Terror Suspects Kill Afghan Electioneer
BY DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press Writer Sun Jun 5,12:19 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Suspected Taliban militants gunned down an Afghan working on a U.S.-funded electoral project, officials said Sunday in the first killing of a worker linked to landmark legislative polls scheduled for September.
Authorities, meanwhile, revealed the names of 2,884 Afghans hoping to contest the parliamentary elections — the country's next key step toward democracy after a quarter-century of war.
Among those who have enrolled to participate in the polls are former warlords, at least two leaders of the ousted Taliban regime and President Hamid Karzai's main rival in presidential elections last year, Yunus Qanooni.
In a separate case, security forces arrested two alleged Taliban leaders, while fighting between suspected rebels and Afghan soldiers near the main north-south highway in southern Afghanistan left at least one insurgent dead, officials said Sunday. Six other suspected Taliban rebels were captured in Saturday's fighting in Zabul province, said Afghan army commander Gen. Muslim Amid.
Intelligence officials arrested the two Taliban leaders as they were driving in western Farah province on Saturday, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zaher Azimi said.
One leader was identified as Mullah Abdul Rahim — a deputy for a key Taliban commander said to be close to the militia's fugitive leader, Mullah Omar, Azimi said. The other is regional Taliban leader Haji Sultan, he said.
The Taliban and other insurgents have stepped up attacks following a winter lull in fighting. Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces have hit back hard, killing more than 200 rebels since March, according to Afghan and American officials.
Election law permits any Afghan to participate as long as they do not have a criminal record and have severed any ties to armed groups.
The slain election worker was part of a project educating villagers on how to cast their vote in Uruzgan province's Tirin Kot district. He worked for the Afghan Civil Society Forum, said Susanne Schmeidl, an adviser to the national organization.
The project is partially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, agency spokesman Rick Marshall said.
Suspected Taliban rebels surrounded a village in the district Friday and shot the election worker as he came out of a mosque, Schmeidl said. The victim's cousin also was shot, but his condition was not immediately known, she said.
Friday's killing was the first of someone working on the September elections, said a spokesman for the election commission, Sultan Ahmad Baheen.
At least 13 election workers were killed ahead of October's presidential polls, and there are fears that the September ballot also could be violent.
Beside the candidates registered for the legislative elections, another 3,186 people have signed up to participate in elections for new provincial assemblies, said Richard Atwood, chief of operations for the joint U.N.-Afghan election commission.
Those lists include 588 women, he said. Females were banned from all public life under the hard-line Taliban movement, which was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network.
At least a quarter of all seats in the national and provincial assemblies have been reserved for women. Enough have registered for the national legislature, but there is a shortage for the provincial votes and five seats in the assemblies will be left vacant, Atwood said.
The legislative elections were initially scheduled for June last year, but were delayed because of slow preparations and efforts to disarm warlords and militia commanders who the United Nations feared would intimidate voters.
Atwood said that lists of candidates have been displayed at election offices around the country and people have until Thursday to formally challenge a candidate's right to run. An independent committee will rule on the challenges and a final list of approved candidates will be published July 12.
Afghan govt hands over 2 Taliban commanders to US
KABUL, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The government of Afghanistan has captured two senior Taliban commanders and handed them over to US military for investigation, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said Sunday.
"Troops of Afghan National Army (ANA) captured Taliban commanders Sultan Mohammad and Mullah Abdul Rahim from western Farah province on Saturday and handed them over to US-led coalition forces for investigation," spokesman Zahir Azimi told Xinhua.
Both the suspected Taliban leaders, the spokesman said, were active in the southern and western provinces of the war-plagued country and were responsible for carrying several subversive activities in the region.
"We hope their arrest would help Afghan army to eliminate insurgents in the area," Azimi said.
Both the commanders, according to the official, were on the black list wanted by the United States.
However, no US military official was immediately available to make any comments on the issue.
Over a dozen Taliban leaders including supreme chief Mullah Mohammad Omar, wanted by the United States are still at large.
