Bush seeks 3,500 more troops for Afghanistan
Mon Mar 12, 2:41 AM ET
BOGOTA (AFP) - US President George W. Bush has decided to send another 3,500 troops to Afghanistan, the White House announced, raising the number of US forces there to 27,000 -- the highest level since the US-led invasion in 2001.
"This is part of the effort to speed up the training and expand the size of the Afghan forces," said national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe on Sunday during a visit by Bush to Colombia.
The move to send reinforcements to Afghanistan comes amid expectations of a spring offensive by the Taliban and concerns voiced by US lawmakers that the US military is being stretched to the breaking point after Bush's controversial move to bolster the number of troops in Iraq.
The Democratic majority in Congress, which opposes Bush's security plan for a temporary "surge" of US forces in Iraq, is pressing for a phased US withdrawal from Iraq while calling for more troops in Afghanistan.
Bush announced on January 10 plans to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq to stem escalating violence in Baghdad and the western Al-Anbar province, despite mounting public opposition to the US presence in Iraq.
The "surge" has expanded with the president requesting funds for 2,400 support troops and the US commander in Iraq asking for another 2,200 military police to oversee the detention of prisoners captured as part of the new security strategy.
Even before lawmakers review the president's proposed federal budget, Bush on Friday asked Congress to release 3.1 billion dollars to fund the new deployment for Iraq as well as the reinforcements for Afghanistan.
Bush has asked Congress to cut 3.1 billion dollars from federal programs to finance the additional troops for Afghanistan and Iraq, Johndroe said.
Bush's plans to bolster the US contingent in Afghanistan were announced against the backdrop of more violence, with Taliban insurgents ambushing a police patrol on Saturday in the southern province of Kandahar, killing eight.
In a weekend of violence, a suicide bombing and another gunfight claimed four more police officers. The suicide bombing tore through a joint Afghan and US-led coalition force convoy in western Farah province Sunday.
There were nearly 140 suicide bombings in Afghanistan last year, most of them claimed by the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001.
Johndroe said Bush's request was already alluded to in an address the president made last month on Afghanistan and the global "war on terror."
Bush announced the planned deployment of the additional troops in a letter sent to Congress late Saturday.
"This request for an additional brigade for training executes that policy announcement," said Johnroe.
In a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Bush proposed canceling 3.1 billion in federal spending to free up funds for the deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cuts would come in areas such as agriculture, commerce, education and health.
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New Zealand extends military deployment in Afghanistan
Mon Mar 12, 4:02 AM ET
WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand will extend its military commitment in Afghanistan to September 2008, Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday.
New Zealand has had 120 soldiers serving in a provincial reconstruction team in Bamiyan province for 3-1/2 years and their term would be extended for another year, Clark said.
"The objective is to ensure that Afghanistan does not revert to being a failed state and again become a haven for terrorists," Clark said in a statement.
Defence Minister Phil Goff told a press conference the security situation in Bamiyan province was less dangerous than other areas in the country, where militants loyal to the ousted Taliban regime continued to attack foreign and local security forces.
Singapore recently said it would send military personnel to work alongside the New Zealand contingent in Bamiyan.
Under the commitment, New Zealand will also supply a small number of soldiers to help train the Afghan National Army, work at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters and at a medical unit at Kandahar.
A New Zealand frigate will be deployed to the Arabian Gulf in the middle of next year as part of a multi-national maritime security force and four police will also help train local police in Afghanistan.
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Ten policemen killed in bomb blast in Afghanistan
HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Ten Afghan policemen were killed in a remote-controlled bomb explosion in the western province of Farah on Monday, a security official said.
The policemen's vehicle hit the roadside bomb as they were traveling to Bakwa district in the province.
"The newly-appointed security head of Bakwa was also among the dead," Khair Mohammad Baryali, a senior official at the office of the security chief of Farah told Reuters.
He said one policeman was wounded.
