Eight Arrested in Afghan Kidnapping
Sat Jun 11, 8:22 PM ET AP
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan police have arrested eight people suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of an Italian aid worker, who was freed after three weeks in captivity, the interior minister said Saturday.
Ali Ahmad Jalali said the eight have been detained separately since May 16, when Clementina Cantoni, 32, was abducted at gunpoint in the heart of the Afghan capital, Kabul. She was freed Thursday and flew home Friday.
On Saturday, Cantoni said she planned to return to Afghanistan at some point.
"I will go back to Afghanistan, perhaps in a year or two, to see my friends, but not in the near future," Cantoni told a press conference in Milan, Italy.
She added that the situation in Afghanistan remained "unstable and of high risk, not only for international aid workers, but also and especially for the Afghans."
At a press conference in Kabul, Jalali gave no details about the eight except to say they were still being questioned. According to Italian media reports, Cantoni told prosecutors the number of her kidnappers varied from four to six.
Jalali reiterated a government claim that no concessions were made or ransom paid to free the Italian, who had been working for CARE International on a project helping Afghan widows and their families.
Italian papers have reported that Cantoni's freedom was secured thanks to the release of the mother of the leader of the kidnappers.
Jalali acknowledged the mother of one kidnapper was released, but he said it was not part of a deal. He said the mother had been detained on suspicion of involvement in an earlier kidnapping of the son of an Afghan businessman, but she was not charged.
Jalali said earlier that combined pressure from the Afghan public, President Hamid Karzai, tribal leaders and Muslim clerics persuaded the kidnapper, whom he described as a criminal, to release her.
At Saturday's meeting with reporters, the minister said the gang responsible for abducting Cantoni was different from the one that abducted three U.N. workers last year and then released them a month later.
Officials said earlier the kidnappers were the same group.
Afghans release kidnapper's mother, three others
Sat Jun 11, 2:41 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan has freed four people, including the mother of the man who kidnapped an Italian aid worker, but their release was not part of a deal to free the Italian from 24 days in captivity, a government spokesman said.
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told a news conference on Thursday, shortly after Clementina Cantoni was released, that no concessions had been made to her kidnappers.
But Jalali's spokesman said on Saturday the mother of Timoor Shah, the leader of the kidnapping gang, and three other suspected abductors had been released.
"Timoor Shah's mother, along with three others who were detained for questioning on the issue of kidnapping, were released," said the spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal.
Mashal said last month that Timoor Shah's mother had been arrested in connection with the kidnap and killing of the son of a Kabul businessman several months ago, and Timoor Shah had seized Cantoni to bargain for his mother's release.
But on Saturday Mashal said no charge had been laid against the woman or the other three suspected of kidnapping and killing the businessman's son, so they had been set free.
Mashal said five members of the Timoor Shah kidnap gang, including two suspected of involvement in Cantoni's kidnapping, remained in custody.
Cantoni's abduction has raised fresh fears among Afghanistan's foreign community of Iraq-style kidnappings by anti-government insurgents or criminals.
In the capital, Kabul, many foreigners live in fear of kidnapping. Aid agencies have imposed curfews on their staff, forbidding them to venture out into the streets after dark.
Even during daylight hours, aid workers are advised to limit travel and exercise extreme caution.
Large part of Afghanistan are already off limits to foreign aid workers as crime and Taliban insurgent violence spiral.
Hundreds of people -- Taliban militants, government soldiers, U.S. troops and several aid workers -- have been killed in a tide of violence since late March.
The bloodshed has raised concern about preparations for a parliamentary election on Sept. 18.
Interior Minister Jalali and his spokesman denied any ransom had been paid for Cantoni's release but Italian newspapers, apparently citing Italian officials, spoke of payments to the kidnappers of hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars, or even more.
Three foreign U.N. election workers were kidnapped in October and held for 27 days before being released. Their abductors were believed to have been criminals linked to a Taliban splinter faction.
