEX) Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan on Monday expressed condolences over the death of Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries Juma Mohammad Mohammadi in a plane crash in southern Pakistan.
In a message to his counterpart Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Tang extended condolences to the foreign minister and family members of the victims.
He believed that relevant departments of China and Pakistan will carry out investigation into the accident, and inform the Afghan government of the finding in time.
On Monday, a chartered Pakistani Cessna plane crashed in southern Pakistan with the minister and a number of his advisors aboard. A Chinese businessman was also believed on the plane.
According to Pakistan civil aviation authorities, the plane was on its way to a border area across Iran, but went missing 20 minutes after taking off from a Karachi airport in the morning.
Mohammadi was in Pakistan over the weekend for an international meeting on a three-nation gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, via Afghanistan to Pakistan
Bin Laden, Mullah Omar May Be in Afghan
Monday, February 24, 2003 4:25 PM EST
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar, former leader of the Taliban movement, may be hiding out in the mountainous regions along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Afghan foreign minister said Monday.
``My perception is that both men are still alive, perhaps in the border areas,'' Dr. Abdullah, who goes by one name, told The Associated Press.
He said ``eventually, they will be caught ... because they do not have popular support in Afghanistan.''
Bin Laden, the head of the al-Qaida terrorist network blamed for the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States and other acts of violence in Asia and Africa, has not been seen since the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban regime that had given him shelter.
But Afghan officials have repeatedly said they believe he and Mullah Omar are alive. Audio tapes with a voice purporting to be bin Laden's become public in November and earlier this month, and U.S. officials said each time they believed the tapes to be genuine. Statements have also been released in Mullah Omar's name, though their authenticity could not be confirmed.
In Washington, a U.S. intelligence official said that in one of those tapes bin Laden apparently says he wants to die a martyr. But the official said it is not regarded as a significant statement.
In the message, the speaker says he wants to die this year in the ``eagle's belly,'' which some took to mean the United States.
But the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said analysts were placing little importance on the content of the message. The rhetoric was similar to earlier recordings of the al-Qaida chief, the official said, and the expressed desire for martyrdom is not regarded as bin Laden communicating a literal plan but more of a poetic wish.
U.S. officials had previously authenticated a message, aired earlier this month on the Arabic al-Jazeera network, in which bin Laden declared solidarity with Iraqis. They placed far more significance on this message, saying it was probably recorded recently and could be a signal of impending terrorist attacks.
Abdullah, who with President Hamid Karzai is attending a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, said Pakistan and Afghanistan were cooperating in attempts to eradicate al-Qaida and Taliban remnants from the border regions.
``Both governments agree that the re-emergence of al-Qaida and Taliban would not be in anybody's interest and we have discussed ways to prevent that,'' Abdullah said.
He predicted that the militants would try to take advantage of a war against Iraq to mount attacks and energize their movement.
``Certainly the extremists would like to provoke terror in Afghanistan,'' he said. ``They would like to capitalize on that opportunity to destabilize the situation.''
Germany Denies Reported Plans to Withdraw Afghan Peacekeepers
(VOA) - A German spokesman in Kabul is denying reports that Germany plans to pull its peacekeepers out of Afghanistan if there is war in Iraq.
The spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lobbering said comments from German Defense Minister Peter Struck in Berlin Friday were misunderstood.
Mr. Struck told reporters that the threat to foreigners in Afghanistan could rise in case of war in Iraq, and that peacekeepers could be evacuated within a week if necessary.
But the spokesman says Mr. Struck never said Germany would leave Afghanistan in such a case. He said the German commitment to Afghanistan remains very strong and will not change.
Germany and the Netherlands took joint control of the international peacekeeping force from Turkey earlier this month. Germany supplies the bulk of the 4,700 troops in the force.
