Wednesday, September 22, 2004

American military investigators have opened a criminal probe into allegations of murder and torture involving an 18-year-old Afghan army recruit who died while in U.S. custody last year. The new inquiry, which will also focus on the alleged torture of seven other Afghan soldiers, was confirmed Monday by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command....
Alleged American mistreatment of the detainees included repeated beatings, immersion in cold water, electric shocks, being hung upside down and toenails being torn off, according to Afghan investigators and an internal memorandum prepared by a United Nations delegation that interviewed the survivng soldiers.
“On my recent visits to Afghanistan, it’s been so impressive to see how buildings are going back up. I went to a registration site on one of my recent trips, and it was a registration place for women to register to vote. And to sit in that school and see a line of women going outside the building and around, waiting to register to vote and not leaving until they had their voter registration card. Some of them were completely covered, as is their choice. Half of them were not so covered. But they all wanted to be part of a new Afghanistan. And we cannot allow their dream to be denied.”
Colin Powell.
Confirming two US deaths reported on Monday, US military spokesman Major Scott Nelson said another American soldier also died in Monday's fighting which saw eight militant separate attacks on US and Afghan forces in south and eastern Afghanistan. He said 14 US soldiers and eight members of the fledgling Afghan national army were injured in the fighting. Nine insurgents were killed, and one Afghan soldier is missing.
"We have had an unfortunate day," Nelson told AFP.
The attacks in the provinces of Khost, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces marked one of the bloodiest days for the US military in Afghanistan since the US military campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taliban began in late 2001.
The U.S. military says it killed six militants who had fired a rocket on an attack helicopter in southern Afghanistan. Officials say after insurgents in Zabul province fired on the helicopter, a U.S. gunship returned fire, killing the six rebels.
Nine Afghan employees of an international aid group were attacked and their compound robbed in the latest Taliban-linked violence.
Dave Mather, a spokesman for Afghan Aid, told the AFP news agency that about thirty people attacked the group's compound in the eastern province of Nuristan on Saturday. Mather said several people were beaten up but were not seriously injured. He said office equipment and two cars were stolen from the organization.
Abdul Latif Hakimi, who claims to be a Taliban spokesman, told AFP that Taliban militants were responsible for the attack. Hakimi said bibles and videos at the aid group's office indicated that they were trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. Mather said the organization works on community development projects and has no religious affiliation.

The German cabinet agreed Wednesday to seek a one-year extension of the mandate for German peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. The cabinet approved a draft bill to be sent for ratification by parliament next week, with the mandate extension coming at a critical point in the run-up to the 9 October presidential elections in Afghanistan. The current mandate expires on 13 October.
Germany currently has 1,550 troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, 270 in Kundus and 300 in the neighbouring country Uzbekistan. The total of 2,130 is short of the current parliamentary mandate for up to 2,250 soldiers.
German Defence Minister Peter Struck said during parliamentary defence committee hearings that forces in Afghanistan should be beefed up for the presidential elections. Afterwards, it could be seen whether the security situation stabilises itself as a result of a democratically-elected president, he said.
The conservative political opposition Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union is pushing the Berlin government to boost the German troop numbers up to the full 2,250 strength provided in the current mandate. In particular, the opposition wants the number of Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) troops in Kundus and Feisabad to be increased. The current mandate provides for up to 450 German troops for the PRT in the Kundus region.

