Afghan gov't announces kidnap arrests, denies deal with kidnappers
KABUL (AFP) - Police have arrested five people over the abduction of a freed Italian aid worker, the Afghan government said, dismissing speculation her release was secured through a deal with the kidnappers.
Clementina Cantoni's release Thursday after more than three weeks in captivity followed a decision by the Afghan authorities to free the mother of one the alleged kidnappers, a government spokesman said on Saturday.
Suspected kidnapper Timor Shah's mother had been detained for questioning in connection with a separate abduction case ahead of Cantoni's disappearance last month, Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told AFP.
Mashal said the government had declined to accept Shah's demand that three other convicts be released in return for Cantoni, but said "we released Shah's mother who was innocent and three others who were detained for questioning".
The government made no deal to trade Cantoni for Shah's mother, he said, insisting that the Afghan authorities could have released the woman earlier but delayed it after Cantoni's kidnapping.
Cantoni, 32, was snatched from her car at gunpoint in the centre of the Afghan capital on May 16 in an incident that spread fear among the Afghan and foreign communities in Kabul.
Afghan police arrested five people in connection with Cantoni's kidnapping prior to her release, Mashal said Saturday. The suspects were either relatives or friends of Shah, who was still at large.
"Police have arrested five people in relation to Clementina's abduction and are still in the police custody," he said.
Cantoni, who works for the aid group CARE International, flew home Friday accompanied by her mother, father and brother hours after officials announced her freedom.
The same gang that kidnapped the Italian had earlier abducted an Afghan, Hafiz Zadran, the son of a wealthy Afghan businessman. He died in the custody of the kidnappers, said Mashal.
Three people were tried and convicted for the kidnapping and murder of Zadran, and several others, including Shah's mother, were detained, Mashal said.
"The mother of Timor Shah and three others who were detained for questioning were released ahead of Clementina's release, they had no charges on them," Mashal said.
The manner of Cantoni's release has again raised fears that the Afghan authorities are willing to strike deals with kidnappers.
Last November three UN workers were freed after almost four weeks in captivity amid allegations that the government had promised to free 24 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali rejected that claim, saying, "No prisoners were released, no money was paid, no demand was accepted."
U.S. soldier, 7 insurgents die in Afghan clash
Fri Jun 10,12:12 PM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Insurgents in Afghanistan ambushed a patrol on Friday and one U.S. soldier and seven of the attackers were killed, the U.S. military said.
The joint U.S.-Afghan army patrol was attacked in Paktika province in the southeast of the country.
"Coalition forces reported the enemy fleeing shortly after the ambush began. Coalition fixed- and rotary-wing attack aircraft and artillery responded to the attack," the U.S. military said in a statement.
Three U.S. soldiers were wounded, it said.
Thirteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in a wave of clashes, blasts and ambushes in Afghanistan since late March.
About 150 insurgents have been killed, according to U.S. and Afghan government figures. Dozens of government security men have also died in the fighting.
The United States commands an 18,300-strong international force in Afghanistan, most of whom are American, fighting Taliban and al Qaeda militants and hunting their leaders, including Osama bin Laden.
U.S.-led troops toppled the hardline Taliban government in late 2001 after it refused to hand over al Qaeda bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The name of the dead soldier was being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.
Afghan Bus, U.S. Military Vehicle Collide
KABUL, Afghanistan - A bus and a U.S. military vehicle collided Saturday in southern Afghanistan, killing 10 Afghan civilians, police and defense officials said.
A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, said he had not heard of a crash involving a U.S. military vehicle, but there was one involving an Afghan army truck in the district. It was not clear if they were the same incident.
The collision occurred on the highway from the southern city of Kandahar to the Pakistani border in the district of Spin Boldak, district police chief Abdul Wasai said. He said no American casualties were reported.
U.S. troops had cordoned off the area, Wasai said, adding the cause of the crash was not known and an investigation had been launched.
Gen. Raziq Khan, the Afghan defense ministry chief in Spin Boldak, gave the same details about the crash as the police commander and said it was a "very bad accident."
Grenade attack on German aid group in Afghanistan, no casualities
KABUL, June 10 (AFP) - A suspected militant detonated a grenade outside the office of a German aid organization in northeastern Afghanistan on Friday, damaging some vehicles but causing no casualties, police said.
