Elections to be 'last stand' for Afghan insurgents
Fri Jul 22, 1:16 AM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - The upcoming elections in Afghanistan in September will likely be the last opportunity for insurgents to stop or delay progress leading to the country's rebirth, Canadian military officials said.
"I believe their intent is to destabilize the elections that will take place in September. And there are certainly indications that this is their last stand," said Colonel Steven Noonan, who will be in charge of relocating Canada's base in the region from Kabul to Kandahar in the coming months.
"If the elections go on successfully on the 18th of September, that will be a strategic failure on their part," he said on Thursday.
Noonan refused to divulge the information that led him to this conclusion.
Later this month, 250 Canadian soldiers will travel to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan to form a so-called provincial reconstruction team (PRT), building ties with local officials and helping in the reconstruction of the war-torn region. They will be joined later by 700 soldiers who will provide security for the general election in September.
Thereafter, they will link up with the PRT and 1,100 more Canadian soldiers who will, as part of a Canadian-led multinational force, hunt down any remaining former Taliban members and Al-Qaeda supporters in early 2006.
They will also be joined by Canada's secretive commando unit Joint Task Force Two, officials told AFP.
Meanwhile, Canada will double its embassy staff in Kabul to 12 and will send 10 Royal Canadian Mounted Police to help train local police.
Several companies have asked to start investing in the country, offering to build hotels, open mines and begin commercial flights, but the situation is still deemed too dangerous, senior officials said.
Official, Driver Killed in Taliban Ambush
Associated Press / Fri Jul 22, 1:45 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Suspected Taliban rebels ambushed a car carrying a local administrator in southern Afghanistan, killing the official and his driver, a spokesman said Friday.
Gul Mohammed, an acting deputy district chief, and his unidentified driver were killed early Thursday when militants opened fire on their car in Helmand province, said a spokesman for the provincial governor's office, Haji Mohammed Wali.
"The Taliban was responsible for this attack," he said. "We haven't arrested anybody, but have started searching for suspects."
Afghanistan's government has warned that Taliban and al-Qaida militants have launched a campaign of violence to undermine key legislative elections in September.
More than 700 people have been killed since a wave of fighting erupted in March. Authorities have warned the violence is likely to worsen ahead of the polls.
French Defense Minister To Afghanistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
22 July 2005 -- France's Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie is expected to meet with Afghan officials in Kabul to discuss security for the upcoming parliamentary elections and efforts to stem drug-trafficking.
During a visit to Tajikistan on Thursday, Alliot-Marie said supporting stability during the September 18 elections is one of the main tasks of the counter-terror coalition in Afghanistan.
The French defense chief was also expected to discuss initiatives to fight drug-trafficking in Afghanistan, which remains the world's leading producer of opium.
In Dushanbe, Alliot-Marie thanked Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov for allowing France to deploy military personnel and aircraft at the Dushanbe airport to support anti-terror operations in Afghanistan.
Afghan, Italian Presidents Condemn London Incidents
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
22 July 2005 -- Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and his Italian counterpart Carlo Azeglio Ciampi have jointly condemned the new bomb incidents targeting London's transportation system.
In a joint statement issued after talks between the two leaders in Rome, Karzai and Ciampi called the incidents Thursday "ferocious acts that show absolute contempt for human life."
The statement said terrorism is an intolerable threat to the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations and an attack on civilized society.
It said terrorism has to be vanquished with prevention and repression, but also by removing terrorism's deeper causes by promoting cooperation and dialogue with respect to different cultures and civilizations.
Karzai, who arrived in Rome after a visit to London, is due to hold talks later today with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and attend a conference on Afghanistan organized by Italy's foreign ministry.
U.S. Guards Said to Stop Abusing Quran
By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press Writer / July 22, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan man released from Guantanamo Bay said he saw guards throwing the Quran, but all such abuse stopped late last year after a loudspeaker announcement that U.S. soldiers have no right to touch Islam's holy book.
Moheb Ullah Borekzai made the comments Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press, three days after he was freed from the prison camp in Cuba and flown home to Afghanistan.
There have been repeated accusations of Quran abuse at Guantanamo, including an allegation last month by a Russian Muslim cleric formerly held at the prison that guards regularly put the holy book in a toilet, although he said he never witnessed that himself.
