KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan says a British soldier has been killed during a successful mission to rescue an Afghan police officer kidnapped by militants.
The provincial government of southern Helmand province says the policeman was kidnapped Sunday evening from a police checkpoint in Payan village in Nahri Sarraj district.
The NATO coalition said Monday that British forces recovered the kidnapped policemen, but the insurgents managed to flee. Security forces seized one of their mobile phones, some documents and explosives.
The NATO statement did not provide any further details about the soldier, nor how he was killed. It says another British soldier was injured.
The Independent UK June 4, 2012
A British aid worker held hostage in Afghanistan is recovering from her ordeal today after special forces swooped on a remote hide-out.
Helen Johnston, 28, was dramatically rescued yesterday in an early morning raid following her 12-day ordeal.
Prime Minister David Cameron later commended the soldiers who carried out the “extraordinarily brave, breath-taking” operation and returned her to safety.
In a strongly-worded statement issued outside 10 Downing Street, he also warned hostage-takers could
“expect a swift and brutal end”.
The rescue attempt was authorised amid increasing concerns for the safety of Ms Johnston and her colleagues from Medair, a humanitarian non-governmental organisation based near Lausanne, Switzerland.
The aid worker, Kenyan national Moragwe Oirere, 26, and two Afghan civilians were abducted by a group associated with the Taliban on May 22 as they visited relief project sites in Badakhshan province in the north-east of the country.
AFP May 2, 2012
Code-named Al-Farouq, the primary targets of the offensive would be “foreign invaders, their advisors, their contractors, all those who help them militarily and in intelligence,” the militants said on their website.
“Al-Farouq spring offensive will be launched on May 3 all over Afghanistan,” the militant group said.
The militia said the code name came from Islam’s second caliph, Omar Al-Farouq known for his military advances in Asia and the Arab world during the 7th century.
The announcement came hours after Taliban insurgents armed with guns, suicide vests and a bomb-laden car attacked a heavily fortified compound used by Westerners in Kabul, killing seven people and wounding more than a dozen others.
Sydney Morning Herald March 16, 2012
Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 28, were abducted at gunpoint on July 1 in the south-western province of Baluchistan, while apparently on holiday.
”They are safe and sound,” Major-General Athar Abbas said. ”They told us that they escaped and then they reported to our checkpost.”
The Pakistani Taliban had demanded the couple be exchanged for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist sentenced in 2010 in New York for the attempted murder of US government agents in Afghanistan
I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. Over the course of 12 months, I covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces.
What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.
Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.
Associated Press at The Star October 25, 2011
Swiss couple Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer are shown holding a newspaper dated Sept. 15 with armed, masked men behind them.
The pair are being held in northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border. They were seized in July in nearby Baluchistan province.
The video was given to the Associated Press on Tuesday by a local resident who is purportedly in contact with the militants. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
Militants often kidnap wealthy Pakistanis and less commonly foreigners. Large ransoms are often paid.
CNN September 13, 2011
[Update 8:29 a.m. ET
The U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message about the series of attacks across Kabul on Tuesday, saying “the situation is uncertain and ongoing. There are media reports that many roads are closed in Kabul.” It said appointments for visas or U.S. citizen services have been canceled for now and it said Americans in Afghanistan should monitor the websites of the embassy and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs for the latest information.
“We urge U.S. citizens to shelter in place, avoid unnecessary movement, and to avoid the neighborhood around the U.S. Embassy: Wazir Akbar Khan, Microrayon, and Massoud Circle,” it said.
“The Embassy also urges U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and avoid areas where Westerners congregate. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers, or in public. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and always travel with mobile phones or appropriate communication equipment.”
31 Americans, up to 25 US Navy SEAL Team Six, 7 Afghan Special Forces Killed in Afghanistan Chinook Crash
ABC News also reports on the victims:
Initial reports indicate up to 25 Navy SEALs were on the aircraft at the time.
