April 2003 in Afghanistan
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2003 in Afghanistan. A list of notable incidents in Afghanistan during 2003
April 1: Speaking on Afghan television, the Information and Culture Minister, Makhdum Rahin, said that the country was making progress in encouraging an independent media. He also encouraged Afghanistan's young journalists to criticize the government and himself personally, when mistakes were made.
- In Islamabad, Shaukat Aziz announced that Pakistan would actively participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and undertake various development projects for the welfare of its people. Aziz said that a Pakistani private construction company has obtained a 25 million U.S. dollar contract to build a road link from Chaman to Kandahar and a 30 million US dollar sub-contract in other reconstruction projects.
- Afghan forces mounted an operation near Spinboldak against 50 to 60 suspected terrorists. Two government soldiers were killed and one wounded in the fighting. Seven suspected terrorists were captured.
- The UN extended a ban on travel for its staff in southern Afghanistan to give local authorities time to improve security in the area where a foreign aid worker was murdered a week earlier.
- The U.N. special investigator for human rights in Afghanistan, Kamal Hossain, told the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva that insufficient funding for Afghanistan could jeopardize the development of such groups as the army and police, which are important to ensure stability. He added that the absence of enough security forces would embolden warlords around the country to harass different ethnic tribes and to roll back educational opportunities for women and girls. To date, Afghanistan had received almost $2 billion out the $4.5 billion pledged by the international community.
- The humanitarian projects board of the U.S.-led coalition approved 19 assistance and reconstruction projects valued at $722,000. The projects included water improvement and the construction of medical clinics and schools in 10 provinces.
- Afghan militia soldiers (number about 250) and U.S.-led coalition plane-strikes killed eight suspected Taliban fighters in the Tor Ghar mountains near Spinboldak. One Afghan militia member was killed and three others were injured. Fifteen suspects were taken into custody. In the cleanup the soldiers found and confiscated light machine guns, bomb-making materials, improvised explosive devices, two trucks, two motorcycles and ammunition. More than 35,000 pounds of ordnance were dropped or fired from five types of aircraft — Harrier jets, B-1 bombers, A-10 Thunderbolts and helicopter gunships — on the rebel positions.
- Haji Gilani and his nephew were killed outside their home in Deh Rawood by six gunmen. According to witnesses, one of the gunmen was Mardan Khan, whose brother was a Taliban commander, but no arrests were made.
April 4: An Afghan agricultural department official Aibak announced that an international aid organization had sent experts to Samangan province to train hundreds of people in anti-locust measures and had supplied spraying equipment to eliminate the pest. Locusts were threatening the region's crops for a second year running.
April 5: Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai gave Taliban loyalists in his province 48 hours to leave Afghanistan. The warning came hours after his soldiers killed two Taliban fighters and captured seven others with bombs and ammunition near the town of Spinboldak.
- Afghan officials announced their forces had killed more than 50 suspected Taliban rebels in fighting in Badghis province, and captured Mullah Badar and Juma Khan.
April 6: Officials announced a U.N.-sponsored program to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate an estimated 100,000 fighters across Afghanistan over the next three years, starting in July. Former fighters would be provided with vocational training, employment opportunities and access to credit. Others would be given the chance to apply for positions in the national army. Funded by Japan, Canada, Britain and the U.S., the program has a three-year budget of $157 million.
- The United Nations removed a ban on the movement of U.N. personnel in southern Afghanistan, however the International Committee of the Red Cross, with 150 foreign workers in Afghanistan, suspended operations indefinitely. The U.N. ban had been imposed ten days earlier when Ricardo Munguia, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, was pulled out of his car and shot dead.
- The United Nations Children's Fund warned that millions of Afghan women and children continued to face major health and nutrition problems, with maternal and infant mortality in Afghanistan among the worst in the world. To day, Afghanistan's infant mortality rate was 165 per 1,000 live births, and its maternal mortality ratio was 1,600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In its report, UNICEF also said it had received 65 percent of its $35 million budget for Afghan programs in 2003 and called on donors to fill the shortage.
- Nearly 50 suspected Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan government checkpost in the Shingai district of Zabul province. Three Afghan government troops were wounded. The fighters fled after a brief gun battle, but government troops captured 20 of them a day later during raids on several villages in the region.
April 8: U.S. soldiers began a house-to-house for suspected Taliban in the Sangeen, Helmand province. The search focused on locating Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Akhtar Mohammed. Both had been reported in the area only a few weeks prior.
- Afghanistan's first computer networking class, consisting of six women and eleven men, graduated from the University of Kabul. The university's Networking Academy was jointly launched in October 2002 by the United Nations Development Programme and Cisco Systems.
