Afghan drive to seize illegal weapons amid Kabul crime wave

A member of Afghan police special forces takes part in a military exercise in Logar province, Afghanistan November 30, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 13 December 2017
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Afghan drive to seize illegal weapons amid Kabul crime wave

KABUL: Afghanistan launched a drive on Wednesday to seize thousands of unlicensed weapons amid an increase in crime in Kabul and other major cities.
Apart from Taliban insurgents, criminals and illegal armed groups are a major challenge to the US-backed government, which is grappling with internal dissent and is accused of failing to implement the rule of law and enact reforms since it won power in late 2014.
Afghanistan is awash with weapons, the legacy of nearly 40 years of foreign interventions and conflicts. The Interior Ministry has issued 50,000 individual arms licenses but unofficial estimates are that tens of thousands of people possess weapons.
Government ministers and members of Parliament also rely on personal armed bodyguards and government-appointed security forces for protection.
“This is the first major campaign, involving various government security entities, for collecting illegal arms, confiscating cars without number plates and stopping vehicles with tinted windows,” Najib Danesh, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told Arab News.
“The goal is to provide a secure and tranquil atmosphere for the population because both the criminal groups and the militants have been using vehicles with tinted glass and, most importantly, weapons that are in use but have no license.”
The campaign will last for several days in Kabul and will gradually be extended to other cities. Weapons held by people who do not need them will be also seized.
Crimes such as abduction, theft and murder have increased in recent months, particularly in Kabul. Last Friday night, a group of armed men killed 10 members of a family in an attack in the northern part of Kabul.
The increase in crime has prompted more business people to leave the country, and has also caused a flight of capital that is badly needed for investment.
“We have not felt secure for a long time and this initiative of the government is commendable,” said Wais Ahmad, 40, a shopkeeper.
Ahmad Shah, a schoolteacher, said: “Every now and then we hear and see how criminals and armed groups operate here, so this move is highly welcome.”
However, some critics were skeptical. Attiqullah Amarkhail, a retired army general who sometimes advises the government on security matters, said the campaign was playing to the gallery.
“The government has announced that this campaign will go on for some days. Criminal groups and individuals will probably keep a low profile or hide until the process is over, and then resurface,” he told Arab News.
“The government needs to set up night-time patrols in parts of the city where crime is high.”


British boat rescues migrants trying to cross Channel

Updated 18 February 2019
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British boat rescues migrants trying to cross Channel

  • British border officials have picked up 34 people who were trying to cross the English Channel in a small boat
  • The Home Office said the passengers are thought to be migrants and their nationalities were not known yet

LONDON: A British boat rescued 34 migrants crossing the Channel aboard a small motorised boat on Monday, Britain's interior ministry said.
"Today Border Force responded to an incident in the Channel involving a small boat containing 34 people," the ministry said in a statement.
"The group were brought to Dover and have been transferred to immigration officials for interview," it added, saying that men, women and children were on board and that three men were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.
French authorities earlier said that "a fishing boat gave the alarm shortly after 8:00 am (0700 GMT)" after spotting the boat off the tip of northern France.
French navy, police and customs launched a helicopter, a tug boat and three fast vessels, while sea rescue services also tried to rescue the migrants.
By the time they reached the migrants' location, however, "they had crossed over to the English side" of the Channel where they were picked up by a British vessel, said the regional authority in northern France.
Two British Border Force cutters and a coastal patrol vessel were involved in the rescue, according to UK authorities.
Some 500 people -- most of them over the last two months of 2018 -- attempted to cross the Channel to Britain last year, compared with just 13 known attempts in 2017.
French interior ministry figures show 276 people successfully reached British waters last year.
London in December dispatched a navy ship to help coastguard boats watch over the 21 miles (33 kilometres) of sea that separate France and Britain at its narrowest point.
France also responded by announcing broader surveillance measures in early January.
The number of Channel crossings was just a tiny fraction of the 55,756 successful attempts made across the Mediterranean to Spain that were recorded by the UN's refugee agency in 2018.