Borekzai said that during his three years at Guantanamo he never saw or heard claims from other prisoners of guards abusing the Quran by placing it in toilets. But he said he had seen guards throw the Quran two or three times.
"We would always put the holy Quran in a high place, for example, in a drawer or on a shelf," he said, speaking in a guesthouse in the Afghan capital, Kabul. "They (the guards) would just throw it on the ground or on the bed. ... I, myself, have seen them throwing the Quran."
Such mistreatment of the Quran made the prisoners "very angry," he said, adding that late last year guards "changed their procedures."
"The Americans made a promise that U.S. soldiers have no right to touch the Quran ... They announced (it) on loudspeakers," Borekzai said. "There has been no abuse of the Quran since last year."
During Muslim prayer times, guards now are silent and are "not even talking to each other," Borekzai said.
A spokesman at U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees the prison, did not immediately respond to e-mailed questions about Borekzai's comments. In the past, the military has insisted that guards are instructed not to touch the Quran.
U.S. officials acknowledged in May they had substantiated five cases in which military guards or interrogators mishandled the Quran. These included a Muslim holy book that was splashed with urine, a detainee's Quran that was deliberately kicked and one that was stepped on. However, there was case of the Quran being thrown by guards.
In May, Newsweek magazine published a story — later retracted — that claimed interrogators at Guantanamo flushed the holy book down a toilet.
The Bush administration blamed the report for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan and protests throughout the Middle East.
Guantanamo holds 520 prisoners, while more than 230 others have been released or transferred to the custody of their home governments. Most were captured during the U.S. war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Only a few have been charged with any crime.
Borekzai was one of two Afghans released this week. Both were accused of being members of the former Taliban regime, they said.
An attempt to interview Habir Russol, the other freed Afghan detainee, about prison guards' handling of the Quran was not successful because he had left Kabul for his home in the eastern province of Khost.
The two men Wednesday claimed that 180 Afghans at Guantanamo were on a hunger strike to protest alleged mistreatment and to push for freedom.
On Thursday, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said some 50 Guantanamo prisoners declared three days ago that they were on a hunger strike, but some already were eating again. The spokesman said he did not know why they went on strike, and the health of the striking detainees is being monitored.
Neil Koslowe, a Washington-based lawyer for 12 detainees from Kuwait, said several inmates told him during a June 20-24 visit to Guantanamo that there was a "widespread" hunger strike over the amount and quality of their drinking water.
Guantanamo detainees refuse food
BBC News / Friday, 22 July, 2005
Fifty-two detainees at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are staging a hunger strike in protest at their detention and treatment.
So far, the men have refused nine consecutive meals over three days, the US military said in a statement.
The detainees are being monitored by medical professionals and their vital signs are being checked daily.
More than 500 inmates are currently being held at Guantanamo. Only four have been charged.
"Indications are that this is a temporary effort by some detainees to protest their continued detention," the statement said.
On Wednesday, an Afghan man released from the camp after three years said that more than 100 prisoners had been on hunger strike for two weeks.
The former Taleban soldier said the protest was aimed at highlighting "inhuman" conditions at the camp.
However, a lawyer who represents a number of detainees held in Guantanamo Bay told BBC Pentagon correspondent Adam Brookes that protests in the prison facilities were already under way by late June.
The lawyer said that they had been prompted by detainees' anger over the quality of their drinking water.
He said the protests had then expanded in scope and detainees had begun citing their indefinite detention and inhumane conditions as reasons for the protest.
The military said the hunger strikers were being monitored by medical staff and were being admitted to hospital where clinically indicated.
Some were receiving liquids orally and intravenously and all were being offered food and water.
A military spokesman was unable to say whether any of the treatment was being administered by force.
International Committee of the Red Cross representatives are travelling to the Guantanamo Bay prison on Sunday and will be looking into the situation.
US discussing return of Guantanamo prisoners with Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia
Thu Jul 21, 3:28 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - A US delegation will soon travel to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, the countries with the greatest number of nationals being held at the US terror suspect camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a US diplomat said.
