Amnesty concerned by new claims against US soldiers in Afghanistan
November 2, 2005
KABUL (AFP) - New claims of abuses by US soldiers in Afghanistan are more evidence of rights violations in the "war on terror", with a pattern of impunity for such infractions, Amnesty International said.
As an example no soldier had been directly charged with causing the death of two Afghan detainees three years ago even though one man's legs were so damaged they would have needed amputation had he survived, the rights group said in a statement seen Wednesday.
The latest allegations against US soldiers in Afghanistan surfaced in an Australian television report last month that said troops had burned the bodies of Taliban fighters and used the incident to taunt others.
The incident, being investigated by the US military, would violate Islamic precepts that the bodies of Muslims be washed and buried, and international laws such as the Geneva Convention.
This "is only the latest in a series of cases of abuse by US troops in Afghanistan since 2001," Amnesty said in a statement. Most of the other cases involve the abuse of detainees, at least eight of whom are reported to have died.
A "pattern of impunity and military leniency as well as delays and cover-ups in the investigation of deaths in US custody and abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq" was reflected in recent trials of soldiers involved in the 2002 abuse of detainees, Amnesty said.
An army investigation found the two detainees, who died at the Bagram base near Kabul, were "chained to a ceiling and kicked and beaten during sustained assaults by numerous military personnel," it said.
A medical examiner said the legs of one man were so badly damaged they would have had to be amputated if he had lived.
Seven low-ranking soldiers were convicted variously of assault, maltreatment, dereliction of duty and making false statements. They received sentences ranging from five months' imprisonment to a reprimand, pay cuts and reduction in rank.
Five other soldiers were on trial on similar charges.
"Despite the horrific, calculated nature of the assaults, no one to date has been charged directly with causing either of the two deaths," Amnesty said.
It was also "astonishing" that the charges did not go further up the chain of command, it said.
Amnesty said it was also concerned that "hundreds of detainees remained in US custody in Afghanistan without charge or trial or access to families or lawyers."
"The organisation is further concerned that the CIA may still be holding people in secret detention in Afghanistan and elsewhere in situations which would amount to 'disappearance'," it said.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Central Intelligence Agency was holding top Al-Qaeda suspects in secret detention centres set up in eight countries including Afghanistan and Thailand after the September 11 attacks.
The United States launched its "war on terror" by invading Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the fundamentalist Taliban government after it failed to hand over Osama bin Laden for the attacks on New York and Washington.
CIA runs secret terrorism prisons abroad: report
November 2, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA has been holding and interrogating al Qaeda captives at a secret facility in Eastern Europe, part of a covert prison system established after the September 11, 2001, attacks, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The Soviet-era compound is part of a network that has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand and Afghanistan, the newspaper reported, citing U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.
Thailand denied it was host to such a facility.
"There is no fact in the unfounded claims," government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said.
The newspaper said the existence and locations of the facilities were known only to a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.
The CIA has not acknowledged the existence of a secret prison network, the Post said. A CIA spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The prisons are referred to as "black sites" in classified U.S. documents and virtually nothing is known about who the detainees are, how they are interrogated or about decisions on how long they will be held, the report said.
About 30 major terrorism suspects have been held at black sites while more than 70 other detainees, considered less important, were delivered to foreign intelligence services under a process known as "rendition," the paper said, citing U.S. and foreign intelligence sources.
The top 30 al Qaeda prisoners are isolated from the outside world, they have no recognized legal rights and no one outside the CIA is allowed to talk with or see them, the sources told the newspaper.
The paper, citing several former and current intelligence and other U.S. government officials, said the CIA used such detention centers abroad because in the United States it is illegal to hold prisoners in such isolation.
The Washington Post said it was not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program at the request of senior U.S. officials.
The officials argued that disclosure could disrupt counterterrorism efforts or make the host countries targets for retaliation, the newspaper said.
The secret detention system was conceived shortly after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, when the working assumption was that another strike was imminent, the report said.
