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  • March 14, 2011 -- A suicide attack on an army recruitment centre in northern Afghanistan has killed 37 people. It was the third major assault in the area in less than a month, the deputy governor said. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the militant Islamist group. Dozens more were wounded, according to officials. A Reuters witness heard gunfire in the area after the attack but Hamdullah Danishi, the deputy governor of Kunduz province, said the casualties were all caused by a single suicide bomber. "The death toll includes new recruits, army soldiers and civilians," Danishi told Reuters. A doctor in the Kunduz provincial hospital said 33 bodies had been brought in. Violence is spreading fast in the once relatively peaceful north, with Kunduz a particular focus for insurgents. The Kunduz police chief was killed last week by a suicide bomber while out on patrol in the city. In late February, another suicide bomber killed at least 30 people in a government office while people were queueing to collect identity cards in the Emam Saheb district. The previous governor of the province was killed in an attack on a mosque where he was worshipping last October. Kunduz has become established as a base for insurgents over the past two years, with attacks spreading into surrounding provinces, while NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) offensives have been concentrated in Taliban strongholds in the south and east. ISAF said it was investigating reports of the latest attack in Kunduz. In 2010, violence across Afghanistan hit its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001, despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops. It has been rising this year even before an expected spring offensive against insurgents.

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        • Lundi 21 Mars 2011 -- L'armée américaine s'est excusée officiellement lundi "pour la souffrance" provoquée par des photos montrant des exactions qui auraient été commises par des soldats américains en Afghanistan. "Nous présentons nos excuses pour la souffrance que provoquent ces photos", a indiqué l'armée dans un communiqué. L'hebdomadaire allemand Der Spiegel a publié lundi trois photos à charge contre des soldats américains accusés d'exactions en Afghanistan, dont il affirme que le Pentagone voulait empêcher la publication.

          Sur deux des clichés, deux soldats américains se tiennent à côté d'un cadavre qui serait celui d'un civil assassiné délibérement par leur unité et lui tirent la tête par les cheveux, comme un trophée. Une douzaine de soldats de cette unité ont été poursuivis par la justice militaire et cinq d'entre eux doivent passer en cour martiale, selon le journal. Selon l'accusation, les cinq soldats auraient organisé pour s'amuser le meurtre de trois civils afghans entre janvier et mai 2010, pendant leur déploiement dans la province de Kandahar (sud), et auraient, pour certains d'entre eux, démembré des corps, conservé des parties de cadavres et pris des photos aux côtés des dépouilles. Une troisième photo montre les cadavres de deux victimes, assises dos à dos, devant un blindé. Selon l'hebdomadaire, elle était en possession d'un des accusés.

          Les agissements montrés sur ces photos "nous répugnent en tant qu'êtres humains et sont contraires aux principes et aux valeurs de l'armée des Etats-Unis", ajoute l'armée dans son communiqué. Ces actions font l'objet d'une enquête et une procédure est en cours devant une cour martiale, confirme le texte. "La procédure de la cour martiale est assez parlante", indique l'armée. "Les photos semblent en forte contradiction avec la discipline, le professionnalisme et le respect qui ont caractérisé (l'action) de nos soldats pendant près de dix ans d'opérations" en Afghanistan.

          Der Spiegel affirme que le Pentagone a tout fait pour éviter le publication des photos, craignant qu'elle ait le même effet que les photos prises par les gardiens américains de la prison d'Abou Ghraib, en Irak, qui torturaient et humiliaient leurs prisonniers pour le plaisir. "Nous n'en publions qu'une infime partie, trois sur quelque 4.000 photos et videos, juste ce qui est indispensable pour raconter l'histoire d'une guerre qui a commencé avec les meilleures intentions, qui devait chasser les terroristes d'Al-Qaida d'Afghanistan, qui était autorisée par un mandat de l'ONU, mais qui est depuis longtemps devenue une autre guerre", écrit le magazine.

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                        • April 1, 2011 -- The UN mission in Afghanistan has been thrown into a deep crisis after a furious mob of protesters killed and wounded a number of its staff in one of the country's most peaceful cities. One police source in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif claimed at least eight foreign UN employees were killed after a demonstration in the thriving commercial hub turned violent. Other officials reported different figures. Provincial police spokesman Sherjan Durrani said the demonstrators poured out of mosques in the city in the early afternoon, shortly after Friday prayers where worshippers had been angered by reports that a Florida pastor had burned a copy of the Qur'an. Last year Terry Jones, a US fundamentalist Christian leader, did threaten to burn copies of the Muslim holy book. He backed down after warnings that Islamic opinion around the world could be inflamed and the lives of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq endangered. But on 21 March Wayne Sapp set light to a Qur'an with Jones standing by.

