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.”


Japan airlines change ‘Taiwan’ to ‘China Taiwan’ on websites

Updated 11 min 33 sec ago
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Japan airlines change ‘Taiwan’ to ‘China Taiwan’ on websites

TOKYO: Japan’s two largest airlines have changed “Taiwan” to “China Taiwan” on their Chinese-language websites, officials said Tuesday, a move likely to please Beijing but anger the self-ruled island.
The change was made on June 12 and is meant to accommodate customers, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) said.
The description remains “Taiwan” on their websites in Japanese and other languages.
Both carriers said they had not received any protest from Taiwan so far, though Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported Taiwan’s foreign ministry would lodge a complaint with the airlines through Japan’s de-facto diplomatic mission in Taipei.
“We made the judgment (to change the name) while consulting and reporting to the transport ministry and foreign ministry,” a spokesman at Japan Airlines said.
“The change came on June 12 as our preparations were done by then,” he said.
June 12 was the date of the historic summit between North Korea and the United States, which attracted international attention.
“We chose a description that is easy to understand and acceptable for users of our websites,” added the JAL official, who declined to be named.
A spokesman at ANA said the change was intended to make the description “easy to understand and acceptable for customers when they use our websites.”
“We do not mean any particular group of customers here but mean all customers,” he said without elaborating further.
The airlines are not the only international carriers who have made the change recently, with Australia’s Qantas earlier this month defending its decision to list Taiwan as part of China.
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a notice to 36 foreign airlines in April, asking them to comply with Beijing’s standard of referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories.
Japan’s ties with China are improving after years of acrimony over historical and territorial issues.
Japan has close business ties with Taiwan but has acknowledged the “One China” policy, which describes Taiwan as an integral part of China.
Asked about the change, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo was “not in favor of government authorities demanding certain measures from private companies based on a specific political stance.”
“The government has expressed Japan’s interest in this issue on the Chinese side,” he added.