"We will travel to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, who have the two largest populations in Guantanamo, in the coming weeks to see what can be done to send some detainees home and if these governments can control the threat some may still pose," said Pierre-Richard Prosper, ambassador-at-large, Office of War Crimes Issues.
"We would prefer not to have these individuals in Guantanamo, and have their countries share the burden," he said.
"We want to send home as many detainees as possible, those who no longer pose a threat -- or if they do, those that their governments can manage," Prosper said.
So "we continue to seek transfers, but not if we believe the detainees might be subjected to torture," he added.
Of the 510 prisoners of 36 nationalities now at Guantanamo, there are "over 100 Afghans" and "over 100 Saudis," Prosper added.
Prosper pointed out that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was insistent on the return of detainees. Concerning Saudi Arabia, "a partner on the war on terror," Prosper explained that the United States did not want to add stress to "their internal problems by sending planeloads of detainees if they are not prepared to deal with them or to manage the threat they might still pose."
"We want to keep them off the battlefield, but we don't want to hold anyone longer than necessary," added Matthew Waxman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.
In addition to those who are subject to transfer, others could remain at Guantanamo indefinitely and 15 have been selected to be tried by special military commissions. Four of them have been charged.
Fourteen killed as Taliban attack sparks ethnic clash in southern Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, July 21 (AFP) - Fourteen Afghan civilians were killed when a Taliban attack sparked an ethnic clash between two neighbouring villages in southern Afghanistan, an official said Thursday.
Suspected Taliban guerrillas attacked an ethnic Hazara village in the southcentral province of Uruzgan on Monday, killing 10 villagers, provincial governor Jan Mohammad Khan told AFP.
A day later, Hazara tribesmen from Uruzgan's Kejran district -- blaming the attack on their neighboring Pashtun-dominated village -- launched a raid that killed four people, the governor said.
"The attack in which 10 Hazara were killed was carried out by Taliban. The Hazaras thought the attack was by Pashtuns, he said.
The governor said that tensions between the two tribes ceased after elders from the two villages launched an investigation and found that Monday's attack was carried out by Taliban fighters.
However, Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi, purported spokesman for the ousted militia said his men were not involved in the bloodshed.
"We were not involved in that. We're not killing innocent people either Hazara or Pashtuns," he told AFP by satellite telephone from an unknown location.
Afghanistan is riven by tribal and ethnic tensions between the dominant Pashtuns, who live in the south and east, and other minorities.
Militia commanders from rival groups bombed Kabul to rubble in the early 1990s and in the fractious south and east the ousted Taliban regime are still waging a guerrilla revolt.
Australia reassesses Afghan effort
By Janaki Kremmer / The Christian Science Monitor / July 22, 2005
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - The move by Australia to redeploy 150 special forces to Afghanistan in time for the September elections has been dismissed by experts here as a largely symbolic move designed to keep the US off Canberra's back - at least for now.
With 17,000 US troops and 8,000 NATO troops already in the country, and Britain planning to boost its force strength to more than 1,000, Australia's deployment is being dismissed here as a "pittance."
A former commander of Australia's special forces, Brigadier James Wallace says that the elite troops have their limitations. "They work mostly behind the scenes, they don't go on search and destroy missions and they are unable to provide a sense of security to the locals on the ground, which is the main requirement if you want to isolate the Taliban," he says.
"No doubt if you deploy 1,000 conventional forces you get more casualties, but this method is far less risky," says Aldo Borgu, former defense adviser to the Howard government and now director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.
The special forces are expected to return after one year.
Australia pulled out 1,500 troops from Afghanistan in 2002, including special forces, leaving behind one engineer for mining clearance.
Prime Minister John Howard is seen by some in Britain as offering only nominal contributions to the war on terror. Australia has 1,370 troops in and around Iraq, and 200 more troops will move to Afghanistan next year to do reconstruction work.
In Washington on Tuesday, Mr. Howard talked up Australia's commitment to the Iraq effort. "I'm not going to try and put a time limit on our commitment in Iraq," Howard said. "We will stay the distance in Iraq. We won't go until the job has been finished."
