Nine Afghan police killed in ambush
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Nine policemen, including a unit commander, were killed when suspected Taliban rebels ambushed their convoy in insurgency-hit southeastern Afghanistan, officials said.
Four Taliban insurgents were also killed in the attack on Friday in Helmand province, provincial administrative deputy chief Ghulam Moheedin told AFP.
"Nine policemen were killed when they were ambushed," he said on Saturday. "Four Taliban were also killed in the firefight."
He could not provide further details but an interior ministry spokesman in Kabul said the policemen had been searching for militants after being tipped off by captured Taliban that there were dozens of rebels in the area.
"Some two days ago we captured two Taliban who later told us that there was a big Taliban hideout in the region," Yousuf Stanizai told AFP.
"The unit attacked were searching for that hideout," he said.
Around 200 policemen were dispatched to the area, between Bagharan and Mizan districts, chase the rebels, he said.
Helmand is one of several provinces in southern and eastern Afghanistan that are a focus of an insurgency launched by the Taliban after they were removed from power in late 2001 in a US-led campaign.
Government officials, aid workers and foreign security forces have been some of their targets.
Eighteen policemen were killed in an ambush in Helmand about 10 days ago. It was one of the worst attacks on Afghanistan's fledgling new police force, which started forming after the Taliban were removed.
President Hamid Karzai strongly condemned that attack and said drugs barons in the province could have been involved.
Helmand is the top producer of Afghanistan's illegal opium crop of more than 4,000 tonnes annually, which makes up around 87 percent of the world's supply and mostly ends up on the streets of Europe as heroin.
Opium, harvested from poppies, is also the war-shattered nation's main source of income, accounting for between 40 and 60 percent of its gross domestic product.
The area of Helmand under poppy cultivation is twice as large as in any other single province, contributing as much a quarter of the country's total, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
8 Police, 4 Taliban Killed in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A Taliban ambush touched off fierce fighting in southern Afghan mountains that left eight police and four rebels dead, officials said Saturday.
Insurgents hiding behind rocks attacked the police as they were driving slowly on rough roads in Helmand province late Friday in search of a rebel hideout, said provincial administrator Ghulam Muhiddin.
A two-hour gunbattle ensued before the rebels fled, he said.
The government sent 200 police reinforcements into the area to hunt down the attackers.
The assault was the latest blow for the police force after a string of deadly ambushes in recent weeks.
The violence highlights the challenge facing President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government, as well as the 30,000 foreign troops based here, in trying to end a stubborn insurgency that has left more than 1,400 people dead this year.
This month has seen a spike in attacks against prominent senior officials, teachers and religious leaders — many of whom had recently spoken out against the insurgents.
Afghan President Tries to Reduce Outrage
Afghan President Tries to Reduce Outrage Over U.S. Soldiers Allegedly Desecrating Taliban Bodies
By AMIR SHAH The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai said Friday he was "very unhappy" to learn that U.S. soldiers had burned the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters, but he said mistakes happen in war and Afghans shouldn't let the incident mar their impression of the United States.
His apparent attempt to reduce Afghans' anger over the alleged desecration of the bodies came amid warnings by Islamic clerics of a possible violent anti-American backlash.
"Sometimes things happen in these sort of operations, during war. Soldiers make mistakes," he told reporters in Kabul. "We are very grateful for the international community's assistance ... Their soldiers have shed their blood in our country."
But he added, "We in Afghanistan in accordance with our religion ... are very unhappy and condemn the burning of the two Taliban dead bodies. I hope such incidents will not occur again."
Karzai on Thursday ordered an inquiry into television footage that purportedly shows U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of the two dead Taliban fighters to taunt other militants. The U.S. military also launched an investigation.
Cremating bodies is banned under Islam, and one Muslim leader in Afghanistan compared the video to photographs of U.S. troops abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
"Abu Ghraib ruined the reputation of the Americans in Iraq and to me this is even worse," Faiz Mohammed told The Associated Press from northern Kunduz province. "This is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by this news. It is so humiliating. There will be very, very dangerous consequences from this."