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2 suspected Taliban killed in Afghanistan
Mon Mar 12, 4:20 AM ET Associated Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - NATO and Afghan troops clashed with suspected insurgents Monday in southern Afghanistan, shortly before calling in an airstrike on a compound that left two militants dead, a spokesman said.
The clash started when militants opened fire and lobbed mortars toward NATO and Afghan troops in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, said Squadron Leader Dave Marsh, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
Two Afghans and one NATO soldier were lightly wounded in the clash, Marsh said.
The violence comes a week after NATO-led troops launched their biggest offensive yet in Helmand, aimed at winning over a population long supportive of militant fighters.
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Threats will not make Germany leave Afghanistan: minister
BERLIN (AFP) - Germany will not bow to terrorist threats demanding the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Monday.
"We will not be blackmailed," Schaeuble told RBB radio.
He added however that the government took seriously threats made at the weekend by two Islamist groups to attack Germany and to execute two German hostages being held in Iraq unless Berlin ended its Afghanistan mission.
"We are part of a global target. We should have no illusions that we are as much under threat as Spain, England or other nations," Schaeuble told RBB.
He said German soldiers were also contributing "to our own security" by helping to stabilise Afghanistan.
Germany has almost 3,000 troops in northern Afghanistan, where it commands the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
On Sunday, a group linked to Al-Qaeda called The Voice of the Caliphate warned on the Internet that Austria and Germany "have provoked those whom you call terrorists to target you" by deploying troops in Afghanistan.
On Saturday, a militant Islamist group in Iraq had threatened in a videotape purportedly showing two German hostages to execute them if Germany keeps its soldiers in Afghanistan.
The Kataeb Siham al-Haq (Righteous Arrows Battalions) said in the tape posted on an Islamist website that it gave the German government 10 days to start withdrawing its troops.
Germany has resisted pressure from its NATO allies in recent months to send more soldiers to Afghanistan to help battle a Taliban insurgency.
But parliament on Friday approved a decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet to send six Tornado jets to Afghanistan to carry out reconnaissance missions for NATO.
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Defense minister visits Afghanistan to check on handling of detained suspects
The Associated Press Sunday, March 11, 2007
TORONTO: Canada's defense minister traveled to Afghanistan on Sunday to meet with Afghan human rights officials to ensure that Taliban detainees handed over to the government by Canadian troops are properly treated.
Gordon O'Conner's trip comes as he has come under fire over Ottawa's policy regarding the handover of detainees — criticism which was further fueled after two human rights groups said prisoners were handed over on numerous occasions by Canadian troops knowing they would be abused.
Gordon said he wanted confirmation that the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission would "do what they say they are going to do" and inform Canada of any abuses.
On March 4, O'Conor said the International Committee of the Red Cross monitored the treatment of the detainees, but the ICRC has said that is not the case.
Last month, Canada signed a deal with the AIHRC to undertake such monitoring. Under the new deal, Canada must notify the ICRC as well as the commission when it transfers a prisoner to Afghan custody.
O'Connor said that during his surprise visit he wants to go over the terms of the agreement to ensure it works.
"In addition to talking with the human rights organization here, I am also going to go through the entire process here on the ground. The staff are going to explain to me the entire process — how it happens," he told The Canadian Press in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The investigations by Canada's Military Police Complaints Commission into the allegations that troops handed over prisoners knowing they would be abused were spurred launched after Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association lodged complaints.
There are also at least three investigations going on into the alleged beating of three captured Taliban who were picked up near the village Dukah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Kandahar, on April 7, 2006.
According to prisoner-transfer logs obtained and released to the media by an Ottawa law professor, the prisoners suffered lacerations and contusions.
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NATO forces help recover Pakistani soldiers feared dead
Mon Mar 12, 2:57 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - NATO troops and Afghan police are helping Pakistani forces to recover the bodies of 10 soldiers feared dead after an avalanche on the border 10 days ago, the NATO-led force said.
The soldiers are believed to have been trapped in an avalanche on March 1 and are presumed dead, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement on Sunday.
