Tue Jul 31, 1:45 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban movement in Afghanistan has set 0730 GMT (0230 EST) Wednesday as another deadline for the remaining 21 South Korean hostages, a Taliban spokesman said on Tuesday a day after the Taliban shot dead a second captive.
"If the Kabul administration and Korean government do not give a positive reply to our demand about the release of Taliban prisoners by tomorrow 12:00 (local time), then we will start killing other hostages," Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters.
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Taliban say they have killed a second SKorean hostage
Mon Jul 30, 1:29 PM ET
GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban militia said it shot dead late Monday a South Korean hostage, among 23 captured two weeks ago, after its deadlines expired for the government to free prisoners.
"We set several deadlines and the Afghan government did not pay attention to our deadlines," spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP. "Finally tonight at 8:30 (1600 GMT) we killed one of the Koreans named Sung Sin with AK-47 gunshots."
The body of the hostage had been dumped in the Qarabagh district of the southern province of Ghazni, Ahmadi said. He did not specify the gender of the captive but his use of the Pashtu language suggested a man was killed.
The area is where 23 South Korean Christians, 16 of them women, were captured on July 19 while officially on an aid mission.
The Taliban threatened on Sunday to start killing them Monday if its demand was ignored.
The leader of the Koreans, a 42-year-old pastor, was shot dead on Wednesday last week and his bullet-riddled body found in a desert area of the province.
There was no independent confirmation of the latest killing, but Afghan officials said they were pursuing unconfirmed intelligence reports that two of the hostages were dead.
"We have heard reports of two hostages killed but I cannot confirm it at this stage," Ghazni governor Mirajuddin Pattan told AFP.
Provincial police chief Alishah Ahmadzai said his information was that two bodies had been dumped in the Char Daiwal area of the Qarabagh, which is 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of Kabul.
"Although it's night and dark, police forces have gone to the area and have started a search and investigation there. We don't know at this stage if it is true or not," he said.
The South Korean embassy here has refused to comment to press on the case.
The hardline Islamic militia extended a deadline of noon Monday by four hours, saying afterwards it leaders were deciding on the fate of its captives.
It had demanded the government free Taliban men in its jails but negotiators said this was not up for discussion and called for two extra days to try to resolve the crisis.
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South Korea Condemns Taliban Killing of Hostages in Afghanistan
By Heejin Koo
July 31 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea condemned the killing of a second hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying the ``heinous acts'' must stop. The group set a deadline of tomorrow to save the remaining 21 hostages, Agence France-Presse said.
The insurgents are demanding the release of Taliban prisoners in Afghan jails in exchange for the South Koreans.
``This demand is not within the power of the Korean government because it doesn't have any effective means to influence the decisions of the Afghan government,'' presidential spokesman Chun Ho Sun said in Seoul today.
The South Koreans were abducted July 19 on a highway as their bus traveled from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar. They were members of a Protestant church group on a 10-day relief mission. Most are women in their 20s and 30s, some of whom are nurses and teachers.
The body of Shim Sung Min was found by Afghan police early today, Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Hee Yong told a briefing in Seoul. The man's bullet-ridden body was discovered at the side of a road in the province of Ghazni, AFP reported. The church group's leader was killed by militants on July 25.
``Our last deadline for the 21 surviving South Koreans is tomorrow 12 o'clock'' Afghan time, Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told the news service. ``If our demands are not met by then, we will start killing the rest of the South Koreans.''
The Afghan government was criticized for releasing five militants in March in exchange for an Italian hostage, AFP said. President Hamid Karzai vowed never to repeat such a deal.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho said the government in Seoul would continue to work to free the South Koreans.
``We will maintain all our effort to bring the hostages back safely,'' he said. ``We express our sincerest condolences to the family members who had been praying'' for Shim's safe return.
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Malaysia Concerned Over South Korean Hostage Issue In Afghanistan
KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is concerned over the issue of the South Korean hostage in Afghanistan and appeals to the kidnappers to show compassion to the innocent Koreans.
A Wisma Putra statement Tuesday said the killing of hostages would not solve problems.
"As Muslims, the hostage takers most not resort to such action to pursue their agenda.
"For the sake of humanity, Malaysia hopes that the hostage takers will release the hostages immediately," it said.
Reuters today reported that Afghan authorities recovered the body of a second South Korean shot dead by Taliban kidnappers who threatened to kill more of the 21 hostages if Kabul does not free Taliban prisoners by Wednesday.
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Korean hostage crisis pressures US, Karzai
By Donald Kirk Asia Times Online Tuesday, July 31, 2007
WASHINGTON - The crisis of the Korean hostages in Afghanistan confronts the United States with yet another seemingly insurmountable problem in negotiations with South Korea.
Just as Washington and Seoul appeared to have sorted out their differences on dealing with North Korea, they now have to settle very quickly on what to do to win freedom for the 22 South Koreans, most of them women, who've been held by the Taliban for nearly two weeks.
The crux of the controversy is whether to bring pressure on the US-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to bow to the demands of the Taliban for the release of a number of Taliban prisoners in exchange for release of the hostages. The Taliban have set deadline after deadline for killing them if their demands are not met.
South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon pleaded the case of his government in a telephone call to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Word here is that Song asked Rice to urge Karzai to agree to the release of at least eight Taliban prisoners - something Karzai is dead set against doing.
Song made his plea after high-level South Korean negotiators appeared to have failed completely in their efforts at negotiations. First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Jung-pyo went to Kabul, and then the chief presidential secretary for security policy, Baek Jong-chun, joined him.
Finally, President Roh Moo-hyun telephoned Karzai, in effect asking him, please, do what you have to do to obtain freedom for our people. Besides urging the release of Taliban prisoners, the South Korean government is dangling the bait of an enormous amount of money if that's what it will take to win their release.
Authorities are driven by two fears reflecting the passions of the struggle for Afghanistan. First is the fear that Afghan troops will go on the offensive, attacking the redoubts where the hostages are held, placing their lives in jeopardy. The Afghan government has said force may be needed, since negotiations apparently have gone nowhere.