Norway, a member of NATO, sending some special forces back to Afghanistan
Mon Feb 24, 7:43 AM ET AP
OSLO, Norway - Norway is sending several special forces troops back to Afghanistan (news - web sites), the country's Defense Ministry said Monday, and pulling out its contingent of fighter planes.
The troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan in June 2002 after spending six months as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom.
Norwegian Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked her for more troops during his visit to the capital, Oslo, in January.
"From the Norwegian side, we hope to contribute with both a security and humanitarian focus to help Afghanistan to a better future," Krohn Devold said.
The troops, a mix of commandos from the country's army and navy with training in winter and mountain warfare, will be posted for three months, but that could be doubled to six months. The soldiers will also include mine-clearing personnel and two mine-removal vehicles. The exact number of troops wasn't revealed.
Norway is also pulling out its six F-16s by the end of March.
The F-16s were involved in a bombing mission last month, the first time that country's planes fired in combat since World War II.
Heroin processing machines seized in northeast Afghanistan
Monday, February 24, 2003 12:06 PM EST
KABUL, Feb 24, 2003 (Xinhua via COMTEX) Seven heroin processing machines, along with two bags of heroin and 700 kilograms mixed opium, were sized on Monday by local anti-drug authorities in northwest Afghanistan's Badakhshan province, the official news agency BIA said.
Some cash money, vehicles and telecommunication equipment were also confiscated from a heroin factory in the province during a raid by local security troops.
Badahkshan province, about 200 kilometers northeast of Kabul, was one of major narcotic drug producing areas in Afghanistan, which had been exporting narcotic drugs to the Central Asian region, Afghan officials said.
Afghan transitional government issued a ban in early 2002 against poppy plantation and narcotic drugs across the country, while the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) had pledged to provide financial compensations to opium poppy farmers who abandoned their poppy crops, the main raw material for heroin.
The government has ordered all provincial governors and local security authorities to prohibit drug cultivation, trafficking and smuggling, with a view to eradicating widespread poppy plantation in the country.
Afghanistan was one of major opium suppliers in the world, contributing some 75 percent of global illegal supply with an opium production of about 3,400 metric tons last year, according to a recent UNDCP report.
Telephone Systems International Purchases Siemens Switch for Afghanistan GSM System
Monday, February 24, 2003 3:34 PM EST
KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb 24, 2003 (BUSINESS WIRE) Telephone Systems International, Inc. (TSI) has agreed to purchase (EUR)4 million worth of GSM switching equipment from Siemens Mobile Communications S.p.A.
The equipment, including a Siemens switch, will support TSI's subsidiary, the Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC), which operates the first commercial mobile phone system in Afghanistan. The switch will be installed in Kabul and will be integrated into the existing AWCC network, which currently supports up to 40,000 users.
The purchase agreement marks a significant step forward for Afghan Wireless and the nation of Afghanistan. The Siemens switch and related equipment will support up to 100,000 simultaneous users, which is five times the original capacity of the AWCC network in Kabul. Siemens also will assist in the installation and configuration of the switch.
Since its public launch in April 2002, the AWCC network has expanded dramatically, attracting between 4,000 and 5,000 new subscribers a month. "This purchase represents our commitment to provide high quality communications services to the people of Afghanistan," said Tom Bosley, Chief Operating Officer of TSI. "Working with Siemens, we are creating a GSM system that will meet the needs of subscribers now and well into the future."
For more information, contact: Matthew Petrillo Director of Public Affairs Telephone Systems International +1 201/302-0400 (o) +1 202/460-9758 (GSM) email@example.com
About Telephone Systems International (TSI)
Founded by Afghan-American entrepreneur Ehsan Bayat, Telephone Systems International, Inc. is a U.S.-based provider of international telecommunications services. TSI operates the Afghan Wireless Communication Company in a joint venture with the Afghan Ministry of Communications.
About Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC)
The Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) provides wireless voice and data services with national and international connectivity in Afghanistan. It is a joint venture between Telephone Systems International Inc. (TSI), in the United States, and the Afghan Ministry of Communications. The company currently provides GSM services in Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-sharif and Kandahar.