Taliban remnants whose regime was ousted in late 2001, have sped up their attacks since early spring with an aim to destabilize the US-backed Afghan administration and derail the forthcoming Sept. 18 elections.
In Afghanistan, Koran abuse a touchstone for wider grievances
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) - Farydoon Darwatia is ready to give his life for the Koran, and allegations that it was desecrated at Guantanamo Bay were enough to bring the engineering student into the streets with thousands of other protesters last month.
Sitting outside his dormitory Darwatia, 23, said he was more horrified by the alleged mishandling of a Muslim holy book than by recent allegations that two Afghans had been tortured to death by US military investigators at Bagram Airbase in 2002.
"Of course the Koran is more important than the lives of those people. Human life is nothing compared to the Koran. We gave one-and-a-half million lives during the jihad against the Soviets," he said amid a crowd of students who nodded in agreement with him.
In Afghanistan, where the majority of the population is illiterate, the Koran abuse allegations publicized by Newsweek magazine were the match that ignited a dry tinder of broader underlying resentment.
Students and officials in this eastern Afghan city cite frustration about the glacial pace of reconstruction, efforts to wipe out the opium trade which underpins the Afghan economy, and anger about the US presence in their country.
After its source expressed doubts, Newsweek retracted the story that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet to rattle Muslim prisoners.
However the US military said Friday that an investigation found five instances of mishandling of the Koran at its detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They included kicking, stepping on and accidentally urinating on the Islamic holy book.
Darwatia joined peaceful protests at Jalalabad University over the Koran abuse on May 10. A day later the protests turned violent and sparked a nationwide burst of riots which left at least 15 people dead and 120 wounded.
Afghan authorities have said the demonstrations, which saw protesters torch United Nations and other foreign offices, were orchestrated by extremists opposed to the country's reconstruction.
Either way, there was plenty of discontent waiting to be tapped.
Resentment has been stoked by US military raids on houses in the country's conservative Pashtun south and east, where women are kept behind closed doors. The US troops make up the majority of an 18,000-strong coalition still hunting the remnants of the hardline Taliban and Al-Qaeda more than three years after the United States helped oust the Taliban regime.
"Every day, the anger towards Americans grows because their actions are against Afghan culture," said Zabiullah, 20, an engineering student who goes by one name.
Ahead of a recent visit to Washington, President Hamid Karzai called on the US military to ask permission from Afghan authorities before conducting house searches but failed to win solid assurances from President George W. Bush.
US Colonel James Ruf, who heads the Nangahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, conceded that US military operations in the area have raised ire.
"There is some frustration with coalition operations, with the government and there has been a lot of disinformation," he told AFP.
But many in eastern Afghanistan are suspicious of a closer embrace of the United States.
"I think some people wanted to make a problem for president Karzai travelling to the US (to sign) a strategic partnership," Nangahar governor Haji Din Mohammed told AFP. Karzai last month signed a pact with Washington that allows a long-term US military presence in Afghanistan.
Another complaint is the restriction of poppy cultivation, which is down between 70 and 90 percent in the eastern province of Nangahar, leaving people jobless and disgruntled, Mohammed said.
"The alternative livelihoods programs are small and slow. Now there are lot of people with no money in their pockets in the bazaar. People are saying 'Haji Din Mohammed has made promises but he's given us nothing'," the governor said. His house was torched during the protests.
People are also looking at the potholed roads and patchy power system and wondering where billions of dollars in reconstruction money went.
"There are promises but we haven't seen reconstruction. The international community brings money and they spend it on themselves," said Zabiullah, who also took part in demonstrations but denies joining the rioters.
As the elation that surrounded Karzai's October election deflates and local powerbrokers get ready to contest parliamentary polls in September amid deteriorating security, the grievances are unlikely to dissipate.
"There is a growing anti-foreign sentiment because of what people perceive as a lack of reconstruction, as the euphoria which surrounded President Hamid Karzai's election has subsided," said Joanna Nathan, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank in Kabul.
