Militants die in air strikes
June 19, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – An unprovoked attack on a Coalition patrol today left 15 to 20 militants dead.
The patrol reported coming under small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, which pinned the unit down, northwest of Gereshk in Hilmand Province . U.S. aircraft and attack helicopters engaged the enemy. Initial battle-damage assessments indicate 15 to 20 enemies died and an enemy vehicle was destroyed.
“When these criminals engage Coalition forces, they do so at considerable risk. We will close with and destroy those that stand against Afghan and Coalition forces at every opportunity,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, Combined Joint Task Force-76 spokesperson.
No Coalition personnel were injured in the incident.
Taleban fighters 'kill captives'
BBC News / Sunday, 19 June, 2005
Taleban rebels in Afghanistan say they have killed a district police chief and seven other policemen captured last week in Kandahar province.
Taleban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said Nanai Khan and the others were shot on the order of religious leaders.
His claims could not be verified by Afghan officials. The policemen were captured in Miana Shien on Thursday.
Mr Hakimi said "trials" of the other abducted officials were continuing.
Kandahar province, a former stronghold of the deposed Taleban regime, has seen much of the upsurge in violence affecting south and east Afghanistan since a lull in insurgent activity over the winter.
There are conflicting reports about how many policemen were abducted - the numbers range from 10 to 31.
Gen Salim Khan, deputy provincial police chief, said he had no information on the fate of those held. He said he believed 13 people had been captured.
The officials were taken in an attack on a convoy on the road from Kandahar to Miana Shien district, about 90km (60 miles) to the north-east.
The Taleban spokesman said one of those taken was the chief of the district.
Gen Khan has denied reports that Taleban fighters attacked the town of Miana Shien and said it remained under government control.
In a separate incident on Sunday, three rockets were fired into Kandahar, one of which landed close to the former home of Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, which now hosts US special forces. There were no casualties.
Nearly 400 people have died this year in violence linked to the Taleban - many of them suspected insurgents.
Taliban say execute police chief among 31 held
By Mirwais Afghan / Sun Jun 19, 7:43 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban guerrillas said they executed a district police chief on Sunday who was among 31 people they were holding prisoner in Afghanistan's troubled southern province of Kandahar.
The capture of the men has presented a fresh crisis for authorities in Kandahar, the worst-hit province in a surge of violence in recent months that has raised fears for parliamentary elections due to be held on Sept. 18.
In a separate incident in neighboring Helmand province, the guerrillas killed a judge, an intelligence official and a guard in the district of Anad-i-Ali to the west of the provincial capital Lashkargah on Friday night, a provincial spokesman said.
Overnight, three rockets hit the city of Kandahar, one of which seriously wounded two children, police said.
A senior police officer said on Saturday that Taliban guerrillas captured 30 policemen and a district chief in attacks on Thursday and Friday on Mian Nishin, a district in the north of Kandahar province, and took over the main government building.
Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said district police chief Nanai Khan, the senior policeman captured, was shot dead with three bullets on the orders of Taliban religious leaders.
"At 8:30 this morning we executed Nanai Khan after a fatwa from the mullahs," he said. "They said his crime was high so he should be executed."
Hakimi said the 30 others being held, who included the chief of the district, were still alive. "Their trial is going on."
Hakimi said the officer's body had been dumped at a village in Mian Nishin named Shai Khan. "The government can come and pick up his body," he said.
General Salim Khan, the deputy provincial police chief, said he had no information on the fate of those being held. He said only 13 people had been captured in all.
Taliban commander Mullah Rahim, who led the attacks, telephoned Reuters on Saturday night and handed the phone to Nanai Khan, who said he was going to be put on trial.
Asked if any of the group had been killed, a clearly nervous Khan initially replied: "Yes." But after a few seconds of silence on the line, he corrected himself and replied: "No, no."
The district is in the north of Kandahar province about 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Kabul and was the scene of operations by Afghan and U.S.-led forces last week in which government officials said nine guerrillas were killed.
Dozens of government troops and officials and 29 U.S. soldiers from the 20,000-strong U.S-led foreign force hunting the insurgents have died in Afghanistan since March.
More than 150 insurgents have been killed in clashes so far this year, according to U.S. and government figures.
1 enemy killed, another wounded, 16 detained near Kandahar
June 18, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A joint patrol with Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Coalition forces came into contact with enemy forces June 17, killing one and wounding another, in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar Province while conducting operations aimed at locating and destroying enemies.
An ANA Soldier was killed in the engagement. An ANA Soldier, a U.S. Soldier and an Afghan interpreter were wounded.
The joint patrol reported coming under attack by 10 to 15 enemies with small arms. The patrol returned fire with 105 mm howitzers and pursued them. Air support also responded.