The government denied then too that any concessions had been made to the kidnappers but there was widespread speculation that a ransom had been paid.
Freed Italian hostage thanks Afghan, Italian authorities
Sat Jun 11,11:53 AM ET
ROME (AFP) - Freed Italian hostage Clementina Cantoni thanked Italian and Afghan authorities for working "day and night" for her release and said she did not know if a ransom was paid to secure her freedom.
In a press conference in her hometown of Milan, an emotional Cantoni also thanked the Afghan widows with whom she worked as part of a Care International for their appeals for her liberation.
"It really moved me," said Cantoni, who saw their appeals and demonstrations on the black and white television given by her kidnappers.
Cantoni, who says she wants to return to Afghanistan some day, reiterated that she had been treated well by the gang, led by a man identified as Timur Shah.
"I was in the same room for the first 10 or 12 days, always lying or sitting down," said the 32-year-old aid worker. "Then they made me walk back and forth ... and they tried to make me do a little exercise by throwing a ball at me," said Cantoni, flanked by her family.
Cantoni said she knew she had been captured by a criminal gang.
"I immediately understood that it was criminal, rather than political or terrorist," she said.
The aid worker, who had worked in Kabul since 2002, said she was aware that negotiations for her release were ongoing but did not know if a ransom was paid.
Afghan and Italian authorities deny that any deal was struck with Shah, although his mother, held in custody on suspicion that she had helped Shah in a previous kidnapping, was released shortly before Cantoni was set free Thursday.
"For 15 days, they kept on saying 'today you will freed, tomorrow you will be freed.' So I came to a point where I didn't believe them anymore," said the aid worker, adding that she nonetheless refused to lose hope.
Cantoni was snatched from her car at gunpoint in the center of the Afghan capital on May 16 in an incident that spread fear among the 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.
Freed Italian hostage identifies kidnapper
The News International, Pakistan
Afghan govt announces arrests
ROME: Freed Italian hostage Clementina Cantoni identified a picture of her main kidnapper and told Italian authorities that she was never hurt nor threatened during her three weeks in captivity, Italian newspapers reported Saturday.
Cantoni, who was released on Thursday, said her hostage takers numbered between four and six and their leader introduced himself immediately as Timur Shah.
"Tell me what is your brother’s name, because from now on I am your brother," the aid worker quoted Shah as saying after her capture on May 16, according to daily Corriere della Sera.
Cantoni, immediately questioned by Italy’s anti-terrorism unit upon her arrival in Italy Friday, was shown a picture of Shah and identified him as the gang leader who led her kidnapping.
Apart from being tied by the ankles during the night and never being allowed a change of clothes, Cantoni said she was never mistreated or threatened.
"They never touched me," Cantoni told prosecutors, according to La Repubblica, adding that her captors allowed her to watch television and sometimes gave her newspapers in English. "The worst moment was when I was captured," the 32-year-old was quoted as saying.
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 said.
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.
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.
The same gang that kidnapped the Italian had earlier abducted an Afghan, Hafiz Zadran, and the son of a wealthy Afghan businessman. He died in the custody of the kidnappers, said Mashal.
Afghanistan rejects Russian allegation
By Javed Hamim & Sultan Mahmood
KABUL, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghanistan has rejected allegations regarding its involvement in the uprising in Uzbekistan, saying it was an internal affair of the neighbouring country.
Russian Defence Minister Sergi Ivanov had held Afghanistan responsible for the uprising in Uzbekistan.
Talking to Pajhwok Afghan News, Naveed Ahmed Maez, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said Afghanistan had cordial relations with all its neighbours.
He denied there were any terrorism camps on Afghan soil and said Taliban or al-Qaeda in Afghanistan were in no position to foment trouble in Uzbekistan.
Translated by Daud
US army crash 'kills 10 Afghans'
Saturday, 11 June, 2005 BBC News
Ten Afghan civilians have died after the bus they were travelling in collided with a US military vehicle, Afghan police said.
Police said the accident took place on the highway from the southern city of Kandahar to the Pakistani border.
