Police Seek Accomplices in Afghan Bombing
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Police set up road blocks Thursday around a southern Afghan city in search of accomplices of a suspected al-Qaida suicide bomber who killed 20 people in one of the worst terror attacks here since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, officials said.
The attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body during the funeral Wednesday in Kandahar city of a moderate Muslim cleric who had spoken out against Taliban-led insurgents. Among the dead was Kabul's police chief and six of his bodyguards. Some 42 people were wounded.
Security forces in Kandahar set up checkpoints on all roads out of the city and were checking vehicles for anyone suspected of having links to the bomber.
"We believe others were involved in the attack and we are trying to arrest them as soon as possible," said deputy police chief Gen. Salim Khan.
Parts of the bomber's body were found and Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai said he belonged to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. He said documents found on the body "show he was an Arab."
The attacker detonated the explosives after coming close to the police commander, a Karzai supporter, but it was not clear if he was targeted, said Interior Ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal. Hundreds of others were in the mosque for the funeral of cleric Mullah Abdul Fayaz.
Fayaz, also a supporter of Karzai, was shot to death in Kandahar on Sunday by suspected Taliban gunmen — a week after he led a call for people not to support the rebels.
Kandahar was a stronghold of the Taliban regime that was ousted from power in late 2001 by U.S.-led forces for harboring bin Laden.
The bombing drew widespread condemnation, including from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan who described it as a "heinous act of terrorism," U.N. associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.
The blast — which came on the heels of a major upsurge in rebel violence in recent months including assassinations, almost daily clashes with rebels and the kidnapping of an Italian aid worker — further raised fears that militants here are copying the tactics of insurgents in Iraq.
Suicide Bomber Attacks Kandahar Mosque During Mourning Ceremony
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Prague, 1 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan officials say at least 17 people were killed and 36 injured by a suicide bomber who blew himself up at the entrance of Kandahar's main mosque today. The bomber detonated his explosives during a mourning ceremony for a slain Islamic cleric who had been a strong supporter of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Afghan government has confirmed that the Interior Ministry's new security chief for Kabul is among those killed.
RFE/RL's Kandahar correspondent Reshtim Qadiri was standing outside of the crowded Abdurrab Akhondzada Mosque in Kandahar to report on the mourning ceremony of a slain Islamic cleric when a suicide bomber blew himself up.
Within minutes, Qadiri managed to push her way through the fleeing crowd and make it into the small room at the front of the mosque where the explosion occurred. She found a nightmarish vision of death: "I'm in the area [just at the mosque's entrance], and this place is covered with blood and body parts. The scene here is [horrific and] almost surreal."
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal confirmed that the ministry's new security chief in Kabul was killed.
"As a result of the suicide attack, [at least] 17 people were killed and an additional 36 people were injured," Mashal said. "And General Akram Khakrizwal -- the security chief of Kabul -- is among the martyred."
Naseer Ahmad Niazi, the director of Kandahar's Mmirwais Hospital said later that the bodies of at least 20 people had been brought to his facility by the early afternoon. Afghan officials at the scene of the explosion said they fear the death toll eventually could top 50.
RFE/RL's Qadiri spoke to witnesses who had been injured by the blast and who said Khakrizwal appeared to be intentionally targetted by the suicide bomber.
"According to eyewitness accounts, commander Akram Khakrizwal -- who was the [Interior Ministry's new] security chief in Kabul -- had just entered the mosque with his bodyguards [when the attack occurred]," Qadiri said. "The suicide bomber was dressed like one of [his] bodyguards. And as [Khakrizwal] entered, the suicide bomber went in with them. It was when Khakrizwal paused to take off his shoes that this person jumped under [him] and blew himself up."
Khakrizwal was a native of Kandahar who had worked as the Interior Ministry's security chief in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif during the past two years. He had been promoted to the Kabul security post about two months ago.
Afghan officials tell RFE/RL that two of President Karzai's brothers -- Ahmad Wali and Shah Wali -- also were due to attend today's mourning ceremony but had not yet arrived when the blast occurred.
Khakrizwal returned to Kandahar today to attend a mourning ceremony at the mosque for Mawlavi Abdullah Fayyaz -- the chairman of the Kandahar Clerics' Council who was shot dead by a suspected Taliban militant on 29 May. Fayaz had been a strong supporter of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and had recently issued an edict calling on Afghans not to support the Taliban.
An Afghan man claiming to be a spokesman for the Taliban phoned news organizations in Kabul today to claim responsibility for the attack. But Interior Ministry spokesman Mashal told RFE/RL that the claim has not been confirmed.
"The investigation is underway. It is not clear [who is behind this attack]," Mashal said. "But one thing is clear. These are people who are enemies of Islam as well as the enemies of Afghanistan. This is the first time that a suicide attack has been committed inside a mosque. And people who have come to pray have been killed."
Correspondents say a suicide bomb attack on a mosque -- particularly during a mourning ceremony for a Muslim cleric -- is a cause for outrage among ordinary Afghans.
Witnesses who were injured in the blast were reluctant to give their names. But they told RFE/RL's Qadiri just moments after the explosion that the attack had the hallmarks of the "enemies of Afghanistan" -- an expression used by Karzai and his supporters to describe the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.
