Central Asian nations meet in Afghanistan to revive trade
Thursday November 10, 2:19 AM
KABUL (AFP) - Ten Islamic, mostly Central Asian nations met in Afghanistan to push their aim of slashing tariffs and freeing up trade in the region once spanned by the Silk Road.
Afghanistan, after decades of war and occupation, told the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) it hoped to become a "land bridge," revitalising the ancient trade route that linked Europe and the Far East.
The ECO groups Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which together make up six percent of the world population, according to the organisation.
Integration of the 10 ECO nations was essential to build up trade in the region, Afghan Commerce Minister Hedayet Amin Arsala told ministers, officials and other delegates at the two-day meeting in Kabul.
"It is only through regional cooperation and greater economic integration that we will be able to use the enormous resources that we have in the region for the betterment of the lives of our people," he said.
The Afghan government wanted to establish "an open trade regime which would allow Afghanistan to capitalise on its position as a land bridge between the Central and South Asian region," he said.
Afghanistan has the lowest tariffs among the 10 countries -- on average just over four percent -- compared to Pakistan's tariffs of up to 120 percent.
Members had committed to cutting tariffs to no more than 10 percent within 10 to 15 years, although some items may be exempt, said Afghanistan Investment Support Agency vice president Suleman Fatimie, an organiser of the meeting.
Central Asia's proximity to rapidly growing markets such as China and India made clear the rationale for cooperation, said Asian Development Bank Afghanistan head Brian Fawcett.
The transit of goods through the region was still hampered, with truckers and traders facing daily road closures and border restrictions, he said.
Eco Conference Asks for More Investment in Afghanistan
Thursday November 10, 9:59 AM
KABUL, Nov 10 Asia Pulse - The Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) has stressed the need for more foreign investment in Afghanistan.
The two-day Trade and Investment Conference was inaugurated here on Wednesday. About 200 representatives from ECO member countries are attending the conference.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Afghan Minister for Commerce Dr Hidayat Amin Arsala highlighted importance of Afghan markets for the member countries. He said Afghanistan wanted to establish close trade ties with ECO countries in particular and rest of the world in general.
He asked the ECO countries to invest in Afghanistan so that its economy could be put on the right track. Assuring protection to private entrepreneurs, the minister said laws had been formed by the government which would promote foreign investment in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, ECO Secretary General Askhat Orazbay highlighted the importance of private sector in strengthening economy of the war-devastated country.
Later, speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, Askhat said he was trying on behalf of ECO to promote and encourage private sector to invest in Afghanistan. I AM:
Dr Omar Zakhelwal, chairman of the Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA), which is hosting the third ECO conference, asked the member countries to pour in more and more investment in Afghanistan.
The prime objective of the conference is to promote trade and investment among ECO member states, to provide business-to-business interaction and networking opportunity for the private sector.
The ten-member intergovernmental regional organisation was established by Iran, Turkey and Pakistan in 1985. The number of its members increased to 10 after Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan later joined the organisation.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Afghanistan "close to" membership of South Asian group: official
Thursday November 10, 04:37 PM
DHAKA (AFP) - Afghanistan is poised to become the eighth member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) after a meeting of foreign secretaries supported Kabul's entry, an Indian official said.
"Virtually all the delegations present today in fact have supported the entry of Afghanistan as a full member of SAARC," Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran told a press briefing following a meeting of the SAARC standing committee.
The committee comprises the foreign secretaries of all member countries.
"We have every reason to believe that by the end of this SAARC summit Afghanistan will be welcomed as a full member of our organisation. We are very close to that decision," he added on Wednesday.
The SAARC leaders are expected to formally endorse Afghanistan's application when they meet here on November 12-13.
India and Pakistan said earlier they would support Afghanistan's admission into the seven-nation group which was founded in 1985 with the aim of developing closer economic and social ties between the member states and alleviating poverty.
SAARC comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan to propose Afghanistan's entry into SAARC
Wed Nov 9, 2005 6:31 PM IST
KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Wednesday it would propose the inclusion of neighbour Afghanistan into the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at a two-day summit that will be held in Dhaka at the weekend.
Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri told reporters he had received a letter from his Afghan counterpart Abdullah Abdullah, requesting that his country be admitted to SAARC.
