Two killed, 12 wounded in separate attacks in central Afghanistan
KABUL, Jan 22 (AFP) - An improvised explosive device killed an Afghan soldier and wounded 12 others in the central province of Oruzgan, where a suspected militant died in a separate clash, the US military said Saturday.
"An improvised explosive device was detonated on Wednesday in the province of Oruzgan, killing one Afghan National Army soldier," US military spokesman Major Mark McCann told AFP.
Twelve other soldiers were wounded in the incident, he added.
On Friday one American unit was attacked in the same province by three militiamen.
"As a result one militant was wounded and later died of his wounds," the spokesman said.
Militants from the Taliban, whose fundamentalist regime was toppled by a US-led operation in late 2001, regularly attack foreign and local troops, mainly in the south and southeast of the country.
More than 800 people have died mainly in Taliban-linked violence last year despite the presence of 18,000 US-led troops in the country to hunt down the militants.
The US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai is working on an amnesty scheme with the Taliban to help calm the war-shattered country as it struggles to rebuild itself after decades of conflict.
On Thursday, Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam narrowly escaped assassination when a suicide bomber blew himself up, injuring at least 21 people in the warlord's northern stronghold of Sheberghan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Police find Pakistani link, release Bangladeshi over failed attack on Afghan warlord
AP via Yahoo! Asia News Saturday January 22, 2:29 PM
Authorities investigating a failed attack on an Afghan warlord claimed by the Taliban said Saturday they found a Pakistani telephone number in the suicide bomber's pocket but were unsure if the man was a foreigner.
Officials also said they had released a Bangladeshi man who was detained shortly after Thursday's attack on ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum in the northern city of Sheberghan. Twenty-five people were injured, six of them seriously, though Dostum was unharmed.
Local intelligence chief Faizullah told The Associated Press that police found the phone number on a piece of paper in the pocket of the bearded attacker, who blew himself up near Dostum after open-air prayers for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
Faizullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said he had called the number and that an Urdu-speaking man had answered with the traditional holiday greeting of 'Eid Mubarak.'
"I tried to ask him some questions but he hung up," Faizullah said. "We've tried again but nobody answers."
He said the Bangladeshi man was an employee of a construction firm working in the area and was released after interrogators found no connection to the attack. The man's name was not released.
A spokesman for the former ruling Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Dostum was targeted to avenge the deaths of Taliban prisoners taken by his militia during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Police chief Mohammed Nader Fahimi said he suspected Taliban or al-Qaida militants, but said it was unclear whether the attacker, whose body was badly mutilated by the homemade bomb laden with ball bearings, was an Afghan or a foreigner.
Dostum, a former communist and key player in Afghanistan's civil wars, has made many enemies during a long career marked by brutality and political treachery. He is particularly disliked by ethnic Pashtuns, from whom the Taliban drew their main strength, who accuse him of persecuting Pashtuns in areas under his control.
Afghans Imprisoned in Iran Granted Amnesty
The Iranian judiciary has announced an amnesty for imprisoned Afghans, including those on death row, Mashhad radio's Dari service reported on 20 January. Afghans who are being sued by others will not be eligible for release, unless the complainant pardons them.
Supreme Court official Ali Qahramani said the released Afghans will be repatriated, adding that if they return to Iran and commit another crime the remainder of the previous sentence will be added to the new sentence.
Qahramani said he does not know how many Afghan prisoners are currently being held in Iran.
He described the amnesty as a measure intended to improve good-neighborly relations between two countries sharing a common religion. "Furthermore, this act will encourage Afghan refugees to return to their country," he said.
Kabul palace a monument to chaotic past
By Simon Cameron-Moore Sunday January 23, 11:21 AM
KABUL (Reuters) - There are no paintings in the Tajbeg Palace, but the bullet-pocked walls tell their own epic tale of Afghanistan's turbulent history.
Severely battered by more than a quarter century of war, the stately mansion on the western fringes of Kabul sits atop a knoll among snow-covered foothills of the Karokh mountain range where the Afghan royal family once hunted and picnicked.