"This morning I went to the mosque to attend the mourning ceremony for Mawlavi Fayyaz," said one eyewitness. "As I was entering the mosque an explosion took place. My shawl and clothes were thrown up in the air. I received a few injuries on my hands and legs. I can't hear anything right now. But I can tell you that this is not Islam. This is the killing of Muslim brothers, of innocent people. This is done by the servants of the foreigners who are against Afghanistan's security."
Mawlavi Kashaf, a Muslim cleric and member of Afghanistan's Supreme Court, condemned the attack as un-Islamic.
"These suicide and terrorist attacks are all rejected from a humanitarian point of view," Kashaf said. "They are rejected by Islam. Those who are against security in Afghanistan do such things. They don't want security and stability to come to this country."
Afghan officials also say a prominent former mujahedin commander from Kandahar named Mullah Naqiebullah was inside the mosque and injured by the blast. Naqiebullah fought against the Taliban as a member of the former Northern Alliance and is a supporter of Karzai's central government. There were no immediate details on the extent of his injuries.
(By RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz; Contributors to this report include RFE/RL Afghan correspondent Reshtin Qadiri in Kandahar and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan staffers Hashem Mohmand, Sharifa Sharif, and Haifizullah Asefi; and RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari.)
Blast targets Afghanistan mosque
Wednesday, 1 June, 2005 BBC News
At least 20 people have died in a suspected suicide bombing at a mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, the worst attack this year.
Kabul police chief Mohammed Akram was among those killed, officials say.
He was among many who were at the mosque to mourn a senior anti-Taleban cleric, who was shot dead on Sunday.
Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz was killed by two men on a motorcycle as he left his office. Last week he made a speech attacking Taleban leader Mullah Omar.
Kandahar Governor Gul Aga Sherzai has alleged that Arab militants belonging to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network were behind the attack.
"The attacker was a member of al-Qaeda. We have found documents on his body that show he was an Arab," Mr Sherzai is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
A Taleban spokesman told the BBC that his organisation was not to blame.
Earlier, a man claiming to be from the Taleban called the BBC in Kabul and said they had carried out the latest attack.
Eyewitnesses say the Abdul Rab mosque in the heart of Kandahar was filled with mourners at the time of the attack, which took place at 0900 (0430 GMT).
"I heard a loud explosion," Mohammad, who owns a money-changing shop in the vicinity of the mosque, told the BBC News website.
"The force of the blast blew out the windows of my shop," he said.
Officials say many more are feared to have been killed in the attack.
Sirens could be heard from the blast site as ambulances ferried the wounded to hospital.
"People were running around, some were lying on the ground crying," one survivor, Nanai Agha, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
"Dead bodies were everywhere," he said.
"It was a suicide attack by the enemies of Afghanistan and Islam," Afghan interior ministry spokesman told AFP.
"The investigation into the case has started."
Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz was a key supporter of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and was head of the government-appointed Islamic scholars' council.
Last month, he had condemned the Taleban at a meeting in Kandahar of about 500 clerics.
He said Taleban fighters were killing innocent civilians and the government should be supported for trying to rebuild the country.
The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says that the latest attack will raise fears that militants opposed to President Karzai are stepping up their efforts to undermine his government ahead of September's parliamentary elections.
Annan condemns bomb attack on mosque in Afghanistan
KABUL, June 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan was shocked over the bomb attack on a mosque in southern Afghanistan and strongly condemned it, a spokesperson of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Thursday.
"The Secretary General strongly condemns this heinous act of terrorism, and expresses his profound condolences to the government of Afghanistan and the bereaved families of the victims," Ariane Quentier told journalists here.
In the deadly blast in Kandahar province Wednesday morning, 20 people, including Kabul's police chief, were killed and 52 others,mostly civilians, were injured while people were attending a memorial service for a pro-government clergy who was himself assassinated on Sunday.
A statement received Thursday from the UNAMA termed the blast as an act of terrorism.
"UNAMA condemns this odious act in the strongest terms," the statement said.
The UN office also expressed its sympathy to the wounded and the relatives of those killed in the incident.
Afghan government put the bloody attack on the enemies of Afghanistan but declined to directly blame any individuals or groups for it.
Coalition abhors terrorist act in Kandahar
June 1, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
An explosion occurred earlier today in the Abdul Rub Akhundzadar Mosque during a religious ceremony mourning the death of Mullah Abdul Fiyaz, a respected cleric and supporter of the people of Afghanistan.
The governor of Kandahar and the Afghan National Police are investigating this incident.
“The Coalition abhors this atrocious act of violence upon innocent civilians and a mosque,” said U.S. Army Col. Jim Yonts, Command Forces Command – Afghanistan public affairs officer. “Tragic events such as this only solidify our resolve that we must eradicate terrorism now. The future of Afghanistan depends on it.”
The Coalition offers our condolences to the family and friends of Mullah Fiyaz and to the families of those injured or killed in the explosion. The Coalition stands ready to provide civic assistance to the Government of Afghanistan and the governor of Kandahar.
U.S. forces release 53 Afghan prisoners
By Yousuf Azimy / June 1, 2005
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. forces in Afghanistan released 53 prisoners no longer considered a threat on Wednesday, saying their freedom was a sign of peace and progress, but at least one of those set free said he had been abused.
The release came days after President Hamid Karzai called for custody of all Afghan prisoners in U.S. detention following an outcry over a report of prisoner abuse.
