Aggregated News about Afghanistan

August 3, 2015 — Pictures of the Day

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 22:38
Photos from Russia, Libya, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

TOLOnews 6pm News 03 August 2015

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 16:02

Top news in this Bulletin:

Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday said that news of the death of the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has raised numerous questions, particularly in relation to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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First Vice-President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum on Monday arrived in Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, and called on residents to support security forces who he said would soon clear the province of anti-government insurgent groups.

Mullah Omar's Son Yaqub Reportedly Killed: Official

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 15:59

Afghanistan's first deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) Zahir Qadir on Monday said that Mullah Omar's son, Mullah Yaqub, was killed last week in Quetta, Pakistan.

According to him, Mullah Yaqub, who had hoped to succeed his father as leader of the Taliban, was killed while at a meeting in the city four days ago (Thursday).

"We were told about Mullah Omar's death two years back and now his son Mullah Yaqub who was 21 or 22 years old was trying to be appointed as his father's successor. But Mullah Mansour also tried to become leader of the Taliban, therefore it is said that he was killed some days back," Qadir told TOLOnews.

"The opposing Taliban and Pakistan had a hand in killing Mullah Yaqub. The reality will be made clear soon," he said.

In addition to this, Afghan security sources told TOLOnews late Monday that in the past 24 hours three clashes between Taliban factions have been reported in Quetta city in Pakistan.

One attack was on a convoy transporting newly appointed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour's deputy, the source said.

A source said that Maulvi Haibatullah Noorzai, Mullah Mansour's deputy, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on his convoy by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan's Baluchistan province.

The source wishing anonymity said that former Nangarhar governor and Taliban head of the central committee, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, was also in the convoy.

Unidentified persons mounted the attack on the convoy on the outskirts of Chaman area in Pakistan, the source said, adding Haibatullah and Maulvi Abdul Kabir escaped unhurt but three other Taliban leaders were wounded in the attack.

The top Taliban leaders were in the locality to garner support for Mullah Mansour from local clerics when they came under attack.

Chaman is the hometown of Mullah Abdul Razzaq who has opposed Mullah Mansour's nomination as Taliban leader. Mullah Mansour has been appointed as Mullah Omar's successor.

Two other attacks also occurred between Taliban factions in the past two days. Both were carried out on houses in Quetta city but it is unclear who the residents are or whether any casualties were reported.

The news of Mullah Yaqub's death however comes just days after he and his uncle Abdul Manan, Mullah Omar's younger brother, were reportedly among more than a dozen Taliban figures who walked out of Wednesday's leadership meeting held in Quetta.

It was at this meeting that the Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the group's new leader.

Reuters reported that the display of dissent within the group's secretive core is the clearest sign yet of the challenge Mansour faces in uniting a group already split over whether to pursue peace talks with the Afghan government and facing a new, external threat, Islamic State.

Rifts in the Taliban leadership could widen after confirmation of the death of Mullah Omar.

Mansour, Mullah Omar's longtime deputy who has been effectively in charge for years, favors talks to bring an end to more than 13 years of war. He recently sent a delegation to inaugural meetings with Afghan officials hosted by Pakistan, hailed as a breakthrough.

But Mansour, 50, has powerful rivals within the Taliban who oppose negotiations and have been pushing for Mullah Omar's son Yaqub to take over the movement.

"Actually, it wasn't a Taliban Leadership Council meeting. Mansour had invited only members of his group to pave the way for his election," said one of the sources, a senior member of Taliban in Quetta. "And when Yaqub and Manan noticed this, they left the meeting."

Among those opposing Mansour's leadership are Mullah Mohammad Rasool and Mullah Hasan Rahmani, two influential Taliban figures with their own power bases who back Yaqub.

U.S to Provide $800 Million in Aid to Afghanistan

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 15:55

The US ambassador to Afghanistan Michael McKinley said on Monday that the U.S will provide $800 million USD to Afghanistan in aid within the framework of a new development partnership between the two countries.

On Monday the US diplomat signed a memorandum of understanding with Afghanistan that states that from the total amount, $100 million USD will go towards reconstruction. The money will be spent in consultation with the World Bank (WB) and in line with Afghanistan's development budget.