Bin Laden ‘gave me licence to shoot him’
Nick Fielding / The Sunday Times (UK) / June 5, 2005
A FORMER personal bodyguard to Osama Bin Laden has revealed how the Al-Qaeda leader survived at least three assassination attempts during his time in Afghanistan and rejected several requests to return to his native Saudi Arabia — including one delivered in person by his mother.
Abu Jindal, 35, a Yemeni who claims to have worked for Bin Laden from 1995- 2000, said he was given the authority to kill the terrorist chief if he seemed about to be taken by his enemies.
“I was the only member of his bodyguard who was given this authority,” he said when interviewed in Yemen by al-Quds al-Arabi, the London-based Arabic newspaper.
“I took care to keep the two bullets in good condition and cleaned them every night ... If enemy forces surrounded Sheikh Osama and there was no possibility that he would escape, I was to kill him before they could catch him alive.”
Abu Jindal said there were at least three assassination attempts during his time with Bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The first was in 1998 by a young Uzbek, allegedly sent by the Saudis and offered a reward of 2m Saudi riyals — £300,000 at today’s rates — and Saudi nationality.
“He was only 18 and had been deceived. He was crying in a very pathetic manner and said, ‘I made a mistake’. Finally, Sheikh Osama said to release him.”
Following another failed assassination attempt in Jalalabad, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, convinced Bin Laden to move to the comparative safety of Kandahar in the south. Abu Jindal said Bin Laden and his family were guarded by 14-16 bodyguards who travelled with them at all times.
The Saudis tried many times to coax Bin Laden back to Saudi Arabia. “At one time the Saudi government sent his mother and his half-brother by a special Saudi plane that landed at Kandahar airport,” said Abu Jindal.
On another occasion, Prince Turki al-Faisal, now Saudi ambassador in London, arrived in a large aircraft intending to return with Bin Laden and his retinue. “The delegation left without him,” said Abu Jindal.
The former bodyguard, whose real name is Nasir Ahmad Nasir al-Bahri, served a short prison term after returning home. He is now free, although closely watched by the intelligence services.
Mother of Italian aid worker appeals to parents of kidnappers
KABUL (AFP) - The mother of an Italian aid worker kidnapped in the Afghan capital almost three weeks ago made an emotional appeal to the parents of the abductors, asking them to urge their sons to release her daughter.
"I beg you all to use all your influence on your sons for the immediate release of my daughter," Germana Cantoni said in an open emailed letter on Sunday.
She said her daughter Clementina Cantoni "is a dedicated person who loves Afghanistan and the Afghan people, and who has dedicated the last three years to them".
Earlier, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said his government was doing everything possible to secure the release of Cantoni, who was abducted by armed men in Kabul last month.
"We're doing everything in our hands, whatever possible to bring to an end the case peacefully," the minister told reporters in Kabul.
"I'm optimistic that this situation will come to a peaceful end."
Abdullah's statement came as Pope Benedict XVI Sunday appealed for the release of Cantoni.
"I add my appeal to that of the presidents of Italy and Afghanistan, and of the Italian and Afghan people, to release the Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni," said the pope after giving the traditional Angelus blessing to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Cantoni, 32, who works for the aid group CARE International, was snatched on May 16 while driving in the capital's Qala-i-Musa district.
She had managed a project which provides food and income-generating activities for 11,000 widows and their children since September 2003.
Cantoni's kidnappers, who are thought to be from criminal gangs, released a video last week showing her alive and flanked by two armed men.
BRITISH MINISTER VISITS AFGHANISTAN
June 6 2005 Press Rlease - Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Dr Kim Howells MP has arrived in Afghanistan to start his first visit to the country.
Speaking from Kabul, Dr Howells said: "Afghanistan is one of the most important parts of my portfolio so I was very keen to make a visit soon after becoming a Foreign Office Minister. I want to see for myself the impressive achievements the Government of Afghanistan has made in such a short period. I have meetings planned with President Karzai and key Ministers and look forward to hearing their views on the country 's progress.