Today, the Tajbeg provides NATO peacekeepers with a machinegun observation post, but it previously served as a base for Soviet occupiers, Afghan holy warriors and al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
"I never thought I'd be living in a palace," smiles Master Corporal Dickie, a lone Canadian soldier camped out with a handful of Hungarians from the 8,000-strong peacekeeping force.
The ground floor is criss-crossed by trip wires attached to phosphorescent flares to deter village children who sneak in to take firewood and steal whatever the NATO soldiers leave unguarded.
"It's kind of eerie, especially when the wind blows through, and the snow shifts on the roof," says Dickie, clambering over the rafters, carefully sidestepping holes in the ceiling.
While President Hamid Karzai seeks to nurture democracy with the support of the United States and its Western allies, the Tajbeg represents a virtual mausoleum to royal dreamers, communist ideologues and Islamic fundamentalists who all tried and failed to force their own visions on Afghanistan.
The palace's previous occupants all left their mark.
Formerly the headquarters of the Soviet 40th Army, a mural of Santa Claus in a ground floor antechamber conjures up images of clinking glasses, brimful with vodka and bears the message "S Novym Godom 1988-89" -- Russian for Happy New Year.
Just 10 days after toasting that New Year, the 40th Army abandoned the Tajbeg, and by February 15, 1989, the last Soviet soldier had quit Afghanistan, ending nine years of bloody and ultimately futile occupation.
Valery Ivanov, Russia's current trade representative, was a Soviet adviser who heard the drone of transport planes over Kabul as the Soviet invasion began on Christmas Eve 25 years ago.
Days later, from the safety of the embassy compound barely a mile away, Ivanov watched as KGB commandoes stormed the Tajbeg to kill President Hafizullah Amin, a communist who'd ousted and killed his Moscow-backed predecessor, Noor Mohammed Taraki.
"I could see the flames leaping from the Tajbeg palace, and the wounded being brought back," Ivanov recalled.
No-one picnics on the hills around the Tajbeg now -- neat lines across slopes facing the palace reveal a minefield, the terracing done to stop subsidence carrying the mines downhill.
There is a road up to a building that resembles an air traffic control tower. Formerly a restaurant for Kabul's elite, it became the Soviet officers' mess.
It won't be re-opening as a restaurant any time soon.
"There's every kind of ordnance lying around up there -- anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs...", warned a Canadian trooper.
Built by King Amanullah Khan at the end of the 1920s, the Tajbeg is a European-style building in an Islamic Central Asian setting. It reflects something of the character of an enlightened monarch who admired Turkey's efforts to modernise following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War One.
Amanullah never got to stay in the Tajbeg. Afghanistan wasn't ready for his reforms, including education for women, and he died in exile after fleeing Kabul in 1929 to escape an uprising.
Compared with the ruin of Amanullah's grander, more imperial Darulaman palace, nearby, the Tajbeg appears fairly solid even if the steep-sided corrugated roofing is missing above one wing.
Up close, the elegant cream, pink and grey three-storey mansion is badly scarred, while bullet holes and graffiti decorate its interior.
Curiously, a section of wall in a narrow central corridor on an upper floor has taken concentrated fire.
"Looking at the grouping it was probably an execution," says Dickie. "Someone was put up against the wall and shot."
The walls also bear testimony to the morbidity and sentimentality of soldiers, regardless of creed or nationality.
At one end of a corridor, someone has scrawled in English: "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic -- Stalin."
There are messages in Russian from soldiers homesick for Moscow and Vladivostok, testimony to the pain of an occupation which cost the lives of close to 15,000 Soviet troops and more than a million Afghans.
Above the machine-gun emplacement, a NATO soldier has copied a quote from ancient Greek philosopher Plato: "Only the dead will see the end of the war."
Almost in validation of Plato's words there are declarations scrawled throughout the Tajbeg of long life and God's blessing for the Taliban and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- reminders of Afghanistan's place in a global war on terror.
A verse of Pashto poetry contradicts notions that any Afghan with a gun only had Islam and its strictures against alcohol on his mind.
"I went to a bar to forget you, but your face appeared in every full glass of drink".
Germany sees Afghan unrest as drug war intensifies
BERLIN, Jan 21 (Reuters) Violence in Afghanistan is expected to increase when the Afghan government steps up its war on drugs, German Defence Minister Peter Struck said today.