"This is a gesture of friendship with the government of Afghanistan and a sign of peace that symbolises continued progress toward a united Afghanistan," U.S. military spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts told a news conference.
The "low-level combatants" had been detained for attacks on civilians, U.S.-led or Afghan government forces, he said. The men, all Afghans, were being set free from U.S. bases at Bagram, near Kabul.
The United States is holding more than 500 prisoners from its war on terrorism at the Guantanamo Bay naval base on Cuba. Many of them were detained in Afghanistan after the Taliban overthrow in late 2001.
U.S. forces are also believed to be holding several hundred Afghans in Afghanistan.
Karzai's call for the return of detainees came after The New York Times last month reported details of abuse of Afghan detainees in 2002, including the deaths of two inmates at Bagram.
The details were contained in a 2,000-page file of U.S. army investigators, the newspaper said.
But in response to Karzai's call, the United States said Afghanistan must have proper detention facilities before prisoners are turned over.
The 53 men were later brought to a government building in Kabul and presented with clothes and some cash before being released.
Reporters were able to speak to some of them briefly and one said he had faced abuse. Two said they had been treated well.
"They used to torture us, they beat us," said former detainee Haji Abdul Basir, 41.
"For 23 months we didn't see the sun" he said.
"I was in prison for six months," said Nawab, who said he was only 15. "They behaved well with me.
The United States commands a foreign force in Afghanistan of about 18,300, most of them American, fighting Taliban insurgents and hunting militant leaders, including Osama bin Laden
French intelligence locates Italian hostage in Kabul: La Republica
ROME - French intelligence located whereabouts of kidnapped Italian relief worker in Afghanistan, Clementina Cantoni, said Wednesday Italian diplomatic sources without revealing if action has been taken in response.
Italian newspaper La Republica's website cited Italian Foreign Ministry sources as saying that French intelligence personnel working in the Afghan capital, Kabul, located the hiding place where Temur Shah Gang has been detaining Cantoni as a hostage.
Italian authorities confirmed the reports saying that Cantoni has been detained at a house located in a suburb south of Kabul that has been guarded by five of the gang members, added the website without revealing the identity of the Italian diplomatic source.
Another reports said that gang of Temur, known to be a dangerous criminal ring, mistakenly kidnapped Cantoni, who works for CARE International Humanitarian Organization, when they were supposed to abduct her American Colleague.
UN halts demining in Afghan south after attack
02 Jun 2005 09:39:33 GMT
KABUL, June 2 (Reuters) - The United Nations suspended the clearing of landmines in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, a day after two Afghan deminers were killed and five wounded by a roadside bomb.
The blast in the southern Helmand province was the third attack on deminers in two weeks. Five of them have been killed.
"We condemn these targeted attacks against deminers and call on the Afghan authorities to bring to justice the perpetrators," said Dan Kelly, of the U.N. Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is strewn with land mines, a legacy of decades of conflict that began with an invasion by troops of the former Soviet Union in 1979.
Up to 100 people are killed or wounded by mines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan every month, the United Nations says.
The suspension affects demining along a main road under renovation between the southern city of Kandahar and Herat in the west and on connector roads in Helmand and Farah provinces, the U.N. agency said.
Demining would only resume after the agencies and security officials assessed the situation and drew up a plan for better security for the teams, it said.
Three Afghan deminers were killed in an attack on May 18 in Farah province in the west of the country. A demining vehicle was the target of a bomb in the same province on May 29 but no one was hurt.
Taliban rebels and other militants see aid workers, including those clearing landmines, as bolstering the U.S.-backed government and have attacked them.
About 50 aid workers have been killed in the past two years in Afghanistan.
The latest attack on deminers happened on the same day 20 people, including the capital's police chief, were killed in a suicide bomb attack on a mosque in Kandahar province.
AFGHANISTAN: Focus on warlordism in northeast
FAIZABAD, 1 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Sitting in his tiny, dark office in an old building in the town of Faizabad, provincial capital of Afghanistan's northeastern Badakhshan, Shah Jehan Noori, the provincial police chief, pleaded with government officials in the capital, Kabul, to send him more troops and equipment to deal with unruly warlords who still hold sway in many parts of the province.
"We need commandos, we need police, we need helicopters. Commanders [warlords] are strong. They must be brought under control," he shouted down the phone while preparing for another operation to quell clashes between militia groups that had plagued the isolated province since early May.
Northeastern Afghanistan, including the province of Badakhshan, is ironically seen as one of the safest regions in a country rife with insecurity, especially in the south and the east. But it remains a major source of concern to people like Noori who wish to tame the power of local warlords without plunging the region into new conflict.
Although all the militia forces in the northeast were supposedly decommissioned by the UN-backed Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, local commanders appear to have no shortage of heavy or light weaponry at their disposal to enforce their will.
In Badakhshan, despite the support of a 200 strong NATO-led group of international peacekeepers stationed in Faizabad, local police are often unable to defuse local feuds and disputes between armed groups.
Only last April there was a clash between two commanders in the Shahr-e-Buzurg border district, four hours south of Faizabad and strategically located on one of Afghanistan's prime drug trafficking routes running north into Central Asia.
The two local warlords reportedly came to blows over control of the lucrative run and sought to resolve the issue with heavy artillery, mortars and vehicle-mounted rocket launchers. Several people were reportedly killed and injured in the resulting battle. Some unarmed local people were caught in the crossfire.