The Pakistani government has asked to be able to set up a small base camp about one kilometre (one mile) inside the Afghanistan border to allow a 30-man team easier access to recover the bodies, the statement added.
The Afghan government and ISAF were "working closely with the Pakistanis to return the lost soldiers to their homes for appropriate honours."
ISAF spokesman Colonel Tom Collins said the cross-border cooperation was helped by the Tripartite Commission -- a body of top commanders of the Afghan and Pakistan militaries and ISAF that meets every few months.
The commission was established to promote cooperation in the fight against Taliban and other militants said to move across the border.
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Afghan Smuggler Arrested
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE March 12, 2007 via The New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 11 (Agence France-Presse) — An Afghan man was arrested Sunday at the central post office in Kabul when he tried to mail a coat fitted with eight pounds of heroin to London, Afghan television reported.
The man had hidden the heroin in the lining of a traditional Afghan coat, the national broadcaster Radio Television Afghanistan reported.
Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world’s opium, the main ingredient for heroin, according the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Most of it is smuggled across the borders with Pakistan and Iran.
The government and its allies have stepped up measures against the country’s drug trade, worth about $3 billion dollars annually, which experts say helps finance the Taliban.
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Afghanistan, Pakistan To Discuss Local Jirgas
March 12, 2007 -(RFE/RL)- Afghan and Pakistani officials start talks today on holding traditional councils.
The two sides agreed last year to hold jirgas -- traditional meetings -- in tribal areas of Pakistan that are believed to be militant strongholds.
Afghan officials say Taliban militants plot attacks on Afghanistan from such tribal areas.
The twodays of talks in Islamabad are expected to focus on who should take part in such jirgas and their agendas.
The meeting comes after U.S. President George W. Bush asked Congress on March 9 for additional funds to send 3,500 new U.S. troops to expand training of local police and army units in Afghanistan.
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Swiss paper says former Taliban defense minister free
The Associated Press Sunday, March 11, 2007
GENEVA: A Swiss newspaper claimed Sunday that the Taliban's former defense minister was free two days after his reported capture by Pakistani security forces.
The Swiss weekly SonntagsBlick said one of its reporters spoke to Mullah Obaidullah Akhund on Feb. 28 unhindered in an Islamic school in the southwestern city of Quetta.
Akhund, considered a key ally of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was the most senior leader from the hard-line militia to be reported arrested since U.S.-led troops ousted it from power in 2001.
Several Pakistani intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier this month that he was among five Taliban suspects arrested on Feb. 26 in a raid on a Quetta home. However, Pakistani government officials at that time did not confirm any arrest publicly, and one senior Interior Ministry official who handles counterterrorism issues denied a top Taliban figure was captured.
Pakistani officials could not be reached for comment late Sunday on the Swiss newspaper's claim.
The arrest purportedly took place the same day U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Pakistan, which has been under growing international pressure to crack down on Taliban militants believed to seek sanctuary on its soil.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied claims from Afghan and Western officials that insurgent leaders shelter in Quetta.
"The news is not true," SonntagsBlick wrote. "The world press reported: top-Taliban imprisoned. At the same time he was sitting with a SonntagsBlick reporter having coffee."
It said Akhund was one of 300 people present at the Islamic school. He then met with the reporter and explained his future strategy in Afghanistan, the Zurich-based paper said.
"Six thousand martyrs are ready to die in battle for Allah," SonntagsBlick quoted Akhund as saying. "No member of the occupying forces will be spared. We will kill all of them. We thirst for their blood."
The paper said Akhund promised a series of suicide attacks and that he had "commando units" of 12 to 30 militants already in Afghanistan.
SonntagsBlick was closed Sunday and editors at sister daily Blick declined to talk about the article.
Taliban-led militants have staged a resurgence over the past year, threatening the elected Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai. Bitter fighting with Afghan, NATO and U.S. forces during 2006 left thousands dead, and militant leaders are threatening a new wave of attacks as winter subsides in the coming weeks.
