9 May 2005, Volume 4, Number 15
TALIBAN RADIO RETURNS TO SOUTHERN AFGHAN AIRWAVES.In April, residents of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar were once again able to hear Shari'a Zhagh (Voice of the Shari'a) -- the name used for Kabul's Radio Afghanistan during the Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001.
The opening statement of the broadcast in Pashto told listeners that "Shari'a Zhagh radio raises the voice of the Islamic brotherhood against the superpower, United States of America, and its associates who have been insulting the honor of the Muslim world and its religion and who [have] harmed Islamic rule."
On 18 April, neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi told Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that because foreign radio stations broadcasting to Afghanistan claiming to be independent and free are "not actually free," the neo-Taliban has established its own station.
Hakimi said the purpose of the radio is to "report on the realities and facts" throughout Afghanistan and to introduce "the goals and objectives of the Islamic Movement of Taliban" to Afghans.
Hakimi said the radio station resumed broadcasting after only "a six-month break." However, there is no credible information to suggest that the neo-Taliban operated a radio station in the past. While there might have been experimental broadcasts, neither the neo-Taliban nor others are on record discussing the issue.
According to Hakimi, the radio station began broadcasting on 18 April for one hour a day, from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., in Dari and Pashto. He said it would also resume broadcasting for another hour in the evening, between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Shari'a Zhagh was heard in Kandahar on 18 and 20 April, but no confirmation of its broadcast has been available since.
The radio station broadcasting to Kandahar is one of three owned by the neo-Taliban, Hakimi said. The other two stations will "start functioning soon," he added. In a separate interview with AIP on 21 April, Hakimi said the additional stations will broadcast in other local languages, namely Uzbek and Turkmen. The Afghan Constitution recognizes Pashto and Dari as the country's official languages, while several other languages enjoy official third-language status in areas where the majority of residents speak that language.
Hakimi told AIP on 18 April that the equipment for the radio stations was imported from abroad and set up by Afghan engineers inside the country.
While the message of the broadcast has not been the center of much debate, the fact that the neo-Taliban has managed to establish a radio station has. This has led to conspiracy theories among Afghans and the Afghan media.
The pro-government "Kabul Times" daily wrote on 26 April that while the Afghan government has taken a casual attitude toward the Shari'a Zhagh based on the calculation that most Afghans suffered horribly under Taliban rule and therefore would not heed any message encouraging a return to such a system, the U.S.-led coalition has vowed to find and destroy the radio station. There is "no doubt that the coalition will locate...[the transmitter] with the help of advanced eavesdropping devices," the daily reported.
The "Kabul Times," however, also speculated that a foreign hand might be involved in the establishment of the neo-Taliban broadcaster. Calling the militants a "bunch of mullahs" who are "completely ignorant about engineering," the daily questioned who is supporting the radio venture technically and financially.
Without directly accusing Pakistan, the "Kabul Times" wrote that the country's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) "has been dealing with the Taliban since its inception." The daily added that "surely the ISI...[can] find answers" to the location, type of equipment, and funding for Shari'a Zhagh. The "ISI is expected to fall into line and find out" the necessary information about the neo-Taliban broadcast venture, the commentary added.
The mere existence of the Shari'a Zhagh has fueled questions about the motives of not only Pakistan, but also the United States.
Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 21 April interviewed Kabul University Professor Nasir Ahmad. The Iranian broadcaster asked why the United States, which "utilizes modern technological equipment and could easily find the Taliban radio station," has not done so. Nasir Ahmad responded that, since the United States has long-term strategic plans in Afghanistan, it needs the neo-Taliban to justify its presence in that country. Thus, he argued, the United States is not challenging the radio station.
Neo-Taliban spokesman Hakimi told AIP on 21 April that he believes that U.S.-led coalition forces are looking for the transmission station of Shari'a Zhagh. He said he believes, however, that they will fail in their efforts because the broadcasts are transmitted from a "mobile station." Furthermore, the programs are aired at dawn and dusk, when "no-one can detect the station's frequencies," Hakimi contended. He also said that "expert Afghan engineers" have designed the station in such a manner to safeguard it "against all possible risks."
For many Afghans, accepting anything associated with the Taliban regime is a dilemma at best -- and loathsome at worst. Some might genuinely support the reconciliation efforts of the Afghan government aimed at bringing most of the former Taliban rank and file back into society, but few seem to lend support to the return of a Taliban-style system of governance.