The patrol reengaged the attackers two kilometers north of the original contact site. One enemy was killed and another wounded.
The wounded Soldiers and interpreter were transported to Kandahar Airfield for treatment. The U.S. Soldier was then transferred to Bagram Airfield hospital for evaluation and was in stable condition. The ANA Soldier was treated and released.
During a second incident June 17, 16 men were detained by ANP officers during a joint patrol with ANA, ANP and Coalition forces.
The patrol reported receiving small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from 10 to 15 enemies near Deh Chopan. Shortly after the firefight began the attackers retreated toward a town. The forces pursued and searched the compound where the attackers were thought to be hiding.
With assistance from the U.S. forces, the ANP officers searched the village and detained 16 men.
There were no deaths or injuries to Coalition, Afghan or enemy troops.
South and Central Asia: Afghan, Tajik Leaders See New Bridge As Crucial Link
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have laid the foundation stone of a U.S.-funded bridge that will cross their countries' river border. But the bridge over the Pyandzh River is more than just a link between the two countries. It is part of an ambitious regional transportation plan to link the former Soviet republics of Central Asia to an Iranian port in the Persian Gulf and Pakistan's port city of Karachi.
Prague, 19 June 2005 (RFE/RL) - Both presidents had lofty proclamations when they laid the foundation stone on 18 June for a U.S.-funded bridge across their border on the Pyandzh River.
Like his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said the structure would be more than just a bridge. It was, he said, a first step in building a major regional network of transportation and infrastructure links.
"In the future we will lay electricity, gas and water lines through this bridge. We also hope that next to this bridge will be built another bridge designed for the Dushanbe-Kurghonteppa-Kunduz railway," Rakhmonov said. "With the construction of this bridge and the repair of transport roads in northern Afghanistan, our country will benefit from the shortest possible access to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. That will not only have a big impact on Tajikistan's economy and communications, it will also have a big political and geostrategic importance for our country."
The U.S.-funded bridge, measuring 670 meters in length, is expected to cost $29 million. It will be built by an Italian contractor under American supervision. Construction is expected to get seriously under way when the river's water level lowers in the autumn. It is expected to take two years to complete.
At yesterday's ceremony, Karzai said the bridge will benefit the whole region in terms of trade and transport. That point was echoed by Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
"When this bridge is completed, when other infrastructure projects are completed in Afghanistan that will assist in restoring Afghanistan's historic role as a bridge between Central Asia and South Asia, trade and economic interaction as well as people to people contact between these two important regions will be enhanced," Khalilzad said.
In recent weeks, Karzai has made it clear that Afghanistan hopes to become a regional trade hub through transit routes that link ports in Pakistan and Iran with Central Asia. In a visit to Washington in late May, Karzai said roads are a key part of those plans.
"Afghanistan wants to be the hub of trade and transit in that part of the world. Afghanistan's highways and roads will [shorten] journeys by weeks for that part of the world," Karzai said. "The journey from Tashkent [Uzbekistan] to [Pakistan's] port of Karachi will be less than 32 hours -- for cargo, for transportation of goods. The same will be to [the Iranian port city of] Bandar-Abbas. And that is the future we are seeking."
Meanwhile, Rakhmonov also pledged yesterday that Tajikistan would supply Afghanistan with electricity at prices lower than any other country in the region, and help rebuild Afghanistan's energy sector.
Afghanistan currently produces enough electricity for about six percent of its population. But Karzai has said his country has the potential to produce much more by using hydroelectric dams, wind power, and untapped coal resources.
Karzai on Saturday also reiterated Afghanistan's pledge to eradicate opium poppy farming. Both Karzai and Rakhmonov also vowed to improve coordination in combating extremism, terrorism, and drug smuggling.
(with agency reports)
Karzai resolved to cleanse Afghanistan of opium
DUSHANBE. June 18 (Interfax) - Afghan President Khamid Karzai declared that the Afghan authorities are resolved to cleanse the country of opium.
"Afghanistan is firmly resolved to destroy opium on its territory," Karzai told a Saturday press conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
The reason opium is actively grown in Afghanistan is the population's low level of life, Karzai noted.
"The world community should help to raise the level of life of Afghanistan's people, so the economy would develop and the Afghans would cultivate other plants," Karzai said.
Karzai said that, immediately after receiving the post of president, he called on his people to stop growing opium.
"In 2005, Afghanistan's opium production may be reduced by 30%-40%," Karzai said.
Afghanistan hopes for broader ties with Iran
Sunday, June 19, 2005
LONDON, June 19 (IranMania) - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai expressed hope Tehran-Kabul relations will be promoted with the help of Iran's new government.
