Security


Afghanistan: 'No collusion' between Taliban and aid hospital




Kabul, 12 April (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - A prominent Taliban commander from the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Monday rejected allegations that the Emergency hospital at the centre of an alleged murder plot colluded with the militant group. Three Italians were among nine people arrested on Saturday when Afghan security forces stormed the hospital in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand.

The three have been accused of being involved in a plot to kill local governor, Golab Mangal. Earlier on Monday, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini dismissed a weekend report in The Times that suggested the Italian workers had confessed to being involved in a plot to murder the local provincial governor.

The Taliban leader also dismissed the suggestion.

“Why do we need to pay 500,000 dollars to a farangi (foreigner) when we have hundreds of people ready for the Fedayin (suicide attack)?" Abdul Khaliq Akhund told Adnkronos International (AKI) by telephone. 

Abdul Khaliq Akhund comes from the Nawzad district of Helmand and has been the commander of Taliban in Nawzad and Musa Qala districts.

“We don’t have any opinion for or against the Emergency hospital," he said.

"There are several organisations which worked outside the agenda of the occupying forces. The Red Cross and the Emergency hospital are among a few of those outlets.

"The Taliban respects their work. Mullah Muhammad Omar also appreciates the work of the Red Cross. Does it mean that the Taliban has any collusion with the Red Cross?” Akhund said.

According to sources in Helmand province the Emergency hospital was under immense pressure during the recent Marjah operation conducted by NATO forces for treating the wounded people from all sides including the Taliban.

The hospital administration has publicly stated that many of the victims of the Marjah offensive were women and children.

Previously the hospital risked being identified with terrorists when they played a role as intermediaries in the release of abducted Italian journalist Gabriele Torsello in 2006 and Daniele Mastrogiacomo in 2007.

However, the Emergency Hospital chose to ignore local opposition and treated the patients without discrimination of their backgrounds.

Independent sources in Helmand said that the arrest of the Italians and the recovery of suicide vests, home-made bombs, guns and ammunition in a hospital storeroom in Lashkar Gah was stage managed to target the Emergency Hospital administration.

Afghan interior ministry spokesman Zamarai Bashary told AKI that inquiries were continuing as the government tried to determine how the arms ended up there.

The detained Italians are Matteo Dell'Aria, the Milan-based charity’s medical director, Marco Garatti, a surgeon, and Matteo Pagani, its logistics chief.

The hospital has a reputation for treating wounded Taliban militants and is one of three hospitals run by Emergency – the others are in Kabul and the Panjshir Valley, which is home to the one of the key anti-Taliban Northern Alliance groups.

Since 1999, Emergency says it has provided medical assistance to over 2,500,000 Afghan citizens, through its three surgical hospitals, a maternity centre and a network of 28 first aid posts.

 

 

 


 

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