- A major new operation, Resolute Strike, was launched in Helmand province, involving 500 soldiers as well as attack and assault helicopters.
- The fifth meeting of the Steering Committee on the Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistan gas pipelineproject opened in Manila, Philippines, where the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank sits.
April 9: Eleven Afghans were killed and one wounded when a stray U.S. laser-guided bomb hit a house on the outskirts of Shkin in Paktika province. The bomb was fired by U.S. Marine Corps AV-8 Harrier II air support that had been summoned by coalition forces in pursuit of two groups of five to 10 enemy personnel. The enemy attackers had attacked an Afghan military post checkpoint, wounding four government soldiers. Amnesty International promptly called for an investigation.
April 11: On a one-day visit from Doha, Qatar, Head of the U.S. Central Command General Tommy Franks visited the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Franks then traveled to Kabul to meet President Karzai and the U.S ambassador to Afghanistan.
- Authorities and humanitarian organizations began an emergency relief operation to assist over 200 vulnerable families affected by the April 10 earthquake in Yaka Baghi and Sag Baghi. Organizations participating in the relief operations included the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan, the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Relief International, Mercy Corps and the World Food Programme. Kabul Radio reported that the quake-hit families in the two villages were in poor condition. It quoted a local source as saying the villagers lacked shelter and needed urgent assistance from the government and international organisations working in Afghanistan.
April 12: A taxi packed with explosives exploded in Karwan Sarui, four miles east of Khost, killing four people who apparently were planning a terrorist attack. Two of the killed were unidentified Pakistani nationals a third was from Yemen. The fourth, the driver, was identified as Bacha Malkhui in one report and Zarat Khan in another report, a former intelligence officer for the deposed Taliban government. The blast destroyed a two-story home and injured a nearby woman.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross announced it had resumed most of its operations in Afghanistan after a two-week suspension following the murder of Ricardo Munguia. However, travel for ICRC employees outside many major cities remained off-limits, and, in remote areas considered insecure, some programs were postponed indefinitely or canceled. As a consequence of the heightened dangers, the ICRC also announced that it would its permanent expatriate staff in Afghanistan by about 25 people, to around 120. To date, the ICRC employed 1,500 Afghans.
- Zabul province officials announced that Orfeo Bartolini, an Italian tourist, had been shot to death, by suspected Taliban gunmen.
April 13: Mohammed Sharif Sherzai, a brother of Gul Agha Sherzai, the governor of Kandahar province, escaped unhurt from an assault by gunmen on motorcycles near the Pakistani border town of Chaman. However, a cousin and another relative, Qasim Khan, were killed and two Afghan guards were wounded. The gunmen escaped. Afghan border officials accused Pakistan of involvement.
- Afghan authorities brokered a cease-fire between the Hezb-e-Wahadat and Harakat-e-Islami parties in the town of Surk Deh in Samangan province. The fighting began April 10 and resulted in at least five deaths, including four civilians, one of whom was a 6-year-old child.
April 15: While driving to Mazari Sharif, Afghan Commander Shahi and two of his bodyguards were killed in an ambush in the Char Bolak area. Shahi had served for more than 15 years as a commander for General Abdul Rashid Dostum. The assailants were not caught, but it was alleged that they were members of the Jamiat-e-Islami group led by Ustad Atta Mohammad.
- UNICEF began a three-day polio immunization campaign aimed at reaching every child in under 5 years old Afghanistan. An estimated 30,000 vaccinators and volunteers from the Afghan Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and UNICEF were expected to administer two drops of oral polio vaccine to more than 6 million children.
- The International Organization for Migration announced that, due to factional fighting in the region that began in March, it was delaying the return of hundreds of internally displaced persons to Faryab province in Afghanistan.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced that the pace of repatriating Afghan refugees slowed due to the security situation.
April 16: NATO agreed to take command in August of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The decision came at the request of Germany and the Netherlands, the two nations leading ISAF at the time of the agreement. It was approved unanimously by all 19 NATO ambassadors. This marked first time in NATO's history that it took charge of a mission outside the north Atlantic area. Canada had originally been slated to take over ISAF in August.
- A blast damaged the UNICEF office in Jalalabad, but there were no casualties. The office was empty at the time. Security commander Haji Ajab Shah said the explosion appeared to have been caused by an improvised explosive device made from automatic rifle bullets.
- Over 100 Afghan and U.S. soldiers crossed into Pakistan along the Durand Line allegedly without realizing it to conduct a survey to supply water to tribesmen. They had been invited by a local tribal leader, but were forced to leave the area after Pakistan forces challenged them. Coalition forces claimed that no direct firing took place, but machine gun firing took place. Hundreds of troops were then deployed by Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan forces moved tanks, heavy weaponry and reinforcements to the area.