The area around Saturday's crash was immediately cordoned off by US troops.
It was not clear what caused the crash. Police said there were no US casualties but American forces in Afghanistan have not yet confirmed the incident.
US military spokesman in Kabul, Lt Col Jerry O'Hara, said the army was investigating the reports.
A spokesman for a firm that organises security guards for the road concerned told the BBC the crash took place at 0830 local time (0400 GMT).
However, he said he had been told five people had been killed.
One U.S., 7 enemy killed in ambush near Lwara
June 10, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – One U.S. Soldier and seven enemy were killed today after an ambush on an joint Coalition and Afghan patrol near Lwara in Paktika province.
Three U.S. soldiers were also wounded in the fighting. Two were evacuated to a nearby forward operating base and the third was treated and returned to duty at the scene
“Our patrols of Coalition and Afghan forces are relentless in the pursuit of the enemy,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jack Sterling, Combined Joint Task Force-76’s deputy commanding general. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our Soldier and will honor him by continuing to take the fight to the enemy.”
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 name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.
Lodi inquiry highlights Pakistan's complex role in war on terrorism
Teresa Castle / San Francisco Chronicle / June 11, 2005
A federal investigation into possible links between a Lodi man arrested this week and a terrorist camp in Pakistan has raised questions about the involvement of America's principal ally in the region in networks that train terrorists.
According to the FBI affidavit outlining charges against Hamid Hayat, the 22-year-old said he was trained "to kill Americans" -- even using photos of President Bush and other U.S. officials as target practice -- at a camp called Tamal near Rawalpindi, a city just outside the capital of Islamabad.
That assertion raised eyebrows among terrorism experts because Rawalpindi is home to the Pakistani army's general headquarters and also is the site of President Pervez Musharraf's official residence.
A Pakistani senior foreign ministry official, Naeem Khan, rejected the assertion this week. "There are no training camps in Pakistan," he said. "We are the frontline state in the fight against terrorism. How could we allow such camps in our country?"
But a number of experts on Pakistan said such training camps -- many of them formed to feed insurgencies in Afghanistan and Kashmir -- do exist in some parts of the country and in the part of Kashmir under Pakistan's control even as the Musharraf government works with the United States to combat terrorists.
Michael Krepon, director of the South Asia project at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank that studies international security issues, said "many thousands" of young would-be recruits to al Qaeda and other extremist groups cycle through camps in various parts of the country.
Al Qaeda has long maintained a support network in Pakistan's remote, mountainous border with Afghanistan, and most experts believe that clandestine training sites operated by different jihadi organizations are concentrated in the fiercely independent North-West Frontier Province, in Waziristan, in the Punjab and in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
The government, which has carried out highly visible campaigns to smoke out terrorists near the border with Afghanistan in the past year, "may allow the camps to remain open so they can have the militants in a known place and keep an eye on them so they don't engage in mayhem elsewhere in the country,'' said Krepon.
However, Husain Haqqani, a former senior adviser to Pakistan's government who is now a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said recent arrests and killings in such Pakistani cities as Mardan, Faisalabad and Gujarat, far from the border, show that terrorist groups have extended their presence in the country.
Michael Weinbaum, a Pakistan expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington and former State Department analyst, expressed skepticism about the assertion in the original FBI affidavit, deleted from a later affidavit, that Hamid Hayat had been given a first-class tour of all the inner workings of terrorist camps and had seen "hundreds of attendees from various parts of the world.''
The presence of so many Arabs and Muslims from outside the region would be hard to hide, Weinbaum said. He also questioned the assertion that Hamid's father, Umer Hayat, had visited "several operational training camps" and "observed weapons and urban warfare training, physical training and classroom education."
"You don't share that information with trainees. You create tight cells," Weinbaum said. In addition, he said, "it is very difficult to approach these camps." But he added that there are Al Qaeda cells all over the country as well as militant training camps run by Pakistani and Kashmiri jihadi groups.
