Afghanistan rejects "involvement" in Uzbekistan violence
KABUL, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The Afghan Defense Ministry on Sunday described as "irresponsible and baseless" the recent remarks of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in which he accused Afghanistan of involvement in the recent violence in Uzbekistan.
"The irresponsible remarks made by Mr. Ivanov is a clear indication of Russia's expansionist policy in the central and southern Asian regions," Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said at a press conference here.
According to media, Ivanov in his recent remarks said that terrorists who received training in Afghanistan were responsible for the unrest in Andy Jan of Uzbekistan last month.
"We utterly reject the Russian Defense Minister's allegations as we are actively fighting terrorism with international support in Afghanistan and sacrifice our beloved sons in this way," Azimi noted.
He said Afghanistan, besides wishing to develop friendship with its neighbors, would not allow anyone to interfere in its affairs.
Hoping the remarks to be personal view of the Russian defense minister, the Afghan official asked Moscow to clarify its stance vis-a-vis the issue.
It is the second time that post-conflict Afghanistan has criticized its cold-war era ally in the region. In a similar reaction Kabul also lashed out at Ivanov's remarks vis-a-vis the Afghan cabinet last year.
"Today's Russia or the former Soviet Union is the source of all miseries in Afghanistan," the Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman stressed.
Suicide blast targets US convoy in Afghanistan, four soldiers wounded
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Four US soldiers were injured when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into an American military convoy in southern Afghanistan, officials said.
The ousted Taliban regime claimed responsibility for the attack at Mirwais Mina, a suburb of the restive southern city of Kandahar which was once a Taliban stronghold.
It was the latest in a string of attacks by suspected Islamic militants on US and government targets.
There were conflicting reports on what caused the blast, with the US saying initial reports indicated a homemade bomb while local police said it had been a suicide attack.
"A coalition patrol was out on routine patrol when a suspected improvised explosive device exploded. Four US service members were wounded and they were evacuated to Kandahar airfield," said US military spokesman Lieutenant Cindy Moore.
The soldiers were members of a provincial reconstruction team doing civil-military aid work in the region and at least one of the four wounded was in a serious condition, Colonel James Yonts told reporters in Kabul.
"The service members were flown to Kandahar airfield, where they are receiving medical attention at this time," Yonts said, adding it was unclear who was behind the attack.
Two US military helicopters circled the site, some 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Kandahar city centre, and landed to evacuate the US soldiers. One was dragged to the first helicopter by his colleagues and two others were lifted aboard on stretchers.
A senior Afghan official said it was a suicide attack.
"A suicide bomber drove the Toyota car packed with explosives into a US military convoy," Kandahar city security chief General Salim Khan told AFP.
Khan said the investigation was continuing and confirmed US reports that four soldiers had been wounded.
"It was a suicide attack, the suicide bomber blew himself up with the car he was driving in. We have found his head and legs and other body parts. Four people were wounded in this incident," he told AFP.
A spokesman for the Taliban regime, ousted in late 2001 by a US-led military force, claimed responsibility.
"A mujahed brother of ours carried out a suicide attack using a station wagon vehicle, and crashed into a three-vehicle convoy of the Americans," Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi told AFP by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.
Hakimi said the bomber, a resident of Kandahar, had driven his car into the middle vehicle of the convoy, which was totally destroyed.
"The suicide bomber mujahid was martyred in the incident," he added.
Suicide attacks are rare in Afghanistan and are often considered to have links with Al-Qaeda or other foreign militants accused by the government of trying to derail legislative elections due in September.
A suicide bomber blew himself up during the funeral of a key anti-Taliban cleric at a mosque in Kandahar on June 1, killing 21 people.
Officials later said he was an Arab with links to Osama bin Laden's terror network and added that there were more suspected suicide bombers in the city.
But attacks on the 18,000-strong coalition force hunting the militants are much more common, with more than 30 US service members dying this year. Fifteen of those were killed in a helicopter crash in April.
One US soldier and seven suspected Taliban militants were killed Friday after an ambush at Lawara in the southeastern province of Paktika, a known hotbed of the Islamic hardliners.
On Wednesday two US soldiers were killed at a forward operating base at Shkin, also in Paktika province, near the Pakistani border, when a mortar bomb crashed into the compound.
