Afghanistan Needs $101 Mln for Elections, BBC Says, Citing UN
June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Afghanistan's elections, scheduled for September, may be delayed unless the international community provides the $101 million needed to stage the polls, the British Broadcasting Corp. said, citing the United Nations.
The country needs $87 million by July, the BBC cited Manoel de Almeida e Silva as saying yesterday in the capital, Kabul. So far, only $70 million has been pledged by donor countries and none of the funds have arrived, he said.
The money is needed for voting screens, ballot papers and hiring workers to count votes in the presidential and parliamentary elections, Almeida e Silva said. The registration process for the polls has been well supported by donations from the international community, he said, according to the BBC.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai postponed the elections from June until September, citing security and voter registration problems. The UN said last month only 2.7 million Afghans out of the country's 10.5 million eligible voters have registered so far. Registration hasn't been possible in three provinces because of the lack of security, it said.
U.S. Warplanes Pound Afghan Insurgents
STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. warplanes pounded dozens of insurgents hiding in caves in southern Afghanistan, the military said Monday, after a gunbattle between the militants and U.S. troops.
Meanwhile, Taliban militants riding in pickup trucks killed two policemen in a raid south of the capital, an Afghan official said, the latest signal of spreading violence ahead of crucial national elections in September.
The American planes struck early Sunday near Tirin Kot, a town 250 miles southwest of Kabul where U.S. Marines recently set up a base, military spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said. The militants sought refuge in the caves, and coalition forces called in "air support that dealt with those caves," Mansager said.
He said no U.S. soldiers were hurt and had no information on any casualties among the militant who numbered between 10 and 30. More than 400 people have died in violence across Afghanistan this year, most in the south and east where U.S. forces and Taliban militants have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks.
The U.S. military has assembled 20,000 troops, its largest-ever force in Afghanistan, in an attempt to keep militants on the defensive in the run-up to the vote. But there are signs that the insurgency is expanding.
The policemen died when Taliban attacked the government office in Kharwar, a remote district of Logar province just 50 miles south of Kabul, said Gen. Atiqullah Ludin, a local military commander.
He said about two dozen assailants rode into town in four-wheel-drive pickup trucks and opened fire with guns and rocket-propelled grenades, setting fire to one office. Ludin said two police officers were killed and another injured before the Taliban withdrew into the mountains. An Interior Ministry spokesman in Kabul said only one policeman had died.
The Logar attack comes less than a week after five medical relief workers, including three foreigners, died in northwestern Badghis province in an attack claimed by the Taliban.
Aid groups worry that relatively secure provinces such as Badghis and Logar will join the south and east in being too dangerous for badly needed reconstruction work.
The violence is also a threat to plans to hold elections in September. Militants ambushed a U.N. convoy of election workers in southeastern Paktia province on Sunday. Guards and the assailants fought a pitched battle, but no one was hurt.
Karzai insisted last week that the vote should go ahead, though the United Nations, which is scrambling to register millions of voters around the country, says security must improve.
In another incident further south, militants opened fire on U.S.-led forces Friday with small arms and machine-guns north of Spin Boldak, a town on the Pakistani border, Mansager said. There were no reports of injuries, but five militants were detained.
Afghan poll workers ambushed
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. forces rushed to aid a convoy of Afghan and foreign election workers ambushed in southeastern Afghanistan, officials said, the latest attack to cast doubt on the country's readiness for September polls.
American helicopters and ground troops scrambled after the 15 election workers came under fire Sunday in Shwak district of Paktia province, 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of the capital, Kabul. "When the coalition received a call for assistance, air support was dispatched within minutes," spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michele DeWerth said.
There were no reports that the warplanes encountered the assailants, and U.S. ground troops escorted the convoy to Gardez, the provincial capital, she said. United Nations spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said the five white U.N. vehicles were halted by the second of two bombs detonated in front of them as they traveled to Gardez from neighboring Khost province, both former strongholds of the ousted Taliban regime.