Afghan opium output has surged to near-record levels since 2001, when the Islamic Taliban regime, which harboured Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, was ousted in a US-led invasion The United Nations said in November that drug exports accounted for more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's economy and it risked turning into a ''narco-state''.
''We have to expect that the security situation will worsen when the Afghan government massively increases measures to combat drugs, probably in the next two or three months,'' Struck told a news conference.
Germany has 2,200 soldiers in NATO's 9,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is focused on peacekeeping in the capital Kabul and the north and plans to extend its presence in other areas of the country.
The Afghan deployment is Germany's most high-profile contribution to the war on terror. Berlin opposed the Iraq war and has ruled out sending troops there.
Struck said that while destroying drug crops is not part of the German mission, its troops were passing on information to the Afghan authorities and would also provide logistical help to British and US troops involved in the anti-drug campaign.
''It's not the case that we drive through the provinces of Kunduz and Faizabad with our eyes closed and don't see the poppy fields,'' Struck said.
He said German forces would certainly be needed in Afghanistan until parliamentary elections, which have slipped from their planned April schedule and which he said might not take place until the autumn.
''The question of when one can assume Afghanistan is stable and the central government in Kabul has consolidated its authority cannot be answered as of today ... Of course we are trying to make that happen as soon as possible,''
NATO says Lithuania offers to help Afghan mission
BRUSSELS, Jan 21 (Reuters) - New NATO member Lithuania has offered troops to help the military alliance expand its Afghanistan peacekeeping mission into the west of the country, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Friday.
De Hoop Scheffer welcomed the offer and said it should encourage others to come forward and help with the mission's expansion, which has been held back by a reluctance of European allies to commit troops and equipment.
He said Lithuania was setting up a provincial reconstruction team -- one of the groups comprising up to a few hundred troops which NATO has used as the basis for its Afghan presence.
"It is a laudable step. If Lithuania can do it, others can do it," he told reporters. De Hoop Scheffer did not say how many troops had been offered by the former Soviet state, which joined NATO during its last wave of expansion in May 2004. He said it would need to be backed up by contributions from other countries.
The NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan has some 8,000 troops in the capital Kabul and the north. NATO officials hope to have secured enough troop commitments by a February meeting of NATO defence ministers to push ahead with the westward expansion in Afghanistan.
The alliance is seeking nations to establish four provincial reconstruction teams in the west. The United States has said it will place two of its teams already there under NATO command, as long as European countries come forward with troops for the other two.
U.S. Backs Away From Afghan Aerial Spraying
President Karzai opposes such a plan for eradicating the poppy crop. Focus shifts to aid for farmers and building up anti-drug forces.
By Sonni Efron / The Los Angeles Times / January 22, 2005
WASHINGTON — Deferring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Bush administration has backed off its plans to use aerial spraying to destroy Afghanistan's poppy crop, at least for the time being, administration officials and lawmakers said.
Instead, the United States will help develop alternative livelihoods for poor farmers, build up the police and counter-narcotics forces and pay teams of Afghans to cut and burn poppy fields by hand this spring to demonstrate that opium production will be a risky business in the new Afghanistan.
The State Department had asked Congress to earmark $780 million in aid to Afghanistan for counter-narcotics programs, of which $152 million had been earmarked for aerial eradication beginning this month.
There was division within the department and the National Security Council over the wisdom of spraying and whether the United States should use its powerful influence to overcome Karzai's opposition.
Supporters of spraying have argued that opium profits are swelling the coffers of warlords and enriching Taliban and possibly Al Qaeda elements as well. Critics, including senior U.S. diplomats and military officers in Afghanistan, warned that spraying would alienate the voters Karzai desperately needs in the parliamentary elections scheduled for this spring.
"Everybody supports an aggressive program on drugs including manual eradication, interdiction and alternative livelihoods," said a congressional source who asked to remain anonymous.
"But the idea of U.S. military helicopters swooping down on villagers ... stirred up memories of what the Russians did in the '80s," when Soviet helicopter gunships strafed villages.
Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, during her confirmation hearing last week, left the door open to spraying at some other time.