A cleric in Kabul, Said Mohammed Omar, said, "The burnings of these bodies is an offense against Muslims everywhere. Bodies are only burned in hell."
Footage of the alleged act has not been broadcast yet in Afghanistan and though the local media has reported on it, many people were still not aware of it and there have been no demonstrations like anti-American protests in May that turned violent and killed 15 people.
Those riots erupted after Newsweek magazine said U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility desecrated Islam's holy book, the Quran. Newsweek later retracted the story.
Worried about the potential for anti-American feelings over this incident, the U.S. State Department said it instructed U.S. embassies around the globe to tell local governments that the reported abuse did not reflect American values.
Afghan Clerics Warn of Anti-U.S. Backlash
By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 21, 1:03 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The United States has gone to great lengths to win over Afghans, sending billions in aid and using its troops for humanitarian work. But TV footage purportedly showing U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of Taliban rebels threatens to fray that goodwill.
With Islamic clerics warning of a violent anti-American backlash, the alleged desecration of dead Muslims has American commanders scrambling to contain a public relations calamity that comes as they struggle to bolster support for their war against a stubborn insurgency.
President Hamid Karzai, who recently challenged the need for U.S. airstrikes and house-to-house searches in fighting Taliban rebels, also seemed worried about reaction to the desecration allegation.
While he condemned the apparent act, Karzai sought to calm passions Friday, saying that "soldiers make mistakes" in war.
Cremating bodies, even those of animals, is banned in Islam. One Muslim cleric in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said, "Bodies should only be burned in hell."
"The burnings of these bodies is an offense to Muslims everywhere. ... It makes no difference that they were Taliban," the cleric, Said Mohammed Omar, told The Associated Press outside his mosque.
Some students called for street demonstrations.
"We must protest this. If we don't, U.S. soldiers will do the same thing again," said Zabiola, a student leader at Kabul University, who like many Afghans uses only one name.
Another student, Jamshid Agha, speaking after Friday prayers, said that when he heard the news, he was "so angry with America, I felt like taking a weapon and fighting."
Though Afghan media have reported on the alleged desecration, the video hasn't been broadcast here and by late Friday there had been no protest rallies.
The last anti-American protests in Afghanistan that turned violent were in May over a report by Newsweek — later retracted — that U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility abused Islam's holy book, the Quran.
Australia's SBS television network this week broadcast a video purportedly showing American soldiers burning the bodies of two suspected Taliban fighters in hills outside southern Gonbaz village, which is in a region plagued by Taliban activity.
The footage shows about five soldiers in light-colored military fatigues, which did not have any distinguishing marks, standing near a bonfire in which two bodies were laid side by side.
The network said the video was taken by a freelance journalist, Stephen Dupont. He told AP it was taken Oct. 1 while he was embedded with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Hours after the existence of the video became known, Karzai ordered an inquiry as did the U.S. military. On Friday, the president appeared before the media in an apparent attempt to reduce Afghans' anger over the incident.
"Sometimes things happen in these sort of operations, during war," he told reporters. "We are very grateful for the international community's assistance. ... Their soldiers have shed their blood in our country."
Two hundred U.S. military personnel have died in and around Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001. Eighty-four of the deaths have been this year amid a resurgence in fighting.
Washington has spent $5 billion in four years on nonmilitary assistance to prop up Karzai's government, build roads and medical clinics and fund other projects.
Keen for that aid not to be overshadowed by the alleged desecration, U.S. military commanders went on a PR offensive when news broke of the video.
Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya held a late-night news conference for local reporters in the southern city of Kandahar on Thursday, describing the alleged act as "repugnant."
"We will leave no stone unturned to determine the veracity of these allegations," he said.
For some Afghans, the damage was already done.
"During the past quarter-century of war, I have never heard of anyone burning dead bodies," said a senior cleric in Kandahar, Abdul Qayum. "The Americans claim to be here to bring peace, but what are we supposed to think about this?"
Associated Press writers Amir Shah in Kabul and Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.
U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan denounces alleged abuse by U.S. soldiers as "disgusting"
Pravda Ru - Oct 21 6:43 PM
U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said that the alleged burning of two dead Taliban fighters by American soldiers did not reflect American values and promised a prompt investigation.
