Four killed in attack on Indian Kashmir paramilitary camp

An Indian paramilitary soldier gestures as he runs during a gunfight in Srinagar March 13, 2013. (File photo by REUTERS)
Updated 03 October 2017
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Four killed in attack on Indian Kashmir paramilitary camp

SRINAGAR, India: Three suspected militants were killed Tuesday after they stormed a paramilitary base near the main airport of Indian-administered Kashmir, police said, ending an hours-long gunbattle that also left a soldier dead.
Three paramilitary troopers and a police officer were also injured as the trio of attackers hurled grenades and fired automatic weapons at the Border Security Force (BSF) base next to Srinagar airport before dawn, director general of police S. P. Vaid said.
“All the three militants have been killed. An assistant sub-inspector of BSF also died in the initial assault,” Vaid told AFP.
Flight operations resumed at the high-security airport after being suspended briefly, with at least one in-bound flight from New Delhi canceled, authorities said.
The base in which the gunbattle took place shares a common compound wall with the airport.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in full.
For decades rebel groups have fought roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or a merger of the former Himalayan kingdom with Pakistan.
Tuesday’s attack came a day after Indian soldiers killed five suspected rebels near the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) that divides the territory with Pakistan.
In August, militants attacked a police base in the southern Kashmir town of Pulwama, killing eight security personnel. Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for that attack.
Two children were also killed on Monday during an exchange of gunfire between Indian and Pakistani troops, Indian authorities said.
Last week, Pakistan said three civilians were killed on their side of the de facto border in Kashmir after Indian soldiers opened fire.
New Delhi says Pakistan initiates cross-border firing to help anti-India rebels cross into Indian-administered Kashmir to launch attacks.
However, Islamabad says it provides only diplomatic support to the Kashmiri campaign for self-determination.


Afghanistan has half a million widows, and the number is increasing, says government

Updated 42 min 35 sec ago
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Afghanistan has half a million widows, and the number is increasing, says government

  • Some 15 kilometers southeast of the capital is the “zanabad,” or city of women, built completely by widows
  • Widows are the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan

KABUL: The burden of life has made Masooma look twice her age. Her life story in many ways is similar to those of several hundred thousand other Afghan women who have become widows since the latest conflict began here more than 40 years ago.
She lost her husband in a rocket attack 17 years ago in Kabul and since then has been feeding and raising her five children, doing jobs such as cleaning and laundry.

Looking frail and exhausted, Masooma is now part of the army of Kabul’s municipality and cleans roads in the city where the gap between the rich and poor is widening, thanks to the flow of foreign aid that has largely ended up in the pockets of commanders and those with links either to the government or foreign troops, as Masooma laments.

“I hate to beg and am proud of my job. I'm happy to earn a livelihood in a legitimate way,” Masooma told Arab News, sweeping a road and wearing an orange gown and a tight headscarf.

Like the rest of her female colleagues, she cleans the streets by braving the attacks, the rising heat in summer and extreme cold in winter.

Her eldest child is a young man now and he is a bus conductor, helping her to pay the rent for the house and sharing other responsibilities. 

But her life has been a long struggle in a male-dominated society where women are perceived largely as owned by their father before becoming their husband’s property and widows are often rejected or regarded as burdens.

“You cannot imagine the hardships I have gone through. It is not easy to raise five children without a father, without money and a house,” Masooma said.

Widows are the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan. They suffer violence, expulsion, ostracism and sometimes forced remarriage, often with a brother-in-law, as reported by the UN Mission in Afghanistan in a study in 2014.

Ferooza, another widow, lost her husband 20 years ago during a clash with the Taliban in northern Baghlan province. She moved to Kabul along with her daughter, Habiba. They have similar jobs to Masooma, with no health or life insurance in a country in the middle of war that relies on foreign aid.

“Life is very tough for widows. It is not easy for women to clean the streets day after day, for months and years, but we do not have an alternative. We are content and feel happy that we are working rather than being a burden on others,” Habiba told Arab News with a mild smile.

According to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, there are more than 500,000 widows in Afghanistan, most of them war widows. Of these, 70,000 are breadwinners for their families, the ministry said in recent statistics given to the media last week.

Some 15 kilometers southeast of the capital is the “zanabad,” or city of women, built completely by widows. The first women settled on this stony-slope location outside Kabul in the 1990s, hoping to escape the stigma they are forced to endure.

Today it is known as Afghanistan’s "hill of widows," home to a cluster of women who have eked out independence in a society that shuns them.

Ninety percent of them are illiterate, some even taking care of as many as eight children, Hashratullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for the ministry, told Arab News.

“We are in a state of war. The number of women who become widows is increasing. Those who fight on the government side and those on the side of the Taliban and the miltants have wives and mothers too. People on both sides suffer and women on all sides are affected more than anyone in this war,” Ahmadzai said. 

War widows who are registered by the government receive some meagre annual help from the ministry, but that does not meet the need of the victims, he said.

Gul Ghotai, head of the statistics department at the Ministry of Women Affairs, said the government lacks any strategy on creating vocational or short-term jobs for the widows.

“The ministry of women has done nothing on this. The government as a whole has failed to address the widows’ problems because it does not have the capacity. It has not even come up with a plan as to how to tackle the problem,” she told Arab News.