"We strongly support Afghanistan's admission in the SAARC fold," said Kasuri.
"It would be a matter of privilege and pleasure for me, in my capacity as the chairman of SAARC Council of Ministers, to propose admitting Afghanistan as a full-fledged member of the organisation."
Set up in 1985, SAARC groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Officials say combating terrorism, poverty alleviation and cooperation in the aftermath of natural calamities will be the main agenda of the Dhaka summit.
The summit has been postponed twice this year -- first in January following the Indian Ocean tsunami, and again in February after India declined to attend, citing security fears in Dhaka.
Kasuri said he expected none of the SAARC members to oppose Afghanistan's entry.
Other countries, including China and Japan, are interested in being associated with the organisation as either observers or dialogue partners, said Kasuri.
"We await further contacts with these countries to work out the modalities of their association."
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Indian premier Manmohan Singh are expected to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit.
Russia hails SCO-Afghanistan cooperation deal
MOSCOW, Nov. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Russia, a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), on Wednesday welcomed a protocol recently signed between the organization and Afghanistan on the establishment of a contact group.
Russia attaches much importance to the protocol and will actively back the work of this group, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told Itar-Tass news agency.
Afghanistan and the SCO countries are friendly neighbors and the situation in Afghanistan seriously affects Central Asia's stability and security, said the spokesman.
This contact group will pave the way for equitable and reciprocal cooperation between the sides concerned and will offer a chance to enlist the SCO in the international efforts to turn Afghanistan into a peaceful and prosperous state, Kamynin stressed.
Russia hopes that not only the SCO members would take part in the emerging process of cooperation, but also the countries that now enjoy observers status within the SCO, he added.
The SCO, comprising China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, signed the cooperation accord with Afghanistan in Beijing on Friday.
In accordance with the protocol, the SCO-Afghanistan liaison group will hold regular consultations to make proposals and recommendations on cooperation between the two sides on issues of common concern.
Taliban behead two civilians, kill seven Afghan police
Thu Nov 10, 1:24 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Militants loyal to Afghanistan's Taliban regime killed seven Afghan police and beheaded two civilians in the country's insurgency-hit south, a provincial governor said.
The policemen were killed in an ambush Wednesday on a three-vehicle convoy that was travelling on a highway between troubled Uruzgan province and Kandahar, a former Taliban hotbed, Uruzgan governor Jan Mohammad told AFP.
One of the vehicles escaped the ambush but two were destroyed in the fighting.
"Seven police were killed on the spot and two are missing. The two vehicles were destroyed as well," Mohammad said on Thursday.
A man identifying himself as a spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the ambush in a telephone call to AFP from an unknown location.
"We ambushed the police convoy, killed a big number of them and destroyed their vehicles and seized a radio, two vehicles and weapons," he said.
In another incident in Uruzgan, Taliban insurgents abducted two civilians on Monday and beheaded them, Mohammad said.
The killings led to a security force sweep in which two Taliban rebels were arrested and eight motorcycles seized, the governor said.
The Taliban have been waging a guerrilla-style insurgency against government troops and the 20,000-strong US-led coalition force deployed in the south and east to hunt them and their Al-Qaeda allies.
Attacks linked to the insurgency have killed about 1,400 people this year, most of them militants, in the highest death toll since 2001. The violence is expected to decline as winter approaches.
Rabbani rules out coalition with Qanuni
(Cheragh) The leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami party, former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani has rejected the possibility of forming an alliance with Younus Qanuni, the head of the National Understanding Front. Specifically, Rabbani said he had not discussed the post of speaker in the new national assembly with Qanuni.
(Cheragh is an independent daily run by the Development and Democracy Association.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (No 189, 08 Nov 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Parliament building mostly renovated
(The Kabul Times) Work on rehabilitating the old parliament building is 85 per cent complete, and the head of the parliamentary public relations office says it will be finished on November 22. The spokesman said the Ministry of Urban Development and Town Planning was doing the reconstruction work, worth 46 million afghanis, and the refurbishment would include the provision of all facilities for members and visitors.