If the neo-Taliban radio manages to broadcast regularly and expand its coverage area, it would be a moral boost for the few people who might still be supporting elements of the former regime for ethnic, personal, or political reasons. Many people are nostalgic for what they see as the Taliban's ability to safeguard public security. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN DRUG KINGPIN ARRESTED IN U.S....Authorities in the United States have arrested and indicted Bashir Nurzai (aka Noorzai) in New York, international media reported on 25 and 26 April. According to U.S. authorities, Nurzai has been at the center of an illegal, multimillion-dollar narcotics operation. A U.S. federal court indicted Nurzai on 25 April for alleged conspiracy to import 500 kilograms of heroin, worth an estimated $50 million.
In 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush named Nurzai as one of the world's most-wanted drug traffickers (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 June 2004). Nurzai allegedly has been at the helm of a large drug operation, controlling opium-poppy fields, laboratories, and trafficking operations both in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan.
U.S. Attorney David Kelley said that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was aware of Nurzai's plan to visit the United States and it "seized the opportunity and the individual" on 23 April. Speaking on 25 April, Kelley said: "In case there is any doubt about the relationship between the Taliban and the Afghanistan drug lords, the indictment also alleges that Nurzai and the Taliban had a symbiotic relationship. Between 1990 and 2004, Nurzai and his organization provided demolitions, weaponry, and militia manpower to the Taliban. In exchange, the Taliban permitted Nurzai's business to flourish and served as protection for Nurzai's opium crops, heroin laboratories, and drug-transportation routes out of the country."
In a statement released on 26 April, the Afghan Counternarcotics Ministry welcomed Nurzai's arrest "on U.S. territory." The statement added that the Afghan government is committed to fighting narcotics and is striving to reform local laws, the judicial sector, and detention facilities so that "more and more people like Bashir Nurzai are arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned."
Some analysts have questioned why Nurzai would travel to the United States knowing that he was on a most-wanted list there. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS NEO-TALIBAN DENY LINKS TO NURZAI.Taliban spokesman Abdul Hayy Motma'en told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) on 26 April that Bashir Nurzai never helped the Taliban regime with money or weapons. Motma'en said the Taliban government struggled hard against narcotics and banned poppy cultivation during its last year in power.
But Alexandre Schmidt, the UN Office of Drug Control's deputy country director in Afghanistan, disagreed with Motma'en's claim.
Schmidt told RFE/RL that poppy cultivation increased every year under the Taliban until its final year in power, 2001. He said the Taliban's one-year ban on poppy cultivation came only under international pressure -- and that the ban actually increased the ability of the Taliban to profit from stockpiles of opium it had built up.
"That the Taliban had decided, in fact, in the last year of their regime to have a total ban on opium poppy cultivation is true. And there was a tremendous decrease in cultivation," Schmidt said. "But at the same time, [this caused] an increase in the price due to the market trends. And stocks were still available under the Taliban regime. So, of course, they were making profits from it. But to say that [the Taliban] were totally intolerant of drug cultivation -- I would not phrase it like that. They were using a situation [of first] promoting cultivation, [and later] having a ban on cultivation. It was a matter of getting more income."
Schmidt also said he supports the allegation by U.S. prosecutors that Nurzai provided equipment to the Taliban regime.
"Definitely, [his arrest] is a major step, because Mr. Hajji Bashir Nurzai is one of the most known Taliban supporters and drug traffickers in Afghanistan," Schmidt said. "So, definitely, having this person arrested is a major step in the counternarcotics efforts. We know that Mr. Nurzai is part of the Nurzai tribe from Kandahar Province. He is quite a wealthy person. And Mr. Nurzai was supporting the Taliban during the Taliban regime in providing required equipment."
Schmidt said his UN office does not expect other Afghan drug traffickers to step into the void seemingly created in the illegal market by Nurzai's arrest.
"We do not have any major concerns that a vacuum might be created," Schmidt said. "To the contrary, the fact that a major drug trafficker has been arrested is going to have a major impact on the drug trafficking system, as such. And have more of a kind of risk assessment for other drug traffickers."
But officials in Kabul suggested Nurzai's arrest does not reflect a direct crackdown by Afghan authorities against major Afghan drug lords.