Surapong, the Thai government spokesman, said Bangkok was probably mentioned because it helped catch Hambali, an Indonesian accused of being Osma bin Laden's key link to Southeast Asia, in 2003.
Thailand's security cooperation with the United States would have to be done "in an open and legitimate manner," he said.
US declines UN panel's request for information on Guantanamo
Tue Nov 1, 9:24 AM ET
GENEVA (AFP) - The United States has turned down a UN human rights panel's request to provide information about its detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a report revealed.
Washington declined to include information on detention facilities outside US territory in its report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee, according to the document.
The committee, made up of 18 independent experts elected by the UN General Assembly, in July 2004 pressed Washington for information about its overseas military detention centres.
However, according to the US response late last month, these fall outside the committee's remit because they are "governed by the laws of war."
Like the other 153 signatories of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United States is bound to submit regular reports to the committee on its implementation of what is the UN's core human rights accord.
Washington reaffirmed its stance that the covenant only applies on US territory -- something the committee has disputed in the past.
"The obligations assumed by the United States under the Covenant apply only within the territory of the United States," said the report.
"The United States has sought to respond to the Committee's concerns as fully as possible, notwithstanding the continuing difference of view between the Committee and the United States concerning certain matters relating to the import and scope of provision of the Covenant," it added.
The UN committee also gathers information from nongovernmental sources.
Released detainees and advocacy groups have made regular allegations of human rights violations at the US military's foreign detention centres, stoked by the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq.
Controversy has raged over the Guantanamo centre, in a US military enclave in Cuba.
About 500 people are being held there, most without charges, as enemy combatants in the US war on terrorism. Most were captured in 2001 in Afghanistan.
Last week, Washington announced that it would invite three UN human rights experts to visit the base for a day, with the goal "to broaden understanding of US detention operations and to demonstrate that detainees at Guantanamo are treated humanely."
But on Monday the experts -- who are not part of the committee -- said they would only go on their proposed December 6 mission if they have free access to the prisoners.
U.S. Boosts Afghan Security After Escape
By DANIEL COONEY / Associated Press / November 2, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan - Security has been tightened at the U.S. military prison in Afghanistan following the escape of a suspected al-Qaida leader, a U.S. official said Wednesday. Indonesian anti-terrorism officials accused Washington of failing to tell them of the breakout.
Omar al-Farouq, born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents, was considered one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants in Southeast Asia until Indonesian authorities captured him in 2002 and turned him over to the United States.
He was one of four suspected Arab terrorists to escape in July from the detention facility at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan. It was not clear how long he had been held in Afghanistan.
Although the escape was widely reported at the time, al-Farouq was identified by an alias and the U.S. military only confirmed Tuesday that he was among those who fled.
A video the four men made of themselves after they escaped from Bagram was broadcast on Dubai-based television station Al-Arabiya on Oct. 18, the broadcaster said.
In the video, the four men said they escaped on a Sunday when many of the Americans on the base were off duty, and one of the four — Muhammad Hassan, said to be Libyan — said he picked the locks of their cell, according to Al-Arabiya.
In the video, apparently shot in Afghanistan, they show fellow militants a map of the base and the location of their cell. Another shot in the video showed Hassan leading the others in prayer. Editors at Al-Arabiya would not say how they received the video.
An Indonesian anti-terrorism official, Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, on Wednesday sharply criticized the U.S. government for failing to inform him that al-Farouq was no longer behind bars.
"We know nothing about the escape of Omar al-Farouq," he said. "He is a dangerous terrorist for us, his escape will increase the threat of terrorism in Indonesia.
"We need to coordinate security here as soon as possible to anticipate his return," he said. "The escape of al-Farouq could bring fresh wind to the operation of terrorism and could energize the new movement of terrorist actors in Southeast Asia and the world."
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked by CNN about how the four escaped and Mbai's comments to The Associated Press that Indonesia was not told about it, said: "I don't know all the facts of this particular incident. Obviously, we consider this a very serious problem and one we'd have to look into the details of."