April 17: Afghan border forces clashed with alleged Pakistan militiamen who intruded into border village of Gulam Khan, south of the town of Khost. However, Pakistani officials denied that any of their militia had crossed the border, saying Afghan soldiers had merely traded fire with tribesmen living in the border region.
- Kabul Radio in Afghanistan said that Taliban Maulawi Mohammed Qalamuddin had been arrested by Afghan security agents and was being detained in Logar province.
- During Operation Carpathian Lightning, over two days, Romanian troops found three caches of weapons in two caves near the town of Qalat, Zabul Province. The caches included 3,000 107mm rockets, 250,000 rounds of 12.7mm machinegun ammunition, about 1,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition and other ammunition and mines.
April 18: Dana Rohrabacher, a senior member of the U.S. Congress foreign relations committee, met with rival faction leaders Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ustad Atta Mohammad in Mazari Sharif. After the meeting, Rohrabacher told the media that, if bloody ethnic feuds were to be resolved in Afghanistan, regional autonomy was essential.
- At least five people died from powerful floods that washed away houses in the Sha Gho valley of Helmand province, on the Shomali plain just north of Kabul. 25 others were missing, three of these children. 200 families were evacuated by helicopter due to flood waters.
April 19: The UN announced that it would not investigate two mass graves in Afghanistan containing hundreds of war victims unless international troops protect the operation. The graves may contain Taliban prisoners killed in the Dasht-i-Leili massacre of 2001 and victims of the Jaghalkani-i-Takhta Pul massacres of 1998.
April 20: An emergency meeting was held in Kabul at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with U.N.agencies and NGOs for the coordination of relief efforts for the 200 families displaced by flooding on April 18.
- In Afghanistan, a two-day national military meeting, that brought together regional commanders, government leaders and commanders of U.S.-led forces for the first time, came to a close.
April 21: The Rabia Balkhi Women's Hospital in Kabul reopened after the completion of a six-month renovation project supported by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Servicessecretary Tommy Thompson took part in the dedication.
- Afghan authorities announced that they had arrested five men on suspicion of murdering four foreign journalists at Tangi Abrishum on November 19, 2001.
- The Pakistan government announced that it had released 50 Afghan prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, a day before President Karzai was to arrive for meetings.
- The cabinet of President Karzai approved a law allowing cable television networks in Kabul to resume broadcasting programs. Cable broadcasts had been banned by the supreme court Chief Justice Mawlavi Fazl Hadi Shinwariearlier in the year for being obscene and un-Islamic.
- In a southern Afghan raid aimed at catching those responsible for the March 27 murder of Ricardo Munguia, U.S. special forces killing one man and detained seven others. Weapons were also seized by the U.S. forces.
April 22: The highest ranking Afghan officials, including President Karzai arrived Islamabad, Pakistan to discuss border disputes, terrorism, trade, and exchanges of prisoners. Tensions between the two nations had recently flared up along the ill-defined Durand line, each side accusing the other of intrusion. Many in the Afghan government still viewed Pakistan, which nurtured and supported the Taliban regime, with suspicion. Accusations had been made that Pakistan was harboring Taliban fugitives. Pakistan had concerns about Afghanistan's failure to fulfil promises in March to release up to 800 Pakistani prisoners. In the course of the day, Karzai met separately with Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali and President Pervez Musharraf.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that, to date, more than 19,000 Afghans had been processed through voluntary repatriation from Iran in 2003.
April 23: After a meeting in Islamabad, between Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, the two nations announced an agreement to hold political consultations twice a year in Islamabad and Kabul alternatively. The purpose of the meetings was to monitor progress in the promotion of bilateral cooperation and to take follow-up actions.
- During a joint meeting between Pakistani and Afghan Ministers at the finance ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan Finance minister Shaukat Aziz offered Afghanistan the chance to establish a free industrial zone near the Torkhum and Chaman border. Afghanistan identified over 3,000 projects and invited the private sector to invest in them.
- The U.S. military reported that "a handful" of the Afghan war prisoners held at Camp X-Ray in Guantánamo Bay, had been identified as juveniles and were separated from the adult prisoners.
- Using rockets and automatic weapons, rebel fighters attacked a government office in Chapan in Zabul province. Two Afghan soldiers and three assailants were killed in the four-hour shootout. Taliban forces seized the headquarters of the Deh-i-Chopan district of the province, capturing its officials, including Mohammad Nawab. Government forces then retook the district.
April 24: A spokesman for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that they are investigating whether the unidentified illness killing off Afghanistan's sheep population was Foot and mouth disease, pasteurellosis or goat plague. The fatality rate of newborn lambs in the country was over 80%.