The Afghan Minister of Finance Eklil Ahmad Hakimi said that on the basis of the new development partnership, the US funding will be conditional and the government of Afghanistan has to consider some key programs such as the establishment of good governance, maintaining financial stability and poverty alleviation efforts in order to be given the funds.

The aid package will be paid out over four years.

"The U.S aid package is conditional and covers five areas on the basis of which we can get the rest of the money. This will be a bilateral accountability process for the allocation of the funds. This also covers better utilization of the funds on which both sides have consensus and agreement," Hakimi said.

The U.S ambassador meanwhile said the start of the funding package within the new framework is the start of a new chapter in bilateral cooperation between the two nations.

"This new development partnership represents a fundamental transformation in the nature of development cooperation between our two countries. Today as we commit ourselves to achieving specific development and reform objectives I am confident we have shared values and interests," U.S ambassador Michael McKinley said.

From the $800 million financial package, the U.S will provide $200 million to Afghanistan on an annual basis and the money will be spent on priority programs.

Concerns Increase Over High Civilian Toll

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 15:53

The Afghan Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Wednesday raised concerns about the increased level of violence and the spike in civilian casualties recorded so far this year.

On the basis of AIHRC findings, armed oppositions are responsible for more than 70 per cent of civilian casualties, which has increased dramatically, in the country.

The Independent Human Rights Commission meanwhile said that civilian casualties have increased sharply in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year. They say there is a 30 percent increase in civilian casualties.

"Civilian casualty [toll] is catastrophic. In the past six months more than 3,000 civilians were killed and wounded in the country, which shows a 30 percent increase compared to last year. Many of them were children and women," said AIHRC spokesman Rafiullah Bedar.

Hostage-taking, domestic abuse and torture of prisoners of war and an increase in homeless people are also areas of concern, they said.

The Human Rights Commission adds that groups involved in the war have violated humanitarian laws of war and are continuing to attack public places.

"According to the report 75 per cent of civilian casualties were attributed to armed opposition attacks, 3.7 percent attributed to pro-government forces and 16 percent of civilians were killed or injured by unknown people," Bedar added.

Meanwhile, many families who have lost children in insurgent attacks have appealed to organizations working for peace to help stop attacks carried out in public places.

The recent AIHRC findings show that civilians in Helmand, Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Faryab and Kunduz provinces are particularly at risk.

The Human Rights Commission's findings are inline with UNAMA's last report, in June, that noted 978 Afghan civilians had been killed and over 1, 900 wounded in the Afghan conflict in the first four months of the year.

CM Approves Test Rollout of Digital IDs

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:51

Afghanistan's Council of Ministers (CM) on Monday approved a phased roll out plan of digital national identity cards.

The distribution process is now scheduled to launch on August 19 in Kabul.

The department undertaking the distribution of the digital IDs in the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has announced that they have made all necessary arrangements to initiate the distribution process as swiftly as possible.

"We strongly support the decision of the Council of Ministers for the approval of our plan to launch digital ID distribution. We are ready to start the process," head of electronic ID distribution department Humayoun Muhtat said.

Based on the CM decision, the first phase will see 369,000 Kabul residents being issued IDs within three months.

"The Council of Ministers has approved a plan today ... for the roll out of electronic ID cards that will be launched in Kabul in the first phase. This will be extended to other provinces later," Mujiburrahman Rahimi, a spokesman for the Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said on Monday.

Digital IDs are expected to be distributed within the framework of the law of the country and ethnicity will not be included on the ID cards.

The description of holders will be included in the database of the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

"In line with the decision of the Council of Ministers regarding electronic ID distribution, the decisions which are made by the National Assembly will be implemented in the census law and the description of the holder will be registered," Rahimi further said.

This comes after USAID cut aid to the digital ID department over persistent delays in launching the plan. Recently, the European Union (EU) also warned that it would stop aid if the distribution process was not initiated as soon as possible.

Taliban Holds Prayer Ceremony for Mullah Omar in Ghazni

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:41

Five Taliban members were killed when a gun fight broke out at a mosque in Ghazni province where over 3,000 people had gathered to mourn the death of the Taliban's former leader Mullah Omar, said officials.

Not only did Taliban members present chant anti-government slogans but they also forced thousands of locals to attend, said officials.