A top security consultant in Jakarta played down concerns that al-Farouq would make his way back to Southeast Asia and rejoin Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional terrorist group linked to al-Qaida.
"He's Iraqi after all. If he's not hiding out (in Afghanistan or Pakistan), he's probably headed to Iraq to join the fight there," said Ken Conboy, who recently published a book on Jemaah Islamiyah.
Al-Farouq was recruited into al-Qaida in the early 1990s and went to the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan from 1992 and 1995, Conboy wrote in his book "Intel."
In 1995, he was sent to the Philippines, originally to enroll in a flight school so he could become proficient enough to commandeer a passenger plane on a suicide mission. He failed to gain entry and instead went to a camp in the traditional Muslim homeland of Mindanao, where he trained in jungle warfare tactics along with other Jemaah Islamiyah trainees, the book says.
From there, Al-Farouq traveled by sea to neighboring Indonesia, where in 2000 he set up training camps for radicals engaged in sectarian clashes with the nation's Christian minority. He was also reported to be planning a series of attacks on U.S. embassies and other Western interests throughout Southeast Asia, the book says.
In 2002, al-Farouq was captured in a town south of Jakarta. Indonesian security officials turned him over to the United States and he was eventually transferred to Bagram.
Yuri Thamrin, Indonesia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said he had heard nothing about al-Farouq's escape, but conceded that Washington may have directly informed security officials in Jakarta.
"We have to check and make sure whether the U.S. has given the information to Indonesia or not," Thamrin said.
Military officials have declined to elaborate on how the men escaped from the heavily fortified jail, the only detainees they say have managed to do so. But a spokesman said Wednesday that an investigation into the breakout had turned up weaknesses in security and that these have been corrected.
"Physical security upgrades include improvements to an external door and holding cells," Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said, reading from a statement.
More than 500 suspected militants are held in the prison, a plain-looking building of about three stories in the heart of Bagram, next to the runways and the command center.
Several razor-wire fences surround the base and areas outside the perimeter remain mined from Afghanistan's civil war and Soviet occupation. Military teams patrol constantly, and the main entrance is a series of heavily guarded checkpoints.
A U.S. military statement issued in August about the breakout said an inquiry had found that "the guards and supervisors did not follow standard operating procedures" on the night it occurred.
"These failures led to the escape of the four detainees on 10 July," it said, adding that "action has either been taken or is in the process of being taken" to fix the problems.
The military conducted a massive manhunt after the breakout. U.S. troops, backed by Afghan police and soldiers, searched houses, manned roadblocks and zigzagged in helicopters across a dusty plain around the base.
Kabir Ahmed, the government leader in the area, said the American investigators had found where the men escaped from the base and fled through a field of wild grapevines.
"The soldiers found the escapees' footprints still in the mud," he said. "It was an amazing breakout. How they did it exactly I still don't know."
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report from Jakarta, Indonesia.
Afghan Escapee Belatedly Named as Bin Laden Lieutenant
By Daniel Cooney Associated Press Thursday, November 3, 2005; Page A15
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 2 -- The cells and doors at the U.S. military jail in Afghanistan have been fortified, a U.S. official said Wednesday, as details emerged about a breakout in July by a suspected al Qaeda leader and three other men who picked locks and evaded a minefield.
The Pentagon's belated confirmation of the identity of one of the four escapees sparked anger in Southeast Asia, where the prisoner, Omar Farouq, had been a top lieutenant of Osama bin Laden. Although the escape from the facility at Bagram air base was widely reported when it happened, U.S. authorities gave out only an alias to identify Farouq.
Officials in Indonesia, where Farouq was captured in 2002 before being handed over to U.S. authorities, criticized the United States for failing to inform them about the escape.
"We know nothing about the escape of Omar al-Farouq," said Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, an anti-terrorism official. "His escape will increase the threat of terrorism in Indonesia."
U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales described the apparent breakdown in communication as a "serious problem" and told CNN in an interview that it would be investigated.