Mirwais Yassini, the deputy minister in charge of Afghanistan's counternarcotics campaign, told RFE/RL on 26 April that his officers did not play any role in the Nurzai case. He said the charges against Nurzai originated in the United States rather than in Afghanistan. (Ron Synovitz)
POLICEMAN INJURED AFTER COUNTERNARCOTICS OPERATION IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN.One Afghan officer was injured in Achin District of Nangarhar Province in a clash between unidentified armed men and police, the official Radio Afghanistan reported on 25 April. The police were returning to provincial capital of Jalalabad after reportedly seizing 5 kilograms of heroin and destroying a drug laboratory when they were attacked. As the Afghan government's counternarcotics program has increased its activities, resistance and violent efforts to protect Afghanistan's immense narcotic industry have increased. The late-April gun battle follows an earlier clash reported between police and poppy farmers in Achin in March (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 29 March 2005). (Amin Tarzi)
NEO-TALIBAN REMAIN ACTIVE IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN.Suspected neo-Taliban militants ambushed the convoy of the Dishu District police chief in Helmand Province, killing six police officers, AFP reported on 27 April. Helmand intelligence chief Dad Mohammad said the dead were the police chief's bodyguards. The police returned fire with rockets, but the assailants fled, Dad Mohammad said. "We don't know if any of them were hurt," he added.
In a separate incident, neo-Taliban militias attacked the security commander of Arghandab District in Zabul Province on 27 April, AIP reported. Arghandab District head Abdul Qayyum told AIP that when the security commander's forces came under attack, more forces from the district went to their aid, "but they themselves came under attack." Claiming he was speaking from "an ambush position," Abdul Qayyum said that "fighting is still going on." In a separate report on 27 April, AIP reported that Abdul Qayyum told them that after a number of U.S. and Afghan National Army troops came to Arghandab, the fighting between neo-Taliban and district forces ceased.
Four neo-Taliban fighters were reported to have been killed in the battle and three policemen, including Abdul Qayyum's brother, were injured.
A U.S. Army soldier was killed in action on 26 April in Khanaqin, Oruzgan Province, the U.S. Defense Department announced on 28 April (http://www.defenselink.mil). The soldier died when "enemy forces" attacked his patrol with small-arms fire, the Defense Department said.
The statement did not identify the enemy. The neo-Taliban have recently escalated their activities in the area in and around Oruzgan and other southern and eastern provinces (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 4, 11, 19, and 27 April 2005). (Amin Tarzi)
FORMER TALIBAN FOREIGN MINISTER SPEAKS.In his first interview since his reported release from detention, Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil said on 2 May that he does not have "full relations" with the current militant Taliban elements or the neo-Taliban, Tolu Television reported. Mutawakkil was the most senior former Taliban leader in U.S. custody and was reportedly released in October 2003. He is now playing a key role in a reconciliation program launched by the Afghan government to give amnesty to most of the Taliban leaders (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9, 16, 23, and 30 October 2003 and 4 March and 10 June 2004).
Regarding the reconciliation offer to former Taliban, Mutawakkil told Tolu that the issue is "at a very early stage" and that a "commission has been formed which might work in this regard." According to Mutawakkil, the Taliban regime had certain positive points, such as its policy on narcotics. "There was security and less administrative corruption," Mutawakkil added. He also said he hopes the Afghan parliament, which is scheduled to be elected in September, will be representative and functional.
Neo-Taliban spokesman Latifullah Hakimi said that while Mutawakkil is entitled to his views, he has no authority to speak for the neo-Taliban, the Islamabad daily "The News" reported on 4 May. "We also feel that Mutawakkil is not a free man. I'm not saying that he is still a prisoner, but the fact remains that he cannot express himself openly while living in Kabul," Hakimi added. According to Hakimi, rather than urging his former colleagues to hold talks with the Afghan government, Mutawakkil should advise the United States to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)
HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER DEATH OF ALLEGED ADULTERER.Reports of the death of a 21-year-old alleged adulterer in Badakhshan has raised concerns about the rights of women in Afghanistan. Initial reports said the woman, referred to only as "Amina," was stoned to death based on a decision by local religious leaders. But a team from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) says the woman was beaten to death by her own family.
"The local religious leaders who, its seems, had a poor understanding of religious matters, issued a sentence ordering Amina to be killed," said Mohammad Farid Hamidi, a lawyer with the commission. "After the sentence was issued, Amina was handed to her paternal family, and [her family members] killed her. There was no stoning order. Based on our information, she was beaten to death."