In Darahim district, two hours south of Faizabad, the new district administrator, Alimyar, has been wary of his safety since taking up his post. He has been threatened by Neyazi, an ex-district administrator, who claims he protected the area during years of violence and deserves to be in a position of power in the area.
While in Spingul valley, three hours north of Faizabad, a woman suspected of adultery, was stoned to death in mid April, with a local commander purportedly being influential in passing the death sentence.
"The warlords are stronger and better equipped than our police. The police are not supposed to conduct military operations but we have no choice as the only security body here," Noori told IRIN.
"NATO forces here say it is not their mandate to intervene in cases like Shahr-e-Buzurg and the capital has not responded to our demand for ANA [Afghan National Army] deployment," said Noori, shrugging as he watched the unloading of artillery to be deployed in the troubled area.
"This is our utmost power but the opposition commander is even stronger," he warned.
In Faizabad influential commander Nazeer Mohammad, locally known as Nazeermad, continues to wield significant power over civil and military affairs in the province.
Any local resident in the city, if asked, would name the top decision maker in the area as Nazeermad, not the governor. Nothing happens without the knowledge of the powerful warlord who has ruled the city for more than ten years.
Nazeermad has four wives and according to locals, has been married eleven times in the last 15 years.
"He divorces one and marries a new one after every three years - many of them forced marriages," a provincial court prosecutor, who wished to be kept anonymous, told IRIN.
While authorities in the area prepare themselves for parliamentary elections in September, the fact that most of the candidates are either warlords or extremist clergy loyal to these commanders remains a source of serious concern. One civil servant, who has been living in Faizabad for 20 years, maintained that former militias already occupy most key government posts.
"In fact, the governor cannot do anything when the whole circle is supporting people like Nazeermad," he explained. "They are very professional warlords and they proceed in a very well planned, coordinated and organised [manner]".
Badakhshan is the home province of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami [Islamic community]. Most of the provincial government's leading officials still remain loyal to Rabbani.
This isolated province, rife with social and economic problems, was one of the few provinces the hard-line Taliban was never able to conquer. In addition to having one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan, the province is a leading poppy cultivating area.
"When Badakhshan is mentioned, donors and the government consider the issue of maternal mortality and poppy cultivation as the main problems here. No one outside this mountainous province knows that warlordism has undermined development in this corner of the country," Anis Akhgar, the head of Faizabad's women's affairs department, told IRIN. Akhgar is running as an independent candidate in the parliamentary elections but has little hope of competing against her rival candidates, many of them influential commanders.
"They [the warlords] are the candidates, the observers and even they look after the security of candidates. How is it possible that an independent candidate like me can win?" she asked.
Meanwhile, despite the presence of two hundred NATO-led peacekeepers in the tiny Faizabad city, local residents remain mindful of the threat posed by local commanders.
"Even ISAF [NATO-led international security assistance force] is recruiting the former militias of Badakhshan, re-arming them and using them," Mohammad Zafar, a civil servant at the Faizabad public hospital, told IRIN, claiming that NATO forces were regularly meeting and consulting with Nazeermad in his home on the edge of Kokcha River in the heart of Faizabad.
"All of our villagers who were loyal to Nazeermad and were disarmed last year, currently are carrying military guns and badges of ISAF," Zafar claimed.
Badakhshan is the third largest poppy-growing province in the country. Drug trafficking and the issue of insecurity caused by the lack of infrastructure make it very difficult for the law to be imposed by the civilian-military units of the international Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), especially in other parts of the province which are the primary areas of concern.
The weapons and ammunition caches still found in the area are an additional source of concern.
"There are some warlords left, because in each district you will find former commanders of the old wars which still own a lot of weapons and their power-base is drug trading and ownership of rifles and other weapons," Lt-Colonel Manhenke Olaf of the NATO-led PRT and commander of Faizabad, told IRIN. He added that although the DDR process had officially ended, there is still a lot of weaponry around.
The commander of the two-hundred strong multi-national unit said many of the problems and encounters in Badakhshan were 'an inner Afghan conflict' and the PRTs were not mandated to become involved in these particular issues.
"We are tasked to support the police by giving them advice but we are not allowed to use our own guns in direct military operations," he said.
"In Shahr-e-Buzurg's particular incident, as the police are using heavy weapons [to control the tense situation], it is a semi-military operation [in] which we cannot be involved," he explained.
Olaf rejected claims that the PRTs were re-arming former militias, noting, however, they had recruited some former militia members, including thirty men loyal to Nazeermad, using them to protect the PRT premises.
"What we are doing is we have civil guards which are supporting the military guards securing the camp and some of them are members of former militia groups, because they don't need further military training and are familiar with the area," he explained.
But Badakhshan is just one example of the whole problem of warlordism threatening public order in northeastern Afghanistan, according to local rights activists.
In the northeastern city of Kunduz, where hundreds of ISAF personnel are deployed and a large contingent of the ANA is stationed, local commanders continue to harass people, with incidents of land grabbing, drug trafficking and forced ‘taxation’ of farmers and shopkeepers being reported.
When IRIN visited Imam Sahib, a border district 70 kilometers north of Kunduz, armed men loyal to a local commander who is a top local government official, forcibly collected money and food items from shopkeepers to organise a reception for a senior visiting government delegation from Kabul.