                          Durrani said that while most protesters were peaceful, others were seeking targets to attack, including shops and the UN compound. Whatever the final death toll, the incident is seen as a disaster for the UN, coming just over a week after the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, announced that Mazar-e-Sharif would be one of the first areas of the wartorn country to be transferred from NATO to Afghan government security control. If the number of UN staff killed is high, the organisation will be obliged to consider closing down or dramatically reducing all its operations in the country – something it came perilously close to doing in late 2009 when an attack on a UN guesthouse in Kabul killed five staff. The UN has already issued a "white city" order, which forces all staff in the country into lockdown in their compounds. Earlier in the day hundreds of Afghans marched on the U.S. embassy in Kabul. In a statement the UN confirmed that some of its staff members had been killed. "The situation is still confusing and we are currently working to ascertain all the facts and take care of all our staff. The special representative of the secretary general, Staffan de Mistura, is on his way to Mazar-e-Sharif now to deal with the situation personally on the ground."

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                          • KABUL, April 1, 2011 -- Ten foreign UN workers were killed Friday in an attack on the UN headquarters in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif by demonstrators protesting at the burning of the Qur'an by a U.S. pastor, police told AFP. “Ten (UN) people have been killed by the protesters (…) All the killed are foreigners,” police spokesman Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai said. A spokesman for the UN mission in Kabul, Don McNorton, said: “We are aware of an incident in our Mazar office, we are currently working to ascertain all the facts.” Afghanistan had condemned the “disrespectful and abhorrent” burning of the Quran by evangelical preacher Pastor Wayne Sapp in a Florida church, calling it an effort to incite tension between religions. President Hamid Karzai called on the United States to bring those responsible for the burning of the Islamic holy book on March 21 to justice. In January last year seven tribesmen were killed when Afghan security forces opened fire at demonstrations sparked by the alleged desecration of a Qur'an by U.S. troops in the southern province of Helmand, a hotbed of insurgency. The demonstrators were trying to overrun NATO bases and police facilities when they were fired on.

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                            • KABUL, April 1, 2011 — Protesters angered by the burning of a Qur'an by a fringe American pastor in Florida mobbed offices of the United Nations in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing ten foreign staff members and beheading two of the victims, according to an Afghan police spokesman. Five Afghans were also killed. The attack began when hundreds of demonstrators, some of them armed, poured out of mosques after Friday Prayer and headed to the headquarters of the United Nations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. They disarmed the guards and overran the compound, according to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for General Daoud Daoud, the Afghan National Police commander for northern Afghanistan.

                              A spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, said the attack had occurred during a demonstration. “We can confirm there have been casualties, including U.N. personnel, but the situation on the ground remains very confusing,” he said. He added that Staffan de Mistura, the top United Nations official in Afghanistan, was en route to Mazar-i-Sharif. Tolo TV news in Kabul reported that the head of the United Nations mission in the city was among the victims, but that could not be confirmed. Mirwais Zabi, director of the public health hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif, said 24 wounded Afghan civilians and five dead Afghan civilians were brought to the hospital, with more wounded expected. Other reports said that the Afghan dead included some of the guards.

                              Mr. Ahmadzai, the police spokesman, said the crowd was angry about the burning of the Koran after a mock trial overseen by Pastor Terry Jones on March 20. Mr. Jones had caused an international uproar by threatening to burn the Qur'an last September 11, and demonstrations at the time led to deaths throughout Afghanistan, but on a small scale. Mr. Jones subsequently had publicly promised not to burn a Qur'an, but then went ahead last month, after holding a mock trial of the Qur'an at his fringe church in Gainesville, Florida. After disarming the United Nations compound’s guards, the crowd surged inside. Eight of the foreign staffers, whose nationalities were not known immediately, were killed by gunfire, and two others were captured and then beheaded, Mr. Ahmadzai said. He added that 15 people had so far been arrested for their part in the attack, and that the Afghan authorities had brought the situation under control.

                              Elsewhere in Afghanistan, six American soldiers have been killed in a single operation in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday and Thursday, a spokesman for the international coalition said Friday. “I can confirm that six coalition soldiers have been identified as U.S. soldiers, and were all killed as part of the same operation, but in three separate incidents,” said Major Tim James. The operation, a helicopter-borne assault into a remote part of Kunar Province close to the Pakistani border, was ongoing. The area is frequently used to infiltrate fighters from Pakistan. The purpose of the operation, Major James said, was to “disrupt insurgent operations.” The governor of Kunar Province, Said Fazlullah Wahidi, said the operation began Wednesday as a joint Afghan and American air and ground operation in the districts of Sarkani and Marawara, close to the border of Pakistan. He said that 14 insurgents were killed and 10 wounded, but had no information about Afghan government casualties.

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