"At this point, manual [eradication] is all we can do, but we'll see whether aerial is needed,'' she said.
Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.), who met with Karzai during a recent trip to Afghanistan, said the United States had no choice but to back off because of the Afghan leader's objection to spraying before other anti-drug programs had been mounted.
But Kirk expressed some doubt that Karzai's public relations campaign to convince the public that opium production was a blight on the fledgling democracy would be sufficient. The United Nations has estimated that drug trafficking equals 60% of Afghanistan's legitimate gross domestic product.
"Aerial spraying is postponed," Kirk said. "Karzai has not ruled it out. He said he will revisit the issue if the current efforts fail."
State Department officials said Friday that they were still working out details of how the money that had been earmarked for aerial spraying would be used.
A new proposal is expected to be submitted to Congress within days, Capitol Hill sources said. In addition, the administration will ask for up to $1 billion in aid for Afghanistan in a supplemental budget request in early February.
According to the Capitol Hill sources, some lawmakers and administration officials want to sharply increase the $40 million that had been earmarked for planting other kinds of crops, and others want to spend more on manual eradication and other purposes.
Eradication teams will require armed protection, officials said. Some opium fields are ringed by landmines, and others are located on mountains from which trucks carrying eradication teams can be seen approaching miles away.
Another problem is that large-scale programs to give farmers an alternative to poppy cultivation won't be up and running until September, too late for this year's crop.
In the meantime, the United States has given $500,000 for a one-time program to deliver wheat seeds and fertilizer to farmers in Nangarhar province, one of the major poppy-growing areas. And an American-paid contractor is providing some assistance in the Helmand River valley, where half of the world's heroin supply originates, Kirk said.
Kirk said he favored providing Afghan forces with U.S. helicopters that could be used to destroy drug laboratories. The labs can be identified by aircraft fitted with infrared sensors and flying at 20,000 feet, because opium processing emits a large amount of heat, he said.
"More money needs to be spent on public outreach and on going after drug labs and caches," Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) said in a statement. "We must also realize that this is a long-term commitment, and not just a simple one-time expenditure. But this terrible trade is funding the Al Qaeda and Taliban forces that are shooting at our troops and trying to undermine the Karzai government. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose."
Immediately after his election, Karzai declared a jihad against drugs. He has enlisted an American public relations firm and tribal leaders and mullahs to help spread his anti-drug message.
Kirk said he was told that the campaign was resulting in a drop in poppy planting. But a State Department official said the newly planted poppies are now the size of cabbages and will not be distinguishable by air from other young crops for at least a month.
New York University professor Barnett R. Rubin, who served as a U.N. advisor in Afghanistan, said opium prices that had plummeted because of the bumper poppy harvest last year quadrupled on the expectation that eradication would make for a smaller crop this year.
Because opium can be stored indefinitely and sold when the price is right, the traffickers "are big supporters of crop eradication right now," said Rubin, who argues that supporting other forms of rural development is a better investment.
"The net result of crop eradication will be a net transfer of income from opium growers to drug traffickers," he said.
Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad Hopes Tsunami Aid Will Not Sink Afghanistan
Embassy Magazine - Canada, January 19th, 2005 By Sarah McGregor
The Ambassador of Afghanistan is seeking assurance the federal government will not take back financial pledges for least-developed and post-conflict nations in order to deliver $425 million in tsunami relief.
Omar Samad says he is waiting until the "water settles" before scheduling a meeting on the topic with officials at Foreign Affairs and CIDA. However, in a highly unusual move, the ambassador went public last week with his concern that the Martin government still hasn't specified which countries, if any, will see adjustments to their share of Canadian development assistance.
"On the one hand, we are very touched by the disaster itself and the casualties around the world and the destruction that it brought to several countries. And the response to the tsunami has been positive," says the former television producer, political commentator and, prior to his arrival in September, spokesperson for Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"On the other, a post-conflict country like Afghanistan that is in the process of rebuilding itself obviously doesn't want to receive a cut in what is pledged."
He is urging the government to strike a balance with its foreign aid, between emergency relief and long-term bilateral commitments. He highlights the importance of countries in transition, including Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Rwanda, which have moved out of brutal wars in recent years.