Neumann emphasized the Pentagon would promptly investigate the report that surfaced Wednesday when an Australian television network aired video purportedly showing U.S. soldiers scorching the corpses of two Taliban fighters in the hills near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
The SBS Australian network said the footage was taken on Oct. 1. by a freelance journalist, Stephen Dupont, who told The Associated Press he was embedded with the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the U.S. Army earlier this month. In the footage, which was seen by the AP, two soldiers who spoke with American accents later read taunting messages that the SBS said were broadcast to the village, which was believed to be harboring Taliban soldiers.
Dupont said the soldiers responsible for the taunting messages were part of a U.S. Army psychological operations unit. Cremating bodies is banned by Islamic custom and Islamic clerics in Afghanistan have warned of a possible violent anti-American backlash. In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai condemned the alleged actions of the American soldiers, but was also quick to try to calm passions over the incident, saying Friday that "soldiers make mistakes" in war.
Though local media in Afghanistan has reported on the alleged desecration, the video has not yet been broadcast there and by late Friday there were no demonstrations. The last anti-American protests that turned violent were in May over a report _ later retracted _ that U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility had abused the Quran, Islam's holy book, AP reports.
Two senior officials killed in Afghanistan
Saturday, October 22, 2005 Daily Times
KABUL: Bombs planted by suspected Taliban rebels killed a top policeman and a senior intelligence officer in Afghanistan, officials said Friday.
The police director of southwestern Nimroz province and a guard were killed late Thursday when a remotely detonated car bomb tore through their vehicle as they were going to evening prayers, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Haji Nafas Khan was the second senior most policeman in the province. Another policeman and four civilians were wounded in the blast in the provincial capital Zaranj, ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said.
He blamed the attack on the enemies of peace and stability, a term officials use to refer to loyalists of the Taliban regime ousted in late 2001.
The intelligence officer, named only Sherjan, was killed in eastern Kunar province late Thursday when a bomb was detonated as he passed on his motorcycle, the provincial governor said.
In another incident blamed on the Taliban Thursday, an employee of the Afghan Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA) organisation was killed and another was wounded after they were attacked in northwestern Faryab province. “We think it was the work of the Taliban,” Governor Abdul Latif Idrahimi said. CHA is funded by a host of international donors and works to improve basic social services for needy communities.
The Taliban has also been blamed for the murders of three pro-government Islamic leaders in the past week, one of them while he was in a mosque. The killings sent thousands of people marching through the eastern city of Khost Thursday to condemn the killings and ask the government in Islamabad to stop helping terrorists and destroy terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. afp
Stoking Afghanistan's resistance
Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times 10/21/05
Karachi - The onset of winter and the heavy snows that go with it have traditionally brought Afghanistan's civil wars to a halt over the past 25 years.
But in the last two years, the Taliban-led resistance has bucked the trend. Two years ago, the winter was marked by the country's first-ever suicide attacks, which took place against US bases. And last year they continued with sporadic guerrilla activities throughout the long, cold months.
This winter, the Taliban had planned to draw warlords further into their struggle, luring them with promises of protection for their drug-growing and smuggling activities. The overall aim is to spread as much chaos as possible across the country.
Now their cause has received a significant boost from an unexpected quarter following reports that US soldiers desecratedthe bodies of Taliban fighters by burning them.
Islam traditionally forbids the cremation or embalming of corpses. Further, as a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, "We strongly condemn any disrespect to human bodies regardless of whether they are those of enemies or friends."
An Australian television report from a journalist who had been embedded with US troops in Afghanistan, including video footage, purportedly shows US soldiers standing by the burning corpses of two suspected Taliban fighters with their bodies laid out, facing Mecca.
The footage was filmed outside the southern village of Gonbaz near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. It included a propaganda message taunting Taliban fighters to retrieve their dead and fight. In the complex tribal structure of Afghanistan, where Afghan traditions (Pakhtoon wali) compliment Islam, such an incident can be blown to exceptional proportions.
This happened in the 1980s, during the Soviet occupation, when Soviet authorities launched anti-traditionalist policies, such as discouraging the role of Muslim clerics in mosques and encouraging women to take a lead role in society.