Second is the contrary fear that the Taliban will indeed begin killing hostages "one by one", as one of them has said in a telephone conversation sanctioned by the Taliban, most likely on a Taliban mobile telephone, with a Western journalist.
No one doubts the Taliban are capable of doing just that. They claimed their first casualty last week when they killed the leader of the group, a 42-year-old pastor who had made previous trips to Afghanistan.
Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu was one of six men in the group. Most of the 17 women on the mission were nurses. The kidnappers have provided no clue, though, as to whether they might go on killing the men before turning their guns on the women.
Bae's body, riddled with 10 bullet holes, was supposedly on its way back to Seoul after some discussion on whether to leave it at a US base until all the members of his group were released and they could accompany the body back to Seoul.
That discussion reveals the religious zeal of a group that denies it's proselytizing or spreading the word of God, that is, the Christian God, among some of the world's most dedicated Muslim people. The Presbyterian church in a Seoul suburb that sent the group to Afghanistan has said their mission was strictly to dispense medical aid.
Reports are circulating in Korea, though, that members of the group seized any chance to pray - and offended Afghans while they were at it. According to one report, they entered an empty mosque and began singing Christian hymns.
The religious fervor of the group has been the topic of debate in Korea, where people seem divided on whether to applaud the group for their dedication and view Bae as martyr or to condemn them for creating a terrific problem for the government while on a mission whose main purpose, say some, was to feed their egos. A photograph that has spread around the Internet shows members of the group smiling proudly in front of a sign at an airport in Korea warning Koreans against visiting Muslim countries on just such missions.
The debate in turn raises questions about the entire South Korean missionary movement, in which thousands of Koreans have gone overseas in recent years, risking capture and death in predominantly Muslim nations in their eagerness to do God’s work.
The number of Koreans on foreign missions, mainly to the Middle East and Africa, ranks behind only that of the United States - an irony for a society that historically rejected early Christian missionaries from Europe and the US. By now about one-third of South Korea's 48 million people are Christians, including both Catholics and Protestants, and Christians often are at the forefront of political activism in this country.
While some Christian pastors have been widely publicized in South Korea for demanding withdrawal of US troops and an end to the US-Korean alliance, they appear to be in a minority. Korean Christians in essence are conservative and often critical of the left-of-center government.
The church with which the hostages are affiliated - a large Presbyterian congregation in the Seoul suburb of Bundang - has sent several hundred members overseas but has recalled others on different missions from Afghanistan and says it's not sending any more.
As the hours wind down before every deadline, however, the issue of getting all the hostages home takes precedence over that of the wisdom of such missions.
"In the present circumstances, it is wrong for Koreans to continue arguing about mistakes the hostages made," said Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's biggest-selling newspaper and a major conservative voice that is often at odds with government policy, including concessions to North Korean demands in negotiations on the North's nuclear program.
"What's most important at this point is to win the release of all the hostages," said Chosun Ilbo. "This is why the government is exerting all of its efforts even at the risk of damaging its prestige." Calling for "reason, not passion", the paper warned that "emotionally charged actions by Koreans not only help nobody but harm such efforts".
Kristen Suh, a church-going Korean woman, explained the background of the South Korean missionary movement as an outgrowth of Korean construction projects throughout the Middle East beginning in the 1970s.
"Korean churches are sending medical mission teams to Afghanistan assuming they will not be harmed," she said. Now "this terrible current situation may deter some of the mission teams from going into restricted areas".
As for Bae, she said, "He is leaving behind a great testimony of faith," and "many will be touched by his life story of faith."
Another devout woman said frankly that many Koreans "showed their anger toward that church" for having sent people "to the very dangerous place where our government prohibited a trip".
"Those hostages," she said, "didn't even know how they could be cautious while they were there." Indeed, she went on, "Many people are blaming Christianity and the church and even the hostages," but she also defended them.
"As a Christian, I feel so sorry about this situation," she said, "but I don't think those missionaries deserve to be blamed - even though they were not wise enough."
Journalist Donald Kirk has been covering Korea - and the confrontation of forces in Northeast Asia - for more than 30 years.
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"Life in Hell" for South Korean hostages' families
By Jon Herskovitz Tue Jul 31, 4:50 AM ET
BUNDANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Sleeping feels like a sin for an exhausted Ryu Haeng-sik who looks after his two young daughters in suburban Seoul, waiting for word on his wife held by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
With news that a second kidnap victim has been killed, the strain is clear on Ryu and other relatives of the 23 South Koreans -- 18 of them women -- who were taken hostage south of Kabul nearly two weeks ago.
"It feels like my heart is being scorched. It's unbelievable how sinful I feel for just eating and sleeping," Ryu said in an interview with Reuters.
"I feel like I'm in hell. I just wish it would all end," he said at the church which sent the group to Afghanistan.
Analysts said there is little Seoul can do to respond to the kidnappers who are demanding the Afghan government release Taliban prisoners in exchange for the hostages.
It has sent a special envoy to Kabul to try to help. But there are increasing calls in South Korea for the United States to intervene and help bail out an ally.
The kidnappers have already killed two male hostages and threatened on Tuesday to kill more of the remaining 21 if their demands are not met.
Ryu said his wife, Kim Ryun-young, loved to teach children which was why she joined 22 other volunteers from Saemmul Church, based in a suburb south of Seoul, on the trip to Afghanistan.
Red-eyed family members have been gathering for the past 12 days since the kidnapping, watching TV news programs in windowless rooms at their church.
Two of Seo Jeung-bae's children -- a daughter who is a nurse and a son who is a barber -- are among the hostages.
"They did not go to Afghan to fight," Seo said. "So please, don't let there be anymore sacrifices.
"I can't save them. I wish I could just die."
Tables have been set up for reporters at the five-storey church in a room where colorful pictures drawn by the children of parishioners hang on the walls.
The church sits in a commuter district of Seoul where steeples, some adorned with red neon crosses, interrupt a skyline of narrow apartment buildings standing like rows of dominoes.
