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Saturday, May 22, 2004

A U.S. brigadier general will review the military's secretive prisons in Afghanistan, the Army announced Saturday, as officials in Washington revealed they were looking into the deaths of two more Afghans here. Brig. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, deputy operational commander at the U.S. military's main base at Bagram, north of Kabul, will carry out the "top to bottom" review and deliver a report by mid-June, spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said.
Karachi is emerging as the new centre of activity for the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, claimed Dr.Farooq Sattar, the parliamentary party leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Talking to reporters here, Sattar was quoted by The News as saying that these two extremist groups were receiving assistance from armed elements of local religious parties, who had been shifted to Karachi after the closure of Jihadi chapters in Kashmir, Afghanistan and Wana.
Insurgents fired two rockets at an American military base in a troubled border zone of Afghanistan, injuring four U.S. soldiers with a hail of shrapnel, the military said Saturday. The rockets were fired at Camp Salerno, the military's main base in Khost province, 90 miles south of the capital, Kabul on Friday afternoon, military spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said.
The U.S. military in Afghanistan said on Saturday it was "certain" that three people killed by helicopter gunships in the early hours of Friday were militants, and not innocent civilians as local residents contest. But the body of a fourth person, a woman, has been found at the scene of clashes in the southeastern province of Khost, and her identity has yet to be established.
"Raids went on and when we received fire from this building we brought in air support, and the air support is what to our knowledge right now caused those deaths," U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager told a news briefing in Kabul.
"In that engagement we used precision air support and all rounds struck their targets."
Villagers in Tani, south of the town of Khost and some 160 km (100 miles) southeast of the capital, deny U.S.-led forces carrying out an operation in the area had been fired on first. Several contend that the U.S. military was drawn unwittingly into a local feud between two families.
(Reuters)

Friday, May 21, 2004

Warlords in Afghanistan may be offered places for their fighters in a new "provincial" government force, while targets for disarming their private armies must be lowered, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said.
His Majesty King Abdullah, Supreme Commander of the Jordan Armed Forces, directed concerned authorities to expand the personnel serving in the military-run field hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan.
In two days deep in the mountains of Afghanistan, Canadian army doctor Capt. Americo Rodrigues learned what frontier medicine is all about: reward, heartbreak, triumph and frustration.
Kabul's largest cinema hall, the Ariana -- shut down in the late 1990s during the Taliban years -- has been reconstructed and will open its doors to the public Sunday.
A captain with the U.S. Army Special Forces 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Matt Harmon wrote in a dispatch to The Times last month that Afghanistan is still very dangerous to U.S. forces. This dispatch tells why.
Australian police have found heroin from war-torn Afghanistan being sold on Victorian streets for the first time. A parliamentary inquiry was told yesterday that police had detected batches of Afghan heroin as drug dealers again flooded the market after a three-year drought.
Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily has arrived in Afghanistan for a two-day visit. In the capital Kabul he was informed of progress with the rebuilding of the Afghan police force, an area in which Germany is playing a leading role.
The U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan said on 21 May that the country's most powerful governor, Ismail Khan, has agreed to cooperate with the central government in the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program.
An expert on press freedom told an RFE/RL audience earlier this month that, despite a "blossoming of journalism" in Afghanistan, the independent media are still in a "fragile situation." Abi Wright, Asia Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), stated that "conditions for journalists have greatly improved," but threats to the free press arise every day from the country's "conservative drift," but more importantly, from the "abuse of power by those in power."
Pakistani authorities have arrested four foreign Al-Qaeda suspects with explosives and timers in the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Hundreds of armed tribesmen in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan have searched villages near the Afghan border in search of al-Qaeda suspects.
The interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison was run by a military intelligence unit that had served in Afghanistan and brought to Iraq the aggressive rules it had developed for that conflict, according to documents and testimony.
Pakistan accused U.S. troops on Friday of making an incursion into its territory while hunting al Qaeda and Taliban militants, the second such incident this month. The troops intruded into a border village in the North Waziristan tribal region on Thursday and searched several houses before moving back into Afghanistan.
Pakistan is going to seal its frontiers in Chitral-Wakhan area bordering Afghanistan to stop activities of suspected elements in the area....
The step has been taken in order to stop the crossing of Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in to the country. It may be recalled that Wakhan border area is situated between Afghanistan and Pakistan while China and Tajikistan are also close to the area.
The biggest catch in Tuesday's operation was Mullah Shahzada, the Taliban's provincial commander, who was released from U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay a year ago.
At least three Afghan civilians were killed and several wounded in a U.S. air attack in Afghanistan's southeastern province of Khost early on Friday, an official said. The overnight raid in Tani village to the south of Khost town came after a patrol of U.S. soldiers was fired at, Khost's Mayor, Jalil Ahmad Hasani, told Reuters. U.S. patrols often call in close air support when they come under fire.
The head of NATO's military committee, General Harald Kujat of Germany, which like France opposed the Iraq war but has troops in Afghanistan, cautioned that unless the current gaps were filled it was risky to go ahead with the expanded Afghan mission.
Five Taliban fighters, including two guards of Mullah Mohammad Omar, were arrested in the Panjwai area of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Government forces captured the Taliban fighters when they were shifting arms and weapons into Afghanistan, Afghan official news agency Bakhtar said. (Pakistan Daily Times)