The surge in violence has badly strained Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan, which claims that the Taliban movement is commanded from Quetta. Karzai has claimed that Omar himself is staying in Quetta.
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International Forum Seeks Place For Persian-Based Media
March 11, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- More than 60 media representatives from a handful of countries have wrapped up the first day of a conference in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on Persian-language media.
Organizers hope the three-day gathering will result in the formation of an association of Persian-speaking journalists and find grounds for future cooperation.
"Thirty years ago, when I began working as a journalist, we were reporting about events that had already happened," said Iranian media representative Hassan Bakhshipoor. "Today we report news as it is happening; today in the news we listen to what is going on now. Look at this change."
Spreading The Word
Attendees include representatives from Afghanistan, Britain, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, the United States, Uzbekistan, and host Tajikistan.
"They discussed globalization and they spoke about the feeling that people evaluate the Persian language through the eyes of Washington and Moscow," RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent Saifiddin Dostiev, who is at the gathering, said of events on the first day. "They also discussed the role of Farsi-language media in globalization."
With the English and Russian languages already relatively well established in the region -- thanks in part to proximity to Russia and satellite television -- participants at the Dushanbe forum are seeking ways to promote and spread the use of Persian-based languages in media.
"The participants discussed ways to develop Farsi-language media and the culture of Farsi, Tajik, and Dari, which are similar [languages]," Dostiev said. "Most of the participants were concerned about globalization, but Hassan Bakhshipoor from Iran said globalization will help promote the Farsi language throughout the world."
Representatives at the forum hope to establish an Internet website to provide news and information to all those who speak Persian-based languages.
The participants noted, however, that there is a need for two alphabets on such a website.
"At the end of [today's] meeting, participants agreed that in the future they would make a common Internet site for Farsi-language media in which Persian speakers could read [Persian-based-language] news in Arabic script or [modified] Tajik Cyrillic," Dostiev said.
Long before Turkic people like the Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turkmen or Uzbeks arrived in the area that is now Central Asia, the region was home to Indo-Iranian peoples. It is thus no surprise that Persian-based languages are still found throughout the region.
"The free flow of information has 50 years of history. But we Tajiks and Farsi-speakers did not use it as we could -- we did not use the declared right to a free flow of information and access across borders of verbal, written, and recorded information," Ibrohim Usmonov, a former Tajik deputy culture minister and professor of journalism who also headed Tajik Television and Radio told attendees.
"[We Persian speakers] did not use the declared right to a free flow of information and access across borders of verbal, written, and recorded information.""We did not fully use our right to spead our national vision," Usmonov said. "For some, this was because of political limitations; for others, a lack of finances cost them this opportunity. Of course, Iran has more opportunities but still did not use it as it country should."
Despite long separation, the Persian spoken in Iran, the Tajik spoken in several Central Asian states, and the Dari spoken in Afghanistan are still mutually intelligible.
The conference is scheduled to conclude on March 13.
(RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondent Iskander Aliev contributed to this piece.)
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AFGHANISTAN: New bird flu cases confirmed
KABUL, 12 March 2007 (IRIN) - Thirteen new cases of bird flu have been detected in Afghanistan over the past week, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to 17 for this year, health officials said.
“Nine dead birds were diagnosed with the virulent H5N1 strain [of avian influenza] in five districts of [eastern] Nangarhar and Kunar provinces,” said Assadullah Azhari, a spokesman for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Kabul.
According to FAO – which has set up a bird flu diagnostic laboratory in Kabul – four other cases were identified in backyard poultry in the capital.
Prior to this, four cases of the H5N1 strain of the virus were reported on 24 February in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, which border Pakistan.
Afghanistan’s first bird flu case was reported in March 2006.
The Afghan government has banned the importation of poultry products from neighbouring Pakistan and other countries where avian influenza has been confirmed.
In an effort to reduce the risks of the virus, authorities have launched a massive poultry vaccination campaign in the capital and the two provinces where the infectious disease has been confirmed.