PRESSURE ON WASHINGTON
Je Mi-sook said her brother, held in Afghanistan, donated as much of his time and money as possible to charity.
"It's heartbreaking to see the Taliban making these demands and putting lives at risk -- when we are all the same human beings," she said.
South Korea, which sends the second largest number of Christian missionaries abroad after the United States, has tried to block evangelical church groups from going to Afghanistan because of fear for their safety.
The relatives and the presidential Blue House know that South Korea has little to bargain with and both called for help and flexibility from the international community.
"The United States' influence on the Afghanistan government is extremely important. It can play a necessary role in exchanging the Korean hostages for Taliban prisoners," said Kim Won-wung, a senior lawmaker with the pro-government Uri Party.
Choi Jin-tae, head of the Korea Research Institute on Terrorism said there is the possibility of an anti-U.S. backlash in South Korea if things get even worse for the hostages and the South Korean public feels Washington did not do enough.
Anxious husband Ryu says he will wait in the church with other relatives praying for a peaceful outcome.
"We are their family, so we can't stop hoping."
(With additional reporting by Jessica Kim and Song Miri)
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AFGHANISTAN: Rights group, UN skeptical about reduced civilian casualties
KABUL, 31 July 2007 (IRIN) - Afghan and international forces fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have agreed on a number of measures designed to minimise civilian casualties in their military operations, officials told IRIN.
According to various unverified reports, over 800 civilians have died in fighting between government military personnel supported by international forces and Taliban insurgents in the past few months of 2007.
"One point in our new joint strategy is to use smaller and lighter bombs in aerial strikes," Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Defence (MoD), said in Kabul on 30 July.
After strong criticism from different parts of Afghanistan over scores of civilian deaths - allegedly in NATO and US aerial bombardments - the MoD set out plans for better coordination between Afghan and international forces and ways to reduce unwanted deaths.
The new strategy has been discussed, agreed upon and will be announced in the near future, the MoD said.
The Afghan government and its international partners, including the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the US military-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), have expressed willingness to address growing concerns about the situation of non-combatants in their military operations.
"Civilian casualties are a very serious matter. They need to be avoided," said a NATO-ISAF spokeswoman in Kabul, who requested anonymity.
Change of NATO tactics
In an interview with the Financial Times, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer confirmed that ISAF will start using smaller bombs in its air strikes in Afghanistan "as part of a change in tactics aimed at stemming a rise in civilian casualties that threatens to undermine support in the fight against the Taliban".
However, it is still unclear whether NATO's decision to use smaller bombs will also apply to thousands of US forces operating in Afghanistan outside the NATO command structure.
Asked whether the US military would also go along with NATO's decision, an OEF spokesperson at Bagram airbase declined to comment.
While the government of Afghanistan welcomes NATO use of lighter bombs in aerial bombings of combat zones, the country's human rights commission (AIHRC) and the UN have doubted the hype about smaller bombs not harming civilians.
"We cannot say whether a small or a big bomb is good," said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the UN in Kabul. "Any civilian casualty is unacceptable," he added.
Meanwhile, the AIHRC said if insurgents continued to shield civilians in their armed conflicts the smaller bombs used would still harm civilians.
Some Afghans fear that a reduction in the size of aerial bombs might be balanced by an increase in the number of aerial strikes - already higher than the number of aerial attacks in Iraq.
Ahmad Nader Nadery, an AIHRC spokesperson, said: "International forces should increase their ground presence and stop reliance on aerial strikes which mostly affect non-combatants."
Currently there are over 33,000 international forces from 37 countries, led by NATO, and over 10,000 extra US troops operating under OEF command in Afghanistan.
More civilian deaths
On 29 July, 12 passengers of a civilian convoy were killed and eight wounded by gunmen allegedly associated with Taliban insurgents in Zabul Province, southern Afghanistan, said a press release issued by NATO forces in Kabul.
It is still not yet known why insurgents killed and injured the passengers.
Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior said those killed in Zabul were employees of a private security company.
Over 20 civilians, meanwhile, died recently as a result of NATO bombings of two districts in insurgency-torn Helmand Province in the south of Afghanistan, provincial officials said.
In the last week of July, clashes between Taliban rebels and Afghan forces, backed by international forces, resulted in the death of scores of Taliban guerrillas, officials said.
Unverifiable owing to limited access to the volatile regions, reports of civilian casualties have turned into a controversial propaganda tool for parties to the conflict, specialists in Kabul said.
The UN has urged local media not to disseminate the propaganda of the parties to the conflict and ensure impartial coverage of events in Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan: Attacks on schools on the rise
Kabul, 31 July (AKI) - Security incidents in schools and threats against students and teachers in Afghanistan have spiked in recent months, disrupting education in the country, which this year has seen some of the worst violence since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, according to the United Nations mission there.
"Over 30 attacks against schools, many involving the torching or blowing up of school premises have been reported in all parts of the country from January until June" Nilab Mobarez, Information Officer with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said at a press conference in Kabul .
Deliberate attacks on girls and female teachers have resulted in at least four deaths and six injuries so far this year, he told reporters.
According to estimates by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 262 of the total 740 schools in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul are currently unable to provide education to their students.
“UNAMA appeals to all parties concerned for the resumption of normal education activities across the country, particularly in the south, so that boys and girls can exercise their right to education in a peaceful and secure environment,” Mr. Mobarez said.
Speaking out recently against continued attacks against schools and schoolchildren, Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF’s Representative in Afghanistan, expressed the agency’s concern at the incidents and intimidation in some communities aimed at stopping families from sending children to school.
“Schools of course are a visible sign of reconstruction and progress, and there are those who perhaps fear such progress,” she stated.
UNICEF continues to be in discussion with local leaders, village elders and religious leaders to identify ways in which education can be continued, she said, adding that the agency stands ready to support any initiative “that will keep children learning in safety.”
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Suicide car bomb hits U.S. convoy in Afghan capital
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide car bomb killed two Afghan civilians and wounded four soldiers from a U.S.-led force and three Afghans in Afghanistan's capital on Tuesday, a military spokeswoman said.