Focus on Australia's troop commitment may return sooner rather than later, as Britain rejiggers its deployment. Readying itself to take over NATO command in Afghanistan later in the year, a recent British defense ministry report leaked to the Mail on Sunday titled "Options for Future UK Force Posture on Iraq," suggests that both London and Washington plan to slash their troop commitments in Iraq.
It stated that Britain had a plan to cut its 8,500-strong contingent to about 3,000 and that Washington hoped to hand over security to Iraqi forces in 14 of 18 provinces by early next year cutting US-led troops levels from 176,000 to 66,000.
Of some concern to Canberra are recent media reports that Prime Minister Tony Blair will ask his Australian counterpart to take over command of southern Iraq at Basra during Howard's current visit to London. Mr. Borgu says that such a scenario would be "unusual" but "possible."
Others, however, see such a move as unlikely.
"The fact is that Britain can whine all it likes about Australia, but Howard can easily withstand the pressure from Blair, because the only two things that he really cares about are pleasing his voters and pleasing Washington," says Hugh White, strategic analyst at the Lowy Institute, an independent think tank in Sydney, and lecturer at the Australian National University. "And sending 150 troops back to Afghanistan in the face of increased violence in Afghanistan, though highly unusual, can be seen in the broader context of being seen to do something in the face of a resurgence of the Taliban," White adds.
On the other hand, sending more troops to Iraq is more controversial among voters here.
The troop commitment to Afghanistan, however, caused hardly a ripple. The opposition Labor party has long contended that it was wrong of Australia to pull out in the first place.
Pakistan: Afghans want Balochistan refugee camp to remain open
ISLAMABAD, 21 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Afghans living in a refugee camp scheduled for closure by August, have asked Pakistani authorities to extend the life of the facility for at least one year, to give residents a chance to make proper arrangements to leave.
Pakistani authorities in the capital, Islamabad, announced in June the intention to close two refugee camps in the Pishin and Chaghai districts of the southern province of Balochistan by the end of August because of security concerns.
Muhammad Ayub, an Afghan elder from the Girdi Jungle camp, one of the settlements earmarked for closure, speaking in Islamabad on Thursday, said he believed it was unreasonable to expect people to move with so little notice.
"About 20,000 households have been living in the camp for more than 25 years. How can such a large population prepare to leave the area all of a sudden in just two months?"
Ayub, along with seven other representatives of the Afghan community from the Girdi Jungle camp, travelled from Chaghai district earlier this week to meet member of the government body dealing with Afghan refugees, the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR).
"We'll consult provincial and other relevant authorities in this regard and will try to accommodate their concerns," Jehangir Khan, the head of CAR, told IRIN in Islamabad after meeting the Afghan elders.
According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Girdi Jungle camp, which was established in 1980, has a population of 43,858. This total was recorded in the Afghan population census conducted earlier this year. Observers believe the population may be much higher because participation in the census was voluntary, so the real population level may be well above that recorded.
"Due to the security conditions, it's becoming difficult to gain access to the area and also provide other facilities like education, health, water and sanitation," said Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, in Islamabad.
The refugees say the closure is unfair because there is no possibility of repatriation due to the poor economic and security situation in Afghanistan.
"Most of the people have no land back in Afghanistan to provide themselves with shelter and also the country [Afghanistan] lacks social services. So many repatriated Afghan children died last winter due to cold weather, starvation and non-availability of medical treatment." another Afghan elder, Haji Jamal, said.
Afghan refugees not wishing to repatriate were offered relocation to Mohammad Kheil camp near the Balochistan provincial capital, Quetta. "The Afghans wishing to relocate to Mohammad Kheil camp would be provided free transportation," said the UNHCR spokesman.
Afghan returns from Pakistan cross 2.5 million mark
By Jack Redden UNHCR Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, July 21 (UNHCR) – More than 2.5 million Afghans have repatriated from Pakistan as the UN refugee agency's largest voluntary repatriation programme continues to assist refugees to return to Afghanistan.
The programme, initiated in 2002 in both Pakistan and Iran, passed the landmark number today with the departure of the 207,210th Afghan refugee from Pakistan so far this year. In addition, more than 1.2 million Afghans have returned from Iran, bringing to over 3.7 million the total returns to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan.