(The Kabul Times is a state-run paper published in English every other day.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (No 189, 08 Nov 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
34 arrested as crackdown against Afghan refugees continues
Khaleej Times From our correspondent 10 November 2005
PESHAWAR — Thirty-four more Afghan nationals have been arrested as part of a crackdown launched by the administration of North Waziristan Agency against Afghan nationals residing illegally in the areas on second consecutive day yesterday.
Acting on a government’s decision in June last year regarding expulsion of Afghans from the North Waziristan Agency, the administration on Monday had ordered all Afghans to leave the area within 24 hours. On expiry of the deadline, the administration directed personnel of law-enforcing agencies for a crackdown against the Afghan nationals.
On the first day of the crackdown 55 Afghans were apprehended from Miranshah whereas 17 others were arrested from Mirali, the second largest town of North Waziristan. The 55 persons arrested from Miranshah have been deported to Afghanistan via Ghulam Khan entry point between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While 17 others are still locked in Mirali prison.
The Assistant Political Officer, Iqbal Khattak, said that yesterday 25 Afghan nationals were arrested from different parts of Miranshah whereas 9 persons were arrested at Mirali. All these 34 persons along with 17 others will be deported to Afghanistan today. The crackdown, he added will continue till complete expulsion of the Afghan refugees.
Iqbal Khattak said that administration had convened traditional jirgas of various tribes and clans for ensuring expulsion of the Afghan nationals. He said that the tribesmen will be asked to convince their kith and kin for not renting out houses to Afghan nationals. Even these tribesmen will be asked to force the Afghan nationals residing in their areas to go back either to Afghanistan or shift to settled districts of NWFP.
Answering to a question, the APO said that government suspected involvement of Afghan nationals in terrorist acts. On such grounds, he said that government has decided expulsion of the Afghans from the agency in previous June. In this connection, around 32,000 have been voluntarily repatriated to their motherland whereas 20,000 were shifted to refugee camps of Bannu and other districts of the province. However, hundreds of others, running businesses and other economic activities are still living in various parts of the agency, particularly in its urban towns like Miranshah and Mirali.
It is pertinent to mentioned here that beside North Waziristan Agency, the government has also made similar decisions regarding expulsion of Afghan refugees from Kurram and Bajaur Agencies. More than 105,000 Afghan refugees have already left Kurram Agency whereas 35,000 Afghan nationals have been repatriated to their homeland from Bajaur Agency. After North Waziristan Agency, the government is likely to take similar actions against Afghan nationals residing in Bajaur and Kurram Agencies.
Afghan ex-Primer and dissident warlord demands withdrawal of foreign troops
A former Prime Minister and leader of his own faction Hizb-e-Islami or Islamic party of Afghanistan Gulbudin Hekmatyar who is wanted by the United States has called on the US-dominated foreign troops to pull out from Afghanistan, a Kabul-based newspaper reported Wednesday.
"Like the former Soviet Union, the Americans want to occupy Afghanistan, and also arrest and torture Afghans," daily Cheragh quoted a message from Hekmatyar as saying. The message was released on Nov. 2 on the eve of Eidul Feter, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
An anti-Soviet resistance leader, Hekmatyar who has escaped the US military manhunt in the region linked durable stability in Afghanistan to the withdrawal of foreign troops form his country.
"The only way for the permanent solution of Afghan crisis is the withdrawal of foreign troops, halting interference and establishing a government to hold a free and fair elections in order to form an elected Islamic government in the country," said the message.
Terming the parliamentary elections in September in Afghanistan as a ploy, he said the election has legitimized the permanent presence of US military in the country and denounced it.
The dissident warlord and former Afghan premier in his message also called on his compatriots to unite and continue their Jihad or holy war till the eviction of US-led foreign forces from Afghanistan.
In a similar message issued on the same occasion last week, Taliban's fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar also urged his fellow Afghans to intensify Jihad till the pull out of foreign troops from the post-Taliban central Asian state.
via People's Daily Online, China / November 9, 2005
End of Decency, Not History
Fawaz Turki / Arab News, Saudi Arabia / November 9, 2005
The news report — a scoop by the Washington Post correspondent Dana Priest — was published around Halloween, the holiday when, just for fun, we don devilishly roguish masks and go around scaring people out of their wits. Except in this case it’s deadly earnest and the mask is one with the face.