Afghans seek cures at shrine for Al Qaeda
By Kim Barker / Chicago Tribune / June 12, 2005
Some men want to walk without crutches, and some women want to get pregnant. A few Romeos stand in front of the graves and ask for love. Others pray for the souls of the dead.
Everyone has a wish at this Al Qaeda cemetery.
"I have an ache in my left leg," said Khanema, who like many Pashtuns has only one name. "I have a backache. Sometimes it hurts so much, I can't sleep. So I came here to pray to the martyrs. I came from Pakistan only for this shrine."
The men buried here at Martyrs shrine and another shrine nearby were killed in late 2001 during the U.S.-led war against the Taliban. On the second night of Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, U.S. forces bombed a mosque in the southeastern town of Khost. Dozens of Taliban and Al Qaeda members were killed.
The mosque has been rebuilt, light green and peach, with large windows and a sunlit prayer room. But the two shrines for the dead and another in eastern Afghanistan have turned into pilgrimage sites, almost tourist attractions featuring Al Qaeda dead.
Villagers sometimes travel for hours to go to these shrines to pray. They stop as they return home to Afghanistan from Pakistan, where they had been living as refugees. They visit every day, or once in a lifetime.
The shrines show the logic of some people in the new Afghanistan, particularly those in the south and southeast, where the influence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has been strongest. Those who come here do not necessarily support terrorists. Many say they do not hate the Afghan government or the U.S. forces. They welcome the upcoming elections and do not want war.
But these people are often desperate, for whatever reason, and they believe the dead men might help them. The visitors call the dead "martyrs" and the U.S. forces who killed them "infidels." But they mean that in the nicest way. They see no contradiction.
"People love the shrine, and I love it," said Marjullah, the Martyrs caretaker, adding that he helped carry the bodies of the dead to the shrine. But he says he also likes the Afghan government. And he says the U.S. forces should stay as long as they help rebuild the country.
At the shrine, there are 39 graves in two rows, starting with No. 1, "This is the leg of an Arab," and ending with No. 39, "The grave of Holy Korans." All told, there are 12 Arabs, eight Pakistanis, eight Afghans, nine unknown people and two graves for Korans destroyed in the blast.
Ropes are strung over the graves, and people have tied colorful flags and scarves to the ropes, providing some relief in the mundane beige landscape. One visitor has hung up an embroidered white sheet with "God is great" and a duck, a candle and a butterfly. "Congratulations on your pilgrimage, Asil Khan," proclaims a painted banner on the front of the shrine. The graves are covered with bright yellow flowers and weeds.
Visitors park in the dust outside, just off the main highway leading north from Khost, a town near the border of Pakistan. They taste a pinch of salt for good health, and some put money into the wooden donation box in front; money will be used to build a roof over the brick walls.
People then walk up and down the aisle of graves, pausing maybe in front of No. 3, "Martyr Paradise," or No. 34, "Hamidullah from Badakhshan."
Khanema, who does not know her age, ties knots in the scarves hanging over grave No. 16, marked simply "Arab." She unties others, in a ritual she hopes will end her pain.
"The people who are deaf, who cannot talk, who are sick, who are paralyzed, they come here and they are made better," said Ajab Noor, 27, who sometimes visits the shrine to pray. "This is not a place for lovers who come to pray for sweethearts."
"Why not?" countered Gulab, who said he was 29 or 30. "I have come more than 50 times, believe me, for two years. I am in love. But I have got nothing. I am drowned in the water.
"Many people have come, and it has worked. I don't know why my prayer is not accepted."
A minute later, he asks for help in finding a wife.
Others have had more luck.
Gulwali Shah, 18, prayed at the shrine six times. "God, give me the one I love," he thought to himself. Finally, a year ago, he married his sweetheart, after both families agreed. Still, Shah comes to the shrine to see the graves.
"They were both devoted Muslims and Al Qaeda," Shah said. "Some of them fought for nothing. Some of them fought for the sake of God."
The nearby Al Qaeda shrine, called Arabs Family Shrine, is smaller, a large grave plot where many people are buried. Besmellah, the caretaker, insists that these victims are women and children, although visitors say they are Al Qaeda and Taliban members.
As Besmellah talks, a dozen women and girls walk in, stand by the mass grave and then leave. Besmellah said he believes the women may want to get pregnant, but he would never ask them, as the conservative culture does not allow it.