It was also carrying seven Afghan Special Forces troops, one interpreter, five member helicopter crew and one dog
Slate August 6, 2011 10:49 am
Taliban insurgents shot down a NATO Chinook helicopter that was taking part in an overnight mission in Afghanistan, killing 31 American Special Operations forces and seven Afghans who were aboard, according to a statement issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The numbers are still unclear as there was no official confirmation from NATO, but it would amount to “the worst single-day toll for American forces in Afghanistan since U.S. troops entered that country nearly 10 years ago, and one of the largest tolls in a single incident of either the Afghan war or the fighting in Iraq,” reports McClatchy.
The New York Times talks to a “coalition military official” who said that “at least 37 people” had been killed but he could not confirm the information provided by Karzai on their nationalities or units. The Los Angeles Times talks to a “Western military official” who confirmed that the “twin-rotor CH-47 helicopter had apparently been brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade moments after takeoff.” The limited amount of information available hours after the crash could be partly due to the fact that “special forces commanders as a rule are slower than other branches to publicly acknowledge combat casualties,” explains the LAT. The crash would mean that at least 374 foreign troops have been killed so far in 2011, details Reuters
The Washington Post points out that another coalition helicopter “was forced to make a precautionary landing in another part of Afghanistan.” The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for both attacks and said eight insurgents had been killed. There are conflicting reports of when the incident in Wardak province took place, with the NYT citing a Taliban spokesman saying it was shot down around 11 p.m. Friday, while the Guardian cites a provincial official who says it was around 3 a.m.
Previously, the deadliest day for the American military in Afghanistan was June 28, 2005, when 16 Navy SEALs and Army Special Operations troops were killed when their helicopter was shot down and three more Seals were killed on the ground, notes the Associated Press.
McClatchy points out that the last time “the U.S. military suffered such catastrophic losses” was in January 2005, when 30 troops were killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq and six others died on the ground across the country.
By ISHTIAQ MAHSUD, Associated Press – July 29, 2011
SHAWAL, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban have custody of two kidnapped Swiss tourists and will free them if the U.S. releases a female Pakistani scientist convicted of trying to kill Americans, the No. 2 commander of the militant group told The Associated Press.
Gunmen abducted the man and woman as they traveled in the southwestern Baluchistan province earlier this month.
Authorities later said the two were taken to South Waziristan, a northwestern tribal region that borders Afghanistan and has been a hotbed of Pakistani Taliban activity for years.
Many locals and several foreigners have been kidnapped by militants in the border region over the past eight years. Some have been killed, while others have been released or their fate is unknown, often after ransoms have been paid.
The commander, Waliur Rehman, spoke to an AP reporter on Thursday in the Shawal area of South Waziristan. He said his group ordered the kidnapping in a bid to gain freedom for Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-educated neuroscience specialist and mother of three who is serving 86 years in an American jail for trying to shoot U.S. security officials in Afghanistan.
Rehman said that if Siddiqui is not freed, a Taliban court will decide their fate. He did not give any deadlines.
“We have not tortured this couple, and we have no such intention,” he added.
Officials at the Swiss and U.S. embassies in Islamabad declined to comment Friday on Rehman’s demand.
Sami Zubeiri AFP June 29, 2011
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan told the United States to leave a remote desert air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone attacks, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar was quoted by state media as saying on Wednesday.
His remarks are the latest indication of Pakistan attempting to limit US activities since a clandestine American military raid killed Osama bin Laden on May 2. Islamabad also detained a CIA contractor wanted for murder in January.
“We have told them (US officials) to leave the air base,” national news agency APP quoted Mukhtar as telling a group of journalists in his office.
Images said to be of US Predator drones at Shamsi base have been published by Google Earth in the past. The air strip is 900 kilometres (560 miles) southwest of the capital Islamabad in Baluchistan province.
A US embassy spokeswoman told AFP there were no US military personnel at Shamsi.