Taliban guerrillas fighting against Afghan government and foreign troops stationed in the country, claimed responsibility for the attack, part of rising violence in recent months.
The attack occurred near a U.S. base on a main road out of Kabul, said a spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
"I saw pieces of a body and blood on the road and a damaged American vehicle and the bomber's car was totally destroyed," said witness Abdul Hamid.
Ousted from power in 2001, the Taliban largely rely on roadside bomb attacks and suicide raids to pursue their campaign.
On Monday, a Taliban bomber on foot blew himself up among a group of Afghan soldiers in the northern town of Kunduz, officials said. Thirteen people, including seven soldiers, were wounded in that attack.
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18 militants killed in fierce Pakistan clashes
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) - Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships killed 18 pro-Taliban militants in intense fighting in a troubled tribal zone bordering Afghanistan on Tuesday, the army said.
Separately security officials told AFP the Islamic rebels abducted four soldiers in the rugged North Waziristan region, where the United States alleges that Al-Qaeda has created a safe haven to plan attacks against Western targets.
North Waziristan has seen a spike in violence since pro-Taliban rebels in the area scrapped a peace deal with the government on July 15, five days after the army stormed a radical mosque in the capital, leaving scores dead.
Fighting raged for six hours after an army patrol came under attack after signalling three vehicles to stop at the Banda checkpoint in the conflict-torn region, said chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad.
"Around 40 miscreants started firing at security forces and took positions in nearby hills, and security forces retaliated. Helicopter support was called in, there was a heavy exchange of fire," said Arshad.
"Eighteen miscreants are dead and we have their bodies with us. Two were injured and they have been arrested," he said, adding that two soldiers were also wounded.
Meanwhile the four soldiers were abducted at gunpoint while on the way from the garrison town of Bannu to the militant hotbed of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, a senior security official said on condition of anonymity.
"Efforts are underway to recover them," he said.
Earlier a roadside bomb wounded six paramilitary troops, two seriously, as they delivered food to colleagues on the perimeter of the neighbouring tribal district of South Waziristan, security officials said.
Troops also traded gunfire overnight with militants in North Waziristan after rebels launched rockets at government and army buildings, officials said. There were no immediate reports of casualties from that engagement.
One rocket damaged a government-run student hostel in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, while two landed on the lawns of the town's main military base, local security officials said.
Seven people, including three soldiers, were killed in violence in North Waziristan on Monday.
Pakistan has been battling Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in its rugged tribal belt since hundreds of the rebels fled Afghanistan after the fall of the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001.
US-led forces toppled the Taliban over accusations that it had harboured Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 9/11 suicide airliner attacks on New York and Washington.
The United States, Islamabad's key ally, has branded Pakistan's tribal belt the new hideout of bin Laden's Al-Qaeda movement, a charge that Pakistani officials deny.
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Pak worried about Indian penetration from Afghanistan: Cohen
Washington, July 31 (ANI): An expert on South Asian affairs has said that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf cannot be blamed entirely for the deterioration of civil society in his country, and adds that he should avail of all opportunities to set things right and build up civilian competence, allowing for the army's retreat from governance.
According to Stephen Cohen, there is however, room for skepticism about Pakistan's role with regard to the Taliban.
He says that Pakistani officials freely admit that their main concerns in Afghanistan are Indian penetration (which would mean encirclement for Islamabad) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's dependence on New Delhi.
"Given this strategic compulsion, it is not surprising that Pakistan tolerates, if it does not directly support, the Taliban; it has no other instrument available to it than this Pashtun tribal hammer," Cohen says in an article for the Washington Post.
But he rules out the end of the "Musharraf system" in Pakistan. He says military rule in Pakistan will continue, even it is from behind the scenes.
"Abroad, they might get tougher with India (what better way to unite Pakistanis than a crisis with New Delhi?), and they would try to fake it with the Americans regarding Afghanistan: They will not willingly give up their Taliban assets," he says of the Pakistan armed forces.
He believes that the United States is paying lip service to a regime that is collapsing before its eyes and that may yet turn truly nasty.
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Bush, new British prime minister show differences over Afghanistan, Iraq, terrorism
By WILLIAM DOUGLAS Posted on Mon, Jul. 30, 2007 McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON | President Bush and the new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, sought to display unity Monday. But some cracks appeared to divide the two in ways that never surfaced when Tony Blair led Great Britain.
Bush and Brown essentially sang from the same page on Iraq, Iran and Darfur. But their smiles and mild joshing after their first meeting at Camp David couldn’t hide some differences that could prove to be significant over time.
Brown, for example, initially called Afghanistan “the front line against terrorism,” seemingly contradicting Bush’s assertion that Iraq is the front line. When Brown was asked during a post-meeting news conference about this view, he tried to move slightly toward Bush, noting that “al-Qaida is operating in Iraq. There is no doubt that we’ve had to take very strong measures against them.”
Still, Brown’s initial remark seemed intended for consumption in Europe.
“Most (European) people really believe that Afghanistan is the real test in the war on terror because of the extent to which it was endorsed by the United Nations, by NATO and by the European Union,” said Simon Serfaty, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Europe Program. “It’s easier to sell Afghanistan in the U.K. instead of Iraq.”
Similarly, while maintaining that he shares the U.S. view that there are “duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep” in Iraq, Brown stressed that British troops have secured three provinces and intend to move to “overwatch” responsibility of a fourth as soon as his commanders there give him the word.
“It’s a hint,” Serfaty said. “There’s nothing for Brown to gain by staying (in Iraq) longer, but he cannot immediately say, ’We’re coming home’; he’s got to wait a little bit. Brown is torn between waiting a decent amount of time and getting out before the (British) elections in 2009.”
Bush and Brown exchanged worldviews over meals Sunday and Monday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. At a news conference afterward, the difference in chemistry from the Blair era was unmistakable.