"The big commanders here are drug traffickers. They are too rich and they don't bother with small matters. Now the poor people are annoyed by small armed groups. They rob highways, grab lands and tax farmers for their harvest," an aid worker, who declined to be named, told IRIN in Kunduz.
He said these armed groups often clashed with the newly trained ANA and national police.
"In just one week we had two major incidents. Men loyal to Commander Meer Alam resisted when the police wanted to check their vehicle at the Kunduz entrance gate, while Zabet Nurullah, a local militia commander was prohibited from passing on a restricted road during a military parade by the ANA," the aid worker said.
The United Nations said the DDR is reaching an end with more than 55,000 of the estimated 60,000 ex-combatants disarmed. But the Afghan Ministry of Defence (MOD) estimates that more than a 100,000 armed men in illegal militias still remain unchallenged.
According to the MOD, a new programme entitled disarmament of illegal armed groups (DIAG) is underway to address the problem of such armed groups and individuals throughout the country.
Local people believe the task is huge and the parliamentary elections, slated for September, will be marked by incidents of intimidation and harassment by local warlords around the country.
Gitmo Detainees Say Muslims Were Sold
By MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press Tue May 31, 9:20 PM ET
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - They fed them well. The Pakistani tribesmen slaughtered a sheep in honor of their guests, Arabs and Chinese Muslims famished from fleeing U.S. bombing in the Afghan mountains. But their hosts had ulterior motives: to sell them to the Americans, said the men who are now prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Bounties ranged from $3,000 to $25,000, the detainees testified during military tribunals, according to transcripts the U.S. government gave The Associated Press to comply with a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
A former CIA intelligence officer who helped lead the search for Osama bin Laden told AP the accounts sounded legitimate because U.S. allies regularly got money to help catch Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. Gary Schroen said he took a suitcase of $3 million in cash into Afghanistan himself to help supply and win over warlords to fight for U.S. Special Forces.
"It wouldn't surprise me if we paid rewards," said Schroen, who retired after 32 years in the CIA soon after the fall of Kabul in late 2001. He recently published the book "First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan."
Schroen said Afghan warlords like Gen. Rashid Dostum were among those who received bundles of notes. "It may be that we were giving rewards to people like Dostum because his guys were capturing a lot of Taliban and al-Qaida," he said.
Pakistan has handed hundreds of suspects to the Americans, but Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the AP, "No one has taken any money."
The U.S. departments of Defense, Justice and State and the Central Intelligence Agency also said they were unaware of bounty payments being made for random prisoners.
The U.S. Rewards for Justice program pays only for information that leads to the capture of suspected terrorists identified by name, said Steve Pike, a State Department spokesman. Some $57 million has been paid under the program, according to its Web site.
It offers rewards up to $25 million for information leading to the capture of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
But a wide variety of detainees at the U.S. lockup at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, alleged they were sold into capture. Their names and other identifying information were blacked out in the transcripts from the tribunals, which were held to determine whether prisoners were correctly classified as enemy combatants.
One detainee who said he was an Afghan refugee in Pakistan accused the country's intelligence service of trumping up evidence against him to get bounty money from the U.S.
"When I was in jail, they said I needed to pay them money and if I didn't pay them, they'd make up wrong accusations about me and sell me to the Americans and I'd definitely go to Cuba," he told the tribunal. "After that I was held for two months and 20 days in their detention, so they could make wrong accusations about me and my (censored), so they could sell us to you."
Another prisoner said he was on his way to Germany in 2001 when he was captured and sold for "a briefcase full of money" then flown to Afghanistan before being sent to Guantanamo.
"It's obvious. They knew Americans were looking for Arabs, so they captured Arabs and sold them — just like someone catches a fish and sells it," he said. The detainee said he was seized by "mafia" operatives somewhere in Europe and sold to Americans because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time — an Arab in a foreign country.
A detainee who said he was a Saudi businessman claimed, "The Pakistani police sold me for money to the Americans."
"This was part of a roundup of all foreigners and Arabs in that area," of Pakistan near the Afghan border, he said, telling the tribunal he went to Pakistan in November 2001 to help Afghan refugees.
The military-appointed representative for one detainee — who said he was a Taliban fighter — said the prisoner told him he and his fellow fighters "were tricked into surrendering to Rashid Dostum's forces. Their agreement was that they would give up their arms and return home. But Dostum's forces sold them for money to the U.S."
Several detainees who appeared to be ethnic Chinese Muslims — known as Uighurs — described being betrayed by Pakistani tribesmen along with about 100 Arabs.
They said they went to Afghanistan for military training to fight for independence from China. When U.S. warplanes started bombing near their camp, they fled into the mountains near Tora Bora and hid for weeks, starving.
One detainee said they finally followed a group of Arabs, apparently fighters, being guided by an Afghan to the Pakistani border.
"We crossed into Pakistan and there were tribal people there, and they took us to their houses and they killed a sheep and cooked the meat and we ate," he said.
That night, they were taken to a mosque, where about 100 Arabs also sheltered. After being fed bread and tea, they were told to leave in groups of 10, taken to a truck, and driven to a Pakistani prison. From there, they were handed to Americans and flown to Guantanamo.
"When we went to Pakistan the local people treated us like brothers and gave us good food and meat," said another detainee. But soon, he said, they were in prison in Pakistan where "we heard they sold us to the Pakistani authorities for $5,000 per person."