Rahimullah Yusafzai, a veteran Pakistani journalist who met al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 1998, said it was "unlikely that even if such a camp existed it would be close to Rawalpindi.''
Yusafzai said two huge camps -- Muridke, near Lahore, run by the military arm of the militant Islamist group Lashkar-e-Tayyba, and Mansehra, near the Kashmir border, run by fighters affiliated with a militant group known as Jaish-e-Mohammad -- were well known in the past. Under pressure from the United States, Musharraf moved against them after the Sept. 11 attacks, but they may have been re-established elsewhere, he said.
Other allegations made by the FBI also raised questions.
The government's first affidavit said the training camp the Lodi man allegedly attended was operated by Maulana Fazlur Rehman. In a second affidavit, however, his name was omitted, and it is unclear what, if any, role Rehman has in the current investigation. Rehman is secretary-general of the country's opposition Islamic Alliance and head of a pro-Taliban group called Jamat Ulema Islami.
Arnaud de Borchgrave, director of the Transnational Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Rehman "used to brag that he was a friend of Osama bin Laden," even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. De Borchgrave spent years in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a Newsweek correspondent and once interviewed Taliban religious leader Mullah Omar.
However, Yusafzai said he thought the reference to Rehman in the FBI affidavit might refer to the similarly named Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a senior figure in Harakat al-Mujahedeen, an outlawed group that operated the terrorist training camp at Mansehra, among others.
In 1998, he vowed to take revenge on the United States after U.S. cruise missiles hit a training camp he operated in Afghanistan in an attempt to kill bin Laden. That same year, he was one of the original signers, along with bin Laden, of an edict calling for Muslims worldwide to wage holy war against Americans and Jews.
Despite its status as the center of Pakistan's military establishment, some analysts said Rawalpindi's association with the military could, paradoxically, make it fertile ground for a terrorist training operation.
Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many in Pakistan's military and intelligence community were openly allied with the Taliban and with al Qaeda. Since then, Musharaff has tried to end such links, but old allegiances run deep.
"Rawalpindi is full of retired military officers, many of whom were pushed out (of the armed services) because of their alliance with the Taliban, " said de Borchgrave.
The militant groups may also draw support from current and former members of the country's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), which openly sponsored a number of jihadi groups before Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terror, noted Hassan Abbas, author of "Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror."
"Without their support, it's not possible for these militant organizations to operate," said Abbas, a former Pakistani police officer who is now a scholar at Tufts University's School of Law and Diplomacy and a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Musharraf is still struggling to control his own military, said Haqqani, the former Pakistan government adviser.
"The Pakistani security establishment is massive. Musharaff made a U-turn after 9/11, a U-turn that is like the Titanic turning in a very narrow stream, '' he said. "Some in the security establishment in Pakistan may act against Musharraf and follow their own agenda.''
Indeed, two assassination attempts against Musharraf were carried out in December 2003 on the road between Rawalpindi's military headquarters and the president's official residence. Last May, six army and air force officers were arrested in connection with the two attempts.
The government acknowledged the connection between some elements in the military and al Qaeda when it claimed recently that the assassination attempts were orchestrated by Abu Farraj al-Libbi, a terror mastermind it handed over to the U.S. government on Monday. Although al-Libbi is not on any U.S. terrorist list, Pakistan claims he was al Qaeda's No. 3 man.
Despite the reports of terrorist training camps on Pakistani soil, analysts said the latest embarrassment would not harm Islamabad's relations with the Bush administration.
"We've made our bargain with Pakistan, and they've made theirs with us," said Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute. "There's no one out there who serves our interests as well, and we're not going to let anything jeopardize that.''
Chronicle staff writers Michael Taylor and Edward Epstein and Chronicle Foreign Service correspondent Mark Williams contributed to this report.
$1m fine imposed on cell-phone company
By Zubair Babakarkhail
KABUL, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Afghan government has imposed a fine of $1 million on the Roshan cell-phone company for allegedly using greater frequency than permissible under an agreement it had concluded with Communications Ministry.