While both affirmed that the “special relationship” remains primary, it seems that they do not speak the same language when it comes to terrorism. Bush routinely describes the U.S. effort as the “war on terrorism.” Brown conspicuously avoided the phrase, which key members of his Labour Party dismiss as meaningless.
Brown described terrorism “as a crime” and “not a cause,” another difference from Bush, and more than a semantic one. The words suggest differences in scale of response. In 2004, Bush rhetorically attacked Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry for wanting to treat terrorist acts as law-enforcement matters rather than requiring military responses.
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Unmanned Reaper aircraft to be deployed in Afghanistan
New York, July 31 (PTI): Faced with increasing insurgent activity, the US Air Force plans to deliver its newest and deadliest unmanned aircraft, the Reaper, to the theatre of operations in Afghanistan.
"The Reaper is an attack aircraft loaded to the hilt with weapons," Gen. T. Michael Moseley, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News.
Four MQ-9 Reapers, defined by the Air Force as "hunter-killers," are expected to arrive within several months, the television channel said quoting Gen. Moseley.
While previous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have largely served surveillance and reconnaissance functions, the Reaper is geared more toward weapon and attack purposes.
Named for its lethal nature, the Reaper can carry as many as 14 air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, while its precursor, the Predator, only has the capacity for two.
If necessary, the new aircraft can substitute 10 Hellfires with two 500-pound bombs. The Reaper can also remain airborne up to 14 hours fully loaded, with a maximum speed of 300 mph versus the Predator's 135, ABC said.
"It flies higher and carries more than our older systems, giving our skilled and experienced operators additional capability to find, fix, track and engage a target," said Gen. Moseley about the Reaper's capabilities.
"Not only do we give theatre military commanders the capacity to survey the battle space and keep a vigilant eye on targets and insurgent activities," said Gen. Moseley, "we are also capable of striking those targets."
The Pentagon budgeted USD 349 million for Reaper-and Predator-related spending for the fiscal year 2007, ABC said quoting the Air Force budget report.
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US must take preventive action in Pak, but carefully: Ex-CIA officer
Washington, July 31 (ANI): A former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer has urged the Bush Administration to take careful preventive action to neutralise the terrorist threat in Pakistan's volatile Waziristan area.
Henry Crumpton, who served with the U.S. State Department after retiring from the CIA in 2005, has said that the right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq.
He says that teams of CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers are best suited to work with tribal leaders, providing them weapons and money to fight an al-Qaeda network that has implanted itself brutally in Waziristan through the assassination of more than 100 tribal leaders during the past six years.
"It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of General Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, the United States should be prepared to go it alone," Crumpton argues.
"The United States has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens. We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack," he added.
Crumpton says that he proposed a detailed plan last year for the rolling up these sanctuaries, which he called the Regional Strategic Initiative. It would combine economic assistance and paramilitary operations in a broad counter-insurgency campaign.
In Waziristan, it would involve U.S. and Pakistani operatives giving tribal warlords guns and money, to be sure, but they would coordinate this covert action with economic aid to help tribal leaders operate their local stone quarries more efficiently, say, or install windmills and solar panels to generate electricity for their remote mountain villages.
A successful counter-insurgency program would need Pakistani support, he said.
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French Advised to Skip Afghanistan
Paris, Jul 30 (Prensa Latina) The French government told its citizens Monday to avoid traveling to Afghanistan, because the situation has deteriorated and insecurity predominates.
The French Foreign Ministry issued a release inviting French citizens in Afghanistan to contact the Afghani Embassy in Paris to request instructions on how to proceed.
The ministry referred to the serious situation in Afghanistan, where the local government warned foreigners of the lack of security even in the capital, due to confrontations between the rebels and NATO troops.
The call coincides with the announcement by French Defense Minister Herve Morin that 50 to 200 more French soldiers will be training the Afghani Army, but the overall number of 2,000 French soldiers in Afghanistan will not be increased.
Morin also confirmed the French government wants to maintain 12,000 French soldiers in indispensable missions in the world.
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Government signs three-year, $1.5M contract with company to prepare soldiers' remains
Glen McGregor The Ottawa Citizen Tuesday, July 31, 2007
In a move that appears to signal expectations of continuing casualties in Afghanistan, the Harper government has signed a $1.5-million agreement with a Toronto company to help prepare the bodies of dead soldiers for return to Canada.
The standing offer awarded by Public Works and Government Services Canada gives funeral home MacKinnon and Bowes Ltd. the right to provide "care of remains and funeral services" to the Department of National Defence on an ongoing basis.
The offer is valid until April 2010 -- more than a year after the current Canadian mission in Afghanistan is slated to end -- with two optional one-year extensions.
MacKinnon and Bowes has received individual contracts in the past for similar work, but the offer allows the government to call up the company's services on an if-and-when needed basis, at a fixed price, to the maximum of $1.5 million.
When a Canadian soldier is killed in Afghanistan, the body is typically sent to the U.S. army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. DND usually dispatches one or more civilian morticians to Landstuhl to prepare the body for the flight back to Canada. The mortician can do some non-invasive preservation work, but does not embalm the body.
The morticians and other staff must be ready to travel on short notice.
The repatriation process is done as quickly as possible. With long flights back to Canada, decay can become a factor.
The Canadian Forces owns refrigerated caskets but they weigh about 360 kilograms with a body inside and are so unwieldy they must be moved by forklift and conveyer belts. They are rarely used. Instead, bodies are returned in "transfer cases" -- the aluminum coffins that are draped with Canadian flags at ramp ceremonies.
The offer with MacKinnon and Bowes does not specify a fixed price for repatriation of each body, but sets the value of travel costs, per diems for staff and other expenses.
The Defence Department referred questions about the standing offer to Public Works.
The offer includes, "mortuary services for timely and comprehensive response to international casualty situations," said Lucie Brosseau, a Public Works media officer.
It also covers advice from a mortuary expert, including forensic and pathological advice, and training, when requested. The offer includes work on international casualties sustained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and does not pertain specifically to Afghanistan.
Ms. Brosseau said the offer makes no reference to the number of repatriations that are expected will be required.