The Interior Ministry confirmed this and said Mullah Omar was responsible for untold bloodshed and crimes in Afghanistan and those who participate in such ceremonies are party to these crimes.

Taliban insurgents reportedly collected money from Ghazni residents to cover the costs of the ceremony and made each person bring bread. The prayer ceremony was held in the Qarabaghi area – 15 kms from Ghazni city.

It is believed that Taliban commanders wanted to use the opportunity to speak out against government but security forces were reportedly deployed to prevent this from happening. While trying to break up the ceremony, Taliban insurgents opened fire on security forces and a gun fight ensued. Five Taliban members were killed and more than 10 injured. Other insurgents, including their commanders who were present, then fled the area, said officials.

Ghazni deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, told TOLOnews that all security forces have been directed to act against anyone who wants to hold a prayer ceremony for Mullah Omar. . "Taliban had planned to hold a prayer ceremony for Mullah Omar in Qarabaghi area of Ghazni with the participation of at least 3,000 people, but when the security forces were informed of the issue, they went to the area. The Taliban escaped after five of them were killed and others were wounded in a gunfight with security forces," he added.

The Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs has not commented on the use of mosques for such prayer ceremonies but Iqbal Kohistani, a member of the Security Commission in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) said: "The government should seriously probe the issue and those who speak against the system and aganst the hopes and dreams of people, in mosques should be arrested."
"This issue that they try to hold anti-government speeches in mosques can prove very dangerous," he added.

Hazrat Shahzada Mujaddidi, a religious scholar said however that: "Islam is the religion of peace, love and cleanliness. Those who try to create horror have no awareness about religion."

"The Ulema Council should assess the issue."

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi said a large number of people have been killed by the Taliban on the orders of Mullah Omar, therefore holding a prayer ceremony for him is not acceptable.

"Using our mosques for a prayer ceremony for Mullah Omar is not acceptable for us, because Mullah Omar was the one who committed big crimes against our people, and those who participate in such ceremonies and pray for Mullah Omar, are obvious to us and are part of the crime," Sediqqi said.

Such ceremonies were held in the past regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden. Security officials however, believe that such acts are organized by the groups that have always struggled to destabilize Afghanistan.

Gen. Dostum Visits Faryab, Calls on Locals to Support Troops

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 14:20

First Vice-President Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum on Monday arrived in Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, and called on residents to support security forces who he said would soon clear the province of anti-government insurgent groups.

"You people had more than half a million votes in the presidential election and we are addressing your problems. Once I secure Faryab province and dispel the armed oppositions, and when I go back to Kabul, I will discuss your problems with the Security Council," said Dostum.

Meanwhile Dostum said he is taking Faryab's security problems seriously and acknowledged that residents have criticized government.

"Yes your criticisms are right for the government and the insecurities have spread in the province and we will solve your problems and soon you will see your problems are solved," he said.

Dostum visited the insecure Qisar district of Faryab under heavy protection – protection that included land-based security and air support.

Faryab province has witnessed several heavy battles these past few week and insurgent activity has reached an all-time high in the area. As a result, many parts of the province have collapsed to the Taliban.

But Dostum's visit comes at a time when ongoing clashes rage across the northern parts of Afghanistan – battles many claim are being led by foreign insurgents. But Dostum said that a new push by Afghan security forces would help to stabilize the region.

Previously, Dostum issued an ultimatum to Taliban militants in Faryab province, warning them that they would have two days to either join the government or face serious repercussions. On Sunday he said government forces are ready to confront the militants with full force.

Mullah Omar's Death Raises Many Questions: Abdullah

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 13:54

Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Sunday said that news of the death of the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has raised numerous questions, particularly in relation to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Abdullah questioned the context of the war and raised the question of who the Taliban contingent represent in the peace talks.

His death "has created lots of questions in Afghanistan and the world such as under which name the war is going on? And who do the Taliban represent in the peace talks," Abdullah asked.

However, some political analysts have criticized government's silence on Mullah Omar's death and say they should have used this as an opportunity, especially in terms of putting pressure on Pakistan.

They said that in the absence of President Ashraf Ghani, who is recovering from foot surgery in Germany, no one has the authority to take a stance on such issues – even matters as important as this.