"This is an unprecedented number of people returning to their homeland and a testament both to the improving conditions in Afghanistan and the desire of Afghan refugees to participate in the rebuilding of their country," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in Geneva.
"Even the 200,000 Afghans who have received UNHCR assistance to go home from Pakistan in 2005 make this our largest voluntary repatriation programme anywhere in the world this year," he said. "This programme continues to meet the needs of most Afghans in Pakistan even as we discuss with the government of Pakistan solutions for those who still remain."
The UNHCR programme was launched more than three years ago from both Iran and Pakistan – the two main countries hosting Afghan refugees – following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which gave the chance for peace after more than 22 years of war that had forced millions of Afghans into exile.
Nearly 1.6 million Afghans returned from Pakistan with UNHCR in 2002, followed by some 340,000 in 2003 and more than 390,000 last year. UNHCR estimates that 400,000 Afghans will return from Pakistan in 2005.
The UNHCR repatriation programme from Pakistan is governed by a Tripartite Agreement grouping UNHCR and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The accord expires next March and the parties are negotiating what arrangements will follow.
Under the programme, Afghans wishing to return from Pakistan receive travel grants ranging between US$3 and $30 per person, depending on the distance to the destination in Afghanistan, plus a $12 per capita grant to help them re-establish themselves in their homeland. All returnees over the age of six years are given iris recognition tests to ensure that they have not previously received repatriation assistance.
While voluntary repatriation is the preferred solution for Afghans in neighbouring countries, UNHCR has begun talks with the governments of Iran and Pakistan on how to manage Afghans who remain after the Tripartite Agreements expire.
Afghanistan, which was an extremely poor country even before it was devastated by decades of war, could take many years of development before it can absorb all those Afghans who remain outside its borders.
Afghanistan: Women election educators at work in the provinces
KABUL, 21 July (IRIN) - Female civic educators have been dispatched to provincial areas of Afghanistan to promote awareness of the forthcoming parliamentary elections among women, officials at the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA) announced on Thursday in the capital, Kabul.
According to MoWA, the 10-day programme, which began last week, involves 63 women meeting village leaders and approaching the local media, mosques, NGOs and schools to help with the information campaign.
"We have to use all possible means to deliver election information to women in rural areas where the majority of women are illiterate," Nafisa Kohistani a MoWA public information officer said. Cultural sensitivities and discrimination against women are likely to discourage female involvement in the historic poll slated for 18 September, observers say.
"The teams will also encourage and identify women who will voluntarily help election staff on voting day," Kohistani said, adding that every team consists of three female educators and aims to target at least 1,000 women per province.
"Then, these targeted women will further convey the election messages to fellow women in their communities," she said.
The voter education project is costing US $ 10,000 and is funded by the government of the Netherlands.
Up to 6,000 Afghans have registered to stand in the legislature and provincial council elections. According to the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) of the 2,915 people who have registered to stand for the 249 seat general assembly, 347 are women. Afghan electoral law requires that at least 68 seats in the general assembly be reserved for women.
Despite their second-class status in much of Afghanistan, women appear committed to the country's democratic process. More than 40 percent of the eight million who voted in last October's presidential election were women.
Even so, it is a huge task to educate the entire Afghan people about the electoral process, its significance and how the whole process works.
"It is more lack of information than security or conservatism. Often women don't know why they should go to the polling stations again after last October's presidential elections," Najiba Maram, a local journalist and deputy director of the Voice of Afghan Women radio station in Kabul, said.
MOWA's initiative follows a massive national civic education campaign run by the JEMB. Since the beginning of May four million posters, seven million pamphlets and one million stickers, carrying information about the general assembly and provincial council elections, have been distributed across the country. The JEMB has also deployed nearly 2,000 civic educators to raise awareness of the elections.
"Of the 13 million eligible voters, our direct outreach activities aim to target 6.9 million voters - over half the electorate," Samantha Aucock, head of the JEMB public outreach programme, said.
Every medium has been utilised to deliver the election message. As might be expected, these include the print media and both private and state radio services. Slightly more novel has been the use of Afghanistan's fledgling state television service and even mobile theatre groups. These have been dispatched to rural areas to stimulate understanding and interest in the election process which is a novel experience for the vast majority of Afghans.