The man in the case was publicly flogged and then freed.
The Afghan government has launched an investigation into the killing.
"The Badakhshan police and security commander have sent us a report saying the women had an affair and that she was killed by her family members," Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lotfullah Mashal told RFE/RL's Afghan Service. "No stoning took place; it's a rumor; it isn't true."
The AIHRC's Hamidi said Amina's killing is a serious violation of both human rights principles and Afghan law. He said similar incidents of family honor killings have been reported in Afghanistan, although no reliable statistics are available.
More than five people have been arrested so far in connection with Amina's death. Hamidi said that more arrests are expected.
"The people who murdered Amina and also some of the people who issued the sentence [have been arrested]," Hamidi said. "We are calling on the Afghan government and on the judicial officials in the country to investigate this issue seriously so that such horrible human rights crimes are not repeated in the future."
During the oppressive rule of the Taliban militia, women were regularly stoned to death for having allegedly engaged in extramarital sexual relations. Several stoning deaths were also reported in Badakhshan under the Afghan mujahedin in the 1990s. But there have been no known stoning deaths since the Taliban's ouster in late 2001.
Adultery remains illegal in Afghanistan. But Hamidi said that even if it was established beyond a doubt that Amina had committed adultery, she should have been tried in an official court.
"We can�t prove it was [adultery]," Hamidi said. "Proving adultery has its conditions and complications, and its own mechanism based on Afghan laws and Islam. So proving it is a key issue. Only after that can a punishment be considered and a sentence handed down."
Adultery is considered a grave sin under Islamic law, and punishment can range from flogging to death by stoning.
But proving adultery has taken place is not easy. The accused must make a confession and not retract it. It can also be proven through the testimony of four men, deemed trustworthy and pious, who witnessed the act.
The rights watchdog Amnesty International said Amina's killing demonstrates the failure of the Afghan government to dispense justice, particularly for women.
"We are absolutely appalled by this," said Nazia Hussein, an Afghanistan researcher with Amnesty International. "We think it is a grave violation of the fundamental rights of any individual. But it actually highlights discrimination against women in Afghanistan and particularly the customary practices which continue and are violating the fundamental rights of women across Afghanistan."
In the last three years, the situation of Afghan girls and women has arguably improved in terms of work and education. The new Afghan constitution -- adopted in January 2004 -- guarantees fundamental equality for men and women. But discrimination and violence against women are still widespread in Afghan society. Many victims remain silent due to social stigma, fear of persecution, or lack of legal protection.
Human Rights Watch researcher Zama Coursen Neff said the Afghan government should provide better protection for the country's women.
"We have seen that women in Afghanistan have very little protection from violence, whether it's violence by their family members, from their husbands, from their fathers; or whether it's violence from armed men who want to keep them from participating in public life in Afghanistan," Coursen Neff said. "We don't know what's happening in many places in Afghanistan because there are very few human rights monitors from the United Nations out there looking to see what's happening, and things can happen to women with no one even knowing about it."
The former United Nations rights expert on Afghanistan, Cherif Bassiouni, after a visit to the country in February called on Afghan authorities to do more to tackle violence against women. (Golnaz Esfandiari with additional reporting by RFE/RL Afghan Service correspondents Farah Hiwad and Sultan Sarwar)
'HUNDREDS' DEMONSTRATE AGAINST U.S. MILITARY CONDUCT IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN.People from four districts of Nangarhar Province demonstrated in Jalalabad on 25 April against residential searches by U.S. military personnel, AIP reported. Several hundred representatives from Khogiani, Sherzad, Hesarak, and Pachir wa Agam districts staged a rally in front of the governor's office, according to AIP. The demonstrators said U.S. military personnel should only conduct searches of homes after coordinating their plans with the provincial governor, district heads, and the local security departments.
A resident of Khogiani asked why, when the people in the four districts are "abiding by the law of the government" and have destroyed poppy fields, U.S. soldiers "raid" their homes. Police were present, although no clashes were reported.