"Assailants along the side of the road started to fire on the convoy, with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades," Almeida e Silva said. Police escorting the convoy returned fire, and officials said the vehicles reached Gardez without any injuries or serious damage.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. But Taliban-led militants have been blamed for a series of assaults on workers trying to register Afghans for the vote, including two Britons shot to death in eastern Nuristan province in May.
More than 3 million of the estimated 10 million Afghans eligible have signed up so far, one-third of them women. But few registration teams have ventured into areas of the south and east where an anti-government insurgency is strongest.
President Hamid Karzai, who hopes to win a new five-year term, said Thursday that September was still the target for the election and that security was "quite all right." Almeida e Silva said it was too early to say who carried out Sunday's attack and whether elections would have to be delayed. But he said the latest attack showed that security "requires improvement."
"What we already know is enough to confirm the concerns we have had," he said, renewing the world body's call for NATO to expand its peacekeeping mission beyond Kabul. Security concerns have also intensified after the killing of five aid workers, including three foreigners, on Wednesday in the previously peaceful northwest.
A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack on the Medecins Sans Frontieres team, the bloodiest yet on international relief agencies. The group suspended its operations nationwide, at least until Monday. But Almeida e Silva said U.N. activities, including voter registration, were returning to normal in the region.
MSF said a plane carrying the bodies of the three foreigners killed in the attack -- one Dutch, one Belgian and one Norwegian -- left Kabul for Europe on Sunday. Relief workers, U.N. staff and government officials later attended a private memorial ceremony at Kabul University.
Two injured in blast at religious school in southeast Afghanistan
KHOST, Afghanistan, June 7 (AFP) - Two students were injured by an explosion at an Islamic religious school in southeastern Afghanistan, a military source told AFP Monday. The bomb exploded at the school on the edge of the city of Khost, which lies about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the border with Pakistan.
'A bomb exploded Sunday at about 8:00 pm (1530 GMT) in the madrassa (religious school) in the village of Dery,' on the eastern outskirts of Khost, the provincial military commander General Khial Baz Khan said.
The two injured students, who lived at the school, were taken to Khost hospital, Khan said. Earlier Sunday, a United Nations convoy was attacked with small arms fire and landmines as it travelled between Khost and Gardez city in neighbouring Paktia province. No one was injured in that attack.
Police defuse second book bomb sent to Afghan officials
Associated Press Sunday June 6, 8:48 PM
Police defused a gift-wrapped book bomb sent to officials in eastern Afghanistan, a government spokesman said Sunday, days after a similar device fatally wounded a policeman and another bomb killed a city police chief.
The latest device was delivered Friday to the mayor's office in Chaparhar district of Nangarhar province, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Kabul, provincial government spokesman Faizan said.
Officials brought the package to the provincial capital, Jalalabad, where explosives experts defused it.
"It was gift-wrapped and decorated with flowers ... but it was a bomb," said Faizan, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
The spokesman said authorities had tracked down and arrested the driver who delivered the device, but declined to give any details about him.
On Thursday, a bomb hidden in a book killed one police officer and injured at least two more at the police station in neighboring Khogyani district.
Jalalabad police chief Haji Ajab Shah died Tuesday when a bomb placed under his office chair exploded as soon as he sat down, officials said.
Officials have suggested that Shah was on a hit list of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters because he's helped the government of President Hamid Karzai and U.S.-led forces, who have a base in Jalalabad.
But Nangarhar is one of Afghanistan's most prolific areas for opium, a trade which officials say is behind some of the violence routinely blamed on militants.
The province is also riven by deadly tribal and factional rivalries reflected in an uneasy balance of power within the security forces.
Afghan children fall prey to killers who trade human organs
By Mike Collett-White in Kandahar - 07 June 2004
Ismail is only 10 years old, but the horrors of the past three months will be with him to his grave. He was rescued by the Afghan authorities on Friday, after being kidnapped in March with his brother Ibrahim, 6.
Quietly, he told seeing the bodies of four boys of about his age that had been cut open. "They took us to a mountain where I saw the bodies," he said. "They had taken out the organs. They were on the ground at the bottom of this mountain, then the men took them away. They were boys of about our age. I thought I would not live long when I saw them. I was scared."