An official at the Communications Ministry told Pajhwok Afghan News on condition of anonymity on Saturday Roshan had been allowed the ministry had allowed eight mega hertz (MHz) frequency.
However, the leading mobile phone company exceeded the permissible limit in an attempt to earn more profit, he alleged, arguing a violation of the terms and conditions of the accord entailed a fine ranging from $1,00000 to $2,50000.
A fine of $250,000 had earlier been imposed on the company after it was found involved in frequency theft for the first time, the sources disclosed. But Roshan used dilatory tactics to pay the fine, he added.
When the company was found guilty of using 162-channel frequency for a second time, a fine of $1 million was imposed on it, the official continued. "If it fails to submit the amount within two weeks, it would be sued in court of law."
Meanwhile, Mohammad Naser Naseri, legal advisor to the ministry, confirmed they had earlier received information regarding the frequency theft by the company. But punitive action could not be initiated then for lack of concrete evidence.
Senior officials of Roshan cell-phone company, when contacted by this news agency, flatly refused to admit or repudiate the claim.
25 suspects arrested over Marko blast
JALALABAD, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): At least 25 suspects have been arrested in connection with a June 7 bomb attack on a US convoy in the Marko area on the Jalalabad-Torkham Highway.
Locals complained the arrested people, mostly shopkeepers, were picked by border brigade personnel from the Marko Bazaar.
Mohammad Amin, a shopkeeper, told Pajhwok Afghan News, his son running a paint shop in the bazaar, was among the detainees.
Another shopkeeper, requesting not to be named, said border brigade officials arrested several people last night.
However, Colonel Abrarullah insisted eight people had been held by the coalition forces. "Our men have not arrested any one," he maintained.
Meanwhile, a US military source divulged the bomb blast happened 37 kilometers east of Jalalabad city and American troops suffered no casualties.
Maulvi Musa Khan, posing as a Taliban representative in the Shinwari neighbourhood, claimed a military vehicle had been destroyed in the blast.
But coalition forces' spokeswoman Cindy Moore rejected the claim, saying the explosion had not damaged the convoy.
Pakistan pledges Afghan security
Sunday 12 June 2005, 0:33 Makka Time, 21:33 GMT Aljazeera
Pakistan has promised to help neighbouring Afghanistan improve security for its September parliamentary elections by preventing armed groups from crossing the border to launch attacks, the Afghan interior minister said on Saturday.
Afghan and US officials said a Pakistani effort to seal the border contributed significantly to a peaceful voting day in the Afghan presidential election last October.
"Pakistan helped with security during the presidential election, with securing the border," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said after talks with visiting Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao.
"Our hopes are that Pakistan would help us the way they helped in the presidential election, with the parliamentary election, and they promised to cooperate," Jalali said.
Pakistan-Afghan relations had dipped lightly in the wake of the US-led invasion of the country in 2001 due to Taliban attacks from camps in Pakistan.
Taliban attacks on government and foreign forces increased in the south and east of Afghanistan in recent months. Hundreds of people have been killed and worry is mounting over security for the 18 September parliamentary polls.
Sherpao told reporters earlier that Pakistan was clearing its western border of fighters, many of whom had crossed the frontier from Afghanistan.
"The way Pakistani forces have reacted in the fight against terror shows that we don't want our soil and borders to be used for terrorist activities," Sherpao said.
"After the 9/11 incident, as our border with Afghanistan is very long, it was not possible to control properly and a lot of foreigners came to Pakistan," he said, referring to foreign al-Qaida members fleeing US troops in Afghanistan.
"Our fight against them continues," he said.
Pakistan has been battling al-Qaida-linked militants along its Afghan border since last year. Hundreds of Pakistani troops and militants have been killed.
But some US officials, while welcoming the action against al-Qaida members, have said Taliban fighters can still find safety in Pakistan.
Sherpao, attending the opening of a school rebuilt with Pakistani aid, said his country would help Afghanistan in areas such as education and health.