Suspected militants attacked a convoy of paramilitary forces, killing at least one soldier and seriously wounding another today in a tense Pakistani tribal region near Afghanistan, an intelligence official said. Fighters fired assault rifles at the convoy near Kani Guram village about 50km northeast of Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan region, the official said on condition of anonymity. The soldiers returned fire toward a mountain from where the attack was launched.
Canadian troops can handle the gritty warfare of Afghanistan's badlands but they're tired, overworked and may face more casualties, warns a military analyst. Prime Minister Paul Martin met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai yesterday and said that Canada will play a key role in taming the southeastern rolling foothills near the Pakistan border, where Taliban factions and warlords are fighting for control. Canadian troops would be part of a provincial reconstruction team.
At least 10 Afghans, including a nomad leader who fought with the Taliban, have been released from a U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials said Wednesday. The men were escorted back to Afghanistan by a senior security official and are free to return to their homes, the government said.
Pakistan has deployed more troops to beef up security in border areas of Chaman and Zhob ahead of the forthcoming presidential election in Afghanistan. "Deployment of more troops along the Afghan border is part of precautionary measures," officials told this correspondent on Tuesday, adding that unnecessary movement of people had been restricted in border areas. Sources said that the army personnel have taken over security at the Chaman border. Normally, the Frontier Corps is responsible for protecting border areas.
82nd Airborne deploys to Afghanistan.
Tens of thousands of ex-combatants will be disarmed by the UN-backed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme before the October elections, according to officials at the Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD). The multi-million dollar Afghanistan's New Beginning Programme (ANBP, the official name for the DDR process) is designed to disarm more than 100,000 former fighters. Fewer than 20,000 members of the militia forces have been decommissioned since disarmament was launched last October. But MoD officials are optimistic that through an "accelerated DDR plan" they will meet the pre-election target of 40,000 disarmed soldiers in less than a month's time.
An former Soviet army soldier whose relatives were told he died a hero in the Afghan war nearly two decades ago - and were given a coffin to bury - appeared in an Uzbek courtroom Tuesday accused of membership in an al-Qaida-allied terrorist group. Kosim Ermatov, 38, was extradited from Pakistan in June and is facing charges he belongs to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, his relatives said. He could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious terrorism charges. "We haven't seen him since he went to army service in 1984. In 1986, we received a death certificate and we buried a zinc coffin," his sister, Dilfuza Ermatova, said outside the courtroom.
The family was told that Ermatov was a hero, was awarded a high Soviet medal - the Order of the Red Star - and a school and street in his native village in eastern Namangan were named after him, said his mother, Kumrihon Temirova.
A deputy to US-backed President Hamid Karzai escaped a roadside bombing in northern Afghanistan, just four days after Karzai himself was targeted as he tried to hit the campaign trail for landmark Oct. 9 elections.
Nayiamatullah Shahrani, one of four Afghan vice presidents, and Urban Development Minister Gul Agha Sherzai were on their way to inspect a road project in northern Kunduz province when the explosion rocked their convoy Monday, police said.
The remote-controlled bomb, hidden at a roadside in Khanabad district, damaged a car in the 20-vehicle convoy that was carrying Shahrani's bodyguards, slightly hurting one of them with flying glass, Police Chief Mutaleb Beg said.
Beg blamed "enemies" for the attack, but didn't elaborate. No one was immediately arrested. The incident was confirmed by an aide to Karzai -- who was in New York for this week's UN annual session of the General Assembly.
(Associated Press)

When 30 militia descended on this village's bustling bazaar and started beating shoppers, Aziz Ullah closed his pharmacy's door and peered out the window in horror. "They were hitting the people with their guns," Ullah said of the recent event. "The soldiers were very mad. They were kicking people and hitting them with their fists." One man, a 71-year-old farmer, screamed and cried as soldiers pummelled his face with a gun. Blood gushed from his nose, mouth and ears. He was beaten so badly he was unconscious in hospital for several hours.
The shoppers' crime?
They did not want to go to an election meeting hastily called by militia commanders in this Afghan farming village 650 kilometres northwest of Kabul. After seeing the old man brutally pistol-whipped, more than 500 villagers fell in line and went to the meeting where they were ordered to vote for Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum — the most colourful and feared candidate in Afghanistan's Oct. 9 presidential election.
US forces say they have have killed a militant in southern Afghanistan, three weeks ahead of landmark presidential elections. No American forces were reported injured in the fighting in Deh Chopan, a district of Uruzgan province. A US military statement said insurgents attacked a coalition convoy with small arms fire. Deh Chopan is a centre of activity for loyalists of the former Taliban regime, ousted by a US-led invasion in 2002.

A far bigger British deployment is being mooted, meanwhile, to take place early in 2005, a critical time when a series of dangerous security problems are expected to converge. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, says plans have been made to send a headquarters staff and a brigade-sized force of around 8,000 peacekeeping soldiers to Afghanistan.
The Afghan National Army established its first regional command headquarters outside the Kabul area in Kandahar September 19.
Critics may still lampoon Afghan President Hamid Karzai as the "mayor of Kabul" for his feeble authority beyond the capital, but surprise moves to ditch a powerful faction leader as his running mate and oust a regional strongman have added steel to Karzai's image before the Oct. 9 presidential election.
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