The intelligence chief for the south, Dr Abdullah Laghmani, said local forces were searching for the four bodies, having found one already in Panjwai district to the southwest of Kandahar, where he is based. "We have information they [the kidnappers] killed five children, cutting their heads off and opening their stomachs to extract their kidneys," Dr Laghmani said.
He believes the kidnappers, involved in a worrying rise in the number of disappearing children across the country, planned to sell the kidneys in Pakistan, where patients are prepared to pay large amounts of money for healthy organs. There also appear to be other motives, including extortion.
The kidnappers who seized Ismail and Ibrahim from their home in a village in the remote southwestern province of Nimruz demanded money from their grandfather, which he could not hope to pay. "During these three months I was desperate and feared that I would never see my grandsons again," said a tearful Haji Anwar, an elderly man with a white turban and matching beard. "We were planning to hold prayers for them, assuming they had died."
Ali Ahmad Jalali, the Interior Minister, said recently that hundreds of children had been taken out of the country illegally in recent years, and some had been kidnapped for their body parts.
Dr Laghmani said: "These three men who were arrested did what they did for money, but the money will end up in the hands of al-Qa'ida and Taliban." The three kidnappers detained in the latest case had been sent to Kabul for questioning, he said. Four AK-47s and a machine-gun were found in their compound.
Battle between northern Afghan factions kills one, wounds two, police say
Associated Press Sunday June 6, 11:08 PM
Rival factions swapped rocket and gunfire in Afghanistan's main northern city Sunday, officials said, leaving one dead and two wounded in the latest flare-up between the country's feuding militias.
Fighters from the Hizb-e Wahadat and Jamiat-e Islami factions clashed over a property dispute in Mazar-e-Sharif, 300 kilometers (190 miles) northwest of the capital, Kabul, police chief Gen. Mohammed Akram Khakrezwal said.
One Jamiat militiaman was killed and two injured in the hour-long battle, Khakrezwal said. He said 60 police officers were sent to the area and that calm had returned.
Sardar Mohammed Sayedi, a spokesman for Wahadat in Mazar, said the clash broke out when 150 Jamiat soldiers arrived to lay out plans to develop a disused military barracks in the west of the city.
"The people of the area came and said this has been our land for 30 years and that they had documents to prove it," Sayedi said.
Local residents fired on the soldiers from the surrounding houses, he said.
Instead of making arrests, Khakrezwal said authorities would ask the two sides to present property deeds to a local court to back up their claims.
Armed factions who helped the United States oust the Taliban in late 2001 still control much of Afghanistan, and squabbles over territory and drug-smuggling revenues regularly boil over into violence.
Karzai has pledged to disarm thousands of irregular fighters before elections in September, a move the United Nations says is vital to prevent voter intimidation.
Afghanistan prepares for first international cricket tournament
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - A cricket team from war-torn Afghanistan will be dreaming of World Cup glory when they take part in an international tournament for the first time later this week.
Afghanistan's squad leaves for Malaysia on Tuesday where they will join 15 other teams in the Asian Cricket Council Trophy, a pre-qualifier for the 2007 World Cup to be staged in the West Indies.
While few are betting on Afghanistan getting past the first hurdle, captain Allah Dad Noori said the minnows are determined to spring a few surprises as they make their debut on the international stage.
"We are practising in Pakistan in the last phase of our preparation for the pre-qualifying rounds of the 2007 cricket World Cup and warn our opponents we should not be taken lightly," Noori told AFP late Sunday.
The top 16 teams from Asia feature in the ACC Trophy with Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran playing for the first time.
The finalists will gain qualification for next year's ICC Trophy to be played in Ireland where five teams will gain World Cup berths.
Afghanistan will play their first match against Oman on June 13, before taking on Hong Kong two days later and then Bahrain on June 16.
"This is a great year for Afghanistan, we are back in the Olympics and have taken good strides in cricket," said Noori, a fast bowler.
His brother Khaliq Dad Noori is a promising allrounder, Mohammad Karim is an off-spinning allrounder while Mohammad Nauraz is a solid opener.
"We have also trained in Kabul where cricket is now played just like in Pakistani and Indian cities but five years back this was hard to think of."