Taleban deny arrest of senior figure
Afghan Press Monitor (No 115, 21 Jul 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
(Erada) Taleban spokesman Latif Hakimi has denied that Maulawi Abdul Kabir has been arrested by Pakistani intelligence. "I contacted his son, nephew and family, and they told me he has not been arrested," said Hakimi. Officials in Pakistan, meanwhile, said they were hopeful that they would be able to track down other militants using the information they expect to receive from Taleban leaders already in their custody. Pakistan says it has arrested Maulawi Kabir, former governor of the eastern province of Nangahar, and also Maulawi Abdul Qadir, deputy to fugitive Taleban leader Mullah Omar, and three others a few days ago in an area near the Afghan border.
(Erada is an independent daily run by the Afghan Media Resource Centre.)
Daily Afghan Report
July 21, 2005 - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Pakistan Denies Arrest Of Neo-Taliban Member
Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on 19 July denied recent reports that a top neo-Taliban member was arrested in North-West Frontier Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005), the Lahore-based "Daily Times" reported on 20 July. According to several reports from Pakistan, Mawlawi Abdul Kabir --who served as the governor of the eastern Nangarhar Province and commanded the eastern council under the Taliban regime -- was arrested by Pakistani security forces along with four other people (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 July 2005). However, Rashid said Pakistani forces did not arrest Abdul Kabir. "I don't know if other people were arrested," he added. An unidentified Pakistani military security official also denied that Abdul Kabir was arrested. The initial news of the arrests was met with a positive response by Kabul. AT
Pakistan Closes Border To Afghan Trucks
Pakistani border guards at the Torkham crossing on 20 July denied Afghan trucks entry into Pakistan, Pajhwak News Agency reported. The restriction is viewed as a response to the 10-day protest being staged by Pakistani truck drivers against Afghan officials whom the drivers believe make it difficult for them to travel to Kabul. The Pakistani protest was prompted by a checkpoint set up by Afghan authorities to test the roadworthiness of trucks. "Vehicles that manage to clear the hurdles are allowed to go ahead," said Sher Ahmad, an Afghan police official in Torkham. Some 2,000 Pakistani truck drivers have parked their vehicles along the road leading to the Afghan border in protest. Pakistan's ban on Afghan trucks "will remain in place [until] the two governments reach an agreement on how to deal with the situation," Torkham's assistant political agent Bakhtiar Mohmand said. In recent days, Islamabad and Kabul have accused each other of harboring terrorists and of not doing enough to control their respective borders. AT
Turkey Hands Over Command Of ISAF Brigade In Kabul To Italy
Turkey transferred command of the Kabul Multinational Brigade to Italy on 20 July, Anatolia news agency reported. The handover is the first step toward the Italians assuming full command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in August. The Italian commander of the brigade, General Claudio Graziano, said the force's primary responsibility will be to ensure that Afghanistan's parliamentary and provincial-council elections scheduled for September are successfully conducted in a secure environment. The brigade is currently made up of more than 3,000 personnel representing 26 states. AT
Four Neo-Taliban Killed By Own Bomb
Afghan officials have said that four suspected Taliban rebels were killed when a roadside bomb they were laying blew up prematurely, RFE/RL reported on 20 July. Governor Mohammad Khan of southern Oruzgan Province said that the four were killed on 19 July while burying the bomb next to a dirt track regularly patrolled by Afghan troops. AT
Neo-Taliban Claim Execution Of Afghan On Spying Charges
Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi on 20 July claimed that the militia killed an Afghan man for spying for the United States, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Hakimi said Mohammad Akram was captured in Zabul Province and executed after an "investigation revealed that he was working for U.S. reconnaissance forces." AT
Nine shot dead in Pakistan's restive tribal area near Afghan border
July 22, 2005
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Gunmen have killed nine people in a Pakistani region bordering Afghanistan in attacks against tribal leaders who support a government campaign against Al-Qaeda linked insurgents, officials said.
Unknown attackers on Friday shot dead tribal elder Malik Mirza Alam along with his two brothers, a son and a nephew near the South Waziristan town of Wana, a local administration official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Alam, who had spoken out in support of the Pakistani troop deployment in the rugged border region, had survived an attempt on his life two week ago and lost a son in an attack about two years ago, the official said.