There have been reports of Arabs being sold to the Americans after the U.S.-led offensive in Afghanistan, but the testimonies offer the most detail from prisoners themselves.
In March 2002, the AP reported that Afghan intelligence offered rewards for the capture of al-Qaida fighters — the day after a five-hour meeting with U.S. Special Forces. Intelligence officers refused to say if the two events were linked and if the United States was paying the offered reward of 150 million Afghanis, then equivalent to $4,000 a head.
That day, leaflets and loudspeaker announcements promised "the big prize" to those who turned in al-Qaida fighters.
Said one leaflet: "You can receive millions of dollars. ... This is enough to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life — pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people."
Helicopters broadcast similar announcements over the Afghan mountains, enticing people to "Hand over the Arabs and feed your families for a lifetime," said Najeeb al-Nauimi, a former Qatar justice minister and leader of a group of Arab lawyers representing nearly 100 detainees.
Al-Nauimi said a consortium of wealthy Arabs, including Saudis, told him they also bought back fellow citizens who had been captured by Pakistanis.
Khalid al-Odha, who started a group fighting to free 12 Kuwaiti detainees, said his imprisoned son, Fawzi, wrote him a letter from Guantanamo Bay about Kuwaitis being sold to the Americans in Afghanistan.
One Kuwaiti who was released, 26-year-old Nasser al-Mutairi, told al-Odha that interrogators said Dostum's forces sold them to the Pakistanis for $5,000 each, and the Pakistanis in turn sold them to the Americans.
"I also heard that Saudis were sold to the Saudi government by the Pakistanis," al-Odha said. "If I had known that, I would have gone and bought my son back."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Chief of Caribbean Services Michelle Faul has covered the prison at Guantanamo Bay since it opened in January 2002. Associated Press writers Paisley Dodds in London and Matthew Pennington in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report.
UNHCR helps 100,000 Afghans to repatriate this year
By Jack Redden / UNHCR Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, June 1 (UNHCR) – More than 100,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme for 2005 started in March. The pace of returns is expected to increase, with camp closures planned in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Of the total of 101,224 returnees processed by the time the last truck departed on Tuesday, almost half – 48,967 – had been living in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. But the Afghans came from all over Pakistan: 27,168 from Balochistan, 13,627 from Punjab and Islamabad, and 11,462 from Sindh.
The UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme began in 2002 and has now helped nearly 2.4 million Afghans to return from Pakistan, the largest repatriation operation in the world. The UN refugee agency estimates up to 400,000 Afghans could go home from Pakistan during this year.
The repatriation programme is governed by the Tripartite Agreement between UNHCR and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which continues until next March. There has been no decision yet on the policy that will follow the current agreement.
However, UNHCR and Pakistan have begun discussions on policies on managing those Afghans who remain in Pakistan after the Tripartite Agreement. A census early this year by the government, assisted by UNHCR, established that just over three million Afghans – refugees and other categories – live in Pakistan.
The current rate of repatriation is similar to returns in 2003, when 104,092 went home by the end of May, but behind the pace in 2004 when 141,666 Afghans went home in the same period. A total of 343,074 repatriated in 2003 and 383,598 in 2004.
However, the pace of repatriation is likely to pick up in the next month because the government of Pakistan has announced that all refugee camps in North Waziristan, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, will be closed by the end of June. The government also said it intends to soon after close all other camps in the FATA region.
The residents of the camps, including about 30,000 in North Waziristan, will be offered a choice of voluntary repatriation through UNHCR or relocation to another existing site chosen by the government.
All Afghans in Pakistan who wish to repatriate are eligible to receive a travel grant of $3 to $30 per person, varying with the distance to the destination in Afghanistan, plus a $12 per person grant to help in re-establishing themselves. Those repatriating go through an iris recognition test that ensures they cannot receive assistance a second time. They receive their grants after arriving in Afghanistan.
In all, more than 3 million Afghan refugees worldwide have returned home under the UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme that started in early 2002.
Behind the purdah: wartime sexual violence in Afghanistan
CBC News 06/01/2005 By Aisha Ahmad
For over two decades of war and inter-ethnic strife, women in Afghanistan have hidden in the shame of rape and sexual violence. In a country where more than 80 per cent of women are illiterate and live in remote rural areas, stories of wartime rape are veiled within the secret world of the purdah, the traditional barrier in Afghan society that keeps women separated from public life.
But from the uncomfortable silence, Afghan women across the country shared with me their experiences under the threat of sexual violence.
During Afghanistan's civil war period in the early 1990s, warlords and militiamen ravaged the countryside using systematic rape campaigns against rival factions. Diana Hashimzada, an Uzbek from the ethnically divided city of Mazar e Sharif, recalled, "Before the Taliban came, there were many commanders from each ethnicity. Hazara militiamen raped Tajik women, Tajik militias raped Uzbek women, and Uzbeks raped Pashtuns … whenever a militiaman would find a woman of another ethnicity, he would rape her."
Women from the ultra-conservative and Pashtun-dominated southern region of the country had similar stories. "The militiamen would go into the houses and tie up the men. They would rape the women in front of their brothers, husbands and fathers and then leave," said Yasmine, a 24-year-old rural health worker from Kandahar.
"When I was in Zabul province, we had a young man shoot himself in the head because he had watched his sister get raped by militia gangs and could not live with the shame."
