Cholera Outbreak Hits Afghanistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
June 14 2005 - A foreign health expert in Kabul says more than 2,000 cases of cholera have been detected in the Afghan capital in recent weeks.
The expert, Fred Hartman of the U.S. AID-backed health and development program, says an epidemic is about to break out in Kabul. However, Afghan Health Minister Amin Fatimie says that while there have been more than 2,000 acute case of diarrhoea, the disease has not yet been identified as cholera.
Health Ministry workers say they have stepped up chlorinating the wells where most of Kabul's 4 million esidents get their water.
Cholera is spread mainly through food and water that s contaminated by feces. The bacterium attacks people's intestines, causing severe diarrhea and dehydration.
(Agencies and Radio Azadi)
Afghanistan health ministry plays down fears of cholera outbreak
KABUL, June 14 (AFP) - Afghanistan's health ministry on Tuesday played down fears that the capital Kabul faces an outbreak of cholera but aid agencies said there was cause for concern.
Health Minister Amin Fatimie said there had been more than 2,000 acute cases of diarrhoea, but added that they had not yet been identified as cholera and the number was normal for the time of year.
However Fatimie said he did not "rule out the possibility of cholera" and samples had been sent overseas for testing because Afghanistan lacked the facilities.
"To date, we have registered 2,306 cases of acute diarrhoea in four hospitals of Kabul," Fatimie told AFP. There had been three fatalities including two children, he added.
"It is not an extraordinary number that we have registered. In comparison with last year, the same time, same month, the number of cases then was twice as high," Fatimie said.
Some 546 people had been hospitalised for treatment while the rest had been given medicine and discharged, he added.
The Afghan Non-governmental organisations Safety Office, a security group for aid agencies, sent out an emailed warning last week warning of a potential outbreak of the deadly disease.
"I think it is not an epidemic but it is certainly a cause for concern. At the moment the number of cases is relatively low but the Ministry of Health has already begun chlorinating wells which can reduce contamination," said UNICEF spokesman Edward Carwardine.
At Cure International Hospital, where they had three people under treatment for severe diarrhoeal disease, a doctor said it was unclear whether the disease was cholera.
"We cannot confirm cholera. We don't have the facilities to test for cholera," said Jackie Sinclair.
Across Afghanistan, where most people have no access to running water, an estimated 50,000 children under five die of diarrhoea every year, UNICEF's Carwardine said.
Afghans catch Taliban wanted for cleric's murder
June 14, 2005
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan authorities have captured a Taliban regional commander wanted for the assassination of a leading anti-militant cleric last month, police said on Tuesday.
Haji Atiqullah was wounded and captured during a shootout in the southern city of Kandahar on Monday night after attempting to assassinate a local militia commander, a senior police officer in the city said.
Atiqullah, who was in charge of foreign relations in Kandahar during the Taliban's rule, was wanted for the assassination of Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz, a prominent critic of the Taliban shot dead last month by gunmen riding on a motorcycle.
Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi confirmed the arrest and said Atiqullah had been an important commander in Kandahar.
A local militia commander named Mandoi was wounded along with a bodyguard in the attack on Monday night in which Atiqullah opened fire on them from a motorcycle, the police said.
Authorities have accused the Taliban of being behind a suicide bombing of a mosque in Kandahar during a memorial service for Fayaz on June 1 which killed 20 people.
The Taliban have denied involvement in the attack, part of a surge in militant violence seen in the run-up to parliamentary elections due in September.
Earlier on Tuesday, the U.S. military said U.S. and Afghan forces had killed two militants and detained 12 others after a clash north of Kandahar on Sunday.
On Monday, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a U.S. military vehicle near the city, killing himself and wounding four American soldiers, one seriously.
Goverment spokesman Jawed Ludin told a news briefing the attack on the Americans, which was claimed by the Taliban, was under investigation. He said the head of the suicide attacker had been found and from his appearance, he may have been a foreigner.
About 150 insurgents have been killed in violence this year, according to U.S. and Afghan government figures. Dozens of government security men have also died in the fighting, as well as 13 U.S. soldiers since March.
U.S.-led forces have been hunting the Taliban and their mainly foreign al Qaeda allies since overthrowing the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
(Reporting by Mirwais Afghan in KANDAHAR and Yousuf Azimy and David Brunnstrom in KABUL)
Study of Postwar Afghan Finds Improvements
By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press / June 14, 2005
WASHINGTON - Afghans are praising changes in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 but think improvements are coming too slowly and for too few people, a study by a Washington think tank found.