The attack was against the German Agency for Technical Cooperation in Kunduz province, provincial police chief Mutalib Beg told AFP.
"A man attacked the office using a grenade and then escaped from the scene," he said. "Some vehicles parked near the office were damaged but there were no casualties."
An official with the German state-run organisation confirmed the attack but said he had no further details.
Beg was unable to say who carried out the attack but similar acts in the past have been blamed on the remnants of the hardline Islamic Taliban regime, ousted by a US-led invasion in late 2001.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks on government, coalition and civilian targets including aid workers in recent months after a lull in fighting during the war-torn country's harshest winter in a decade.
Karzai to visit Tajikistan on Monday
By Habibur Rahman Ibrahimi
KABUL, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): President Hamid Karzai is scheduled to leave for neighbouring Tajikistan on a daylong official visit on Monday to inaugurate construction work on a bridge on the Amo River.
Khaliq Ahmad Khaliq, a senior press officer at the presidential palace, told Pajhwok Afghan on Saturday: "After an official meeting with his Tajik counterpart, President Karzai will open construction work on the bridge linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan."
The Amo Bridge would cost 60 million dollars to be donated by the United States, said Khaliq, who would not reveal as to when the project would be completed.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, National Security Advisor Dr Zalmay Rasool, Commerce Minister Hidayat Amin Arsala, Economic Affairs Minister Dr Mohammad Amin Farhang, Public Works Minister Suhrab Ali and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Sayed Ikramuddin.
Nangarhar governor relieved; Anwari may step in
By Ezatullah Zawab
JALALABAD, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Nangarhar Governor Haji Din Mohammad has been relieved of his gubernatorial charge, with Syed Hussain Anwari likely to succeed him.
At a farewell meeting with senior officials and tribal elders from all districts of the province here on Saturday, Din Mohammad disclosed President Hamid Karzai had asked him to take charge as governor of the southern Kandahar province.
A source told Pajwok Afghan News the central government had decided to replace Din Mohammad with Kabul Governor Syed Hussain Anwari.
Brother of the slain Haji Qadir, Din Mohammad invited elders to voice their complaints and grievances, if any, against him during his tenure as governor of the province.
After the assassination of Haji Qadir, he said, he had decided to quit politics but continued to stay in the arena on the insistence of provincial elders. Din Mohammad said he had tried his best to address all problems of the people.
A tribal elder, Haji Mohammad Nazir demanded of the central government to appoint a new head of the province as soon as possible.
Another elder Anwar Sultani lauded Din Mohammad's performance as governor of the Nangarhar province, saying he used to listen to complaints and grievances of the people.
However, a hotel-owner on the Kabul-Jalalabad Highway, Mohammad Qias, alleged the outgoing governor had done nothing for the welfare of the masses.
"Both Nangarhar and Herat are border provinces but the latter is much more developed due to proper management and efforts of its rulers," the aggrieved man concluded.
Huge cache of opium seized in Helmand
By Abdul Samad Rohani
HELMAND, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Six smugglers were arrested in the southwestern Helmand province along with 1,690 kilograms of opium, police said on Saturday.
Administrative affairs chief of province Haji Mohiuddin Khan told Pajhwok Afghan News the contraband was confiscated just when it was ready for smuggling across the border.
He added police raided the Baramcha desert in Deshoo district on Friday and seized two opium-laden jeeps besides arresting six alleged smugglers.
Giving details, Helmand police chief Haji Mohammad Ayub said no sooner did they reach the spot, the smugglers opened fire at the police party.
In retaliatory fire from police, one miscreant was wounded who was later nabbed along with five other accomplices.
Police had captured over 2,000 kilograms of narcotics in the same district two months back.
Translated by Daud
Afghan drug trade tough to battle
By BRUCE CHEADLE Winnipeg Sun, Canada
OTTAWA (CP) - Coming to grips with Afghanistan's booming narcotics trade is NATO's next big challenge in the country, Defence Minister Bill Graham said Friday.
But troops of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - including a large Canadian contingent being re-deployed over the coming year - can't take over domestic policing duties in a country desperately in need of social order beyond the precincts of the capital, Kabul.
Graham, in Brussels for a meeting of NATO defence ministers, said combating the drug trade while establishing firm rules of engagement was a major topic of discussions this week.