In her lengthy lead article last week, Priest reported that the CIA maintains a network of Soviet-era prison compounds in eight Eastern European countries, including detention centers in Thailand and Afghanistan, where 100 or more terror suspects are held in underground cells, denied legal rights, outside visitors and checks on their treatment, even by the International Red Cross.
This hidden internment network, according to Priest, is a central element in the CIA’s “unconventional” war on terrorism, a network, however, whose existence has remained secret from the American public and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the agency’s covert actions. These facilities — referred to in classified documents as “black sites” — have been known only to the president and a handful of officials in the United States, and only to the head of state and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.
In effect, President Bush has authorized interrogators to subject these nameless, faceless suspects to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment that is illegal in the US. The Eastern European governments that have allowed these prisons on their territory (US officials have prevailed upon the Post not to identify them) would be in clear violation, according to Friso Abbing, a spokesman for the European Union in Brussels, of the European Convention On Human Rights, not to mention the Dec. 10, 1984 UN General Assembly’s Convention Against Torture.
First, there was the disgrace of Guantanamo, beginning on Jan. 11, 2002, when a US military plane from Afghanistan touched down on that strip of dry scrub land on Cuba’s southeastern heel carrying the first 20 of what later became 700 prisoners from 45 countries, arriving there in hoods and shackles.
By all accounts, appalling torture and ill treatment were committed against these detainees, who were denied due process, prisoner-of-war status and the protection of the Geneva Conventions. Reportedly, dozens of suicide attempts, and massive “self-harm action,” were thwarted by the military, when detainees tried to hang themselves with bedding or clothing, with one attempt resulting in permanent brain damage. Last May, Irene Kahn, Amnesty International’s general secretary, launching the group’s annual report, called Guantanamo “the gulag of our time.”
Dick Cheney, the American vice president, however, begged to differ. In an interview with CNN last June, he said that prisoners held there had nothing to complain about since they were “living in the tropics.”
“They got a brand new facility down at Guantanamo,” he said with a straight face. “We spent a lot of money to build it. They’re very well treated there. They’re living in the tropics. The’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”
Asked later if it was Cheney’s intention to portray the prison as a holiday camp, an official in his office said that he stood by his comments.
Then came revelations about the outsourcing of torture — sending alleged terror suspects to countries that have no qualms about using torture, including electric shock, to extract information from suspects. The most famous victim of this program, known as “rendition,” was the Syrian-born Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was snatched by CIA agents in September 2002 as he was switching planes in New York and rendered to Syria, where he was held for 10 months in a cell slightly larger than a coffin and taken out periodically for beatings.
Many suspects, nabbed in places like Bosnia, Italy and Sweden, and rendered to countries where they were tortured mercilessly, turned out, like Arar’s, to have tragically been cases of mistaken identity. The happenings at Abu Ghraib, that shocked the world, need no introduction.
No one said it better than former President Jimmy Carter. “Despite George W. Bush’s bold reminder that America is determined to promote freedom and democracy around the world,” he stated six months ago, “the US continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to its reputation as a champion of human rights because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo.” He did not mention the “black sites” because clearly he was not at the time privy to information about their existence. Now, thanks to the Post’s Dana Priest, we all are.
The revelations are all the more shocking because the United States, given its unrivaled status as a big power, sets the tone for what is acceptable behavior for other governments worldwide. When it is dismissive of the rule of law and the sanctity of human rights, as it clearly is in this case, it grants license to other governments to commit similar abuses, like those in Israel and Uzbekistan, Syria and Nepal.
Alas, the US, propelled at times in its recent history by the politics of fear, has allowed itself to fall prey to periodic bouts of amnesia about what constitutional guarantees mean in social life — from the Alien and Sedition Act in 1798 to the Patriot Act in 2001, and from the internment of 120,000 American citizens in prison camps in 1942 (whose only crime was that they happened to be of Japanese descent) to the early 1950s when the nation allowed a cynical demagogue like Joe McCarthy to ruin the careers of government officials, journalists, writers, filmmakers, actors and others, in his pursuit of mythical communists who he had us believe lurked behind every lamppost, spying for the Soviet Union.
Recovering from each one of these panic attacks, the US always hated itself in the morning. It will do so again when the time comes for it to reflect, in the cold light of hindsight, on the excesses of its “global war on terrorism.”