"Each country will make its own case and assessment of needs, but it is up to the donor to make sure you don't give aid toward one specific objective at the expense of others. And if you do cut it, does it make sense or is it taking away from others in the world?" he reasons.
Afghanistan has a lot at stake. It is the largest bilateral recipient country of Canadian aid, totalling about $616.5 million between 2001 and 2009. Mr. Samad says only about half of that money has been allocated so far. This year alone, the international development agency has earmarked $100 million for development projects and as part of the Afghan government's operating budget. By comparison, the value of CIDA's local initiative program in Bosnia, another post-conflict nation, is valued at $13 million.
A spokesperson for Finance Minister Ralph Goodale says that $265 million of the government's tsunami commitment will come from the budgetary surplus, valued at around $9 billion. This portion of the money will be spent right away in order to meet immediate needs in the region.
In addition, CIDA will pony up $160 million over the next four years, says John Embury. Some of this funding will fall within this year's fiscal framework, he says. In subsequent years, the money will come from the federal government's promised 8 per cent annual boost to the official development assistance envelope, he says.
"We don't think it'll have any impact on existing CIDA projects because of their increasing ramp up, and they haven't spent their full allocation yet this year," he says.
A CIDA spokesperson confirmed last week that in light of the tsunami pledge, the agency would re-evalute bilateral programs. "All of the countries that received funding for this disaster are all receiving funding anyway. CIDA will have to re-evaluate the funding under those programs," according to the spokesperson.
Ethiopian Ambassador Berhanu Dibaba says he is confident that his country's aid program, another large one by CIDA standards, will be untouched. "We are not aware of anything [right] now. I don't think things will affect us," he says. "The Canadian government has a plan; it's a continuing program. Hopefully they keep on the program in Ethiopia."
Mr. Samad stresses Kabul is relying on Canadian funds to get the country back on its feet following over two decades of civil conflict. He says Afghanistan is a prime candidate for foreign aid because it is both extremely poor and recovering from a conflict situation.
"The donor community is facing a problem at this point whether to increase their foreign aid budgets, or keep it at the same level but shrink some of the programs in order [to account] for the new funding. And I think it's a question that needs to be answered fairly soon by the major donors," says Mr. Samad.
Mr. Samad acknowledges that Afghanistan has encountered its own share of the world's attention and generosity following September 11 and the fall of the Taliban. In the past few years, two major funding conferences in Tokyo and Berlin produced over $12 billion in multiyear financial pledges. The United States alone has promised $4.5 billion this year.
But Mr. Samad says for largely political reasons his government is confident the United States will not renege on money destined for Afghanistan. (The U.S. has become the largest single donor of tsunami aid, pledging a whopping $700 million.)
"Afghanistan is a very important strategic country because of the war on terror. We think the U.S. commitment will stay in the country or become greater. We don't think it will be taken away," he says.
"For almost 20 years Afghanistan was engulfed in war and Canadian aid was only about an annual $10 million almost all for humanitarian objectives. But once the war ended, Canadian aid increased almost 1,000 per cent.
"At a certain point we have to see how much is needed to assist the countries affected by the tsunami. What is left? It will be the decision of the organizations [and governments] that have the money to decide what to do with the rest of it," he says.
In the immediate wake of the tsunami, Mr. Samad says Afghans donated blood, food such as dried fruit, and that the country deployed two medical teams and even medicine, despite shortages within their own country.
Mr. Samad remains confident Canada will not dip into his country's funding pot, but says he will be looking for a guarantee from officials in the very near future. His fears are not without basis. All over the developed world aid experts have warned governments that the huge amounts they are pledging to South Asia must come from new money, not be siphoned off existing programs.
There may also be a silver lining for the rest of the developing world. The ambassador notes that the tsunami-aid windfall could be spread around the world if it's found that the 12 Asian and African nations affected by the wave can't put the money to better use.
US military options in Iran not good: analysts
January 22, 2005
WASHINGTON (AFP) - With the bulk of its ground forces tied down in Iraq, the United States has compelling reasons to avoid military action against neighboring Iran even while stepping up pressure to halt Tehran's nuclear program, analysts say.
