Nine homeless drug users shot dead in Afghan capital

There are an estimated 2.5 million drug users in Afghanistan with most thought to addicted to heroin. (AFP)
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Updated 16 February 2020

Nine homeless drug users shot dead in Afghan capital

  • Motive for the Saturday night attack by the unidentified gunmen in Kabul was not known
  • There are an estimated 2.5 million drug users in Afghanistan with most thought to addicted to heroin

KABUL: Gunmen shot dead nine homeless drug users in the Afghan capital, officials said on Sunday, shining a light on chronic drug abuse in the world’s biggest producer of opium but a rare incident of apparently coordinated violence against addicts.
The motive for the Saturday night attack by the unidentified gunmen in Kabul was not known and police said they were investigating. The men had been sleeping in an open area and a forensic examination had shown they were drug users.
“The shooting took place at the side of the Qrough mountain,” a spokesman for Kabul police, Ferdaus Faramarz, said.
There are an estimated 2.5 million drug users in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Health says, with most thought to addicted to heroin made from opium poppies grown in Afghanistan.
Some 20,000 drug users are homeless, with half that number in Kabul, at times straining relations with residents of some communities.
“It’s a social crisis,” said Dr. Shokoor Haidari, deputy of the ministry’s counter drugs department.
The ministry can only treat 40,000 people a year but far more seek help, said Haidari.
Lack of social services, unemployment and easy access to drugs have fueled drug abuse in Afghanistan, Haidari said.
Harsh winter weather killed at least 50 homeless drug users in the past two months, the Ministry of Public Health said.
Afghanistan has been the world’s biggest producer of opium for years despite some $8.9 billion spent since 2002 by the US government to stop production and trafficking in narcotics.
With compelling economic incentives and politically protected networks — from cultivators to producers and distributors — deeply entrenched, officials say there is little they can do to stop it.
The Interior Ministry this month announced the arrest of five top police officials, including the head of Kabul’s counter-narcotics force, for suspected involvement in drug trafficking.


Paris bans daytime jogging as virus deaths hit new high

Updated 41 min 34 sec ago

Paris bans daytime jogging as virus deaths hit new high

  • Starting Wednesday, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10:00 am and 07:00 pm
  • Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with COVID-19 patients

PARIS:  Paris officials announced Tuesday that they would ban daytime jogging to keep people from bending anti-coronavirus lockdown rules, after France recorded its biggest daily jump in the death toll from the outbreak.
Under nationwide stay-at-home orders that came into force on March 17, people can leave their homes only for essential purposes, which until now included a solo walk or run within a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) radius of home.
But amid a spell of sunny spring weather, large groups of Parisians were seen running, walking and congregating over the weekend, even as police stepped up patrols and issued fines for lockdown violations.
Starting Wednesday, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10:00 am and 07:00 pm.
Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with COVID-19 patients, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday urged municipal officials to toughen restrictions if necessary.
“Every excursion avoided aids the fight against the epidemic,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and police chief Didier Lallement said in a statement.
Also Tuesday, the Atlantic coastal resort city of Biarritz limited the period people can sit on benches or in other public areas to two minutes maximum, saying confinement meant that “dawdling is prohibited.”
Paris, Biarritz and other cities have already closed public parks and gardens as part of the nationwide lockdown that requires people to carry a document justifying any excursion from the home.
Those caught without the document risk a fine starting at €135 ($147).
In the north of France, the mayor of Marcq-en-Baroeul has made spitting in public, coughing or sneezing without covering one’s face, and throwing used masks and gloves in the street punishable by a fine of 68 euros.
The tougher rules came after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced Monday a record daily coronavirus death toll of 833 people in 24 hours.
“It is not over,” the minister said, urging people to “stay at home and continue this confinement effort.”
Like many other nations, France debated Tuesday the merits of encouraging, or compelling, people to wear face masks to prevent asymptomatic virus-carriers from passing it on to others.
Veran said Tuesday that it remained an “open question” that required further scientific investigation.
France’s Academy of Medicine, which advises the government on epidemics, has advocated mask-wearing as an aid in curbing the outbreak, but international bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) disagree.
But Hidalgo said in a radio interview Tuesday that she would not oblige face mask use for now, though she did encourage people to cover their faces in public.
France’s finance ministry, meanwhile, said dozens of companies have produced 3.9 million fabric masks for non-medical professional use in the past week, and will produce 6.6 million more in the days to come.
The country’s Order of Pharmacists and two labor unions urged the government, meanwhile, to allow pharmacies to sell “alternative” non-medical grade masks to members of the public as an added protection.
The WHO said Monday that asking the general public to wear face masks could be justified in areas where hand-washing and physical distancing were difficult, but warned that masks alone could not stop the pandemic.