More than ethnicity, more than territory, and more even than language, what makes a great nation great — what holds it together and defines its character — is the moral authority of its ideals. When these ideals, the backbone of a society’s culture, are subverted, as the Kafkaesque reports about Guantanamo, rendition and now “black sites” attest, the nation is shamed.
For quite a while, this administration has had plans to “introduce” your world, dear reader in the Arab world, to democracy, freedom and human rights — that is, to improve your moral values. I know, the improvement of your moral values may not be the most existentially pressing issue in your life these days (one suspects, in your impoverished condition as an ordinary Arab, a warm coat for your kid this winter is more in order), but in the event that it is, check in with George, Dick, Don, Condi, et.al, and they’ll get you on your way.
Afghan police disrupt attack on U.S. troops
Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Thursday, November 10, 2005
The Afghan National Police has been credited with stopping a planned attack on U.S. and Afghan forces in the Jalalabad area, officials said Wednesday.
The police received a tip that insurgents had planted roadside bombs on a route routinely used by coalition forces.
They informed U.S. soldiers, who located and disarmed the devices, officials reported.
Separately, Afghan National Police arrested two men with a large amount of money, small arms and documents linking them to insurgents near Ghazni.
“These incidents are indicative of the success Afghan and U.S. forces have against the enemies of this nation every day,” Brig. Gen. James Champion, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force-76, said in a news release.
“Afghan Army and police forces are a critical step in the government of Afghanistan’s march toward a safe and secure future.”
US criticised for use of phosphorous in Fallujah raids
The Independent (UK) By Andrew Buncombe in Washington 09 November 2005
A leading campaign group has demanded an urgent inquiry into a report that US troops indiscriminately used a controversial incendiary weapon during the battle for Fallujah. Photographic evidence gathered from the aftermath of the battle suggests that women and children were killed by horrific burns caused by the white phosphorus shells dropped by US forces.
The Pentagon has always admitted it used phosphorus during last year's assault on the city, which US commanders said was an insurgent stronghold. But they claimed they used the brightly burning shells "very sparingly" and only to illuminate combat areas.
But the documentary Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, broadcast yesterday by the Italian state broadcaster, RAI, suggested the shells were commonly used and killed an unspecified number of civilians. Photographs obtained by RAI from the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, show the bodies of dozens of Fallujah residents whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised by the effects of the phosphorus shells. The use of incendiary weapons against civilian targets is banned by treaty.
Last night Robert Musil, director of the group Physicians for Social Responsibility, called for an investigation. He told The Independent: "When there is clear testimony that use of such weapons has done this, it demands a full investigation. From Vietnam onwards there has been a general condemnation of [the use of white phosphorus] and concern about the injuries and consequences."
The 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons bans the use of weapons such as napalm and white phosphorus against civilian - but not military - targets. The US did not sign the treaty and has continued to use white phosphorus and an updated version of napalm, called Mark 77 firebombs, which use kerosene rather than petrol. A senior US commander previously has confirmed that 510lb napalm bombs had been used in Iraq and said that "the generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect."
John Pike, director of the Washington-based military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, said the smoke caused by the bombs could confuse or blind the enemy or mark a target. "If it hits your clothes it will burn your clothes and if it hits your skin it will just keep on burning," he said.
Experts said that, if not removed, white phosphorus - known as Willy Pete - can burn to the bone. The fumes from phosphorus cause severe eye irritation.
National Bank Trade Centre Inaugurated in Afghanistan's Herat
Thursday November 10, 8:06 AM
HERAT CITY, Nov 10 Asia Pulse - Afghanistan National Bank trade centre worth more than US$400,000 was inaugurated in the western Herat province, officials said on Wednesday.
Head of the Bank Abdul Zahir Rahin told Pajhwok Afghan News the trade centre was constructed with the assistance of Aqib Nasir Private Company (ANPC).
ANPC would pay more than $20,000 to the National Bank from the income of the business center.
According to the accord signed in between the National Bank and ANPC, the company will have to hand over the trade centre to the bank after nine years.
Head of the Aqib Nasir private company Abdul latif Rastin said the building of the trade centre had been erected over two acres of land in nine years.