"We can't anticipate that," she said.
Allan Cole, president of MacKinnon and Bowes, described the contract as a "more formalized process" than the company's previous arrangement with DND.
The company specializes in bringing home the bodies of Canadians who die overseas, but Mr. Cole said his employees find the experience of working with dead soldiers particularly sad.
"The tragedies that we have been involved in, they have an impact on anybody," he said.
"You're dealing with young people. It's always a very heart-wrenching tragic event,"
Canada has lost 66 soldiers and one diplomat in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
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British PM calls Afghanistan terror's front line
Less aligned with Bush than Blair
Steven Edwards The Ottawa Citizen Tuesday, July 31, 2007
UNITED NATIONS - Gordon Brown presented a united front yesterday with U.S. President George W. Bush, but while the British prime minister spoke of "duties and responsibilities" in Iraq, he declared Afghanistan as the front line in the war on terror.
Meeting at Camp David, the two leaders buttressed the notion that their countries' "special relationship" stood above ties with all others.
But analysts noted their first meeting since Mr. Brown became prime minister last month offered hints the British leader is less aligned with Mr. Bush than predecessor Tony Blair.
While Mr. Brown said international terrorism was the most important of the "great challenges" facing the world, he veered from the Bush administration's refrain that Iraq is ground zero for conducting the fight.
"Afghanistan is the front line against terrorism," he said. "As we have done twice in the last year, where there are more forces needed to back up the coalition and NATO effort, they have been provided by the United Kingdom."
He acknowledged that the presence of al-Qaeda in Iraq showed the conflict was more than just a civil war, as many critics of the U.S.-British deployment claim. But he said supporting NATO and coalition forces to fight the Taliban and terrorists in Afghanistan was more important.
"In Iraq, we have duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep in support of the democratically elected government," Mr. Brown said. "Our aim, like the United States, is step by step to move control to the Iraqi authorities, to the Iraqi government and to the security forces as progress is made."
Mr. Brown's emphasis on Afghanistan will be welcomed by the government of Stephen Harper as it seeks to switch the focus for Canada's 2,500 troops -- deployed mainly in Kandahar province, next door to British forces in Helmand -- from primarily combat to training Afghan forces.
"Canada wouldn't want the U.K. to lessen its role in Afghanistan because that would put more pressure on us at a time when we're trying to lessen our role," said Alex Morrison, president of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.
There had been speculation on both sides of the Atlantic that Mr. Brown might seek to respond to the unpopularity of the Iraq war in Britain by seeking to more quickly reduce Britain's commitment, currently being scaled back from 5,500 to 5,000 troops.
Mr. Bush brought up the speculation about their personal relationship, saying his British counterpart was not the "dour Scotsman" he'd been made out to be, and declaring him "the humorous Scotsman."
He also paid tribute to Mr. Brown's personal strength in overcoming the death of the eldest of his three children, saying "instead of that weakening his soul, (it) strengthened his soul."
"In terms of the war on terror, Brown is saying there has been a seamless transition, and that the U.K. is there," said Patrick Basham, director of the Democracy Institute think-tank, based in Washington and London.
"It was a great day for George W. Bush simply because Gordon Brown appeared shoulder-to-shoulder with him."
Maintaining strong ties with the United States is as important as ever for Britain, given the country is one of the biggest targets for al-Qaeda-linked terrorism, and that co-operation between U.S. and British intelligence services benefits the junior partner in the relationship more.
Mr. Brown said he and Mr. Bush shared concerns over a range of other issues, including speeding up peace efforts in Darfur, advancing the Middle East peace process, mobilizing private, public and activist bids to end world poverty and pumping new life into global trade talks.
To view a video report on Bush and Brown's first meeting, go to Today's Videos at ottawacitizen.com
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Pakistani Premier 'Disappointed' by U.S. Pressure
By Griff Witte Washington Post Tuesday, July 31, 2007; A12
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 30 -- Pakistan will do what it takes to eliminate extremists operating in the country for its own sake, not because of rising pressure from the United States, according to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Aziz said in an interview this week that efforts to force Pakistan to do more are unnecessary and that the government was "disappointed" by U.S. legislation that ties aid for Pakistan to its performance fighting terrorism. The legislation, which officials expect President Bush to sign, is part of a major bill passed last week aimed at implementing many recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.
The possible new restrictions on aid come as there are growing doubts in Washington that Pakistan's government is willing to take painful steps to eliminate alleged havens for al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the country's northwestern tribal areas.
American officials have said recently that the United States reserves the right to carry out unilateral military strikes in Pakistan, which has received more than $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001. That contention has inflamed relations between the two countries. Officials in Islamabad have criticized it as counterproductive because it reinforces a sense among Pakistanis that their government acts at U.S. behest.
Following a wave of extremist attacks in recent weeks that have killed nearly 200 people in Pakistan, Aziz said the government has its own reasons for tackling rising militancy.
"This is a country where both the president and prime minister have been victims of terrorist attacks," Aziz said. "We don't need to be told every day that we should do this. We are committed ourselves."
Aziz survived a suicide bomber's assassination attempt in the summer of 2004. The attack killed Aziz's driver and eight others. President Pervez Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts since he came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999.
Aziz, a former top-ranking Citibank executive with no track record in politics, became prime minister three years ago after first serving as Musharraf's finance minister. Since then, he has run the government's day-to-day affairs, though Musharraf, a general who also heads the military, remains the ultimate authority in Pakistan.
Aziz is widely credited with turning around the nation's economy, which had been moribund but now produces strong annual growth.
He could soon be out of a job, however.
Musharraf on Friday traveled to the United Arab Emirates to meet with his strongest rival, exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, about the possibility of a power-sharing arrangement. Musharraf's standing has been battered this year by an increasingly violent insurgency, as well as a burgeoning pro-democracy movement. He needs allies before upcoming elections, and Bhutto could provide crucial support to allow him to continue in office.
Bhutto, meanwhile, needs a guarantee that she can return to the country without facing criminal charges relating to alleged corruption. She has said she wants to serve a third term as prime minister.