Children Pick Afghan Picture for Award
Monday, February 24, 2003 2:46 PM EST
Kampala, Feb 22, 2003 (New Vision/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) THE New vision winner, Agnes Kamikazi, has participated in selecting the photograph of the World Press Photo Children Jury in Amsterdam.
Kamikazi of Kampala Junior Academy was one of the nine children from other countries who made this year's 20th annual World Press Photo Jury.
A black and white picture of an Afghan boy crouching beneath a truck for scraps of coal was selected as this year's award winning photograph.
They chose the picture taken by Patrick Andrade, a US freelance photographer in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was taken on February, 11, 2002.
It shows a boy scrounging for scraps of coal as bags are being unloaded from an International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) distribution truck.
The children's jury made its choice from the top 400 prints, slides and digital files selected by the adult jury.
The pictures portrayed themes including daily life, news, nature, environment and sports.
A statement from the Netherlands-based World Press Photo said Andrade will be invited to receive the World Press Photo Children's Award and a cash prize of 1,500 Euro in Amsterdam (US) on April 27.
U.S. forces battle assailants in Afghanistan in clashes that leave two Afghans dead
Mon Feb 24, 3:13 AM ET By TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. forces battled unidentified assailants in two separate firefights in Afghanistan that left two people dead and two wounded, the U.S. military said Monday.
No U.S. casualties were reported in either of Sunday's clashes, the military said in a statement from its headquarters at Bagram Air Base, north of the capital.
One enemy fighter was killed and another wounded in the first clash at a compound just east of Tarin Kot in the central province of Uruzgan, the statement said.
The same clash also left one Afghan soldier working with U.S. special forces dead and another Afghan soldier wounded, said U.S. military spokesman Col. Roger King.
The wounded Afghan soldier working with American forces sustained "multiple wounds to the body and head" and was medically evacuated to a U.S. base in the southern city of Kandahar, the statement said.
In a separate incident, U.S. troops also came under fire near Wazir, in eastern Nangarhar province.
"A U.S. military convoy in the vicinity of Wazir drew small arms fire from two armed men yesterday (Sunday) at approximately noon while attempting to secure a compound," the statement said.
"Close air support was called for and a squad of Afghan militia force soldiers was deployed to search the area. No injuries were reported."
King said coalition air support was called in during both clashes but the aircraft did not open fire on any targets.
Meanwhile, a truck full of American military supplies including sandbags and a generator struck a mine Sunday night just 200 meters (yards) south of Bagram Air Base.
The truck, which was being driven by an Afghan man contracted by the U.S. military, was on its way to a U.S. base near the eastern city of Khost.
No casualties were reported in the incident, the military said.
Explosion detonated near home of Afghan education official
Tue Feb 25, 2:00 AM ET AP
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Police on Tuesday were investigating whether remnants of the ousted Taliban regime or al-Qaida terror network were responsible for a bomb blast near the home of a government minister.
The explosive device went off in a roadside canal on Monday evening near the home of Education Minister Dawood Barak in the southern city of Kandahar, deputy police chief Ustad Nazar Jan said. No one was injured and there was no damage to the home.
"We believe the Taliban or al-Qaida members have carried out this terrorist activity," Jan said, although no groups immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. "They don't want there to be a peaceful atmosphere in Kandahar."
The explosion was akin to that of a hand grenade, Jan said.
Western intelligence sources and Afghan authorities suspect the Taliban, al-Qaida and renegade rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have joined forces to attack U.S.-led coalition forces and the Afghan soldiers who help them.
Thousands of U.S. and coalition forces are stationed at the Kandahar Airport. Their job is to hunt down al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made repeated requests to the United Nations to deploy international peacekeepers outside the Afghan capital to bring law and order (news - Y! TV) to the provinces. But so far member countries have refused.
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