American drone attacks on Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan’s northwestern semi-autonomous tribal belt are hugely unpopular among a general public opposed to the government’s alliance with Washington.
Despite condemning the drone strikes in public, US documents leaked by Internet whistleblower Wikileaks late last year showed that Pakistani civilian and militant leaders had privately consented to the drone campaign.
KABUL—The Taliban attacked a construction company’s compound in eastern Afghanistan, killing 35 Afghan workers employed by a U.S.-funded road project, Afghan officials said.
In the predawn strike on the Galaxy Sky compound in Paktia province, the Taliban killed security guards, engineers and laborers, said provincial government spokesman Rohullah Samon. Eight militants were also killed as the company’s guards fought back, he added.
The attack was the bloodiest so far on U.S.-funded contractors since the beginning of the Taliban’s spring offensive, which began May 1. In a statement announcing the offensive, the Taliban promised to target contractors associated with the Afghan government or foreign forces.
The Taliban especially oppose road-building programs, which make it easier for coalition armored vehicles to patrol insurgent-dominated areas.
Galaxy Sky, an Afghan construction company, is building a 35-kilometer (22-mile) stretch of road in an area under Taliban influence, Mr. Samon said.
By Emmanuel Duparcq (AFP) March 31, 2011
KABUL — When Afghan businessman Rahim won a lucrative deal from a NATO sub-contractor to build a road in the violence-hit south of the country, he put in a call to a local Taliban leader.
The pair cut a deal — every month Rahim would meet a Taliban representative and quietly hand over $20,000. In return, the insurgents would leave his project alone.
“It was a good deal. We finished the project in seven months, 20 days ahead of schedule, without once being attacked,” he told AFP.
As the United States and its Western allies ramp up development in Afghanistan ahead of a planned military withdrawal, a significant proportion of the money spent is going to the very organisation they are here to defeat.
But all that has evaporated, thanks to a picture, published in an Army magazine, showing Aref-Rayan working with U.S. forces. The picture, say his Army commanders, is a virtual death sentence in a land where anyone helping Americans is targeted by the Taliban.
Tall, thin and silver-haired, Mohammad Aref-Rayan might not look much like a key weapon in the fight against the insurgency in Afghanistan, but U.S. Army officers and defense contractors who work with him say the 62-year-old translator’s services are invaluable.
Aref-Rayan is fluent in English as well as his native Pashtu and Dari, Afghanistan’s primary languages.
A former fighter in the mujahidin effort to expel the Soviets, he knows Afghanistan’s treacherous terrain intimately. He has a reputation for maintaining his composure under fire, helping U.S. forces during firefights with the Taliban. His status as a tribal elder helps Americans gain entry into the war-torn nation’s many cultures.
Contact Harold here (813) 259-7629
A Canadian national is missing in Afghanistan, Canadian officials have said.
A spokeswoman for the department of foreign affairs in Ottawa said the man – named as Colin Rutherford – had travelled to Afghanistan as a tourist.
The confirmation followed a statement by the Taliban saying they had captured someone from Canada.
The Taliban said they had detained the man in Ghazni province, south-west of the capital Kabul, for spying.
A spokesman said he was still being held and that “documents in his possession revealed his clandestine intelligence activities”. The statement said the Taliban would soon release a video of him.
Two French television journalists were kidnapped by the Taliban north-east of Kabul more than a year ago and are still being held. Please see the original here
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan — The Pakistani Taliban on Sunday demanded that the country’s government execute a US official who shot dead two men in broad daylight, or hand him over to the Islamist militant group.
“We demand that the Pakistani government hang Raymond Davis or otherwise hand him over to us. We will decide his fate,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Tariq claimed that Davis, whose exact role in Pakistan has been unclear, was a spy.
“He was here for spying. He is an American spy. We will kill all those people and will target them who will help him (Davis) or try to set him free,” Tariq said.