Pakistan supported the Taliban until the September 11 attacks on the United States when it threw its support behind the US-led war against terrorism.
Small bomb explodes in Afghan capital, one injured: Police
Saturday June 11, 11:57 PM AP
A small bomb exploded Saturday in a vegetable cart in the Afghan capital, slightly wounding one person, police said.
The cart had been left on a remote, relatively deserted street on the outskirts of the city, police and eyewitnesses said. It was not clear what the intended target was.
The blast was the latest in a string of violence to hit the capital.
Pakistan hands over 42 more buses to Afghanistan
The News International, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: The Pakistan government on Saturday handed over 42 more buses to the Afghan government at a ceremony held here at Rehman Baba Chowk, Ring Road.
The director-general, Planning Commission, Islamabad, Javed Akhtar, presented keys of the buses to the Afghan second secretary, Haji Meraj.
Pakistan announced provision of 100 buses worth Rs 290 million to Afghanistan out of which 35 have been delivered earlier and with the delivery of the consignment of 42 buses, Afghanistan received 77 buses so far whereas the remaining 23 buses will be delivered by the end of the current financial year.
Speaking on this occasion, Akhtar highlighted Pakistanís contribution in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He said Pakistan pledged $100 million for Afghanistanís reconstruction and had undertaken a number of projects in roads, health and education sectors.
He said that the Jalalabad-Torkhum road would hopefully be completed with in next 12 months and construction work on the Chaman-Spinboldak road was going well.
He also mentioned some developmental schemes being executed in health and education sectors.
Kabul Begins New Phase of Disarmament Drive
KABUL, 12 June 2005 — Afghanistan yesterday launched a new drive to disarm militiamen, ordering more than 1,000 illegal armed groups to hand over their guns as the country prepares for a parliamentary election. US and NATO troops will be involved in the latest phase of a disarmament drive that has so far seen about 60,000 members of militia forces give up their weapons.
“This process is unconditional and all armed forces that are not part of government organs should surrender their weapons,” Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili told a news conference. After decades of conflict Afghanistan is awash with weapons. Armed groups have proliferated, ranging from well-organized militias loyal to political leaders to small bands of gunmen.
Most of the militia forces have now been disarmed but up to 1,800 small, so-called illegal armed groups remain. Most of the groups have between 100 and 200 men, another government official told the news conference.
Meanwhile, at least 12 Afghan passengers were killed when a minibus and a US military vehicle were in collision yesterday in southern Afghanistan, officials said. The accident occurred on the Kandahar-Spin Boldak highway near the Pakistani border and US troops immediately cordoned off the area, Spin Boldak’s police chief Abdul Wasay said. “Today, a minibus had an accident with a US military vehicle on the Kandahar-Spin Boldak highway, in which 12 civilians have died,” Wasay said.
In another development, police have arrested five people over the abduction of a freed Italian aid worker, the Afghan government said yesterday, 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.
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 center 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. The suspects were either relatives or friends of Shah, who was still at large. “Police have arrested five people in relation to Cantoni’s abduction and are still in the police custody,” he said.
Training course for parliament workers begins
By Zubair Babakarkhail
KABUL, June 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): In the build-up to the September polls, a five-week technical training course for 120 newly-appointed administrative officers of the Parliament Secretariat began here on Saturday.
About 120 employees, recruited from amongst 780 applicants, started undergoing the training being imparted by French experts and interim secretariat officers at Istiqlal High School here.
Parliament's Secretary General Dr Azizullah Ludin told Pajhwok Afghan News: "We have hired intelligent youths - most of them graduates - for manning the parliament secretariat."
UNDP representative Amira Haq said imparting training to the young officials was essential ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for September 16.
Out of the estimated 15 million dollars needed for parliament formation, 2, 5 million dollars had been provided by the European Union. Lodin informed.
Representatives of the French Embassy here, USAID, UNDP and UNAMA participated in the ceremony marking commencement of the training.
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