"The government's political silence about Mullah Omar's death reveals that Kabul still follows the decisive policies of Pakistan," said Aziz Rafiye, head of Afghanistan Civil Society Forum (ACSF).

"On one hand, the Presidential Palace is on vacation, in the absence of President Ghani, while on the other, Afghanistan's politicians, by remaining silent about Mullah Omar's death, proved their inefficiency towards the people of this country," said Rafiye.

The analysts also believe that on the back of confirmation of Mullah Omar's death, the government could clearly put Islamabad under pressure to stop supporting insurgent groups.

Meanwhile, on Sunday a senior Afghan government official told TOLOnews that Mullah Omar's death two years ago had not been a secret and that the CIA and the NDS had both known about it.

The government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that it had also been the Taliban who broke the news on Wednesday. He said the reason for this was that there had been an internal dispute among the Taliban over who would have the final say with regards to peace talks.

The news of the Taliban leader's death came only two days before the second round of peace talks were scheduled to take place in Pakistan. On Thursday, the day before the talks were to start, the Taliban reportedly requested a postponement.

NDS Thwarts Presidential Palace Attack, Arrest 4 Suicide Bombers

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 12:00

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Monday thwarted an attack on the Presidential Palace after they arrested four suicide bombers in Kabul city.

According to NDS officials, the four suspected Taliban insurgents were all wearing explosive-laden vests and carried firearms.

They were arrested in PD8 in the city.

Aid Groups Threaten To Cut ID Card Funding

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 09:18

After continued delays in the roll out of the Electronic National Identity Cards (e-NIC) program, a number of aid organizations on Saturday warned the Afghan government to clarify their plan for launching it within the next 15 days or face cuts in funding.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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Chairman of the e-NIC Department, Humayun Muhtat, said all preparations have been made, but that the identity cards' issuance has been delayed on account of political issues.

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the topic with the following gests:

• Abdul Qadirzazai Watandost, MP
• Yassen Habib, Advisor to CEO
• Yousuf Rasheed, Executive Director at Free & Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA)
• Humayun Muhtat, Chairman of the e-NIC Department

 

Former Jihadi Leader Among 7 Dead in Samangan Clash

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 08:59

A former jihadi leader and four of his fighters died in a clash with Taliban insurgents in northern Samangan province on Sunday, local officials said.

Three insurgents also died in the battle.

The incident took place after a number of insurgents attacked Damullah Karim, the former jihadi leader's house, a spokesman for Provincial Governor, Mohammad Sediq Azizi said on Monday.

"In the clash, Qari Damullah Shamshad, Taliban district governor in Roy Do Aab, Mawlawi Bozorg, Taliban district governor for Dara-e-Sof and Nematullah, Taliban commander in Dara-e-Sof were also killed in the clash with the jihadi leader," he said.

The reason behind the clash is not yet clear, said officials.

The incident happened in Zeraki village – which was the scene of last month's clash between police and insurgents – where five local policemen died.

The Taliban has yet to comment on the incident.

Ghani Reviews Security Via Video With Key Officials

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 08:33

President Ashraf Ghani, who is in Germany after having had surgery on his foot, on Sunday reviewed the country's security situation via a video link conference with security officials in Afghanistan, officials said.

In a statement issued by Ghani's office, government said the president has once again emphasized the need to secure a better future for the people of Afghanistan and that "the final target of the National Unity Government (NUG) is peace with dignity in the country".

Ghani is also reportedly in contact with Pakistan government officials over security and stability in both countries and on the matter of peace will "leave no stone unturned in this regard", read the statement.

The statement added that Ghani also praised the security forces for their continued efforts to fight insurgents.

Presidential Palace sources also said Sunday that Ghani is recovering well following foot surgery.

According to them, the surgery was a success.

Ghani reportedly traveled to Germany last week and was accompanied by his personal physician. A senior government official said Ghani will return to Afghanistan on Thursday.

He injured his foot a few weeks ago while attending an event to mark World Olympics Day.

20 People Feared Dead in India Landslide

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 06:05

Rescuers were searching Sunday for 20 villagers feared killed in a landslide in remote northeast India, as the death toll from days of torrential rains elsewhere in the country rose, officials said.

The side of a hill collapsed on Saturday on a village in Manipur state close to the border with Mynamar where monsoon downpours there have also triggered landslides and flooding.