Aziz said it would be "unfair" for anyone to determine who will lead Pakistan before a vote.
"The office of the president and the prime minister are a result of elections," Aziz said. "It is for the people of Pakistan to decide who their leadership ought to be."
Pakistan, a nuclear power of 160 million people, is scheduled to hold elections in coming months. Musharraf has been criticized by democracy advocates over his plan to win election for another five years as president from the current parliament, which is at the end of its term.
Aziz said that he is "absolutely" sure Musharraf will win a new term and that it is unlikely parliamentary elections will be held before that happens.
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Afghanistan needs help to achieve stability–CSTO secretary-general
MOSCOW, July 31 (Itar-Tass) -- The secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization believes that if the situation in Afghanistan fails to return to stability now, its neighbors will be faced with problems for many years to come.
“I am certain that if countries sharing a common border with Afghanistan, including those affiliated with the CSTO, fail to extend assistance in returning the situation there to stability, there will emerge problems for many years ahead,” CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha said in a television link-up between Moscow and Beijing on Tuesday.
Bordyuzha believes that every single CSTO member-state must take part in post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan, including measures to maintain security.
“The international community provides arms supplies and extends financial assistance to Afghanistan, but, regrettably, this is not enough,” Bordyuzha said. “Afghanistan is to be assisted in a variety of ways, including measures to prevent terrorists from penetrating into its territory, and to fight drugs trafficking. All this must be within the range of the international community’s attention. There is no other way of achieving stability in Afghanistan.”
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Afghan army barracks under construction at Hohenfels
By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Monday, July 30, 2007
HOHENFELS, Germany — U.S. forces are building a barracks for the Afghan National Army — in Germany.
Reggie Bourgeois, executive officer of the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, said Tuesday that the facility, which includes accommodations for a platoon of 30 Afghan soldiers, is under construction inside The Box training area at Hohenfels.
The Afghan barracks is a few hundred meters from Ubungsdorf, a small artificial town used to train soldiers to fight in Iraqi and Afghan towns and cities.
So far the Afghan base includes a two-story concrete block building, a walled compound and two guard towers.
Bourgeois said platoons of Afghan soldiers have been involved in recent mission rehearsal exercises that prepare troops for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. Afghan platoons will be involved in all future brigade level mission rehearsals at Hohenfels, he said.
During exercises the Afghans initially will use the barracks as a base of operations but eventually they may live in the barracks whenever they come to Hohenfels, he said.
The barracks will enhance realism for troops training at JMRC, Bourgeois said.
“When you have a town you are trying to protect you will always have home forces with their own base,” he said.
Other construction projects are under way to expand Ubungsdorf, he said.
“Ubungsdorf has 62 buildings and it never stops growing. By the end of summer it will have 75 buildings. We have a market complex coming. We have a ‘baby milk factory’ that can be used to make chemical weapons [as a training scenario]. We have a train station where we can replicate hostage situations,” he said.
Workers also are expanding a nearby training lane for IEDs, including two lanes of separated highway leading to another small artificial town.
A vehicle overpass is taking shape over the lane. Until recently soldiers trained by driving under a metal cage that replicated an overpass.
The IED lane’s “South Circle” in the MOUT (military operations in urban terrain) site includes 25 buildings and is growing every day, Bourgeois said.
“We are putting the buildings close to each other to replicate Sadr City because we are beginning to have a lot of sniper fire from above and we want to replicate that,” he said.
This month JMRC has more than 1,200 soldiers from 14 nations training in The Box, he said.
One of the foreign soldiers training at Hohenfels, Lt. Col. Dan Drew of the Canadian Army, said he is preparing to go to Afghanistan to train Afghan soldiers.
“I think they (JMRC) have done a great job replicating a lot of the situations we will find over there. The Americans have had a significant effort to support this training,” he said.
Lt. Col. Jodi Petery, senior task force trainer with JMRC’s Grizzly OC team, said the presence of foreign soldiers training alongside U.S. forces is heartening.
“When you bring the British in you bring experience in northern Ireland. The French have experience in the Ivory Coast. It makes all of us more effective. As a U.S. soldier it is encouraging to see other people bear the burden [of terrorism] in a very professional way,” he said.
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Local Afghan ranks too thin to take on Taliban
PAUL KORING From Tuesday's Globe and Mail July 31, 2007 at 8:30 AM EDT
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Afghan soldiers are tough, brave and willing to fight, say Canadians who have watched them take on the Taliban. The proof is grimly evident in the surgical ward at the main NATO base hospital where wounded Afghan soldiers fill nearly every bed.
But what they have in courage they lack in numbers, which argues that the Afghan National Army is far from ready to take over the battle against the Taliban from Canada and its allies.
There will only be 1,400 fully trained – and still woefully under-equipped – Afghans ready for battle by the time fighting season begins next year, according to officials here.That's up from roughly 500 available last fall, thanks to a ramped-up training program, say Canadians shaping the effort, and the army is vastly improved.
Still, even that is far from a fighting force capable of replacing the combat punch of the heavily armed Canadian battle group with its tanks, artillery, night-fighting ability and tight integration with helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers capable of raining death from the skies. And it's far short of the 3,000 combat-ready Afghan soldiers that Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor predicted would be operational early next spring.
Even as the Afghan forces grow in numbers and fighting ability, they still have no armoured vehicles, no body armour, sometimes no helmets, no artillery bigger than mortars and no way of calling in air strikes. They fight with worn Kalashnikovs and drive around in open pickup trucks.
“They are making great progress,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Wayne Eyre, who heads Canada's 70-soldier Operational Mentor Liaison Team (OMLT), attempting to transform Afghan soldiers deployed in Kandahar into combat-capable formations that will eventually supplant the heavily armed foreign forces now leading the fight against the Taliban.
“These guys can fight – it's almost a joy to watch them fight their way through enemy positions,” Lt.-Col. Eyre recounts front-line Canadian commanders as saying.