It said reconstruction from the latest fighting and almost continual civil turmoil of the last decade of the 20th century is being hampered largely by corrupt and predatory local officials in President Hamid Karzai's government.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said the study, "Voices of a New Afghanistan," released Tuesday, represented "an integrated method to measure progress in stabilization and reconstruction ... that draws heavily on ordinary citizens' perceptions of progress and where their country is heading."
It was based on 1,060 conversations that 12 Afghan researchers had April 16-28 with 1,609 Afghans in 20 of the country's 34 provinces.
In retaliation for the Sept. 11, attacks, soldiers from the United States and other countries invaded in late 2001. With the cooperation of tribal militias in northern Afghanistan, it routed the ruling Taliban militia and the al-Qaida terror headquarters the Taliban had sheltered.
The study found that security remains a major problem, although it is crime rather than terror that is the most troublesome security problem. Kidnapping, robbery and murder were cited as most worrying.
"Taliban and al-Qaida are seen as less of a threat, and largely discredited," it said, although "people throughout the country fear that without the international military presence Afghanistan will erupt into violence."
As for governance, corruption among local and provincial officials keeps Afghans from trusting or relying on them, the report said. It said, however, "Afghans support the central government and equate it with President Karzai," even though criticism is widespread that the government has produced too few visible results.
Afghans still resort to existing traditional mechanisms for justice and accountability, but they "do not provide justice for many Afghans. Bribery and corruption are rampant in the formal justice sector. Individual rights are poorly understood and poorly protected, especially for women."
Economic opportunity for the average Afghan is weak. Illegal poppy growing provides livelihoods for some, "but a majority of Afghans believe poppy is bad for the development of their country." Corruption springs from inadequate salaries for government workers and the police forces.
Health care, education, services and infrastructure are improved in many communities, the study found, but significant gaps remain.
"There is no clear consensus among Afghans ... about which needs are priorities," the report said. "Afghan expectations remain high."
4 U.S. military, one interpreter wounded in IED attack
June 14, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Four U.S. service members and an Afghan interpreter were wounded today when an suspected improvised explosive device detonated near their up-armored High-Mobility, Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle south of Ghazni.
Initial medical assessments indicated that none of the wounds were life-threatening. U.S. military aircraft are responding to the scene to transport the wounded to nearby Coalition medical facilities.
“Terrorists, who often pay impoverished Afghans to detonate these devices for them, are behind these brutal attacks,” said Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, Combined Joint Task Force-76 spokesperson. “These criminals know they cannot stand up to Afghan and Coalition forces, so they are forced to resort to these tactics.”
The service members were conducting a routine patrol in support of an ongoing operation near Ghazni at the time of the incident. Coalition explosives experts are investigating the incident.
Two enemy killed, another wounded in firefight
June 13, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Two enemy combatants were killed and another wounded north of Kandahar on June 12 in a firefight with Afghan and Coalition forces.
The enemy wounded was transported to Kandahar for treatment where he is in stable condition.
Afghan and Coalition forces spotted a group of 15 armed enemies moving in a narrow valley. The Soldiers were able to move ahead of the enemy and set up blocking positions. As the enemy moved closer a firefight broke out and most of the enemies attempted to flee. Afghan and Coalition forces conducted a complete search of the area and detained the remaining 12 individuals.
“These terrorists, in their attempts to drag Afghanistan back into its brutal and oppressive past, are quickly learning that Afghan and Coalition forces will not tolerate their attempts to wreck havoc,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, Combined Joint Task Force-76 spokesperson. “We, with our Afghan brethren, will make sure Afghanistan has a chance at a bright and safe future.”
The remaining 12 insurgents are being held for questioning.
Afghanistan blames foreign hands behind Kandahar blast
KABUL, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Afghan government Tuesday blamed foreign hands for the deadly bomb attack that shocked southern Kandahar province Monday.
"Though the investigation is going on, preliminary results indicate the suicide attacker was a foreigner," Presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin told journalists at a press conference.
In the fatal explosion rattled Kandahar Monday, according to US military sources, four American soldiers were wounded while locals disputing the claim and putting the casualties five dead.
Without hinting at any specific country, the spokesman accused foreign nations of interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, although Taliban has claimed responsibility after the bomb attack.