Local magistrate Memi Mary said a handful of rescuers reached the village by trekking on foot after blocked roads hampered efforts to reach the site, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Manipur capital Imphal.

"So far we have reports of 20 people killed when a hillock caved and trapped the villagers," the magistrate told AFP by telephone from the nearby town of Chandel.

Photos showed a bridge washed away by floodwaters in Manipur, while TV stations showed footage of a house collapsing and families sleeping in make-shift evacuation centres.

The national government has ordered rescue and relief teams be sent to the state as the annual monsoon wreaks havoc across the region.

In West Bengal, some 42 people have been killed in the last week from flooding, while some 250,000 homes have been destroyed, state disaster management minister Javed Ahmad Khan said.

"The situation is going to worsen. All rivers are flowing above their danger marks," Khan told AFP.

The flooding in West Bengal has spiked in recent days after the remnants of Cyclone Komen swept across the state from the Bay of Bengal.

In the far western state of Gujarat, the death toll from floods has reached 53, after more drownings, electrocutions and other incidents.

More than 10,000 people have been evacuated across Gujarat in the past week. But officials said waters were now receding, allowing power and communications to be restored.

"The death toll has reached 53 since July 26 with 23 deaths in the worst-affected Banaskantha district alone," an official in the state's emergency control room told AFP.

The monsoon, vital for South Asia including for crop production, routinely brings flooding and destruction. India receives nearly 80 percent of its annual rainfall from June to September.

Talking to the Taliban

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 05:00
Fledgling peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have been postponed indefinitely.

Taliban's New Leader Rejects Peace Talks

TOLO News - Mon, 08/03/2015 - 04:27

While Taliban's new leader rejects the peace negotiation talks, the commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan says that the Taliban is losing its battle.

To watch the program, click here:

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Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the new leader of the Taliban has called for unity among its members in an audio message, saying that the group will continue fighting.

This comes after Mullah Mansour's appointment caused a backlash from within the group as top Taliban officials rejected the move.

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siavash discusses the topic with the following guests,

• Sher Mohammad Askhundzada, member of the Senate House
• Abbas Ibrahimzada, MP

NDS and CIA Knew Mullah Omar Was Dead: Official

TOLO News - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 17:56

A senior Afghan government official told TOLOnews on Sunday that not only did the CIA and the NDS know Mullah Omar was dead but that the Taliban themselves broke the news on Wednesday because of a dispute over who would have the final say with regards to peace talks.

The news of the Taliban leader's death came only two days before the second round of peace talks were scheduled to take place in Pakistan. On Wednesday afternoon the news broke that the elusive one-eyed leader had died in April 2013 in a Karachi hospital. By Wednesday evening the Taliban confirmed the reports.

However, Friday, July 31, had been the scheduled date for peace talks but on Thursday, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the peace talks had been postponed at the request of the Taliban.

According to the government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mullah Omar's death had not been a secret. He said both Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the United State's CIA knew about the Taliban leader's death but that they had not had any proof to support the claims.

On the issue of peace talks, the source said that Taliban political leaders are in support of the initiative but that militia commanders are opposed to the move. He said that Taliban commanders who have been fighting for money are the ones opposed to peace.

According to him, the peace process strategy so far has been successful as it has led to a situation whereby Pakistan cannot distance itself from the Taliban - especially as the group has now become quite fragmented.

In conclusion, he said that if peace talks fail, Pakistan will have to respond to an eight-point letter sent to them by President Ashraf Ghani which, among other things, points out that Pakistan called Afghanistan's enemy an enemy of its own along with its assurance that it would stop offering Afghanistan's enemies a safe haven.

Meanwhile, a number of former Taliban members and religious leaders gathered on Saturday to mourn the death of Mullah Omar.

Details surrounding his death however remain sketchy but one of his son's claims he was murdered.

"His son claims he was murdered, but some others say he died at a hospital," Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) member Qazi Habibullah Fawzi said on Saturday.

On Friday, Mullah Akhter Mansour was named as successor - a move that has caused some backlash, in turn exposing major factional divisions within the group's ranks.

The Quetta Shura and Taliban commanders have rejected Mansour as leader, claiming they hadn't been consulted. They say it was a Pakistan appointment.