- Yunis Qanuni, the Afghan Minister of Education, appealed for donors to provide more funds for schools. To date, the ministry had received US$86 million in 2003, leaving the budget short US$114 million.
April 25: At Shkin, in Paktika province, near the Pakistani border, two U.S. soldiers were killed and several other U.S. and Afghan soldiers were wounded in a clash with unknown attackers. The U.S. estimated that at least three of the attackers were killed. Two F-16 Fighting Falcons, two USAF A-10 Thunderbolt tankbusters and two AH-64 Apache attack helicopters responded. Two days later, two rebel corpses were discovered near the site. One of the U.S. soldiers killed was identified as Airman first class Raymond Losano and PFC Jerod Dennis Bco 3/504 PIR.
- In Kabul, the Irish Club shut itself down after warnings that it could be the target of a terror attack. The nightclub had originally opened on March 17. It was frequented by aid workers, diplomats and journalists. Afghans were not allowed to patronize the club because the sale of alcohol was against the law.
April 26: In an operation launched April 24, U.S. and Afghan forces arrested several Taliban suspects near Spin Boldak.
April 27: U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld postponed a scheduled visit to Afghanistan, where he was to meet with Afghan leaders and coalition troops.
- In a statement released to the Afghan Islamic Press, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said the U.S.-led war on Iraq triggered widespread Islamic hatred toward the U.S. that will be hard to wipe out. He also said the U.S. victory in Iraq was the start of U.S. attempts to control the entire Middle East.
- The United Nations and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission accused fighters in Badghis province of violating human rights during clashes in March between rebel forces and soldiers loyal to the local governor, Gul Mohammed Khan. The human rights delegation confirmed that at least 38 civilians, including three women and 12 children, were killed as homes and shops were looted in Akazi. In the same area, local forces pursuing Juma Khan, executed 26 prisoners whose hand were tied behind their backs.
- Amnesty International condemned a British decision to forcibly return a group of asylum-seekers to Afghanistan. An Amnesty International mission earlier in April concluded that conditions were still not conducive to the promotion of voluntary and forced returns.
- A three-day teleconference began between Afghan officials and the U.S. regarding markets for Afghan goods, the Generalized System of Preferences, rules of origin requirements, and tariffs.
- Under a voluntary repatriation program facilitated by the U.N. refugee agency, thirty-nine Afghan Turkmen families headed home from Attock, Pakistan.
- A Belgian court opened and immediately adjourned the trial of 12 suspects linked to the September 9, 2001 murder of Afghan rebel Ahmad Shah Masood. The presiding judge ruled that the trial would resume May 22. Also, President Karzai appointed a commission to track down those who ordered the murder. Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali was named to lead the commission.
- U.S. Maj. Gen. John Vines, commander of 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan, handed control of combat missions to Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, the overall commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan. Vines stated "I think there are renegade elements in Iran who have an interest in controlling a portion of Afghanistan....I think there are elements in Pakistan — not the government — that have an interest in creating instability....In certain parts, the country is stable. In other parts, it's terribly dangerous....That has not changed and that probably won't change in the foreseeable future....If you had to design an area to support an anti-government movement, you might describe an area like this....Multiple borders, extreme distances, lack of road infrastructure, high mountains, weak central government, areas where there are religious or tribal (conflicts)....It applies absolutely right here."
April 30: Pakistani officials announced they had apprehended six al-Qaeda suspects in Karachi, Pakistan. One of the men, Waleed bin Attash (aka Khalid al-Attash), was a Yemeni national wanted in connection with the USS Cole bombing. The other five suspects were Pakistanis. The six suspects were allegedly planning to carry out a series of terrorist attacks in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan.
- Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali inaugurated an Afghan Human Rights Department aimed at curbing abuses by Afghan police forces. As a branch of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the department opened offices across the country.
- Dr. Abdullah Shirzai, the policy director of the Afghan Health Ministry, said that the Afghan government would take steps to reduce maternal and child mortality in the country. To date, 16 women in every 1,000 pregnancies died, and one child in four died before the age of five. Such rates were said to be among the worst in human history. The ministry planned to employ more than 20,000 health workers, mostly women nurses and midwives, over the span of a year.
- "'Taleban setback' in Afghanistan". BBC News. 4 April 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Blau, Justine (7 April 2003). "Ally of Afghan President Assassinated". CBS News. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- "US bomb kills Afghan civilians". BBC News. 9 April 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Vries, Lloyd (25 April 2003). "U.S. 'Miss' Hits Afghan Civilians". CBS News. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Davis, Catherine (20 April 2003). "Flash floods hit Afghanistan". BBC News. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
- Burkeman, Oliver (24 April 2003). "Children held at Guantanamo Bay". The Guardian (London, England). Retrieved 19 December 2013.