"Foreign enemies have been creating problems for Afghanistan over the past 30 years and terrorists come from across the border," Ludin noted without elaboration.
Kandahar and surrounding mountainous provinces of Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan has been the scene of increasing insurgency over the three months in which more than 150 people including militants, civilians, Afghan and US troops have been killed. Enditem
Pakistan sees Afghanistan rid of al Qaeda in 10 yrs
By Michelle Nichols / Tue Jun 14, 5:42 AM ET
CANBERRA (Reuters) - The militant al Qaeda network should be dismantled and sustainable democracy achieved in Afghanistan within 10 years, allowing foreign troops to leave, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said on Tuesday.
Musharraf told Reuters in an interview that a sustainable democracy with a central authority needed to be achieved in neighboring Afghanistan, its militia removed and a strong Afghan army created, before foreign troops could leave.
"All this is do-able in 10 years and I am very sure that the way we are going we will be able to dismantle the al Qaeda organization totally (within Afghanistan in 10 years)," Musharraf said during the first visit by a Pakistan president to Australia.
"I think in 10 years we should be able bring a semblance of democracy that is sustainable, ensuring the integrity of Afghanistan."
U.S.-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai won a presidential election last October and parliamentary elections are due to be held in the country on Sept. 18.
The United States commands an 18,300-strong international force, most of whom are American. The alliance is fighting Taliban and al Qaeda militants and is hunting their leaders, including al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, airliner attacks on the United States.
U.S.-led forces overthrew the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001 after they refused to hand over bin Laden, who they had been sheltering.
More than 70 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action and more than 400 wounded in Afghanistan since 2001, while U.S. and Afghan government figures show about 150 insurgents have been killed this year.
Musharraf said al Qaeda's back had been broken in Pakistan, where hundreds of al Qaeda suspects have been arrested since 2001 and handed over to the United States.
But bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar remain at large.
U.S. and Pakistani officials say they don't know where bin Laden is, but their best guess is somewhere along the rugged border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We have broken (al Qaeda's) cohesion, their lateral and vertical cohesion (in Pakistan). That's a great achievement because they cease to exist as a homogenous body able to execute operations in a command and control environment," Musharraf said.
"But ultimate dismantling, ultimate elimination (in Pakistan) will take time."
Pakistan's Musharraf says Osama bin Laden still alive
Tue Jun 14, 3:51 AM ET
CANBERRA (AFP) - Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden is alive and probably living in the rugged mountains bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said.
Speaking during a three-day visit to Australia to promote counter-terrorism cooperation and increased trade, Musharraf said Pakistan had suffered 250 casualties in fighting bin Laden's Al-Qaeda and other militant groups in its western tribal regions.
It had also destroyed the logistics and communications hubs of the terror networks so that they no longer functioned coherently, he said on Tuesday.
However, the Saudi behind the September 11 attacks on the United States was proving elusive because of the difficulty of the terrain, Musharraf said.
"It's very easy for a person to hide," Musharraf told an Australian Press Club lunch in Canberra.
"I know that he is alive. Most likely he is alive, yes, because of our information and interrogation of various Al-Qaeda operatives that we have apprehended.
"Maybe he is in the border region in hiding wherever he sees a vacuum."
Musharraf said while his government had deployed around 70,000 troops to fight insurgents hiding in the tribal areas separating Afghanistan from Pakistan, the soldiers could not cover the entire region.
"It is not easy to get a person there," the president said.
Musharraf is expected to sign an agreement on counter-terrorism cooperation during a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard on Wednesday. He leaves Australia on Thursday to visit New Zealand.
Pakistani Islamic teaching tradition tested by new school of thought
The Financial Times (UK)
By Farhan Bokhari / Published: June 14, 2005
Schools in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province broke up yesterday for a 10-week summer holiday.
However, for thousands of boys aged five and upwards attending Islamic religious schools known as madrassah there will be no break. They will continue their studies of the Koran, learning about the lifestyle of the prophet Mohammed and the tenets of Sharialaw.
Traditionally, this is the moment in the year when some of these boys would have left Pakistan to complete their education. This often meant going across the border into Afghanistan for firearms training with the Taliban in preparation for jihad, or holy war. Such opportunities have all but gone with Pakistan's decision to back the US-led "war on terror" and improve relations with India over the disputed Kashmir region.