The Taliban however released a thirty-minute long audio tape of Mullah Akhter Mansour calling on members to stand united. This was released over the weekend following the announcement of his appointment.

In the tape, Mansour warns that those who try to exploit the Taliban's current vacuum of power will face severe punishment.

TOLOnews 6pm News 02 August 2015

TOLO News - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 17:11

Top news in this Bulletin:

Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, the acting minister of defense said on Sunday that the Taliban has been deceived in their war against Afghanistan. Speaking at a graduation ceremony of 400 ANA officers at Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), Stanekzai asked the Taliban "how can they trust those who deceived them".

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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 Officials from Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday announced that a sharp spike in traffic accidents was recorded in the first three months of this year. Wahidullah Mayar, a MoPH spokesman said that the total number of accidents reported in Afghanistan last year was 4290. "But in the first three months of this year we recorded 6,720 accidents [countrywide]," he said.

Sharp Spike Recorded in Traffic Accidents: MoPH

TOLO News - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 16:50

Officials from Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday announced that a sharp spike in traffic accidents was recorded in the first three months of this year.

Wahidullah Mayar, a MoPH spokesman said that the total number of accidents reported in Afghanistan last year was 4290. "But in the first three months of this year we recorded 6,720 accidents [countrywide]," he said.

Meanwhile, the head of Kabul Traffic Department Assadullah would not give out exact figures on casualties as a result of traffic accidents but said that they had dropped by 10 percent against recent years.

MoPH officials said that the reason for accidents was due to a number of factors including the violation of traffic rules and regulations, narrow roads, the absence of traffic police on roads at night, nonexistence of traffic sign boards and carelessness of drivers.

Ministry officials say this results in the deaths of scores of people annually. They say war claims the most lives in the country each year but that road accidents account for the second highest toll.

But the public also blame speed and say that too often motorists simply drive too fast on highways – especially if under the influence of drugs.

"Drivers use drugs and drive at full speed. This causes accidents and kills people," a passenger, who lost eight members of his family in a traffic accident, said on Sunday.

Motorists have however raised the issue of traffic control on highways and say that traffic department officials do not monitor speed.

"We do not use drugs and if we ride slowly then the passengers criticize us. Robbers exist alongside the highway and we do not have other options except to drive at full speed to keep passengers safe," one driver said.

Another cause for concern is the number of heavy trucks on highways – trucks used to transport goods around the country. Some analysts feel that the establishment of a railway system to transport goods would cut down on the number of trucks and help reduce road accident fatalities.

UNESCO Criticizes Construction Near Bamiyan Cultural Heritage Site

TOLO News - Sun, 08/02/2015 - 16:47

The UNESCO has said that construction near Bamiyan's cultural and historical sites can undermine the future of the province's ancient legacy and cultural feature.

In a letter to the Afghan government, UNESCO has called for the stoppage of the construction process near Bamiyan cultural sites.

Meanwhile, the ministry of information and culture has said that the lack of public cooperation has been the main concern of UNESCO regarding the issue.

UNESCO has said that agricultural development in the area can pose major harm to the cultural heritage of the province.

"We have also demanded them to cooperate with the ministry of information and culture to protect Bamiyan hisotircal monuments. Now whenever we dispatch a letter to the provincial authorities, this their responsibility to address our demand and help us in prevention usurpations near the historical sites," deputy minister of information and culture Syed Musaddiq Khalili said.

Bamiyan MPs in parliament have said that local land owners with the permission of local authorities have resorted to agricultural development near the historical sites which has undermined Bamiyan cultural feature.

"Despite the warnings, they have extended the master plan on the site where constructions weren't supposed to be implemented. Houses are being made practically day and night and also huge amount of money is allocated for this purpose. Regrettably nor the central government neither the local government have ignored the warning made by the UNESCO. International smugglers also maintain their own contributions," BamiyanMP Fakoor Behishti said.

"Partial and limited constructions have been conducted in the area during the nighttime or holidays and away from the monitoring of the security forces. But we firmly dealt with the issue and prevented the construction process. We are still determined to save the historical monuments and the red areas," Bamiyan governor Tahir Zuhair said.

This comes at a time that few months back Bamiyanwas announced as SAARC cultural capital for 2015.

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