Practically every woman I encountered in Afghanistan was either a victim of rape herself or personally knew someone affected by sexual violence during the civil war period. These old scars have left a mark of violence and fear on Afghan women. The Taliban actually enjoyed a short-lived popularity in 1996, when they expelled the warlords from the countryside.
Ironically, even though the Taliban were infamous for their tyrannical policies on female education, employment and mobility, my discussions with women in the northern, central and southern regions of Afghanistan revealed that the Taliban regime, through its strict interpretations of Islamic law, virtually eliminated the ethnic rape campaigns and widespread sexual violence.
"During the Taliban we could not come to the [health] clinic without our husbands and we could not move around freely, but there was no threat of rape for women," said Ayesha, 40, a Pashtun villager from rural Kandahar province.
"The Taliban made it so that no one could come into our homes. A woman could even sleep with her door open at night and nothing would happen to her."
Even in the ethnically fragmented northern province of Balkh, women noticed a reduction in sexual violence under the Taliban regime. Twenty-year-old widow Akala, from Khoja Ghalak village, struggled to feed herself and her two children during the Taliban regime, but says she was under no threat of sexual violence.
"Under the Taliban, I was not able to work in the field or go to the bazaar, or even visit the cemetery to pray. I am a widow, so my life was extremely difficult. But they [the Taliban] never went into houses or violated women. They were very good people in that regard.
"The only restriction was that you couldn't go outside, or even think about going outside. They killed a lot of people, but they did not rape women. And the men were all afraid to rape because the Taliban would kill them."
Since the fall of the Taliban government women have resumed their positions in the public life of Afghanistan, as girls eagerly returned to schools and universities, and professional women re-entered the workforce. However, the defeat of the Taliban has come at the enormous cost of justice for many silenced rape victims.
From the start of the War on Terror, the American military joined forces with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance militias under the leadership of commanders such as General Rashid Dostum and Mohammad Atta, who are known to have propagated ethnically-motivated rape campaigns during the civil war period.
These warlords, fuelled with new weaponry and American dollars to fight the War on Terror, now have the capacity to terrorize the women of Afghanistan again.
"Before the Taliban, General Dostum did many injustices to women," says Akala. "Now he is away in Kabul where President Karzai and the Americans are controlling him … but we have no regard for Dostum."
As long as the international community keeps its eyes on Afghanistan, many local people believe that the warlords can be kept in check. Most Afghans accept foreign occupation because they realize that these newly reinstated warlords are again powerful enough to wage another civil war.
Abdul Qadir Noorzai, director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kandahar, noted the fragility of the current peace.
"Right now there are external forces controlling Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army is not strong enough to keep the peace. When General Dostum refused to accept the central authority, only the Americans, under threat of force, could bring him back to Kabul. If the international presence leaves Afghanistan, the situation here will collapse within a month."
But controlling the warlords brings no justice to the victims of sexual violence in Afghanistan, and the Karzai government has already demonstrated a total inability to protect the security of women and children.
Northern Alliance warlords, once ousted by the Taliban, have now resumed effective military and economic control of the countryside. While the Karzai administration struggles to build a new national army, district level commanders maintain de facto control over their private fiefdoms.
The government in Kabul holds no influence whatsoever outside of Afghanistan's major urban centres, leaving rural security in the hands of militias.
Abida, a schoolteacher in Kandahar, was forced to leave her teaching position under the Taliban regime. But although she is now able to resume her work at the school, Abida complained of a sharp rise in sexual violence during Karzai's period in office.
"My daughter was taken by gunpoint and raped. She has a small baby now and they are living with me. She has tried to kill herself many times by setting herself on fire. Her rapist is walking freely through the streets of Kandahar and nothing can be done.
"There are many other Afghan women like my daughter who are killing themselves and burning themselves alive because of this shame. It's no longer safe to walk alone in the streets."
However, despite the re-emerging threat of sexual violence, women unanimously applauded the fall of the Taliban, and pointed to the emerging democratic process and developing central government as the only solution to Afghanistan's lawlessness. Weary and impoverished, women have been the frontline victims of war for over two decades and are hungry for stability and effective government.
While the fledging Karzai administration seems to be more concerned with solidifying diplomatic and military relations with the United States, than with fostering a sense of security and confidence in the central government in the rural areas. The female vote constituted over 40% of the Afghan electorate in the presidential election last fall, but women in rural areas in the south complained that the central government has no power to control local commanders and power holders.
But while the burden of shame falls on the shoulders of Afghan women, the international community should look at the new regime they have created for Afghanistan. In a country where warlords and rapists rule with impunity, Afghan women continue to be denied their rights to freedom and justice.
Man arrested with forged foreign currency
By Safia Milad
KABUL, June 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Kabul police Thursday claimed arresting a man with forged foreign currency in west of the city.
Yar Gul (32), resident of Arghandy area of the western Paghman district was arrested on a tip off from a secret source, police officials said.
"A total of 12,000 Pakistani and 200 forged US currencies were recovered from his possession," Crime Police Chief of the first district Colonel Zalmai Oriakhel confided to Pajhwok Afghan News.
On contact, the accused confessed to the crime but stopped short of naming the person or place from where he had got the currency.
Late last month, police had arrested four persons in a similar case in Kabul.
Provincial council candidate arrested in Khost
By Abdul Majeed Arif
KHOST CITY, June 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Authorities in the southern Khost province claimed arresting a provincial council candidate after mounting public complaints against him.