Head of the Afghanistan International chambers of commerce and industries Abdul Hamid Farooqi, bank officials and some Indian advisors attended the inaugural ceremony.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Socialist Left split over Afghanistan policy
The Norway Post - Nov 09 11:48 PM
MPs from the Socialist Left Party (SV) joined a demonstration outside Parliament Wednesday, protesting a decision by the coalition government, of which SV is a member, to send Norwegian jet fighters to Afghanistan.
Inside the building Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and Defence Minister Anne-Grete Stroem-Erichsen informed Parliament that three or four Norwegian F-16 jet fighters would be sent to Afghanistan.
The planes and support personnel will be stationed in Afghanistan from February till May as part of the NATO-led ISAF security force. However, the defence minister said that in an emergency situation the jets could also be used to support ground forces from the US-led operation Enduring Freedom.
This last part has infuriated leading SV politicians, who claim this is in conflict with the party's policy, and in conflict with the coalition governmrent's joint policy as set out in the so-called Soria Moria Agreement, the joint policy statement agreed on by the three coalition parties (the Labour Party, the Agrarians and SV).
Afghanistan ignorant about secret CIA prison
Pakistani Newspaper - Nov 09 11:21 AM
KABUL, November 9 (SANA) – Afghanistan said it is not aware of any secret CIA prisons within its borders but that it will investigate after a newspaper reported the country had one of several such facilities around the world.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that the CIA was holding top Al-Qaeda suspects in secret detention centres known as "black sites" in eight countries, including Afghanistan.
"Regarding the presence of secret prisons in Afghanistan, we have no information," presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi told a media briefing. "That is why we say there is no such secret prison in Afghanistan.
"Since it has been reported in the media, we will try to investigate and follow this issue and see what can we get, but now we have no information."
The Afghan government had not immediately responded to the news as it broke during the three-day holiday for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of fasting month of Ramadan.
The allegations, which the United States has denied, were met with international calls for a thorough investigation.
The US daily said the Central Intelligence Agency had sent more than 100 suspects into its hidden internment network. The number was a rough estimate and did not include prisoners picked up from Iraq, it said.
In mid-2004 Afghan police arrested three US nationals for running a private secret prison in the capital Kabul.
The leader of the group, "Jack" Idema, said they were working with the knowledge of the US Defence Department, but the American military distanced itself from the men.
An Afghan court found them guilty in September last year of running a private prison and torturing at least eight Afghans in a vigilante counter-terror operation.
They were sentenced to between eight and 10 years in prison each, but the terms were in March cut to between two and five years.
Afghans announce bans to prevent bird flu
Thu 10 Nov 2005 5:08 AM ET By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Afghanistan has banned duck hunting and imports of live poultry to prevent the spread of the deadly bird flu virus, Public Health Minister Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi said on Thursday.
The restrictions are being announced in government media and by preachers in mosques across the country, Fatemi said.
"No sign of the deadly bird flu like H5N1 has been witnessed in Afghanistan so far," Fatemi told Reuters. "These limitations are mostly aimed at stopping the virus flow."
Afghanistan is a stop for birds during their annual migration from Siberia to the warm waters of the Indian subcontinent and vice versa.
At the lake resort of Qargha, a stopover for migrating ducks, hunting was going on despite the ban.
Two hunters there said they were not aware of the ban and planned to continue regardless.
"God protects us. We are not worried," one said while aiming with his shotgun at ducks on the lake to the west of Kabul.
The war-ravaged country has minimal health services and Fatemi said it relies on the World Health Organisation for diagnosis of any possible sign of bird flu.
Fatemi said there was less chance of bird flu in Afghanistan as it was a Muslim country where people do not keep or eat pork.
Health experts say pigs can carry human flu viruses, which can combine with the avian viruses, swap genes and create virulent new strains.
Russia Ceases Free Weapon Delivery to Afghanistan
10 November 2005 | 12:11 | Focus News Agency, Bulgaria
Moscow. Russia stops the rendering of free technical help to Afghan’s Armed Forces, Interfax reported, citing a high-standing source in Moscow.
According to information, the decision was made in connection to Afghanistan’s external debt.
“It has to be said that Kabul has reoriented towards USA when it comes to its armed forces”, the source noted and added that for the past several years, Russia has granted the Afghan Armed Forces equipment and property for over USD 100 million.
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