That gap has left many students wondering exactly how they would use their time this summer. It has also left Pakistan, whose previous support of the Taliban provided something of a pressure valve for Islamic militancy inside its own borders, wondering what the consequences will be if it fails to integrate the madrassah students into mainstream life.
While the 9/11 terrorist attacks prompted General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani military ruler, swiftly to turn his back on the Taliban, the network of madrassah suspected by western intelligence officials to be at the centre of Islamic militancy remains intact. Their sources of funding range from donations from wealthy Muslim sponsors to returns from past investments made by their managements.
According to western intelligence estimates, there are between 7,000 and 10,000 large and small madrassah located across Pakistan - half of them in the North West Frontier Province alone. More disconcerting was their conclusion that many such students used Afghanistan as a springboard to head towards other locations with active insurgencies involving Islamic militants. "I spent three summers in Afghanistan," recalls Umar Khatab Khan, a 26-year-old shopkeeper in Peshawar, showing scars from shrapnel on his left leg received in a skirmish while fighting for the Taliban in 2001.
Mr Khan's story is typical of how many others inducted themselves first in a madrassah where Islamic teachings armed them with the ideology that taught them the virtues of jihad. Like most of his compatriots, Mr Khan's parents were too poor to send him to a regular school. A madrassah education, which came for free thanks to funds from affluent donors such as wealthy Arabs, was the obvious choice.
"When I was 13, I decided one summer to travel to Afghanistan with an Afghan boy," remembers Mr Khan. Once across the border, Mr Khan's friend introduced him to a Taliban commander who recruited him in a group of newly inducted teenage fighters.
"We would rise before sunrise and head out to a training ground for two hours of rifle training." Former fighters such as Mr Khan found themselves sent to battle, just weeks after their training began, to fight alongside regular Taliban troops assigned to crush uprisings in northern Afghanistan.
Estimates vary on the number of students educated at madrassah. Some intelligence officials believe there are no more than 100,000. Others say there could be as many as 1m.
A western official warned: "This is an unresolved problem which poses a continuing security threat to Pakistan. These guys can return to militant causes if new opportunities come up, especially because coming out of a madrassah gives them few opportunities for mainstream careers".
The madrassah was like a "college of ideology, and the battlefield worked as a practical field", says Khalid Usman Khattak, a 20-year-old carpet weaver who claims to have left a Taliban unit just a week before the New York terrorist attacks. The Pakistani government has said repeatedly it wants madrassah institutions to embrace mainstream subjects such as maths and science in addition to Islamic ones.
Afghan Clerics Demand U.S. Apologize
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press / June 14, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's Islamic clergy demanded the United States apologize for alleged desecration of the Islamic holy book by U.S. troops at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay and called for those responsible be handed over to a Muslim country to face trial.
The clergy, the Ulamas Council, made the demand in a resolution at the end of a meeting of clerics from across Afghanistan.
"Abuse of the Quran in Guantanamo Bay is a crime. It hurts the hearts of Muslims. The Ulamas Council of Afghanistan wants the United States to apologize to Muslim nations all over the world," cleric Malwari Saaduddin said, reading out the resolution.
"Whoever is responsible for these crimes should be handed over to an Islamic country to face trial," he added.
Anti-U.S. sentiment spiked here last month and 15 people were killed in riots after a U.S. magazine reported that interrogators at the U.S. prison placed copies of the Quran in washrooms and flushed one book in the toilet to get inmates to talk. Newsweek magazine later withdrew its story and apologized.
The Defense Department earlier this month detailed five incidents of U.S. guards desecrating the Quran, but did not find any case of it being flushed down a toilet.
There are about 540 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, most of them captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Some detainees have been there more than three years without being charged.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, earlier this month accused the media of bias over its reporting about Guantanamo Bay, and said it shouldn't be focusing "a couple of incidents where an overzealous guard or interrogator abused the Quran."
The Ulama Council is highly influential in Afghanistan, with some 6,000 clerics as members nationwide.
The organization also condemned a spate of attacks across the country in recent weeks, including a suicide bombing Monday that wounded four U.S. troops and another on June 1 inside a mosque that killed 20 people. It said committing suicide, in any form, was against Islam.
Afghanistan to compensate consulate damage: Pakistan
Islamabad, June 13, IRNA
The Afghan government has agreed to provide compensation for the damages to Pakistan's consulate in Jalalabad, an official said on Monday.
