Kabul’s targeted Shiites rely on armed community protection force against Daesh

An Afghan security force keeps watch at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan September 9, 2018. (Reuters/File)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Kabul’s targeted Shiites rely on armed community protection force against Daesh

  • Given the large population of Kabul and an overstretched police force, the Afghan Shiites seek expansion in their local force amid Muharram
  • Many families have stopped sending their children to school since last week after Daesh warned of more attacks on Shiite education centers

KABUL: The restaurants and cafes in Kabul’s upmarket Pul-i-Sorkh, at the entrance of the city’s Shiite dominated neighborhood, used to be bustling spots for female and male customers most evenings.
Some dressed up in local attire, observing full hijab. Others, both men and women, wore Western clothes and occasionally smoked shisha in some of the cafes, with loud music blaring inside.
Sometimes, girls wearing heavy makeup walked arm in arm with their husband or fiancé on the streets, breaking the social taboo.
The neighborhood has rightly earned the pseudonym of Kabul’s “Little Europe” because of the liberal way of life that some of the Shiites and Hazaras have adopted since the US landing in Afghanistan in 2001.
However, the new wave of deadly strikes by Daesh affiliates in the Shiite-dominated suburb of Dashte Barchi, which is further down from Pul-i-Sorkh, has not only shocked the Shiite community of Kabul but also affected business for many of these restaurants in Pul-i-Sorkh.
Several Shiite gathering areas, including mosques, cultural and educational centers and even a sports gym, have been targeted by Daesh suicide bombers since 2016. The attacks have resulted in the loss of hundreds of people in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
At the request of Shiite leaders, the government last year allowed a community protection force to be formed from among local residents.
Volunteers were given arms and cash as a salary to protect their mosques and religious centers in their community.
However, the initiative has not been very productive as numerous attacks have occurred since.
Shocked by the increase in Daesh attacks in recent weeks, and the blatant warning issued by the group to target Shiite schools and other centers in future, the Shiite leaders have now asked President Ashraf Ghani for an expansion in the local community protection force.
Scores of families since last week have stopped sending their children to school after the warning that certain schools will be the target of attacks.
Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danesh spoke with the special envoy of the United Nations to Afghanistan this week, calling the attacks targeted and urging him to include the issue as a separate debate point for the world body.
Speaking to a group of reporters, Ghani on Wednesday said Daesh and other anti-state elements wanted to fan sectarian and ethnic clashes through such attacks.
In meetings with Shiite leaders earlier this week, Ghani pushed for boosting security for the protection of Afghan Shiites ahead of Muharram, a holy month, mostly observed by Shiites which includes flagellation and parades on the streets.
Chaman Ali Behseodi, a group leader for the community protection force, said the government will recruit more individuals, equip them with arms and pay them cash for permanent security of schools, educational, cultural and religious centers for Shiites in the Dashte Barchi area.
“Since the population of Kabul is high and police are overstretched, people have asked for extra men to be deployed to these places,” he told Arab News.
“People will cooperate with government for their own protection and expect the government to take serious action in this regard.”
Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told Arab News that individuals recruited will undergo checks such as biometric tests and will have to be vouched for by their community elders.
Nasrullah Neli, a Shiite lawmaker, told Arab News that the expansion of the community protection force has had a divided response from lawmakers.
Some local Shiite residents have already started using their private arms for protection of their streets in certain parts of Dashte Barchi and Kabir Wasiq, a local resident told Arab News.
Arming of locals may be a temporary solution, but not a permanent answer to security, he adds.


Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

Alvin Braziel appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Austin, Texas, US, December 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

  • The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.
Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.
Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the US and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.
The execution was delayed about 90 minutes after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel’s attorneys.
As Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.
The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.
“Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it,” said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. “The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, ‘Please God, don’t let him hurt Lora.’“
Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.
Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.
Douglas White’s murder was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.
But White’s murder remained unsolved for over seven years.
“I really didn’t know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope,” said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.
Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White’s assault.
At his trial, Braziel said he wasn’t near the college during the killing.
Braziel’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.
Braziel’s attorneys later withdrew their request.
Courts had previously turned down Braziel’s appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel’s family.
His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband’s autopsied body.
Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.
“Lora wants it known that she’s prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family,” Bradshaw said.