" I will also travel outside of Kabul to see Afghanistan's counter narcotics efforts on the ground, including UK funded projects. The UK, together with Afghanistan, is committed to the difficult task of eliminating opium cultivation and production. This is vital for Afghanistan's future and is key to the country's stability and development."
Kabul wants continued reconstruction support
By Lailuma Sadid
KABUL, June 5 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah Sunday urged upon the world community to continue their support for the ongoing re-construction process in Afghanistan.
Addressing a press conference here after return from a foreign trip, Dr Abdullah said the government was discussing post-election agenda and needed cooperation from the international community after the end of the parliamentary elections.
He said the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had prepared a draft agreement on the post election era and the ongoing reconstruction process in the country.
Regarding his visit to Canada, Abdullah said that country had pledged to donate $ 8 million to Afghanistan for the elections.
Abdullah said the United Nations had assured its support for peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. He concluded the reconstruction of the country was a salient feature of the draft UN agreement.
Germany Plans New Camp in Afghanistan
Ahead of the next general elections in Afghanistan, Germany's army intends to build a military camp south of Kabul to boost security at the start of the next year, a defense ministry spokesman said Saturday.
Prior to the 2005 general elections, Germany's Bundeswehr will have set up a temporary garrison south of the Afghanistan capital. A spokesman for the defense ministry said an army patrol would travel to the town of Surobi, 60 (36 miles) kilometers outside of Kabul to discuss the parameters of the new camp with local authorities.
The military facility is scheduled to be up an running by January next year.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck, who is set to travel to Afghanistan on Sunday to visit German troops stationed there, said the security situation in the country remained "unstable" two weeks ahead of the country's October 9 presidential election.
With its 1,480 soldiers, Germany provides the largest national troop contingent within the NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In addition to a headquarters in Kabul, the Bundeswehr has also deployed soldiers to the northern towns of Kunduz and Faizabad (photo), where the security situation is considerably more unstable due to constant fighting among provincial warlords.
The 400 troops stationed outside Kabul are responsible for managing provincial reconstruction teams charged with improving security, fostering reconstruction work and boosting the influence of the central government. But these troops have been accused of failing to tackle security problems, in particular after they did not intervene during recent clashes targeting aid workers in Faizabad.
Minister Struck is expected to address the issue of security in the run-up to the historical presidential elections, the first since the overthrow of the Taliban by US forces in December 2001.
The Afghan Government and the United Nations begin discussion of the post-parliamentary election agenda
Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) 05 Jun 2005
Kabul, 5 June 2005: The Government of Afghanistan and UNAMA have initiated discussions regarding future cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community after the holding in September of the parliamentary election, which will mark the formal completion of the Bonn process.
It was agreed that the close partnership between Afghanistan and the international community, which has characterized the past three and a half years, must continue. In particular, it was recognized that sustained international support is required over the coming years with a view to the achievement of security, full disarmament, justice and a competent civilian administration in all provinces. It was also recognized that the support of the international community is essential to the implementation of a robust development strategy that can benefit all Afghans and provide farmers with alternative livelihoods that will help rid the country of narcotic drugs; the full implementation of the Afghan constitution; and the promotion of the human rights of the men and women of Afghanistan.
The Afghan government and the United Nations also stress that, based on the experience of the past three years, the implementation of some key principles will contribute to further enhancing the cooperation between the Afghan government and the international community. These include:
- The leadership role that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan must play in all aspects of the reconstruction process;
- The need for a just allocation of domestic and international reconstruction resources across the country;
- The critical contribution that countries of the region can make; and the value of the peace process in Afghanistan for strengthening relationships within the region;
- The need to ensure that international efforts should serve to build lasting capacity and sustainable institutions;
- The importance of combating corruption and ensuring public transparency and accountability in the allocation of resources;
- The value of public information and participation in order for the goals of the post-election agenda to be fully understood and achieved;
- The continued role of the United Nations in the consolidation of peace in Afghanistan.
The Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations agreed that the discussion of the postelection agenda offers a unique opportunity for a broad dialogue between Afghanistan and the international community, and in particular the countries of the region. It is also an opportunity for a broad dialogue within the country, which will pave the way for the endorsement of the post-electoral agenda by the National Assembly. This dialogue will focus on priorities for the coming years, and the respective contributions that Afghans and international partners can make to the security and prosperity of the country.
A look-alike challenges Omar's pics, seeks security
By Munsef, Janullah and Zarghona
Mullah Omar's look-alike Syed Gul Agha
KABUL, June 5 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A Mullah Omar look-alike, whose pictures were prominently published in Pakistan-based newspapers and provided to American authorities, has called for punitive action against 'fraudsters.'
Photographs of Syed Gul Agha from the Dand district of Kandahar, a mirror image of the Taliban supremo, were carried by the Nawasht magazine 30 months back and the Urdu-language Express newspaper in April last.
The publications - flashing the phonies as rare snapshots of the reclusive Taliban leader - created a stir in the international media, leaving the unsuspecting man in a tight spot.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday, Gul Agha recalled Kandahar residents Khalid Ahmed and Naqibullah had taken his photos two years back. "They wanted to have my pictures as keepsake; they also photographed Haji Shahzada."
Gul Agha insisted he had no links with Khalid Ahmed, who was granted political asylum by the United States in return for the mock pics. "I don't know who he is and what his motive was. Right now he is in the United States," he said, identifying Naqibullah as Haji Shahzada's son-in-law.
Haji Shahzada - captured by US forces from his house a month after his pictures appeared in the media - was freed after spending 26 months in captivity at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay.
Approached for comments, US military spokesman in Kabul Cindy Moore declined to give any information about the arrest and release of the Kandahar resident. She argued they could not provide details about every individual held at an American detention facility.
For his part, Gul Agha said he was forced to leave his residence after the photos were published. Although presently he is back in Kandahar city with his family, security fears continue to haunt him.
"Our farmland remained barren for two years in the wake of our shifting from the village. I couldn’t even take my son to hospital when he was wounded in an explosion," he continued.
Calling for action against Khalid and Naqibullah for misusing the snapshots they had promised to keep as a memento, he also demanded the arrest of those who published them in the name of Mullah Omar.
Despite several attempts, Pajhwok failed to obtain the newspapers' views. However, a senior Pakistani journalist, known as an Afghan watcher, claimed the pictures published by Daily Express were of Mullah Omar.
Rahimullah Yousufzai maintained the photo of Mullah Omar was taken in 1979 when he was engaged in anti-government operations in Sangisar area of Kandahar. Nonetheless, he hastened to acknowledge Gul Agha might closely resemble Mullah Omar.
Mullah Mohammad Salim, Kandahar Ulema Council's member from Dand district, revealed he recently accompanied Gul Agha to Kabul for a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, who assured to tackle the issue.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal learnt of the episode from the media, promising legal action against the miscreants if named by Gul Agha.
Afghan TV takes critical look at country's aviation industry
Tolu TV 06/04/2005
Kabul - At 1400 gmt on 2 June, Afghan Tolu TV aired its regular twice-weekly discussion feature, the "Gozarosh-e Shashonim" ("The 6:30 Report") programme. The main subject for debate in this edition was the problems facing the national airline, Ariana.
The presenter said Ariana was in a poor condition and unable to compete with other regional or international airlines. She noted that the airline had been unable successfully to carrying Afghan pilgrims to Saudi Arabia: "The operations could not be carried out successfully and finally led to the trial of a number of officials of the Endowment and Islamic Affairs Ministry and Ariana Afghan Airlines."
Nader Atash, the head of Ariana, spoke about the airline's problems and the fact that its aircraft had been destroyed during the past years of war in the country.
Nurollah Delawari, chairman of the Da Afghanistan Bank and a member of the commission set up by the government to survey Ariana's operations, spoke about the formation of the commission and the poor condition of Ariana's planes.