"The Afghanistan government has already expressed regrets and agreed to provide compensation of the damages to the consulate," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani told reporters in Islamabad.
"It has also promised to provide temporary alternate accommodation for the consulate," he added.
The mission was torched during riots by angry mobs who protested desecration of Holy Qur'an by US military in Guantanamo detention center.
4 tons of heroin seized in Afghanistan
KABUL, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Afghan law enforcing agencies in a major anti-drug operation in southern Helmand province have seized four tons of heroin and arrested seven smugglers, a state-run newspaper reports Tuesday.
"Personnel of National Security Directorate in an operation against drug traffickers in Khanshin district of Helmand province busted a gang and seized 4,000 kg heroin from their possession yesterday," daily Anis added.
One of smugglers, the daily added, was injured during the exchange of fire.
A quantity of arms including a rocket propelled grenade and twovehicles were also seized form the band.
It is the second major operation in the province against the smugglers.
Personnel of Afghan Counter Narcotics Force in a three-day operation early this month destroyed a drug bazaar in Bahram Shah area close to Pakistan border. Enditem
Toddler ingests opium, evacuated to KAF
June 14, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan
Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A one-year-old Afghan, who ingested an unknown amount of opium, was medevaced from Shinkay to Kandahar in an effort to save his life Monday.
The boy was brought to Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 503d Infantry (Airborne) by his father and the decision was immediately made to evacuate the child, and his father, to Kandahar Airfield for treatment.
“When he arrived his eyes were open but he had pinpoint pupils, trouble breathing and was not responsive,” said Doctor (Capt.) Jacqueline Naylor, Family Care Physician at Kandahar who treated the toddler. “Thankfully the medics aboard the helicopter had given him an IV prior to his arrival. The first thing we did here was administer another IV. Then we gave him a shot of narcan,” Naylor continued. “Within 15 seconds he was screaming and hollering, which was a good thing.”
Narcan is a drug that blocks the effects of opium in the human body.
“We washed him up, fed him, gave him some new clothes and shoes, and after that he was really just a happy little boy again,” she said.
Naylor explained that she and the medical personnel at Kandahar treat Afghan children on a fairly regular basis.
“We treat a lot of things,” she said. “Burns, overdose and injuries from landmines or attacks are the most common however.”
The boy has fully recovered and was released to his father’s care.
AFGHANISTAN: UN milestone in militia disarmament
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
KABUL, 13 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - The disarmament demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants has passed a significant milestone, the UN announced on Monday, the programme having processed a total of 60,000 former Afghan militia force members.
The DDR, which started in November 2003, has so far cost the international community more than US $100 million and is considered a major step towards restoring national security and creating an enabling environment for further security sector reform.
According to the Afghanistan New Beginning Programme, the official name of DDR, the project has processed more than 60,000 people, but will come to and end on 28 June.
While there are another two weeks before the process ends, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said there were still military personnel from the Afghan forces needing to disarm.
“We think it won’t be more than 70,000 people who will have been disarmed by the end of June,” Ariane Quentier, a spokeswoman for UNAMA, said in the capital, Kabul, on Monday. She added the UN still had problems with militia groups like division one (01) in the northern Panjshir valley, which still needed to be disbanded.
“The problem is division one. We still have no compliance. We are in [the] negotiating process right now and we are hopeful and optimistic that by 28 of June we will have completed the process of disarmament and demobilisation [of all militias], including division one,” she noted.
The completion of militia disarmament coincides with the launch of a new Afghan government-led security initiative: the disbanding of illegal armed groups - still a huge security headache - known as DIAG.
On Saturday, Kabul ordered more than 1,000 illegal armed groups around the country to hand over their guns as the nation prepares for parliamentary elections.
Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said the authorities knew many of the armed groups and they could not hide their arms.
“The first round of DIAG will address candidates with links to armed groups, the second phase would address the groups who voluntarily give up their arms and in the third phase we will use all our means to make them dismantle [their structures],” Wardak told IRIN following the launch of DIAG in Kabul.
The groups are still seen as a threat to stability more than three years after a US-led Coalition overthrew the Taliban government.
There are also fears gunmen could intimidate voters in the 18 September parliamentary elections. Candidates for the 249-seat lower house of parliament are forbidden to belong to armed groups.
The new drive, which is being financed by international donors, is expected to take up to three years to complete, according to defence ministry officials.
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