Hamidullah, who also served as Alishir district governor, was arrested based on charges of killings.
Marajuddin Patan, Khost governor told Pajhwok on Tuesday that local people's charges on the candidate led to his arrest.
He said, Hamidullah was arrested by district court and was taken into custody in Khost general detention center.
Colonel Mohammad Ayob, provincial police chief told Pajhwok that Hamidullah would be in detention for fifteen days.
"He is accused for killings, and his case is under investigation." He added.
Mohammad Qayyom Khan, JEMB official in Khost province said he had a commission for hearing charges and accusations, people should visit this commission in case they had any complaints against the candidates.
He added they hadn't received any complaints against this candidate.
Police chief rejected any hostility against the candidate.
Kidnapped children recovered from refugee camp
By Wagma Saba Aamir
PESHAWAR, June 1 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Police have recovered two Afghan minors allegedly kidnapped from Balakh province 10 days back.
Sharifuddin, son of Najmuddin (12), and Nizamuddin (13), son of Ziauddin, were allegedly kidnapped by Rahman Barfi, son of Barat Khan.
The alleged kidnappers were abetted by four accomplices, police told Pajhwok Afghan News on Wednesday. Azakhel Police Station SHO Shah Hasan said the abductor was in their custody while his abettors managed to run away.
Kidnappers were trying to shift the two children to Mansehra, he said, adding investigations were underway and police trying to arrest the four outlaws at large.
Sobbing out the kidnap saga, Sharifuddin recalled he was sitting in a garden with Nizamuddin when a car stopped near them. "The five men dragged us into the car," he continued.
The children were first taken to Kabul and then shifted to Pakistan, with the abductors often warning to kill them. "But they did not subject us to torture."
Police chief of Azakhel refugee camp Allah Dad told this news agency the two children could not speak Pashto. He said residents of the area informed them on the basis of suspicion.
The alleged kidnapper, when approached by this scribe, rejected the charge and said the children requested him to lead them to Mansehra.
Afghan Consul General in Peshawar Haji Abdul Khaliq Farahi, when contacted for comments, said the children would either be handed over to the Afghan Interior Ministry or their parents.
Nizamuddin said he was a resident of the Kalfat Bandar area in Balkh province. He had studied in the Naubahar High School of the province.
Musharraf is losing his grip
Ahmed Rashid International Herald Tribune THURSDAY, JUNE 2, 2005
LAHORE, Pakistan When Pakistan announced the arrest of a senior Al Qaeda operative last month, it was another feather in the cap of President Pervez Musharraf, with President George W. Bush describing the capture as "a critical victory in the war on terror." Musharraf's peace overtures toward India and criticism of Islamic extremism have also won high praise abroad, especially in Washington, which in March awarded him with a supply of F-16 fighter jets. But Musharraf's growing international standing is at odds with his faltering position at home.
His government is unraveling under the twin pressures of Islamic fundamentalists whom he refuses to resist and political opponents whom he harasses and jails. In April, thousands of members of the Pakistan People's Party were arrested to prevent big rallies for one of the party's leaders, Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistan People's Party has been effectively sidelined since Musharraf took over in a military coup in 1999. Zardari - here for a visit from Dubai, where he lives in exile with his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - says he wants to test Musharraf's promises to restore genuine democracy.
The crackdown on the party is in sharp contrast to the extent to which the government has bowed to the demands of a coalition of six Islamic fundamentalist parties, even though many of these same fundamentalists consider Musharraf too secular and demand his resignation. The government has recently accepted the fundamentalists' demands that it stop men and women from running marathons together, and that it delay reform of the Islamic schools called madrassas, as well as efforts to amend laws on blasphemy and to curb honor killings.
Meanwhile, the civilian government brought to power by the military in 2002 after what many international monitors considered to be a rigged election has failed to deliver what Musharraf desired - a coherent and effective civilian facade for the military, which actually runs the country. Instead, the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League, is riven by factionalism, and Parliament is often forced to suspend business because it lacks a quorum.
Shaukat Aziz, the third prime minister since 2002, is a former finance minister who has no political experience and is too beholden to the army to be an effective political leader. Challenged by its own ineptitude and by those parties demanding democracy, the Muslim League finds it convenient to pander to the fundamentalists, who are strong enough to keep the democrats at bay.
Musharraf's problems are compounded by insurgencies in the provinces. In Baluchistan, separatists are demanding greater autonomy and control over their natural resources. For the past three months the country's largest gas fields have been besieged by the separatists.
In North-West Frontier Province, a neo-Taliban resistance against the army continues with the return of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban who have been recently trained in Iraq. In the southern province of Sind there is growing alienation because of interethnic strife, increased criminality and corruption and tensions between the majority Sindhis and the central government.
The only answer to the domestic problems now tearing the country apart is more democracy - in particular a free and fair election in which the political elements that have been disenfranchised since 1999 get a political stake in determining the country's future. The next few months will be crunch time for the army, the Americans, the mullahs and the political parties. All the major players know that the present political situation under Musharraf is unsustainable.
It is time that the world sat up and took notice of events in Pakistan, because with 160 million people, nuclear weapons and a myriad of Islamic extremist groups still operating openly, Pakistan remains critical to regional and global stability.
(Ahmed Rashid is the author of ''Taliban'' and, most recently, ''Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia.'')
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).