The ANA – at least that part of it that most concerns Canadians – has come a long way since last fall. Then, a single, under-strength kandak (an Afghan infantry battalion) with perhaps 500 soldiers – although about one-third of them would be absent, usually visiting their homes halfway across the country – was the sum total of the Afghan National Army in Kandahar province.
Since then, teams of Canadian trainers embedded with and fighting alongside the Afghans, coupled with close pairing of small Afghan units and elements of the Canadian battle group, have transformed that kandak into what Brigadier-General Tim Grant calls the “best Afghan battalion in the entire Afghan army.”
Trouble is, there's still only one fighting infantry kandak in Kandahar. Another, consisting of raw recruits who have just finished basic training, will deploy in a few weeks. The brigade's third infantry kandak doesn't yet exist. However, on the plus side, both the combat support and logistics kandaks needed to round out the brigade are functioning.
If Canada (and other NATO nations) have a viable exit strategy in Afghanistan, then marching home with honour will mean leaving behind an ANA capable of sustaining a peace and winning the hearts and minds of ordinary Afghans.
“We're not going to win this war by sending out the battle group to kill five or 10 Taliban who can be replaced by five or 10 more,” said Lt.-Col. Eyre. Ultimately, winning the counterinsurgency requires the Afghan security forces to win the trust and support of the people and cut off the Taliban's lifeblood of support in the hinterlands.
So far, building that ANA is a campaign of much promise, modest success and a long way to go.Much of the progress may seem mundane, but it's vital to developing a capable army. Afghan units fighting alongside the Canadians in Kandahar now organize and provide their own convoys, plan their own (small) operations and are slowly integrating the combat support and logistics elements.
“The new leadership is good. … They understand the fundamentals of fighting a counterinsurgency, including the importance of keeping the population on side,” Lt.-Col. Eyre said.
A tiny case in point. Last week, a young Afghan officer stopped his soldiers from stealing grapes from a farmer's vines in Panjwaii. Without that sort of discipline, the ANA would be just another armed band roaming the countryside.
“They are now at the point where they are initiating, planning and executing their own operations, with Canadians only providing indirect support and things like casualty evacuation,” Lt.-Col. Eyre said.
Meanwhile, the AWOL (absent without leave) rate has dropped from a stunning 30 per cent to a still-intolerable – by NATO standards – but much better 10 per cent.But the process will be gradual and it will be years before the Afghan army – even under the most optimistic of predictions – can project the kind of combat punch provided by 40,000-plus NATO troops backed by the world's most sophisticated warplanes.
Canada has ramped up its training effort. More than 130 officers and soldiers will be assigned to the OMLT during the current rotation based on the Van Doos battle group. That's up from 70 in the current OMLT. Still, that's only a fraction of the 1,000-soldier-plus Canadian battle group. However, deployed Canadian units will work alongside, and, it is hoped, in support of Afghan units.
“2008 will be the transition year,” predicts Lt.-Col. Eyre. “I'd like to see them in the lead by the summer of 2008.”
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US PRT grants $3.5m for reconstruction of Salang Highway
CHARIKAR, July 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A US Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based in Bagram has allocated $3.5 million for the reconstruction of the Salang Highway, linking Kabul to 11 northern provinces.
Parwan Governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa told Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday the reconstruction of the key road - damaged by flash floods and torrential rains in April - would begin in three weeks from now. He promised the project would be completed in three month before the commencement of snowfall.
Sayed Muhammad Younus Zajafizada, provincial public work departments head, said a stretch of the road - from Qalatak to Tajikan area of Salang district - would be asphalted. Supportive walls would also be established along the road to keep it from being washed away by floods in the future.
The director added the Public Work Ministry had listed as a top priority the rebuilding of the Salang Highway, a vital north-south link that had to be fixed before the onset of the winter.
In Kabul, construction work was launched on a womens mosque next to the Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa Masjid in Macro Ryan neighbourhood. The project has a three-month timescale.
Qari Muhammad Ihsan Saqil, prayer leader at the Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa Masjid, said the under-construction worship place was being co-financed by the Haj Ministry and local residents. The mosque, with capacity for about 200 females, is being erected over 200 square metres of land.
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Kandahar musclemen qualify for Mr. Afghanistan contest
KANDAHAR CITY, July 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Two bodybuilders from the southern Kandahar province - the birthplace of the Taliban movement - have qualified for the Mr. Afghanistan contest, a sports director said on Sunday.
Nine provincial clubs participated in the bodybuilding event, with Syed Ahmad emerging at the top of the table in the senior class and Wais Ahmad in the junior category, the official said.
Provincial head of Olympic Committee Muhammadullah Gulalay, in a brief chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, said the victorious pair of musclemen - each earning the title of Mr. Kandahar - would go on to vie for the Mr. Afghanistan title in Kabul.
If they triumphed in the all-Afghanistan competition, to be held in Kabul, the duo would be entitled to take part in the Asian Bodybuilding Championship, Gulalay added.
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Township scheme in Kabul named after Baba-i-Millat
KABUL, July 28 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A new township under construction in Kabul has been named after Father of the Nation Muhammad Zahir Shah in recognition of his services to Afghanistan.
Plot allotments for the Marjan township scheme - now christened Muhammad Zahir Mina - formally got under way here on Saturday when the project was inaugurated by a senior official of the Kabul Municipality.
Deputy Mayor Gharzai Khwakhogay told Pajhwok Afghan News the township - being constructed over 350 acres of land according to a plan worked out by the Kabul Municipality - had around 2,000 plots.
Previously known as Marjan Town, the scheme was renamed as Muhammad Zahir Mina in acknowledgement of the remarkable services rendered to his country by the former monarch, who died on Monday at the ripe age of 93.
Documents of about 600 plot have been allotted so far while papers of the remaining 1500 are in the process of being finalised, according to the deputy mayor, who promised the small city would have facilities like asphalted roads, canals, water pipework, markets, mosques, parks, schools and libraries.
Plot owners would have to erect houses in accordance with architectural designs approved by the municipality, Gharzai said, pledging violations of municipal rules would not be brooked.
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