Farouq, who was born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents, joined al Qaeda in the early 1990s and trained in Afghanistan, according to Ken Conboy, a security consultant based in Indonesia.
Farouq later plotted to stage bombings at U.S. embassies across Southeast Asia a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, but the plan was thwarted and he was captured, Conboy said.
The four escapees boasted about their breakout on a video broadcast Oct. 18 on al-Arabiya, a television network based in Dubai, according to two editors at the station, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the news media. In the video, the men show other prisoners a map of the base and the location of their cell. The editors would not say how they received the video.
French Interior Minister cancels trip to Pakistan, Afghanistan amid domestic violence
People's Daily - Nov 02 4:24 PM
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled his trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan scheduled between Nov. 6 and 9 due to riots in Paris suburbs, said the ministry in a statement on Wednesday.
"The violence in the town these days has induced Nicolas Sarkozy to cancel his trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan," said the statement.
The statement was released after six days of riots in Paris suburbs inhabited by poor immigrants, where gangs of youngsters set cars and garbage cans ablaze and clashed with police.
According to Paris police officials, more than 150 fires have been reported overnight Tuesday. Throughout the Seine-Saint-Denis area, some 60 vehicles have been torched.
The violence first started on Thursday and Friday nights in Clichy-sous-Bois in northeast Paris, an area which is home to many Muslim immigrants from North Africa.
Two local teenagers were electrocuted Thursday while they were trying to run away from police.
Local people are blaming the unrest on the police, saying they had been too tough in dealing with the situation and the police operation smacked of racial discrimination.
Germany to cut number of troops in Afghan region
Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) / November 2, 2005
Berlin (dpa) - Germany plans to cut the number of combat troops it can deploy in and around Afghanistan while extending their mandate for a further year, a defence ministry spokesman said Wednesday.
Germany's maximum troop strength as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom will be reduced to 2,800 from the present ceiling of 3,100 soldiers, said the spokesman.
The decision is partly academic because Berlin has only had 500 troops serving under the mandate in recent times.
The forces serve in the Afghan combat threatre including the Horn of Africa region. Members of Germany's elite KSK forces are involved in combat operations in Afghanistan with U.S. troops - but their numbers and activities are kept strictly secret.
``This is not a sign of a lower engagement which would be a totally false signal,'' said the spokesman, adding that troop reduction was because Berlin was temporarily recalling ageing naval surveillance planes prior to delivery of more modern replacements.
Parliament is expected to overwhelmingly approve extending the mandate in a November 8 vote. The current mandate expires November 15.
Germany has a further 2,250 peacekeeping troops with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan which it plans to raise to 3,000.
About 12,000 ISAF soldiers are operating mainly around Kabul, as well as in the relatively peaceful north and west of Afghanistan.
The United States has some 18,000 troops in Afghanistan under Enduring Freedom and has called on ISAF to expand its operations so that the U.S. forces can be partially withdrawn.
A total of 17 German soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 and 22 have been wounded in attacks, officials said.
Boeing, Ariana team up for airline’s renewal
Strategiy, United Arab Emirates [Wednesday, November 2, 2005 10:18:00 am]
Boeing and Ariana Afghan has finalized a fleet renewal plan that includes the lease of two 757-200s from Boeing Capital Corporation, as well as the direct purchase of four Next-Generation 737-700 airplanes that the airline will receive beginning in 2009. The ceremonial signing and celebration dinner was held at Dubai’s Park Hyatt hotel.
The agreement also includes an advanced training package for Ariana’s flight and cabin crews and maintenance and engineering staff to begin training for the 757-200s that will be delivered later this month.
“It’s rewarding for us to play an active role in a prudent strategy that will see Ariana’s renaissance,” said Lee Monson, vice president of sales for The Middle East and Africa. “These airplanes will greatly enhance Ariana’s operational efficiency and reliability and we are committed to bringing all of Boeing’s resources into play to assist the airline in its future growth and development.”