Nangarhar Governor Haji Din Mohammad on 25 April promised to address the complaints of demonstrators, AIP reported. Din Mohammad said that he has met with six representatives from the group and will meet with a "leader of foreign forces" and inform the district representatives about the outcome of his discussions. "If these searches continue, then the problems will undoubtedly increase. I am aware of that. This is why we want the problems to be resolved so that the people can live in peace and calm," Din Mohammad told journalists. One of the district representatives said his side wants local officials present when U.S. personnel are carrying out searches of private homes. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN PRESIDENT VOICES CONCERN OVER CIVILIAN DEATHS.President Hamid Karzai called on U.S.-led coalition forces to use "extreme caution" in order to curb civilian deaths, AFP reported on 1 May. In a prepared statement, Karzai voiced "concern about the occurrence in recent weeks of civilian deaths as a result of counterterrorist operations."
Karzai's remarks followed a U.S. air strike that killed three civilians on 29 April. The air strike, which targeted a suspected neo-Taliban camp in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan, also wounded two children. Two children and a woman died in March in southeastern Afghanistan when U.S. forces fired on and killed a key neo-Taliban commander. That incident came just days after a young boy was killed by U.S.-led forces searching a village in the eastern Kunar Province for a suspected bomb maker.
Karzai stressed his support for the U.S.-led counterterrorism efforts despite the civilian deaths and injuries. "The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan reaffirms once again its rock-solid commitment to the war against terrorism, and will continue to work with the international coalition against terrorism in pursuing and defeating terrorist forces in Afghanistan," Karzai said. (Marc Ricks)
CIVILIANS INJURED IN FIREFIGHT IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN.Three civilians were injured when coalition forces and Afghan soldiers clashed with "opponents of the government" in Nangarhar Province, official Afghanistan Television reported on 28 April. The clash followed a mine explosion and it "is said that the government's opponents used a passenger vehicle to defend themselves," leading to the injury of the passengers in the vehicle.
According to a 26 April report by AIP, one Afghan civilian was killed and two others were injured when U.S. soldiers fired on their vehicle after a U.S. military vehicle hit a mine in Nangarhar's Khogiani District.
The deputy security commander of Nangarhar, Amir Khan Lewal, told AIP that according to his reports "one civilian has been killed and three wounded." "We have no further details," he added. (Amin Tarzi)
28 AFGHANS KILLED WHEN HIDDEN ARMS DUMP EXPLODES.Twenty-eight Afghans died and more than 70 others were injured when an arms dump exploded in northern Afghanistan, AFP reported on 2 May. The blast, which erupted from a secret underground bunker, ripped apart an entire neighborhood in Bachgah, a village in northern Baghlan Province.
An area warlord had apparently hidden the arms to avoid having them confiscated as part of an ongoing disarmament campaign backed by the United Nations. "It was a dreadful, massive explosion," said Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lotfullah Mashal. "Lots of houses around the explosion site have been destroyed. The casualty toll from the explosion is 28 killed and more than 70 wounded." It was unclear whether the local warlord who controlled the weapons, Jalal-e-Bachgah, was killed in the explosion.
In a press release issued on 3 May, the Afghan Defense Ministry urged all regional commanders to surrender their ammunition to the Afghan National Army, Radio Afghanistan reported. The press release cited the 2 May explosion in Baghlan. (Marc Ricks and Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN DEFENSE MINISTER DISCUSSES MILITARY, SECURITY, AND DISARMAMENT.Speaking at a military parade on 28 April commemorating the 13th anniversary of the fall of the communist regime in Kabul, General Abdul Rahim Wardak said that the deployment of the Afghan National Army ground forces will be completed in 2006, Afghanistan Television reported.
In regard to regional and international threats, Afghanistan has decided to "establish and strengthen long-term strategic relations with the international community," Wardak said, without specifying what he meant by the international community.
Wardak added that the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process is 80 percent complete and it will be finished in June. According to Wardak, 95 percent of all heavy weapons have been collected from local militias. The DDR process is only being applied to officially recognized militia forces, not the multitude of armed groups that fall outside the scope of the process (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 April 2005). (Amin Tarzi)
TEMPORARY AFGHAN RADIO AND TV COMMISSION ESTABLISHED.Based on a decree by President Hamid Karzai and in accordance with Article 20 of the law on mass media, a temporary commission for national radio and television broadcasting has been established, Radio Afghanistan reported on 27 April.