"All the NATO ministers recognize that our troops cannot go in and spray (opium poppy) fields and arrest drug traffickers and things like that," said Graham.
"That's a police matter for the Afghan police to do. But our people can create a situation of security where the police can go in and do that."
NATO can also help train local police, said Graham.
But providing police security and training, while refraining from actual police operations, is far more complicated on the ground than in theory.
"That's why we have to have clear rules of engagement . . . that all the NATO partners subscribe to," said Graham.
The first 250 Canadian soldiers of a provincial reconstruction team will head into the lawless territory around Kandahar in southern Afghanistan this summer. By next year, Canada will once again have more than 1,000 troops in the country.
It will be a far different deployment than Canada's last, which wrapped up about a year ago in Kabul. While Afghanistan's fledgling democratic government is finding its legs, the growing poppy trade is creating a new set of problems far from the capital.
The country is a prime feeder of the international heroin market, providing more than 75 per cent of the world's opium poppy crop. The acreage of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is believed to have quadrupled over the past three years.
That puts a strain on more than just Afghanistan's fragile social structures.
There was also a geopolitical dimension to this week's NATO discussion, because Britain holds the presidency of the G-8 this year and is making the global drug trade one of its major concerns.
Telling NATO troops - including Brits - they can't collar traffickers in Afghanistan, where poppies are grown commercially in 28 of 32 provinces, is a difficult sell in the current environment, Graham suggested.
"There's a Catch-22 in all this because ultimately we recognize that if we don't solve the drug problem, the whole object of bringing stability to Afghanistan is itself being threatened."
ADB to help conserve ecosystems and wildlife resources in Afghanistan
Source: Asian Development Bank (ADB) 10 Jun 2005
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (10 June 2005) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help conserve biodiversity in selected protected areas of Afghanistan while addressing the basic needs of communities in the buffer zones, through a technical assistance (TA) grant package approved for US$1.785 million.
The TA is structured in two interlinked components: a protected area component and a buffer zone component.
The protected area component, financed with $975,000 from the Global Environment Facility, will help conserve global significant biodiversity in selected key protected areas. It will develop management plans and conduct biodiversity assessments; promote capacity building in protected area management; provide basic park infrastructure and field equipment for monitoring and surveying; develop ecotourism by emphasizing links between conservation and benefit for local stakeholders; and support key policy and institutional reforms.
The buffer zone component, financed with $810,000 from the Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund from the Government of UK, will link development interventions to conservation goals through conservation stewardship agreements.
It will conduct participatory assessments of target communities to identify their needs and priorities for action and a strategy to reduce poverty while protecting natural resources. It will also provide skills training and promote the empowerment of women by providing alternative livelihoods.
The components will also pilot-test ways to improve food security and access to health and education, and will provide microfinance services.
"Local communities located within nature reserves and their buffer zones are highly dependent on natural resources to sustain and enhance livelihoods," says Ali Azimi, an ADB Senior Environment Specialist.
"Therefore empowering the local communities in the management of protected areas will be the strategic approach to promote socioeconomic stability among the rural poor while conserving natural resources within the protected areas."
More than two decades of devastating war have had a severe impact on the biodiversity of Afghanistan. Endangered species of plants and animals found in all representative ecosystems, ranging from the arid deserts of the southwest to the alpine valleys of the Hindu Kush, are under severe threat.
Afghanistan's first National Park at Bande Amir and five other wildlife reserves and sanctuaries established in the 1970s, after years of efforts, were abandoned along with other protected areas. Institutional development for the management of protected areas has also remained at a standstill during the last two decades, with experienced staff members needed to maintain the system of protected areas is nonexistent, neither have financial resources been allocated during the same period.
As Afghanistan's population is dependent on natural resources for economic and social welfare, the degradation of these resources has severely impacted the livelihoods of the poor.
"Successful poverty reduction and protected area management models that come out of this TA will be considered for broader application nationwide," adds Mr. Azimi.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the executing agency for the TA, which is due for completion in November 2006. The Government is contributing $122,000 equivalent, toward the TA's total cost of $1.907 million.
The Asian Development Bank is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 63 members, with 45 from the region. In 2004, it approved loans and technical assistance totaling $5.3 billion and $196.6 million, respectively.
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).