“He is a killer, he has killed two innocent Pakistanis. We will take revenge for them,” he added.
The shooting has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Islamabad after the US demanded that Davis, who shot two Pakistani motorcyclists on January 27, be freed on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.
KABUL, 20 January 2011 (IRIN) – Pro-government militias in parts of Afghanistan are believed to be recruiting underage boys and sometimes sexually abusing them in an environment of criminal impunity, local people and human rights organizations say.
In a bid to counter the intensifying insurgency, the Afghan government and US/NATO forces have been setting up controversial community-based militias, such as the Afghan Local Police, in insecure provinces. To date, thousands of men have been recruited to such bodies in Kunduz, Baghlan and Kandahar provinces, says the Interior Ministry.
“The militias and commanders are hiring young, underage boys in their ranks for different illicit purposes,” said Haji Abdul Rahim, a tribal elder in the southern province of Kandahar.
Another elderly man, Khan Mohammad, accused pro-government militias of kidnapping teenage boys primarily for sexual exploitation.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) also said it had received reports of child recruitment by pro-government militias in some provinces.
“We’re seriously concerned about this,” said Hussein Nasrat, a child rights officer at AIHRC, adding that his organization was investigating the issue.
“The use and abuse of children by local armed groups is very worrying because they [pro-government militias] fall beyond the formal, legal and disciplinary structures within which the police and army operate,” he said.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it had not received “confirmed information” on the issue, but that it was concerned about the “association of children with such forces” due to their community-based status.
NGOs have demanded that the government and US/NATO forces stop using local militias and instead devote greater resources to developing a more professional and accountable police and army.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, meanwhile, has said the proliferation of armed actors impedes and threatens humanitarian work in Afghanistan.
Children are recruited and used for military purposes by the Afghan national police, as well as the following anti-government groups: Haqqani network, Hezb-i-Islamic, Taliban, Tora Bora Front and the Jamat Sunat al-Dawa Salafia, the UN Secretary-General said in a report in April 2010.
Internally displaced and isolated children in conflict-affected areas are particularly at risk of recruitment by non-state armed groups, Radhika Coomaraswamy, a special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said in a February 2010 country mission report.
“The recruitment and use of children by both [anti-government] armed groups and national security forces was documented throughout the country by the UN Country Task Force on children in armed conflict between 2008 and 2010,” UNICEF’s country office told IRIN.
In addition to recruiting children as foot soldiers, the Taliban and other insurgent groups are accused of using children as suicide bombers, and forcing them to plant improvised explosives.
“Armed opposition groups continue to perpetrate grave violations against children in the context of the armed conflict,” said UNICEF, adding that the fragmentation of armed opposition groups was jeopardizing dialogue with them on the issue of child soldiers.
Poverty and unemployment are believed to be pushing children into joining armed groups. Extremely low levels of birth registration and weak identity documents are also contributing to the problem, UNICEF said.
War-related sexual violence is another issue which needs tackling, human rights organizations say.
Children, particularly boys, are sexually abused by different armed groups and `baccha baazi’ (meaning “boy play”, a paedophiliac practice) has been reported among armed forces across the country.
Despite assurances by the government that child sexual abuse will be tackled and perpetrators punished, little has been done thus far, according to AIHRC.
“This is most probably due to the social stigma attached to the issue as well as the inability of the government to fully control armed group leaders who may be perpetrating such acts,” Coomaraswamy said in her report.
As a result, cases of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children have rarely been tackled due to impunity and the weak rule of law, AIHRC said.
Children are also killed, wounded, detained, displaced and denied access to essential health and education services by the warring parties, human rights organizations say.
In the first half of 2010, 176 children were killed and 389 wounded in the conflict – up 55 percent on the same period in 2009, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported.
Backed by the UN and other international actors, the Afghan government says it is committed to tackling all the problems which adversely affect children in the context of war. However, human rights bodies such as AIHRC accuse the government of promising much but delivering little. Please see the original here