Following several years of war and turmoil, Ariana’s management has been hard at work over the past year implementing a recovery plan to reestablish the airline’s proud history and record for safety, reliability and service. With the signing of the Boeing agreement, Ariana will meet its first goal to bring reliable service to its passengers in time for this year’s Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
“We are pleased by Boeing having joined in our determination to put Ariana at the forefront of a long-term plan to rebuild not just the airline, but also to intensify our efforts for reconstructing Afghanistan’s aviation and transportation infrastructure,” said His Excellency Enayatullah Qasimi, Afghanistan’s Minister of Transportation.
Both the high-performance Boeing 757 and Next-Generation 737-700 with its Blended Winglets and powerful engines bring superior performance to meet the challenges of Ariana’s home-base in Kabul, a high altitude airport surrounded by mountains and experiencing seasonally warm temperatures.
BearingPoint snares Afghanistan economic policy reform deal
By Roseanne Gerin Staff Writer Washington Technology, DC
As Afghanistan makes progress toward a stable democracy, the West Asia country also is taking on economic policy reform.
BearingPoint International Inc. won a three-year, $45 million contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development to help strengthen the Islamic republic’s private sector by continuing to support its economic restructuring, the company said this week.
The McLean, Va., management consulting and systems integration firm is providing support for the speedy transition of Afghanistan through the promotion of democracy, the rule of law and sustainable economic and social development that is responsive to citizens’ needs.
BearingPoint will work to reinforce economic governance that will allow the private sector to expand production, jobs and income. The company also will set up recruitment and training programs for new civil service employees.
To accomplish these tasks, BearingPoint will work with Afghanistan’s finance, commerce and communications ministries, the central bank and other areas of government.
The new award builds on BearingPoint’s previous USAID contract in Afghanistan, which began in November 2002 and called for the company to provide initial support, training, and policy and process development to assist in rebuilding the country after years of conflict.
Earlier this year, BearingPoint won a three-year, $6.9 million contract to help Afghanistan’s finance ministry build its accounting and financial management capacity, manage incoming funding from international donors, and develop strategies for managing its human resources.
BearingPoint is No. 24 on Washington Technology’s Top 100 list of federal prime contractors, ranked according to their IT revenue.
Afghan Press Monitor
(No 187, 01 Nov 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Taleban attack TV tower in Ghazni
(Cheragh) Suspected Taleban insurgents attacked a television tower in the central province of Ghazni on the night of October 30, wounding one person. Mustafa Wardak, head of the provincial information and culture department, said the attackers escaped after a 30-minute firefight with security guards at the TV tower. Transmissions were halted during the attack. Local state-run and Ariana channels can be seen in Ghazni province.
(Cheragh is an independent daily run by the Development and Democracy Association.)
Nangarhar blast leaves one dead
(Arman-e-Milli) One person was killed and five others wounded when a bomb went off in the Angor Bagh area of the eastern province of Nangarhar on November 1. According to provincial officials, the bomb exploded shortly after a US military convoy passed through the area. The injured were taken to the provincial hospital. A provincial security official said the explosives were placed in a bicycle which was detonated by remote control. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion.
(Arman-e-Milli is an independent daily run by a group of journalists.)
Heroin labs destroyed in east
(Anis) The Afghan interior ministry says its counter-narcotics forces have destroyed 30 heroin-producing labs and around 4,000 kilograms of raw opium in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar over the past four days. A ministry source said the operation was conducted in the villagers of Shagar and Abdul Khil by forces backed by helicopters.
(Anis is state-run daily published mostly in Dari.)
Development projects for Paghman
(The Kabul Times) Twelve utilities projects were formally inaugurated and began operations in the Paghman district of Kabul province on October 31, according to the press office of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The projects include providing potable water, constructing roads, bridges and protective walls, and clearing out irrigation canals in the 12 villages of the district. Around 300 families will benefit from the projects, which are being funded under the National Solidarity Programme.
(The Kabul Times is a state-run paper published in English every other day.)
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