Also in South Waziristan, gunmen Friday shot dead another pro-government tribal elder, Malik Khandan, as well as his son and a companion, in an attack on their vehicle in Karwan Manza village, local official Anwer Zeb told AFP.
On Thursday, another pro-government tribal elder, Taj Mohammad, was shot dead by suspected Taliban-linked militants in Kurma village in South Waziristan, an administration official said.
"The militants pumped some 80 bullets into Mohammad's body and asked his relatives to take the body," he said.
Mohammad had helped authorities in October last year to mount a military operation against militants who had kidnapped two Chinese engineers from a dam construction site in northwest Pakistan.
In neighbouring North Waziristan three Pakistani soldiers were wounded Friday when a remote-controlled bomb exploded next to their military convoy, a local military official said.
Pakistan, a key ally in the US "war on terror", has deployed about 70,000 troops along its border with southeast Afghanistan to track down foreign militants in the lawless tribal area.
Taliban attacks in southeast Afghanistan have surged in recent months ahead of the country's landmark parliamentary elections in September.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban members fled to the traditionally deeply religious mountain region after the hardline Islamic regime was toppled in late 2001 in a US-led invasion that followed the September 11 attacks.
In a series of offensives since last year, Pakistani forces have destroyed hideouts and training camps of militants linked to Al-Qaeda and killed hundreds of rebels, officials say. About 250 soldiers have died.
Rallies against Pakistan crackdown fall flat
By Faisal Aziz / July 22, 2005
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - An Islamist call for nationwide protests in Pakistan against a crackdown on militants after the July 7 London bombings fell flat on Friday with rallies in big cities failing to attract more than a few hundred people.
More than 300 militant suspects have been detained across Pakistan since revelations that three of the four London bombers were British Muslims of Pakistani origin who had visited the country before the attacks.
Pakistan's main alliance of Islamist parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, called for protest rallies after Friday prayers, when tens of millions of Pakistanis visit mosques.
But like previous calls for demonstrations against President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led "war on terror," it failed to draw big crowds.
Up to 700 Islamists, most of them teenagers or in their 20s, chanted anti-Musharraf and anti-U.S. slogans at Islamabad's Lal or Red Mosque, which was raided by security forces searching for militants on Tuesday.
Some shouted slogans in support of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban government, which was overthrown by U.S.-led forces after the al Qaeda attacks on U.S. cities on Sept. 11, 2001.
The protesters pelted a police post with stones, destroyed lamp posts and set fire to a police motorcycle.
Similar rallies were held in the cities of Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar. Many of the protesters were students from Islamic schools, or madrasas, some of which are accused of being breeding grounds for militancy.
MUSHARRAF URGES WAR ON HATE
The protests followed a televised address to the nation by Musharraf on Thursday night in which he called for a holy war against preachers of hate and announced steps to rein in militant madrasas and groups seen as having influenced the London bombers.
Young girls who took part in a protest in Islamabad in the morning, some of them not yet in their teens, carried placards saying: "Uncle Musharraf, I am not a terrorist" and "Mr Tony and Bush, we are human beings also."
Mairaj-ul-Huda, an MMA leader in Karachi, questioned why there should have been a crackdown in Pakistan.
"British nationals are involved in the London blasts," he told a rally of about 600 supporters in Karachi. "Why then is there a crackdown on religious institutions and religious scholars in Pakistan?"
Officials say the three bombers of Pakistani descent entered Pakistan last year and at least one visited madrasas.
In his television address, Musharraf said all madrasas must register with authorities by December.
He also said banned militant groups would not be allowed to re-form under new names or to raise funds, while keeping of unauthorized arms would be strictly prohibited and action taken against distribution of literature designed to spread hatred.
In a rare show of solidarity, self-exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, for long Musharraf's bitter rival, backed his decision to register madrasas.
The suspects detained in the crackdown have been picked up in raids on private houses, mosques and madrasas.
At least 18 more members of banned religious groups were detained overnight in Quetta, police said.
According to British diplomats in Islamabad, none of those detained in Pakistan since July 7 had had anything to do with the London bombings.
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