The five-member commission is headed by Mohammad Musa Marufi, while its remaining members are: Mawlawi Mostafa Farahi Barakzai, Sajeda Milad, Hashem Esmat Elahi, and Jailani Shams. The media law stipulates that the commission "shall be established for better regulating of audio and visual media." According to the law, the commission can issue licenses and allocate frequencies to radio and television stations, issue "professional guidance to political parties" for using the airwaves, issue guidance to "owners of the electronic media; and monitor the "observation of the provisions" of the media law by the media. (For more on the Afghan media law, see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 2 July 2004.) (Amin Tarzi)
NEW GOVERNOR'S SELECTION COULD HINT AT COMPROMISE OVER NORTHWESTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE.Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appointed Enayatullah Enayat to be the new governor of Badghis Province, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 4 May. Enyat's appointment as the governor of Badghis could be a sign that General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is now in Kabul as chief of staff of the high command of the Afghan armed forces, is compromising with the central government. Enayat served as governor of Faryab Province, east of Badghis, until Dostum supporters drove him out of office in April 2004 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April 2004). At the time, Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali had accused Dostum of misusing the Afghan National Army by ordering it to intervene in Faryab. (Amin Tarzi)
AUTHORITIES BAN DOMESTIC FLIGHTS BY PRIVATE AFGHAN AIRLINE.The Afghan Transport Ministry has banned Kam Air's domestic operations, Tolu Television reported on 27 April. Feda Mohammad Fedawi, the airline's deputy director, told Tolu that there is no legal basis for banning Kam Air flights. "We have done nothing illegal and the matter has not been evaluated by a legal source," Fedawi added. The Transport Ministry has not commented on the ban. In February, a Kam Air flight originating in western Herat city crashed near Kabul, killing all aboard (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 February 2005). It is unclear whether the ban is related to that tragedy. Kam Air, Afghanistan's first privately owned airline, began operating in late 2003. (Amin Tarzi)
DAILY DISCUSSES AIDS AND AFGHANISTAN'S FAILURE TO TACKLE IT.According to recent reports, there are 36 known cases of AIDS in Afghanistan, the northern Afghan daily "Baztab" wrote on 4 May. While the number of people with AIDS is small in Afghanistan compared to other countries, "Baztab" wrote, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is "concerned" that relevant departments in Afghanistan "have forgotten" to take the fight against AIDS seriously. A UNDP staff member believes the relatively small number of AIDS cases means it is possible for Afghanistan to eliminate the disease before it spreads, according to the daily, which is based in Mazar-e Sharif. Moreover, "Baztab" reported, the UNDP is concerned that most Afghans know nothing about the HIV virus or AIDS. While most of the AIDS cases in Afghanistan involve drug addicts, there are reports that sexually transmitted AIDS cases have been recorded as well. In Afghan society, open discussions about sex are still taboo, and because AIDS is still regarded primarily as a sexually transmitted disease, there is little discussion of the issue. (Amin Tarzi)
ROMANIA SUSPENDS PATROLS IN AFGHANISTAN.The chief of staff of Romanian armed forces, Eugen Balan, said on 25 April that his country has suspended patrols in Afghanistan after the death of a soldier in a land-mine explosion, AFP reported (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 27 April 2005). "Romanian soldiers are authorized to participate in all other missions, except patrols," Balan told reporters in Bucharest. Neo-Taliban spokesman Mufti Latifullah Hakimi has claimed his group was responsible for the explosion. (Amin Tarzi)
TAJIK PRESIDENT VISITS AFGHANISTAN.President Imomali Rakhmonov arrived in Kabul on 27 April for his first official visit to Afghanistan, international news agencies reported. Rakhmonov met with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, and the two leaders signed a number of agreements on border cooperation, joint counternarcotics efforts, and power-distribution projects, Kabul-based Tolu Television reported on 27 April. Rakhmonov and Karzai agreed that their governments' officials will be able to travel visa-free between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. "Expanding relations between the two friendly and neighboring countries" was the most important topic between the two presidents, Rakhmonov said. Karzai and Rakhmonov also had a private meeting, Tajik Radio 1 reported on 27 April. (Amin Tarzi)
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY:27 April 1978 -- Members of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan gain power in a coup led by insurgents in the armed forces.
28 April 1992 -- Afghan mujahedin take Kabul and proclaim the Islamic State of Afghanistan as internal fighting begins.
1 May 2001 -- In its annual report on terrorism, the U.S. State Department accuses Pakistan of providing military support to the Taliban.
SOURCES: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan," Third Edition, by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).