Taliban fighters have briefly seized a district in southeast Afghanistan, but disappeared when government troops returned in greater numbers.
Belgium pledged on Thursday to send more troops to reinforce NATO-peacekeepers in Afghanistan, where growing attacks by remnants of the vanquished Taliban regime have raised fears over plans to hold landmark elections in September.
Bulgaria confirmed its willingness to boost the 55-strong unit in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led forces. Bulgaria can send logistic support to the German forces in Afghanistan, Deputy Prime Minister Plamen Panayotov said. (Sofia Morning News)
The top American general in Afghanistan has ordered a sweeping review of secretive U.S. jails in the country amid allegations of prisoner abuse, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
A remote-controlled roadside bomb destroyed a vehicle carrying election workers in southeastern Afghanistan on Thursday, wounding six people, police said. It was the latest in a string of attacks on preparations for the country's September elections. The victims were traveling through the Jaji Maydan district of Khost province, about 80 miles south of the capital.
Qatar will build 10,000 housing units in Afghanistan to rehabilitate war-driven refugees returning home, aside from constructing a central police headquarters building in Kabul, two building blocks at Kabul international airport and several health centres across the country.
NATO's secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has criticised members of the western defence alliance for failing to provide sufficient aircraft for an expansion of peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan. He says NATO risks missing an end of June deadline for setting up five military-civilian reconstruction teams in the north and west of the country, dealing a blow to its own credibility. (ABC Radio Australia)
American military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will be eligible for additional medals under legislation approved by the Senate on Tuesday. Under the bill passed 98-0, members of the military can be given an "Operation Enduring Freedom" medal, an "Operation Iraqi Freedom" medal or both if they served in both conflicts.
NPR's Renee Montagne recently visited Herat, an ancient city in Western Afghanistan at the border with Iran, to profile one of the warlords whose cooperation -- and willingness to give up some power -- may hold the fate of a nation.
TALIBAN militants ambushed a convoy of government militia troops in southeastern Afghanistan today, sparking a gunbattle in which two soldiers and one of the attackers were killed, an Afghan commander said. A third soldier died in an earlier clash in the same area. Some 80 insurgents opened fire on the convoy this afternoon as it travelled from Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, to the district of Mizan, 380 kilometres southeast of the
capital Kabul.
Pakistani authorities are hunting the widow of an Uzbek Islamic militant after an intelligence report suggested she was training women suicide bombers, a senior provincial official said Tuesday.
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf wants a review of controversial Islamic laws that critics say discriminate against women and religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country. Religious parties have dismissed the call as anti-Islam, while other critics say the president needs to take practical steps to make changes.
Marines and Afghan National Army work together for Afghanistan's future. (Marine press release)
Six security officials loyal to a northern Afghan faction were killed when their car was ambushed in the country's northern Balkh Province.
A rocket was fired at a CARE International office in central Afghanistan, damaging its roof but causing no injuries in the latest in a string of attacks against aid groups, a military official said Sunday. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded in a market near a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees office in northern Faryab province. No one was hurt.
A second-grade math class in Kabul, Afghanistan, met in the school breezeway with a blackboard on wheels.
The extremely popular singer Darya, who has lived in Europe and America since the early 1990s, played for more than two hours to a packed stadium in his first concert since returning to Kabul earlier this year. Kabul stadium, once the only place where people could see soccer and other games, was turned into the site of public executions by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
One American soldier was killed in Afghanistan and two were slightly wounded after their convoy was attacked near Girishk, in the southern province of Helmand, the U.S. military said on Sunday. (Reuters)
Jeremy Clawson's column.
"When you see the human side [of Afghanistan] it's so different from what they describe in the press," she said. "I think if there's any hope for the world, we have to meet people that we fear and even hate, because then we find out that we're not so different."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Back from vacation. Posting to resume soon.
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