"There are no good military options," James Carafano, a military expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Friday.
The United States could launch pinpoint strikes on targets in Iran from US warships or from the air. But short of an imminent threat from nuclear armed Iranian missiles, any gain would likely be outweighed by the trouble Iran could cause US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
Anthony Cordesman, an expert on Iran at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iran "would see any pre-emptive attack as encirclement."
"It would probably react hard to whatever happened, and that would make it more destabilizing than stabilizing," he said in an interview.
"But there would be many people who argue just the opposite," he cautioned.
Indeed, the perception that the United States is embarking on a course of confrontation with Iran has grown here since The New Yorker magazine reported this week that US commandos have been operating inside Iran since mid 2004, secretly scouting targets for possible air strikes.
The Pentagon attacked the story by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh as "riddled with errors of fundamental fact" but did not expressly deny conducting covert reconnaissance missions.
Vice President Dick Cheney, declaring on a radio talk show this week that Iran was "right at the top of the list" of global problems, warned that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on its own to shut down Iran's nuclear program.
"Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards," he said.
But Cheney played down the likelihood of US military action.
"In the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically," he said.
One reason is that the US military already has its hands full in Iraq, where 150,000 US troops are struggling to contain a predominantly Sunni insurgency.
A ground war with Iran would be unsustainable, Carafano said in an interview.
"We couldn't do another large scale ground operation without a major mobilization that would require mobilizing basically all of the national guard," he said.
"Even if we wanted to do that, it would be pretty obvious because it would take us months if not years to get the national guard up and ready to go."
Even a limited US attack on Iran, which shares a 1,450-kilometer (900-mile) open border with Iraq, would invite Tehran to use its influence among Iraq's Shiites to sabotage the separate peace US forces have enjoyed in southern Iraq. The same is true in Afghanistan, which has a 900-kilometer (560-mile) border with Iran.
"When you're trying to stabilize Iraq and you've got this long border between Iran and Iraq, and you're trying to keep the Iranians from interfering in Iraq so you can get the Iraq government up and running, you shouldn't be picking a war with the Iranians," said Carafano.
"It just doesn't make any sense from a geopolitical standpoint," he said.
Iran is believed to protect its most sensitive facilities by dispersing, burying and hardening them, learning from the 1981 Israeli air strike on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.
So the payoff from surgical strikes on suspected nuclear facilities would be uncertain and temporary, Carafano said.
"On the other hand," said Cordesman, "one can argue that a successful strike has a powerful intimidating and deterrent impact."
"So there will always be those people who argue that the short-term political cost will be offset by the longer term impact on Iran's political behavior and military capabilities," he said.
Moreover, he said, it's unknown to outsiders how close Iran is to gaining a nuclear weapon, or what the US military has learned about its efforts, further obscuring the course of action the United States may take.
"When you deal with any power that proliferates that is hostile, you are going to constantly update and improve your contingency plans, and you are going to carry out intelligence reconnaissance," he said.
"One problem is, you are going to carry out virtually exactly the same intelligence effort if you are contemplating military options or if you are trying to make arms control work, or put pressure on the UN and Europe to be more effective in their negotiating effort," he said.
"The difficulty here is there is essentially one man who can make this decision. And that's the president of the United States," he said.
Two arrested in Pakistan over murder of Kazakhstan diplomat
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Two people have been arrested over the shooting death of a senior diplomat from Kazakhstan in Pakistan, police said. Sapargali Aubakirov, deputy head of the central Asian republic's mission in Islamabad, was found lying in a pool of blood at his house in the capital on Wednesday with a single gunshot wound to the head. He died at hospital on Friday.
"We arrested two suspects from Islamabad and the nearby city of Rawalpindi on Friday," police investigator Bashir Noon told AFP on Saturday. Noon said two other suspects were to be rounded up over shortly.
Police had no immediate clues about a motive of the killers, but they have said there were no signs of a break-in. The diplomat was found sprawled on his sofa with critical head injuries on Wednesday by a servant who entered the house when he could not rouse his employer.
Empty bottles of liquor and four partly-eaten hamburgers were discovered lying near Aubakirov, as well as a single empty bullet casing, police have said. The weapon used in the shooting has not been recovered, police added.