“We have completed vaccination and culling in many poultry farms and have now started a similar process in households [backyard poultry],” Dr Azizullah Usmani, director of Afghanistan’s Department of Animal Health and Production, told IRIN on Sunday.
However, the Afghan government has run out of funds to curb the spread of the deadly virus that has killed 168 people globally.
“We had US $64,000 in the government’s avian influenza account, almost all of which has already been spent,” said Usmani, adding that the government had applied to the World Bank for US $1 million assistance.
The World Bank and the Avian & Human Influenza Trust Fund (the World Bank's facility to curb the spread of bird flu) have jointly pledged US $13 million to assist Afghanistan in its fight against avian influenza over the coming three years.
No human case
In Kabul, children were seen playing near the infected poultry. Although the youths appear healthy and do not show symptoms of the disease, samples of their blood have been sent for medical tests.
On 28 February, two patients were given avian influenza treatment in the Kunar provincial hospital. However, their blood tests proved negative for it.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health says there has not been a human case of avian influenza in the country to date.
More than half of Afghanistan's estimated 25 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, which means less than US $2 a day. Specialists say they are more vulnerable to a possible outbreak of the avian influenza because chickens and eggs play a crucial economic role among poor rural families who keep scores of backyard flocks unregistered.
According to the World Health Organization, the H5N1 virus poses two main risks for human health. First, the risk of direct infection when the virus passes from poultry to human, resulting in severe disease and possibly death. Second, the risk of human to human infection should the virus mutate
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War crime immunity law gets green light
KABUL, 11 March 2007 (IRIN) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday signed a controversial bill which provides sweeping amnesty for war crimes committed over more than two decades of conflict in Afghanistan.
Afghan legislators who have been opposing the bill criticised the move.
"We are deeply concerned over the contents of this undemocratic document," said Shukria Barakzai, an MP and democracy activist whose parliamentary group opposes the amnesty law.
Mir Ahmad Joyenda, another lawmaker, told IRIN that those "MPs opposing the immunity law were explicitly threatened by powerful warlords in the national assembly".
Noor Akbari, a former Afghan diplomat, said the enacted law contradicts the country's constitution and will violate some of the international human rights treaties to which Afghanistan is a signatory.
The lower house of the Afghan parliament - dominated by scores of former militia leaders - initiated the war crime immunity bill. The document was then approved by the upper house of the legislature and was sent to the President for approval.
Karzai had initially vowed that he would not grant blanket immunity to war criminals. However, the President was pressured by many former Mujahideen leaders - who have strong influence in Afghanistan's post-Taliban government - to meet their demands.
On Saturday, Karzai returned his amended version of the proposed bill which was swiftly adopted by the lower house - turning it into law.
"All parties involved in the pre-2002 conflicts are granted legal and judicial immunity," the bill reads.
The Taliban as well as warlords who have been accused of grave human rights violations are exempt from prosecution for crimes committed before the establishment of the December 2001 Interim Administration in Afghanistan.
The bill - now law - could even provide legal privileges for post-2002 insurgents as well.
"Individuals and groups that still oppose the government militarily could also avail themselves to the privileges of this resolution, provided they give over enmity and respect the constitution of Afghanistan," the law stipulates.
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Hezb-i-Islami members join peace process
HERAT, Mar 10 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Two influential were among the 30 members of Hezb-i-Islami of former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who joined the peace process in the western provinces of Herat and Badghis on Saturday.
Sayed Sharif Mujaddidi, head of the Peace Strengthening Commission in the western zone, told Pajhwok Afghan News a group of 14 people joined the peace process in Badghis and 16 others in Chasht Sharif district of Herat province.
The second group, he added, also included two prominent members of Hezb-i-Islami Mulla Abdul Jalil and Mulla Mohammad. He said the 30 people also surrendered heavy and light arms.
Mujadidi said more than 700 members of Hezb-i-Islami and Taliban had so far become part of the peace process since its initiation in the western zone of the country.