The result was the wrath of the Afghan rural masses from north to south and among Tajiks and Pashtuns, Shi'ites and Sunnis. The reaction was far greater, and more damaging, than the intended objective, and the mujahideen resistance gained further popular support.
Both the Afghan and US governments have expressed strong revulsion over the footage, and have launched inquiries. However, the incident gives the resistance a perfect propaganda tool for rabble-raising and widening its support to create the utmost political instability. The Taliban have achieved some success on this count recently.
Two years ago, Asia Times Online wrote about the formation of the Jaishul Muslim. Jaishul Muslim was created to split the Taliban by turning some against their leader, Mullah Omar. The main purpose was to create an organization that could control those warlords and tribes siding with Mullah Omar by bringing them into the Jaishul Muslim's fold, especially in southern and southeastern Afghanistan.
Last year the Jaishul Muslim joined with the Taliban, but soon the Taliban found them to be unreliable and contact was broken off. Now Asia Times Online contacts in Afghanistan say that recently some powerful commanders who were with Jaishul Muslim have agreed to join Taliban. These commanders have each been assigned to particular regions to carry out operations against US-led forces.
Similar deals have been struck with other commanders in places such as Kunar, Ghazni, Jalalabad and Kandahar. From the resistance point of view these developments have come at a perfect time as the Pakistan Army is tied up with relief operations in the Kashmir region following the massive earthquake there last week. This means that the resistance can use Pakistani territory on the rugged border area with Afghanistan with impunity. It could be a long, cold and bloody winter. Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online.
Pakistan aid 'totally inadequate'
Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf says the amount of foreign reconstruction aid pledged after the South Asia quake is "totally inadequate". Gen Musharraf told the BBC that about $620m had been promised, but that Pakistan needed about $5bn to rebuild devastated areas.
An estimated three million people in Pakistan lack adequate shelter. The UN has appealed for urgent help to avoid a massive second wave of deaths over the fierce Himalayan winter. Pakistan has confirmed 49,739 deaths, most of them in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. India says more than 1,400 have died in the sector of Kashmir it administers.
Ten thousand tents will be flown to Pakistan over the next few weeks, but the UN has warned there may not be enough winterised tents in the world to meet the needs of the earthquake victims. UN emergency relief chief Jan Egeland has asked Nato to stage a massive airlift of those without shelter, on the scale of the Berlin airlift in the 1940s.
The 26-nation alliance, which began flying in 900 tonnes of aid on Thursday, is considering the demand, but says it would need to muster more helicopters. The US said its extra helicopters would arrive in Pakistan next week, giving a significant boost to the 60 currently operating in the region. Neighbouring India has also offered to send more aircraft, but Pakistan insisted they be provided without Indian crews, which India has refused to do.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed territory Kashmir, one of the regions worst-hit by the quake. Gen Musharraf recently proposed opening the line of control between the two Kashmirs, but so far there have been no signs of the proposal being put into practice.
The Indian government says it is awaiting suggestions for the practical implementation of the offer. Mr Egeland has urged the two countries to set aside differences over Kashmir and "work out a compromise immediately" to speed aid across the line of control dividing the disputed region. Mr Egeland's Nato appeal follows the UN's admission that the quake is the worst logistical nightmare it has ever faced.
The UN says the shortfall in aid for victims of the South Asian quake has made the relief situation worse than after last December's tsunami. Mr Egeland said only $86m had been pledged of the $312m the UN had asked for to fund the relief operation - and far less actually received in cash.
In an interview with the BBC, Gen Musharraf said he was confident that all areas hit by the earthquake 12 days ago would be reached by relief teams before winter, but said that there was still an urgent need for more tents and tarpaulins to help the survivors.
He said it was likely that Pakistan would need to build 500,000 new homes. The Pakistani leader also defended the country's army in the face of criticism of its response to the crisis. He said the army had managed to get aid through, despite working in very difficult conditions.
"The whole nation is helping and the army is helping, and I think we are feeling very happy with ourselves for having reacted in such a positive manner as a nation, army included," Gen Musharraf said.
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