Aubakirov's car, which had special red diplomatic registration plates, was also missing from the driveway of his bungalow in a leafy, exclusive area of Islamabad.
Bomb rips apart railway track in restive southwest Pakistan
QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) - A bomb blast blew up a railway track here, disrupting train services in Pakistan's insurgency-wracked southwestern province of Baluchistan but causing no injuries, officials said.
"A powerful bomb ripped about four feet (more than a meter) long track at a level crossing here," provincial home minister Shoaib Nausherwani told AFP on Saturday.
The minister blamed the attack on "terrorists" who wanted to create unrest in the province by resorting to rocket and bomb attacks. "They are terrorists, they took advantage of Eid holidays and planted bomb on the main track to cause hardships for the people," he said.
The three-day Eid al-Adha festivities to mark the sacrifice of Prophet Abraham started in Pakistan on Friday. Railways authorities said the bomb was placed at a level crossing near the city's university area. The device went off at about 6:00 am (0100 GMT), deputy controller of Pakistan Railways, Ghulam Rasool, said.
The blast occured only half an hour before a passenger train was to arrive in Quetta from the southern port city of Karachi, he said. "We rushed teams to repair the track," he said adding that rail traffic remained suspended for about three hours.
The blast caused no casualties, he said, adding that an investigation had begun into the incident. A low-level uprising has been brewing for years in the sparsely populated province where nationalist tribes have been demanding an increase in jobs and royalties for extracting natural gas from resource-rich Baluchistan.
The impoverished province has witnessed frequent attacks against security personnel and key installations. Rebel tribesmen earlier this month rained rockets on the main natural gas field at Sui in Baluchistan, killing eight people and suspending the gas supply to millions of Pakistani homes and hundreds of industrial units.
Since then army troops have been deployed around the Sui gas fields to track down those responsible. "The situation in Sui is now peaceful and security forces are protecting the gas installations," Nausherwani said.
Supplies to big industrial units were restored on Saturday, Pakistan petroleum minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon said. Security forces searching several suspected homes around the Sui gas field have recovered small weapons and ammunition over the past two days, Nausherwani said.
"Security forces have recovered a rocket propelled grenade, small arms and ammunition from abandoned homes during search operations in Sui on Friday and Saturday," he told AFP.
Detainee Has Last Guantanamo Panel Review
Sat Jan 22,11:08 PM ET By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The U.S. military held its last review tribunal in Guantanamo Bay on Saturday, hearing from a prisoner accused of running an Afghan business that was laundering money for terrorism, an official said.
The 30-year-old detainee was the last of 558 men who had their cases considered by the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which are meant to determine whether they are properly held as "enemy combatants" or should be freed, said Navy Lt. Terry Green, a tribunal spokesman.
The prisoner allegedly ran an operation known as a "hawala," which U.S. authorities say is used by terrorists to secretly launder money and transfer millions of dollars, including money siphoned from Islamic charities.
There were no details on what the business allegedly posed as. Two major customers had suspected links to the al-Qaida terrorist network, Green said.
It was impossible to determine what the prisoner said at his hearing, which no press attended. The military has not released transcripts of testimonies from the review tribunals, which started in July. The Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request more than two months ago for transcripts.
Journalists were not allowed to stay at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba indefinitely to cover all the tribunals. At hearings the media attended, some prisoners denied the allegations against them.
So far, the review tribunals have ordered three men released and 327 others to remain in custody as "enemy combatants," a classification that affords fewer legal protections than that of prisoners of war. Decisions on the rest are pending. The military has not released reasons for the rulings.
Human rights advocates and defense attorneys have called the review tribunals shams, in part because prisoners are not allowed to have lawyers present and are only told unclassified portions of the allegations against them.
The government says the tribunals are administrative. They were established in response to a Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed prisoners to challenge their incarcerations in U.S. civilian courts.
The military also has held at least 11 Administrative Review Boards, new proceedings that could free prisoners determined no longer to pose a threat to the United States or to have intelligence value.
But the military has refused to release details on the hearings, which no press have attended, saying it is still determining its media policy.
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