Mulla Mohammad, one of the newly-surrendered men, told Pajhwok Afghan News they did not want to continue fight against the government. He said they would encourage other mujahideen to join the peace process.
Three months back, provincial chief of Hezb-i-Islami had joined the process along with his men in Badghis. Over 3,000 dissidents had so far surrendered under the peace process launched in the country about 18 months back.
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Afghan salt mines unhygienic
KABUL, Mar 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Domestic salt mines are unhygienic and contain soil impurities, Sadruddin Sahar, the Deputy Public Health minister said Sunday, after receiving complaints from salt producing companies.
Salt producing companies criticized the government ban on the import of salt.
The company owners complained to the Lower House of Parliament that the Mine Ministry has asked them to use salts from Afghan mines, which contains soil impurities and is dangerous for consumption.
Sadruddin Sahar was summoned on Sunday to the commission of the Lower House which addresses complaints, and explained to the commission that the ministry is in favor of domestic mines, but that salt from these mines has no market due to the impurities it contains.
Sahar said the domestic salt would need to first be filtered by the private companies.
Abdullah Fahim, spokesman of Public Health ministry said, "Domestic mines have sand and soil and it is difficult to determine the amount of iodine in the salt."
Afghan companies import salt from Pakistan and they say it costs less and is more hygienic.
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Rallies staged in northern provinces
KUNDUZ CITY, Mar 10 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Hundreds of people participated in seperate demonstrations across the northern provinces today.
Angry at not having been paid their salaries for the last three to nine month's, about two hundred protestors gathered in front of the provincial Department for Work, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled in Kunduz, and accused the officials of corruption and embezzlement.
Officials complained that the protesters flooded into the department and assaulted them.
Representing those maimed during Jihad times (in the war against the former Soviet Union), and who are entitled to salaries from the State, Muhammad Barat, one of the protestors complained he had not been paid his salary for six months and warned of more violence unless they were paid their due salaries.
Meanwhile some seven hundred shopkeepers of Shiberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province, also staged a demonstration to con condemn the government decision on increasing market rents.
The protest came days after the Shiberghan city municipality declared increasing shop and market rents.
Muhammad Nadir, one of the protesters said the increased rents would be virtually impossible for them to pay, "Unless we begin robbery."
Protesters later gathered behind the provincial council office and urged the local officials to address their grievances.
However, Hashmatullah Yousufi, spokesman of the provincial governor said the decision was yet to be implemented and that they would discuss the issue in their coming meeting.
Separately, several men loyal to a former local commander staged a demonstration in Taloqan, the capital of northern Takhar province and demanded the release of three of their comrades who had been arrested earlier for their suspected involvement in crimes committed in the area.
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Tributes paid to Jamaluddin Afghan on death anniversary
Mohammad Sabir Aziz
KABUL, Mar 10 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A one-day seminar was held in connection with the 110th death anniversary of Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan here on Saturday.
Prominent among those attended the seminar included Minister for Culture and Youth Affairs Abdul Karim Khurram, Communication Minister Amirzai Sangin, Director of Academy of Sciences Abdul Bari Rashid, ambassadors of France and Iran, and a large number of intellectuals, writers and researchers.
The seminar was inaugurated with the speech of President Hamid Karzai read out by Minister for Culture and Youth Affairs Abdul Karim Khurram.
Paying rich tributes to the 19th century reformer, President Karzai said Jamaluddin Afghan had laid the foundation of the struggle for the rights of the people and gave them a message of progress.
He said many researchers believed that reforms and revolutionary movements in many Islamic countries were the result of the successful struggle of Jamaluddin Afghan.
Speaking on the occasion, French ambassador said Jamaluddin Afghan had established close ties with the French government. He said Jamaluddin Afghan and French philosopher Victor Hugo had similar views about the situation at that time.
In his speech, the Iranian ambassador said Jamaluddin Afghan was the leader of freedom loving nations of the Islamic and eastern world.
The seminar was jointly organised by the embassy of France and the Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs. Officials of the ministry say a similar seminar will be held in the eastern province of Kunar.
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