Afghanistan’s Kam Air struggles to stay afloat after deadly Kabul attack

An Afghan security force personnel keeps watch close to the entrance gate of Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel during an attack by gunmen in Kabul, Afghanistan. January 21, 2018.(REUTERS)
Updated 01 February 2018
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Afghanistan’s Kam Air struggles to stay afloat after deadly Kabul attack

KABUL: Capt. Samad Osman Samadi, director general and pilot of Afghanistan’s Kam Air, could clearly hear on the phone the repeated firing and explosions punctuated by the yelling of his colleagues who begged him for help when the assailants stormed Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel on Jan. 20.
He was up all night at a home nearby, talking by phone either with police outside the hotel or 35 of Kam Air’s foreign staff members who were caught up among scores of others in the attack.
Samadi thought the failure of any of the 35 men and women to answer the group’s exchange of message created on Viber meant they must have been killed in the assault, which clearly was targeting foreigners.
“I was in touch with them to find out where they were, to give them confidence and morale and give the information of their room numbers to the police to see if they could be rescued,” he told Arab News.
The next day, after more than 16 hours of gunbattle, nine staff members of Kam Air — seven Ukrainians and two Venezuelans — were among the 14 foreigners who lost their lives in addition to more than 30 Afghans.
One Kam Air employee was shot while dining. Another female employee hid on her room’s balcony. She could not bear the freezing cold weather in the open and returned to her room where she died in an exchange of gunfire.
The attack was the deadliest targeting foreigners in Afghanistan since Taliban’s ousting in 2001.
Exhausted and in shock, the first thing that 26 of Kam Air’s foreign staff who survived the attack did was leave the country.
The attack and the departure of the airline’s foreign staff left five of the company’s nine planes grounded and led to the cancelation of many of its local international flights.
Samadi, who is British of Afghan descent, recalls the moment of his encounter with the survivors.
“Everybody was in shock. They were not able to work and do not know when they will be OK and will come back,” he said.
Samadi, who has been flying for 26 years, knew many of the victims well and was in regular contact with them.
The incident haunts him. “It is not easy to forget. It is really devastating.”
In a country where the roads are usually not safe because of militants’ attacks and banditry, flying is the safest and quickest option.
The company, which covers 90 percent of local flights and was usually chartered by the country’s president and other Afghan leaders for domestic and foreign flights, is struggling with a large number of flight cancelations.
Only two other expatriate staff of the airline, who were out of the country at the time of the attack, have returned to help bring the operation of the carrier back to normal because there is a shortage of professional aviation staff in Afghanistan, he said.
“No doubt Kam Air was affected adversely. We canceled many flights because of shortages of pilots, engineers and cabin crew and of course it will take time to come back to normalcy,” he said.
Foreign and local flights have suffered deadly accidents, and sometimes even direct attacks in the past in Afghanistan, but the assault on the hotel was the most devastating event for the aviation business in the country’s history.
With Afghanistan’s future uncertain after decades of conflict and after the recent terror attack, Samadi’s family in England have urged him to leave Afghanistan, but he has not yet made up his mind.
“We are used to this war and abnormal occurrences,” he said.


Finns held in Muslim Malaysia over ‘Christian pamphlets’

Updated 21 November 2018
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Finns held in Muslim Malaysia over ‘Christian pamphlets’

  • hey are accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony, and could be jailed for up to five years
  • Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Four Finns have been arrested on a holiday island in Muslim-majority Malaysia for allegedly distributing pamphlets about Christianity, police said Wednesday, and may face up to five years in jail.
Religion is a deeply sensitive issue in Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of the populaton is Muslim, and critics say rising conservatism has chipped away at a traditionally tolerant brand of Islam in recent years.
Authorities detained the two men and two women on Tuesday after receiving complaints from members of the public that they were handing out Christian materials on the popular resort island of Langkawi, said local police chief Mohamad Iqbal Ibrahim.
“Police have arrested four Finnish nationals in Langkawi for allegedly distributing religious material in a public place,” he told AFP.
“They were distributing pamphlets related to Christianity.”
The Finns, aged between 27 and 60, were arrested at a hotel and police seized pens, notebooks and a bag.
They are accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony. If found guilty, they could be jailed for between two and five years.
The suspects have been remanded in custody while police investigate.
Langkawi, a jungle-clad island in northwest Malaysia, attracts millions of tourists to its palm-fringed beaches every year.
Malaysia, home to about 32 million people, has sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian communities who have long complained about rising Islamization.
In 2010, three churches were attacked with firebombs, causing major damage to one, as Muslims sought to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah.”
Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia, which witnessed deadly riots between members of the majority Malay community and ethnic Chinese in 1969.