Afghan president criticizes militants
KABUL, Afghanistan – Calling militant attacks “cowardly work,” President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday deplored a suicide bombing that killed 12 children and accused the fighters of running from battle by donning women’s clothing.Speaking in a measured tone, Karzai said the purported “bravery” of militants consisted killing “innocent people and children.””Whenever there is pressure on them, they escape under a woman’s burqa,” said Karzai.He did not explain that comment but could have been referring to past reports of Taliban militants in Afghanistan wearing the identity-concealing robe to flee detection. Also, more recently, Abdul Aziz, the leader of a besieged mosque in Pakistan, was captured last week trying to slip out dressed in a burqa and high heels.Karzai called reporters to the presidential palace to condemn Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Uruzgan province that killed 17 people, including 12 students. The attack in a crowded market wounded more than 30 people, including eight Dutch soldiers whom the attacker apparently had targeted.”I pray to God that Afghanistan is soon freed from all this suffering,” Karzai said, noting that mass battles between Western militaries and Taliban militants were down this year but that suicide and roadside bombings were up.Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry spokesman said it is easy for Taliban fighters to falsely claim that civilians were killed by Western or Afghan military action and that militants are forcing locals to lie to journalists.”The enemy is threatening the local people to lie to the media,” Gen. Zahir Azimi said. “They even give them telephone numbers of the different agencies to call them and tell them that, for example, 100 civilians were killed in an airstrike by the coalition or NATO.”Azimi said if civilians don’t do as ordered, the Taliban fighters will kill them. He said in one case in Sangin district of Helmand province airstrikes destroyed two Taliban trucks but that media reports later said 40 civilians were killed.Karzai has repeatedly deplored civilian deaths caused by NATO or U.S. military action, saying more must be done to prevent such casualties. But military officials have recently begun claiming that some reports are nothing but information warfare by the Taliban.Tribal elders over the weekend claimed 108 civilians were killed in a bombing in Farah province, but no officials have backed up those claims. The governor of the northeastern Kunar province said 27 civilians were killed by NATO military action late last week.A joint Afghan-U.S. convoy came under attack in Paktia province on Wednesday, sparking a fight that killed two police and four Taliban, said Ghulam Dastager, deputy provincial police chief.In Helmand province, Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces killed eight suspected Taliban on Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior said.Violence has spiked in Afghanistan in the last six weeks. More than 3,200 people, mostly militants, have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according a count by The Associated Press based on numbers from Afghan and Western officials.The U.N. World Food Program said, however, that it has resumed food deliveries to the volatile south and west. The agency had suspended shipments in the region on May 28 because of attacks on its vehicles along Afghanistan’s southern ring road.”While there are still major problems, getting trucks moving again along the major ring road is an important breakthrough for our operations, particularly in the western region where WFP has been unable to distribute promised food to tens of thousands,” said Rick Corsino, WFP director for Afghanistan.The agency still faces insecurity, and on Friday four WFP-contracted trucks with armed escorts were attacked in the southwest.