He said many people come here and are cured.
"I have seen lots of these cases, I don't want to lie to you," said Besmellah, who is about 45. "People who could not walk came here. On the way out, they walked away. People who could not talk came. When they left, they started speaking."
He is still waiting. He limps here every day on his artificial leg, leaning on his crutch and walking carefully in his Adidas tennis shoes. He lost his lower leg in a land-mine explosion. But he is a practical man. Unlike some others who visit these shrines, he knows there are some things even prayer cannot fix.
Taliban operatives arrested in S. Afghanistan
KABUL, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Troops of Afghan National Army (ANA) have captured a senior Taliban operative in the militant-plaguing south Afghanistan, Defense Ministry spokesman said Sunday.
"ANA's troops in a mop-up conducted in Tajdan and Taban areas of Uruzgan province captured a Taliban local commander Mullah JumaThursday," Zahir Azimi told journalists at a news conference.
A large number of arms, munitions and documents including pamphlets and night letters were also found from his possession.
"Another Taliban's local commander Mullah Sardar escaped from the scene," the spokesman added.
The arrest took place just days after the arrest of Mullah Abdul Razaq, a Taliban active operative in Kandahar.
Both the Taliban and government troops backed by US military have intensified their operations since the onset of spring in which over 150 people including civilians, militants, Afghan and US troops have been killed.
California man pushes project to bring soybeans to Afghanistan
Associated Press / June 12, 2005
PASADENA, Calif. Steven Kwon believes soybeans can save the people of Afghanistan, and he's doing something about it.
Kwon works by day as a senior nutrition scientist for Nestle USA. He also runs Nutrition Education International, a nonprofit organization he started in 2003 to help reduce mortality rates in Afghanistan.
His solution: soybeans. They're high in protein and soy fiber staves off hunger.
He says, quote "Seeing poor people, suffering people, you are compelled to do something from a humanitarian point of view."
Last year, his group cultivated soybeans on five acres in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan's main northern city. The crop also was planted in a dozen other provinces in April.
Kwon says that if the harvest is bountiful in October, Afghan leaders would test the plants in all 32 provinces.
Afghan Police complete crime scene investigation course
June 12, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
By U.S. Army Capt. Cenethea R. Harraway Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan Public Affairs
KABUL , Afghanistan – The Afghan National Police graduated 11 police investigators from a course in crime scene investigation June 6.
Present at the graduation ceremony, held at the Kabul Police District 10 headquarters, were several key leaders of the Afghan National Police, including Maj. Gen. Abdul-Jamil Junbesh, interim chief of the Kabul City Police, Brig. Gen. Nazar Mohammad Nikzad, chief of Crime Scene Investigation, and Maj. Gen. Ahmad Zai, chief of Education.
During the ceremony Junbesh talked about the need for different types of police officers such as crime scene investigators, traffic and uniformed police, and others within the ANP, and how each plays a critical role in Afghan security.
“Today, there is a big challenge facing our security. The security of Kabul and other provinces is harmed by three main factors: terrorism, organized crime groups and warlords,” said Junbesh. “With professional attitudes and education, we can deal with warlords, arrest the criminals, and finally, deal with the terrorists and their activities.”
Nikzad and members of his CSI team, originally trained by British police officials, conducted the three-week course.
The training included classroom instruction and hands-on, practical exercises. Investigators learned about Afghan law and criminal procedures, protection and documentation of crime scenes, proper collection and preservation of evidence, crime scene photography and other fundamentals. They also completed a written examination.
The Ministry of the Interior officially designated District 10 as the “model” station for Afghan police reform because of its strategic location in the capital. “U.S. civilian police mentors assigned to the District 10 ‘model’ police station project work alongside their Afghan counterparts daily,” said Dave Barrington, a U.S. police mentor with DynCorp International.
The goals of the model police station are to: act as a test bed for new ideas; assist with equipment and infrastructure improvements; and establish a model for Afghan police reform at the district/station level.
“The CSI course is only one of many ways in which the ANP is improving their skills,” said Barrington . “Together with cooperation from the Afghan government, the Office of Military Cooperation—Afghanistan and Germany , the lead nation for Afghan National Police reform, we are making significant progress in rebuilding the capabilities of the local police.”
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