Cricket was banned under Afghanistan's hardline Taliban government, but has slowly made a comeback since the toppling of the regime by US-led forces in 2001. There are now more than 3,500 registered cricketers in Afghanistan and league based events are played in 16 provinces.
"We have cricket in schools and in universities and after seeing the interest President Hamid Karzai has lent enormous help by giving salaries to players at various levels," said Noori.
"Cricket was played before as well but the last three years have seen a boom, the streets of Kabul and Khost now hold cricket matches every day," he said. Pakistan, from where the refugees' return boosted cricket in Afghanistan, has promised more help.
"The PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan has promised to help us build two grounds - in Kabul and Jalalabad - offered us one-day matches against Pakistan "A" team, coaching for our boys in Lahore and more cricket equipment."
Afghanistan's cricket team played five one-day games in Pakistan two years ago and has featured regularly in Pakistan junior cricket since 2002.
"From our first international event we want to learn more and more and in two years time we would be ready to host international teams in our country," said Noori.
Threat Sends Aid Workers to Pakistan Hotel
Associated Press Sunday June 6, 9:54 PM
Foreign aid workers took shelter in a hotel in this southwestern Pakistani city after authorities warned them that Taliban rebels were planning suicide attacks against their offices, officials said Sunday.
Some 25 expatriates from the United Nations and Western aid groups have left their residences and moved to Quetta's Serena Hotel _ days after suspected Taliban gunmen killed five aid workers in neighboring Afghanistan.
A Pakistani government agency responsible for security at refugee camps in southwestern Baluchistan province alerted the U.N. refugee agency and five other non-governmental organizations on Saturday to the suspected threat that targeted aid groups with American and British employees.
A letter sent by the Pakistani agency to the aid groups and obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday identified the lead planner as a formerly unknown Taliban member, Mullah Hashim Sagzai, who is believed to live in a refugee camp in Baluchistan, a southwestern province bordering Afghanistan.
It said Sagzai's operatives were seeking access to the aid groups' premises to stage a suicide bombing.
The head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees office in Quetta said they were taking the warning seriously and it had forced U.N. agencies and the Western aid groups to suspend operations in Baluchistan.
"Our head office directed us to leave the residential premises and stay at the Serena Hotel," Yousaf Adam, who is a Sudanese national, told AP. "Of course this is a threat to our lives."
About a dozen police were outside the hotel Sunday, checking cars entering for weapons. The expatriates there include British, French and Sudanese nationals, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
On Sunday, a small homemade bomb exploded in a field in a western residential area of Quetta, about 2 1/2 miles from the hotel. Police official Abdul Jalil said no one was injured, and the bomb had not targeted Westerners.
The aid groups warned of the Taliban plot were UNHCR, the U.S.-based Mercy Corps International, British-based Global Partner, Ireland's Concern, the French Tear Fund, and the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia.
They provide tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Baluchistan with food, shelter, medical aid, water and sanitation equipment and long-term assistance like building schools.
Remnants of the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies are believed to be hiding in Baluchistan and other border areas of Pakistan since being driven from Afghanistan in the U.S.-led military campaign after Sept. 11.
Taliban insurgents are suspected of attacking aid workers in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, three foreign and two Afghan workers for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Medecins Sans Frontieres _ Doctors without Borders _ were shot and killed in northwestern Afghanistan, an area that had generally been safe for relief agencies. A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility.
On Sunday, a convoy of U.N. election workers in southeastern Afghanistan was ambushed on a road but managed to escape unharmed after seeking help from U.S.-led coalition forces.
President Karzai Is Saddened by the Death of Ronald Reagan
Office of President Press Release
Date of Release: 06 June 2004
H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, is saddened by the death of President Ronald Reagan, which occurred last night. The President expresses his deepest condolences to Mr.Reagan‘s family, especially Mrs. Reagan, his wife, and to the People and Government of the United States.
The people of Afghanistan remember Mr.Ronald Reagan’s assistance to Afghanistan during the years of Jihad against the Soviets. “On behalf of the Afghan people, I would like to thank the late President Reagan for his help during the difficult years of the Afghan history’’, the President said this morning.
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