He made the remarks during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Reza Bahrami, IRNA reported.
Karzai said the establishment of the new government will consolidate bilateral cooperation, adding that the two states have had good cooperation during President Mohammad Khatami's tenure.
The Iranian envoy, for his part, said Iran will not change its stand toward Afghanistan, adding that bilateral ties will continue on the basis of friendship and mutual cooperation.
3 Afghan teens try life in America
Exchange students learned about lifestyle and freedom
By Rafael A. Olmeda June 19, 2005 South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Three teenagers who came to South Florida from Afghanistan last year intended to learn about America.
They're going home Tuesday, satisfied that they have a better understanding of a land, and a people, they once feared.
Abdulahad Barak, Abdulahad Fazil and Khushal Rasoli joined Floridians and other Americans in a year punctuated by hurricanes, holidays and a presidential election focused largely on a U.S. war against a Muslim country. They watched as American media covered Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan. They jumped on rides at Universal Studios, Disney World and Busch Gardens, and volunteered to help victims of nature's wrath. Barak even got a chance to meet the president.
And they taught as much as they learned, helping Americans of other religions, or no religion, understand a little more about what it's like to be a Sunni Muslim so far from home.
"I thought Christians here would be mostly against Muslim people," said Barak, 16, who attended Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs. "But they have too much respect for Muslim people."
He didn't mean it quite that way. Barak knew very little English when he arrived last August as part of the Youth Exchange and Studies Program, coordinated by the State Department and World Link, an Iowa-based nonprofit group. He sometimes says "too much" when what he really means is "a lot." But his English has improved dramatically, thanks to spending time with a South Florida family, in a South Florida school with American friends.
"There's too much freedom here, about everything," he said. "How they dress, where they go, wherever they want. They can't do these things in other countries."
For two of the students, an American life meant American names. Rasoli became "Russell," and Fazil became "Alex." Barak's friends merely shortened his name to "Abdul."
Barak, Fazil and Rasoli didn't know each other in Afghanistan, but all three grew up under Taliban rule. The idea that girls could go to school was foreign to them.
It took some getting used to the co-ed classes here.
"We were sitting beside each other and that was a little bit hard for me at first," said Barak. But he went on to say that he made many friends with boys and girls.
Rasoli said it was a "good experience."
"We have girl friends that we wouldn't have had in Afghanistan. It is not possible [there] to study with a girl or talk with a girl outside of school unless she is a cousin or family.
"Here we talk with them, we went to movies with them, we learn from them."
Shortly after their arrival, the three traveled with program coordinators and a host family to southwest Florida to assist the victims of Hurricane Charley, unaware (as most were) that this part of the state would feel the effects of two hurricanes not long afterward. As they handed out water and other goods, no one asked if they were Muslim, and no one asked where they were from.
Back in Broward, Fazil volunteered as a school crossing guard. When he first got here he was enrolled in an Islamic school, but Fazil transferred to a public school because he wanted a taste of more mainstream American student life.
All three routinely visited churches and synagogues, where they spoke about their progress and learned about different religions.
"I went to synagogue and they were very nice to me," Rasoli said. "They knew I was a Muslim, but they treated me as a human being, as one of them."
The experiences convinced them all to pursue careers helping people when they get home.
"I want to be a doctor," said Rasoli, 17, who stayed with a family in Pembroke Pines and attended MacArthur High School in Hollywood. "In Afghanistan when you get really sick, the care there is not as good, so we must go to Pakistan or Iran."
Barak said he wants to be a pediatrician.
And after observing the political process here, and missing the chance to vote in Afghanistan's elections last year, Fazil fancies a career in politics. He stayed in Miramar and attended MacArthur High School with Rasoli.
The three said they were most amazed by the U.S. presidential election, watching George W. Bush defending his record in televised debates against challenger John Kerry. The thought that it was even possible for a world leader to be deposed without violence was new to them.
"It was the first time we have ever seen an election," said Barak. "It was good to see people choosing their own leader."
Barak got to meet that leader. He was one of a select group of exchange students who met the president at the White House as he congratulated all the program's students on their American experience.
The world of books was also opened to the three in a way that was impossible before the fall of the Taliban in 2001. They were particularly impressed with Night, by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.
"I knew Hitler was a bad person," said Rasoli. "But when I learned he killed 6 million Jews! I didn't know that before."
All three hope to return to the United States in the future, preferably as students, but they are homesick, and expect to spend their lives in an Afghanistan very different from the one they grew up in.
"I know when I go back that people are going to say bad things about America, about Jews and Christians," said Rasoli. "I am going to tell them no. They are wrong. It is not like that."
Staff Writer Raelin Storey contributed to this report.
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