KARL | 06.12.2001 08:59
The Independent, 05 December 2001
By James Palmer
Armed men stopped a bus outside Kabul and hacked off the ears and noses of six men on board as punishment for shaving off their beards.
The gunmen, presumed to be bandits, flagged the bus down and searched it on Monday at Tangi Abrishum on the road to the eastern city of Jalalabad in Afghanistan - the site where four journalists were ambushed and killed on 19 November.
The attackers ordered all men who had shaved their beards to get off the bus, then mutilated the six men, all Afghans, because they had defied the fallen Taliban militia's order to grow long beards, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said yesterday.
Afghans all over the country have queued up at barber shops to be shaved since Northern Alliance troops, backed by United States bombers, routed the Taliban from Kabul and other cities. But, as the militia flees, fears of guerrilla tactics and ambushes are becoming a reality. Stretches of road between cities have become lawless and dangerous.
AIP said several vehicles were looted in Tangi Abrishum, about 55 miles east of Kabul, on Sunday and Monday, and quoted drivers who had seen seven bodies in the area.
Aid agencies trying to transport supplies to starving Afghans have been badly hindered by bandits roaming the roads. However, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said yesterday that the US was unlikely to contribute troops to keep the roads safe.
"The preference is to see if we can get a level of stability in the country so that the indigenous forces that are there - the Northern Alliance, the southern tribes - will provide the kind of zone security and get rid of bandits on the roads," he said.
If that failed, there would be pressure to bring in outside forces, he said. "But by no stretch of the imagination can you consider a large enough force that people are going to contribute to try to secure all of Afghanistan so that every road is safe. This is not a little place like Bosnia or Kosovo. We're talking Texas, and that would take an awful lot of troops, so that isn't going to happen."
Britain, Germany and France have offered troops to help secure peace in Afghanistan. Ninety special forces soldiers from Turkey, the only majority Muslim country in Nato, are ready to go.
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