The presenter said that there were conflicting opinions on whether the presence at Ariana of advisers from Lufthansa would be effective in improving matters.
Bashir Bejan, editor-in-chief of the publication Ariana, criticized the presence of the Lufthansa advisers, who were said to charge high fees. However, Ariana's head, Nader Atash, said the advisers had played a positive role in improving conditions. He said advisers could be of great help in offering technical support and financial advice.
Government regulation of the aviation industry
The presenter spoke about controls imposed on airlines by the Aviation and Transport Ministry.
Hajji Gholam Jelani, deputy head of Pamir Airlines in charge of commercial affairs, said they had certificates and an operating licence from the Afghan Aviation Ministry and the UAE aviation authorities, but the ministry had still not allowed them to start operations.
Aviation Minister Enayatollah Qasemi said they had not so far permitted some airlines to start their operations because of safety concerns. "The reason why we did not issue licences for activities to other airlines is that we do not yet have clear aviation rules and regulations. As we do not have specific aviation laws, we cannot say what rules and regulations airlines operating inside Afghanistan should obey. We are strenuously working to draw up the law on aviation. We have chosen some advisers from the USA. They will come and will work to build our rules and regulations. They will tell us what an airline registered in Afghanistan should do. These airlines can then carry out their operations according to the law. Secondly, the Transport Ministry's department in charge of implementing laws and aviation rules and regulations is very weak. In general, we do not have even five or 10 professional staff who can work well."
Qasemi said they could not allow planes to fly unless relevant departments assured them of their safety. "What would happen if, God forbid, a plane crashed? What happens if the plane crashes in a foreign country? What impact would it have on the government of Afghanistan and the Transport Ministry? Therefore, we cannot take risks."
The second part of the programme looked at a report published by the newspaper Cheragh which appeared to highlight irregularities in the issuance of Afghan passports. The newspaper had drawn attention to the fact that two passports had been issued in the name of a single individual, Enayatollah Qasemi, but with different dates and places of birth given in the two documents.
Catherine Weda, the editor of Cheragh, said they had published the report in a bid to improve transparency in the work of government officials.
Girl, mother strangulated to death
By Ahmad Ihsan Sarwaryar
HERAT, June 5 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Dead bodies of a young girl and her mother were found in Dasht-i-Chopan area of Zinda Jan district of the western Herat province, police said.
Nisar Ahmad Paikar, an official of the Anti-Crimes Department told Pajhwok Afghan News the women were identified as Sitara (35) and her daughter Malika (16).
"Police found the dead bodies while patrolling the area in the night," Paikar said, adding the two ill-fated women had gone to collect woods in the Zinda Jan area where unidentified outlaws strangulated them to death.
He said police had started investigations and the motive behind the dual murder was yet to be discovered.
However, an official of the regional hospital, who declined to be named, said Malika had been strangulated while her mother had been struck on the head with some heavy object.
Mohammad Qadir, a relative of the deceased said the two had gone to collect woods for burning. "When they did not return till dusk, we started search and found them dead in the desert," he narrated.
He alleged two suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder case but police did not disclose their identity. He said criminals were at large and the people had no security of life or property in the area.
"Only two weeks back, a rich man of the Zinda Jan district was killed by gunmen in broad-day-light while police did nothing to arrest the outlaws," Qadir complained.
Flood in Badakhshan leaves four dead
By Zarghona Salihi and Wahid Rahmani
KABUL, June 5 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Rain-induced floods washed away a village in Nasi locality of the northern Badakhshan province killing four people, officials said Sunday.
Abdul Hamid Wafa, Darwaz district's administrative chief, said a child, a woman and two men were killed as a result of Saturday night's flood. Victims are yet to receive relief.
He claimed 50 houses, over 25 acres of farmland and two dams had been damaged and a thousand cattle heads washed away.
Dr. Abdul Momin Jalali, head of Badakhshan Public Health Department, told Pajhwok Afghan News they had sent "a well-equipped medical team" to the area to help the affected people.
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